One of the joys of losing your memory is that you can read the same book over and over and it’s like reading it for the first time.
That’s what I did this morning as I planned and schemed for my family Christmas. Many years ago one of my boys gave me a book by Jeff Smith entitled “The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas.” You remember him don’t you? He had one of television’s first cooking shows which was aired on Saturday afternoons on PBS. I planned my whole Saturdays around watching that show.
The first half of the book is about Christmas traditions where he debunks some of the myths, and shares the results of his extensive study into the birth of the Christ child. I think he was a minister at one time. I hesitate to bring up his name since Smith had some unfortuante problems later on that stripped him of his show. But his knowledge of history is irrefutable.
Here’s what surprised me. Christmas was not celebrated until quite late in the history of the Church. Oh, of course Easter was celebrated from the beginning, for it was the Resurrection that established the Church.
But Christmas was not even recognized on the calendar until about the fourth century. At this time St. John Chrysostom wrote that pope Julius had commissioned Saint Cyril to undertake an investigation to determine the month and day of Christ’s birth. We don’t know why exactly, but December 25 was selected.
Since it is one of the darkest night of the year, and since so many other Roman and pagan festivals were celebrated during the winter, it seemed fitting to select that date to celebrate Light coming in the midst of our darkness.
The Puritans in America were such killjoys. They were so upset about the pagan connections with the winter holiday, that they had Christmas outlawed in New England. Can you believe it? Darn Puritans. Thank goodness, the Germans and Irish immigrants moved to the new land in the mid-nineteenth century and they finally persuaded the Yankees that Christmas was acceptable.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the real truth about Santa Clause