December 24, 2008

Christmas, secularism, and how Reason Magazine owes me a photo credit.

Reason's Hit and Run blog uses my photograph of a Freedom From Religion sign as it links to an article by Jacob Sullum about secularism and Christmas. How do I know it's my photograph of the sign? Look at my original 2005 blog post that includes the photo. Yes, anyone might have photographed that sign -- in the Wisconsin Capitol -- that year or some other year, or an identical sign somewhere else some other year, but look closely the reflections. It's obviously a cropped version my photograph.

Anyway, here's Sullum's article:
[I]t's remarkable how many people at this time of year will insist with a straight face that they are celebrating a secular winter holiday season, when the reason for the season—the birth of the Christian Savior, whom his followers believe to be the Son of God—is about as religious as things get....
So Jesus's birthday was actually December 25th? Which came first, Christmas on December 25th or the tradition of celebration at the time of the solstice? It's way dark this time of year, and we need some encouragement one way or another.
I'm not sure this sort of thing rises to the level of a constitutional complaint, but maybe we'd all get along better if the majority did not pretend that everyone can comfortably celebrate Christmas. The other day, as we were preparing for the first night of Chanukah, we had a visitor who remarked that she had always thought of Christmas as a secular holiday. My wife, a rabbi, explained to her why that view is problematic. Upon leaving, our visitor wished me a happy Chanukah and a merry Christmas.
The majority doesn't "pretend that everyone can comfortably celebrate Christmas"! The majority of Americans may be Christian, but even within this majority, many prefer for the shared public forum to be secular. And most of those who want to see more Christmas displays and to hear more wishes of "Merry Christmas" are not expecting nonbelievers to celebrate the religious holiday. They may also think -- as many nonChristians also think -- that it can be happy and heartwarming to see the signs of other people's religion -- at least in a free country where no one is trying to make you do anything other than passively witness what other people choose to do.

I've always loved this short blog post that my ex-husband, Richard Lawrence Cohen, published 4 years ago on Christmas Eve:
Merry _________

As a Jew, a liberal, a lover of the Constitution, and a loather of Fox News, I wish to declare that the word “Christmas” does not faze, throw, offend, upset, or disconcert me in the slightest.

When I was in a 90% Jewish public elementary school in the Bronx, we learned Christmas carols at this time of year. The songs were pretty, and it was a way of finding out about another culture, one that was all around us and well worth finding out about.

On the shopping street of our 90% Jewish neighborhood, the lampposts and subway girders were strung with lights, Santas, and snowmen, to attract customers.

If anyone had suggested establishing Christianity as the official religion of our country, we would have been outraged. But the fact that we lived in a predominantly Christian country was no outrage.

Many Sunday mornings I woke to the ringing of bells from the Catholic church across the parkway. It sounded nicer than the El going by every five minutes. And I took Driver’s Ed at a Catholic girls’ school, Mother Cabrini High—which is another story.
Yesterday, I was doing some Christmas shopping down on State Street here in Madison -- a city with various religions and quasi- and non-religions. There were hardly any shoppers, and I thought that was pretty sad -- and way too desolate 2 days before Christmas. I wondered if the place was deserted because of the lack of stimulating decorations. There are huge piles of snow everywhere, and the decoration the city has chosen to display is the large snowflake. There's just a big white snowflake affixed to each lamppost. [ADDED: Actually, only a few lampposts have these snowflakes.]

And then, in one store, where I bought 5 gift items, the shopkeeper put everything in separate boxes, nicely folded inside colored tissue, and gave me a hug. I said "Merry Christmas," and this seemed to flummox him. He said: "Happy... Happy!"

Oh, the conflicts!

61 comments:

ricpic said...

My wife, a rabbi...

Right away I want to fwow up.

reader_iam said...

I've always liked that post of Richard's, too. And I was going to say something about it being a shame to see the comments section now invaded by spam, except that I must say the final entry made me laugh:

Calvin, we will not have an anatomically correct snowman!

Reminds me of a snowman my son made one winter, a few years back, in all innocence ... .

reader_iam said...

(And what I said to him about it ... )

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Thanks, Ann and Reader!

reader_iam said...

It's way dark this time of year, and we need some encouragement one way or another.

Coincidentally enough, Shawn Colvin's version of "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" came up on our iTune shuffle of holiday/Christmas music just about the time I was first reading this post.

reader_iam said...

Of course, Christmas isn't exactly "mid-winter." But then, Jesus wasn't technically born on Dec. 25th, either.

reader_iam said...

Christmas question of the day, from the 8-year-old, who is checking in on Norad's Santa-tracking feature and clicking on various places to look at the pictures:

"How come Christmas Island doesn't have any snow?"

"Well, why do you think, dear? Where is it located?"

Homeschooling never stops, now does it? Sigh.

; )

Dark Eden said...

I have to agree with the sentiments of this post. I'm not Christian (I call myself a pagan for lack of a better term) and I've always been more insulted by the people who think I am so weak and delicate that I would be horribly injured by some well meaning Christian wishing me a Merry Christmas. I actually always make a point to say Merry Christmas myself. Politically Correct busybodies are ten times more annoying than Christians in my humble experience. Anyway its a beautiful holiday that hopefully brings out the best in people. Its a shame that we are so hyper sensitive that its become a contention.

Ann Althouse said...

"Of course, Christmas isn't exactly "mid-winter.""

It's mid-darkness, which is what matters.

reader_iam said...

Perfect!

traditionalguy said...

People who fight back against public display of Christmas traditions must want everyone to be as hopeless and miserable as they are. Who has ever been attacked by an Episcopalian? Love and joy are not pollutants people need protection from by Liberal false saviors.

KLDAVIS said...

Is the photo on your Flickr page? If so, did you set it up with a CC license that doesn't require attribution?

Ann Althouse said...

"Is the photo on your Flickr page? If so, did you set it up with a CC license that doesn't require attribution?"

The photos on my Flickr page have a CC license that requires attribution, but that photo is on my mac.com page, not my Flickr page.

Christopher said...

"So Jesus's birthday was actually December 25th?"

Nobody "knows" when Jesus was born, though there are plenty of guesses. I was taught that December 25th was fixed on by the Church as a convenient date for everybody - the Eastern, Western, Celtic and African churches - to celebrate the birth of the Savior at the same time

(now, Easter - that's another story!)

If people want to say "Happy Holidays," whether through a devout desire not to offend or because they're shackled by PC chains, I don't care. I used to care, but life's too short for me to get angry about that one little thing. I say "Merry Christmas" to everybody.

In any event, Dickens said it best: ". . .I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore. . .though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

And with that, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

BJM said...

Althouse said:Oh, the conflicts!

Just as we demanded men stop extending courtesies such as holding or opening a door, we threw out the comity baby with the Christian bathwater.

We spent the better part of twenty years removing symbolism from the Christmas holiday and now we're shocked or saddened that it's a spiritless, hollow greed fest?

Will the pendulum eventually swing the other way as more people long for something more than sterile PC imagery?

I find it ironic that those who decry public displays of feeling such as religion and/or patriotism, in turn base public policy on feelings.

PatCA said...

Thank you, Mr. Cohen, and merry Christmas to you!

The sad state of State Street is perhaps the result of the campaign to stifle the season? Be careful what you wish for...

HeatherRadish said...

The symbol Madison chose to display for the holidays is a flake?

Sweet Barack Obama's waffle, that's funny.

Ophir said...

I was taught that December 25th was fixed on by the Church as a convenient date for everybody - the Eastern, Western, Celtic and African churches - to celebrate the birth of the Savior at the same time

The Eastern Churches celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

cardeblu said...

I found the following from P Mike over at Dean's World the other day. While I don't agree with the Dem vs Rep aspect of it, I still find it funny.

"To My Democrat Friends: Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Republican Friends: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

Chip Ahoy said...

Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels:

Refrain:
Oh, come, let us adore Him, oh come, let us adore Him,
Oh come and circumcise him, Christ the Lord.

