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While family Christmas traditions are being replayed year after year, please reflect upon the real reason for the season in the remembrance of the gift of salvation visited upon man in his greatest hour of need. God gave us His Son, who would show us the Way and would pour out His life for us upon the cross with His redeeming blood. Emmanuel “God with us” is the source of real reason for this season.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures….” (1 Cor 15:2)

Every year, Americans give an average of 24 Christmas gifts per person, with a total value of $65 billion. Why?

How did the custom get started?

Christians see gift giving as a symbolic homage to the Three Wise Men’s tributes to the baby Jesus. In the New Testament, the Magi are described as honoring the newborn Savior with valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But gift giving this time of year dates to an even older tradition. Pagans in Europe and the Middle East gave presents at several winter festivals, including Saturnalia, a raucous Roman festival in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture, which began on Dec. 17. During this weeklong holiday in the cold, dark dead of winter, pagans would lift their spirits by drinking to excess and giving one another gifts, such as pottery figurines, edible treats like fruit and nuts, and festive candles. Revelers greeted one another with a joyful “Io Saturnalia!”—the ancient Roman equivalent of “Merry Christmas!”

Santa: The evolution of a gift giver

Santa Claus has undergone many transformations over the centuries. The jolly rotund gent started out as St. Nicholas of Myra, a real-life, 4th-century Byzantine monk who handed out bags of money to the poor. St. Nicholas was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1800s, and quickly mutated into a “right jolly old elf” thanks to the 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” commonly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” By 1890, children could meet live “Santas” at department stores—the new name having been taken from the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas. In the 1930s, Santa’s bearded face was strewn over advertisements for Coca-Cola, solidifying his status as Yuletide’s main man. These days, Santa is undergoing a new, politically correct transformation: Worried that his obesity sets the wrong impression, some greeting card companies have started to feature a leaner, healthier Santa on their Christmas cards. (Excerpts from The Week Magazine, December 2014)

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