How to Understand the True Meaning of Christmas

Two Methods:Understanding Christian SignificanceUnderstanding Modern Significance

Christmastime is filled with parties, presents, decorations and vacations. During this busy time, it is easy to forget to teach children the origins of this traditional holiday. For many people the true meaning of Christmas is known from the word itself, referring to "Christ's Mass." However, if you feel as though you or your family do not celebrate the true meaning of Christmas -- then consider some ways to improve the season's message together. Learn how to understand the true meaning of Christmas.

Method 1
Understanding Christian Significance

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    Research the meaning of Christmas yourself or with your family. You may decide to use different methods, if you are encouraging your toddlers or parents to participate in learning, than if you would do it for yourself.
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    Go to the library and find books about the history of Christmas. If you are a book-lover or researcher, then this may give you the background needed to begin your understanding of Christmas. Consider the following research topics when looking into Christmas origins.
    • When was Jesus Christ born? Most scholars, both Biblical and otherwise, agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th. Rather, this date was chosen because The Church could use, overcome and deemphasize[1] the winter solstice celebrations that were commonly celebrated at the time. The Roman Catholic church is reported to have chosen this date in the 4th century.
    • Read about the story of the Nativity. Many books, in addition to the Bible, are written specifically on this subject. They can shed light on the customs and traditions associated with the story of the Nativity.
    • Study the intersection of Christian stories and pagan celebrations. The winter solstice included many celebrations to pagan gods. The customs of the Roman Festival of Saturnalia may be the common origin of giving presents. The druids brought home mistletoe decorations. St. Nicholas ("Saint Nick"/"Santa Claus") was a bishop and cardinal who was said to give secret gifts -- and is celebrated in the Netherlands and other countries as the patron saint of children.
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    Avoid confusing children with expecting to receive gifts and enjoying the Christmas lights, as if those carry the meaning of Christmas. Our constitutional freedoms may not always continue, but our freedom in Christ — including our freedom as we suffer for Christ can. Fear the situation where you’re relying upon civic and government institutions to protect the Christian rights. They will not unless they want to. The job of the Church is to get the Christian story right, which is comprised of Christ-alive, God incarnate (in the flesh), plus transformed, believing individuals.[2]
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    Separate the pagan traditions from the Christian traditions. You can create a fun game to play with your family, which explains common Christmas traditions and whether they are associated with pagan events or contain Christian messages. Jesus said, "Whatever you do to [or for] the least of my children you do to me!"
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    Purchase a Nativity set. Many cultures have a rich tradition of collecting figures for the Nativity. This is an especially good way to embrace Christmas with children, because you can study each figure and what it represents.
    • In Italy, the Nativity scene, or "presepio", changes throughout the holiday season. They are set up on December 8th and taken down on the Epiphany, on January 6th. The baby Jesus appears in the Nativity on December 25th, and the wise men move closer and closer to him to illustrate their journey. This is an exciting way to get children to act out the Nativity story.
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    Play Christmas carols. Remove the modern versions of Christmas songs and regularly sing "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Away in a Manger" and "The First Noel." These hymns are uplifting and meaningful, so raising your voice may help you understand the feeling of the season, as well as its deeper significance.
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    Attend a Christmas Eve service. Midnight Mass, as it's often called, is a service specially made to celebrate Christmas, so it can feel more meaningful and emotional than regular church services. Bring your family, hold candles and discuss what you liked about the special event when you are done.
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    Be part of a Nativity play. Many churches and schools put on these plays, and having a part in one can create a deeper feeling of belonging and understanding.

Method 2
Understanding Modern Significance

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    Read the history of Christmas and winter solstice as it pertains to your country or religion. You do not have to be of the Christian faith to reap meaning from the Christmas season. Learn about the other traditions and their deeper messages.
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    Volunteer your time to a charity. So much focus is put on presents, that you can easily lose the true meaning of giving, specifically of yourself and your time, rather than money. Studies have shown that people who volunteer or give to charity during the holidays are happier and more positive, so perhaps the act of doing something will shed more light on the phrase "goodwill toward men."
    • Encourage your children to give time or goods to a charity. Many local charities pick up old toys, winter coats and more to give to children who are in need. Ask them to choose some things to share with someone who may need it more.
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    Make a list of things you need to do for Christmas. Make note of a lack of traditions or time spent with family. Revise your schedule so that you do something that brings your family closer together every few days, whether it is caroling, driving to look at Christmas lights, baking together or volunteering.
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    Make new traditions based on your own family and friends. Decide if the regular traditions, such as giving presents or watching a popular Christmas movie, are your favorite, heart warming experiences, or if you do them just because they are easy. Creating your own recipes for traditions will give deeper meanings to your holiday season.
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    Be thankful, just as you are at Thanksgiving. Ask your family to make lists of what they love about Christmas, other than the material goods. Read them aloud to give everyone a chance to express their own thankfulness and significance.
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    Make sure the experiences outweigh the material goods in your holiday schedule. If your schedule is focused on quality time spent with people, you are more likely to feel a deep connection to the holidays, than whether you are short on money and gift ideas. If your family is too involved in materialism at Christmas, suggest a change of gift-giving tradition.
    • When money is short, psychologists believe that experiences create a more lasting feeling of happiness than buying material goods. Instead of buying each other presents, decide to put holiday money toward a vacation, visit back home or weekend adventure or caroling from door to door, and such. The memories are likely to live longer than the shelf-life of most goods.


  • Christmas, and the holiday season surrounding it, can represent a number of intangible values and lessons that are often taught throughout the Christmas season, for example:
    • Learning to give to others;
    • Showing appreciation to your friends and family.

Things You'll Need

  • Bible
  • Books on Christmas history
  • Nativity
  • Nativity play
  • Christmas carols
  • Christmas Eve service
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • New traditions
  • Christmas schedule

Article Info

Categories: Christmas