I love Christmas, and each year I enjoy every bit of the holiday hoopla surrounding it - the gift giving, the baking, the decorating, the music - all of it.
In fact, the traditions of Christmas are so many and so varied, I understand why some folks, especially those who didn't grow up celebrating this holiday, find the whole season confusing. I also see why many are convinced it's only a ruse foisted on us by retailers anxious to turn a year-end profit.
Even many of us who love Christmas don't understand its true significance, and we tend to observe its traditions without even knowing their origin and meaning. I'm a history buff so I always want to know the story behind the tradition. For me, knowing why we do things makes doing them more meaningful and more worth the effort. And passing down family traditions helps us all feel connected and special.
My grandfather once told me that both Christianity and our American freedom are always only one generation from extinction. In other words, each generation must accept and follow through with the responsibility to pass down our beliefs and values to the next generation, or they will cease to exist. That's why I enjoy sharing the traditions of Christmas, not just as a holiday, but as the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
But why do we celebrate this holiday with things such as singing Christmas carols, Yule logs, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, holly wreaths, colored lights, and mistletoe?
If you're curious, you can research each of these traditions at your local library or on the Internet, but be careful where you search. As with any subject, there are reliable sources and not-so-reliable sources. Many people have begun to trust Wikipedia for information - not a good idea. Wikipedia is a user participant site which means that any user can post anything with no authority or proof required. And any user reading it is free to change or add to the info listed. It may be fun to read but it's far from authoritative.
If you really want to understand Christmas and its traditions, I recommend the following online source: whychristmas.com. This site is based in Britain, but so are many of our Christmas traditions. One of the best things about the site is that it's funded completely by donations so you won't be accosted by advertisers pushing their products. The info is reliable, well written, easily understandable and quite extensive. You'll find info on the origins of Christmas, how it's celebrated around the world, the meaning and origin of every imaginable Christmas carol, why we give gifts, even recipes for Christmas goodies and fun activities for children.
Just ask yourself why Christmas is associated with candy canes, fruitcakes, poinsettias, tinsel, etc.? All these things have fascinating histories and meanings you might never suspect. Another good online source for Christmas lore is: thehistoryofchristmas.com. This site is based in America but also deals with Christmas around the world. This site does allow advertising but it's tasteful and unobtrusive.
Of course there are a myriad other online sources. It's great fun to just Google "Christmas history" and see what comes up. In fact, I'm going to do just that as soon as I finish wrapping gifts and baking cookies and singing carols and ... wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!