Through The Lens: Christmas Around the World
Today is December the 25. The day each year in this country we celebrate Christmas. The tradition of Christmas goes back long before our country was known to the world. In the year 336 while the Roman Emperor Constantine ruled, the first indications of the holiday appears in history. Although it began under Roman rule, it was not considered an official holiday. The first three hundred years, any celebration based on the birth of Jesus was not recognized. It was during these times, Christianity began to grow in the known world.
Since that first acknowledgment of the holiday, it has become part of the world, as we know it today. Early Romans were known to celebrate the time of the year as, Saturnalia. History tells us it was referred to as the best of times. For the Roman people it was the most popular holiday of the year. The underlying idea for the holiday was, don’t take things so seriously. This traditional idea became the basis for the first centuries of the celebration.
In the beginning, the celebration of Christmas and the Birth of Christianity were not recognized together. But with the date of midwinter celebrations and the birth of Jesus occurring around the same time of year, they eventually began to be celebrated together.
Around the world over 150 countries observe Christmas. Each country’s ideas of what is to be celebrated are different. In this country, the day has become a day of family, gift giving, thoughts of peace in the world, and the remembrance of the Savior. In other countries, the thoughts of the day are given to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. For all Christen countries, the day is recognized as being based upon the birth of Jesus.
You may wonder, are there countries that do not celebrate the day? The answer is yes. Countries where the main religion is other than Christianity, choose not to celebrate the Christen holiday. There are nearly fifty countries that do not celebrate the day. Some of them are: Algeria, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bahrain, Cambodia, China, Congo, Comoros, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Maldives, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Many of our traditions that we have in this country traveled here with our ancestors. One of the most well-known is the Christmas tree. It came in the 17th century from Germany. A lesser known tradition is that of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree. These days the pickle is a glass ornament hidden within the tree. The person who finds it is rewarded with good fortune in the coming year. The tradition of a Yule Log also comes to us from Germany and Nordic countries. It is unclear which country was the first to consider the log as a part of their yearly traditions.
Elf On The Shelf is a relatively new tradition in this country. It is believed if the Elf is placed on the shelf near the tree, it will be on the lookout for all the good little girls and boys. The tradition of a lump of coal can be traced back to several European countries. Italy’s traditional belief is based on ‘La Befana’ who delivers gifts to the good children and a lump of coal to those who were bad. In English history, it is believed only the wealthy children were brought gifts and candies for Christmas. The less fortunate were given coal as their reward for being poor. I’ll bet that it may not have been much of a celebrated holiday, but maybe it was meant to help keep families warm in cold English winters. In most cases, the finding of coal was meant as punishment for bad deeds. Today, candy made to look like a lump of coal can easily be found for sale. It is losing its reputation of being a bad omen.
One tradition has it’s beginnings in song. The Twelve Days of Christmas is an old English Christmas Carol that goes back to the 1500s. It is about gifts given 12 days following Christmas. An interesting note, it is estimated in order to purchase all the gifts for a loved one in the song this year, it would have cost you almost $40,000. Traditions in our world range from the silly to the serious. Candy canes, milk and cookies, greeting cards, and the singing of Christmas carols are meant to bring a little joy into our world at the beginning of winter.
But the true meaning of Christmas is in the birth of Jesus. In the town of Bethlehem, under a shining star, the Savior of mankind came into this world. We remember the gifts given to him by three Wiseman. But the gift we should remember is the gift he brought to each of us. On this Christmas Day take a moment and remember that the world celebrates with tinsel and lights. But each of us can celebrate with prayers for peace on earth and good will to man. From the staff of the Wetzel Chronicle along with Mary and myself, we wish each of you a Merry Christmas 2019, Through the Lens.