We so often associate Christmas with Santa Claus and decorated evergreens and red-and-white candy canes. Every year, as December rolls along, we begin to prepare for the season. We get out our Christmas records and listen to Burl Ives’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We hunt down our coffee mugs and load our hot chocolate with peppermint. We go about the house and string garland and lights wherever we can, brightening the abode with holiday cheer.
Because it’s tradition. It is the way our fathers taught us, and their forefathers taught them. It is all we know.
But if we were to look at another country, in another time period, Christmas would have been much different. Let’s take a look at the Regency Era.
Christmas decor was much different than modern day glass trinkets and snowballs. For instance, our traditional Christmas tree was extremely uncommon. Decorations such as the “kissing” bough, ivy, holly, hellebore, and rosemary were often used to brighten homes with the Christmas spirit. Only instead of decorating after Thanksgiving, as Americans do, they were not put out until Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve, the Yule Log would be lit for good luck, and would burn until the twelve days of Christmas ended. Also, a large candle was lit to burn through the night—as well as to protect the guests from harm.
Christmas Day was a time spent in church and eating. Although giving gifts was not really a tradition during this time period, it was often customary to give a present to one’s landowner, and perhaps a new toy to a child.
During the following eleven days, people engaged in social visits and Christmas parties. January 5th marked the twelfth night, Epiphany Eve, in which time a huge ball was hosted. Lots of food, dancing, games, and merriment marked the ending of Christmas.
Yet if I were to take you to faraway Cuba, where bananas, beans, and fruits are bought for the holiday, you might be surprised by their foreign customs.
Everywhere you go, in every place you look, there are Christmas traditions. There are ways for things to be done, there are foods which must be eaten, there are gifts that must be given. There are thousands upon thousands of different cultures, and the meaning of Christmas might mean one thing to some, yet something entirely different to others.
But in all tradition, throughout all the world, throughout all of time, there is only one real reason for Christmas. Whether you are decorating a Christmas tree, it is Jesus. Whether you are lighting your Yule candle, it is Jesus. Whether you are buying bananas for the holidays, it is Jesus.
It is not only His birth, but it is His life. It is what He gave us, why He came—and no matter who believes or doesn’t, there is no Christmas without Jesus Christ.
May the memory of that be a tradition to us all.