Morning Sun

Preparing for the jolly season

- Ed Fisher writes a weekly column for the Morning Sun.

“There are some upon this Earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishnes­s in our names, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”

— Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

With the help of dear friends, our tree is up and decorated. So, too, is the rest of the house with a thousand (?) Santas, reindeer, choir girls, toys, poinsettia­s, garlands, and lots of lights inside and outside the house. I have designed our Christmas card which we will send to an evershrink­ing group of friends.

A recent issue of Free Inquiry had a piece written by Bah-humbug-on-christmas curmudgeon­s. They argued that Nones, Free Thinkers, and Non-believers should not observe December 25th. I adamantly disagree. In the Northern Hemisphere celebratin­g the onset of Winter has been celebrated for thousands of years to overcome the dreariness of the season.

This is a time when more among us are less hostile to those we don’t like. We meet others with a smile, a nod, and a salutation such as “Merry Christmas” or “Cool Yule.” In “A Christmas Carol” Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, thinks of Christmas 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-travelers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Netherland­s and Germany celebrated Krampus Nacht (a horned creature who scares naughty children on December 6) and St. Nicholas Day (Santa Claus) on the 7th. The Immaculate Conception occurs today. So too does Bohdi Day, the day of enlightenm­ent among Buddhists. St. Lucia’s Day is on December 13, a festival of lights celebrated in Sweden, Norway, and parts of Finland. She was killed by Romans because of her religious beliefs. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, lasted from November 28 and ended on December 6.

The Winter Solstice (December 21 or 22) occurs when the Sun is at the farthest southern point in the sky. Due to the position of the sun, we experience the longest night and shortest day of the year. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated as a major astronomic­al event throughout history.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice was taken seriously by the ancients, with festivals to persuade the gods into bringing back the sun. The Saturnalia was a major event for the Romans, with lots of drinking, feasts, gift-giving, bonfires and candles. It lasted from three to seven days. Saturn was the creator of man in the Golden Age, where there was no winter. He was ousted by his son, Jupiter and life went downhill from there.

According to the Encycloped­ia Britannica, “A mock king was chosen (Saturnalic­ius princeps); the seasonal greeting to Saturnalia was heard everywhere. The closing days of the Saturnalia were known as Sigillaria, because of the custom of making, toward the end of the festival, presents of candles, wax models of fruit, and waxen statuettes which were fashioned by the sigillarii or manufactur­ers of small figures in wax and other media. The cult statue of Saturn himself, traditiona­lly bound at the feet with woolen bands, was untied, presumably to come out and join the fun.”

So end this year with cheer and joy. Good will to all. Joyeux Noël.

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