Over the past couple of weeks I have read on Facebook and heard stories about suburbs and shopping precincts around Melbourne failing to acknowledge anything about this season we call Christmas. OK, there's no rules about having to put up lights or decorate, but it just doesn't feel right not to.
Many of our Christmas traditions have very long histories, some embedded in Christianity, while others are secular. It is so interesting to discover why we do what we do and where it has all come from. As a young country we do take bits and pieces of tradition from all around the world and we have made them our own.
In 1901, 96% of our nation identified as Christian. We were founded as a Christian nation, and this is something important as to our identity. It's a solid foundation on which we can stand firm. The Christian traditions of Christmas should remain as an integral part of our December celebrations. There are many, many reasons behind our Christmas traditions, below are a few examples.
The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history. In London, in the 15th century, it was the custom for every house and all the parish churches to be decked with holm, ivy and bays at Christmastime.
The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolise the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns. I am personally not very talented at decorations but I love trying and I love seeing them, especially the handmade ones.
The traditional colours of Christmas decorations are red, green, and gold. Red symbolises the blood of Jesus, while green symbolises eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter. Gold is the first colour associated with Christmas, as one of the three gifts of the Magi, symbolising royalty.
The earliest specifically Christmas hymns appeared in 4th-century Rome. By the 13th century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Assisi, a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native language developed.
Then there's tree decorating, and feasts, and presents, and the list goes on and on.
As a follower of Christ and as an Australian, I want to be proud of our history and confident in why we celebrate how we do. This year I have been to two community events celebrating this season.
We went along as a family to the Road to Bethlehem event held at Nunawading. A truly quality production allowing us to walk through the story of Jesus. It was a beautiful celebration and acknowledgment of the birth of our saviour being shared with more than 14, 000 Victorians this year.
The second event we went to was a carols event hosted by our local council. A few songs were presented by children from local schools, a simple nativity created and a beautiful local brass band playing all the traditional carols, accompanied by a choir. Santa also came... he's a happy guy who loves giving.
Back to basics, celebrating who we are as a nation and being inspired by the simple truths. Jesus was the baby born who came to set us free. The MC at the carols event did not hold back in announcing this to the 7000 locals from our community.
As petty discussions happen as to why a teacher mentioned Jesus in the classroom last week...and as sad decisions are being made to get carols out of public schools...my quiet hope is that as Aussies we can come back to basics and be sure of who we are. Our roots are Christian. Bring on all the Christmas traditions, Jesus and all. There's nothing to be ashamed about and no one should be offended. It's who we are.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html