Culture Versus Religion: The History Of Christmas

Culture Versus Religion: The History Of Christmas

How the cultural celebrations melded with the faith.
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The following article is dedicated and credited to my professor Dr. Bruce Forbes of Morningside College.

Christmastime is here. We see all the lights and the decorations, Christmas trees, and the nativity scenes. We've seen the "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaigns and have heard from "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" people.

I recently sat through two lectures about the history of Christmas, and I've realized that both the religious Christmas celebrations and the cultural Christmas celebrations can coexist.

Dr. Bruce Forbes of Morningside College, who personally is my favorite professor (sorry Dr. Tinklenberg, you're a close second), has written a book, Christmas: A Candid History, about the history of the holiday and where it comes from. As I sat through his lecture, Dr. Forbes connected the dots between the cultural and religious histories of Christmas, and now it all makes sense to me.

Let's start with how European cultures fought off the wintertime blues – they threw a mid-winter party, of course.

These mid-winter parties were filled with drinking, food, lights, family, decorations... does any of this sound familiar? It fell around the winter solstice when the days finally started getting longer again. It was a great time, and people were just trying to make it through a depressing season.

So, when did Christians get involved? Well, in the 300s. We don't know an actual date but we know it was at some point within that century. Did it happen because Constantine converted to Christianity and people thought that maybe they should, like, tone down the partying? Maybe. It's possible that in Roman culture -- with a party for the solstice and a party for the new year -- they plopped Christmas right between the two.

Skip ahead a few centuries, and we have people who no longer want to celebrate Christmas, particularly the Anglican church. And for about 100 years, they didn't. Businesses were open and kids still went to school on Christmas. Puritans did not celebrate the holiday because they believed it was too "worldly." In the colonies, or in certain places, people were fined or thrown in jail for celebrating the holiday.

John Wesley, founder of the United Methodist tradition, lived during this time. He never once preached a Christmas message. In fact, it was in the 1800s that people again began to celebrate Christmas. Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" was the type of Christmas he desired to have, not the Christmas he celebrated. And it was because of this book that traditions began to change.

I know that Santa is based off of Saint Nicholas, who is known as a generous saint. There are so many stories, and the image of him has transformed over time. If you wish to learn more I highly recommend Dr. Forbes's book. It's on Amazon, and makes a great gift. It's written for a general audience, which is probably the best part about it.

No, Christmas isn't a truly pure holiday. But it's OK to celebrate it both within the culture and as a Christian because the two contain my favorite parts of the season. As a practicing Christian, I still love the cultural side of it too.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Christmas Of Remembrance Series: My Last Letter

Christmas time is not about the gifts... It is about something far, far more special.

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Dear Reader,

Thank you for your time.

This is a series that I have dedicated to those I have loved and lost. It was merely a thought, then an idea, and now a realized creation. Christmas time… all winter really is a hard time for me. It holds this duality in my life of being both my favorite and also my least favorite and difficult time of year. It has been that way for years now.

In a way, this series aids my closure and healing further, and it allows me to tell my story in a way that, to me, is less scary (one of the many great facets of this platform). It was never my intention to write this in order to reach people, or encourage people, or serve as an inspiration to anyone. This was for me and only me. No one else. But, if these pieces of writing do impact someone, somewhere, or make them feel encouraged or inspired in some way or another, or just simply make them feel, then I hope you have enjoyed them. If I can make someone feel, then I guess I have done my job.

The life of an artist is often an uncertain one. The life of a human is a trying one. But life is a journey, and all journeys have their trials. Their tests. Their triumphs and rewards. And they all have their losses. What matters most is what you make of all of it. What lessons you learn. What changes you make. What life you create for yourself. What art you create because of it all. It can be very, very hard. But it can all be glorious at the same time.

At the heart of this series, my words, there is this deep and valuable belief of mine: Christmas (or the Winter Holiday that you may celebrate) is so much more about presents and cooking and shopping and all that other bullshit… it is about family.

The family that is related by blood. The family that surrounds your heart. Your Mom. Your brother. Your dearest friends. The bonds that make life valuable. Worth living. These bonds are soulful bonds, ones that are far more special than any mere trivial object. So… be with them. Forgive. Forget. Heal. Mend what is broken. Reassemble what has been shattered. And stop worrying so much. Laugh together. Cry together. Heal on another. Heal together. And may your new days be better, brighter, and full of love.

Happy Holidays.

Ty


A song for you...

"Sense of Home" — Harrison Storm / YouTube

If you liked this series, I invite you to check out my previous article below…

To My Fellow 孤, The Sons Without Fathers On Father’s Day

As well as this article by a fellow creator…

What You Learn Losing A Parent So Young

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