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Editor, The Konformist
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Why is Christmas Day on the 25th December?
Prithvi of Bangalore
No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn't happen in the year 1AD but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2BC and 7BC (there isn't a 0AD - the years go from 1BC to 1AD!).
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.
There are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th - and it's still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult. December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December around this date - so it was a time when people already celebrated things.
The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens on December 21st or 22nd. To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from. In Eastern europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda. The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means 'birthday of the unconquered sun' and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the 'birthday' of the Pagan Sun god Mithra. In the pagan religion of Mithraism, the holy day was Sunday and is where get that word from!
Early Christians might have given this festival a new meaning - to celebrate the birth of the Son of God 'the unconquered Son'! (In the Bible a prophesy about the Jewish savior, who Christians believe is Jesus, is called 'Sun of Righteousness'.)
The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion. Jesus was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas!
Christmas had also been celebrated by the early Church on January 6th, when they also celebrated the Epiphany (which means the revelation that Jesus was God's son) and the Baptism of Jesus. Now the Epiphany mainly celebrates the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, but back then it celebrated both things! Jesus's Baptism was originally seen as more important than his birth, as this was when he started his ministry. But soon people wanted a separate day to celebrate his birth.
Most of the world uses the 'Gregorian Calendar' implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that the 'Roman' or Julian calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar is more accurate that the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year! When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582. In the UK the change of calendars was made in 1752. The day after 2nd September 1752 was 14th September 1752.
Many Orthodox and Coptic Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. And the Armenian Church celebrates it on the 6th January! In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called 'Old Christmas' as this would have been the day that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn't been changed. Some people didn't want to use the new calendar as they thought it 'cheated' them out of 11 days!
Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, so the early Christians thought that this was the right time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They also took over some of the customs from the Winter Solstice and gave them Christian meanings, like Holly, Mistletoe and even Christmas Carols!
St Augustine was the person who really started Christmas in the UK by introducing Christianity in the 6th century. He came from countries that used the Roman calendar, so western countries celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Then people from Britain and Western Europe took Christmas on the 25th December all over the world!
The name 'Christmas' comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The 'Christ-Mass' service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight! So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.
And EW's Entertainer of the Year is... Ben Affleck!
Having captivated moviegoers both in front of and behind the camera with Argo, Ben Affleck earned the number one spot on our annual list of the most talented and original performers who entertained us in 2012.
Fifteen years after he bounded onto the Hollywood scene in 1997's Good Will Hunting, the 40-year-old Affleck is now older and wiser and may very well be headed back to the Oscar stage for his political thriller about the real-life covert CIA mission that freed six diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis. "I had very low expectations for Argo`s performance," says the leading man-turned-director. "I just hoped that over time people would find the movie. Also, being at a place in my life and my career where I know what I'm trying to do, it's different than being 26. When you're younger and have the early success that I had it sounds like the worst Hallmark cliche but I didn't have anyone to share it with. I don't mean I wanted someone to sit by the fire with. But when you have a family and children, you kind of see yourself reflected in them. I want to make the kinds of movies that my kids are proud of. I have higher standards, in a way, for them."
Not that everyone back at the Affleck household was thrilled about his shaggy '70s Method hairdo and beard. Says Affleck of his wife Jennifer Garner's reaction: "My wife is a very polite and kind woman. She and the kids did not like the beard. It had an exposed wire vibe. It was hated in my home."
Argo producer George Clooney also weighs in on Affleck's triumphant return to the A-list after a decade of ups and downs. "Hollywood loves a comeback, and he's an unbelievable comeback kid."
"Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game."
North Dallas Forty
YouTube Hits of the Week
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Buy the DVD from Amazon: http://amzn.to/OdkGiS
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the USA, and was sponsored by General Electric under the umbrella title of The General Electric Fantasy Hour.
The Rubik's Cube That Isn't
November 29, 2012
This is your brain making things up.
What you see isn't really there.
Even if I tell you "this isn't what you think," you'll think it anyway until I make a simple move, and suddenly you know.
These illusions were created by an artist who calls himself Brusspup. What he does is an exercise in anamorphosis, a conjuring trick that takes advantage of how our brains make sense of the world. If you know how, you can create an image which makes no sense until the viewer happens onto a particular and it's a very particular spot. Once the viewer finds the right angle the only place where he or she can see what the artist intended suddenly, boom!- the drawing leaps into three dimensions.
That's because in that precise location, the brain is presented with an impossible, contradictory set of inputs that it automatically reassembles into a coherent illusion. You know it's not true all you have to do is step an inch off your position but when it's there, it seems uncannily real...
