Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The changing of seasons in Georgia ... and Christmas

The red flowering plant in my picture above is commonly called a Christmas cactus but mine flowered around Thanksgiving.  Its Latin name is Schlumbergera truncate.  It is a small plant originating from the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil.  I wish it would have bloomed closer to Christmas because, in the fall, there was much color around us already.  I played with the apps on my cell phone to get different textures of the photo.  (I think my cat Mitsouko, a Korat from Thailand, looks good in watercolor, don't you?)

The leaves this autumn stayed on trees longer than usual.  We usually go on a trip to view the fall foliage.  This year we drove closer to home, about 14 miles away, to Red Top Mountain State Park.  It was in mid November, a sunny day and very dry.  First we drove across Allatoona Lake and stopped by its shore for a short time.

Then drove away from the lake and entered Red Top Mountain State Park.


Even though we live near Red Top Mountain State Park we rarely visit it.  It is a very popular park close to the 12,000-acre lake where visitors can bring their boats or rent them from the marina.  There is water skiing and fishing.  A sand swimming beach nestled in a cove surrounded by trees is a great place to cool off in summer.  The park offers picnic and group shelters as well as rental cottages and a lakeside yurt.  Hikers can walk more than 15 miles of trails or bike on a 3.9 mile mountain biking trail.  Every time we go to the park we wonder why we don't come there more often ... We stopped by one of the roads to take pictures of the golden leaves and I took a photo of my husband.  There was no one around but within minutes a park ranger had stopped by to inquire as to what we where doing.  They keep a good watch there as there have been so many fires in North Georgia.  Luckily, even though very dry, Red Top Mountain has been spared.

Before leaving the park we stopped by the Visitors Center and Trading Post.  Some trails start from the parking lot.

By the middle of November the trees in our back yard had turned various shades of gold and rust.

Our backyard is like a mini rain forest.  The various trees and shrubs offer a good spectrum of fall colors.

Our brown barn brings a picturesque contrast to the fall foliage.  I took 25 pictures of it!

The lake in the back of our yard is another background that highlights the trees and gives a soft glow to the landscape.

The photos above were taken towards the end of November.  Even last week, some trees still had great fall foliage as you can see by the brilliant red tree below that I noticed while shopping last week in Kennesaw, GA (mid-December.)  I snapped it from the car window with my cell phone camera.

But the season is changing now and we are almost in winter - starting tomorrow, December 21st.  We had a couple of cold days but we won't have a white Christmas.  Around Christmas time I like to read about the history of this holiday.  Many years ago I bought an excellent book, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Nissenbaum entitled "The Battle for Christmas."  It is a cultural history of the holiday where you can learn everything you will ever want to know about Christmas.  (You may find it in your library or in a second-hand book site like ABE Books or Alibris.)  It is a worthwhile read.  Mark Czerniec from Wisconsin gave a review of the book here.

I was startled to find out in Nissenbaum's heavily researched book that the Puritans, in early America, had banned the celebration and imposed fines on people who celebrated Christmas.  I had heard before that the 4th century Church had officially taken over the date of December 25th to observe Christmas and to absorb and Christianize the Yule celebration and Saturnalia, a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun - both of these were celebrated on December 25.  Pope Julius I and his bishops established December 25th for the birth of Jesus.  For thousand of years the pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods - Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Chaldean Adonis on the 25th of December.  The Greco-Roman God of wine Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, was born of a virgin mother on 25th December, was killed and resurrected after 3 days, rose from the dead on March 25 and ascended to heaven - was worshiped between 1500-1100 BC (before Christ.)  The Persian god Mithra was born in a cave on December 25, but 600 years before Christ.  To facilitate the conversion of heathens to Christianity the Church also took over the Teutonic people's 12-day Yule celebration, which had been celebrated for thousands of years during the Winter Solstice, and reformulated it into Christmastide.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

December 25th was the celebration of the rebirth of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun, celebrated centuries before Christianity.  It was the "nouveau soleil" (new sun) used in the expression "Noel" in French, or new and happy birth in "Buon Natale" in Italian and "Feliz Navidad" in Spanish.  These words are not Christian in origin, they predate it but the church has never made mention of their true origin and 99.9% of people don't know.  Of course, I don't think it matters.

A few years ago I researched the background of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, and wrote a post about it.  The jolly Santa in the red suit we now know was really invented by Coca-Cola locally - I mean here in Georgia since Coca-Cola originated in Atlanta.  If you have not seen this post, I wrote it in 2013, click on "Santa Exhibit at Oglethorpe University ... and more."

