As commercialism and commerce have taken over Christmas, we have seen it commodified and churned out like so many other aspects of Western culture, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.
Because of this we inevitably see it dominated and ruled by the mighty dollar.
There is so much more to Christmas than Christmas. In fact the ancient pagan origins of Christmas, the Christmas tree, the giving of gifts, the Yule tide and even Christmas cards provide a backdrop to something we all may celebrate from one Church or home to the next, but to say it’s Christian is a stretch or anything about Jesus birth or its timing is simply not true.
As Pentecostals and
fundamentalists around the globe cry out against the secularisation of
Christmas, what may be closer to the truth is that the secular and pagan
origins of Christmas are simply making their way home again.
In ancient Rome, December
25th was a celebration of the Unconquered Sun, marking the return in
the Northern Hemisphere of longer days. December 25th was the
celebration of Saturnalia – a festival where, wait for it … yes people
exchanged gifts. The Roman Church began celebrating Christmas in the 4th
century during the reign of Constantine enveloping this Roman tradition and
Christianising the date to make it their own. In fact, the Puritans who left
England and made their way to the Americas opposed the celebration of Christmas
and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance for quite
From the singing of
Carols, to the exchanging of gifts on the 25th of December or the
simple Yule Christmas Tree or log, so many of our contemporary traditions that
we have held fast to as Christian, did not begin in the Christian tradition. Even most Christians acknowledge that Jesus’
birth was not on the 25th of December and yet it is still celebrated
nonetheless with all the trimmings of its ancient pagan traditions, because
there is so much more to Christmas than Christmas.
As commercialism and
commerce have taken over Christmas, we have seen it commodified and churned out
like so many other aspects of Western culture which inevitably see it dominated
and ruled by the mighty dollar. Be it churches, who are driven by the
accumulation of wealth, or church ministers, or Christmas, the dollar or the
love of it radiates through Jesus’ ominous words so many centuries ago and are
true today. As the barrage of Western culture, especially American culture, has
seen the rise of Halloween in places where it was never celebrated, we see it reach
in our society and in our way of seeing the world and us in it. As pagan as
Halloween is, my question is, is Christmas actually that much different when we
look at where it came from and how it has developed into what it is today. But
again, I say, Christmas is so much more than Christmas.
For those of us of faith,
regardless of its origins, it is a time where people may stop and think about
that critical question of who Jesus is, what does He mean to them and what do
we make of the birth of a baby, in a food trough for animals filled with hay, who
died thirty or so years later and we believe rose again defeating death and the
grave. Because that is the good news or “gospel” that we hold dear to.
Regardless of whether you believe Jesus was divine or not, the actual man Jesus
or Yeshua as he was called in Hebrew or Immanuel existed because the Romans,
like ancient historian Flavius Josephus, were meticulous record keepers, and
why there is so much more to Christmas than Christmas.
Be it a gathering around
the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts with those you love or a kaikai at the beach,
just taking in the beauty of our beautiful Ipukarea with friends and family or
maybe a Church service on Sunday or a Catholic service on the 24th
is without doubt an amazing feeling. Whatever the reason may be for your coming
together, showing love to one another and simply taking the time to be thankful
and grateful that we have each other and are alive, remember there is so much
more to Christmas than Christmas.
Every day, and not just
Christmas, there is a Father who wants to connect deeply with His children no
matter where they are and no matter what they have done or are doing. Because
no matter our path, our journey or our decisions, we are all made in His image
and all have the ability to connect and reflect the something divine. Kia
Manuia rava tatou I teia Kiritimiti e te Mataiti Ou.