In the early days of the Church, no one was sure of when Jesus was born. So Christians in Rome chose to celebrate His birth on December 25, because the pagans already had a feast on that day when they celebrated the birth of the sun. For many of us Christmas is the happiest day of the year. Most of all Christmas is a day to remember God’s great love for us. We join with people all over the world in giving thanks to God for His love. We thank God for having sent His only Son into the world to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. But why do we do certain things to celebrate Christmas? Why do we have Christmas trees and Christmas cards? Why do we prepare a manger set? And who is Santa Claus and how does he belong to our Christmas celebrations?
The Christmas tree was another custom that was borrowed from the pagans when St Boniface a priest from England travelled to Germany to convert the pagans there. He gave them a young evergreen tree, a tree which never loses its leaves. For the German people and for us, the Christmas tree is an important reminder of the gift God offers us in His Son: everlasting life.
St Francis of Assisi, a deacon, gave us one of the most beautiful Christmas customs. He always had a great love for Christmas and wanted the town people to celebrate it in a special way. He asked permission of the Holy Father to put on a play in the cave where he lived and the people brought their donkeys, sheep and oxen to the cave. He also set up a crib and then they celebrated Midnight Mass to welcome in Christmas day. This custom is practised all over the world today.
* The sending of Christmas cards started in the fifteenth century but the first was printed in Britain in 1843 by Henry Cole.
* Christmas Carols, the first Silent Night, Holy Night was written in 1818 by Franz Gruber a schoolmaster. People still go from house to house serenading. They are also sung at church as we gather to celebrate Christmas Masses on Christmas Day and in the weeks after Christmas.
* Santa Claus –What would Christmas be without Santa Claus? Santa Claus was originally a saint – St Nicholas who was a bishop of a city named Myra in Turkey. Santa Claus is portrayed as the big-belly man wearing a red suit, long white beard, carrying a sack on his back full of goodies for every girl and boy.
* Christmas Plants: The holly, the ivy, the mistletoe and the poinsettia.
Christmas Day in Trinidad and Tobago
Christmas Day in Trindad and Tobago is unique. Our culture and identity are showcased as our great love for this festive occasion is mirrored in our spirituality, love, food, and music. After all the weeks of preparation – prayer, reflection, reconciliation (Advent); thoroughly cleaning our houses, shopping for new curtains, furniture; baking of black cake, bread and sweetbread; making of pastelles, ginger beer, sorrel and ponche de crème; attending Christmas parties, luncheons and dinners, concerts and parang competitions, we are ready to celebrate. Christmas Day is a day when most families get together. After attending Holy Mass on the morning families and friends gather together sharing gifts, eating a sumptuous meal, drinking and dancing to the rhythmic sounds of parang and soca parang music.
Paranderos (a group of parang singers) and carollers may also visit homes of friends and family and also institutions of the handicapped and needy as they serenade and bring Christmas greetings.
We have seen in recent years how Christmas has become very commercial. People are more concerned with the physical aspect and forget its real meaning – the birth of Baby Jesus and God’s message of love to each one of us. Christmas should be spent in a way that reminds us of that message. We should thank God for our families, God’s greatest gift to us. We should also remember those who are less fortunate as we share our love, food and gifts to make them happy also.
We like St Francis, should be so on fire with love for God that everyone can see that Jesus is real and lives in our hearts. We should make every day Christmas Day.
HAVE A HAPPY AND HOLY CHRISTMAS! FELIZ NAVIDAD! – Louise Zamora for Archdiocesan Catechetical Office