Santa is such a magical figure for children.  Development psychologists say that it is good for children to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, etc.  It uses their imagination just like playing cop and robbers and allows them to dream.  It teaches them the culture of giving and sharing.  They will remember Christmas with joy.  I remember fondly my awe and wonder when my mother would take me to see Papa Noel (Father Christmas) in the Galeries Lafayette, a large department store in Paris.  Then we would walk slowly and admire the stunning window displays showing enchanting animated toys.  I am happy that my grandchildren from Tennessee saw them last year while in Paris.  Below are the 2016 Christmas displays of the Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris.




I also like to read  comments on Christmas online.  In a US site I read someone saying "Christmas is an inherently Christian festival ... non-Christians should steer clear of it..."  and someone answered "It was not of Christian origin, and Christians don't own it."  On a French site I read in French and I translate, from a Muslim woman "I am a practicing Muslim, I eat halal, I do Ramadan, Eid as well as my five prayers a day and this December 24 in the evening I will celebrate Christmas ... I am not the only one, we are even rather numerous in France, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, everybody has the right to enjoy this holiday to get together as a family ... There is no reason to deprive yourself, it is not as if the religious aspect of this feast was dominant.  The fir tree is a pagan tradition, it goes back to the Celts and it is directly related to the festivals of the winter solstice - In short, nothing to see at first with the Christian religion ... Just because Christians hijacked the solstice celebration doesn't mean I have to go without ..."  So I chuckle ... why not celebrate, indeed?  Maybe Santa will meditate on this and approve.


Santa is make-believe anyway.  In 1969 Pope Paul VI decreed that there was doubt that St. Nicholas ever existed and he was dropped from the Catholic calendar together with 39 other saints (including St. Christopher.)  He is just Father Christmas or Santa Claus now.  Then in December 2014 evangelical scholar Rev Paul, a theologian and former Dean of Studies at St. John's theological college, Nottingham, wrote that Jesus wasn't born in a stable.  Rev Paul says the misconception comes from poor translation of the original Greek text which made it sound as if the birth took place amid farm animals in a barn or stable.  The Greek word "kataluma," he says, was wrongly translated as "inn."  In fact, he claims the word means "private room" or "lodging" and he guessed it was a cave.  Of course that was already mentioned in 1584 by scholar Spaniard Francisco Sanchez de las Brozas.  Nobody paid attention then though and kept their nativity scene.  In December 2007, Dr. Rowan Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Primate of all England, claimed that the three magi was a legend, as well as the "star" in Bethlehem.  He said the Christmas cards that show the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus, with the shepherds on one side and the Three Wise Men on the other were misleading.  He also concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all.  He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival."  See article in the Telegraph, UK, here.  However, the Christmas pageants in churches have actors representing the magi to this day!

But there is something even more astonishing.  I read it first in older Italian newspapers online.  Pope Benedict XVI (emeritus now) wrote three books on the history of Jesus.  In his last volume, published in November 2012, he dismisses many recollections of Jesus' birth as well.  Pope Benedict, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, has written in his book, "Jesus of Nazareth - The Infancy Narratives" "The Christian calendar is actually based on a blunder by a sixth century monk (Dionysus Exiguus)..."  who the Pope says "was several years off in his calculation of Jesus' birth date."  The Pope thinks Jesus was born about 6 or 7 B.C., in the spring, not in a stable, but a cave.  Also the angels never even sang to the shepherds - from this falsehood the tradition of singing carols was born, the Pope says.  He does more historical revisionism as he says that the idea of Christ surrounded by donkeys, oxen and sheep is a seventh century invention and he adds that their presence in the cave is abusive, historically unfounded.  I was dumbfounded, mostly to hear the Pope would admit a flaw in something so fundamental to the Catholic faith.  No creche in the nativity scene surrounded by friendly animals?


No angels singing carols?


I had not read this stunning news back in 2012.  I don't think it was much publicized in the USA.  The media might have been scared to anger the US public and hurt the sale of Christmas decorations.  How many churches have nativity scenes in the world?  Some are quite antique.  There are about 2.2 billion adherents to various Christian churches and I would think most of their churches may have a nativity scene with animals at Christmas time, and that is not counting all the nativity scenes in the faithful's homes.  That's a lot of nativity scenes, y'all!  Pope Benedict XVI's book was translated into 20 languages and published in 72 countries.  However, in 2016, I still see many nativity scenes around.  In 2012, the Italians, who I guess read about the Pope more than they do here, were shocked and shattered to have to relinquish their nativity scenes with all their animals.  Not to worry though, the Pope reassured his readers and faithful that "no one will give up the oxen and the donkey in their Nativity scenes" because it was "tradition and not religion" [non è la religione è tradizione.].  We all have decorations of the mythical Santa and pagan Christmas tree, why not keep mythical nativity scenes as well?  It does not negate the religious aspect of the holiday in any way for those who celebrate it with faith.


