Winter Solstice and the Date of Christmas

From astronomy to religion, the year’s shortest day brings enduring mysteries.

CHR Comment: National Geographic briefly describes two theories about the relationship between the winter solstice and the date of Christmas. A prevailing view is that Christians chose December 25 as the date to celebrate Jesus’ birth to offer a Christian alternative to celebrating the pagan Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) holiday that was timed with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. A more common Christian explanation is that the day was chosen since it is nine months after the day when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would miraculously have a child who would be the Savior (Annunciation Day, March 25; Luke 1:26-37).

Source: Everything You Need to Know About the Winter Solstice

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Chocolatiers Work on a 220 Pound Chocolate Nativity Scene

Renowned Italian chocolatiers have taken on the challenge to create a 220 pound chocolate crèche for a charity procession taking place in Genoa.

CHR Comment: Many Italians take their food and their faith seriously, but with a smile! The video shows the chocolatiers creating this beautiful nativity to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Merry Christmas indeed.

Source: Chocolatiers Work on a 220 Pound Chocolate Nativity Scene – NBC News

11 Facts You Might Not Know about Christmas Trees

From contentious early history to new scientific experiments, these facts will help you see this holiday fixture anew.

CHR Comment: The use of trees in Christmas celebrations first appeared in the medieval period in northern Europe, not during the era of the “Early Church” as the article states (the examples are from the Age of Orthodoxy after the Reformation). Christmas trees likely came from the customs of burning trees/logs during the darkest days of winter since the winter solstice falls near the time of Christmas (December 25). Although some church leaders opposed the use of the trees, others saw no harm in it. The second link, from the History Channel, provides further information.

Source: 11 Facts You Might Not Know About Christmas Trees | Mental Floss

http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees

How Christians Today View Halloween

Less than a quarter of Americans — and Christians — avoid Halloween due to its pagan roots.

CHR Comment: The survey information comes from LifeWay, the publisher for the Southern Baptist Convention. Its hard to object to kids in cute costumes but the darker aspects of Halloween observance, dabbling in horror and spiritism, still raises concerns. The article mentions All Saints Day (Nov. 1) but does not mention Reformation Day (Oct. 31) as a Christian observance.

Source: Even most Christians agree that Halloween is fun, not pagan – On Faith & Culture

Telling the True Story of Thanksgiving

A National Geographic film takes an even-handed approach to the story of Thanksgiving.

CHR Comment: The film should be interesting. The article fails to mentions some important features of the history, such as the way some Indians looked to the Europeans as potential allies against other Indians as well as the role of disease, which was the primary cause of the decimation of the Indian population. Jered Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel” helps explain the role of disease especially well. I hope the film likewise describes the Puritanism of the Pilgrims, understanding them as Christians. The second article linked below refers to a documentary in PBS’s American Experience series, which is also about the Pilgrims.

Source: Voices: Telling the true story of Thanksgiving

Pilgrim Double Feature

Christians Are Not Outraged about Starbucks Cups

The media inform us Christians are upset about Starbucks cup for making Christmas even less religious than normal. The evidence is sorely lacking.

CHR Comment: Mike Tokars, a staff reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, raised the question of whether Christians were outraged about Starbuck’s new cups, extending an online discussion. Mollie Hemingway’s article “Nobody Is Actually Upset” corrects the record and includes some helpful history about holy day/holiday “wars.” The news reports about Starbucks started from a lampoon on a blog and not from any Christian uprising against the colored cups.

Source: Nobody Is Actually Upset About The Starbucks Cup#.VkMpXXd1I0U.email

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2015/1108/Is-Starbucks-brewing-a-War-On-Christmas?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews

Roman Catholic Plot to Destroy Parliament. Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

CHR Comment: The infamous gunpowder plot of 1605 is still widely remembered and observed in England though the activities are less about faith than frolic these days. The town of Lewes also remembers the martyrdom of 17 Protestants at this time by hosting huge bonfires.

Source: Q&A: Remember, remember the fifth of November. Who is Guy Fawkes anyway?