Christmas is the most magical time of year for a reason
Every December I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; a cherished tradition I have continued for many years now.
The salubrious story has many memorable moments, but my favourite part is the stirring speech delivered by Scrooge's cheerful, optimistic nephew, Fred:
"There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from... the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
These spirited words invoked an involuntary clap from Scrooge's underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, who, like Fred, is a much-loved character in this timeless novel for being so pure of heart.
But what makes Christmas so much more special than other times of the year? There's plenty of holidays to celebrate during the calendar, such as Easter, which is similar to Christmas for its religious origins.
Halloween can be traced back over 2,000 years but only recently has it become a popular celebration in the UK, but Christmas has been eminent for thousands of years.
With all of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping, the recent Black Friday deals, the endless food preparations... it can be easy to forget the origins of December 25th - an historic date etched into everyone's memory as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Whether you are a believer or not, Jesus of Nazareth has been accepted by scholars as an historical figure that once existed, with key evidence suggesting he was once baptised by John the Baptist and later crucified by Pontius Pilate around AD 30-33.
Jesus is known and revered as a saviour for spreading the message of peace and love, which is the elemental essence of Christmastime.
The celebration of Christmas as a Christian festival didn't begin until around 336BC and it took until the ninth century for the date to become widely recognised but still didn't possess the same importance as Easter. However, it is now widely known as the biggest date in the calendar year and there's a number of reasons why.
The true meaning of Christmas - spreading the message of peace and love - is felt amongst all humans. It's a unique time of the year where, like Fred Holywell mentioned so eloquently, people are more open to good will than at any other time.
The 'Christmas Truce' in 1914 is direct evidence of this, as a ceasefire was called during World War 1 so that British and German soldiers could meet and exchange pleasantries before a game of football was played between the rival countries, putting aside their conflicts for that one particular day, which will forever be remembered in history as a moment of peace and humanity in the middle of one of most violent and devastating wars that claimed the lives of over 20 million souls.
The many timeless traditions are one of the biggest parts of Christmas, a time where households everywhere bring an entire tree into their homes and proceed to decorate it with flashing lights and ornaments. This bizarre tradition begun in Germany in the 16th century and is one of the best parts of the holiday from choosing the perfect tree to bringing it home, putting it up perfectly straight and decorating it as a family to look splendid and shiny in the corner of the room, where it will house all the Christmas presents under its protective branches.
Every family has their own cherished traditions they like to honour each year, so it'd be impossible to go through them all, but one universal habit is placing the stockings in a position - whether it's on the fireplace, under the tree, or at the end of the bed - on Christmas Eve before getting into bed at an appropriate time so you are fast asleep for when Father Christmas visits. The excitement children feel when going to bed that night is immeasurable and can only be matched when waking up in the morning to find a stocking bulging with presents.
As a parent, I have honoured many Christmas traditions as possible to allow my two children to feel every available piece of magic the Christmas holidays could offer so that it could last a lifetime, as it has done with me. Christmas spirit endures, which is why the celebration has lasted and grown over 2,000 years. I still feel as excited as a kid the closer it gets to Christmas.
As Andy Williams sung in 1963, "It's the most wonderful time of the year", and it really is.
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