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The History of Christmas: Epilogue – Time Was Is NOW December 20, 2012

Posted by Yarnspnr in History of Christmas.
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The History of Christmas
Epilogue: Time Was, Is Now

 

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My twelve day look at the History of Christmas is over. Obviously, there are many other significant entries I could have made and you might be wondering why I chose what I did and left out other seemingly more important features of this wondrous holiday.

I included what is here because these articles contain a connecting thread that I feel is significant in the celebration of the Christmas season. That thread is the awe and wonder and even the spiritual fulfillment that the human race has experienced over the years from the dawn of mankind up to and including our own time.

I chose to express my history in the form of conversations and letters. I’ve always felt a more personal approach to history allows it to be embraced, appreciated, and more easily understood by the majority of people. Call it my ‘style,’ if you will. Hopefully, it didn’t detract from your enjoyment.

Some may wonder why I did not include the nativity, or as it is called ~ the Christmas Story. Although it has produced an awe and wonder of its own, it has done so at the expense of the true history of the holidays. While I have nothing against the Christian expression of Christmas as the birth of the Christ child, you have to agree that much of the story has simply been tacked on to a season of joy that predated Christ’s birth by thousands of years.

Had the Christian church been willing to join in the age-old celebration and embrace the traditions of the past, I would have included it. But the honest truth is the church has tried to capture the wonder of the season and pass it off as its own. It has “Christianized” many of the traditions and stories that started elsewhere and claimed their expression of them as holy and righteous. Then it has turned around and vehemently attacked the original traditions claiming them heretical and labeling them as pagan evils in the eyes of God.

No one knows the date of Christ’s birth.  The Bible is mute on the issue, just as it doesn’t suggest anywhere that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated.  But since the story tells us that shepherds were tending their flocks outside at night it stands to reason that the birth month would have been in October or March.   During the bitter cold of December in Palestine, it is highly doubtful that Jewish shepherds would have been outside with their charges.

What I’ve tried to show above all else is that Christmas has been and always will be many things to many people. It is as complicated as the love it engenders. It’s a time for joy, peace and happiness. Yet, at the same time, it is a period of high stress and depression for many.   The truth is – the wonders of the season are most evident in homes where the holiday is celebrated as both a secular and spiritual festival.

The celebration of the season has always been somewhat commercial, more secular than sacred. Merchants from the beginning of time have profited from its merriment. Yet, without doubt, there has always been a touch of the sacred, whether by myth or miracle, that has always been included in the festivity.

Thank for stopping by and reading. I wish you all the best in the New Year.

Your host,

Erick Emert

 

Short Bibliography:

The Origins of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly

4,000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages by Earl W. Count, Alice Lawson Count, and Dan Wakefield

Where Did Christmas Come From? by Al Remson

Christmas in America by Penne L. Restad

There Really Is a Santa Claus: The History of St. Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions by William J. Federer

Christmas: A Social History by Mark Connelly

The Trouble With Christmas by Tom Flynn

Christmas in America by Antonia Felix

History, Legends & Folklore of Christmas by Judy M. Rouse

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub

The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum

Also, many websites too numerous to mention were researched concerning the history of Christmas.

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The History of Christmas: Day 12 – The Christmas Truce (1914 CE) December 20, 2012

Posted by Yarnspnr in History of Christmas.
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The History of Christmas
Day 12: The Christmas Truce – 1914 CE

 

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This Christmas saw many American families torn apart because of the war in Iraq. Sons and daughters left parents alone at home. Husbands and wives, separated by the call to active duty, fought the tears of loneliness during what should have been a happy time. And then there are the combatants, both worshiping pretty much the same God, both attacking each other with a vengeance in order to kill and maim.

Going back to the American Revolution, how many wars have been fought that pitted Christian against Christian? The French Revolution followed quickly on the heels of our own. Then came the war of 1812 and the Napoleonic wars, followed by our Civil war, then the Spanish-American war, World War I and World War II.

Amazing when you think about it. Pick your side and listen to the prayers.  One wonders what God thought. Yet out of these conflagrations rose one unique miracle, something that never happened before or after on the same scale.

It started near Ypres, Belgium, and spread up and down across the no-man’s-lands of a Europe torn apart by World War I. Neither the Germans nor the British were thinking about whether Jesus was the reason for the season. Nor were they concerning themselves with the secularization of Christmas. They were too busy fighting a grimy trench war. Then, on the night of December 26th, the true spirit of Christmas touched the men of both armies. What occurred over the next ten days proved that Christmas could even stop a war.

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France, 1914
Dear Mum,

Somewhere between Houplines and Frelinghien events occurred over the past two days that underscored my faith in the love of man for his fellows. I’ve written you often how I’ve felt that war removes the humanity from human beings. The sight of a companion, dead in a pool of his own blood is a lasting reminder of what this war is truly about. The anger it imbues for a nameless, faceless enemy is easy to understand. So we hurl our shells back at their trenches, hoping to kill as many of them as possible. And on their side, friends died as well. And their anger at us grows daily. This cycle continues on and on as the dead pile up on both sides.

A cold front must have moved in on the 24th. Temperatures dropped quickly. Thankfully, the mud in the trenches froze, making it easier to get around. By nightfall, most of us were shivering with the cold. One of my mates pointed out something unusual happening out across no mans land. There were twinkling lights. The Germans had set Christmas trees and strung lights on their parapets. How odd, I thought.

About an hour later, voices rose up on the German side in song. They sang their version of Silent Night. When they were finished, our boys answered with a carol of our own. This continued well into the night. I listened and joined in when I knew the song. I’ve not that good a voice, Mum, as you know. Many of the carols were about the birth of Jesus. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought of all this bloodshed between believers. He couldn’t be happy with it.

The next morning, from across no-man’s-land, came a call of, “Don’t Shoot. Don’t Shoot.” Through the fog I saw a German standing halfway between the trenches holding up a Christmas tree. One of our lads jumped out of the trench and walked up to him. The German said, “Here Tommy. For you. Merry Christmas.” Our lad shook his hand and said, “Merry Christmas, Fritz.”

Soon no man’s land was filled with soldiers from both sides, shaking hands, exchanging cigarettes, chocolates and other small gifts. Some of the lads threw down their hats, marked off a pitch and played a game of football. Amazing, Mum. It was all very difficult to believe. I shared a beer with a few of their boys. I couldn’t speak German and most of them couldn’t speak English, but we managed to make our feelings known. You could feel an undercurrent of distrust, even fear to a degree, but this was buried underneath the fascination of simple acts of kindness on both sides.

Today I sit in our trench. The guns are still silent and there are catcalls going on back and forth. Some saying, thank you or happy New Year. But we all know that soon the killing must begin again. I wonder what would happen if we all just threw down our guns and said, “No.” I suppose that’s unreasonable, but the thought did cross my mind. What is there about this time of year that can stop a war and bring even the most hated of enemies together in peace and friendship?

I need to go, Mum. I hope your Christmas was as remarkable as mine. Happy New Year and best to Dad and Kitten.

Love, Frank

*

When upper echelon officers on both sides heard about this they were stunned. Orders to cease the fraternization were sent out immediately. But even this did not stop the spirit of Christmas from enacting its power. Some lower level officers were arrested for not putting a stop to the celebrating. In many areas, however, the truce lasted until New Year’s Day.

The Generals swore that such a truce would never happen again. It hasn’t. Man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man is more important than human kindness. But the truce proved that when people get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas, the meaning that started over four thousand years ago and has been passed down every year thereafter, miracles of vast proportion can and do happen.