Keeping warm through sharing
It may sound like a silly question, but the end of December, according to the solar calendar, was the season for festivals in the provinces along the Mediterranean and Europe.
James George Frazer, the author of “The Golden Bough,” explained in his book on ancient cults, rites and myths including their parallels with early Christianity, that Christmas was the combination of winter solstice festivals that previously existed in Europe and Christendom.
Even in the same Christian culture, there is a slight difference in the way people spend Christmas holidays according to the region.
In Britain, Australia and Canada, they call Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, Boxing Day. This is the day when employers do something kind for their employees, and people donate money to the needy or give tips to postmen or street cleaners. In North American countries, it is also when retailers give the biggest discounts on their merchandise in the year.
There are various theories on the origin of the tradition of giving. They vary from a claim that it was in memory of the philanthropic acts of St. Stephen, who was an early Christian, to the explanation that it originated from the box in which sailors kept part of the freight and money as “God’s share” praying for the safe sail of the ship during the era of great voyages. The box that was kept on board was handed over to the church when the ship arrived safely at the port, and then the clergymen opened the seal of the box on Christmas and distributed the goods in it to poor people.
At any rate, as the first thing that comes to mind at the suggestion of Christmas is presents, it is fully understandable that the following day became Boxing Day - the day for sending love to the neighborhood. It must mean that we who are wealthy enough to buy and enjoy Christmas presents should have consideration for others who cannot afford presents.
In Korea, around the time of Christmas there is also a rush of donations and offer of helping hands to the needy.
The winter solstice is the day traditionally when Koreans cook red bean porridge and share it with the neighborhood. The news that an anonymous old couple dropped a donation of 100 million won ($85,000) into the charity pot of the Salvation Army late Wednesday evening, has reminded us that the tradition of sharing is still maintained in our society.
For thousands of years, people lived with the belief that warm sunshine would be back sooner or later, if they endured the long, cold nights. And they overcame severe winter weather by embracing and consoling each other.
It is not a coincidence that both Christmas and the winter solstice fall in the season of charity and sharing.
The writer is the content director at JES Entertainment.
By Song Won-seop