History of the Christmas Star: Natural or supernatural?

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR The Star of Bethlehem has puzzled scholars for centuries. Some have skeptically dismissed the phenomenon as a myth, a mere literary device to call attention to the importance of the Nativity. Others have argued that the star was miraculously placed there to guide the Magi and is therefore beyond all…

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History of the Magi: The Wise Men

HISTORY OF THE WISE MEN You’re familiar with the song that begins “We Three Kings of Orient Are…” but it is inaccurate in at least three ways. We don’t know how many there were, but we know they weren’t kings. They did not originate in the Orient, meaning the Far East. How could they have…

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Big numbers: US information consumption

I was impressed by some recent reports from the University of California at San Diego, and the research company IDC. The first story reports that: from all non-work sources in 2008, including TV, radio, movies, the Net, cell phones, video games and reading material… US consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to…

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History of Chanukah: The Festival of Lights

HISTORY OF CHANUKAH Chanukah is also spelled hanukkah, meaning “dedication.” It begins this year at sundown tonight, December 11 with the last candle being lit on Friday, December 18.┬áThis 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…

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History of Santa Lucia

HISTORY OF LUCIADAGEN In Sweden, December 13 is Luciadagen, St. Lucia’s Day, or in English, St. Lucy. It is the beginning of their holiday season. The Lutheran Danes and Norwegians also celebrate this day. St. Lucia was a young woman who lived in first century Rome. She was a Christian who would not give up…

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History of the Christmas Tree

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin dating from the time of St. Boniface, English missionary to Germany in the 8th century, who replaced the sacrifices to the Norse god Odin’s sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child.…

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History of A Christmas Carol: A ghost story of Christmas

HISTORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Christmas season 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…

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History of Christmas Traditions: some pre-Christian?

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS Many of the customs that we associate with Christmas come from largely pagan or pre-Christian backgrounds. The word Yule comes from an old Norse word for a twelve-day celebration. Mistletoe was prominent in the traditions of the Druids and the lore of northern Europe. The wassail bowl was first known in…

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History of Santa Claus: Saint or Elf?

HISTORY OF SANTA CLAUS December 6 is “Saint Nicholas Day.” Santa Claus, a contraction for Saint Nicholas, was born in the 3rd century, perhaps in A.D. 270. He became a bishop in Greece and gained distinction in the councils of the church, being especially famed for unexpected gifts, and later associated with the giving of…

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History of Christmas Music: more than just carols?

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC Music early became a marked feature of the Christmas season. But the first chants, litanies, and hymns were in Latin and too theological for popular use. The 13th century found the rise of the carol written in the vernacular under the influence of Francis of Assisi. The word carol comes from…

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History of A Sacred Oratorio: most popular Christmas music scandalous and profane?

HISTORY OF A SACRED ORATORIO The genteel reception accorded the original debut performance stood in marked contrast to the savage hostility which greeted the work less than a year later in London. The English aristocracy and churchmen began an unrelenting campaign against the work and its creator. They labeled it “a profanation,” scandalized at “the…

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History of Christmas: The Year – How could Jesus be born 4 B.C.?

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS: THE YEAR It’s obvious that Jesus was born on December 25, A.D. 1 , right? Wrong. What we do know is that Herod the Great (who killed all the babies in Bethlehem younger than 2 years of age) died in the Spring of 4 B.C. according to the Jewish historian Josephus, and…

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