Christmas—Many See a Delight, Not a Danger
“THERE seems a magic in the very name of Christmas,” wrote a youthful Charles Dickens. “Petty jealousies and discords are forgotten . . . Would that Christmas lasted the whole year through.” Dickens, it seems, found much delight in Christmas, and he communicated it to millions through novels like A Christmas Carol. On Christmas Eve this book is still read aloud in family circles (former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt reportedly followed the custom). When Charles Dickens died, a youngster exclaimed: “Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?” But Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is still very much alive in the minds and hearts of many children.
Nor are children alone in viewing the celebration as a delight, not a danger. An influential Australian was touched by what he saw through an open window on Christmas Eve 1937. A radio was softly playing, and there sat an old lady, candle in hand, listening to carols. By next Christmas he organized a mass outdoor gathering called “Carols by Candlelight.” It was well suited to Australian summer evenings, and its popularity soon spread. Today, all across that country, people gather, light a candle and sing carols.
Francis of Assisi was a real champion of the cause of Christmas. In 1224 he conducted a Christmas service around a real manger with a live ox and ass, to the delight of many townsfolk. Soon the crib scene became popular, and at Christmastime it is still displayed in many Catholic homes and churches. The Aracoeli, a church in Rome, has a crib scene with a babe adorned with gold and jewels. Women bring their children to venerate this “holy babe.” Alongside the image are piles of letters from all over the world asking for help and miracles.
In England, Prince Albert (a German) and his wife, Queen Victoria, popularized the Christmas tree by using one in their 1841 Christmas celebration. Soon the German Weihnachtsbaum became very popular among the British. Later, two Anglican clergymen suggested that a Christmas tree and a crib be used in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. This met opposition, so King George V was asked to present the Cathedral with two trees, which he did. Ever since, the crib and trees have been part of the December scene there, and other Protestant churches use these symbols too.
Christmas practices may vary in different lands, yet the Christmas spell, such as is created with lights and evergreens, cribs and carols, parties and presents, is something that many find irresistible. “Where is the child for whom Christmas Day is not the greatest in all the year?” asked historian Pimlott. But if Christmas seems so delightful to many, why is the thought of danger brought up in this discussion? The fact is, the true origin of Christmas is disturbing, and its effects can be harmful. How so?