By Arooj Shakeel, The Orient News Research Section
Christmas, a Christian celebration honoring the birth of the Holy one of Bethlehem, Lord Christ Jesus, has evolved into a worldwide religious observance. Although the holiday has a strong history of the birth of the Christ, there are various traditions of the occasion that are associated with the pre-Christian beliefs. The celebration of Christmas in late December is certainly as a result of pre-existing celebrations happening at that time, marking the arrival of winters.
Before the Christmas day, Christians turn to advent as time of light and preparation. Advent is referred to ‘coming’, and during the season, Christians prepare for the coming of Christ. The four Sundays preceding Christmas are recognized for four virtues. During the four Sundays of Advent, churches across the globe and in Pakistan illuminate the candles as congregations light the evergreen, circular shaped Advent wreaths that symbolize God’s eternity according to the Christian faith. On the wreath the candles symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace and are lit in order.
The Christian community in all the provinces of Pakistan celebrates the day with glory. The jingling of bells, flawless adorable and extravagant Christmas tree decorations fill the hearts with excitement and joys. The grand festival of the Christian community is marked by official gatherings and ceremonies. With the start of the month, the churches commence services starting from carol service, Christmas tableaus, Christmas dinners, and cut cakes to celebrate the festivity with more enthusiasm and renewed spirit. People purchase or look for last minute bargains for new clothes for the big day. The government also set up Christmas bazaars in various parts of the cities to enhance the festivity. Families prepare special dishes for the day including both the traditional delights and the Christmas cake. Meanwhile the government and the local authorities release the salaries of Christian employees early this month so that they could observe their religious festival in due manner. All security measures are maintained in the parks, shopping malls and specially the churches each year with full support from the government for peaceful observance of the festival till the New Year.
The main ritual of the Christmas celebration is the decoration of the Christmas tree to welcome the arrival of Santa Claus. Christians have decorated the Christmas evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial using different ornaments including baubles, small bells painted gold or silver, stars of different shapes and sizes, pine cones, apples, candies, tinsels and balloons made from glass, metal, wood and ceramic with the start of December. An angel and star is often placed at the top of the tree representing the host of angels.
In most of the cities, the streets are seen with decorated Christmas trees and people dressed in Santa Claus attire. In Rawalpindi district and Islamabad, Christmas preparations in all the churches have been completed. These include Catholic, Protestant and other missionary churches. On asking a boy from the Christian brethren in Rawalpindi, he replied, "I have finalized my preparations for celebrating this year’s Christmas festival with my family and friends. This festival has a great significance for our whole community as this is the time to spread love among all." "On this occasion, we should follow the philosophy of Jesus Christ which is based on love, brotherhood, peace and harmony to create a peaceful society and end hatred, prejudices and extremism," he added.
Certainly, Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations for the people belonging to the Christian faith. With the world becoming a global village, the spirit of Christmas crosses borders and people can see and greet each other enthusiastically, thus commemorating the true spirit of joy and hope, an end to the resentments and gathering people together in the name of love and care specially those who need it the most. The true meaning of the Christmas is giving not taking that blooms the Christmas spirit; enemies are forgiven, friends are remembered and God is obeyed. How much better the world would be if we all give gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness.