The Symbol Of Santa

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

242px-Nikola_from_1294Before we commercialized and infantilized every aspect of our culture, we used to understand the power of symbols. Our government was regarded as a benevolent uncle named Sam bidding us to do our part. Our soaring strength and spirit of ever climbing higher was embodied in an eagle. A bell in Philadelphia announced to the world that while our society was far from perfect it remained free of the Old World’s pretenses and encumbrances. A statue in a harbor welcomed even the wretched to a land promising both opportunity and hard work. Symbols define our ideals about life, desires, and even ourselves.

And regardless of your religious affiliation or if you have none at all, the symbol of Christmas remains one of life’s enduring icons of what is best in all of us. The holiday is personified by a fourth century clergyman, Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Myra lay in the Roman province of Lycia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).  Almost nothing is known about Nicholas except that he was born sometime around 260 CE and died after 333 CE. Most of his good works in Lycia are obscure and his piety is presumed but never verified. He stands as a part of history based on one story told and retold throughout the centuries.

In his capacity as bishop, Nicholas became aware of a man living in the City of Patara. Once a wealthy and influential member of the community, the man had fallen on hard times and could not provide even the basics of life. Blessed with three daughters, the man knew he would never be able to pay the dowries that would permit the young women to be properly married and assume their places in polite society. In that culture being unable to marry meant more than just a life of hard labor in the fields; it usually meant prostitution for young girls. Distraught the man turned every stone to improve his situation but all to no avail.

Hearing of the plight, Nicholas resolved to do something about it. Whether based on religious prescription or his own benevolent intuitions, the prelate decided to provide direct aid to the man by tossing a small bag of gold through his open window during the early hours of the morning and thus avoid further embarrassment for the man. Nicholas returned night after night to add to the man’s dowries but, finding the window inexplicably locked on the third night, dropped the gold down the chimney where it landed in a wet stocking  that was drying by the dying embers.

There was good reason for the locked window after all as the occupant was waiting for the good bishop after he clamored down off the roof. Learning at last who his benefactor really was, the man promised to let everyone know about the kindness of the Christian bishop. Nicholas would have none of it and had the man promise never to tell anyone about what had happened. That promise was likely not fulfilled.

Saint Nicholas of the Roman Church has come to define all that we admire about charity — generosity of spirit, selflessness, and a genuine regard and understanding of the sometimes intolerable plight of our fellow man.   It is true religion and that is what many of us will honor on Tuesday.

God Bless us — every one.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

72 thoughts on “The Symbol Of Santa

  1. Mark,

    Excellent….. This was one amazing peron for the time….. You know what’s ironic about the celebration of Christmas in the US…. It was basically banned in the original 13 colonies….. Then advance a few years we have the civil war….. Then Thomas Nast does a beautiful drawing…… Lincoln makes the last Thursday of November thanksgiving….. Then Christmas is started to be celebrated in the US…. For what purpose….. To stimulate and unite the country……

  2. – The Pause Of Mr. Clause:
    Santa Clause has a red suit
    He’s a communist
    And a beard, and long hair
    Must be a pacifist
    What’s in the pipe that he’s smoking?

    Mister Clause sneaks in your home at night.
    He must be a dope fiend, to put you up tight
    Why do police guys beat on peace guys?

    Arlo Guthrie

    Hope you all have a warm and wonderful holiday season, from Dawali through New Year and beyond!

  3. Doh! You got my topic.😀 But well done.

    However, I have one small quibble. I don’t think we as a collective species have ever properly understood the power of symbols or they wouldn’t be so useful in manipulating the masses.

  4. Good thing St. Nick did not live in Florida or Texas. He would have been SHOT by a redneck after he came down off the roof.

  5. mespo, is smoking Boston Butt as good as Panama Red. The medical cannabis movement has created some great marketing names ala, Killa Crip Crisp, Apollo13, Dankey Doodle, and many more. Some are named after real and fictional characters, Jack Kevorkian, Charlie Sheen, Connie Chung, Willie Nelson[of course!], Mobey Dick and more. Will I go to hell by including this in your well thought and written piece on St. Nick?

  6. Nice story Mark explaining St. Nick’s history.

    To all those celebrating Christmas I wish you all a most joyous and comforting one, surrounded by those you love.

  7. I honestly wish that symbols were not taken as seriously as they are, and I do not understand the people that confuse them with reality.

