Sana Fatima - You wake up one fine foggy or snowy morning of December and joy fills your heart because you know that Christmas is here. All over the world Christmas is celebrated with carols that jingle the hearts, while savouring candy cane (Christmas candy) and by decorating a Christmas tree with ornaments that bling and bedazzle. While the little ones wait for Santa Claus and hope to be in his good list.

The 25th of December is celebrated in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In Pakistan the Christian community celebrates this occasion with utmost zeal. There is no doubt that ‘The Christmas spirit’ extends furthermore than the traditions dearly associated with it. There is so much we need to know about Christmas! For our readers we sat down with a few spiritual during the annual Christmas event of the nation group.

The Gregorian calendar holds 25th as the birth of Jesus Christ, while the middle of winter has long been a time of celebrations around the world. Centuries before the arrival of Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. And historically Jesus Christ was born in the end of December. But how was this date selected?

When asked, Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jamil said, “It was considered to be the closest possible date with regards to the weather described in the scripture, length of the daylight and many other prospects. But mostly because all the Christian scholars agreed on this date.”

Reverend Shahid Mairaj added, “When Constantine converted to Christianity he basically decided the date so that annually all around the world the birth of Jesus could be celebrated on the same day. It is recorded in history that the days were short and the nights were dark, the significance of this short day was destined to be immense. In my opinion the selection of the date is insignificant but the human spirit that unites all of us to celebrate this event unanimously is more noteworthy.”

Who were the wise men or the kings? And tell us a brief story behind them.

“There were many wise men from the east, they were researchers or scholars who understood the scripture, and they brought gifts for Jesus Christ and considered him the saviour and king sent from God. They were following the previous scriptures given by God,” said Bishop Irfan.

“There is a misconception that wise men were three in number; there were many kings from different nations, they were lead by the Star of Bethlehem and reached Bethlehem looking for the King of the kings as described in the Holy Scripture,” said Reverend Shahid.

Feast of Epiphany is seen celebrated widely, what is the significance of this event?

“Epiphany means revelation by God. So the epiphany is “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi” (Matthew 2:1–12),” said Bishop Irfan.

“The 6th of January is celebrated because it is believed that the kings or wise men reached Bethlehem on that date and so baby Jesus’s birth became known to everyone on that date. Many orthodox churches celebrate that day as the feast of Epiphany,” said Reverend Shahid.

When speaking of the Christmas how can we forget the x-mas tree which was traditionally   decorated with edible fruit. In the 18th century, it began to be lit up with candles which were in the end replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Christmas trees were hung in St. George's Church, Sélestat since 1521. The giving of Christmas trees has also often been associated with the end of hostilities, but in the Christmas spirit what is the significance of a ChristmasTree?

Bishop Irfan was kind enough to explain it to us, “Christmas tree is also one of the beloved tradition, the evergreen tree is a symbol of life itself. It lives through all seasons and conditions, it lives on...”

Shahid seconded him and said, “Jesus Christ once said, ‘Ï came to bring life’ this Christmas tree celebrates life because it is ever green and manifests the message of eternity and the concept of forever. And the love of Jesus is eternal.”

"Santa", is a kind historic figure who brings children gifts just one day before Christmas on 24th December. His name is a dialectal pronunciation of Saint Nicholas, the Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra. When we asked our guests about Santa Claus, this is what they had to say.

“This is a tradition associated to Christmas in the loving memory of Saint Nicholas, this character basically is a reminder to help others when God puts us in such a position i.e. to sacrifice for other people. According to Christianity Christ came as our Salvatore. So we need to follow in his footsteps and save others from sins, evils and injustice,” said Bishop Irfan.

“Santa came from a coastline area of Turkey, Saint Nicholas was actually Santa Claus, who actually became a bishop afterwards. He belonged to a well-fed rich family, but he wanted to share the joy with the unfortunate, so he disguised himself as Santa Claus and would put gifts into the socks and throw them down the chimneys, he became so loved by the people for his selfless gestures that now, we can’t have a Christmas without a Santa Claus!” said Reverend Shahid.

Our curiosity to learn more about Christmas celebrations increased and we continued asking, when in Rome do as the Romans do, but if you are planning to celebrate Christmas in Pakistan, what should be expected?

In Pakistan we start celebrating Christmas when December starts, we call it advent, and first Sunday of December. Carol services which started in the early 16th century almost still are a part of our traditions and then on 24th of December we start offering prayers. And then the 25th, it’s our “Eid”, said the genial Bishop.

When we asked about the Christmas spirit, Bishop Irfan cheerfully said, “The Christmas spirit is about loving God which in turn about loving his creatures.” Revernd Shahid enlightened us by saying, “Christmas spirit is love, forgiveness, sharing and peace. As we are beginning a new year, we need to let go of the anger and ill feelings towards everyone.”

This year though a few stole Christmas in Pakistan, but it wasn’t the Grinch!

Due to the unfortunate incident of Peshawar, Christian community has affirmed to limit the celebrations to express the grief every Pakistani mourns for. Lastly, we asked our guests for a special Christmas message:

“The birth of Jesus Christ is a light and we have to get rid of the darkness that we engulf inside. In John 8:12 it is said that, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." So enter the light of God. Secondly the angel came and gave the message of God and said do not fear, for I am with you” we have engulfed ourselves with fears of the past, present and future. We need to believe in God and let go of the fears because God is with us. Thirdly absence of war is not peace, Christmas teaches that we need to give up all that’s evil and accept people for who they are. If God forwent Jesus Christ for our redemption, we can also sacrifice for others,” said Bishop Irfan.

“Christmas is about sharing and having to spread the love around. Santa is the Christmas father, who helped the unfortunate and needy, I believe we need to teach this spirit to ourselves. We see the victimization of children in Peshawar attack, how the children in Thar are dying of hunger and all around the world the children are being exploited. On this day when we thank God for the birth of Jesus Christ we also pray for the safety and prosperity of all the children around the world,” said Reverend Shahid in his concluding remarks.

At the very end we came to the conclusion that like all religious auspicious events, the spirit of Christmas laid emphasis on the message of love, to keep living life whilst thanking the creator for all the blessings we have in our pocket, to help others in times of need and distress. But most importantly, to keep believing in miracles, because, Miracles happen! n