Christmas really is one of the greatest times of the year, especially for our children. But early in my life I had a love/hate relationship with Christmas.
I guess it all started when I was about six years old and I found out that Santa Claus was not real. I loved the idea of Father Christmas, a kindly old man, coming around at midnight to give me toys.
The word had gotten around among my circle of friends that our parents were the real benefactors. They say truth is stranger than fiction. Finally, the truth sank in, and I can remember feeling distinctly disappointed.
Then again, as Ned Kelly famously said, “Such is life”. Mind you, it did not get any better when at about eight years of age my dad explained to me that Jesus was not even born at Christmas time. His birth was more likely to have been around the northern hemisphere spring or summer.
You see shepherds were not usually outside in the field in the middle of winter in Palestine. Even the exact date of his birth was in dispute. Jesus was most likely born somewhere around 4 BC.
Of course, the real story behind St Nicholas — Santa Claus is wonderfully profound and worth reliving and retelling. Randy Stonehill’s song keeps his story alive. These are the stories our children need to hear and not the commercial make-believe of our market-driven Christmas/New Year season.
So how did Christmas come into being? The early Christians began to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 as early as 354 AD. They did this as a takeover of the Saturnalia Festival, a celebration to honour the Roman god Saturn, which fell around the December solstice.
This solstice is the shortest day of the year, December 21/22, while in Australia it is our longest day, reminding us that summer has begun its decline.
In 525 AD, a monk named Dionysius Exiguous confirmed Jesus birth as December 25 (Year 1) for the purposes of his own calendar and as a result established Anno Domini, which translates as ‘the year of our Lord’ – AD.
Dionysius’ calendar became, within two centuries, the calendar for the whole world thanks to the work of another monk/historian, the Venerable Bede from England.
It is interesting to note that the French Revolution (late 1700s) and the Italian Fascists (1922) each seriously attempted to displace the Anno Domini system by dating from their own founding. North Korea did the same sort of thing through the birth of their founder Kim II Sung, dating their calendar from 1911. All these attempts have failed in one way or another.
Even in recent times, the politically correct brigade have tried to remove BC and AD because of their hate for the Christ of Christmas. Try as they might the elite cannot stamp out Christmas or the birth date of the birthday boy himself.
The words I wrote last year in a Christmas article ring true for this year as well:
Australians love outsiders and outcasts. That’s one of the many reasons Aussies love the Christmas story. You see, Joseph and Mary were rank outsiders. Mary was having a baby ‘out of wedlock’. The angel story was always going to be hard to explain to the relatives.
By Jewish law, Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, should have divorced her on the spot, but an angel spoke to him, and he had the courage to defend her despite the shame and condemnation from his own family.
Imagine walking for 110 kilometres with your wife who is 9 months pregnant to visit your relatives. You know your relatives really don’t want to be seen with you, because of the scandal of the pending illegitimate birth. Yet you go anyway!
Joseph was a man of courage and compassion, who acted according to his convictions. Yes, he was laughed at and Mary was too, but the ostracised outsiders became the ultimate heroes. This was even truer for Mary’s boy child, Jesus.
Hated and rejected by the media elite and political ruling class of his day, they nailed Him to a cross, but they could not keep a good man down.
Aussies love stories like this. That is just one of the many reasons why Christmas is so popular in this country. The story of Mary and Joseph is a story of true love, the importance of family and the rank outsider coming good. This story resonates profoundly in the Aussie psyche.
Australia began as a convict nation, who now for the greater part, would join with Mick Dundee to say, “me and God are mates”.
Australians love those who are outsiders and outcasts. People who help others and get the job done without fuss or fanfare, ‘the mate of the dying’ as Henry Lawson said in his poem, ‘Christ of the Never’.
The Christmas story of the ultimate outsider born in a manger and then saving the world resonates deeply with the Australian spirit.
Australia’s constitution says, “humbly relying on the blessings of almighty God.” This is something we can all drink to especially around Christmas time.
Yes, the Christmas/New Year period is wracked by obnoxious commercialism with some very shaky beginnings, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Christmas and New Year are not all bad.
The glass is half full not half empty so let us drink a toast to the reason for the season.
Let’s celebrate the birthday boy.
Let’s sing Christmas carols.
Let’s go to church.
Let’s give gifts.
Let’s put a renewed priority on our family.
Let’s stop working, have fun with our families and play with our children.
Let’s celebrate this Christmas and New Year as holy-days and use this time to rebuild our relationships both on earth and in heaven.
Yours, for celebrating Christmas
Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation and has worked as a musician and creative communicator/TV producer. He is editor in chief of the weekly Dads4Kids email newsletter and in 2001 received a Centenary Medal.
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