    The eagle is just a bird little different from a crow or hawk, I honestly think it is a miscarriage of justice to have any penalty whatsoever for shooting one. (I am not a hunter. And an exception for endangered species, humanity has an interest in protecting biodiversity.)

    The flag is just a flammable piece of cloth with a design on it. I risked my life for my country which that flag represents, but I do not think it is worth dying or killing anybody or even being angry at anybody to literally defend a flag as a flag. Burning a flag, or smearing feces on one, does zero harm to our country, it is a symbolic expression of an emotion that is held whether the action is allowed or not.

    Symbols are great as a concise way to convey complex concepts quickly; but the downside of symbols is forgetting they are just symbols, and treating them like religious relics leads to real-world actions that harm people for literally nothing. If bald eagles were not endangered, killing and eating one would be no different in effect than killing and eating a wild chicken. Like the burning of a flag, or effigy, protecting symbols (including State flowers, birds, etc) is wrong-headed superstitious nonsense that punishes people for a lack of reverence.

    I think people have a right to be irreverent.

  8. The Christians co-opted the pagan rituals of northern europeans, particularly German pagans. In the Third Century a Pope named Julius moved Christs Birthday from July to December 25th to coincide with the pagan goings on and Jewish Hanukka (sp). The Santa character evolved from
    Sinter Klaus (German version). In Germany they reserve December 5th for Sinter Klaus Day to keep it separate from Xmas Day and to keep it distinctly secular yet mystical. It would be good if Americans with chimneys in their homes would not be celebrating Christs Birthday on Dec 25th instead of mid July with the simultaneous onslaught of Sinter Klaus coming down the chiminey in the middle of the night laden with presents for the brood. Saint Nicolaus or Saint Nick or Saint Bernards all put a good little catolic frost on the cake. Us dogs? We are opportunists. We take advantage of all the fixins that get thrown in the bowls while the humanoids are reveling in their various fantasies and frauds prefected on their children in the name of God, Jesus and Macy’s. Danka Sinter Klaus. Where’s the beef?

  9. BarkinDog: It was Holland that we were guide dogs for the blind ambassador and they observed SinterKlaas Day on Dec 5th, Not Germany. He is separate from the Saint Nick guy in the Catolic church.

  10. When I was little I was taught by an Orthodox Rabbi (for no known reason; nobody in the town was Orthodox) and he taught that there were three levels of giving, from Best to “least best”:

    GIving when neither the donor nor the recipient knows who gave and who received

    Giving when the recipient is known to the donor but the donor is not known to the recipient

    Giving when the donor is known to the recipient but the recipient is not known to the donor

    Now that I went on-line to refresh my memory of the three levels, I learn that there are actually eight (maybe Rabbi thought we were too young and unsophisticated for the long answer), but these three still appear in that order.

    That’s only one of my Santa Claus stories. But it is the most obscure.

  11. Oh, and I forgot to mention Schwarte Peet, the little sidekick to SinterKlaas with the funny had and blackface. All over Amsterdam on Dec 5th.

  12. Previously posted on the wrong thread.

    idealist7071, December 23, 2012 at 9:54 am


    Do you believe that we have a Sinterklaus here sponsored by CocaCola???
    Who told you that? Or are you trying to prevent a comment from this end?
    We don”t even have any sort of fat man who delivers the presents. Only something called Tomten, a non-human dwarf-like being, who uses a large goat to bear his bags. Coca-cola is not a popular Yule drink. That will be glogg, sockerdrycke, eller Apotekarn’s own with no alcohol. But the little nubbe of vodka, spiced or not, will not be far from hand.

    Mark Esposito,
    Glad whatever you are celebrating. And for the legend.
    It at least exhibits a rich bishop giving at least a part to the needy.
    Something missing in America.

    Saint Nicholaus fame confirms by its strength how rare such a deed was and is today.

  13. Given the history of homo sapiens, and for the sake of balance alone, symbols exist today to be openly mocked and little else. Uncle Sam? Please, Santa? Industrialization tipped THAT one over, and the info age did him in. That chic holding the scales with the blindfold? Cover up her breasts for gods’s sake! And don’t get me staaaaded on the death-cult crucifix.

    What christmas symbolizes best is an unholy greed that shifts billions of dollars around at the end of the year (beginning in September) while permitting things like “homelessness” and “crumbling schools” to continue to exist in our American lexicon the remainder of the year.

    Hard to feel honest wishing anyone well with THAT, certainly not without fingers of accusation raising a righteous “bah, humbug!” in one’s general direction.

