OHIO VALLEY — “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”
It turns out that Dr. Seuss’ Grinch had it right when it came to Christmas — there is more, much more, to the meaning of the holiday than what we buy in the stores each year.
Down to the music we hear each year, the concept of giving gifts and many of the decorations we see scattered throughout the area, Christmas traditions have their roots in a manger more than 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.
You see, while Christmas has become commercialized through the years, with the hunt on for that perfect gift, in towns like those in our region, Christmas is remembered for its traditional meaning.
From the nativity on the parking lot in Pomeroy to the wooden display in front of the Presbyterian Church in Middleport, and the live Nativity presented by Carmel-Sutton United Methodist Church, evidence of that manger from thousands of years ago is present to remind us all that the birth of Jesus in that manger is why we celebrate.
Mary and Joseph, Baby Jesus, even the shepherds, wise men (Magi), many animals and an angel are shown with each having their own important role in the original story.
It is from the magi there the idea of giving gifts comes. The magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus following his birth.
The evergreen tree has many aspects which can relate back to the religious side of Christmas. The color itself represents new life. The tree can also be a symbol of everlasting life, with its needles pointing upward (heavenward).
Today, the Christmas tree (traditionally an evergreen) is found in many homes, businesses and other locations around the community as part of the Christmas season.
Poinsettias have long been associated with Christmas, and there is possibly no place where they flower is utilized quite like Trinity Congregational Church in Pomeroy.
For the past approximately 25 years the church has assembled a large tree at the front of the church made from numerous poinsettias. This year, approximately 120 poinsettias went into the tree, all red except for the one white poinsettia at the top of the tree.
According to celebratingholidays.com, poinsettias are a natural plant to associate with Christmas as the flower blooms during the Christmas season and the star-shaped leaves call to mind both the star of Bethlehem and Christ himself who is called the “bright morning star.”
Ringing of the Bell
The song I heard the bells on Christmas Day comes from the writings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864.
The song states,
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
In keeping with that, Carmel-Sutton United Methodist Church, challenged other churches in the area to toll their church bells for one minute at midnight Christmas Eve night (Christmas morning) to ring in Christmas, sending the sound of the bell throughout the area. The tolling of the bell was to serve as a witness to the communities the true meaning of Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
We’ve always heard the 12 Days of Christmas, with the partridge in a pear tree, the nine ladies dancing and all of the other interesting “gifts” over those 12 days, and while each gift can be the item(s) it clearly states, there is also a religious meaning to each of the 12.
The Christmas carol originated in England at a time when Roman Catholics were not permitted to practice their religion openly, therefore, the song has a hidden meaning which could be easily taught to children, according to numerous online sources.
“The ‘True Love’ one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because “truly Love was born on Christmas Day,” states an article from the Catholic News Agency.
First Day — The partridge in the pear tree represents Jesus because the bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.
Second Day — Two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Third Day — Three French hens represent faith, hope, and love.
Fourth Day — Four calling birds represent the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Fifth Day — The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Number, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Sixth Day — Six geese a-laying represent the six days of creation.
Seventh Day — Seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy).
Eighth Day — Eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Ninth Day — Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as found in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).
Tenth Day — The 10 lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
Eleventh Day — The 11 pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
Twelfth Day — The 12 drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.