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Archive for December 2009

History of New Year’s Day: Why on January 1?

HISTORY OF NEW YEAR’S DAY We have the Romans to thank for celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1. It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, previous civilizations celebrated it in March, to observe the “new year” of growth and fertility. Before calendars existed the time between seed sowing and harvesting was considered a cycle or…

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History of 2010: Start of a New Decade?

HISTORY OF 2010: A NEW DECADE? As the chronometer clicks over from 2009 to 2010, many are heralding the end of one decade and the beginning of another, regaling the best and worst at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Except that it isn’t. Clicking over to 2010 does mark the…

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History of the Feast of St. John

HISTORY OF THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN December 27, since the 5th century, has marked the day 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. December 28 is the…

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History of Boxing Day: Feast of St. Stephen?

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: Caesar 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 the Poinsettia

HISTORY OF THE POINSETTIA I studied one summer in Cuernavaca, a little town south of Mexico City. There is a story told there that long ago the people flocked to church on Christmas Eve because they loved to fill the Christ child’s manger with flowers. A little boy named Jose was too poor to buy…

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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 12:47 pm EST (17:47 GMT.) Earth enjoys different seasons because the planet…

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Movie Review: Avatar

MOVIE REVIEW: AVATAR I’ve seen some interviews with movie producers recently, mostly Pixar, saying that all the key producers are moving to 3D. I’ve taken these words with a pillar of salt, as just new ways to capture the eyeballs of price-sensitive consumers who are nervous about spending $10 a head to attend the cinema,…

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