    That said, do enjoy your time off work. You’ve earned about 10 times that amout of vacation given how the wealthy have behaved. And chocolate will help with the depression as you remove all those lights, just as we head into the darkest time of the year. There will be NO joy in January, by Circe!

    Both bah and humbug!

  14. Anonymously Yours,

    Thanks for trying. Hope some others also have read the article from Wiki.
    Sweden has adopted some Saints from Christianity but Santa Claus was NOT one of them by any name. Your choice of Wiki article confirms this.
    No Nordic country is included in the article. The wise church decided that we could keep some of our heathen practices.

    Hope you have read my belated comment above.
    Tease away, I thrive on it and pleasured by it too. Ho ho ho ho!

    And that was not our jultomten. He never laughs. Nor drinks Coke.

    Jultomten asks after knocking at the door. “Finns det några snälla barn här?
    (Are there any nice obedient children here?)
    Whereupon all answer “YESSSS”, and presents are presented by name to each small one.

    BTW. the town of Gävle erects in straw, a giant 30 foot high replica of the Tomte Goat every Christmas season. And they try to protect it but each year some vandal succeeds in setting it on fire before Christmas Eve.

  15. rafflaw1, December 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

    St Nick epitomizes the true meaning of Christmas and I has nothing to do with Christ. But it has everything to do with Christianity.

    In reality the giving in the name of charity and the needs of the less fortunate stretches back in the three major religions and Buddhism. In Judaism earliest, as Christ was a jew, and this was in the Torah long before Jesus.

    But I guess you knew this.

    Make happy use of your legends and celebrate as all heathens have, the living completion of a year, and the soon ending of the winter’s meager rations. The midwinter feast was the last sacrifice obliged to gods as thanks for the growing seasons surplus and to lighten our mood in the darkness.

  16. Good story! But I also enjoy the other views as well. The question is how did we get from the story of st. Nick to Christmas (celebration of Christ’s birth) to the giving-gifts-program of family members and friends via Santa Claus (I even heard one Christian pastor state that if you switch the letters in the word Santa you get Satan. Hence, he believed, that Satan came in and stole the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ by replacing it with Santa Claus)?

    Happy Holidays to all!

  17. Ah Mark,

    You write a little essay, in tune with the holiday season and providing an anecdote that most don’t know. The response from many of our beloved cynics here is to respond as “Grinches” and “Bah Humbug” you in turn. Sometimes, I think, we can just let ourselves be caught up in a time that brings family and friends together in hoped for closeness and sharing. We’re a perceptive group here and I think most of us understand that forces of commercialization have created mythology to up their bottom line, while de-naturing Christmas of its meaning. In the end though, for many people this is a good/memorable time of year and even I as a Jew who doesn’t participate in Christmas, have many cherished memories of Christmas past spent with Christian friends and loved ones. Lighten up Y’All and have a good holiday.:)

  18. On the subject of symbols: A friend of my kids’ was a little girl whose mom was Catholic and father was Native American (Nez Perce I think) and they were working class Oregonians. A portrait of Chief Joseph hung in their living room. They had a huge Bible on a side table, open most of the time to a color plate of Moses holding up the tablets with the ten commandments. They had a picture of Jesus apparently speaking at the Sermon on the Mount — that one was probably in the kitchen but I can’t remember. And at Christmas they hung a big jolly Santa Claus face over their fireplace.

    One night when the girl was spending the night with us (in our unadorned little apartment with no gods in sight), she and my kid began quite an argument over whether there could be more than one god, or whether there had to be ONLY ONE. Guess which side the little girl took? ONLY ONE. My kid insisted there could be many and in fact that based on probabilities, there were what he called “agazillion!” The argument got quite heated.

    I later found out that the girl thought those four pictures were all pictures of god at different times in his life!

  19. Thomas More imprisoned and executed people for reading the buybull in English, among other brutalities.

    Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (the so-called “mother teresa”) ran so-called “hospitals” where there was little or no medical care, where HIV/AIDS was spread through reused needles, while she got first class care at the best hospitals. And she willingly accepted money she knew was stolen (e.g. US$20 million from James Keating), refusing to return it to its rightful owners.

    Pope Pius XII gave the green light for Adolf Hitler to commit mass murder without criticism.

    What do all three have in common? Two are catholic “saints” and third is being pushed for.