 If as high an authority as the Pope (who is the head of the Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion Roman Catholics) and the Vatican are willing to OK little white lies about the day, year, place and witnesses of the birth of Jesus, who are we to dispute it?  What it shows is that Christmas is a multicultural festival with a long pagan history and can be celebrated by anyone, anywhere.  Anything that promotes happiness and brings people together is good.  It is the season to be happy, the season of sharing with family and friends, and gift giving to all, to the needy and to charities.  So, whatever your beliefs or how you celebrate it - Have a merry religious or secular Christmas!



Peace, love and joy to all!




33 comments:

Frances said...

Vagabonde, I am delighted to see this post from you!

As always, you have covered a wide range of topice in a way that truly engages readers like myself.

My selfish reason for rejoicing in seeing the post is to realize that you and your husband are still in Georgia. I have a Christmas tea cup card I want to mail to you, but was not sure if you all might have already moved house completely.

Do be on the lookout for a card, even if it might not reach you before Christmas Day. I send my best wishes to you all for a Happy Christmas, and thank you for enriching my appreciation of how times have indeed changed over many decades with regard to how Christmas is celebrated.

Lots of love to you and yours. xo

Elephant's Child said...

A truly wonderful post. Thank you.
I knew that Christmas had hijacked earlier festivals (as does Easter) but concur. Any celebration which involves generosity and caring SHOULD be celebrated.
I hope you enjoy yours.

Kay said...

I can't get over what you're able to do on your phone. That's a great app! Sigh... Our Christmas cactus STILL hasn't bloomed!

Linda said...

I love vintage, Christmas and cats, so your post is right up my alley! Such a beautiful cat, and I really like what you did with the photo. And I love the Christmas vintage posters, too! Thank you so much for sharing, et Joyeux Noel a vous tous! :)

David said...

Vagabonde, Like many traditions and religious rites around the world, myth, misinterpretation, and time have molded our beliefs and habits today. I enjoyed your overview of Christmas but I'm sure that some folks will consider the parts about Jesus's birth to be some kind of travesty... Faith is the key, whatever one believes in, not the creations and practices of the human race over time.

Love your photos as usual. Love your cat too! We're losing 2 wooded lots on one side of our house. :( Not happy about it but it is what it is. The deer and turkey are going to be even less happy than we are. At least we still will have woods on one side of the house and there are no houses across the street...yet.

I really like those mossy rocks in one of the photos. We like moss...low maintenance...so one of our side yards is totally covered with moss and the back yard is about 50%. We're glad that the worst of the drought is over here in East Tennessee. As you know, the fires over in the Gatlinburg area were a complete disaster...

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thérèse said...

Très belles tes photos automnales, tu te balades plus que nous à Toulouse où les arbres ne revêtent pas d'aussi beaux atours que chez vous.
Cela fait plaisir de voir toutes ces cartes "tradition" regroupées, j'ai fini par ne plus acheter de cartes de Noël car il est difficile d'en trouver de jolies à des prix abordables et avec le temps qui passe il y en a de plus en plus à écrire.
Joyeux Noël à toi et à ceux qui t'entourent!

DJan said...

Your pictures of fall foliage and your dissertation on Christmas is wonderful, VB. It's always so nice to "see" you and know that you are still continuing with your fine research. I celebrate the solstice and think that commercialism has spoiled the enjoyment of the holiday for me. I avoid it all, but I will go to a solstice party today anyway. Tomorrow the days begin to lengthen and that I will certainly celebrate. :-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I had just read another post about the myth of Christmas but you explained its history so very well. I have to admit that it annoys me when I read articles or hear people bash others for trying to make Christmas into a non-Christian holiday. The so-called war on Christmas is such a selfish and dividing statement. Whatever your belief, isn't it wonderful that many people of all cultures take time out to celebrate kindness, family, and generosity at this time of year. Whether we greet others with a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays or a Season's Greetings, we are connecting with people and our hearts arein the right place and should not be put into question.

I love your pictures and how you play with the apps to enhance them.

Jeanie said...

