This is Christmas Eve, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a time of joy and sharing. The joy comes from the birth of the long-awaited Messiah predicted in The Book of Isaiah 7.14. The sharing is a practice started by the Three Wise Men, who as told in Matthew 2:1-12, guided by a magnificent star reached the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Nicholas, a monk born around 280 AD in what is now modern-day Turkey, furthered the sharing tradition. He is said to have used his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. For his good deeds he became St. Nicholas, a patron of children. As time went by, his name, Sinter Klaas in Dutch, became Santa Clause.
Not to be forgotten are other traditions of joy and sharing. Burning the Yule Log is a Nordic tradition going back to the Middle Ages. And that tradition evolved from the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice on December 21, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. To keep away bad spirits during the year’s longest night, and to observe the rebirth of the Sun, Druids lighted bonfires.
In the Southern Hemisphere, December 21 marks the Summer Solstice, and the longest day of the year. There is no snow or strong traditions associated with Santa Claus. In Spanish-speaking countries, children receive their presents on January 6, in remembrance of the day the Three Wise Men – also called the Three Kings or the Magi – reached the Baby Jesus.
Druids celebrated rebirth of the Sun on December 21, and 12 days after that, when the Sun was thought to stand still for that period of time. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, and 12 days after that the arrival of the Three Wise Men.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah the Festival of Lights, or the Birth of Mithra the God of Light in Persian tradition, you are celebrating the triumph of Light over Darkness.
Of course, you need not celebrate any of these events at all to choose Light over Darkness, Joy over Hopelessness. The choice is yours.