As I See It

by A.J.(Tony) Powell

Christmas is a good time to take a break from all the BAD NEWS.

Here’s few Christmas facts I didn’t know about.

Ancient Christian tradition puts Jesus’ birth on December 25th in the year 1 of our calendar, but the New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth.

The earliest gospel (St. Mark) begins with Jesus’ baptism and was probably written about 65 AD, so even the earliest Christians didn’t know for sure.

Luke 3:1,23 says that Jesus turned 30 years old in the 15th year of Roman Emperor Tiberius’ reign the year 754. But also Luke 1:5 puts Jesus’ birth in the reign of Herod who died in the year 750, about four years earlier.

The Catholic Church has admitted that Jesus’ birth did not occur in AD 1. As early as 215 AD the date was set as November 18. Then in 243 AD, Jesus’ birth was claimed to be on March 28.

Some modern scholars estimate the date as September 11, in the year 3 BC. So, we choose to celebrate Jesus on December 25th. But, it’s probably not HIS birthday.

Roman pagans had a Winter Holiday called Saturnalia, which was celebrated between December 17-25. During that week, they would chose “an enemy of the people” who would be forced to over-eat and indulge in all of the ‘physical pleasures’ available. Then on December 25th, the victim (man or woman) would be killed, to “destroy the forces of darkness”. It took several centuries for the growing Christian community to ‘convert’ Saturnalia into a ‘Christian’ celebration of Jesus’ birthday.

It’s hard to believe but in the original American Colonies, Christmas was banned due to it’s ‘Pagan’ origins. It was even illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681.

In Roman times the Pagans had long worshipped nature, so Christmas trees and mistletoe were also adopted by the Catholic Church.

In pre-Christian Rome, emperors compelled their citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia.  Much later, the Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas.

The real ‘Saint Nicholas’ was born in Parara, Turkey in about 270 AD. He was one of the bishops who created the New Testament (as we know it) in about 325 AD,

Originally, there was a female deity called ‘Pasqua Epiphania’ who used to fill children’s stockings with her gifts, but she was unceremoniously ousted from her shrine in Rome and replaced by Saint Nicholas who took (undeserved) credit for her good deeds. Later, his supporters gave each other gifts each year on the supposed anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

At that time, many German and Celtic pagans worshipped Woden– who had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens each Autumn. So Saint Nicholas was ‘merged’ with Woden, and took on his beard, mounted a flying horse.

It was American novelist Washington Irving who wrote of the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

Then, in 1822 this poem became popular – “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…”

American illustrator, Thomas Nast drew Santa’s for Harper’s Weekly. Before that time, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop, to a gnome-like figure in a frock.

But Nast gave Santa a home at the North Pole, a workshop, elves and his list of the good and bad children of the world. Later, Coca Cola created a coke-drinking Santa with a cheerful, chubby face and a Coca Cola red, fur-trimmed suit.

So, our Christmas traditions are rooted in many countries all over the world – Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas gifts and Santa Claus – all modern incarnations of ancient festivals, beliefs and celebrations.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, Christmas is a time, to set aside differences, bad feelings and problems, and instead, enjoy the fellowship of friends and family.

’til next year …..Email – [email protected]

 

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