Traditional midwinter celebrations

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Evocacion
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Evocacion » Tue Dec 08, 2015 12:24 pm

The Yule Log used to be a large log of wood to put on the fire - and by large I mean something that would need two or three men to carry in and put in place on the hearth.

Today few even have a hearth to put it on, and the nearest we get is a chocolate cake.

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by gitgeezer » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:57 pm

Tonyyyyy wrote:Christmas cards, an American import about a hundred years ago.
The Christmas card was not an American invention. It was invented in 1843 by Henry Cole, an English civil servant. Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post, but it wasn’t generating the revenue that had been expected. To boost the use of the Post, Cole introduced a “greeting card” for Christmas, illustrated by John Horsley.

I had come across this bit of trivia earlier this year while reading an article in Smithsonian Magazine about the 1851 London Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. Cole had visited the 1849 Paris exhibition, which was for French inventions only, and got the idea for an international exhibition in London. He convinced Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the idea, and Albert presided over the design and construction of the Crystal Palace. After discussing Cole's promotion of the exhibition, the article added the side note that he had also invented the Christmas card.
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by zupfgeiger » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:47 pm

Actually the first christmas tree in the Vatikan, heart of the Catholic religion, was set up in 1982. Quite late. Nonetheless the tradition stems back from the 16th century, first trees were set up in the Alsatian Franco/German region along the Rhine. The tradition in England was very much influenced by German born Victorians, I believe.
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:23 pm

Tonyyyyy wrote:
Alan Green wrote:It's not just Christmas; Christianity hijacked Halloween too - 1st November is "All Saints"
It's a massive subject and difficult to know where to start - the Wassailing ritual still takes place in some villages, and the Oxford Book of Carols has Carols for Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, summer and harvest (a Carol has a short repeated refrain at the end of each verse, take "Hark the herald angels sing" as the best-known example).
Well a carol was a dance originally :shock:

I guess that the church must be disappointed that the gluttony/drunkenness aspects have survived well, and in an extended period (Advent was considered traditionally a period of austerity I think, not a time for several pre-christmas meals with colleagues and friends.

Perhaps a re-hijacking :ivresse:
Hopefully others will chime in about the solstice festivals and harvest . . .

RE: 6th of January. This goes back to earlier Christian tradition. It was likely the more primitive of dates for a single feast that celebrated both the Nativity of Christ along with the Epiphany (in the East "Theophany")—which typically in the East is associated with the adoration of the Magi (the "wisemen"), the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. In the West, however—specifically in North Africa—around the fourth century Christmas seems to have been a separate feast. Eventually, some time during the fourth century, the two became separate feasts in both East and West. Basically what happened was that in the fourth century as various regions had developed different dates for Easter (specifically the Passion of Christ) and as a more unified church under Constantine sought a common date for Easter among all regions, they also calculated the birth of Christ in relation to the dating for Easter. Hence Christmas, Dec. 25, came to be associated with the Nativity, and Epiphany, Jan. 6, with adoration of Magi, baptism of Christ (and this solely in the West), and the wedding at Cana. Thus, Simon referenced the twelve days of Christmas earlier, spanning from Dec. 25 to Jan. 6: the latter day is the traditional day of the Feast of Epiphany in the Western Church (again going back to the fourth century) and marks the end of the Christmas season. However, prior to the fourth century the feast of Christmas—the Nativity of Christ—was celebrated in some places, like Alexandria, on Jan. 6 (and still is in the Coptic churches in Egypt).

As for pagan origins—there are clear pagan festivities, and even such that can be related to both feasts in the Christian church, on both Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 in ancient Roman culture. However, more recent scholarship has found any *direct* links between those pagan festivals and the Christian church's to be tenuous. No doubt there was common cultural borrowing and social influence, but there is little evidence of a direct "hijacking" by early Christians other than the coincidence of the dates. It is more likely, scholars increasingly are concluding, that the dates of Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 are more likely related to the dating of Easter that was taking place in the fourth century.

Advent, again, has an ambiguous development, but evidence suggests that its earliest origins have to do with a (three-week) time of preparation for candidates to receive the sacrament of baptism, which would have taken place on January 6 in the West (baptisms are still common on that date in both East and West). After the fourth century, the fixed date of Dec. 25 for Christmas determined the beginning of Advent and that time of preparation stretched out to forty days and the period focused during the medieval period on penitence—in the Anglo-Saxon liturgy it was specifically a time of penitential preparation for judgment and the Last Day.

RE: Halloween. This, again, has its origins in the Christian church, though once again there was likely cultural borrowing/influence from cultural and "pagan" rituals and customs and even some attempts to suppress "pagan" influence by utilizing common dates (but this is far from a settled issue in scholarship). This feast is not nearly as old as Christmas, yet it is perhaps even more difficult to nail down in terms of origins (because "All Saints" was celebrated on so many different days in different regions before it was fixed on Nov. 1—and this fact certainly troubles the waters for the theory that Halloween directly "hijacked" this feast from pagan rituals and customs). "Halloween" simply means "All Hallow's Eve," which is the evening prior to All Hallows', or All Saints' Day (the Christian church followed the Jewish calendar in understanding the beginning of the day to be not at sunrise, but at sunset—thus the beginning of the day for the feast of All Hallows' began the previous evening). This feast likely developed after the eighth century in the Gallic regions (its earliest definitive evidence stems from the reign of Charlemagne, who was crowned on Christmas 800 CE).

Hope some of this is helpful. (My primary field of scholarship is Christian liturgy so this is kind of my wheelhouse.)
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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:08 pm

zupfgeiger wrote:Actually the first christmas tree in the Vatikan, heart of the Catholic religion, was set up in 1982. Quite late. Nonetheless the tradition stems back from the 16th century, first trees were set up in the Alsatian Franco/German region along the Rhine. The tradition in England was very much influenced by German born Victorians, I believe.


Well certainly Prince Albert was German and with his wife Queen Victoria( German mother) they influenced British tastes. We still kept the liking for holly though

As for pre-Victorians, I think it was the German-born wife of George III who introduced the Christmas tree into Britain ( from a wiki article)
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:22 pm

David Belcher wrote:
Tonyyyyy wrote:
As for pagan origins—there are clear pagan festivities, and even such that can be related to both feasts in the Christian church, on both Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 in ancient Roman culture. However, more recent scholarship has found any *direct* links between those pagan festivals and the Christian church's to be tenuous. No doubt there was common cultural borrowing and social influence, but there is little evidence of a direct "hijacking" by early Christians other than the coincidence of the dates. It is more likely, scholars increasingly are concluding, that the dates of Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 are more likely related to the dating of Easter that was taking place in the fourth century.



Hope some of this is helpful. (My primary field of scholarship is Christian liturgy so this is kind of my wheelhouse.)
Really interesting and grounding material. I need t read it a few times to help remember it.

I bet you know a lot about the Bishop of Myra (about 10 years ago I went t Myra in 40 degree heat, accidentally hitchhiking a lift with a friendly mopedist... nothing Christmassy there :wink: )
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Mick the Ramirez Man » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:44 pm

I would think that Christmas as a paid day off from work must date back to at least Dickens' time. In "A Christmas Carol" Scrooge mumbles to Bob Cratchit that Christmas was a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December! :nerveux:

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:37 pm

Tonyyyyy wrote:
Really interesting and grounding material. I need t read it a few times to help remember it.

I bet you know a lot about the Bishop of Myra (about 10 years ago I went t Myra in 40 degree heat, accidentally hitchhiking a lift with a friendly mopedist... nothing Christmassy there :wink: )
It seems every time I commit this info to memory scholars change their minds! :lol: It's a constantly evolving field and a lot of the best scholarship is still less than twenty-five years old.