Paper 122 -- Birth and Infancy of Jesus, Urantia

Page 1351 8. The Birth of Jesus

All that night Mary was restless so that neither of them slept much. By the break of day the pangs of childbirth were well in evidence, and at noon, August 21, 7 B.C., with the help and kind ministrations of women fellow travelers, Mary was delivered of a male child. Jesus of Nazareth was born into the world, was wrapped in the clothes which Mary had brought along for such a possible contingency, and laid in a near-by manger.

In just the same manner as all babies before that day and since have come into the world, the promised child was born; and on the eighth day, according to the Jewish practice, he was circumcised and formally named Joshua (Jesus).

~~~~~~~~~

I believe some authors maintain files into which they stick items as they occur or as they are crossed during research. In one book, about the war of the roses, the author introduces a character for the sole purpose of spilling the entire contents of one such file. The character is nondescript save for he gets knocked off the road by an aristocrat on horseback, he swings around and lets fly every curse known to the late medieval period, involving mostly poxes. The file dump is obvious because no other cursing occurs anywhere within that rather long book, although there are plenty of opportunities for it.

In another historical novel set at the time of deteriorating Roman empire, the name presently eludes me, the young protagonist who's on a quest, hooks up with an older guide who swears continuously and uniquely and amusingly by blaspheming various gods of other people's religion, in the form of, "by the this" and "by the that" thus, he would spew something like "By the hundred tits of Artimis ..." or "By the seven whoring daughters of Mithris ..." until finally, and I'm certain the author saved for last the most seriously blasphemous and most shocking of all in his file, "By the unresurrected portion of the circumcised Christ! "

Reading that caused me to think in that moment, surely the author is going to hell. And now, I am too, for having repeated it.

Christopher said...

"The Eastern churches celebrate Christmas on January 7."

But isn't that because the East uses the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian, Ophir? I always thought so, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Kirby Olson said...

I drove for quite a while on a rural road yesterday and the only radio program that came on was Kirby Wilbur substituting for Sean Hannity. Kirby said that in Seattle there is a Christmas tree operation where the workers are not permitted to say Merry Christmas to customers on pain of termination.

Can you say, Have a lugubrious Christmas?

Maybe that's acceptable.

Kirby Wilbur said that Christians had to boycott stores and tell the owners that's what they were doing.

Put the squeeze play on them!

As if store owners don't already have enough worries.

At any rate, Merry Christmas to everyone who wants to hear it, and a Lugubrious Christmas to all the others who want to hear that!

Richard Dolan said...

"Oh, the conflicts!"

Alas, life has worse it will throw our way. That so many are intent on not giving offense, to the point of avoiding such an anodyne greeting as "Merry Christmas" when it would be perfectly normal to use, is strange but not all bad.

I was at a Hanukkah party last night -- the latkes were good, the apple sauce homemade, the wine plentiful, spirits uniformly high, with good cheer all around. And for the goyische kopfs like me, the hosts had warm wishes for a Merry Christmas, as we each lit a candle in the menorah. Just par for the course in Brooklyn.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Eastern Churches celebrate Epiphany on January 6th ( I know this because it is my birthday!! )

"Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is over precisely which historical events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, while in the East the feast celebrates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. However, in both cases the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation.

I'm not offended if people want to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas...as long as they don't try to stop me from celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. Or as my husband would say "try to suck the fun out of Christmas".

Live and let live. ALL of our religions are somewhat intertwined and developed over thousands of years beginning with the spiritual cave painting in France. As far as I'm concerned none is really any better than the other.

AJ Lynch said...

Althouse,if that was Meade working in the shop, your hug did make him "happy happy".

Merry Christmas everyone. And Happy Happy too!

SteveR said...

In my simple view of these things, I am much more happy (merry!) that Jesus was born, not so much on what day of the year. Exactly the way I feel about me.

On a side note dressing up in Wise Man garb for a live nativity in July in Texas on a sunny evening at 98 degrees would not be very fun thing to do.

