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Word Wisdom: Christmas

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Próspero año y felicidad
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Próspero año y felicidad
I wanna wish you a merry Christmas, I wanna wish you a merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a merry Christmas, From the bottom of my heart.

Christmas is a Christian feast day observed each calendar year on December 25th. It is not tied to a particular day of the week but is always celebrated whenever the 25th of the 12th month falls. In the Christian Year Christmas is a 12-day celebration from December 25 to January 5, culminating with the Epiphany (visit of the magi to the Christ child) on January 6. The evening before a festival is often observed in a special way, thus Christmas Eve on December 24 has become a traditional kick-off to the days of Christmas.

The Bible gives no date for the birth of Jesus, nor uses the word Christmas at all. But December 25 has become a day of importance for Christians and many other people around the world.

The word Christmas comes from Old English Cristes Maesse, meaning the Mass of Christ. Sometime in the early 300s AD Christians set aside a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Philocalus, a Greek calligrapher, produced a calendar of important dates in 354 AD. In a portion of the work, dated from 336 AD, he wrote, “on the eighth day of the kalends of January, Christ, born in Bethlehem of Judea.”

Although it seems that as early as 200 AD some Christians in Egypt were commemorating the birth of Jesus on May 20th according to the writings of Clement of Alexandria. The Eastern Orthodox Church used January 6 for the special observance of the birth of Jesus for centuries. Today many Orthodox Christians, following the Julian calendar, observe Christmas on January 7.

Why December 25 for much of the world? There are two theories that together promote Christmas on December 25th. The one is the Roman festival of Saturnalia; the other is the date of March 25 for another Christian observance.

Saturnalia was an ancient celebration of the winter solstice (the shortest night of the year, usually December 21 or 22) and the recognition of the daylight hours beginning to lengthen (Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun). It was a festival of the triumph of light over darkness, celebrated by acts of emancipation for slaves and gift giving among friends. Christians may have used the season in a counter-cultural way to focus on the Son of God’s entrance into human history to bring the Divine light into a dark world of sin and the beginning of emancipation from death through the Christ.

In the early Church, writers like Tertullian and Hippolytus, recognized Jesus’ death on March 25. Symbolic numerology led to the idea of the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary on the same day, March 25th. A nine-month gestation period would then place his birth on December 25. So, sometime in the early 400s AD the Western Church, based in Rome, established the Mass of Christ on December 25th, based on Saturnalia and the March 25 date.

Feliz Navidad is a Christmas song written in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano. It is a traditional Spanish greeting for Christmas in various places around the world. Feliz Navidad is one of the topmost played and recorded Christmas songs.

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-413 AD) penned:

Of the Father’s love begotten ere the world began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending he, of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see evermore and evermore.
Oh, that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace, by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Saviour of our race, and the babe, the world’s redeemer, first revealed his sacred face evermore and evermore.
This is he whom seers in old time, chanted of with one accord, whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word; now he shines, the long-expected; let creation praise its Lord evermore and evermore.

Merry Christmas!

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.