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Archive for December 2008

History of the Long Year

HISTORY OF THE LONG YEAR If it seemed like a longer year than usual, that’s because it is, by a second. The scientists who control the settings on the official clocks around the world will be adding a "leap second at 11:59:59 PM GMT on New Year’s Eve, December 31. Why? This is to justify…

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History of the Feast of St. John the Apostle

HISTORY OF THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN December 27 is the day that goes back to the 5th century in the church calendar for celebrating the life of St. John the Evangelist and is known as the Feast of St. John. We’ve already mentioned that December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, and December…

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History of Boxing Day

HISTORY OF BOXING DAY Boxing Day is a holiday unfamiliar to many Americans, but it it well known among the countries of the British Commonwealth. It is celebrated on December 26 as a public holiday in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand… as well as some parts of Europe and Africa. While some believe…

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History of Christmas: Augustus

HISTORY OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS Perhaps it is fitting that our last article on the History of Christmas should be about the first person mentioned in St. Luke’s story of the first Christmas. He was neither Palestinian, nor Jew, nor shepherd, nor wise man. He was in fact, 1500 miles away, the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.…

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History of Mistletoe

HISTORY OF MISTLETOE We’ve mentioned previously that mistletoe was prominent in the traditions of the Druids and the lore of northern Europe. The Druids used the mistletoe of their sacred oak as part of their ritual five days after the new moon following the winter Solstice. In the middle ages it was hung from ceilings…

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History of Chanukah

HISTORY OF CHANUKAH Also spelled hanukkah, means “dedication”. It begins this year at sundown, December 21. This Jewish holiday traces its roots back more than 2,000 years. At that time the Jewish people were living under the oppressive government of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, (a rather ironic name — Epiphanes means “God made…

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Science of the Winter Solstice

SCIENCE OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE As we’ve mentioned before, the Romans celebrated a holiday known as the Saturnalia beginning on the Winter Solstice. The word Solstice comes from the Latin “solstitium” meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year it will occur on December 21 at 12:04 UT (Greenwich Universal Time.) Earth enjoys different seasons because the planet…

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History of the 12 Days of Christmas

THE HISTORY OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS The Twelve Days of Christmas are the dozen days in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church between the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi to visit at his house in Bethlehem (Epiphany, January 6). The…

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History of A Christmas Carol

HISTORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL This week in 1843 saw the publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No other book or story by Dickens or anyone else (except the Bible) has been more enjoyed, criticized, referred to, or more frequently adapted to other media. One of my favorites was watching Patrick Stewart doing his…

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