By Herbert Vego
IN a previous column, this writer wrote of the origin of Christmas according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The church in Rome began formally celebrating Christmas on December 25 in 336, during the reign of the emperor Constantine. As Constantine had made Christianity the effective religion of the empire, some have speculated that choosing this date had the political motive of weakening the established pagan celebrations.”
The same source added that the pagans had been celebrating December 25 as the birthday of Saturnalia, also known as Ba-al or Sol, the sun god.
Jesus could not have been born on a manger on that date, however, because it was freezing winter in his birthplace, Bethlehem.
This time, let us focus on another ironic use of the white snow to understand the origin of white Christmas.
Very few know that it was not a Christian but an American Jew, Irving Berlin, who composed one of the most popular Christmas songs, White Christmas – first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1942.
Berlin must have imbibed the idea from the famous English novelist, Charles Dickens, who, in 1843 had written his most famous classic, A Christmas Carol, which illustrated the imagery of a snowy Christmas.
Christmas has become so popular that opposition to its authenticity is no longer taken seriously even if Bible scholars agree that Jesus could not have been born in the year 4 B.C.
Haven’t we all wondered why history books state 4 B.C. as Jesus’ birth year? How could he have been born four years ahead of his birthday?
The historians themselves recognize the obvious error as having sprung from calendar maker Dionysius Exiguus, who reckoned in the 6th century that Christ was born 754 years after the founding of Rome. It later turned out he was four years off in dating the year of Christ’s birth.
That first “mass of Christ” in 336 AD was aimed at converting Sol’s believers into Christianity without discarding their cherished 12 days of feast, merry-making and gift-giving. The church fathers at that time had no choice but tolerate the inebriation and free sex that new converts had been accustomed to.
With the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 16th century, the followers of Martin Luther (a German) and John Calvin (a Swiss) initially questioned the propriety of celebrating Christmas because of its inaccurate date and its pagan origin. A Puritan named William Prynne made a determined effort to abolish Christmas, compelling the government of Scotland to forbid it in 1593. It was also decreed illegal by Commonwealth England in the years 1649 to 1660. The Puritan tirade lasted over a century in Scotland and England.
In spite of anti-Christmas pamphlets, sermons, speeches and even incarcerations of celebrators, the Puritan wish eventually vanished. Since then, the symbols of Christmas have mushroomed.
The mistletoe — a parasitic shrub that grows on oak trees and is still the most distinguished Christmas decoration in the United States and Europe – was a Saturnalian “protector against infertility, disease and poison.”
The first Christmas card surfaced only in 1843 when an Englishman, J. C. Horsly, lithographed in color on a thousand copies of stiff cardboard a group of young and old people raising glasses of wine over the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.”
Unfortunately, we can no longer handle today’s Christmas “cards” that reach us via cellular phones and personal computers.
Santa Claus — a living Christmas symbol personified by a bearded, fat, red-robed gift-giver – is a “reincarnation” of Saint Nicholas, a generous 4th-century patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). His evolution from a religious leader to a gift-giver was probably a natural result of the Catholic Church’s desire to deflect Christmas’ Saturnalian origin and appease the Protestants.
On the other hand, there are Christian sects which do not believe in Christmas. If you happen to greet a Jehovah’s Witness “Merry Christmas, he will not echo the same two words but simply smile or thank you.
THE MORE-COMELEC ALLIANCE
AS reported by our young journalist Joseph B.A. Marzan last Friday, a “first for the country” is unfolding with the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Commission on Elections (COMELEC-Iloilo City) and power distributor MORE Electric and Power Corp (MORE Power).
Congrats to MORE president Roel Z. Castro and city election officer Reinier Layson for that MOA aimed at ensuring continuous power supply during the conduct of elections in all 66 polling centers in the city in May 2022.
We wish for a credible election 2022, free from the seven-hour “smartmagic” glitch that marred the senatorial race of 2019 – at least as far as Iloilo City is concerned.
It is actually the second MORE-Comelec partnership. They did it first during the registration of new voters in the third quarter of the year.
Henceforth, Castro told us in a press conference, the Comelec’s informational materials would be attached to bills of 85,000 household and commercial MORE customers.
P/S: The outages caused by super typhoon Odette last Friday resulted in blackout in the city. But the preparedness of linemen to deal with the problem was good enough to restore power in different areas at different times within 24 hours.
The gradual restoration was inevitable because, to quote MORE spox Jonathan Cabrera, “Damo kita poste nga natumba kag mga linya nga nautod bangud sa pagwaswas sang bagyong Odette.”
You and I can imagine how hotter the MORE hotline has become while trying to accommodate thousands of residents reporting about typhoon aftermaths such as leaning poles and disconnected power.
It is no joke for a hundred linemen and utility boys to cope with thousands of rehab jobs ‘round the clock.
No less than President Roel Castro spent a sleepless Thursday night while leading his workforce.
May your tribe increase, Sir Roel. That’s the kind of “leadership by example” that’s hard to find in the corporate world.