By Bill Eagle
Valley Bugler Columnist
Christmas is a time when families can be together, it is a time when people can share, with one another and also retell the story of our saviors birth. It is also a time when people can share stories and traditions.
The Traditional time of gift giving, as celebrated by the Orthodox Churches, is Epiphany or January 6th. The 6th is officially the last day of Christmas.
According to tradition, Epiphany was the day that the Magi brought their gifts of Gold, perfume (The incense of the Franks) and valuable sweet smelling oily resin (Myrrh). (the dried sap of the tree Commiphora myrrha).
People are often confused with stories about Santa, Father Christmas, and Saint Nicolas.
Nicolas was the Christian Bishop of Myra, a Greek colony in what is now the country of Turkey. He was known for his many charities. I have heard stories about how in the dead of night; he would leave gifts of gold, toys and clothing for the poor. One story that I heard (reminiscent of Santa) is that he tossed bags of gold down chimneys.
The origin of Santa can be traced to Finland. His home should be in Lapland, not the North Pole, since it is primarily Laplanders who use reindeer to pull sleighs in wintertime.
What Santa and St. Nick represent has been perverted by commercial interests to encourage people to spend lots of money. That is not the way it should be. Santa represents the spirit of giving, care for children, and concern for the poor. He represents love and charity, the very essence of the Christian faith, not buying sprees and end year profit statements.
Some people have tried to say that the Christmas Tree is a pagan symbol. In many ways our adopting a tree has an even greater meaning for people of faith.
It is pretty much accepted that Martin Luther brought the Christmas Tree to Germany. The story is that Luther was walking through a forest in Saxony German and he was so struck by the beauty of moonlight shining down through the branches of the fir trees that he chopped a small one down and brought it home for his family. Martin Luther attached candles to its branches to recreate moonlight and in doing so invented the worlds first decorated tree.
From a Christian Standpoint, some of the things that the Christmas tree represents are:
The triangular shape of the tree represents the trinity
Fir branches seem to reach up and point to God
Evergreens represent the eternal
Green represents life
On an evergreen tree, needles grow upward like hands praising God
Lights on a tree represent the lights of God’s creation
The gifts underneath represent care, concern, generosity and love
It really does not matter who invented the Christmas tree, nor does it matter who Santa is and what his origins are. What does matter is that we take the time to rekindle friendships. Take time to gather with people we love, and most important, to share the love that God gave us when he sent us our Savior. We should share, not necessarily presents, but love, compassion and concern for all on this very special day. The day that we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
God Bless! We wish you all a very Merry and meaningful Christmas!