Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The changing of seasons in Georgia ... and Christmas
ABE Books or Alibris.) It is a worthwhile read. Mark Czerniec from Wisconsin gave a review of the book here.
Santa Exhibit at Oglethorpe University ... and more."
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!