Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Reason

St. George's School - Middletown, RI
(Source)
So yeah, lots of sadness in the world, lots of things which, to say the least, suck. That being said, it's also the season of Hanukkah and of Christmas, the one overlapping the other this year. It's supposed to be a season of joy and lights. So for now (at least today) I'm not going to rant, much. Okay, maybe a little because I'm annoyed by all of the atheists on the Interwebz. At least the ones I ran across while researching this post.

Hanukkah has eight days, Christmas only one. At least our secular Christmas has only a single day to commemorate the birth of the Messiah. So how long does Christmas last? Notwithstanding the Christmas decorations going up in stores before Halloween, Christmas is, if properly observed, rather a long holiday. According to Vox -
The 12 days of Christmas is the period that in Christian theology marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings' Day). The four weeks preceding Christmas are collectively known as Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24.
So this year (2019 for those of you reading this in the far future) the Christmas holiday, if properly observed, lasts 36 days, from the first Sunday in Advent (1st of December) to the Epiphany, the 6th of January. Before plunging onward, I need to point out that much of this was something I was completely unaware of prior to my first Christmas season in Germany. (Which, incidentally was occurring when I arrived in January of 1992.)

I noted that kids in the city we were encamped in (in a hotel) were going door to door dressed as kings. I did make the connection with the Magi, i.e. the three kings of the song, but had no idea it was a holiday celebrated in Germany as Heilige drei Könige (Holy Three Kings). This was explained to me by a German colleague who then mentioned "What you've never heard of the twelve days of Christmas?" Well, of course I had. He didn't mean the song. Yeah, I asked.

In subsequent years I saw the kids in our village doing this, they would also mark the wall next to a door of a house they visited with chalk. According to this site -
In the Church Calendar, January 6th is the day that the Wise Men of the Bible arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to bring gifts to the infant Jesus. Today this day is celebrated as a public holiday in much of Germany. There are special church services, children dress as Star Singers and go door to door collecting treats and coins, and (my favorite) men travel door to door dressed as kings blessing houses with a chalk C + M + B*. The Epiphany  is the 12th day of Christmas, and for many, it is the signal for the end of the holiday season.
Now where we were in Germany (Nordrhein-Wesfalen - North Rhine-Westphalia - one of the German states), it wasn't men doing that, but the kids were doing that, along with the Star Singer thing. Which apparently is also a "thing" in England. So my knowledge of Christmas traditions expanded thanks to traveling the world in my youth.

When I was a wee lad, Christmas began whenever the tree went up, perhaps a week or so before the 25th, and ended when the tree came down, New Year's Day without fail. The big day was, of course, the 25th itself, Christmas Eve was also kind of a big deal as we'd go to church for the Christmas Eve service. But really, as a kid, it was just two days, not 12 and certainly not 36.

Not to forget Hanukkah (in case you were wondering). There was, in my little town in Vermont, only one Jewish family that I was aware of, perhaps because one of the daughters was a classmate of mine. There may have been others, I don't know. I used to think she got kind of a raw deal as she didn't get Hanukkah off from school but got Christmas instead. Probably why my company no longer calls our "End of the Year Luncheon" a "Christmas Party." I get it, I mean we are inclusive, etc., etc. (Almost forgot, Hanukkah, eight days. Cool reason for that.)

When I was a kid, I thought there was only one Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. Yeah, there's a lot more. The things you learn when you grow up. (I am such a goy.)

Anyhoo, Christmas is my favorite holiday. I keep in mind that this is a celebration of the birth of the Savior. He is the reason for the season. I'm going to try and keep this in mind as we go forward, and try not to dwell on the antics of the clowns in our nation's capital. Time enough for that in the New Year. Which, shudder, is an election year, so there will be lots of opportunities for ranting and raving. For now, I leave you with this, my favorite Christmas song -


Love that version...





* C + M + B = Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the names (in German) of the three kings.

46 comments:

  1. Again Sarge good timing, that song is backdropped by snow falling as I type. Late visiting courtesy of Windows updating of course...... it's Thursday......aaaargh! Always interesting to hear of experiences others have had overseas. Reading a book about Army CID investigating crimes in South Korea in the 70's, Titled G. I. Confidential, just started. The author retired from the US Army and spent ten years in Korea.

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    1. That sounds like an interesting book, I was in Korea 78-82. I'll need to read that.

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    2. Author is Martin Limón, 13 previous titles with these two CID investigators. Sorry for the delay, was re-arranging snow outside. Am liking this one so far, will start with the first one and see how many the library has.

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    3. Good to know, the author that is, not the snow rearranging. The latter is "no fun" for sure.

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    4. When I had Dorothy, my John Deere utility tractor, with an end loader, snow rearranging was a blast!