    Being named a “saint” is as much a popularity contest and historical revisionism as anything else. Given how many instances of rewriting history there are (e.g. was Valentinus even a catholic? some say no) any claims of “good acts” by Nicolas are dubious.

    People who are ethical and moral figured it out on their own. They didn’t become so because of religion. More often than not, they learnt to be ethical and moral despite their religion.

  20. MikeS,

    We were light Mike. Otherwise we would have crucified Mark on the cross of commercialization. And taking a Christian legend even if he is St. Nick was in poor taste IMHO. He could have couched it as “his” story, but seems always inclined to preach what he thinks as gospel.
    Maybe he THOUGHT that he was giving us a warming legend to lighten the year end with. And with Rafflaw’s help telling us what Christianity had patent on. JC himself would be embarrassed by both of them And where was GeneH to correctly inform us on how it really was with early Christianity. Gene has done this before at least a couple of times.

    Many took it as another example of Christian proselytizing.
    As one asked, where did St Nick GET HIS MONEY? No answer came from Mark.

    Now Jesus came off his high horse and sat and mingled as equals with sodomites, parasites, whores, tax collectors and even his religious enemies.
    All whom were willing to break bread with him, which was forbidden in Jewish tradition at that time.

    That was one of the chief meanings of Jesus message I have read.
    Some Christians here at JT still can not practice it.

    The same message is in the real miracle of the bread and fishes. It was sitting down with complete strangers which was the miracle, not the loaves and fishes division. You must know the contemporary social and religious conditions to appreciate the true meaning of that miracle.

    And I am not a learned man, only one who learns quickly a little of all things.
    Which is good at times but useless in hospitals. 😉 😉 😉

    Just to show how little respect for Mark, most GBs stand by to answer questions. Where is Mark today? And why you of all, Ahhhh, the oil that quietens the waves. Good on ya’.

    I love you all here. You have become my family, but can’t tolerate ALL your bad habits. And why should I when you MikeS and Nick can practice ballbusting with love and affection.

    I can still see Messpo’s work without instant reaction. Some stuff is good. But why should all say Hallelujah just because he is THINKING mistakenly that he is spreading Christian cheer.

    Blah, and that was not grinchy. Just a little friendly ballbusting between members of the human family.

    God Jul allesammans. Och ett gott nytt år också.
    Bara många leenden, god mat och en nubbe eller två för mycket.

  21. The giving of gifts at Christmas time in the spirit of Nicholas is a worthy tradition and one of which I hardily approve. The giver tries his/her best to figure out what the recipient would like or need, purchases or makes the gift then, through the spirit of Nicholas, anonymously gives (from Santa Claus). It’s thoughtful, given without expectations of reciprocation, and meant to bring happiness … Homo sapiens at their best.

    It’s an outward and visible sign of an inward, and for some, spiritual thought and not a bad way to slowly introduce children to the concept of giving without thought of getting. I have many little decorated plaster hand prints, braided dough wreaths, baked in the oven “stained glass” ornaments, crookedly woven pot-holders … all made by tiny hands and proudly presented to parents and grandparents as “beautiful” pieces to brighten their day … nothing is expected in return for the joy was in making and presenting and then watching the smiles that appear on the faces of the recipients.

    Giving, not getting, is the name of the game and that’s how we use Nicholas (Santa Claus) in our family.

    And then, of course, there is gluttony …😉

  22. Santa is not Christian, he is pagan. An elf, in fact the king of the elves, with magic flying reindeer and sleigh, the pine tree and mistletoe are the pagan symbols of immortality (green in the winter), the decorations, most will recall, were once candles, fire was important to pagans. Bringing a tree into the home for good luck during the Winter solstice, and decorating it to please the wood spirit with finery, is a purely pagan ritual, there is nothing in the Bible about it.

    All the decorations, gifts, stars, and nature-worship of the beauty of winter plants and snow and icicles is pagan. Another big part of paganism is the propitiation of spirits, which is how the gift-giving tradition began and the tradition of leaving a snack for Santa (and in some traditions, his hungry reindeer).

    Whatever Christian stories one hears about Santa Claus, true or not, they are adaptations to fit a mythology or true anecdote into the Pagan ritual and mythology; even the date is derived from the Pagan celebration of the Winter solstice.

    Santa, his elves, his reindeer, the tree, the mistletoe, the gift giving, the magic, the lights and candles and stars, the snowmen, all of it is Pagan nature worship. Which is fine by me, as long as they stay away from blood sacrifice I think nature worship is pretty harmless fun. I love Christmas, in my atheist way.

