The significance of December 25

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Venkat Raman

Have you ever wondered why December 25 is regarded ‘Christmas Day?’

Many Roman Catholics would like to point to Pope Liberius, who decreed in 354 AD Christmas be celebrated on December 25.

But some historians believe it was the Roman Emperor, Constantine who declared so in 336 AD.

Why December 25?

Heathen Holiday

That day was already observed as a heathen holiday and as ‘The feast of Saturn, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.’

This pagan feast began two weeks of festivities including feasting, drinking, abstention from work, special musical presentation and the exchanging of gifts.

Constantine was the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire.

As a result of a vision of the Cross inscribed with in hoc signo vinces (‘By this emblem shalt thou conquer) in 312 AD, he proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the Empire.

It is said he even ordered his army to ride horses through rivers to ‘baptise’ them into Christianity.

It was Constantine’s desire to ‘Christianise’ December 25 so that people would not have to lose a holiday and could honour Christ, the Light of The World instead of Pagan Gods Saturn and the Sun.

The Christmas Tree tale

An early Roman ritual was to exchange green tree branches on January 1, with the belief   this would bring them good luck.

Scandinavians once worshipped evergreen trees, as they believed Godly spirits inhabited them and that the spirits would bless them. When the Gospel of Christ reached Scandinavia, the evergreen tree was made a part of Christmas.

The German Connection

Germans are responsible for bringing the Christmas tree to the New World.

German theologian and reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) popularised the Christmas Tree as we know it. It is said that Luther was walking home on Christmas eve under a star-studded sky. It was wonderful.

He thought: “How great it would be if I could catch the beauty and bring it home to the children.”

He then conceived the idea of large evergreen tree gleaming with candles. He proceeded to find a tree, cut it down and take it home to decorate it. His children were delighted.

Today, there are Christmas Tree Associations, retailers cashing in with new concepts and some organisations banning Christmas Trees.

As interesting and beautiful as Christmas Trees are, they are not the reason Christmas is important!

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