Photos Courtesy: Antonio Gadong

SILICON VALLEY, CA-- Christmas is the day is the traditional day when Christians around the world commemorate the birth of Jesus in Israel, 2022 years ago. He was born in a Bethlehem's manger, because there were no more empty rooms at the town's Inn. The humble birth had been prophesied by Isaiah, an Israelite prophet who lived in Judah in the house of David during the VIII Century BC, with the words: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel," The name meaning "God with us,"  (Old Testament. Isaiah 7:14). 

The birth was recorded in Christian Bibles's as: "And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one in his own city. And Joseph, because he was from the house and lineage of David, also went up from Galilee out to the city of Nazareth, into Judea unto the town, which is called Bethlehem, with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child. And it was that, while they were there, she delivered, and she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the field shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the lord came upon them and said into them: Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."  Luke 1-11.

The reason why Christ needed to be born as a man into this world is explained to us in the Latin name of the festivity, Nativita (Latin) as Christians call December 24, which is the date when they celebrate His birth at midnight. The noun is created by two Latin words:Nato which means to have been born, and Vita, which means Life. So the noun Nativita, or Navidad in Spanish, means "A Birth which brought us Life" explaining that the reason why Jesus came into this world as a man, was that by being like us, He could give men a better example of how to live, according to God's commandments.  

But more important for Christians to remember is that the the son of God, who could have been born as a prince in a palace, came into this world as the son of a carpenter and a young mother, and grew up poor, but not on the Spirit. Only by been poor, himself, would he be able to understand poverty, communicate with people, like the fishermen, and teach them that the true richness of mankind, is in the way it acts towards its fellow men. And by having His son, been born as a helpless baby, God taught us Christians the best lesson, which is that if we feel helpless, and have tribulations we need to remember that we are never alone. We have a Father in heaven.

Christmas Tree

Another Christmas tradition, which began in Germany, are the Christmas Trees. The evergreen trees were part of the old traditions of the Mysterious Druids from Northern Europe, and also of the cults of the priests of the ancient Celts, who used Firs, instead of pines, to decorate their temples because they are larger. The evergreen trees were also the symbol of everlasting life in Norse mythology were considered  "special plants"  by Balder (pronounced BAWL) the favorite son of the sun god Odin.

German historic records dating back to 1600, tells us that the first "Christmas tree" (an evergreen tree)  was set inside a Lutheran church in Hamburg, for the Midnight Christmas Service, on that year, and the  reason why the incident was recorded, was that during his sermon, that night, the Lutheran preacher told  his congregation something that impressed a journalist, who wrote the following story the day after, in his newspaper:  

"And after the service ended, pointing at the extended branches of a small evergreen tree, standing next to the altar, the Pastor asked his congregation to observe that tree because its extended branches were a symbol of Christ's opened arms. And they always were opened, he said: Opened, when He healed someone. Opened, when He embraced his friends. Opened, when He greeted the small children. Opened, when He share fishes and bred to  feed  the multitude. Opened when he raised people from the death. Opened,when He healed the sick. Opened when he prayed to His Father, and opened when He died nailed to a Cross. "

The reporter mentioned, that the tree look natural and that the only ornament it had was a cardboard star, that had been sprinkled with golden dust, attached at the tree's top. And reporting the night's sermon he paraphrased the preacher's words:"Scientifically speaking, nobody can follow a star from Baghdad, where the magi came from, to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem, because stars rise and set and do not sit in the sky. Astronomers, also claim that there are no published stories in astronomy describing that  a large bright star, was in the sky at that time. But religious people believe in miracles. and since a star was mentioned on the Bible, I  included  the star. And tonight, I invite you all not only to set Christmas trees in your homes, but to begin following that star. How?  By doing something good, every day of your lives, believing that every good action that you do, is bringing you closer to Christ."

A few years later, another newspaper article related the story that on a Winter Christmas night, another minister, some claim it was Martin Luther, was walking home one Christmas night when looking at the forest he was in awed by the brilliance of the stars twinkling a mist the snow covered  branches of the evergreen trees. When he arrived home, to recapture the natural effect, he wired small candles at the end of the branches of his evergreen tree and lightened them. 