That a date we choose to celebrate that birth has become a marvelous season with all the qualities such as Christoher's quote of Dickens reminds us, makes it something we can (and should) celebrate. Hey, I'm not working until January 5th and will be spending some quality time with my family. Merry Christmas indeed.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The people of Japan LOVE Christmas despite the fact that most Japanese are not Christian.

matthew said...

When I was a freshmen in Madison, not that long ago, they didn't have those lame snowflakes on State Street. Instead they strung lights through the trees. It looked 175% better.

Please, city of Madison, if you read this blog, go back to that.

m00se said...

I "post" on Althouse's site, therefore she "owes" me a tag.

Ah, I got it now!

pduggie said...

"So Jesus's birthday was actually December 25th? Which came first, Christmas on December 25th or the tradition of celebration at the time of the solstice? "

According to William Tighe

"Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance."

from

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

save_the_rustbelt said...

Very good post Mr. Cohen.

I grew up in a tiny rural town, the nearest Jew was 50 miles away in the big city.

But some very enlightened school teachers made certain that we understood Jewish holidays, under the assumption we would be leaving that small town someday and moving to the big city.

And, we did.

nelda said...

Isn't the word "holiday" a contraction of "holy day" and still an acknowledgement of the meaning of the season?

Lem said...

They snag'd your stuff Professor.

Givem hell ;)

Richard Fagin said...

Prof. Althouse said, "at least in a free country where no one is trying to make you do anything other than passively witness what other people choose to do."

If that's true, please explain the Lee v. Weisman case. Whatever the majority of American think, there is a large and quite vocal minority that is not ok with even passive witnessing. It seems to me there is quite a bit of "offense" taken these days at exactly that.

Eli Blake said...

I don't have a problem with 'Merry Christmas' OR with 'Happy holidays.'

But the issue I have with the "Merry Christmas" fanatics is this:

IF a store chooses (for whatever reasons) to say, "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" then they complain loudly, organize boycotts and have even been known to picket the stores.

To me this is ridiculous, and in fact it smacks of some holdover of the medieval way of doing things: You must say it exactly in OUR way, as WE say it, because otherwise you have said it in some WRONG way, and we will call the high court of inquisitors together to decide on your punishment unless you repent and fall into line immediately.

Eli Blake said...

Or put more succinctly,

I don't care if you tell me, "Merry Christmas," so why should you care if I greet you with "Happy Holidays?"

Eli Blake said...

Oh, and stuff online is rarely credited.

I once wrote a blog post, a part of which was copied, verbatim in an online story by CBS news (who picked it up from Politico, which did credit me.) You know what? I was happy about it-- because the story got out on CBS news (and it needed reporting.)

kynefski said...

Politically Correct busybodies are ten times more annoying than Christians in my humble experience.

In our time, yes. For which we should be grateful to many who were thought annoying in their time.

k said...

Two thoughts. One: The people who profess "offense" are often professing it on behalf of some unnamed, unidentified "Other," and professing it in the absence of any actual offense taken by the Other.

Two: Some nonbelievers arrive at their nonbelief just to poke the eye, one more time, of their dear old dad or ma. They were unhappy children, hated their conventional upbringing, and somewhere along the line decided that they must spend a good part of the rest of their existence making sure that everyone else knows how much they disliked mom and dad and their traditional upbringing. One way to do that is to become incredibly sensitive to any expression that sounds like it might be something mom or dad might have liked, and to take undue offense.

Thoughts drawn from observing various folks I've known through the years.

Cedarford said...

IF a store chooses (for whatever reasons) to say, "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" then they complain loudly, organize boycotts and have even been known to picket the stores.

Secularists are the first to say that "stores are not democracies" and should be "free" to restrict the speech of all employees lest they say forbidden things like "Merry Christmas" "Best wishes to all on MLK Day" in favor of "more neutral" more correct speech that "will not offend anyone" by bringing up "painful things" like Christmas, MLK, or July 4th for certain sensitive Anglophiles out there.
But to do that, they have to enforce a certain degree of tyranny over store and school employees, try enforce it on kids having and enjoying "inappropriate" holiday expressions and symbols and songs...

