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Viewpoint Great Yarmouth Mercury


From Gemma Wassell a member of the Gorleston Baptist Church and who is also one of the co-ordinators for the Mercury Viewpoint team .


Greatest gift of all is God himself


Chviewpoints cross logo jpegristmas is over for us now, with its cards and carols, festive food and presents…yet in some countries the children are still waiting for their gifts. 
It’s easy to think that the way we do things is the way they are done everywhere else. In fact in some countries the children get their presents earlier or later than ours. One story explaining our tradition of Father Christmas has come to us from Bishop Nicholas in Turkey, who, hearing of a poor family with several daughters for whom there were no dowries, threw some golden coins down the chimney where they landed in the girls’ stockings hung up to dry by the fireplace. In remembrance of this, many countries maintain a tradition of having small gifts and sweets on St. Nicholas Day, 6th December, as well as at Christmas. 
In Belgium, St Nicholas’ Day is the day the children look forward to as they do not receive presents on Christmas Day. Nor do children in Mexico; it is thought that Christmas is not the time for gifts as this day is a celebration of the life of our Saviour and gifts instead are given on Twelfth Night, 6th January, when we commemorate the arrival of the Kings with their presents of gold and frankincense and myrrh. In Spain and Gibraltar also, the wise men are remembered as children receive their presents on this day, and in Syria, children receive their presents on New Year’s Day from the youngest of the camels that brought the wise men to Bethlehem! In Russia under communism, when religion was frowned upon, Father Frost distributed his gifts on New Year’s Day: today, children have to wait until January 7th, since the Russian Orthodox Church is governed by the old Julian calendar.
However, if you really like giving and receiving presents, Latvia is the place to be: there, gifts are exchanged on each of the twelve days of Christmas, starting on Christmas Eve!
So if you enjoy giving and receiving presents and are prepared to travel quite extensively, it is possible to extend the festive season from 5th December to 7th January! And you thought it was all over in one day….
However, all these different dates and customs make no difference to the central fact: that what we are celebrating in our various ways is the greatest gift ever given – the gift of God himself, born as a human child, to show us the way to salvation and everlasting glory. It is easy to spend Christmas in a haze of joyful celebration, and indeed we should celebrate how God came down to earth in the person of his son, but we should never forget that the gifts from the kings represent the kingship, the divinity and the death of this one babe.