The German Christmas trees' tradition that provided the emotional glue that could bring families together, was brought to America by  Charles Loring Brace, who had witnessed it in Germany. The American tradition was born  on December of  l848, when Charles friend George Ticknor, who was the founder of the Boston Public Library, invited his prominent friends and families, to celebrate a German-style Christmas, in his Boston home, which he had decorated, with among other things, a lighted fir Christmas tree,

Saint Nicholas

Our last Christmas Tradition dates back to the fourth Century A.C.  and was established by Saint Nicholas of Bari, A Catholic Saint, who centuries later was completely transformed  into SANTA CLAUS,

Born in Myra, the capital of Patra in Lycia a province of Asia Minor Nicholas was Bishop in the Catholic Church, so he dressed in red Alb (usually white for priests) and  wore a long red Pellegrina (cape). He was venerated and described by those who knew him, as very pios man and as a man "elected by God" who ate only on Wednesdays and Fridays evenings and care for the poor, and the children during his whole life.

Nicholas  had lost both his parents when he was at a very young age and he was left with a very large fortune, so, after he entered the priesthood, he invested his capital to help others and for the rest of his life used his fortune to build hospitals, homes, or places to feed  the poor, the elderly and the children and his life, caring for them. He was also the cleric who started the tradition of "giving," something to another, at Christmas, the nigh Catholics celebrate the birth of the Christ who was born to give His life for us.  

Nicholas Life was not easy. Because of being a Christian, and had saved Myra from the heresy of the Arians, he was beaten imprisoned and tortured for years, but at the end released, by Pope Constantine (708-715) Sadly, most of his torturous live was either never written or lost. So one of the few stories of his life that was recorded, was the one of a very poor man, in Myra, who had three young daughters engaged to be married, but could not get married because they needed to bring a dowry (An stipulated amount of money) and they did not have it.. In desperation, and unable to support his three growing daughters any longer, the father decided bring them to a local brothel so that they could earn their living as prostitutes. When Bishop Nicholas heard that, after his Christmas midnight mass, he walked  to the poor man's home and through a broken window, tossed a leather bag containing enough gold coins, to pay for the three dowries.

Years later, after  St. Nicholas death, when the cleric collecting records for the man's canonization as Saint. one of the girls told the story that they had promised to keep secret. After the story was published, and Nicholas was declared a Saint after being canonized, and the "patron Saint of Children." And because of this in honor of the saint who celebrated Baby Jesus' birth by giving, people in Europe started giving gifts to children and to each other on Christmas 

We should add, that As a Saint, St Nicholas, is the Patron of sailors, who invoked him to apeased the storms, and by children, and that since his dead, his miracles increased, so that Saint Nicholas continues being honored and venerated around the world in a number of l altars and churches.  With St Andrew, the apostle, Nicholas is the patron  of the  nation, in the Russian Orthodox Church and the  Patron Saint in Greece. He is Buried in Myra, and in yet another miracle, the embalmed body of St. Nicholas of Bari remains incorrupted, after sixteen centuries. And his body looks alive, and still exudes a sweet-smell of Myrrh.

Centuries later an American New York writer  Clement Clark Moore, (l779-1863) who was also a Professor of Oriental and Greet Literature and Divinity and a Biblical student of the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church converted San Nicholas into Saint Nick. when  wrote a poems titled "A Visit from St Nicholas"  (Later changed to "Twas the Night Before Christmas") that he published anonymously in l823, Sadly, the Saint Nicholas, that  he depicted in his poem, was completely different from the Saint, but it was so well described in his words, that it captured its readers' imagination. With the years, the true St. Nicholas was forgotten and was transformed into Santa Claus.

Santa on Sleigh

There's is also a rumor that Haddon Sundblom, a Coca-Cola's illustrator was the one who invented the image of Santa Claus (as we know it today) in l931 when in created a drawing of a Jolly old man with a long white beard an mustache wearing a red suit and ho-ho-ho as his laughter..

Also contributing to the  Santa's myth,  was  Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast,who drew a cartoon based on Twas the Night Before Christmas (similar to the one above) with Santa sitting on a sleigh pulled by reindeers. According to the Smithsonian Institution, however, Nast's drawings, which ran in Harper's weekly after Christmas, in January of l863 showing  SANTA, as a jolly old elf, is the one who created Santa Claus.