A Spiritual vs Cultural Christmas

Dive into arguably the most celebrated holiday worldwide.

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When people think of Christmas, some think of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents, candy canes, and eggnog. Others think of the birth of Jesus and what his life meant for all those affiliated with the Christian faith. Throughout this story, we will cover each side and the sheer importance of Christmas to all who celebrate it, religiously or culturally, as well as cover when and how the world-famous holiday became overly materialistic.

 

Spiritual

When it comes to the spiritual side of the holiday, Christians celebrate the coming of Jesus and all that he means to the religion. According to the Christian Bible, the birth of Jesus symbolized God sending down his son to save the human race from their sins, rejuvenate the religion worldwide via teachings and miracles, and promise all believers a place in heaven. An member of the C2 church in Columbia gave insight into the symbolism of the birth of Jesus.

An anonymous member of the C2 church in Columbia gives more insight into the meaning of the holiday and why it should be celebrated.

“As Christians, we celebrate Christmas because it’s right around the time Jesus was born. Another name for Jesus is Emmanuel, or God with us, so when Jesus was born God is physically with us,” they stated.

It’s been widely renowned as a premier Christian holiday as it’s been celebrated globally for roughly 1,700 years, making it one of the oldest holidays to date.

The History of Christmas is a complicated one. According to History.com, it wasn’t celebrated immediately after the birth of Jesus. In fact, it took over 300 years, in the 4th century, for Christians to consider the birth of Jesus a sacred holiday (prior to that, Easter, the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, was the most prominent Christian holiday). In 336 AD, Pope Julius I was one of the first to establish Christmas as a national holiday in the Roman Empire. It is believed that he was the one who decided it would be on December 25th, and there is speculation still today on whether or not that is actually the birthdate of Jesus. By the 9th century, Christmas was celebrated throughout Europe, and eventually spread worldwide thanks to imperialism.

Yes, Christians put up a tree, partake in the tradition of Santa Claus, and give and receive gifts, but the true meaning of Christmas in their eyes is to celebrate the birth of the Son who would die for their sins. A few ways this is celebrated include attending a church service on Christmas Eve, as well as acknowledging God’s gift to them (sending his son down to die for their sins) by exchanging gifts with loved ones.

“We (Christians) celebrate this time as a time of giving, you know the saying ‘it’s better to give than to receive,’” the C2 member explains, “God gave us his Son to die on a cross for our sins, we can use this time to give to others rather than focusing on ourselves and just receiving, remembering that’s what Jesus did for us.”

Now, we asked both sides what their opinion on the holiday becoming too materialistic was, and how society, in the United States specifically, transformed the holiday into what it is today.

Reverend Marion Mitchell of Oak Chapel Missionary Baptist Church gives his take on whether or not the holidays have become overly materialistic and seemingly shifted away from its true meaning.

“They take the spiritual meaning out of Christmas and they put it in a materialistic view,” he responds, “now it’s all about how much money they can make instead of how much faith you’re supposed to have in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.”

 

Cultural 

Even though Christmas is a religious holiday, it has become a more materialistic holiday overtime and those who believe otherwise have joined in on the Christmas festivities as well. Christmas for non-religious people is normally a holiday for gifts and spending time with family minus religion. The cultural side of Christmas is on the rise as America is becoming less religious. An estimated 22% of Americans identify as non-religious and those rates keep increasing. Almost all U.S. Christians celebrate Christmas (96%) while around 81% of non-Christians in the U.S. celebrate Christmas. 65% of Christians feel that Christmas is a mostly religious holiday whereas most non-religious people find the holiday to be more of a cultural event than a religious event. Hannah Prasch, who is non-religious, was interviewed about what her family does during Christmas. Her thoughts about Christmas becoming overly materialistic was “I do think it’s a very materialistic holiday, and it is becoming more and more materialistic but I don’t think of losing religious aspects but just more of being inclusive to everyone. When asked about 

“Not being a Christian, what has your family taught you about the holiday? What’s the purpose to you?” Hannah said it’s more of a random holiday, like Halloween, it’s not about Jesus for me. Hannah said her family’s tradition for Christmas was normal. She doesn’t go to church as some Christians do. She opens presents on Christmas morning, we have lasagna every year during Christmas, it’s just really small things we do every year. She usually goes up to her family in Iowa to celebrate. When asked about if she thought Christmas would decline in the religious aspect or if it would stay the same she said she thinks Christmas rates will stay the same for a while but it might decline in the future because of more people celebrating the cultural aspect of it