I think we probably would. Just think of all the things that make Christmas the holiday it is. What are the things that one can think of that are part of Christmas ( other than Santa Claus, the North Pole, the elves, and Reindeer)?
- Christmas cards
- Christmas presents
- Christmas carols
- Christmas trees
- Yule log
In that part of the world where the winters were dark, cold, and very long, our ancient ancestors suffered mightily trying to stay warm and like most humans, missed the warm sunshine. So to help fight off the sadness and suffering of these long, cold winter nights, Our Western ancestors many, many, thousands of years ago started having festivals of light to conquer the darkness. Entire villages would gather round huge bonfires and sign songs, tell stories, exchange presents, and eat lots of goodies – like cakes, pies, and cookies. Sure they probably knew these were bad for them, but when you were afraid that you wouldn’t live to see another spring thaw, you tended not to care. These parties became popular during the darkest part of the winter – when the sun shone the least. This is known as the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the solar year. So rather than hide under their covers shivering from the frost, Westerners gathered together around their big fires.
Over the years, in cold winter places like in Germany, small evergreen trees were cut down and brought indoors to be decorated with candles so the light would stay on after the bonfires went out. The evergreen trees were a symbol of eternal life – and they smelled good. They made the people feel safe and happy.
By the time the Christians came along, Northern Europe had been celebrating the Winter Solstice for a very long time. The festivals had become so popular that these hardy souls living on the edge of civilization actually looked forward to the cold and the snow. Well, the snow anyway. Not only did they have parties that went on for days centered around the Solstice which falls around Dec 21st, but they learned to extend the celebrations so that as soon as it started snowing, they started partying. They learned to ski and sled and do all the winter sports. The Christians knew they couldn’t replace the Winter Solstice with celebrating the birth of Jesus (which actually was in August), so they just updated the celebration to be about the birth of Jesus rather than the death of light. Pretty clever. It worked. So for the past two thousand years, Christians, who converted virtually all of the people of the North, the Norsemen, and the Germans, and the Russians…they also added songs, and the idea of a holiday – a holy day - to remember that Jesus was born and that the celebration had a deeper meaning than just keeping warm, eating lots of sugary treats, and spending money on presents.
So as the days get shorter in the Northern Hemisphere where a lot of the world’s population is based, and the weather gets cold, remember that our ancestors didn’t know about the Baby Jesus, but in their own way, they celebrated hope and life, light and warmth. We do know about the Baby Jesus and we have the whole story of how he changed the world for the better, and we have whole new reasons for believing in the good of mankind. But Christmas time isn’t just for Christians. It’s about giving and loving and hoping– regardless of your religious beliefs.