Friday, December 28, 2018

Holy Innocents' Day

Carols are the Songs of the Reason for the Season, yes?  So, as such beautiful carols such as "Oh Holy Night," "Silent Night" and "Adeste Fideles" (thanks, juvat, for reminding me of that one) all remind us of His birth, and his birth date, there are other days of Christmas, 12 of them in fact, from Birth (Christmas-Christmas) to the Arrival of the Wise Men (Epiphany).  One of these days of Christmas is not, most assuredly not, a happy day except in only the most Jewish of ways (that is, finding something nice to say about a situation that quite frankly sucks big rocks.)(And anyone who gets upset about calling Jesus a Jew, just remember, He was Jewish till the day He died, and then everybody called him a Christian...(my semi-Jewish wife used that line on her dad when he, the fundamentalist Church of Christ member was yammering about converting to Judaism, it almost killed him when she subsequently became a Catholic.)

Holy Innocents' Day.  The day we celebrate Jesus, Mary and Joseph (and the Holy Ass, no, really, the ass that Mary rode out of Dodge/Bethlehem on, no, seriously, it's a real thing.  There are stupid stories about the holiness of the donkey, can you believe it?  Beans! Solemn day, Solemn DAY!) escaping King Herod and his proclamation to have all the 2 year old and younger male children of Bethlehem put to the sword in a vane attempt to forestall Christ's Coming.  Coupla days late there, bub.

So.  A Holy Day celebrating the Massacre of the Innocents.  Joy, or not, as the case may be.  The Church (that would eventually be the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England and Lutheran as The Church went all broken into bits and pieces over the ages) eventually chose to celebrate it on December 28th, though it was originally rolled into the Epiphany and other Churches choose to celebrate it on other days or not at all depending on who they be and who's in charge at the time.

A day to celebrate the murder of innocent children.  Nice.

It later devolved into a role-reversal day in some places, with children serving roles as adults including officiating masses and such.  Or a day for 'innocents' to play not-so-nice pranks on people and get away with it (kinda like Devil's Night in some big cities up north.)  Or for parents to beat the snot out of their children if they were still asleep when the parents got up (no, really, Church-sanctioned kid-smacking, in the Name of Jesus. Yikes!) or blessing toys or other things.

Soooo... there's a Carol associated with this day, of course.  

"Coventry Carol"

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Sung in a minor key, this is quite the haunting, soulful carol.  Kind of "With Great Joy comes Great Pain" to rip off Stan Lee.

As I grow old, Holy Innocents' Day weighs more and more heavily upon me.  Besides my two older brothers, I have an older sister, who I have never met.  Carolyn was born sickly, with a heart defect and lived for almost a year before she died on December 28th in 1960.  Her death haunted my father for as long as I knew him.  I'm sure it haunts my oldest brother, who actually knew her.  And I know it haunts me.  


Because Christmastime is the season of possibilities.  What can happen in the future.  What has happened in the past.  Mistakes averted, mistakes made.  And the emotional toll of all that baggage.  Which is really what Holy Innocents' Day really is about.  Acknowledging the pain and toll of life, especially the world of the pre-antibiotics and pre-modern medicine, where past 2 years of age the chance of survival climbs incredibly, but 2 and younger?  Just go to any OLD cemetery and count the headstones that just list 'Child' or 'Boy' or 'Girl.'  Subtle hint, there are still lots of countries that seem civilized that don't really track child deaths until around 2yoa.  Still, in this modern world.  There are no assurances of surviving till childhood-childhood.

So, back in really old times, how does a nascent religious movement handle the loss of so many innocent souls?  For all those lost in the past, in the present, in the future...  And, of course, fold in past religions' own festivals and coping methods.  For there is reasonable historical proof that Herod did not in fact order the death of the innocents.  Historical records list a ton of bad stuff that he did.  Killing his own family, putting down insurrections, taxations, land seizures, all that.  No historical proof that Herod killed the young boys of Bethlehem. But... now there's this new religion, and one that preaches salvation to everyone, old, young, saintly, sinner, universal salvation.  Yet there's all these dead innocents everywhere... So.  Holy Innocents' Day.  Where we mourn the loss of so much potential.

For the Innocents lost.  That never got to have Christmas, really.  A good reminder of the terrible toll of times past and present, especially in these new days of resistant strains of the old diseases and waves of un-vaccinated.

