Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Depending on your viewpoint, those two phrases can either bring a smile or a scowl today. But the latter actually encompasses its universal celebration of light. And in light of the fact that our state—and much of the world—is suffering from a great lack of enlightenment right now, here's a little bit of history of this special day…
Having its roots in celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice and the returning of light to the world as the days grew longer, ancient Babylonians celebrated the feast of the Son of Isis, Goddess of Nature, on December 25. Later, the Romans would honor Saturn, the God of Agriculture. Both celebrations included eating, drinking, singing (which later evolved into caroling), time spent with family and gift-giving. Sound familiar? In 350 Pope Julius l declared December 25 as the official date of Christ's birth as a way to bring Pagan Romans into the fold of Christianity.
The light of the Christmas Tree comes from German traditions. According to History.com:
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes… It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.
So, no matter what light you honor, whether its gazing at the stars, eagerly anticipating the return of sunlight to our dark days, or celebrating the birth of the “light of the world”, they all come together in one day of celebration. This day belongs to the world. It reminds us of the deep connections we have to each other as fellow human beings in a world that is so often so polarizing.
And what's so bad about that?
So, to my fellow Blue Jerseyans—and yes, even those not so blue—Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And Happy Hanukkah! I'm so happy that the light of my Jewish brothers and sisters shines brightly today, too!