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GUEST,,gargoyle What is 'your' meaning for christmas ? (27) RE: What is 'your' meaning for christmas ? 23 Dec 07


My flippant posting was intended to stir the kettle.

As a believer - CHRIST is in Christmas. This article pretty sums up what conservative/evangelicals believe. Christ was probably born in the Spring or Summer.

EXCERPTS (condensed) from the Wall Street Journal
By JOHN STEELE GORDON
December 21, 2007; Page A19
COMMENTARY

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119820996084944523.html

Christmas famously "comes but once a year." In fact, however, it comes twice. The Christmas of the Nativity, the manger and Christ child, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem, "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one holiday. The Christmas of parties, Santa Claus, evergreens, presents, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" is quite another.

But because both celebrations fall on Dec. 25, the two are constantly confused. Religious Christians condemn taking "the Christ out of Christmas," while First Amendment absolutists see a threat to the separation of church and state in every poinsettia on public property and school dramatization of "A Christmas Carol."

The Christmas of parties and presents is far older than the Nativity.

In ancient Rome, this festival was called the Saturnalia and ran from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24. During that week, no work was done, and the time was spent in parties, games, gift giving and decorating the houses with evergreens. (Sound familiar?)

In 354 Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the church calendar. He also decided to celebrate it on Dec. 25.

By the high Middle Ages, Christmas was a rowdy, bawdy time, often inside the church as well as outside it. In France, many parishes celebrated the Feast of the Ass, supposedly honoring the donkey that had brought Mary to Bethlehem. Donkeys were brought into the church and the mass ended with priests and parishioners alike making donkey noises.

With the Reformation, in the English-speaking world, Christmas was abolished in Scotland in 1563 and in England after the Puritans took power in the 1640s. It returned with the Restoration in 1660, but the celebrations never regained their medieval and Elizabethan abandon.

There was no Christmas in Puritan New England, where Dec. 25 was just another working day.

It was New York and its early 19th century literary establishment that created the modern American form of the old Saturnalia. It was a much more family -- and especially child -- centered holiday than the community-wide celebrations of earlier times.

St. Nicolas is the patron saint of New York (the first church built in the city was named for him), and Washington Irving wrote in his "Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York" how Sinterklaes, soon anglicized to Santa Claus, rode through the sky in a horse and wagon and went down chimneys to deliver presents to children.

In the 1840s, Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol," which does not even mention the religious holiday (the word church appears in the story just twice, in passing, the word Nativity never).

Merchants began to emphasize Christmas, decorating stores and pushing the idea of Christmas presents for reasons having nothing whatever to do with religion, except, perhaps, the worship of mammon.

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a bill making the secular Christmas a civil holiday.

So for those worried about the First Amendment, there's a very easy way to distinguish between the two Christmases. If it isn't mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and Mark, then it is not part of the Christian holiday. Or we could just change the name of the secular holiday back to what it was 2000 years ago.

Merry Saturnalia, everyone!

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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