Christmas on December 25th

Hey, gang, we are going to celebrate the Festival of the Birth of Jesus on December 25th this year. We are going to join with all Western Christians and all the saints who have gone before us for the past 1900 years and more. Now, probably on a facebook page near you, sometime this Advent season you will see someone telling you how the Christians selected the date of December 25th by appropriating the date of a Pagan festival. That is a crock, and an anti-Christian slander, and this article is to explain why.

    Most of you plain don’t care whether Christians appropriated a Pagan date. This is the typical reaction from Christians. We don’t really think that there is anything special about the date, it is just the traditional time for an annual celebration of the Nativity miracle. And, since we believe that mankind is corrupted by sin, and because we are all aware that church leaders have let us down on many occasions, we do not find this tale to be particularly troubling, and it sounds believable. So, Christians are generally not disconcerted by this tale, and we generally accept it without question.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of deference on the part of Christians that allows anti-Christian falsehoods to proliferate. Many Christians, such as G.K. Chesterton, accepted this tale as true. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Christmas (which was written in 1908) mentions this theory with the remark that it is “plausible.” Lots and lots of Christians have simply accepted this anti-Christian falsehood, mostly because it is considered an unimportant detail.

There is much to say regarding this anti-Christian slander, so I will provide some long-winded information and some links for anyone who is interested, or who is cornered by someone who finds this particular assault on the traditional Christmas story to be troubling.

Appropriation theory

Anti-Christians have said that the date of December 25th was deliberately picked to coincide with a Roman Pagan celebration. There are several versions, but here are the two most popular ones: one says that it co-opted a solstice celebration, just getting the date off by a couple of days, and the other says it was to co-opt a festival for Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun god). Both versions are falsehoods that keep going around on the internet.

First, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a solstice festival before Sol Invictus. Sometimes I have seen anti-Christians on the internet raise the fact that other Pagans definitely did, but that does not hold up. There is no evidence that early Christians were in the business of co-opting dates or practices from the surrounding Greek Pagan culture (they opposed it in many ways), and, even if they were, they certainly would not have gone about picking dates from some far-away Pagan culture.

The second version also fails, on the basis that the Sol Invictus festival was initiated long after the Christians had agreed that December 25th is the most likely date for the Nativity. The Christians arrived at the December 25th date by completely independent reasoning that had nothing to do with any December events.

Mea culpa

The Sol Invictus theory was a speculation by a 12th-century writer, and it was accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike as possible and plausible; in those days it was extremely difficult to access the sort of historical records that would have shed light on this theory. This theory was reported later as fact by a Protestant who was using it as a smear against the Roman Catholic Church. It was spread by anti-Catholic Protestants. It has been picked up and used since the Enlightenment by anti-Christians of all sorts, and it gets spread today on the worldwide web by many who seek to undermine the teachings and traditions of orthodox Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.

Early Christian thinking

The Christians of the second century discussed the likely dates for several events in the life of Jesus, in the absence of precise dating in the Gospels. The matter that got the most discussion was the time of the Crucifixion, which was important for dating the Easter festival that commemorates the Resurrection. They were looking to establish the most appropriate date for this important feast, and were employing a Jewish tradition that held that prophets died on the same date that they were either born or conceived.

The short version of the reasoning is: that before John the Baptist was born, when his father Zechariah received his vision, he was serving in the Temple. From Luke chapter 1:

Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. …

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21  And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22  And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

The early Christians reasoned that if Zechariah could not be looked in on, then he must have been in the Most Holy Place, behind the veil, and so the event must have occurred during the annual festival of the Day of Atonement, which takes place in September. This was corroborated by a separate line of reasoning that was based on the rotation of the priests, and informed by a comment found in Josephus to backtrack and learn that Zechariah’s division of priests was serving in September.

If Elizabeth conceived John in September, then it would have been March when Mary conceived Jesus:

26 In the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

They set the Feast of the Annunciation as March 25. Nine months later is December 25. This was established long before the first Feast of Sol Invictus. Clement of Alexandria wrote about it near the year 200 AD, as did Hippolytus of Rome. It appears from their writings that the date had been established prior to their day. Sol Invictus was first decreed by Emperor Aurelian in 274 AD.

Summary

Here is an excerpt from an article by William Tighe:

Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians.


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Vacation Ramble from the Curmudgeon and the Red Headed Irish Wisecracker

Just got back from the latest vacation after driving 600 miles from Montana to Oregon in ten hours. I am both tired and wired.

Itinerary: We drove up for a quick grandchildren visit in Seattle with the three girls 8,6 and 4. Delivered each a complete set of Incredibles 2 toys from McDonald’s (courtesy of Grandpa hitting six locations in a week to get all the characters). Once again had a big hit.

Lit out for the border, allowed in despite being an admitted knife owner, and headed northwest into British Columbia, stayed in Kamloops, (Not a breakfast cereal).

