WHITE LIE, the dictionary defines, is “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone.”
It is in this context that most Christians celebrate Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ every December 25, knowing that there is no evidence to prove that the Son was born around that period more than 2,000 years ago.
At the same time, we may wonder whether it could be black instead of white lie. Black, because it could be deceptive. As I have repeatedly asked in previous Christmases, why foist a tradition of questionable origin?
If there is a verified fact behind that lie, it is that even non-Christians sing Christmas songs. It was an American Jew, Irving Berlin, who composed one of the most popular Christmas songs, White Christmas, in 1942.
On the other hand, there are Christian sects which do not believe in Christmas. Thus, when you and I greet an Iglesia ni Cristo layman or a Jehovah’s Witness “Merry Christmas,” he would likely just smile or frankly say it’s “against my religion”.
But Christmas has become so popular that opposition to its authenticity is no longer taken seriously even if there is now no doubt among Bible Scholars that Jesus could not have been born on a winter day or the equivalent of today’s December 25. For on the day of his birth, the shepherds in Bethlehem were out in the fields grazing sheep – an impossible scene in snowy winter that could have frozen the naked child Jesus to death.
The celebration of the first December 25 Christmas – according to Roman Catholic Church history – occurred in Rome in 320 A.D. It was no coincidence that the date had always been celebrated by pagans as the birthday of Saturnalia, the god of agriculture who was also known as the “Unconquered Sun.”
Was the date chosen to enable the Catholic Church to convert Saturn’s believers into Christianity without discarding their cherished 12 days of feast, merry-making and gift-giving?
During the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 16th century, the followers of Martin Luther (a German) and John Calvin (a Swiss) questioned the propriety of adopting a celebration of pagan origin.
The government of Scotland officially forbid it in 1593. It was also decreed illegal by Commonwealth England in the years 1649 to 1660, after which the public outcry against Christmas diminished.
Instead, the symbols of Christmas have added up. The mistletoe — a parasitic shrub on oak tree that was the Saturnalians’ “protector against infertility, disease and poison” – has become the most distinguished Christmas decoration in the United States and Europe.
The Western world has modernized Christmas with commercial trappings. The first Christmas card surfaced in 1843 when an Englishman, J. C. Horsly, lithographed in color on a thousand copies of stiff cardboard a group of young and old people raising glasses of wine over the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.”
Today, the typical Christmas card is no card but a virtual reality sent from one cellular phones to another.
Santa Claus — the living Christmas symbol personified by a bearded, fat, red-robed gift giver – is a “reincarnation” of Saint Nicholas, a generous 4th-century patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey).
His evolution from a religious leader to a gift giver who hurtles through space on a sleigh pulled by reindeers, dropping goodies into hanged socks and stockings of well-behaved children is another Christmas lie.
Many adults today swear it was that “white lie” on Santa that helped shape their good behavior in childhood. ([email protected]/PN)