From the Master of Kadosh (December, 2009)

posted May 16, 2015, 7:34 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite


Why are there 12 days of Christmas and when are they?
Christmastide is a 12-day liturgical period that runs from Christmas day through January 5. The following day is Epiphany, which celebrates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, described in the Bible, Matthew 2:1-12.
The Magi, or Wise Men, were a trio of high-powered Zoroastrian Priest/Astrologers from Persia, who brought carefully chosen gifts:
  • Gold, the perennial precious metal, as a symbol of kingship on earth.
  • Frankincense, an aromatic resin from the Boswellia tree, as a symbol of priesthood.
  • Myrrh, a dark resin often used for embalming,as a symbol of death.
The role of the Magi in the story is to validate the royal status of the infant Jesus, as well as to foreshadow the events of his life. If the Bible account is in any way historical, it would suggest a dramatic cross-cultural, interfaith event.
Historically, the Epiphany was the more significant feast day for centuries. Christmas began to emerge as a significant feast day during the High Middle Ages, 1000 to 1300 CE.
Christmas was actually banned by the Puritans in England in 1647, during the days of the Commonwealth. When Charles II became king in 1660, he restored the holiday and its celebrations. The Puritans did the same thing in Boston for 22 years.
When King George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in the early 1800s, she introduced him to the German custom of the “Christmas tree.” The Germans used to decorate their trees with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels, and paper flowers.
The practice of gift giving is not related to the Biblical story of the Magi. Nor did it begin with the original Santa Claus persona.
This tradition centers around a character originally known as “Father Christmas.” Originally Father Christmas was a mysterious fellow who came from somewhere in the far north, such as Lapland. He brought the spirit of good cheer during the Christmas season, in contrast to the Puritan ideal of avoiding celebrations. However, Father Christmas did not bring or distribute gifts, not was he children-oriented.
That all changed. Eventually, Father Christmas metamorphosed into Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas, Papa Noël, Weihnachtsmann, Julemanden, Babbo Natale, or one of many other names. And this guy is busy. So are his little elves, in their covert form as parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts.
Christmas has become one big economic stimulus package. Is all this gift giving activity a bad thing? A lot of people think it misses the point. It makes Christmas a big commercial exercise. That’s like the Puritans, who, in their day, felt Christmas had become too much of a party.
When I watch people shopping for their loved ones, I see individuals planning for a big moment: when the recipient opens the gift. They want that moment to be one of excitement, surprise, and joy. Sometimes it even works that way. It’s hard to find something wrong with bringing a little joy to somebody you care about.
Another way to give is anonymously, by contributing to your favorite charity. Well-known and respected outfits like Second Harvest, The American Cancer Society, and Disabled American Veterans receive support from the general public. But Masonic charities, such as the Scottish Rite Children’s Clinic, are supported almost entirely from members of the Masonic Fraternity, their families and estates.
Our Clinic is the first, last, and only source of treatment for an increasing number of children in the community. With California mired in financial problems, school services for problem students have been cut. As a result, Clinic enrollment is higher and the waiting list is longer than ever in history. So consider adding the Clinic to your Christmas list.
Think of it this way: If a kid has problems in school, he is going to be frustrated, get poor grades, maybe drop out, land a dead-end job, or even end up in prison. But if that same kid gets help early on, frustration turns to fascination with learning. His grades are good and so are his chances for college and a meaningful career. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

Daniel Doornbos - Master of Kadosh