What does Christmas mean to you, to me, to any of us?
The origins of a festival around the winter solstice are much older than Christianity, and as I bought all my Christmas cards and planned yet another Christmas meal, I began to wonder just what it really was all about.
The ancient peoples of Britain celebrated the celebrated the winter solstice from at least 4000 years ago. Stonehenge is actually aligned to the rising sun on the shortest day of the year. A time to celebrate the lengthening of the days, the promise of warmer weather, and the renewal of life.
This tradition was continued by the Druids who held a fire festival on the night of the 21st to 22nd of December; the festival was called Alban Arthuan – literally “the light of Arthur” after the legendary King who was reputed to have been born on the shortest day of the year. A Yule log was burned for 12 hours for good luck; the word Yule means wheel of the year, another reference to the old year ending and the promise of good fortune during the next. It was at this time that the tradition of decorating a tree began, people would hang images of the Sun, Moon and Stars as offerings to the gods and goddesses for the coming year. (Decorations are already appearing on our tree.) Many of our other familiar traditions date from this time; Holly was hung around homes as shelter for the forest fairies and to dissuade evil spirits, Mistletoe was believed to have healing powers and to bring fertility and protection from witches.
In time, the early Christians incorporated the early pagan traditions into their own festival, which we still celebrate today. But has it lost its original meaning somewhat? Half the world is at war. Millions of people in the third world are dying of poverty and disease. Last Friday – “Black Friday” the main news was about otherwise perfectly normal people stampeding their local shops to get a hefty discount on some consumer item that they probably didn’t want, certainly didn’t need and possibly would not use! Is this what we want to hand down to future generations?
So, what will Christmas be like for our children, grandchildren and their descendants? Do we want them to inherit rampant consumerism and greed, or do we want them to be thankful that they have survived another year, to remember those who did not make it this far and to share what they have got with someone less fortunate than themselves.
I think the ancient people got it right; what ever your beliefs, be thankful for what you have and try to ward off evil so that others can enjoy the prospect of better times to come. We have tried to do that, this Christmas, albeit in a small way, and we thank all of you who have donated in memory of Russell to help less fortunate families around the world. We have almost reached our original target, but we want to continue to get as much as we can for Save the Children. So, if you haven’t donated and would like to, please follow the link below and give something back in memory of a fun-loving lad who didn’t need to wait for Christmas to think of others.