By By Caitlin Walsh, Columnist
Christmas could be viewed as too secularized. The phrase "Happy Holidays" has replaced "Merry Christmas" in an effort to be more politically correct, and not offend those who don't celebrate Christmas. Some towns have debates over whether to put up a nativity scene on public ground or to include a menorah and Kwanzaa candles also. As a result of these debates, a public display of a crèche usually has at least a Santa, a snowman and a menorah nearby.
Perhaps Christmas is too religious. Many Christians are ever ready to remind others of the true meaning of the holiday, which is to celebrate the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ. The problem is that Jesus was not born on December 25th at 12:01 AM. We don't know exactly when he was born because the Bible only gives a few vague references to the reign of King Herod instead of a birth certificate. There is a clue in a verse in the Gospel of Luke that mentions shepherds tending to their sheep outside at night, which rules out the cold and rainy winter months.
With all this squabbling over what Christmas really means, people seem to forget that the roots of Christmas and a majority of its celebrations can be traced to pre-Christian times. There are plenty of winter fests that were celebrated around the time of the 25th before Jesus was born. The Romans honored their god Saturn by giving gifts on Saturnalia. The early Germanics celebrated Yuletide as a 12-day festival and started the tradition of burning a Yule Log. Pagans celebrate the winter solstice because they believe the sun is reborn on the shortest day of the year. Even the origins of the Christmas tree can be traced to the worship of the evergreen during the long dreary winter. It wasn't until sometime in the fourth century when the early Christian Church started to celebrate the nativity on December 25th, that the birth of Jesus became linked with the winter holidays.
Even though Christmas means different things to different people, there's no denying that it is an important time, filled with family, friends and good cheer. The diversity in how we celebrate Christmas only adds to the magic of the season. So do what you normally do every Christmas – whether it's going to church, decorating a tree, or going to the movies and eating Chinese food – and be merry. Just don't forget where the holiday came from.