On to Jasper National Park in Alberta. Many natural wonders to behold.

A wondrous and awe filled journey down the Icefields Parkway, which runs the spine of the Canadian Rockies from Jasper Park in the north to Banff Park in the south and runs up to 6800 ft above sea level.

Stayed in Banff at a very classy place, treated ourselves to Victorian Luxury in service, atmosphere and food.

Lit out for the US border into Montana and revisited Glacier National Park which we had seen thirty years earlier.

Drove Going to The Sun Road across Glacier Nat Park.

Woke up in Kalispell MT, 605 miles from home in Oregon and drove it today on one tank of gas.

Still tired and wired.

Ground covered- 2685 miles, five hotels from Super 8 to Five Diamond class.

Casualties- One Windshield, One tire

See pics.

First- The wildlife knew their lines, made well rehearsed entrances and put on a good show. All these were shot from the truck window with no telephoto.

Then we suffered from Vacation Interruptus- a truck threw a rock chip into the windshield of the Faithful 150 and a small starburst crack turned into a three foot slice within an hour. We added a day, and the local Ford dealer suggested a little glass shop just outside the park. Next morning, I was there, drank coffee for 90 minutes while a very competent auto glass guy got the windshield in, connected the embedded sensors to the truck network so I could sense rain, maintain lane and sundry other stuff the windshield does for me. Even my insurance worked, so I just paid my $100 deductible in Canadian and was off.

Our highlight was one of the World’s best scenic drives- the Icefields Parkway. You climb almost 4000 feet over 140 miles and there is a photo of awesome nature in every mile. Do it.

On our way back to the States, about thirty miles out from Cut Bank Montana, just on the edge of the Blackfoot Indian Res. We were barreling down a two lane and my dash flashed a low tire pressure warning. My diagnostics panel showed my left rear tire was running at 28 pounds to the other three’s 40, and seemed to be dropping a pound every ten minutes or so. (I was still rolling hot down the road).

So we decided to keep rolling and make it to town. We did with 24 pounds left.

The tire place in town was just closed, but the guy told me to bring her in at 7am the next morning (Saturday) and he would open up and fix it.

On the next morning, of course the tire is flat, so I grab the inflator from the toolbox, plug it into the dc outlet and bring it back up to 40 pounds. Rolled down to the tire place and the owner waved me right in. He apparently had been working at tires since high school and he was my age, so he was what you could call a Master Craftsman of Tire Repair. He and his Blackfoot sidekick worked their magic, plugged the hole made by a small jagged piece of iron, remounted it and I was on my way, happy to pay the whole of $15.00 American, as requested.

I ran the diagnostics the whole trip over Going to the Sun Road and the tire never lost a bit of pressure.

It was great to see real folks who know what the heck they are doing and happy to do it.

Lesson learned from the trip. Even though I was tethered to work by the magic of the interwebs, it was easy to run that from my mind and refocus on the scenery, the sights and the people we met.

It was a good thing.

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1200 Klicks to Canada, in the high lonesome

Here we are , doing one of our classic vacations while working over the net deals. We just arrived at our first destination after driving the F150 over 1200 kilometers (they use different measures up here and pretend it’s meaningful).

Jasper Alberta is smack dab in the middle of a National Park with crystal waters, slate gray mountains and thin rooted pines struggling with pre-permafrost.

It is a cathedral everywhere you look, an imposing yet gentle persona in every view.

Wifi is working which means I can sneak a few hours to keep the wheels of industry turning.

More to come if I get the Muse.

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The San Antonio Spurs Can Go To Hell

Get a load of this: Spurs’ Lonnie Walker Says He ‘Will Never Celebrate 4th of July.’ From the article:

Lonnie Walker IV, the recently selected 1st round pick of the San Antonio Spurs, took to Twitter on Independence Day, to say that he “will never celebrate 4th of July.”

The tweet read: “Will never celebrate 4th of July. Know your history!! and stay woke.”

Between this and Gregg Popovich’s sub-literate anti-Trump blatherings, I have never before seen a team so determined to alienate their fan base.

After all, San Antonio is known as “Military City, USA.” Who is running the Spurs nowadays, Mullah Omar?


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“America the Beautiful” as sung by the Silver Fox

You know, in the bayous of Louisiana – quelle beau pays – that’s what the Cajuns say.
And in New York’s Little Italy – que bella terra – that’s how they say it their way.
And in the beer halls of Milwaukee, you’ll hear the words wie schöne das Land.
And it’s que lindo país – that’s what you’ll hear them say along the border, down by the Rio Grande.
You know there’s a lot of ways to say it. And it’s a privilege to play it.
‘Cause a lot of good people earned it. And this is how I learned it…


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TOTD 2018-7-4: Independence Day Memories

My mom told me a long time ago they went to the US consulate in Kobe, Japan on July 4th. What she remembered was having Coca-Cola. At that time that was special and hard to get in Japan in the early 1950s.

