Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The Pope’s despair about Christmas is unworthy

November 21, 2015

The Christmas and New Year holidays are important, but for most people the holiday season has ceased to be a celebration of anything religious a long time ago. The holidays are important primarily as the annual time of renewal, and in the Northern hemisphere, as a sign that the shortest day has been left behind, and the journey to summer has begun. It is a celebration of the Sun – Sol Invictus – and that custom goes back to long before the celebrations around the winter solstice were hijacked by Christianity. As a paean to the Sun it goes back into prehistory, and at least to the last ice-age some 20,000 years ago.

The annual renewal and the “proof” that this is a perpetual recurrence is the fundamental under-pinning of a primal human need. That, no matter how desperate it may seem, life goes on. That no matter how dark or painful or grievous the days are, the Sun will shine again. It is, above all, a reaffirmation of hope. With all the horrible things that happen around us (always have and always will), it would be all too simple, in the dark days of winter, to give in to hopelessness and despair. But the annual renewal is not, I think, a time for desperation and depression. In spite of Syria or Iraq or Mali or Lebanon or Paris, it is the time that is needed to rekindle hope and not to succumb.

If I have any belief, it is that the world will not end and the hope that humans can do better.  And we will need that belief and that hope again next year, and every year to come.

And so I find the Pope’s rant about Christmas to be a cry of despair and frustration – and unworthy.

Daily MailThe Pope has called Christmas a ‘charade’ during a sermon in which he reflected on recent atrocities around the world. Among the acts of inhumanity he denounced were the Paris attacks, which left 129 dead, and the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt, which killed all 224 people on board. Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen ‘war and hate’, Pope Francis said yesterday at the Vatican.

‘Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes… it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,’ he said in the Mass at the chapel of the Santa Marta residence. ……. There are wars today everywhere, and hate, ……… God weeps, Jesus weeps’.

In the coming holiday period, and with all the barbarism and cruelty that is so apparent, it is all the more important to inspire hope, hope in the future and that things can be better. It is necessary in the renewal process that people are inspired to believe that they can act to make things better. We are talking about human behaviour and I refuse to believe that it is not possible to influence that behaviour. There must be a time to sorrow, but this coming holiday is not a time to wallow in tears. It is almost as if the Pope believes the hate and the barbarism are Divinely Inspired and are not subject to human influence. Is weeping the only remedy available? Is he just an observer?

In inspiring that hope and belief in the future that we need in large measures, I find the Pope wanting.

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Greetings for the In-between days

December 27, 2013

A God Fortsättning, a God Slut and a Gott Nytt År to you all!

In most instances English has a much richer vocabulary than Swedish does – but when it comes to greetings during the festive season, Swedish wins hands down. The nuances of available greetings are just not available in English. Perhaps because there was a greater need for nuance during the long and cold and dark winters.

In Sweden the days between Christmas and the New Year are called the In-between days (mellandagarna) and immediately after Christmas it is no longer appropriate to use Merry Christmas (God Jul) as the greeting. It shifts to God Fortsättning which can only be translated as A Good Continuation. But it is also quite common to wish people a God Slut during this time. But this is also a nuance of greeting that Swedish has which does not appear in English. The literal translation of God Slut in English would be Have a good ending which may be taken to be somewhat morbid or an invitation to take hemlock!  Have a good ending to the Year is a little too long and doesn’t trip of the tongue as well and as succinctly as God Slut. Of course it is perfectly permissible to use Gott Nytt ÅrGood New Year – during the In-between days.

The In-between days run from December 26th to December 30th.

Clearly God Jul cannot be used after 25th December and God Slut cannot be used after 31st December but God fortsättning can. In theory God fortsättning can be used at any time. I have even heard it used at Advent and during the vacation period in July (when Sweden is closed). But I have heard it most often during the In-between days and then for the first 2 or 3 weeks of January. Gott Nytt År can be used well into February – especially if it is the first meeting of the Year.

And so during these In-between days,

God fortsättning! followed by a

God Slut! and a

Gott Nytt År!

‘Tis the day after Christmas – Limericks (5)

December 26, 2013

‘Tis the day after Christmas and we have had no snow,

Erdogan in Turkey has suffered another blow,

Against China, Shinzo Abe tries to draw a line,

As in full tie and ‘tails he visits the Yakasuni shrine,

And down under at the MCG, England are 173 for four.

‘Tis the day after Christmas and it is time to end the mirth,

The Queen said very little beyond Prince George’s birth,

Obama basks in Hawaii in this time of austerity,

And in his annual Christmas speech, he called for charity

The Kiwis and the Windies, in Auckland, are battling to the death.

‘Tis the day after Christmas but I am not depressed,

One day older every day but much new to be addressed,

Misery and mayhem everywhere and so very antagonistic,

And yet I have no problem in staying optimistic,

Two more out at the MCG, and England are distressed

Sol Invictus: Greetings on Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

December 25, 2011

It is the 25th of December of the year 2011 of the Gregorian Calendar and it is the anniversary of the day of the birth of the Invincible Sun (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti).

More correctly, of course it is the presumed date of the birth of the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. This revolution would have existed even when the Earth was just an amorphous conglomeration of gas and particles orbiting the Sun and still waiting to coalesce as the Earth. Since the seasonal celebrations could never be suppressed, it is the date which was hijacked as the day of the birth of Christ (first recorded in 354AD), some 1,657 years ago. But Natalis Solis Invicti goes back much longer than that. And to the best of our knowledge that was about 4,540,000,000 (±1%) years ago.

And while the celebrations around the world at this dark time of the year remain of vital importance in the human calendar, its relevance as the birthday of Christ has become largely meaningless. It is the celebration of renewal, of the beginning of a new year, of the coming lengthening of the days after the winter solstice which pre-dates Christian tradition and will continue long after its inevitable extinction. It is the certainty of belief that the earth will continue to revolve around the Sun and all that follows from that which lifts the human spirit.

Here the sun rises today at 08:48 and sets at 15:05 – a day-length of just over 6 hours. But the days are getting longer and already by next Saturday the day at this latitude will be 6 minutes longer. Over the next 200 days the length of each day will increase by an average of more than 3 minutes each day and by high summer the length of the day will be around 17 hours. And it is the affirmation of this renewal, this anticipation of what is to come and the reconfirmation of “certain” belief in Sol Invictus which lifts my spirit.

And so my greetings to all on this day to celebrate the day of the birth of the Invincible Sun.


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