With the Christmas season upon us, Jim Denison, co-founder of Denison Forum, pastor, author and digital-ministry leader, offers surprising insight on Christmas traditions and Santa Claus.
“What does the Bible say about the jolly old man we see every Christmas in malls and advertisements? The short answer, of course, is nothing,” Denison said. “But there’s more to the story about Santa, just as there is more to the many other traditions associated with Christmas.”
“There is also a contentious debate over the secularization of Christmas, and as a Christian I want to celebrate the birth of Jesus,” Denison said. “I encourage Christians to discover the ties many of our holiday traditions, including Santa, have with the real ‘reason for the season.’” Denison’s analysis of Christmas comes from biblical, historical and cultural viewpoints and sheds light on the origins of our holiday traditions:
- Santa Claus—Santa was not present at the first Christmas, but he was a real person. Nicholas was a priest in Asia Minor in AD 280, who spent his life helping poor, underprivileged and mentally challenged children. He visited their homes at night disguised in a red-and-white hooded robe to leave gifts of money, clothing and food in their windows or around their fireplaces. His popularity led him to be made one of the most venerated saints all over the world, and his gift giving tradition out of love, continues.
- Candle in the Window—One of the earliest Christmas traditions was lighting candles to symbolize the coming of the Light of God. Christians often still light candles in their places of worship and put them on their windowsills at home.
- Christmas Trees—Martin Luther is credited with decorating the first Christmas tree in the 16th century. For Christians, the tree symbolizes the beauty of the world Jesus brought into being. And it also foreshadows the tree of Calvary upon which he died for us.
- Wreath—The Roman tradition symbolizing victory predates Jesus’ birth. Christmas wreaths symbolize Jesus’ victory over death.
- Poinsettia—Coming to America from Mexico in the 19th century, the beautiful red leaves of the poinsettia plant, blooming especially during our Christmas season, remind Christians of the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for us all.
- Mistletoe—Its origins are from Medieval England where they believed it to have mystical powers of love, but to Christians, the mistletoe represents Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He alone can bring lasting peace between nations and souls.
- Christmas Cards—These first became popular in the mid-19th century. When receiving or sending a card in the mail, by email or in person this season, Christians can stop to pray for the one on the other end and make the Christ of Christmas more real than any card ever could.
“Viewed in the right way, our Christmas traditions can connect us back to the first Christmas. As families celebrate the holidays, they can make them holy days as well, by not losing sight of the real story of Christmas,” Denison said.