My memories of the Fourth were of an airshow followed by fireworks over a bay. We could see it from our house. We lived up the hill from the water. (Is being a mile away considered beachfront?) One year a man in an experimental plane died in a crash.


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TOTD 2018-7-1: Happy Canada Day

I am a day early because Canada Day is a day late this year since the first of July is a Sunday. This is a celebration of three colonies coming together is 1867. The three colonies were Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. I grew up in Washington state and Canada was a neighbor. A good neighbor I thought. By my calculation Canada is 151 years old. What I read they have fireworks on this day.

I think it was George Bernard Shaw that said, “The United States and Britain were two countries separated by a common language.” I think of Canada and the United States as two countries bonded by gratitude that they live on the good side of the border.

Since I am thinking of the Anglo-sphere. I hear Britain and Canada celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day than we do. My Brit friend tells me the date is July the Fourth. 😉


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What Dad listened to

Dad died a year and a half ago.   Gee I miss him.   I was very fortunate to have him for so long; he was 85.   I saw Fathers Day mentioned today, so when I got a chance to kick back this evening, I went to listen to the stuff he listened to.  I was never musical much, though I enjoy singing in church.   I also was never much into pop music.  Not rock and roll, either.  I was a jazz fan, because Dad was a jazz fan.   We lived within radio range of the public radio station at the University of Tennessee, and they played jazz in the evenings beginning shortly before my bedtime.

I still have some of Dad’s favorites on real honest vinyl, but since we moved to new digs in February I have not found the time to set up the turntable.  So here is a Youtube link to one of our favorites.   Bossa nova.  Enjoy; this is Stan Getz on saxophone, but the thing that makes the album shine is the fabulous guitar of Charlie Byrd.

 

So, what did your Dad listen to?


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TOTD 2018-6-16: Dad’s Day Eve

It is the day before Father’s Day. The holiday that takes a backseat to Mother’s Day. Why is that?

I went to Wikipedia and checked out the history. The first public celebration for Father’s Day was July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Here is the background of that celebration.

Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father, when in December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all those fathers.

Does anyone want to guess how soon Father’s day became a national recognized holiday on the 3rd week in June after this 1908 local celebration?
Please make your guess in a comment before checking. (If you already know the answer don’t comment till later.)

For those who want to know about Mother’s Day.

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”.[12] However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday,[13] with some of them officially recognizing Mother’s Day as a local holiday[14] (the first being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state, in 1910). In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

If you are still reading, I would like to wish all the fathers a wonderful day tomorrow. You are not taking a backseat in this post. You are driving the car.


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TOTD 2018-5-29: You are what you are thankful for.

Today is Memorial Day. It is a day to remember that people gave their lives for their country. Who do you remember on this day?

As to the title of this post, we either go through life being thankful or complaining. It doesn’t have to do with having things either easy or hard for I have seen people complain in good circumstances and be thankful in bad. It is in the interpretation of the events.

I listened to a little of Candace Owens. She phrases things differently. One either sees oneself as a victor or a victim. The victim loses the old battle every day whereas the victor looks forward to the win.

I have heard said this place is full of exiles. No, this place is not an afterthought but a forethought.


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TOTD 2018-5-13: Mother’s Day

(The picture is from a bakery in Japan. It says, “Mama Pan”. They got the word for bread, “pan” for the Portuguese.  And I am not sure which language they got “mama”.  It is cute to see a mother’s face on bread.)

I am thinking this day how fortunate that my mom is 91 and still with me. I don’t see her much but I am able to talk to her on the phone. She is still quick witted and cheerful. She had five sons and I kid her that I am the favorite one. (I don’t think she is buying it.)

I won’t turn this into a maudlin post but would love to hear some great little anecdotes of your thoughts on the one who bore you. I am a firm believer that recalling things honors people. To use the Sock motif, my mother loomed large in my life. I am struggling to come up with a good story about her to add to the comments. There are too many.


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Easter Supper

Goat for dinner: 2018-04-01I’m thawing out my traditional Swiss Easter supper of goat.  Here’s my recipe.  Take a front quarter of goat, 0.5–1 kg (bone in), rub with garlic in a tube, salt and pepper, place in a glass casserole dish with a tight fitting lid, cut an onion in half and place on top of the meat.  Cover and roast in a circulating air oven at 220° C for 75 minutes.  Serve with Carnaroli or Arborio rice, which you start 15 minutes before the roast is ready.  Add juice from the casserole to the rice at the table.  Divide the cooked onions among those at the table.  Ignore the sharks—they’ll beg for the onions, but never eat them.  They’ll eat you, instead.

What’s your Easter supper?

And, happy Easter, everybody!


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