A dark day today.  One of loss and reflectance.  But, well, we got a pretty carol out of it.  And it's all happy for the next 8 days until the end of Epiphany and then the long stretch till Lent.


  1. Forecast here is for clearing clouds and emerging sun but all I know now is that it's dusty in here.....a solid post Beans and a heartfelt thanks.

    1. "THE CHRISTMAS STORY" that I grew up in, both in family and in the Roman Catholic Church, is a tad bit different than the one most people know.

      Baby Jesus was born in a cave outside of Bethlehem, then transported upon the H. ass wherein Joseph does the whole "Room please" thing and then there's Holy Innocent's day, really celebrating His birthday one year later when Herod did (or not) the deed because the Wise Men haven't arrived yet because they arrive on Epiphany.

      So... Happy solemn. And then, of course, after reading too much history over the years and letting it all percolate (Did you know one of the leading causes of death in children below 3yoa back in pre-industrial times was... pigs? Mom puts kid in box or cradle outside, pig comes along (free range, of course) and snuffles up a nice treat. Seriously. There's a reason that good cradles sit so high above the ground, or poor people used to use the top drawers of a dresser...)

      Well. Lots of introspection lately. Because Holy Innocent's Day. Time to think about all that's lost, unfulfilled, nevermore. Thankfully it's not totally dark and stormy outside, with the wind howling. Or darker thoughts would impinge upon my minds.

      Glad to educate... Even over the morose.

  2. This is why I have long been appalled by Do You Hear What I Hear. When the shepherd boy visits the mighty king, no one seems to care that the king of Judea was Herod. Not the person you want to pass that information on to.

    1. Why would you assume that Herod is the king referenced in the song? The message from the lowly shepherd boy was to ALL the kings of this Earth. Herod wasn't remotely "mighty," just a sad little puppet of the Roman Empire.

    2. Even if it was Herod, well, as I posted above to Nylon12, Herod didn't do the deed right away. Only after Jesus was born did the seers start to give him the bad news and then he acted at least a year later to do fell deeds. Otherwise it would have just been the death of the newborns.

      Herod is one of those very Shakespearian characters that actually existed. Dude did a lot of good, just the victors wrote the press releases. He gets blamed for doing everything bad, when really he's just trying to do his best (in an egotistical, dictatorshiply way) and the best for the Jews (who at the time were more busy throttling each other than throttling any oppressor (ROME), which is one of the many things that are so right, unfortunately, about "The Life of Brian."

  3. On a whim we will stop into older cemeteries and wander around. It's mostly to say hello to the forgotten vets from long ago, but also to think about how short life used to be.
    Reading the dates on any stone topped with a lamb is a stark reminder of just how much better our lives are today.

    The keyboard is a bit blurry.

    Well done.

    1. Thank you. The world was a much harsher place before Emil von Behring and Shibasaburo Kitasato first created a realistic vaccine. Diptheria was The child killer for a long time in cities. And now it's back...

  4. one thing: nowadays Holy Family would be turned from many countries borders as unwanted refugees...

    1. Nope. Wrong. Sorry to disagree with you, Pawel.

      First Joseph was travelling in his own country for a census, which was a rather more common method than people believe. Herod didn't pull the whole travel to the place of birth thingy out of his butt. It was a time when most people didn't travel more than a day from where they were born.

      As to the Escape to Egypt, well, Joseph was a trained carpenter, with money and a family. So he would have been green carded or given favored immigrant status because he had mad skills and cash, and wasn't going to be a drain upon the social and financial network of Egypt.

      So, well, the Holy Family were accepted refugees. Accepted into a large Jewish community already in existence in Egypt. Some research shows that the period when Jesus goes missing, from early teenagerhood to 29yoa or so, he's actually in school to become a rabbi, a school in Egypt. Weird. Mind blowing things they don't tell you about in Sunday School. So Rabbi Jesus was weird because he wasn't married as a rabbi at 29yoa. Bad boy.

      As to the refugees, did you see the news reports that the ladies in Syria are telling the European countries to kick out all the Syrian men who ran away because they didn't want to be drafted into the military? One of the reasons the country is in such trouble is there is a dearth of young men. Women are having to do everything.

    2. The problem with that whole "would have been turned away" argument is that it assumes that in Anno Domini 1 the legal and political conditions were exactly the same as today.