Given that, it is the democrat process exerting itself over store owner, petty school bureaucrat fiat - for parents, kids, employees to organize, protest loudly....and even picket and boycott.

It's called "peaceful dissent", Eli. Perhaps you missed its expression in America by other forces...like the civil rights movement, gays picketing wanting more homo heroes in textbooks, or unions doing boycotts.

Just because Christians do it as well doesn't make them wrong - while gays, civil rights groups, unions, and antiwar types remain magically right. Not unless you believe the Eli Blake double standard is the true test of right/wrong forms of speech, protest.

Alex said...

So Althouse is a Jew?

MadisonMan said...

The symbol Madison chose to display for the holidays is a flake?

Very appropriate for this month, the snowiest December ever here. And soon to be the snowiest month ever.

Re: Reason. I would write the editor a nice note, thanking them for using your picture and asking for a credit next time they use your imagery.

Ophir said...

@ Christopher

Yep, You're right, it's because they use the Julian calendar. So actually they do celebrate on December 25, their December 25.

I always thought Jan. 7 was the fixed date but it's only the corresponding date on the Gregorian and will remain so until 2100, when the two calendars move still further apart by a day.

Simon said...

Eli Blake said...
"Oh, and stuff online is rarely credited. ¶ I once wrote a blog post, a part of which was copied, verbatim in an online story by CBS news (who picked it up from Politico, which did credit me.) You know what? I was happy about it...."

But that's an appalling situation. It might be one thing to snag a photograph here or there, and I'm sure I'm guilty of that. But the CBS thing - you're not talking about simple failure to attribute, you're talking about plagiarism. You're talking about someone taking your work and passing it off as their own, and in my view, that's the sort of ting that ought to be punished with branding. A conscious, willful decision to plagiarize - and it really doesn't matter if CBS thought they were plagiarizing you or if they thought they were plagiarizing Politico - is indefensible.

I get very grumpy when I see comments here that fail to provide a link or citation - or, worse yet, that fail to give any indication that they're lifted from another source.

Dark Eden said...

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance."

This of course completely ignores Saturnalia, Yule, and Winter Solstice celebrations that date to the very beginnings of humanity thousands of years ago. It doesn't particularly matter to me either way but... come on.

Steven said...

This of course completely ignores Saturnalia, Yule, and Winter Solstice celebrations that date to the very beginnings of humanity thousands of years ago.

None of which were actually on December 25th.

There is, on the other hand, an ancient tradition of saying that prominent figures died on the anniversary of their conception. With Jesus' day of crucifixion calculated as March 25th, then we have his conception on that day. Add nine months, and you get . . . December 25th.

Certainly, that it was near the other days probably encouraged its celebration, much like Hanukkah has become important among American Jews almost entirely because of its season. But just as the date of Hanukkah is independent of the date of Christmas, the date of Christmas is independent of the date of any pagan holidays.

Dark Eden said...

Yes a pagan holiday celebrated centuries before Christmas which happened on Dec 22 and involved exchanging gifts couldn't possibly have influenced Christmas. Its all a pagan hoax. You convinced me.

Rick Lee said...

FWIW, your professional photographer correspondent agrees that it's definitely your photo.

bearbee said...

I've been wished Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas.

I accept and appreciate both.

But this day, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all.

Steven said...

Dark Eden, did you, you know, actually read what I wrote? I didn't analogize it to the Hanukkah and Christmas relationship by accident.

Certainly, nobody (who is both informed and not emotionally committed to the opposite proposition) would say that Christmas has not influenced the celebration of Hanukkah, especially in the United States. At the same time, though, nobody (who is both informed and not emotionally committed to the opposite proposition) would say that Hanukkah is simply a Jewish appropriation of a Christian holiday.

The exact same situation applies to Christmas and the various pagan holidays of roughly the same time of year. Of course there was influence, but influence is not the same as saying "the church fathers appropriated a pagan festival."

You say that it doesn't particularly matter either way to you. So why the bitter blindness to what someone else's statement actually says, and the assumption of bad faith on their part? I didn't say anything about a pagan hoax; you brought that baggage in yourself. You seem to be assuming I'm a Christian trying to defend the purity of Christmas, not an atheist who genuinely has no emotional stake in the question, merely an intellectual interest.

