What You Didn’t Know…Christmas

When Americans think of Christmas they think of Jesus, Santa, and gifts. However, only one of these thoughts has to do with Christmas. The original holiday of Christmas has nothing to do with Santa Claus or giving gifts. In fact, it originally was not a holiday, but a twelve-day feast, which is where the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas” originate. Christmastide was its original name and it lasted from December 25th to January 5th. Each day represents the life of Jesus from the day Gabriel sent the message to Joseph and Mary to the day Jesus was resurrected. There were and still are no gift giving during this festival, it is all about celebrating Jesus. This festival was started in 567 A.D. by the Roman Catholic church. Going back to everyone’s favorite (I think it is everyone’s favorite) Christmas song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Each day represents something or someone(s) in the bible:

A partridge in a pear tree represents Yeshua (Jesus), the Son of YHWH. Day two, the turtledoves signify the Old and the New Testaments of the bible. Three French hens symbolize, faith, hope and love. The calling birds on day four represent the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The five golden rings (the only part everyone remembers) symbolizes the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). The geese who are laying eggs represent the six days of creation. Seven swans that are swimming symbolize spiritual gifts of Ruach Ha Kadesh (Holy Spirit). The maids that are milking on the eighth day speaks to the Beatitudes, and Christ as Savior for all. The nine dancing ladies are the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). The leaping lords on the tenth day symbolize the Ten Commandments. The eleven pipers piping represent the twelve disciples excluding Judas. And lastly, the twelfth day of drummers drumming represents the twelve points of doctrine in the Catholic Apostle’s Creed.

Many changes have been made to the festival all over Europe where it is still observed. So, where did Santa and gift giving originate? That is a completely different holiday.

Saint Nicholas, although, not 100% proven by historians, was said to be a Greek Christian Bishop who performed signs, miracles, and wonders like Jesus. He was also known to be highly charitable and always giving to those in need. He died on December 6, 343. In the Netherlands after his death, a holiday was created to honor him and his charitable ways. They named the holiday Sinterklaas and it was celebrated on the evening of December 5th into December 6th. There was no lying to children about a magical being. He was simply a man dressed as Saint Nicholas. He rode on a horse-drawn sleigh. and would give candy and fruit to the good children and his assistant would give out spankings and/or coal to the naughty children. Depending on the part of Europe you’re in depends on his assistant. Knecht Ruprecht is in Germany; Krampus, a devil looking thing, can be found in Austria, Bavaria, South Tyrol, Slovenia, and Croatia. In the Palatinate, Germany is Belsnickel, and in some parts of Netherland, Belgium, and Luxembourg is Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), he is a man, who is black (of African descent), and his name is Pete. He is often played by someone in blackface.

America’s Christmas

I am sure by now you know there really is no such thing as an American. Everyone, even the natives, migrated from another land. Once Europeans heard about the new English established land, America, they began to migrate in numbers from every country in Europe. And every one of them brought their own traditions, faiths, and beliefs with them. Today the American Christmas is a mixture of Christmastide and Sinterklaas. In Europe the holidays are separated, but in America they are a soup holiday (melting pot). Many people consider people scrooges for not buying gifts for Christmas, but the original Christmas holiday never had anything to do with gifts and everything to do with the celebration of Jesus. And although gifts were given during Sinterklaas, it still was not about the gifts, but the memory of a great man (Saint Nicholas) who did so many great and kind things to complete strangers, like Jesus did. So, if you are celebrating either holiday remember it is not about the gifts or lying to children about reindeer and Santa, but about being kind and charitable to strangers and those who need it most.

Have a Happy Sinterklaas and a Merry Christmas.

Note: References are linked in the underlined words.



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Casey Bell

Casey Bell

Proud uncle, writer (author, poet, songwriter, playwright, screenwriter, drama series), fashion designer, graphic designer, visual artist, and so much more.