  23. Elaine,

    Portion control … portion control …

    Oh for the days of my youth when simple metabolism took care of over indulgence!

  24. I thought Elrond was the king of the elves? Of course it’d be a totally different holiday if he was used. He’s more butt kicker than gift giver.

  25. The article said that Nicolas guy died in 3 hundred something CE. What is CE? A.D. is After Death. Is CE Christ Expired?
    The Catolics are the grinches that stole December from the pagans and jews about the time this guy croaked, when the Pope moved the Birthday from July to Dec 25th. I think that some Xtians were being discriminated against and this was a way to celebrate amongst the other religions in Dec. The xmas tree thing was stolen from the Krauts. God only knows where the reindeer came in. Or the trolls. Little Schwarte Peet is a good touch.

    I personally think that it was a bad idea to have Santa coming down the chimney on Christ’s BD. Separation of church and total fantasy is important to keep up some semblance of believeability in the xtian confabulations about holy trinity, immaculate conception, sand through the hourglass, Capt. Courageous, and Black Friday for Macy’s. So the Dec 5th Sinter Klaas Day makes some sense. Because when the kids grow up and realize that the Santa thing was a farce they might question the immaculate conception thing and the rest of the malarkey except perhaps Black Friday or Schwarte Peet. Or the after xmas sales at Macys. Or the Fiscal Cliff on New Years Eve.

  26. Blouise,

    Has your spellchecker gone bad? I didn’t expect a mistake from you.
    Check line two in your praise of Nicholas.

    And a merry one to whatever you celebrate. It is family and friends that count. Giving and not getting. When did we last hear that in secular confines?

    Amen, which works for muslims and jews as well.

    And we atheists who believe in a lonely mankind can also join in in the feeling, for even we have families, friends, and joy in giving.

    Now each to his own circle, bearing tidings of joy of a coming Spring.

    God jul, allesammans. Repeat after me: Goooooood Jul.

  27. Keep the atheist flag flying! You don’t need no stinkin’ flag? You say the lonely stars will do, and will be here long after our sun has consumed us.

    Cosmology teaches a lot, among other things it teaches you to be humble.
    We need more of that, and common sense.

    We were launched from Africa. We may need to retire there. 5,000 meters from the surface, cultivating our mushrooms like like termites there.
    But the termites need carbohydrates as base material. What will we use.
    Mineral eating microbes may be our last diet. Goodby cruel corporations.

  28. Itchin: A.D. is “anno domini” meaning “Year of the Lord” meaning since the birth of Christ. It had nothing to do with Death. As P Smith says, C.E. is Common Era, and BCE is before Common Era.

  29. @Idealist: But why not give a gift to each other each day of the year.

    Because then it becomes diluted and loses any special significance.

  30. TonyC,

    I believed that before. Relationships get stale. But now hope that by using your best you will find a “gift” needed by these persons, each and every day.
    Your children develop, they become new persons very often, with new needs. You and your wife (speaking in conventional terms) also may develop separately and together. See who else is worth the effort. Take it as an exercise in love-giving for your own sake.

    See if you can. And thanks for the question.

  31. TonyC,

    As it is now, we end up putting too high an emphasis and expectations on this season. We are not ourselves and others are full of the “spirit” and expectations. It provides opportunities for old grievances to come up, hopes being smashed, etc.

    We should practice more often. Once was according to some American dreams was Sunday dinner together and afterwards. What has replaced that on the mass menu; Sunday football or what?

  32. I was taught that “BC” was “before Christ,” that AD was “Anno Domini” meaning “in the year of our Lord [thus counting years since the birth of Christ]” and that BCE and CE were, respectively, “before common era” and “common era,” respectively. So when they dug up those coins with pictures of faces on them and the date stamped “412 BC” I knew they were fakes!

  33. I am glad that someone pointed out the Common Era thing. A.D. was getting a bit old. And B.C. Before Christmas is a bit much. The other day there was a sign saying “B.C. Sale!” at Macy’s. I had to explain to some kid that it was BarkinDog’s Customer Sale. He did not want to listen to a dog. I did not have the education to explain Common Era. C.E. Clearly Erotic. I show my ignorance every day on this blog. By doing so I point out the errors of your ways– you humanoids that is. Dogs who read this blog are err less. or E.L.

