Warnings about Christmas

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In the 300s,  while Christmas was growing in stature, its setting during the traditional pagan festive season would cause trouble that lasted for centuries. Because the Nativity was celebrated during a time traditionally marked by popular festivities such as feasting, gift-giving and decorating homes with greenery those activities would inevitably effect Christians and their new holiday. Gregory Nazianzen, the archbishop of Constantinople, sounded a warning note in a sermon of 380. He praised what he called “the feast of the Theophany” when God appeared to humans in the form of a baby in order for us to “journey toward God.” This was worthy of celebration – but in a godly way, not like a pagan festival. He begged his listeners to avoid imitating their worldly neighbours.

Let us not put wreaths on our front doors, or assemble troupes of dancers, or decorate the streets. Let us not feast the eyes, or mesmerize the sense of hearing, or make effeminate the sense of smell, or prostitute the sense of taste, or gratify the sense of touch. These are ready paths to evil, and entrances of sin … Let us not assess the bouquets of wines, the concoctions of chefs, the great cost of perfumes. Let earth and sea not bring us as gifts the valued dung, for this is how I know to evaluate luxury. Let us not strive to conquer each other in dissoluteness. For to me all that is superfluous and beyond need is dissoluteness, particularly when others are hungry and in want, who are of the same clay and composition as ourselves. But let us leave these things to the Greeks and to Greek pomp and festivals.

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