Dr. James Allan Francis said it well in One Solitary Life.
“Centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race … all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”
Traditions surrounding the celebration of Christ’s birth have evolved through the years. Hundreds of years ago it was marked mainly by holy reverence and solemn worship. Much of that tradition is still observed.
However, today’s Christmas celebrations also include joyous proclamations, community festivals and other happy events as millions recall the good news told to the shepherds by angels on the hillside outside Bethlehem.
Christmas traditions come in many varieties. They include the 12 Days of Christmas, the yule log, giving of gifts, singing of carols, feasts, church processions, wreaths, mistletoe and sending Christmas cards, to name a few.
The first Christmas card was printed in England in 1843, according to most historians, when Sir Henry Cole, director of The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, got tired of writing Christmas greetings by hand. He hired illustrator John Callcott Horsley to design a printable card. Henry Cole’s Christmas card cost one shilling, a week’s pay in the 1800s.
The father of the American Christmas card is said to be Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant and lithographer, who lived near Boston. His cards first appeared in 1875. Prang sponsored Christmas card competitions with big money prizes. He hired Louis Tiffany and other prominent people of that day to judge the competitions. The publicity was good for business and by 1881 sales of Christmas cards in America were booming.
Today, it is said that on average Americans send and receive between 30 and 60 Christmas cards each year, with some sending more than 100. Most everyone seems to appreciate the personal touch of a handwritten note from someone we may care about but haven’t seen on a long time. Family photo cards, handmade cards and store-bought, hand-signed cards, and handwritten comments are all enjoyed and appreciated.
In recent years, many people have expressed concern that Christmas has drifted far from its religious roots. We have also witnessed an attack on religious displays in public places while watching corporate America hijack the Christmas celebration as an excuse to sell their latest wares. Massive traffic jams, packed shopping malls, and lines stretching around the block have become hallmarks of today’s Christmas activities. Ad campaigns for holiday sales can lead to pandemonium as shoppers are knocked down and trampled in their frantic efforts to buy the latest gadget.
However, I suggest this is a good time to reflect upon the distinction between what we want and what we need or what we give instead of what we get.
The true value of a gift isn’t necessarily measured by its price tag. In fact, some of the most precious gifts cost nothing at all … and can be life changing. Many people simply need to be loved, listened to or appreciated. Some gifts, such as taking time to listen to someone who is hurting emotionally or giving a word of encouragement, can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life and bring joy to the giver.
This holiday season, consider how our community would be affected if everyone looked for opportunities to give someone a life-changing gift for Christmas. As Helen Steiner Rice wrote, “Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; teach us to be patient and always to be kind.”
On behalf of Bradley County government, I wish each one of you a safe, healthy and happy Christmas. It is an honor to serve Bradley County and I am again thankful this Christmas for the trust you place in me. From my family to you and your family, Merry Christmas!