I love this post to pieces, VB. I love your gorgeous color tour -- that's just stunning. And all your postcard collection. Sigh! I've been working on a post using mine so watch for it on Christmas if all goes well!

I loved the amazing research that you shared with us. How we bring our own spin to this holiday based on our upbringing, what we were told, the legends, the stories. How it varies from country to country, the festivals from which our present holiday originated. As for me, I love the traditions we celebrate, whether they are those we've developed with our friends and family or much older, cultural ones. I love that people seem very happy this year, there are a lot of smiles. Everything smells like cinnamon and sugar and pine. Lights sparkle on dark streets and ribbons and paper and ornaments all add to the color. Santa? Bring him on! I'll believe! You can keep the fruitcake, though.

Meanwhile, I wish you a beautiful holiday -- all of them -- Solstice, and Christmas and New Year's. Some of my family will also celebrate Hanukkah and if I was in Cleveland, I'd be celebrating with them. It's the community and the feeling that matters to me. And boy, do we need a little Christmas, as the song goes!

Merriest to you (and thank you for the card. Yours may have arrived and if not, within a few days!)

Elizabeth said...

Great post, thank you!

Ginnie said...

What an educational post, Vagabonde (which I've come to expect from you, ha!)! In the end, it really IS a season of love, joy and peace. If only it could change the world forever!

Things and Thoughts said...

Merry Christmas dear Vagabonde and may this new year bring you joy and laughter. To be happy is the greatest wish in life!
Love, Olympia

Denise Covey said...

Vagabonde. anything we need to know about Christmas and never asked can be found here. Fascinating. I think most people/Christians know that 25th December was a pagan festival, but I've never let it bug me.

Love the watercolour treatment on Mitsouko. It's a great effect. So are those trees! How gorgeous. Like your own enchanted woodland. Great photos.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It's always a joy to read your colourful posts.

(And I've been meaning to say to you...in one of your comments on a post of mine you referred to my being an English teacher and that my students would learn English with an Aussie accent...well,I'm not that sort of English teacher. I teach the regular curriculum...Shakespeare etc. My students already speak English with an Aussie accent picked up since they emigrated here.)

Denise :-)

Nadezda said...

Dear Vagabonde,
great post! I've read it and totally agree with you, Christmas is a festival for all who want to be happy and to give gift to others. And liked the words of Muslim woman that you translated, they are so wise.
It's interestingly to learn about ancient holidays around Dec 25th, pagan customs, history of Santa's image.
A merry Christmas! I wish you and Jim health and joy of your big family, your daughters, sons-in-law,grandchildren. May all of you be happy in New Year!

joared said...

Your photos are spectacular as usual -- showcasing the fall season progressing to winter. Fall is my favorite season -- love the changing colors so evident in your pictures. Yes, I, too, like the watercolor treatment of your cat.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of this fascinating history you've gathered about Christmas, Santa, religious connections and stories. I knew some of this lore but not nearly all the many historical research into which you delved. Thanks for sharing here. Christmas can be whatever symbolism it may have for each of us I'm inclined to think. I wish you, husband and family a very merry holiday!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yes we are all conditioned by the family we are born into. Some take stories very literally and try to follow their old ways but many now have come to understand that our worls id filled with stories rather than facts that have been passed along. Yet once we are part of a tradition it becomes a part in us and we love to hold it dear. The joyfulness it brings about is not what we want to loose. We love to carry it forward. I know many from other faiths who take time to enjoy this seasonal event.
Happy holidays to you.

Pixel Peeper said...

Merry Christmas to you!

I agree with you - we still can celebrate how we like to celebrate, even if the actual history of what we celebrate has been distorted over time. One of my husband's supervisors is Muslim, and she gave him a Christmas present just before the holidays.

Susan Heather said...

I just read your comment on Arleen's Starting Over accepting Changes blog and wish you strength and peace. My husband died of Lewy Body Dementia (originally diagnosed as Alzheimers' disease) nearly 3 months ago. I know how hard it can be.

Hugs and kind thoughts winging their way from New Zealand.

BeachGypsy said...

Enjoyed this post. Just stopped by this holiday to see how you are doing and hope all is well. I hope your Christmas is merry and bright and i wish you many blessings in the new Year. I love the picture of your beautiful korat kitty......oh my that is one gorgeous kitty! How old is your cat? Also enjoyed all the pretty Fall colors from the park and also your pretty backyard. That old barn surely is scenic and photogenic!

Magic Love Crow said...

