When many people think of Christmas, they think of Santa, decorated trees, and gifts. All of these are fun and exciting parts of celebrating this special holiday, but only one of them has its origins in the very first Christmas.
Although many people do not make it a big part of their celebrations, Christmas is actually a birthday celebration. This winter holiday originated when the Roman Emperor Constantine, a Christian convert, wished to memorialize the birth of Christ. Through the centuries, people began to give gifts to one another in memory of the gifts that the three wise men brought to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.
Many Christians do their very best to keep Christ at the center of their Christmas celebrations. Because so much emphasis is placed on giving and receiving gifts at Christmas time, this can be a difficult thing to do. These people put worship the main focus of their holiday season.
Some families make church the centerpiece of their Christmas. These families participate and attend pageants at church, help feed the homeless, and participate in toy drives for needy children. These families want their children to remember that Christmas is about more than piles of gifts under the tree. It is about giving to others and sharing with those who have little.
Many Christian families focus their Christmas celebration on Jesus’ birth by celebrating Advent. Advent counts down the days until Christmas by special church services in the four Sundays prior to Christmas day. Some families have Scripture readings each evening in the days leading up to Christmas to help their children remember the true reason for the holidays.
To help their children remember Jesus’ birth as the origin of Christmas, some churches and families throw “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” parties. At these parties, families bring gifts to be donated to a charitable organization to help needy families or missionaries in foreign lands. These families make a cake for Jesus and sing “Happy Birthday” to Him.
In other families, Christmas Eve is a time to focus on Jesus’ birth. These families read the Scriptural account of Jesus’ birth in the Bible as recorded by the apostles Matthew and Luke. If there are several children in the family, they might act out the Christmas story in a play. These families might limit gifts to three special, thoughtful gifts per person in the family, to reflect the three gifts that Jesus received.
By focusing their celebrations on the birth of Jesus, many families are hoping to reduce the selfishness displayed at Christmas. They want the holiday to be about loving others, giving to those in need, and worshiping God. This can lead to a much more meaningful and memorable Christmas than simply focusing on getting “stuff.”