History / Spiritual

What is behind the Christmas Season



It is Christmas time.  Besides the shopping season and Biedermeier family season, this time is a colorful, light-rich spectacle and tourists from all over the world come year after year to Europe, to look at this drive from nearby. They are thrilled by ginger, roasted almonds and the mulled wine.  Even we go impressed by the atmosphere on this beautiful Sunday. In the morning we went to your local church as every year. It is a mass especially devoted to families and the church was fuller than ever on this occasion. On the afternoon, we went to the city  where outdoor fairy lights are hung on the streets and the squares and streets of the cities are full of those little markets. We just checked one in the “English Garden and one in the Residenz (Kings Palace) and will do one more in Blutenburg.

English Garden Winter Sun shining on the Trees

English Garden Winter Sun shining on the Trees

My wife (Buddhist) asked me about the color of the priests cloth the mass. All I could mutter, well its the same as colour during easter.  So I decided to summarize a few historical  thoughts about what is behind the “season”.

The first advent reminds us that Christians should expect the second coming of Jesus Christ. Also, the new liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. Originally it was a lent, between 11 November and the original date of Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Its Liturgical colour is Purple, synonymous with the transition and transformation, which is also carried in the before Easter (lent). The advent  is important to us, the family comes together after a busy year. Advent devotions gives space for quietness, silences, to listen, to think and to dream and gives ourself a break. The own soul often neglected, really can prepare for the arrival of God on Christmas day and prayers be a source of strength for everyday life, to feel the ground beneath the feet again.

It was Pope Gregory I (The Great, 590-604), who had set the number of four advent first in the sixth century. He was the right man in the right place at the right time and contributed other important aspects of the liturgy – for example, he is thought responsible for arranging the “Gregorian” chants which became central pieces of music in religious services. Gregory advocated allegorical readings of scriptures. He was the first monk to become pope, Originally he came from a public career and took monasticism as he found it established by St. Benedict.

The advent Sundays relate to different topics. The first Sunday of advent is marked by the coming of Christ in the last days, Apocalypse and the last judgment. On the second and third Sunday of advent, John of the Baptist stands in the Center. He is the last Prophet, who “wants to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord”.The fourth Sunday in advent is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On 8th of  December, the Catholics celebrate the feast of the Virgin Mary conception.

In any case, lets at least get two facts around Christmas straight.

Jesus was not born on December 24th.

We are not even very sure about the year. Christianity decided (as usual utilzing dates which had a meaning already) to celebrate Christ’s birth at the winter solstice because pagan festivals existed during that time. Other account it the other way.

Around 155 after Christ already the grotto of the Nativity appears in Bethlehem. No later than 200 AD the first pilgrimages came  to Bethlehem.  We have fragments from old Christmas homilies and liturgies from the 3rd century. In a sermon of the Church Father Cyprian of Carthage ( around  258) it is said:» O how wonderful was the Divine Providence that on a day where the Sun was born, Christ was to be born.» That refers to birthday of Christ and winter solstice – 25th of December. A pagan winter solstice was introduced  274 AD by Emperor Aurelian.  It is not certain, however, whether  Christmas was celebrated at all in the short time up to Emperor Konstantin [280-337] whom made Christianity to a state religion in the Roman Empire.  In the year 380 the Pilgrim Egeria  reports of Christmas in Jerusalem, in great detail as Christian feast in the East (but on January 6th).  Breakthrough in was the Council of Nica and Constantinople in 381. Since then as a religious creed it formulates: 25.12. birth celebration, 6.1.Epiphanias.

The wise men were oriental magicians

The wise men probably showed up after Jesus was born. That birth would be, according to the constellations in the year seven BC. They were astronomers – wise mystics – most likely not royalty. And since the Bible said they brought three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—a tradition arose that there were three of them. 1615, Kepler delivered a “report of the birth of Christ”, in which he made a connection between the star of Bethlehem and a “coarse conjunctions” (two stars in the same longitude position) of the planets Jupiter and Saturn which at that time had been observed by Babylonian astrologers.