OHIO VALLEY — Christmas is not just about Santa Claus. For Christians around the world it is a meaningful religious observance because, it is the birthday of Christ Jesus.
For those following the traditional religious calendar, the festivities of Christmas truly begin following the fourth Sunday in Advent. Advent is the season prior to Christmas and is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. Each church has their traditions and celebrations for this time of year.
For members of Sacred Heart Parish in Pomeroy, it means decorating following the Sunday mass. As some parishioners were leaving, others were pulling out Christmas trees, lights and the large nativity set for the sanctuary.
“It is good to have a positive experience, but don’t lose the theology behind it,” the Rev. Timothy Kozak of Sacred Heart said. Kozak was commenting on the commercialism which has become a part of Christmas. He said it is easy to become too caught up in gifts and forget the meaning for Christians. “Don’t let it turn into a nightmare,” he said.
For Christians, Christmas is the time to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Christ to earth. Only Easter, the resurrection of Jesus following the crucifixion, is considered a greater religious holy day.
Tradition, particularly in the faith, can be a means of teaching the faith. At Sacred Heart, the early Christmas Eve service involves the children of the church participating.
The Rev. Jason Simpkins of Soul Harvest in Mason, said this year they were focusing on spending more time with family. He said they normally do special programs, but this year opted not to. He said it had been a busy year.
For members of one area church, it is a time of new beginnings. Members of River City Fellowship in Gallipolis were celebrating not only Christmas, but the opening of their new home in the former Foodland location.
At area Catholic churches, Christmas also means the annual midnight mass. Kozak said that tradition is very ancient and goes back to the early times of the church. There are also services during the day, as well.
As believers in various denominations focus on the Christmas, there are varying ways they choose to share the faith and celebrate. Celebrations often include live nativities, children’s programs, and even special dinners for those in need.