W.C. Fields in "Home Movie"
W.C. Fields at the home he rented in 1928 while appearing in Earl Carroll's Vanities, 7th Edition. The house shown in the film at 15 Dunster Road, Great Neck, New York on Long Island looks much the same today as it did in 1928.
The NFL's Coming Conflict on Canibus
Dave Zirin on November 29, 2012
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, is an outsized caricature of a 21st century pro sports boss. He's a 75-year-old Republican Party mega-donor, who made his fortune by selling his energy corporation to Enron in 1999 (give him credit for timing.) That's what's made Mr. McNair's comments earlier this week all the more interesting. After saying he would never have a "persistent user of drugs" on his beloved Houston Texans, McNair made a point to add, "I'm not talking about someone who smoked marijuana."
This might sound about as radical as a Brooklyn Without Limits t-shirt, but for decades the NFL officialdom has discussed marijuana and players who "do pot" like they were bit players from Reefer Madness. In this light, McNair's statement is something more than tacit acceptance of something players have been doing for decades. It's connected to weed's recent legal emergence from "the cannabis closet."
State referenda earlier this month legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Colorado and Washington State. These votes threaten to raise a massive legal and public relations headache for the NFL. Two of their teams, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, now play in states where marijuana is legal. This could have implications for where players may choose to go for free agency as well as how players desire to treat their injuries. As a top player who asked to remain anonymous said to me, "I'd rather use marijuana edibles or vaporizer to manage pain over prescription pain pills. Much less addictive and less harmful to kidneys and liver."
The NFL is trying to nip this, please pardon the expression, in the bud. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello didn't even let the Election Night confetti fall to the floor before he told USA Today, "The NFL's policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades. Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program. The Colorado and Washington laws will have no impact on the operation of the policy." In addition, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal made it even more crystal clear: "Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have been warned. `It's legal' won't be a valid excuse."
Aiello's statements sound very iron-clad. The problem is that even by the NFL's own guidelines, they are not actually true. As Mike Florio on profootballtalk.com pointed out, "The policy prohibits only the "illegal use" of marijuana. While players may not abuse legal substances like alcohol, legal drugs and alcohol may be used."
Aiello is of course correct that marijuana is on the banned substance list, the content of which is collectively bargained with the NFL Players Association. However, the other legal prescription and non-prescription drugs on that list like ephedrine and adderall have a performance-enhancing as well as a health-endangering component. They can help you train harder, put a brutal strain on your heart, and, if taken outside a doctor's care, very dangerous. Unless your name is Joey Chestnut and your goal is winning a hot dog eating championship, there is no "performance enhancing" aspect to ingesting weed, and unless your munchies preference involves saturated fats and cholesterol, your heart will be just fine.
Unspoken, amidst the jokes about Denver truly playing in Mile High Stadium, is the fear in the NFL's front office, that they don't want player's smoking for the simple reason that it would be a public relations nightmare. In the bizarre macho ethos of the NFL, alcoholism is ignored, pain killer abuse is encouraged, and other violent, off-field behavior is winked at because these are byproducts of the kinds of destructive masculinity that the NFL markets every Sunday. Marijuana, in contrast, is for hippies, beatniks, and long-hairs.
In reality, weed wouldn't turn NFL players into extras from Hair.. Players will use marijuana either to wind down after a game, as a healthier, less addictive alternative to alcohol, or as a way to manage their pain. This is last point is particularly explosive for the NFL. Amidst lawsuits, suicides, and documentaries, there is unprecedented attention being paid to the physical toll players have to endure, particularly concussion and brain injury. In addition to pain management, medical marijuana is recommended for headaches, light-sensitivity, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite - all of which are concussion symptoms. The idea that the league would deny a player their legal pain relief of choice seems barbaric. It's their pain and their right to treat it however they see fit.
One active NFL veteran who lives in a state where there is legal medicinal marijuana said to me, "A part of me always wanted to be the first player to test positive, then be able to present [Roger Goodell with] a prescription from my physician and dare him [to do something]."
A player will emerge to challenge the NFL's policy on grounds that it inhibits their ability to treat their own pain. The NFL will almost certainly go Reefer Madness in response. The NFL thinks they'll have the public on their side but they might be in for a rude awakening. Maybe Bob McNair can meet Roger Goodell is Seattle, roll a fat joint and say, "Goodie? You need to chill the hell out."
Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming "Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the SportsWorld Upside Down" (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@.... Contact him at edgeofsports@....