History of Martin Luther: Part 2 – Breakthrough

HISTORY OF MARTIN LUTHER: PART 2 — BREAKTHROUGH In Martin Luther’s introduction to the 95 Theses which he nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Church 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, he begins: Out of love for the truth, and the desire to bring it to light… Truth had been supremely important to…

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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 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 King Herod: Why was he called Great?

HISTORY OF HEROD THE KING When the wise men asked Herod the King “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” their question was not really spoken in a vacuum, for even the Roman author Suetonius wrote, “There had spread all over the East an old and established belief that it was fated…

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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 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 Good Friday

GOOD FRIDAY For centuries, pilgrims have walked the Via Dolorosa, “the way of sorrow” in Jerusalem, following the path Jesus took from the judgment seat of Pilate at the Antonia in the eastern part of the city immediately north of the Temple through several “stations of the Cross” to the ultimate location at the Church…

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