The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

Every year we celebrate Christmas and usually it is a very fun time of year, with food, gifts, parties, mistletoe, lights and I’m sure you could add a few other things to the list. We begin with Good Ole Saint Nick at the beginning of December and we end with Santa Clause, with Father Time bringing in the New Year.

So let’s look at these people who have contributed to this season called “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” a great song which was sung by Andy Williams back in 1963 which was written by Edward Pola, and George Wyle. Here is the first verse to the song. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year with the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you, be of good cheer, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This along with other favorite Christmas music has generated what we feel today about Christmas. But is this all true or maybe it’s all make believe. We want to take a closer look into Christmas. Let’s start with Santa Clause that began centuries ago. Santa Clause, sometimes called the Father of Christmas, also has a dark side to him.  Let’s start with Saint Nick. Nicholas of Bari was a Bishop of Greek descent in the 4th Century, from the city of Mrya which is today Demre in modern day Turkey.  He was imprisoned and likely tortured during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian but was released under the rule of Constantine the Great. Constantine began Christmas as a tribute to his mother so she could celebrate the birth of her Son of God, while he celebrated the nativity of his god who was the sun, which was celebrated on December 25th along with the Winter Solstice.  According to Britannica, Nicholas was known for his generosity and giving to the poor. Today we celebrate St. Nick on December 6th by giving children little gifts, maybe filling stockings hanging on a fireplace, all of which begins the Christmas Season.

There are many stories of his giving, but Nicholas is best known for being what we call Santa Clause today. It all began in Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name St. Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th Century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. But kindly he wasn’t.  Evidence of this comes from the ways that the Sinterklaas ‘universe’ expanded to include a host of frightening, violent characters who dished out punishments to naughty children – including Krampus, Pere Fouettard (‘Old Man Whipper’), Ru-Klaus (‘Rough Nicholas’), Pelsnickel (‘Furry Nicholas’) and Knecht Rupert (‘Farmhand Rupert’).

The Norse god Odin played a role in the development of Santa for pagan Germanic peoples. Yule was the celebration of the god Odin riding through the sky on a great hunt and meant a time of feasting, drinking and festivity. With the spread of Christianity, the pagan traditions of Yule were altered to reflect the teachings of the church, but there are still some notable similarities between Santa Claus and Odin, a mythical man with a long beard and omniscient power.  Legend has it that Odin also had two ravens who would listen at the chimney’s edge to hear which children were bad and good, and rode an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir, who could travel across the sky in a single bound, just like a magical reindeer! Forget cheery elves jingling with bells: many traditional companions of Saint Nicholas are terrifying figures. Krampus, for example, is an Alpine legend. A companion and counterbalance for the good-hearted St. Nicholas, he is a goat-like demon  who will snatch misbehaved children away on December 5 (Krampusnacht), the night before St. Nicholas comes to deliver presents to good children.  The Yule Lads of Iceland play tricks on naughty children and leave rotten potatoes in their shoes instead of treats, and in France, Père Noel has a foil named Père Fouettard, who whips the badly behaved. And you thought coal in your stocking was the worst that could happen… In Finland, the Santa tradition started with a goat. Pagan Yule in Finland revolved around Odin’s son Thor, who was associated with goats and the harvest. On Yule feast nights, villagers dressed as nuuttipukki, a combination of a malevolent spirit and a goat, came from door to door demanding leftovers. Over time, the nuuttipukki combined with the St. Nicholas tradition to form the friendly Joulupukki (Yule Goat). Now more a man than goat, he goes door to door, politely ringing the bell to ask if there are any good children within. Yule Goats continue as a popular form of decoration in Scandinavia as a whole, and some become larger than life town centerpieces! Much of this came over to America by way of those immigrants who settled here. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas.

Words like yuletide or yule log come from this dark side of Christmas. Christmas has been more of a pagan ritual celebrating the Winter Solstice, than it has been in celebrating the birth of the Messiah. Over the centuries Father Christmas and Santa Clause seem to merge into one character. By the 20th Century popular songs of the time created a new image of Santa and Christmas. This beloved jolly man warmed the hearts of many of children, and their parents that the old seemed to have been forgotten. The roots lie beneath the tree and the fruit now seems to look good enough to eat. The modern Christmas trees have been related to the “tree of paradise” of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24th of December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (representing fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus to the original sin that Christ took away) and round white wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls.  Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.  But between the root and the fruit there lies the birth of the Messiah, which was all man made from the start. Are we like Eve who ate of the forbidden tree? Not everything that glitters is gold. Today we don’t seem to care about the beginning of things. The roots are down deep and we don’t see them so like Halloween and Christmas, it’s all about the fruit we see. That is what Eve thought also and she found out that it’s the fruit that brought death. The spiritual forces that play themselves out during these pagan times are very much active and their only goal is to get you to eat the fruit, and once you do you are sold a bill of goods that says, “I am participating in a pagan holiday if I know it or not and I am participating in demonic activity if I realize it or not.” Because the roots of the tree is what supports the tree and good fruit can not come from a bad tree as this harsh warning in Matthew 7:15-23 says it all. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits. ‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice Lawlessness.”’

Anything that God has ever done He has done during His Appointed Times (Leviticus 23). December 25th is not one of God’s Appointed Times. Constantine was not a Christian but a pagan who worshiped the sun god, it was the nativity of the sun god that Emperor Constantines included the Savior as the day of His birth. It is well believed that Messiah was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. You may want to think twice before eating the fruit of the tree called Christmas.

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