Christmas

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by KnowSelf, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    But still it's a powerful dose of white magic the world needs and we're all better off with it than without it, imo.
     
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  2. OrtaYol

    OrtaYol Active Member

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    I think it was shoehorned into Christianity to keep the pagan tradition alive and that there is a concerted effort to secularise it to pave the way for its eventual return to its pagan roots. Besides that I find it an enjoyable time of the year.
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Maybe a tad post-modern in outlook?

    And I think generally, although the pagan icons were employed, they were incorporated into Christian practice at a folk-level. As an old monk once said to me, 'people need their symbols'. So I think the process was organic, the product of two worlds rubbing shoulders, as it were.

    The giving of presents and stockings hung from the fireplace goes back to the legends of St Nicholas, 4th century. The prototype of Santa Claus/Father Christmas.

    The birth of Christ is a time of celebration, but the Mass is a solemn occasion, so one can see that Christians simply incorporated upbeat pagan practices, decorating their houses, for example. The Yule Log is Nordic, trees Germanic, mistletoe is Druid, but these are all late European practices. Candles are Hebrew as well as pagan.

    The legend of St Nicholas was the blueprint for Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas was portrayed as a trim figure, white robe, red cape, bishop's mitre, white hair and beard. He rode a white horse. The Dutch celebrated a tradition in his honour of putting coins in shoes left outside the homes of the poor. By the 16th century, St Nicholas/Sinterklaas is popular across Europe. His feast is December 6, the memorial of the martyrdom of Nicholas, bishop of Myra (year is uncertain, but the date is sure).

    The Reformation saw the Protestants ban all Catholic 'superstition', but their drab and dismal celebration finds little favour. The Reformers can't get rid of the practices, so they rebrand them. He is to represent the generic spirit of good cheer, but to be associated with local folklore rather than Catholic legend.

    In the 19th century St Nicholas crosses the Atlantic. Washington Irving, in A History of New York describes a 'portly, bearded man who smokes a pipe'. It was Irving who made Santa slide down the chimney too.

    John Pintard, founder of the New York Historical Society, commissions artist Alexander Anderson to sketch the saint. His is a trim figure in long robes and halo. The illustration is accompanied by familiar tales, a smiling child next to a crying and pouting one; a fireplace with stockings hung on either side. An accompanying poem describes Saint Nicholas as a giver of gifts.

    Clement Clarke Moore, professor at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, writes a poem for his daughters An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas which becomes popular as The Night before Christmas. His St Nicholas has a merry laugh, a twinkle in the eye, and a sleigh drawn by reindeer.

    Thomas Nast, editorial cartoonist and recognised as 'the Father of the American Cartoon' illustrates Santa Claus in scenes including toys, a workshop at the North Pole. Also lists of children naughty and nice.

    Sugar Plums, an American confectionary brand, creates an advertisement that shows an elf-like Santa in a red jacket, red-and-green hat and white bloomers, riding a little green sleigh being pulled by vari-coloured reindeer.

    Nast's last version features 'Merry Old Santa Claus' as a round-cheeked, cheerful man with a long white beard, gold stopwatch, bag full of toys, slender pipe and a red coat. He is wearing a crown of mistletoe.

    Twentieth century: Norman Rockwell creates many Santas, sad, tired, confused, but it's the jolly ones that stick.

    Rockwell submits sketches of Santa to Coca Cola for use in their Christmas ads, but they get their in-house artist, Haddon Sundblom, to create their version. This is the Santa we know today, clothed in Coke's colours. The modern legend is that this Santa is a barely-disguised Sundblom self-portrait. He first appears 1931, but is repeated every year in The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post and National Geographic, year on year from '31 on. This is the power of big-budget corporate branding.

    The imagery of a 'white Christmas' so fixed in the minds of Brits and Bing Crosby fans is almost entirely down to Charles Dickens, who was writing in the time of the Little Ice Age when every winter saw snows in London, the Thames freezing over, etc.
     
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  4. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Omg, that's so funny :) Thanks for the education, as always
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    There were Santa's and Saint Nick's in red suits and hats prior to Coke. But they we're all then. Coke made them fat and happy. You know, I'm American.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep, in red, green, yellow ... it's interesting how much of the Santa legend is post-19th century Americana.
     
  7. OrtaYol

    OrtaYol Active Member

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    How is it post modern?

    Also.. off topic but isn't anything that's post modern just the new modern.. or simply modern?
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's a common contemporary notion, but it's very hard to actually evidence as the case. A lot of evidence actually mitigates against it.
     
  9. OrtaYol

    OrtaYol Active Member

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    Thank you for clearing that up.

    It is not that hard to see the evidence.. it's probably just not as specific as you would like. Take any human endeavour, add large amounts of money to it and it becomes corrupted. I have little doubt that Iblis is unaware of this formula.

    When you know the end goal the trends are more visible.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    No probs.

    Quite. For the first six centuries the church was like a raw nerve when it came to 'pollution' by alien or exterior forms. Hence the number of controversies within orthodoxy, let alone introductions from outside. The continual struggle between 'theology' and 'philosophy' is clearly evident, and there have been times when it could have gone either way. The Arian dispute, for example.

    Rather I see it as small, sometimes un-noticed incremental steps. The noticeably BIG change seems to me to be when consumerism was industrialised in the US. With Father Christmas/Santa Claus a couple of hundred years ago, culminating in Coca Cola sort of hijacking the brand. Same thing happened in religion generally, the US allowed religion to be treated as a commercial enterprise.

    On the flip side, the Church had a habit of commemorating the dead from early on. Cultures have their own habits of commemoration. Until the sixth century they were considered 'pagan', then the attitude changed. It's the same thing: people need to do this. So the wise said, let's simply incorporate and acknowledge a universal practice within a given paradigm. So we have All Saints and All Souls, it's quite organic, really.

    The Reformation tried to do away with all that. In the Germanic states, people were burned for putting flowers on a grave! But the old habits refuse to go away.

    And so it went on, until the Scots took guising to America, which reinvented it as Halloween, and began marketing it across the English speaking world. Even my family, which is Scots/Irish, never celebrated Halloween. I never did. Suddenly my kids were out with their school friends trick-or-treating! The only time I'd seen it before that was on US TV imports.

    So generally I think for a long time we have a process of assimilation. Industrialised consumer (read profit)-oriented marketing changed all that.
     
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