  34. The dogpack is gonna pick a day in mid July and celebrate Christ’s real birthday. We are calling it CBD. Santa wont fall down the chimney, Macy’s wont have no sales, stockings wont get stuffed, reindeer will be resting in the fields, and kids wont be saying no prayers for presents. Nope. We will be giving thanks for two thousand thirteen years of evolution and darwinian development of the dog species. Further schmuckma I will not elaborate on at this time of year.
    But one more question for the blogsters. If humanoids of christian faith date our years from the time of his death then why is new years day just a week or so after Christ’s wrongly cited birthday. If it is A.D. then why is not New Years Day the day of his hanging on the cross? Or are we Seventh Day Adventists?
    These things are confusing. Just a dog thinking out loud here.

  35. Mark, your article was incorporated into this morning’s 5th grade Bible study:

    I asked the kids what are some of the things your first think of when you her the word “Christmas,” and one of the answers was Santa Clause. So I ask what do you know about Santa Clause?

    From the three smallest and sweetest girls in the class, one after the other —

    “He’s kinda creepy. He has a watch list.”

    “And he breaks into people’s houses.”

    “And he watches you sleep.”

    Oh, my goodness! Santa, the Perv. How scary has the world become for kids?

    I followed up with the story of Saint Nicholas and a video a the scripture reading from A Charlie Brown Christmas. No way can I do it as well as Linus.

  36. Guys,
    When I interview new hires for law enforcement agencies, I have a standard speech I give them. I usually show them two or three YouTube videos like this one. Then warn them that if they do something that makes them the star of a YouTube video, it will make me look bad, and I will not hesitate to jerk their certification as an LEO in a heartbeat.

  37. Woosty:

    That situation was pathetic. I read the Criminal Mischief Section, and under Texas law they had probable cause to arrest the man, but my god, if there was ever a case of using a little discretion this was one of them. It would have been a lot better to just tell them to wipe off the writings when they were done and call it good.

  38. Jesus was born years earlier than thought, claims Pope
    The entire Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation, the Pope has declared, as he claims in a new book that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly believed.

    The Pope also weighs in on the debate over Christ’s birthplace Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
    By Nick Squires, Rome
    4:02PM GMT 21 Nov 2012
    The ‘mistake’ was made by a sixth century monk known as Dionysius Exiguus or in English Dennis the Small, the 85-year-old pontiff claims in the book ‘Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives’, published on Wednesday.

    “The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in the book, which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies.

    “The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.”

    The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC.

    But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking.

    Related Articles
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    20 Nov 2012
    Pope names first Native American saint
    21 Oct 2012
    Pope Benedict XVI prays in Arabic for the first time
    10 Oct 2012
    Pope’s butler was trying to protect Benedict XVI from ‘wolves’
    08 Oct 2012

    Dennis the Small, who was born in Eastern Europe, is credited with being the “inventor” of the modern calendar and the concept of the Anno Domini era.

    He drew up the new system in part to distance it from the calendar in use at the time, which was based on the years since the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian.

    The emperor had persecuted Christians, so there was good reason to expunge him from the new dating system in favour of one inspired by the birth of Christ.

    The monk’s calendar became widely accepted in Europe after it was adopted by the Venerable Bede, the historian-monk, to date the events that he recounted in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which he completed in AD 731.

    But exactly how Dennis calculated the year of Christ’s birth is not clear and the Pope’s claim that he made a mistake is a view shared by many scholars.

    The Bible does not specify a date for the birth of Christ. The monk instead appears to have based his calculations on vague references to Jesus’s age at the start of his ministry and the fact that he was baptised in the reign of the emperor Tiberius.

    Christ’s birth date is not the only controversy raised by the Pope in his new book – he also said that contrary to the traditional Nativity scene, there were no oxen, donkeys or other animals at Jesus’s birth.

    He also weighs in on the debate over Christ’s birthplace, rejecting arguments by some scholars that he was born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.

    John Barton, Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oriel College, Oxford University, said most academics agreed with the Pope that the Christian calendar was wrong and that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly thought, probably between 6BC and 4BC.

    “There is no reference to when he was born in the Bible – all we know is that he was born in the reign of Herod the Great, who died before 1AD,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s been surmised for a very long time that Jesus was born before 1AD – no one knows for sure.”

    The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact. “We don’t even know which season he was born in. The whole idea of celebrating his birth during the darkest part of the year is probably linked to pagan traditions and the winter solstice.”

    BarkinDog is gonna celebrate Xmas on the 25th and Christ;s Birthday on July 4th. That is playing some safe bets.

