Category Archives: Christmas

Sun temples don’t celebrate in winter.

Why is Christmas on December 25? Did Christians make use of a pagan festival date when they decided to celebrate Christ’s birth? Very unlikely, as you will understand if you read William J. Tighe’s  “Calculating Christmas.”

“In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious [to some] that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.

“There were two temples of the sun in Rome, one of which (maintained by the clan into which Aurelian was born or adopted) celebrated its dedication festival on August 9th, the other of which celebrated its dedication festival on August 28th. But both of these cults fell into neglect in the second century, when eastern cults of the sun, such as Mithraism, began to win a following in Rome. And in any case, none of these cults, old or new, had festivals associated with solstices or equinoxes.”

Tighe explains that “…the pagan festival of the ‘Birth of the Unconquered Sun’ 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.”

If they didn’t choose December 25 for that reason, why did they? For reasons we never would have thought of in modern times. Read the whole brief article to find out.

A gathering of godmothers.

As I was scrubbing and shining the windows on a brisk afternoon, I made peace with myself over the tea party. Housemate Susan and I had planned one since the middle of Advent, but as the date grew closer the argument played in my mind, about whether it was ridiculous to take on another project right now, or perfectly sensible.

Now I knew it was worth it, because otherwise I don’t know when I’d have gotten around to the windows. And cleaning around the lower reaches of the kitchen, etc. The day before, I remembered that I like to use my vintage white napkins at tea parties, and I actually located them upstairs, where every room but Susan’s is dreadfully chaotic for reasons I’ll go into later. I ironed about ten soft cloths with help from a spray bottle of water infused with lemongrass oil. Happiness.

What about a centerpiece for the table? I was using my birds-and-forest table runner, which made me think to check by the creek for some berries and conifer branches, of which I brought home a bagful. All of that had been washed by rain, but was still fresh enough that not one berry fell off.

In the early stages of our idea, the party had been named a Godmother Party. I wanted very much to have the female members of Susan’s goddaughter Gigi’s family, and then it followed naturally to invite my three goddaughters who live in the area, and my godmother, and the godmother of my goddaughter’s sister… and so it went. Not everyone could come in the end, but it was a beautiful time. The little girls got to play outside in the playhouse a bit; the grownup ladies enjoyed a relaxing cup of Christmas tea, near the cheery fire of oak logs that Susan carefully tended. No rush.

Of tea, we had three pots full. “Joyous Jasmine” green tea came from Brewlette, a hipster sort of Indian source you can find on Facebook, in a gift pack from Kate. That was the most flowery, aromatic tea I have ever experienced.

We had a strong black tea from Russia, which came in this churchly tin, and another delicious and festive blend named “Nutcracker Rooibos” — The children drank that as it is caffeine-free.

Cookies, peanut brittle, mini-quiches, chocolates, fancy nuts, and thick slices of my dense Swedish sourdough rye, with plenty of butter. I haven’t mentioned yet the lemony Greek butter cookie twists that Susan made, but you can see below how cute they are.

‘Twas a Fifth Day of Christmas feast!

The height of the fall of God.

 

GLORIA IN PROFUNDIS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all—
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

~G.K. Chesterton