Pope: Many are missing the Christmas’s simple message

Pope: Many are missing the Christmas's simple message

Pope Benedict XVI decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass on Saturday night, urging the faithful to look beyond the holiday’s “superficial glitter” to discover its true meaning.

Benedict presided over the service in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica, kicking off an intense two weeks of Christmas-related public appearances that will test the 84-year-old pontiff’s stamina amid signs that fatigue is starting to slow him down.

The Christmas Eve Mass was moved up to 10 p.m. from midnight several years ago to spare the pope a late night that is followed by an important Christmas Day speech. In a new concession this year, Benedict processed down the basilica’s central aisle on a moving platform to spare him the long walk.

Benedict appeared tired by the end of the Mass and a dry cough interrupted his homily. In his homily, Benedict lamented that Christmas has become an increasingly commercial celebration that obscures the simplicity of the message of Christ’s birth.

“Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light,” he said.

It was the second time in as many days that Benedict has pointed to the need to rediscover faith to confront the problems facing the world today. In his end-of-year meeting with Vatican officials on Thursday, Benedict said Europe’s financial crisis was largely “based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent.”

Benedict officially kicked off Christmas a few hours before the evening Mass, lighting a candle in his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in a sign of peace, as crowds gathered to witness the unveiling of the Vatican’s larger-than-life sized nativity scene.

Security was tight for the evening Mass, as it has been in recent years. There were no repeats of the 2008 and 2009 Christmas Eve security breaches, in which a woman with a history of psychiatric problems and wearing a telltale red sweat shirt jumped the wooden security barrier along the basilica’s central aisle and lunged for the pope.

In 2008, the pope’s security detail blocked her from getting to Benedict. But in 2009, she managed to grab Benedict’s vestments and pulled him to the ground. The pope was unhurt and continued along with the service, but a French cardinal who was nearby fell and broke his hip.

On Sunday, Benedict will deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” speech, Latin for “to the city and the world,” from the central loggia of St. Peter’s overlooking the piazza. Usually, the speech is a survey of sorts of the hardships and wars confronting humanity. He’s also due to deliver Christmas greetings in dozens of languages.

Next weekend, he’ll preside over a New Year’s Eve vespers service, followed by a New Year’s Day Mass. A few days later he’ll celebrate Epiphany Mass followed by his traditional baptizing of babies in the Vatican’s frescoed Sistine Chapel.

Where did Christmas tree tradition begin?

Where did Christmas tree tradition begin?

Its roots can be traced back 1,300 years, but the custom didn’t take hold until much later.

The origin of the Christmas tree is obscured by the uncertainties of oral history from pre-literacy European cultures. For example, according to Christian tradition, the Christmas tree is associated with St. Boniface and the German town of Geismar. Sometimes in the life of St. Boniface (c. 672-754), he cut down the tree of Thor to refute the legitimacy of the Norse gods at the local German tribe. St. Boniface saw a tree growing in the roots of old oak. Taking this as a sign of Christian faith, he said: “…that Christ is the center of your family… “using the tree as a symbol of Christianity.

The tradition of the Christmas tree as it is known today is relatively young. It was created by Martin Luther Protestant counterpart of the scene of the Nativity Catholic. Luther made the Christmas tree as a symbol of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

The custom of erecting a Christmas tree can be traced historically to the 15th century Livonia (now Estonia and Latvia) and the 16th century in northern Germany. According to the first documented use of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514 the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their fraternity house at Reval (now Tallinn). During the last night of celebrations leading up to holidays, the tree was taken at the Town Hall Square where members of the Brotherhood have danced around him.

In 1584, the pastor and columnist Balthasar Russow wrote a well-established tradition of creating a spruce tree decorated in the market place where young people “went with a flock of young girls and women, first sung and danced there and then set fire tree. ” In this period, the guilds started erecting Christmas trees in front of their guild houses: Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570, which tells how a small tree was decorated with apples, walnuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers “and erected in the guild-house, the Children Guild members, who collected the goodies on Christmas Day.