I love your posts so much! So much history and knowledge in them! Very interesting, everything you wrote! I always learn something new! Amazing pictures you included too! Really enjoyed this post! Give your fur baby a big hug from me! Sending you and your loved ones, Big Hugs and Many Blessings! Merry Christmas!!! Here's to a great 2017!!!!

gz said...

Hi, thanks for your sunset comment...good to meet you (if only "virtually" ).
Beautiful leaf colours..breathtaking at times,you just want to sit and take it all in.

So many faiths/religions/beliefs have festivals of light across Yuletide. Light is good to celebrate !

Arti said...

We sure live in different worlds. Our winter came early this year. The middle of December saw temp. dipped down to -20's C. (almost to -10F) and we're deep in snow. All white on the ground, trees with bare branches, and of course, there are evergreens, but not much else. Again, your post is marvellous with all the fall colours. Thanks for stopping by my Pond at Ripples Effects. All best wishes for a Happy New Year!

claude said...

Quelle magnifique publication !
Ton cactus de Noël est super beau.
Je vois que comme moi tu es fan des cartes de Noël anciennes.
J'espère que ton Noel s'est bien passé et je te souhaite le meilleur pour 2017.
Je t'embrasse
Claude

Vicki Lane said...

What wonderful images from your cell phone. And such gorgeous autumn foliage at Red Top.

We celebrate Christmas not as a religious holiday -- though we have a creche or two amongst the decorations, but as an amalgam of traditions centering around the Winter Solstice and welcoming the return of the light. Santa is, too me, a representation of the spirit of giving and we have lots of images of him around. I prefer the older Father Christmas ones myself.

It's too good a holiday for one religion to keep to itself. Especially when that religion has co-opted so many bits and pieces from other beliefs and traditions.

Shell Sherree said...

Your posts are always so informative and rich with details, dear Vagabonde ... along with your lovely images. The Australian stamp is very sweet and it tickled me to see it here. Love Mitsouko's watercolour renditions - those apps are amazing and such fun !! I hope you had a beautiful Christmas and here's to a peaceful New Year filled with plenty more adventures for you! x0

Glenda Council Beall said...

Wonderful post, Vagabonde. The pictures of the woods in autumn are beautiful. So good to see your husband in some of them. Your history of Christmas and Dec. 25, was most interesting. I did not know much of what you posted. I will share this with my sister who will find it very interesting as well.
I hope 2017 will bring you good health and that you will continue to share your adventures with your readers. It is wonderful that you can take your husband out. My dear friend whose husband has had dementia for ten years cannot take him out anymore. Now she is home bound because he is. But I feel you will never give up enjoying nature and photographing it for your blog.

Bohemian said...

Such a wide range of topics, information and Beautiful Imagery! Happy New Year from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I enjoyed your very entertaining post on Christmas. I hope you enjoyed your holiday and wish you all the best in this New Year.

Linda P said...

I'm late in commenting on your interesting blog post, but send warm greetings to you and hope you and your husband are keeping well. Red Top Mountain State Park must be a good resource for those who enjoy a day trip out or a vacation in wooded mountains where there are nature trails and leisure facilities on the lake. The area looks particularly glorious in the autumn and the rangers must have been thankful that there were no fires during the dry season 2016. Our 'Christmas rose' hanging in the covered yard has buds on it and should burst into flower in a month or two when the weather warms up. Your experimental pictures done with an app on your cell phone are very attractive! Your postcards are charming as are your stamps. I have my mother's many album collections of British commemorative stamps and recognise the one you've included in your collage.Your history of Christmas is extensive. I knew a lot about what you have researched and shared. The main thing is that the season gives us the opportunity to be extra generous. Wishing you a new year full of blessings. Linda x

Honest Abe Lincoln said...

I have always enjoyed your posts. I really do not know anyone who puts more material in a post than you do. I like books that uses a chapter to explain one point or two. I stayed in Japan, on Honshu, for three years and got used to their way of life but still think about some things they still do that I forgot about. We have been married over 61 years and I will be 83 on my next birthday and Patty Custer Lincoln will be 81. We were married in 1955. Japanese memories are slipping away....

Gloria Baker said...

I love your post. What interesting all about Christmas history. Anyway I love like we celebrate with Jesus . And is He born in a stable or in a cave ? Not matter . I think is an amazing time to celebrate. And is my case love to remember Jesus came to us like a child.
Hope you had a lovely Christmas <3
Hugs !

Al said...

Such a pretty park you've got nearby - definitely worth spending time in.

Haddock said...

I like what Dr Seuss said.

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