Christmas under the Microscope


Christmas is a holly jolly time that the majority of us look forward to. I mean come on, what other time of year can you eat nothing but cookies and live on hot chocolate? This special Christian holiday has been around for hundreds of years and continues to be one of the biggest holidays celebrated in North America. And so, you can imagine just how much money people spend on such a big holiday. To shed some light on this, Canadian Living asks “How much does Christmas really cost?”

“According to the Bank of Montreal’s Holiday Spending Outlook, Canadians plan on spending an average of $1,397 in the 2011 holiday season — up approximately 6.5 per cent from 2010. The survey reveals that we will spend an average of $582.70 on gifts, $359.80 on travel, and $307.30 on holiday entertaining and $147.50 on miscellaneous expenses.” Now that may not seem like a lot however some people purchase gifts that they know will put them into debt, just to add to the festivities . It is very possible that it will take up to four years just to pay off one Christmas shopping spree.

Stepping away from the fact that we will probably be in debt by the time we are twenty, a large amount of people look forward to Christmas because it brings family together and is an all around happy time. But what if there are some things about Christmas that aren’t what they seem? Seems pretty self-explanatory right? Christ-mass. While many traditions are actually either pagan or non-Christian, the roots come from roman customs and religion.

Before Christmas was what we know it as today, it was barely even accepted by the church, as they didn’t find it necessary to celebrate his birthday. “In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birthdate of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. II, p. 903)

Believe it or not but Christ’s birthday doesn’t even come close to December 25th. The date picked for Christmas coincides with Saturnalia. And so while Christ’s birthday could be in April for all we know, the extravagant shopping sales and church celebrations have yet to come to an end.