  39. Woosty’s video post was disturbing.
    Thet the arrested had no right to be informed of the charge.
    That there could be seen no evidence from earlier bystanders that he had committed a crime.
    That one older policeman went around video filming bystanders at close facial range. This implies that the informtion was recorded ´not only for face recognition but for iriis identification. Since they were not registered by name and address this will still be used for investigtive purposes as eye camera use will spread in the cities.

    Good luck folks.

  40. Google it Humpin dog. She died a matyr in ME. Here she wears a white robe eith a long red sash symbolizing her blood spilled. She wears a crown of wreath made with winter green plants, topped with six (?) liit candles.

    Her song, which opens the ceremony in schools, hospitals homes for the older, and for the Nobel prize winners, is a beatfiful mysterious one in solemn cadence: She is accompanied by white clad “virgins and “star boy with pointed caps who all sing in chorus. It is done when darkness reigns and her light is very symbolic and the whole is beloved here.

    Am sure you can find a good one of YouTube.

  41. This post is very informative especially to those who have been wanting to know what the true history of St. Nick–a good read on Christmas eve. Thank you for this post! Merry Christmas!

  42. This post is very informative especially to those who want to know what the true history of St. Nick is–a good read on Christmas Eve. Thanks for this post! Merry Christmas!

  43. Oro:

    Mark, your article was incorporated into this morning’s 5th grade Bible study”


    Thanks, Oro. It’s the best use of a post I can imagine.

  44. SwM,

    Thanks for that example.
    The mass of Christ is now become Father Christmas. Not even St. Nicholas is here. But to each their own. Just as long as the spirit is right.

    Hope you next swing in Eire will be a soon and happy one.

  45. I believe that even many will be inspired, moved, and enlightened by this post on CNN about Saint Nicholas.

    Messpo’s space was limited, but media offers both space and at times good quality.
    Written by an associalte professor, who is also author of a book devoted to finding Saint Nicholas in history and his place in our culturrd.
    An excellent article to put into the hands of children ready to master it and be entertained.

    I will not mention the best parts (the myrrh of St Nicholas, etc) but will mention how popular his is. Only St Mary has more churches dedicated than he, and he is post-bibilical.

    His message endures today, and is the spirit behind our giving, even to strangers with ho expectation of recompense.

  46. All well and good, a cute folk story, but isn’t it time for people to give up beliefs of supernatural creation, of religion-based concepts of sin and evil, and to face the reality of an existing world not “created’ by imagined forces?

  47. edward,

    Although some here do believe that good entered the world with the advent of Christianity, many also recognize that this is a legend of a man who saw the needs of others, and satistied them anonymously.
    He did it as one human thing to do for other humans.

    Fortunately for we humans, this has been around a long time.

    As for god bashing and other sports, come back another day. We have those sessions too.

    My only objection to the blog was that it was too much Christianity centered, which is natural since St Nick is one. But let’s don’t let any sect take away our human birthright—-from those who wish to help others. It is in our genes.

  48. Offered as a gift to all. as is the meaning behind the essay from the NYTimes.

    Frank Bruni
    Op-Ed Columnist
    These Wretched Vessels
    Published: December 24, 2012

    I asked a friend of mine what she wanted for Christmas.
    “Botox,” she said, joking, but not entirely. She hates the deepening creases in her forehead, the age in her face. She wishes she looked younger, prettier and, of course, thinner. She has vowed to exercise more and eat healthier in the New Year. Haven’t we all?

    It sometimes seems to me that one-third of the conversations I have with the people around me — most of us privileged and to varying degrees pampered — concern physical plaints: the love handles that won’t be whittled, the hairline in retreat, the knees crying foul over decades of running, the crow’s-feet heralding the end of our salad days and the beginning of — what? Our wilting? If we don’t feel bad about our necks, we feel bad about plenty else.

    And even when I was younger, I heard or participated in no shortage of similar talks. From the time we become fully aware of our bodies, so many of us are at ceaseless war with them. We obsess over their imperfections. We will them into different contours and hues. And we line the coffers of beauty purveyors, as if attaining some carnal ideal could confer contentment.

    I think about this whenever I reflect on one of my favorite movies from 2012. I saw it about three months ago, at a screening before its theatrical release, and it has stayed with me since, not so much for its artistic worth — though it’s amply worthy — as for its spiritual merit.

