Pre-Christmas shopping riots, a Salvation Army bell ringer punched for saying “Happy Holidays!,” a national newscaster (jokingly or otherwise) who says (in response to a black columnist suggesting a “penguin replace Santa” because she was bewildered by having a white Santa) “Santa is white,” and a high-school teacher is disciplined for making an African-American student remove a Santa hat because, “You are black. Santa is white!” Let us also remember a major retailer who refuses to even use the word “Christmas” in its seasonal advertising (though it uses the trappings) and, oh yes, ESPN was involved in a controversy for initially refusing to air a Christmas ad that mentioned (gasp) “Jesus.”

Now, in the “enlightened” 21st century, a fat white man – “Jolly old Saint Nick” – carried from housetop to housetop  in “a miniature sleigh” pulled by “eight tiny reindeer” (who fly), sliding down chimneys, bringing a bag of gifts (what happens if you have no fireplace?) has become the center of a national controversy? Seriously?

I realize that this is traditionally the season for bringing “glad tidings of great joy,” so I hate to be the one who reminds some and informs others of some really bad news: The truth is, there ain’t no Santa Claus!

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Jolly old Saint Nick is based on St. Nicholas, a bishop in the early church, who was known for his generosity. As one story goes, a man with three daughters fell on hard times. He didn’t have enough money for a dowry for any of his daughters, so they couldn’t marry. Legend has it that Nicholas secretly visited the family and dropped a bag of gold through the window.

Dec. 25 is a day almost universally celebrated as a national holiday. Now, there is nothing unusual about holidays. We have many we observe here such as Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Washington’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and let’s not forget New Year’s Day. Most people are familiar with and could name, without controversy, the origin of celebrations of the aforementioned special days.

All over the world, people honor and/or celebrate a variety of events, occasions and persons with an absolute minimum of offense or controversy. As I understand it, no one is forced to participate, and there are few, if any, offended by same. Should Columbus Day not be because of the claim by some that Leif Erikson, not Columbus, discovered America? Or was it Amerigo Vespucci (also called Americus Vespucci) after whom North and South America are named?

So what about this “special” day? According to some historical reports, the first recorded date of Dec. 25 being celebrated as Christmas Day was around 336 A.D. during a period already being celebrated by many for a variety of reasons. There is no record of Jesus being born Dec. 25. It is a day, like other holidays, set aside for a special remembrance. As nearly as can be determined, His birth was first celebrated Dec. 25 during the reign of Constantine (the first Christian Roman emperor), and the date was officially designated as Christ’s birthday by Pope Julius I. The name “Christmas” comes from a tradition introduced to the United Kingdom by St. Augustine in the 6th century, and folks from Britain and Western Europe took Dec. 25 – “Christmas” (a shortened version of Christ-Mass) – to  people all over the world.

Contrary to earlier times (16th-19th century), no one is forced to celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas Day; it is purely voluntary. For believers in Jesus Christ, Christmas is a day set aside and observed by an estimated one-third of the world’s population to honor the individual they believe is, and are committed to as, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. Christians celebrate it out of love. Merchants celebrate it, with all due respect, for profits.

As this special day draws nigh and someone, usually wearing a big smile, says to you, “Merry Christmas!” nine out of 10 sincerely mean it.

So with all due respect to all people everywhere, some who have their own personal celebrations, convictions and religions and/or holy days, let me say from the heart, with all sincerity, at this special time for me, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


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