DaveW said...

Yes, they clearly stole your picture. Bums. I'll be checking their site over the next few days to see if they give you proper attribution.

Meh. You're picking nits on December 25th as Jesus' birthday professor. It is the reason for the holiday. And nobody knows what Jesus' actual birthday was, or even the exact year. That doesn't change the meaning of "Christmas".

If you really want one that will bake your noodle, Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon following the spring equinox. Therefore, it travels all over that area of the calendar from year to year. All the Christian dates therein associated (Lent, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, etcetera) are measure from those events. These are simply Traditions.

As far as the length of days, December 25th is after the winter solstice, meaning the days are now getting longer. And the Tradition is that December 25th is then appropriate to celebrate Christ's birth because of the 'return of the Light'.

Pagan schmagan. People of the time lived an entirely different existence than we do. So different, in fact, that it is almost inconceivable to people of our age. We are the first generation of humans that can literally take our physical needs for granted.

These people didn't have clean water to drink, they dressed in rags, they generally could not read or write, they had so little protein in their diets they were substantially shorter than we are. Day to day survival was a huge problem for them.

They lived an agrarian life heavily dependent on things like when exactly you should plant your crops. Many old European churches have built in solar observatories that indicate the solar cycles. They did that for several reasons, none of which involved worshiping the sun or idols.

Bryan C said...

That's the best treatment of the issue I've read recently. I made a point this year of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Mostly because I like to say it. Shockingly, no one objected, and no one turned up to insist that I keep my smelly ol' religion to myself. People just smiled and said Merry Christmas right back. And I'm sure they weren't all Christians. I'm not going to worry about it any more; if someone's offended by a sincere salutation then that's their problem.

And Reason should give you an attribution on that pics. People use my flickr photos for stuff all the time (which is fine, that's how they're licensed) and they almost always give credit or a link.

TosaGuy said...

If those people who pretend to be so offended by xmas were indeed as offended as they claim to be....then they would be at work today.

Gina said...

Eastern churches on the old i.e. Julian calendar do celebrate the Nativity, not Epiphany, on January 7th. For instance, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox; Copts and Armenians also, although the Copts follow an even older calendar on which the Julian is based. Epiphany is on January 19th.

Some eastern churches follow the new, i.e. revised Gregorian calendar, hence celebrate on Dec. 25th, for instance the Greek Orthodox.

The date of Christmas is calculated based on the Feast of the Annunciation in spring. This would have been Jesus' conception, and as one would expect, his birth is then celebrated 9 months later.

Gina said...

I'm such a nerd.

Some Schmuck said...

If you were to visit the Buddhist Temple I attend, before Christmans you would be greeted, not only by the ubiquitous statue of the Great Teacher, but also a Chistmas tree and a musical Santa.

Mary Ellen said...

So, I'm very curious at why all the stores are closed on December 25th. As far as I can tell, very few of them mention Christmas, so why would they feel the need to close on a Thursday? It seems a bit hypocritical to me. I see lots of Hannukah this and Hannukah that, but when it comes to a Christmas tree, then all of sudden it's a generic "holiday item. I don't mind seeing the different religious traditions being celebrated, but when Christmas is purposefully excluded, it's just sad.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Our culture is transitioning from Christmas as religious holiday to Christmas as convenient-name-for-a-family-holiday. You can make the holiday sound more religious or less religious, depending on what you want to prove. There is ample evidence in both directions. I find it offensive when people are too insistent in either direction on that, trying to show that it absolutely is or absolutely isn't religious.

VinceP1974 said...

It is possible to get a timeframe for Jesus' birth. We do so by establishing the dates surrounding the conception of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:5 During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah.... Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty.... An angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to him. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John"

In 1 Chronicles 24 the rules concerning the weeks of the year that each division of priests would be on duty is specified.

