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December 4: What Does Christmas Mean to Me?

“Are you going to write any religious posts?”

No, I wasn’t. I’m not religious – deeply spiritual, yes – but no, not religious. I don’t believe in God, not in the sense that others do, and I don’t prescribe to the practices of any one religion. If I were to pick, because society likes to funnel people into categories and labels, I would say I’m closest to Buddhist, but I also look at that more as a lifestyle rather than religion. To me, my beliefs are too big and vast to fit into a single religion. I don’t care to find out what is actually real or not real. I have no desire to answer that question.fullsizeoutput_522cMy beliefs, if you want to call them that, are simply that – mine. I don’t hold others to them; I don’t believe everyone should think like I do. I think that whatever someone believes is what is true for them, and I think they are all beautiful (unless what you believe is something that hurts another). I think the most important component of all religions are what they all hold in common – how to lovingly treat yourself, all others, and this beautiful planet we live on. Love thy neighbor; be a steward for your planet and home, etc.

I was told that, because I’m not Christian, I’m shouldn’t be celebrating Christmas. And in fact, the month of December shouldn’t really mean anything to me.fullsizeoutput_5235So, let’s talk about Christmas and religion. 

Christmas is celebrated religiously by many Christians, but it is also culturally celebrated in many nations around the world by Christians and non-Christians alike.

I don’t personally need a church or temple or book to celebrate the things I believe in. If you do, that is 100% okay! In fact, I think that’s awesome! I think that people have the right to believe in whatever they want and for those beliefs to be respected.fullsizeoutput_5248To many, many people, Christmas is believed to have developed from the birth of Jesus Christ, who’s birthday is technically unknown. There are several theories as to why the 25th of December was chosen as the day to celebrate this event; that December 25 was marked as the Winter Solstice on the Roman Calendar; the calculation hypothesis where December 25 is exactly 9 months after March 25th, or the holiday associated with Annunciation (modern times celebration) or the date of the Equinox and Mary’s conception. I’m not going to discuss at length all of them because historical and religious scholars still debate these theories and no one will ever truly know.

From one article, early Christian missionaries came across a variety of people in Europe and lumped them together as Pagans. While the Christmas tree was invented by Germans in the 17th-century, it is clearly derived from Pagan traditions of bringing plants and greenery indoors and decorating them for midwinter.DSC02921So why eat drink and be merry during this time of year? Historians believe that in an agriculturally-based society, with harvest finished, people had time not only to devote to religious practices. Also, with the darkest days of the year centered around winter solstice, it made sense to have some feasts and celebration to cheer people up.

The article pointed out that even with the quick spread of Christianity, midwinter festivals did not become Christmas for hundreds of  years. The birthdate of Christ is not mentioned in the Bible and it wasn’t until the 4th Century that religious leaders in Rome embraced “Christmas” as his birthday.

What is important here is that people picked a day regardless of it’s accuracy to celebrate something special and holy – they GAVE the day meaning. This is what everyone else does that celebrates the day culturally rather than religiously. And I think in a way this is what Christmas is about – a day that belongs to everyone where you can celebrate anything you hold dear – whether it is a religious figure, an imaginary figure that represents selflessness (Santa Claus), or something else like family and tradition and love.fullsizeoutput_5236I think the very beliefs behind Christmas mean that it belongs to everyone. If you want to celebrate it as the beautiful birth of Christ, that is your choice! If you want to celebrate it for something else, that too is your right. All I would say is make it something beautiful.

So what does Christmas mean to me?

Yes, I will write posts about blankets and fireplaces and holiday cheer; cookies and movies and stocking stuffers; snow and winter adventures etc – but that isn’t why I love Christmas. Those are just some of the cultural components of Christmas and winter time – which just happens to be my favorite time of year (also because of these things).IMG_0178Christmas to me, is about love. It’s about the people you love. There is a reason so many people either break up/divorce or get engaged around Christmas. Christmas makes a person stop and think about not only who they want in their life, but more importantly, who it is they cherish; who is actually important; who you truly love.fullsizeoutput_5217Christmas is a day where we can celebrate the people in our lives that are truly special. It’s a day to sit down and with a gift or a card or a hug, show someone you love that they matter to you. It is a time of year that brings extended family in to town and is a reason to fly across the country or world to visit loved ones.IMG_0082IMG_0089Christmas does remind me of religion or belief in a way – but not as a celebration of a particular religion. I see it as a time for reflection of your beliefs, your values, all the things you hold important. To many people that celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, I think that, aside from it being about the birth of Christ, it is also a celebration of some really beautiful values and beliefs that people hold regardless of religion or no religion.

What does Christmas mean to you? Let me know in your comments!

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