      Of course, Egypt did expel its Jews in 1956, so, it might could be that they, being Jews, would have been turned away. Just as they would be turned away by almost every Mohammedean country today because they were Jews.

  5. An interesting post Beans. I am ignorant of many of the Catholic Church's traditions and feast days. It's good to learn new things.

    1. As mentioned in a reply, according to the lessons learned when I was growing up. Jesus was born then travelled into Bethlehem for the whole manger scene, where eventually the 3 Wise Men show up. Joseph gets a job, the family is doing fine, seers tell Herod bad things and a year or two later comes the Escape to Egypt with Snake Pliskin… Well, maybe not a one-eyed guy...

      So, well, that was Old School Catholic. I shudder to think of how the SJWs have slaughtered the Holy Story.

  6. Without any historical proof, why then do we have a Holy Innocents' Day? Because it's a tragic story that solidifies the importance of Jesus' birth? For us to think of the infant mortality rate? No, not likely. Seems a bit odd. Another question would be how Christmas got shifted from the 28th to the 25th. Sorry for your family's loss.

    1. Never mind about that second question. I miss-read.

    2. No problem. I've done it to all three of you, posted comments and then gone back and reread and gone 'Duh' which is why being able to delete my comments is so important to me. Since becoming an official poster here, I've deleted and rewritten about 20 or so comments.

      As to how the dates became THE DATES, well, around 428 AD, a bunch of holy chowderheads got together and yammered at each other for a very long time and codified all the miracles and the basic structure of the New Testament and the new religion itself. Dropped were the holy diapers and other stories (Seriously, the Apocrypha has 'gospels' that talk about the healing powers of Jesus' dirty diapers.) So, yeah, lots of arbitrary decisions and dates...

    3. And now we know the origin of the oft-used phrase, Holy sh--well, never mind.
      --Tennessee Budd

  7. Re: infant mortality.
    My family genealogy research turned up a gravestone in Baltimore City Cemetery that marks the resting place of 5 of the 10 children of Simon and Mary Magdalena (nee Ritzheim, my 3rd great-aunt) Martin. They are all buried together, with their resting place marked with a single, quite tall, monument. The carving on the stone tells such a sad story: note the several overlapping dates:

    Hier ruh en ("Here rest")
    geb.[orn "born"] 9 April 1841
    gest.[orben "died"] 13 Okt 1842
    geb. 6 Mai 1840
    gest. 13 März 1846
    geb. 13 März 1847
    gest. 17 Feb 1849
    geb. 9 Jan 1849
    gest. 26 Dec 1851
    geb. 14 Dec 1851
    gest. 18 Jan 1852

    If it breaks my heart every time I look at my photo of that stone, I can't even imagine the heartbreak of that mom & dad....

    1. Yep. Which cheeses me off about all the ghost hunting shows. Of course a family that lived on plot X lost 4 children in horrible accidents and childhood deaths. That's what the past was all about.

      Guys marrying 2, 3 even 4 women, in succession, because of death-during-childbirth or complications therein, or infections from the monthlies or whatever.

      Life really sucked back then.

      My German great-grandfather, Gustav 'Beans', had 7 children with his wife and then he and her died in a cholera outbreak in New Orleans, leaving the kids to the local orphanages.

      And, in a lot of old German cemeteries, there will be a little "Diptherie" in the corner of the grave marker. Lots and lots of grave markers in lots and lots of cemeteries...

      The 'nice' thing about my sister's death was the doctors at the time used her to learn to fix future issues... Some positive out of the negative.

      Can't imagine losing a child during Christmas, or winter. Winter has always been harsh in the north, bringing death and starvation all too often.

      This day is too morose. Must watch Hallmark Christmas movies...

    2. When I visit towns of the Old West - Bodie, Havilah, or even the old sections of cemeteries in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, or Sebastopol, I marvel at, and am saddened by, the family plots with 3, 4, 5, or more graves with but a single date, or an inscription "Age 2 months, 7 days" or "Age 3 days." Often with the grave of a young adult female with a date close to those.

  8. AW: A most informative and thoughtful post. Although you do not have " standing on the tarmac " or deck plates stories, you bring a breadth to an already great blog that increases the greatness.

    Thank you for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks, Paul. Navel Gazing is one of my fortes.

      And, yeah, this is a great blog, isn't it? After all, you comment here. Which means a lot.

