If you have young kids, you might be wondering how to explain Christmas festivities without necessarily focusing on the religious and faith-based elements. I am a strong advocate of respecting our young ones’ minds and hearts, and in this case, the most sensible way to explain our celebrations is to tell them where the origins of end of December celebrations came from, together with the important reflection of sharing love and celebrating our families and communities.
More or less detail can be added depending on the age and level of development of your kids, but the general concept would go something like this:
The origin of Christmas can be traced back to ancient times, long before the traditional concept of Christmas as we know it today. Let me take you on a little journey back in time to understand it better.
Once upon a time, over two thousand years ago, in the heart of winter, several cultures used to celebrate the Winter Solstice, approximately on December 21st. The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. This day is seen as a turning point, as days start getting longer, signaling the eventual arrival of spring’s warmth and renewal.
In ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice became entwined with a festive occasion called Saturnalia, a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans would celebrate Saturnalia with a week-long feast. It was a time of merriment, gift-giving, and social role reversals, where slaves could become the ‘masters’ for a day, a symbol of social equality.
Around the same time, Romans also celebrated the birth of the sun god, Mithra, on December 25th. This day was seen as the victory of light over darkness as it followed directly after the Winter Solstice.
Over centuries, as Christianity spread throughout the world, the Feast of the Nativity evolved into the modern Christmas celebration we know today. Customs from various cultures like gift-giving from Saturnalia, Yule logs from Germanic winter solstice celebrations, and even the Christmas tree tradition from medieval mystery plays were all incorporated into the growing holiday.
So you see, the celebration of Christmas has deep roots, borrowing traditions, and customs from many cultures and beliefs over thousands of years. It has evolved to become a global celebration of love, joy, and peace, uniting people from all corners of the world in its festive spirit.
As we bring our journey through time to the present day, we find that Christmas has become a time where people all over the world celebrate in various ways.
While the traditions and customs may differ from place to place, the underlying themes of love, joy, and togetherness remain the same. In many parts of the world, people decorate their homes with bright lights and colorful ornaments, symbolizing the light and warmth that we all seek during the darker winter months.
The Christmas tree, with its evergreen branches, represents life and hope, reminding us of the enduring power of nature even in the coldest times.
Gift-giving, inspired by ancient traditions, has become a way to show love and appreciation for our family and friends. It’s not just about the presents themselves, but the thought and care put into them. It’s a time to think of others, to give without expecting anything in return, and to spread kindness and cheer.
Santa Claus, a figure synonymous with Christmas, has a history that dates back to the 3rd century. The character is based on St. Nicholas of Myra, a bishop known for his generosity and kindness, particularly towards children. St. Nicholas’s most famous act was secretly giving gold to a poor man for his daughters’ dowries, a story that laid the foundation for his reputation as a gift-giver. Over the centuries, this historical figure merged with various cultural traditions, including the Dutch Sinterklaas and the British Father Christmas, evolving into the jolly, red-suited, white-bearded figure we know today. His portrayal was further popularized in the 19th and 20th centuries through literature and advertising, most notably by the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) and Coca-Cola’s holiday advertisements. This blend of folklore, religious history, and cultural influences has made Santa Claus a central symbol of Christmas cheer and the spirit of giving.
Families and friends gather together to share meals, sing songs, and create memories. These moments of togetherness are at the heart of the Christmas spirit. It’s a time to pause, reflect, and appreciate the people in our lives. It’s a celebration of community, of coming together, and of the bonds that connect us all.
So, when we talk about Christmas with our young ones, we can focus on these universal values. We can teach them about the importance of kindness, the joy of sharing, and the beauty of being part of a community. Christmas, in its essence, is a celebration of the human spirit, of our capacity for love, and of the hope that lights our way through the darkest times. By understanding the rich tapestry of traditions and stories that have shaped Christmas, we can help our children appreciate the holiday in a way that resonates with them, regardless of religious beliefs. It’s a time to celebrate the warmth of our human connections and the joy of being together.