"The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love." (John 1:14)
The actual date of Christ's birth is unknown. The Gospels do not record it and there is not any early tradition to identify it. Scholars identify the approximate year as sometime between 8 - 5 BC and the season as probably early spring. The feast day was placed where it was, in all likelihood, to supplant the practice of the winter solstice festival among pagan converts by pointing to Christ as the true light who comes into the world. The Western Church emphasizes the celebration of the Nativity or Birth of Jesus on December 25, while the Eastern Church celebrates His manifestation to the Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6.
The word Christmas was derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse or "Mass of Christmas." Over the centuries it has become a comprehensive word including both the religious traditions and the secular traditions.
In North America, the early immigrants brought their different Christmas traditions. The Germans brought the Christmas tree, the Irish contributed the lights in windows of homes, Catholic immigrants brought Midnight Mass and everyone had their own Christmas carols.
The Lights of Christmas
The most obvious symbol of Christmas are lights – Christmas candles, window lights, luminaries, lights on the Advent Wreath and Christmas tree. All signifying that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world.
The Christmas candle is an ancient tradition. It is usually placed in the center of the Advent Wreath to complete the removal of darkness and sin by the Coming of Christ.
Lights placed inside window sills depict a beacon to light the way for Mary, Joseph, and the coming of the Christ Child.
Christmas trees can be found almost anywhere, any size. For many people, the Christmas tree is only a seasonal decoration. To Christians it symbolizes the green of hope at a time of dying, the burning light of Christ at a time of spiritual darkness and the fruits of paradise. Its origin as a Christian symbol may trace to an historical event. When St. Boniface evangelized the Germanic tribes he chopped down their sacred oak to prove the impotence of their god. Just as Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol of the Trinity, Boniface used the evergreen as a symbol of the eternity of the true God. The Church provides a blessing ceremony in its Book of Blessings for use in the absence of a priest.
The appearance of holly is representative of the burning bush of Moses and Mary's burning love of for God. The red berries and prickly points are symbolic of the crown of thorns and the bloody death that the Christ Child would eventually suffer.
Poinsettias are associated with Christmas as the lily is with Easter. In Mexico it blooms at Christmas time and is called the "Flower of the Holy Night." Its name is from the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett.