Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas to all

It’s that time of year again. December the 25th. Christmas Day.

So I take the time to wish a Merry and Happy Christmas to all readers.

For many who celebrate Christmas the rush to get everything in place is now done. What has been left incomplete will have to be managed without and it is time, hopefully, to Celebrate the birth of Jesus and to enjoy the company of friends and family and a meal together.

For many the sense of comfort will seem stronger for contrast of warmth light and company indoors while the cold and snow and long nights are kept at bay outside.

Generally it is true. There is a sense of good will to our fellow men, throughout Christendom, even amongst those of a more secular leaning, even amongst those of some other religions.

A powerful example of this was during the Great War (WWI), the so called “Christmas Truce” all along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914. This was not an official truce, more a ’grass roots movement’.

It would be truly wonderful if that sense of good will, capable of briefly holding at bay a full blown World War, could hold for the rest of the year.

Alas there are evil individuals and groups filled with hate who make that unlikely.

Although we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December the 25th, it is quite unlikely that he was actually born on that date, That is simply the date the early church picked to mark the occasion. Unlike Easter, where the date is accurate, according to the Lunar Calendar.

The date of Christmas Day probably owes more to the fact that most pagan religions had a feast and celebration around that time to mark winter solstice and the fact that days were at last getting longer again and there was the distant but real promise of spring and summer to look forward to.

New converts would have been very reluctant to give up such a highlight and so it is likely the early church decided against forcing potential converts to have to make such a choice.

The relationship between the date and the actual solstice may have been further altered by use of a calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC called the Julian calendar that was much better that what had been used before but was still slightly inaccurate over centuries.

Some orthodox Christian Churches still use the Julian calendar to calculate December 25th and celebrate Christmas. That corresponds to around January 6 or 7 of the Gregorian Calendar. So they have their Christmas 'late'.

The Julian year was around eleven minutes longer than the actual solar year. It might not seem much, but it adds up to a gain of about three days per 400 years - and drifting of the calendar against the seasons.

This was later compensated for with another calendar reform that introduced the Gregorian calendar that we use today and ‘lost’ or shifted back some calendar days.