How do we celebrate Christmas in Holland?
In Holland we celebrate Christmas on the 25th and 26th of December. We call this ´First Christmas Day´ and ´Second Christmas Day´. Christmas usually includes being with family, enjoying church and food together. There is no particular Dutch Christmas staple. But rollade – rolled up pork with herbs – is very popular. The only real designated Christmas foods are:
A delicious current bread with a little island of ground almond paste in the middle of each slice.
Little biscuits tied to Christmas trees with ribbons.
The story of Christmas in the bible
What the message of christmas is all about
Of course: babies are cute. We like parties. To celebrate a birthday is always good. But: why make such a big, worldwide feast of celebrating this particular birth? For that is what Christmas is all about: the birth of Jesus. It occurred more than 2000 years ago. Then, what reasons for happiness are there in this birth.
1. This birth was long expected.
To understand the meaning of Jesus’ birth we need to get familiar with the story of the Bible. We may be inclined to see the Bible as the religious book of Jews (First/Old Testament) and of Christians (New Testament). However, the Bible does not in the first-place claim to be a religious book (meant to stir up our religious feelings). It is a book that intends to unravel what the story, the history is, wherein we find ourselves. It is about our origin and destination, about the roots of our problems and about hope.
For God so loved the world that He gave his only son for us. John 3:16
After telling about the origin of the universe and of mankind, the book zooms in on a particular family and people that knows it is called to be a blessing for the whole world. However, soon we discover that this people itself deals with similar problems as we all have. Serious problems. Although the future, time after time, doesn’t look bright, there is one Red Thread in the Bible: the promise that one day, there will be a man who will deal with human problems in such a way that he will bring a bright and beautiful future – not only for his own people, but also for all the nations of the world. In the Bible, the birth of Jesus, is the fulfilment of this long-expected promise.
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A Story from an Iranian ICF member
Had you heard about Christmas when you were young? What did you
think it was and did you celebrate it?
I always was very excited about it. Since around 30 years ago when I was teenager, Iran National TV would broadcast special programs, such as nice cartoons, about this event, but only for 1 day. In society, normal people were hesitant and afraid to even talk about it. And later, I found that these TV programs had been set up on National TV since the Shah regime (before the revolution). My school books at that time said Jesus Christ was one of the God's Prophets who had a book. But not a complete religion and book, because Islam's Mohammed was best and last prophet, giving the best way to live under God's governance. I remember there was almost nothing about Moses and Jesus in the books for kids at that time--the same as now--and only 2 pages for each in our school's history book. Right now, the Iranian regime even falsifies Iranian history to show and dictate to kids that all other nations and governments in the world are incomplete and full of shortages and sins, and only Islam (Shiea) is the best one.
As I gradually grew up, I found out more about Christianity and my eyes were being opened to many blind spots of Islam. In my city, Isfahan, there were well-known people who were Armenian Christians. They did not lie and they were trustworthy people. It was always a big question for me: why, in my society, did Muslims lie, but these people not?
These Armenians also avoided close contact with other people, since they were and always are under pressure by the Islamic regime. When I got to know that Islam was not what my heart wanted, I started to learn more from movies, the Internet, and books. It was very strange for me at first to know that Jesus was not a messenger like others.
In recent years, National Broadcasting of Iran is saying less and less about Christmas, but this holy event and knowledge about it is spreading among normal people more and more every year. Every year Iran's President announces his greetings to Christians in Iran, only in order to show off about human rights!
What does it mean to you now? Is there a way you will celebrate it?
Last December during Christmas I was alone in Ter Apel, and I had strange and unique feelings about it. Now as a Christian, I also have different and amazing feelings. This is my first Christmas as a Christian. Now, to me, Christmas means rejoicing in the truth of the historical fact of the birth of a human being who was, and still is, called Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Some may think that Christmas means getting, but I found that Jesus was born to give the best and to take the worst things from us.
Christmas reminds me that Jesus, my Savior, the Son of God, came to Earth for all people, symbolised through the visits of the wise men and the shepherds.
For me as one of God's children, it is like gratitude all these days. I started the Giving Thanks Prayers challenge on the 1st of December to celebrate Christmas. Every day I am only praising and appreciating Lord because of His Son and for amazing grace.
God bless all of us, our days full of the Holy Spirit, and I wish you all to rejoice in Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Holiday Reflection Walk for students
This painting by Mark Lawrence refers to Psalm 18:28: My God lights up my darkness. Hundreds of years later Jesus Christ ‘the light of the world’ came into our world: Christmas. And today ICF-church radiates the gospel, from the same light source.
Why is this relevant for students?
Many of us live in a culture of daily competition and distrust and are easily bored and often lonely. We are so busy that we regularly lose the thread of our lives.
We invite you to have a walk during the holidays to discuss and reflect.