‘Charting Christmas’ Shines Light on Treasured Traditions (Documentary Review)

Billie Jo YoumansBy Billie Jo Youmans6 Minutes

Just the Facts

Charting Christmas is another excellent entertaining, educational resource from the folks at Vision Video. The documentary was filmed on location in the Holy Land and in the United Kingdom. With interviews from biblical scholars and historians, fresh light shines on the treasured traditions of Christmas.

You will find answers to questions you never even knew to ask, like:


  • What does Coca-Cola have to do with the evolution of Christmas?
  • How did Saint Francis of Assisi contribute to the holiday?
  • Why are little gold chocolate coins even a thing?
  • Was Christmas an attempt to commandeer a pagan holiday?

A Little Entertainment

So, the truth is this isn’t about entertainment … BUT it is a fantastic edu-tainment video! I confess to being a learning nerd and a total fan of Vision Video, so read on with that in mind.

As a former Sunday School teacher for little ones, I thought I had done my research on these things. The kind generosity of St. Nicholas that deteriorated into Santa Claus. The tree that proclaims the trinity and so forth. But I learned many more fascinating, enlightening truths about the beautiful foundations of Christmas through Charting Christmas. The historical roots proclaiming the love of God—even in some of our most secular traditions—are sure to bring you joy!

The producers keep this video rolling along. The video is excellent, the speakers articulate and interesting. You will be entertained as you learn.

A Little Deeper Digging

Saint Nicholas

You will learn so many new tidbits in Charting Christmas, I am sure you will want to dig deeper. There are so many directions you could go, but undoubtedly, the stnicholascenter.org is a great place to begin. Jim Rosenthal, who contributes greatly to this video founded the St. Nicholas Center, and their website is a treasure chest of historical, geographical, biographical, and artistic delights.

You can unearth little known facts like St. Nicholas’ connection to the Council of Nicaea and the ubiquitous candy cane (now that fact destroyed a myth I’ve enjoyed for years!). Or how about this: after his death in 343 AD, manna formed in St. Nicholas’ grave! Said to have healing properties, this unique relic contributed to the growth of the legend of Saint Nicholas.

From Holy Saint to Roly Poly Claus

Would you believe the Protestant Reformation influenced the transformation of Saint Nicholas? And the Puritan Christians in the Americas contributed to the secularization of the holy celebration? History always reminds me not to take myself too seriously, because you  never know what the world will do with your good intentions.

The literary contributions to the changes of Christmas celebrations are also fascinating. Literary greats such as Washington Irving and Clement Clark Moore influenced the transition of Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus significantly too. Understanding the roots of Santa Claus does much to reveal the very heart of God.

Symbols of Christmas

Most of the symbols we treasure at Christmas time were birthed from the desire to share the Gospel story. Live nativities, caroling, and even our favorite Christmas candies came about as believers sought for new ways to tell the world about Jesus.

But did you know, Christmas carols created much controversy in their early days? So much so, in fact, that public and private celebrations of Christmas were banned in the mid-1600s in the New England colonies. The diverse cultural backgrounds of the carols (English, France, and Germany) broadened their appeal and led to the blessings we enjoy today.

Exploring the roots of your favorite Christmas symbol may just reveal that the social and political turmoil of today isn’t all that different from generations past – which is why we keep sharing the real message of the season! The world needs Jesus.

Light of the World

My favorite revelation from Charting Christmas, though, explains Christmas’ connection to the Winter Solstice. It is easy in today’s world to be swayed by the naysayers who find negativity in any Christian action. I’ve long-heard that the winter date was purely to commandeer the pagan celebrations around the winter solstice. Learning that Constantine selected December 25 because of its connection to the visible increase of light on the earth in this season thrilled my heart.

Charting Christmas really is all about the real root of Christmas—the love of God that came down to redeem the world. Your faith will be bolstered and your joy increased by watching this video.