  9. We forget what modern miracles vaccines, clean water, good sewers, nutritious food, vitamins, and cheap soap are. As late as 1900, children under the age of 5year old accounted for 30% of the death rate in the United States. Put another way, one out of every 3 children did not live to see their 6th birthday!! The causes were influenza with pneumonia, any GI bug with diarrhea, (and there are a boat-load of those), bacterial infections like strep, "childhood diseases", think measles, mumps, chicken pox, diphtheria, whooping cough, and any congenital malformation to name just a few. Roughly one hundred years later, the death rate for kids is now about 2% of that of the general population.
    That is major progress!

    If that was the death rate in 1900, can you just imagine what it was back in Jesus' time.

    1. Yep. And still to this day there are 2nd world nations that don't really count 2yoa and younger deaths in their life expectancy.

      So now we have smallpox, measles, mumps, diptheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis and all the other kiddie and adult diseases pouring over the southern border, coming in via airplane, and exploding in anti-vaccination communities.

      Oh, and we are now finding out that children raised by vegans are deficient in proper brain development and are kinda de-evolved. Yay. A whole generation brain-dead from lack of animal protein. Double Yay!

  10. As long as Ebola stays in Africa, I can deal with most anything else. That one, I want nothing to do with and will retire tut sweet. Cause if that gets here, all bets are off, that will make the Spanish Flu look like an amateur, death-rate wise, think Black Plague time, and we WILL be knocked back into the Dark Ages.
    There is a vaccine, but it takes quite a while to manufacture, hasn't been officially approved last I heard, they are just using it on folks to see if it works, and that sucker spreads like wildfire. There is no facilities ANYWHERE that can deal with more than 1 or 2 Ebola patients at a time anyplace in this country, and it is wicked contagious. Two years ago, both of the nurses involved in caring for the 1 patient were infected, and will carry the consequences of the infection and treatment for the rest of their lives. And they will be carriers for the rest of their lives!! No thank you. Not for me. It would really hike the death rate, not just for kids, but for us old farts too, right through the roof.

    1. And now a doctor, exposed and possibly in the early staged of Ebola, has been brought to a hospital in Nebraska.

      So, some self-centered jerk who wanted to 'be one with the unwashed' has now brought this filth to our shores, and, being a doctor, he knows better. JERK! Hey, Doc, First Rule: DO NO HARM (like bring a mega-plague back to your country of origin because you're a self-centered weenie who only thinks about himself.)

      Bah, Humbug!


    I flew this at U-H ...does that count ??


    What a great first aviation boss...flew Martin Mars' between San Fran and Hawaii during WWII ...ferrying brass back and forth...I would have to fly with him since he needed an MEL Instructor to PIC .. i'm alive today cause of all the pearls of wisdom i heard in my head during my career...

  13. "A day to celebrate the murder of innocent children. Nice. "

    (Here I go, chiding a wordsmith on word choice ...)

    I think "celebrate" is a poor word to use. "Commemorate," yes. "Remember," yes. Even (shudder) "memorialize." We only "celebrate" it in the sense that we "celebrate" Pearl Harbor Day. Or Decoration (Memorial) Day.

    Although, on reflection, maybe we SHOULD celebrate it. Those 14,000 were the first martyrs for Christ. The day also points to the corruption of power, and the lust for power.

    Apolytikion of Holy Innocents
    First Tone
    Be entreated, O Lord, by the sufferings endured for You by the Saints, and we pray You, heal all our pain.

    Kontakion of Holy Innocents
    Plagal of the Second Tone
    When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi arrived from the East with gifts guided by a Star on high, but Herod was troubled and mowed down the children like wheat; for he lamented that his power would soon be destroyed.

    1. Yes. And thanks for calling me a wordsmith. That means a lot to me.

      I was trying to be ironically tragic over a day of remembrance. Your word choice was very word-smithy-ish. I guess it takes one to know one.

    2. "Your word choice was very word-smithy-ish. I guess it takes one to know one."

      That comes from writing letters to the editor. I would write a letter commenting on a new law, or something in an editorial in the local rag. Do a word check. Hmmm...gotta get rid of 1000 words....(edit, edit, edit)....Hmmmm.....gotta get rid of another 350 words without loss of meaning and nuance...Hmmm......and so it went. What really sucked big brown road apples was when the paper dropped the word count from 250 to 200.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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