I do know a bit about St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, but there's really very little info on the guy. In fact, the only thing historians are certain of about good ole St. Nick is that he was a bishop at Myra from the fourth century and that he may have appeared at the Council of Nicaea (325 CE)—though even the latter is in doubt. The legend that he slapped (or punched) the "heretic" Arius in the face is, from all evidence, just that: a legend. It's a fun little story to imagine the good bishop of Myra physically punching a heretic in the face at a council of bishops, but only a fun little story. The links to Santa Claus in Western Europe likely sprung up after legends were circulated about him and became fixed with his feast day (Dec. 6) in the Greek Church at least after the fourteenth century (no legends about him survive until that time).
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by gitgeezer » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:09 pm

David Belcher wrote: However, more recent scholarship has found any *direct* links between those pagan festivals and the Christian church's to be tenuous. No doubt there was common cultural borrowing and social influence, but there is little evidence of a direct "hijacking" by early Christians other than the coincidence of the dates. It is more likely, scholars increasingly are concluding, that the dates of Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 are more likely related to the dating of Easter that was taking place in the fourth century.
I am curious as to who these scholars are and the nature of their evidence. Everything I have ever read about the origin of Christmas begins with the pagan festival of the winter solstice. I will allow that the church may not have deliberately set out to “highjack” the holiday in order to weaken pagan beliefs, but the origin of December 25 as a pagan holiday appears firmly based. Consider this from a 12th century manuscript:

"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day."

But why would the pagans celebrate the birthday of the sun on the 25th when the sun had actually begun moving north again (the winter solstice) several days earlier. The reasoning is that their method for detecting the start of the norther movement of the sun wasn’t sufficiently precise to reveal the movement until the 25th.

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:16 pm

David Belcher wrote: The links to Santa Claus in Western Europe likely sprung up after legends were circulated about him and became fixed with his feast day (Dec. 6) in the Greek Church at least after the fourteenth century (no legends about him survive until that time).
A great legend though, which grew and grew.

A bit earlier, 12th century monks in Glastonbury were also creative writers it seems (I havent checked the info though) http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015 ... tury-monks

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:49 pm

gitgeezer wrote:... the origin of December 25 as a pagan holiday appears firmly based. Consider this from a 12th century manuscript:

"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day."

But why would the pagans celebrate the birthday of the sun on the 25th when the sun had actually begun moving north again (the winter solstice) several days earlier. The reasoning is that their method for detecting the start of the norther movement of the sun wasn’t sufficiently precise to reveal the movement until the 25th.
It seems very reasonable, but its just a theory by a medieval thinker about why the 25th

Well I think the ancients could be very precise indeed about the correct shortest day. They were the experts on the subject. We, with our TVs and electric lights are generally the no-nothings :wink:

But why 25th ?

I read this elsewhere and David also put it forward (I think) that the important factor was the Nativity was necessarily 9 months after the Annunciation(which was in spring). Was the Annunciation known to have been celebrated at an earlier date than Christmas? And was it the kind of driving-force? Can we ever know with some certaintly :chaud: (I mean maybe there will never be enough information until perhaps a very special historical document emerges)

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:40 pm

gitgeezer wrote:
David Belcher wrote: However, more recent scholarship has found any *direct* links between those pagan festivals and the Christian church's to be tenuous. No doubt there was common cultural borrowing and social influence, but there is little evidence of a direct "hijacking" by early Christians other than the coincidence of the dates. It is more likely, scholars increasingly are concluding, that the dates of Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 are more likely related to the dating of Easter that was taking place in the fourth century.
I am curious as to who these scholars are and the nature of their evidence. Everything I have ever read about the origin of Christmas begins with the pagan festival of the winter solstice. I will allow that the church may not have deliberately set out to “highjack” the holiday in order to weaken pagan beliefs, but the origin of December 25 as a pagan holiday appears firmly based. Consider this from a 12th century manuscript:

"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day."

But why would the pagans celebrate the birthday of the sun on the 25th when the sun had actually begun moving north again (the winter solstice) several days earlier. The reasoning is that their method for detecting the start of the norther movement of the sun wasn’t sufficiently precise to reveal the movement until the 25th.
Hi gitzgeer,

I've been writing tome-length posts lately on delcamp so I'll try to be brief. The best advances beyond the former thesis of the Religionsgeschichte Schüle (History of Religions School, who were responsible for the claim of a direct dependence of certain Christian feasts on pagan festivals) was roundly countered in the mid-twentieth century especially by Tom Talley—an excellent liturgical scholar in his day. More recently, two Notre Dame scholars have followed up (and slightly tweaked) Talley's position: Paul Bradshaw and Max Johnson. The best volumes on these matters are Talley's Origins of the Liturgical Year, and Bradshaw and Johnson's Origins of Feasts and Fasts. A really helpful supplement between them is the work of the Benedictine scholar and former Abbot of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, Patrick O'Regan, specifically his more recent book, Advent to Pentecost.