    That probably makes it sound sappy, which it is, just a bit. It’s also a chamber piece, not a symphony, and it’s performed in a minor key.

    But this movie, “The Sessions,” has as much to say about the human experience as grander, more lavishly praised and more widely discussed productions like “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” And part of what it says is that our bodies are not ourselves. That we can be dealt a set of imperfections — of crushingly severe limitations, in fact — and nonetheless transcend them, with some help and some luck and, above all, some grit. That we can look as far beyond the flesh that we’ve inherited as we resolve to, and that fulfillment is a mind-set, at least in many cases and to some extent.

    “The Sessions” tells the real-life story of Mark O’Brien, a writer who was afflicted with polio in his childhood and, as a result, was mostly paralyzed from the neck down. He was tiny, too: just 4-foot-7 as a fully grown man, and about 60 pounds. He spent his nights in an iron lung, which helped him breathe. When he ventured out during the day, he did so either in a specialized wheelchair or on a kind of gurney. There were indeed places he couldn’t go and things he couldn’t do.

    But at some point he decided that one thing he would do was have sex. He advertised for a girlfriend on his Web page, wryly noting, “There will be no walks on the beach.” Ultimately, he visited a sex surrogate. “The Sessions” focuses on that interlude and relationship, rendered so unblinkingly that the movie is all too easy to see only as a parable of sexual awakening and an account of an unconventional liaison.

    What “The Sessions” illuminates is bigger than that. It shows an individual insisting on experiences and pleasures outside the limits of what, because of his physical form, he’s supposed to envision for himself and others envision for him. For example, O’Brien, who died in 1999 at the age of 49, couldn’t type or write longhand, but through dictation and the movement of a stick with his mouth he put word to paper and fashioned a career as a journalist and poet. And, if the movie is credible, he found joy.

    There are countless ways for our bodies to betray us and, in the more charmed precincts of the world, a woeful lack of perspective in assessing which of those ways are consequential and which merely warrant minor annoyance, if that. There’s also a widespread failure to grasp the happiness-dooming futility of endless yearnings for transformations beyond what diet and exercise are rightly prescribed for and can reasonably accomplish. Beyond what’s healthy and sensible and proportional.

    We’re so much more than these wretched vessels that we sprint or swagger or lurch or limp around in, some of them sturdy, some of them not, some of them objects of ardor, some of them magnets for pity. We should make peace with them and remain conscious of that, especially at this particular hinge of the calendar, when we compose a litany of promises about the better selves ahead, foolishly defining those selves in terms of what’s measurable from the outside, instead of what glimmers within.

  49. I hope nobody needs hospital care now, but if you’re hospital shopping, here’s one someone says a good word for. It is the Cleveland Clinic. (Comment Blouise). Here in the NYTimes:

    A few questions still in my mind:

    How rare is multi-disciplinary care in hospital?. Hopefully many offer it.
    We are still lacking a total responsibility for the female system, even within cancer care. So we need improving here.
    Costs for Medicare compared to others could reflect a lot of factors, not just quality as implied.

    Being rated as a “Rising Star! without knowing more about context sounds like at best a very relative boast without info about context.

    Their system of yearly contracts with data-based evaluation of doctors sounds good, but generally short term contracts with less security of employment ends up costing more in salary per individual…….but if it improves quality it must be good.

    Just a tip, it is your choice.

  50. ID707,

    Your link to the video about Mr. Wright was beautiful and I am forwarding to my friends who are both teachers and parents.

    As for the link regarding the Cleveland Clinic’s Multidisciplinary approach it does seem to be the way to go. You and I have both been treated for serious ailments and have both spent time in hospitals. I don’t know the system in Sweden, but I do know the system in the U.S. having been an inpatient in many hospitals through the years. I could go into graphic details, but suffice it to say I could have been saved much grief and pain had there been a multi-disciplinary team treating me, rather than specialists called in only when the need had turned to crisis.

  51. As my last XMAS post, I want to help those who, like myself, don’t know nuthin’ bout birthing babies OR choosing vacation travel via use of Internet.

    We knew it was a hard world out there. Seldom do we here get a report from a small business on how working with big companies can go.
    Amazing how small print in the contract, which seem reasonable and fair, can be used and used and used to ruin you, your rep, etc.

    Read and weep. Next time it will be you. Or you sitting in court as a defendant and not being wired to a good lawyer, and the prosecutor cum judge wants you to use their “defense to your detriment.

    The last paragraph idea is stolen without permission.

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