The celebration of the Christmas season has ancient historical roots, but it serves the same purpose today as it has over all those centuries. It is a time to lift our spirits and glimpse what life could be like all year round.
Some aspects go back to the Druids as early as 3,000 years ago. They decorated trees around the winter solstice and performed many rituals we might recognize. The Roman Saturnalia coincides with the time of year that ancient people celebrated successful harvests with a weeklong celebration. In addition, of course, many aspects of Christmas and Hanukkah revolve around the Christian and Jewish religions. Many of the modern customs of the season derive those that grew up in England and Germany in the early to mid-19th century.
Nevertheless, whatever the historical origin of this or that part of the Christmas holiday, it is celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world in similar ways. It is one time of the year when everyone is reminded of the many joyous aspects of life. It is a time for exchanging gifts as a token of affection, for parties to enjoy good friends and family. It is a renewal of good will.
All those are given concrete form by the many ways that people around the world enjoy the holiday.
Some of those involve decorating the home or office inside or out. Stringing lights lend a festive air to objects and the buildings that house them. A tree brings nature indoors, while ornaments give it an artistic touch that only humans can provide. Christmas cards are exchanged to remind others that we are thinking of them and wish them well.
Then of course, there is the socializing aspect that often takes the form of a carefully prepared meal with delightful drinks and delicious desserts. Those parties often extend into New Years because, after all, those ancient traditions continue to operate in some ways in modern times. Even when not thought about, the ways of the past continue to influence the present.
Giving gifts is a big part of the holiday, and for good reason. While it may be the thought that counts, thoughts are made clearer when they are given expression in reality. A thoughtful gift says you know what another wants. That’s a sign of caring. It is an act by one person to give up a material value in exchange for another that will bring joy to both. After all, joy is non-material even when prompted by an object.
For, everyone will acknowledge that while gifts are delightful, the smile on the face of someone you like is the biggest gift of all. That is still Christmas, even in the modern world.