Happy reading!

Oh, I just wanted to add that, undoubtedly the 25 December was a pagan holiday—that of Sol Invictus (Day of the Unconquered Sun). But whether that day was a direct influence on the Christian feast of the Nativity is what is specifically in question.
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Guitar-ded » Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:38 am

Peter Lovett wrote:Ah......Christmas. Time to put up the lights and celebrate.
Bambi at Xmas.jpg
My new Christmas desktop photo.
Thanks for that. :twisted:
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Peter Lovett » Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:40 am

Guitar-ded wrote:
Peter Lovett wrote:Ah......Christmas. Time to put up the lights and celebrate.
Bambi at Xmas.jpg
My new Christmas desktop photo.
Thanks for that. :twisted:
Glad to be of assistance. :D
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by gitgeezer » Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:29 pm

David Belcher wrote:
gitgeezer wrote:
David Belcher wrote: However, more recent scholarship has found any *direct* links between those pagan festivals and the Christian church's to be tenuous. No doubt there was common cultural borrowing and social influence, but there is little evidence of a direct "hijacking" by early Christians other than the coincidence of the dates. It is more likely, scholars increasingly are concluding, that the dates of Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 are more likely related to the dating of Easter that was taking place in the fourth century.
I am curious as to who these scholars are and the nature of their evidence. Everything I have ever read about the origin of Christmas begins with the pagan festival of the winter solstice. I will allow that the church may not have deliberately set out to “highjack” the holiday in order to weaken pagan beliefs, but the origin of December 25 as a pagan holiday appears firmly based. Consider this from a 12th century manuscript:

"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day."

But why would the pagans celebrate the birthday of the sun on the 25th when the sun had actually begun moving north again (the winter solstice) several days earlier. The reasoning is that their method for detecting the start of the norther movement of the sun wasn’t sufficiently precise to reveal the movement until the 25th.
Hi gitzgeer,

I've been writing tome-length posts lately on delcamp so I'll try to be brief. The best advances beyond the former thesis of the Religionsgeschichte Schüle (History of Religions School, who were responsible for the claim of a direct dependence of certain Christian feasts on pagan festivals) was roundly countered in the mid-twentieth century especially by Tom Talley—an excellent liturgical scholar in his day. More recently, two Notre Dame scholars have followed up (and slightly tweaked) Talley's position: Paul Bradshaw and Max Johnson. The best volumes on these matters are Talley's Origins of the Liturgical Year, and Bradshaw and Johnson's Origins of Feasts and Fasts. A really helpful supplement between them is the work of the Benedictine scholar and former Abbot of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, Patrick O'Regan, specifically his more recent book, Advent to Pentecost.

Happy reading!

Oh, I just wanted to add that, undoubtedly the 25 December was a pagan holiday—that of Sol Invictus (Day of the Unconquered Sun). But whether that day was a direct influence on the Christian feast of the Nativity is what is specifically in question.
The texts of the books you cited appear to be unavailable, unless I purchase the books (but I think I’ll save the money for gifts). However, I did find text from Adrien Nocent’s The Liturgical Year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany.

“The liturgy of Advent gradually took shape in the Church beginning in the fourth century. Toward the end of this century we find in Gaul and Spain a period of preparation for the feast of Christmas. The feast itself had just been established at Rome as a kind of Christianization of the pagan celebration of the victorious sun: Natale solis invicti (birth of the unconquered sun), or celebration of the winter solstice, when the sun triumphed over the winter mists. The Church of Rome saw in the natural occurrence a symbol of Christ victorious over the dark powers of evil and took the occasion to celebrate on December 25 the birth of Christ according to the flesh.”

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