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December 18, 2013
Wetzel Chronicle

For nearly 18 centuries we have celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25. During the later part of the second century a church father is credited as having said, "O, how wonderful acted Providence that on that day on which the Sun was born, Christ should have been born." It is at this time of year we know the sun is at the winter solstice in the sky. It has gone from a position that warms our world to a place that allows the earth to sleep in the deep cold of winter. After the winter solstice we know our world will be reborn as the sun returns to warm the earth and bring forth the green of spring.

The word Christmas comes from the old English meaning, Christ's Mass. Today there are nearly two billion Christians in the world that believe Jesus Christ came to earth to save mankind from sins. The birth of Jesus has in the past two millennia been recognized on several different dates prior to it being recognized along with the rebirth of the sun on the winter solstice. History tells us that it was observed at different times in January, March, April, August, and November before finally being placed on the calendar in the year 354 AD. At that time it was recognized as the Christus in Betleem Iudeae: "Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea."

Celebration of Christmas has taken many forms from those early days. Christmas as we have come to know it originated about 200 years ago. Many traditions of different cultures were brought to early England from the return of the Crusaders and slowly became part of traditions we now associate with the holiday. Starting in the fourth century the church associated the birth with a 12-day celebration to bring more people to the faith on the winter solstice.

During the winter celebration Father Christmas was part of the old English celebrations. In those days his clothing was not red as it is today, but green. He was then believed to be a bringer of spring as the sun returned. In that time Christmas Holly and Mistletoe were believed to be sacred even before Christian beliefs. Great feasts and celebration were held for all in the early days of the British Isles.

The annual celebration has most likely always had singing as part of the tradition. The first song to be recognized came from Rome in the fourth century. Since that time music has continued to be an important part in the season's celebration. Songs were often used as prayer to celebrate the coming of the Savior.

It is thought that in the 15th century, as part of the celebration in Germany, those of great beliefs brought the first trees into their homes. It was called a Yule Tree by those of the day. The trees were decorated as part of the celebration with nuts and dried fruit. In the 18th century the trees were first believed to be decorated with candles.

Fact Box

Lincoln's Gold, the second book written by self described "storyteller", Chuck Clegg of New Martinsville, is now available. In his latest novel Clegg returns his main character, Captain Jack Dulin, from his first book, "Return of the Gunboat" into another adventure and mystery on the Ohio River.

The book follows Jack Dulin's journey on the river searching for a lost gold shipment along with other unanswered question from the Civil War.

Lincoln's Gold can be purchased locally at Witschey's and online through Amazon. Both, Return of the Gunboat and Lincoln's Gold can also be found as a selection on Kindle.

Over the centuries the traditions of Christmas have slowly changed into what many believe is the commercialization of the celebration. In the fourth century only 12 days were designated as Christmas celebration. Today it seems we celebrate the holiday starting in early November as we begin to see store decoration, TV specials, and Christmas music. At least that is how the retail stores want us to be celebrating by opening our wallets and spending. The Christmas holiday is so important to our economy that it is a make or break time for many businesses.

Christmas trees that once meant hope of a new spring growing season have now been replaced by plastic trees that glow when plugged into an electrical socket. Evergreen trees that once were natural and green are sometimes tinted colors and covered in artificial snow. And from far overhead, large outdoor light displays can be seen when viewed from an airplane.

We sometimes feel that the meaning of Christmas is like a tiny snowflake blown on the wind and lost in the winter's storm. But, within the late December holiday many people take the time to remember the importance of the time of year and what it truly means. It is not gifts or shiny plastic trees. Nor is it dancing sugar plums or red nose reindeer on the roof tops. It is something you feel inside and know miracles do happen.

Christmas is a time of joy and to be thankful for family and friends. We know as we watch the snowfall outside our windows that winter is upon us, but spring will surely return. We also know we each were given the gift of a miracle that happened in the small town of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Enjoy the holiday but remember the real gift is not under the tree, but within each of us as I see it Through the Lens.



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