1 Chron 24:3 David, Zadok (a descendant of Eleazar), and Ahimelech (a descendant of Ithamar) divided them into groups to carry out their assigned responsibilities... the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah...

1 Chron 24:19 This was the order in which they carried out their assigned responsibilities when they entered the Lord’s temple, according to the regulations given them by their ancestor Aaron, just as the Lord God of Israel had instructed him.

This means that the announcement of Elizabeth's pregnancy by the Angel to John the Baptist's father was the 9th or 10th week of the Jewish year. Which is around May

Luke 1:24 After some time his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she kept herself in seclusion.

Then we are told when the Angel visits Mary:

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

This was likely to have happened during Chanukah (Festival of Lights)

Three months later, Elizabeth gives birth to John.

Luke 1:56 So Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home. Now the time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son

Passover is three months after Chanukah. So John is likely to have been born on Passover.

Most Christians don't realize this, but all major events in Jewish history have occurred on Jewish holidays.. and also that the major events in Jesus life and the establishment of the Church have also occurred on Jewish holidays.

6 months after Passover and 9 months after Chanukah is the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) , this occurs in the Fall.

Jesus was likely to have been born on the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths, or Temporary Shelters).

Leviticus 23:33 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Temporary Shelters for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy assembly; you must do no regular work. For seven days you must present a gift to the Lord. On the eighth day there is to be a holy assembly for you, and you must present a gift to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly day; you must not do any regular work. ... You must celebrate it as a pilgrim festival to the Lord for seven days in the year. This is a perpetual statute throughout your generations

This holiday demanded that the Jewish people make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to present gifts to the Lord. This could be the reason why there was no room for Mary and Joseph... Bethlehem is right next to Jerusalem. If there is a week-long pilgrimage in conjunction with a Census.. the whole country must have been in chaos.

VinceP1974 said...

I forgot to add. In the Gospel of John, John writes:

John 1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence* among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.

* There is a footnote here that says:

In Greek: Tabernacled.

This matches the name of hte Feast of Tabernalces that occurs in the Fall.

The Greek word is skhnow
Definition: 1) to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in
a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
2) to dwell

from 4636 (skhnov); to tent or encamp, i.e. (figuratively) to occupy (as a
mansion) or (specially), to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of
old, a symbol of protection and communion):- dwell.
see GREEK for 4636

Carole said...

Towns which no longer "light up" for the Christmas Holidays (and there are many, nationwide) are shooting themselves in the foot.

I live in an upscale Florida town where Christmas meant lights everywhere: City hall, trees on street medians, lamp posts leading into town, etc. Visiting friends would be taken on a tour to see our beautiful town celebrate Christmas & Hanukkah.

The past few years there have been less & less decorations & lights. This year only the small town park (several hundred square feet) & it's trees were lit & decorated and the four lamp posts at the main intersection had a sad looking decoration. It was dark, dark, dark.

In this town, I counted 9 empty stores within a quarter mile in downtown.

Very disappointed, I then drove to the adjoining town. What a difference!!!! This town was highly decorated, lights everywhere. The courthouse had a huge 100 ft Christmas tree, Hanukkah display, Ice rink (in Florida), and other great displays. Going further, main street was beautiful and the shops, open every night, were jammed with people shopping, dining at all the restaurants both indoor & outdoor and having a grand time. You had to drive carefully due to people crossing the street. THERE WERE NO EMPTY STORES ON THE NEARLY ONE MILE STRIP!!

No wonder people are shopping online and downtowns are dying. They are taking all incentive to go there away from us. Years ago we couldn't wait to shop in our beautiful towns to see their decorations. We would go to several towns and visit all the stores.

I LOVE Christmas, the reason, the season, the happiness and friendliness. It has always been a time to join with friends of all faiths at our homes to celebrate each persons faith. My Jewish friends look forward to my Christmas party as I do their Hanukkah gathering.

Peace on earth and Good Will to mankind. Is that so terrible a thought that we have to sweep it under the carpet??