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    5. With the right equipment, many jobs can be fun.

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  2. Great post Sarge, and interesting to hear how the holiday is celebrated in Germany. For us, the tree usually goes up around mid-December, upon which night we all eat chili, camp out in the living room, and watch White Christmas. Decorations stay up until January 6th, which I swear is because that's the traditional end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and not because I don't want to deal with putting things back in boxes and then back into the garage shelves.

    Hope you and yours have a merry Christmas season.

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    1. Sounds to me like you're doing it right!

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    2. Even the Wise Men took 12 days to get around to doing something. I am sure God will forgive you for being slightly lazy as to putting stuff away, and calling it 'Epiphany' is a great get-out-of-decorating-jail-free card. :)

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    3. Hahaha!

      Some sources have the Magi coming two years after the birth of Christ. Which is really putting things off...

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    4. Well, Holy Innocent's day supposedly took place at least a year after He was born, so...

      As to showing up, yeah, really hard to find charging stations for your electric camel, and hand generators take like forever..

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  3. Entirely off topic, but Russia's only aircraft carrier is on fire:

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/12/russias-only-carrier-damaged-in-shipyard-accident-now-on-fire/

    That seems like a hard luck ship.

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    1. That is a hard luck ship. Shipboard fires are nasty, whether at sea or tied up to the pier. Prayers for those injured.

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    2. I’m remembering the Constellation (CV-64) had nasty fire early on.

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    3. And this is why when people wave the supposed technological advances of Russia (or Red China, whose spoil islands are already falling apart, proving once again that the Japanese are still better than them, as their spoil islands from WWII are still holding up) seem to be a nice attempt at fakery, bad attempt at execution.

      Well, with ChiCom, they seem to get the tech right that they stole from us or Western Europe (like quiet diesel subs) or were sold to them by certain dem politicians...

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    4. Skip - Yup, Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1960.

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    5. Beans - Have you read about the engines on Chinese stealth fighters? Not so good from what I've heard. Quality control can be an issue in both Russia and China.

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    6. I forgot to mention that four or five basic training shipmates were Connie crew.

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    7. (Don McCollor)...there are worse places to have a fire on (like a submarine - USS Nautilus or a space station - Mir). Not like you can go overboard or step outside...

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    8. Well yeah, those are both pretty bad.

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    9. Fires are bad, no matter where. There were times I was so glad I was a Deputy, and Fire Rescue. I wasn't the one who had to recover and package the bodies after a fire.Decades later, I still vividly remember a mobile home fire, a mobile home from the 1960's with expanded urea foam insulation. That stuff goes FOOM! when it ignites. The little old lady who lived there escaped, and then went back in after something she forgot to grab, and the insulation caught after she went back in. You don't forget that smell.

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    10. Fire is essential to survival, but it's like a wild beast, you have to respect it and never turn your back on it.

      Man, a 60s mobile home? Those things were torches.

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    11. You just can't do carrier aviation on the cheap or without paying some bills in blood. Seafaring in general is that way too. Reality is just reality.

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  4. It amazed me, growing up, that people around me didn't understand Christmas was 12 days long. Old family tradition, shattered by the arrival of an artificial tree in 1970, was to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, go to midnight mass, then celebrate Christmas Day, totally avoid the parents on Holy Innocents' Day (for very valid reasons,) turn the tree off by midnight January 6th and tree down on the 7th. Lonely day when tree was summarily marched out and executed by curbside. Sigh.

    The whole Advent thing was more of a Churchy thing, with extra sermonettes and stuff like that. We never really did the lighting of the Advent wreath, which to me smacked slightly of a rip-off of the menorah and the Jewish celebration of the holy oil lasting 8 days when they only had a 1 day supply. Which I knew before I met my soon-to-be-ex-Jewish wife. She beat Jesus in becoming a Christian by 5 years, but then again, when He became Christian, he really nailed it... (Why do I suddenly feel a psychic Gibb's slap upon the back of my head?)

    I hope that certain places in Europe fight to keep the Christmas traditions alive, Pretty sure Pawel's people will, not too sure about others. The European Christmas traditions are so much more community than the typical American ones, but then again, we tend to be strung out farther and farther and less communal and less family-clustered than the Euros.

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    1. Europeans have always been less mobile than us, tending to stay put for generations. After wandering the planet for 24 years I returned to New England, less than 150 miles from where I was born. The Missus Herself, on the gripping hand, lives some 7,000 miles from her ancestral home.

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  5. As to the three kings, I also found it interesting that my non-Catholic Christian friends didn't know or weren't taught the names of the three wise men. Weird all the things growing up Catholic was different than growing up Protestant.

    They (Protestants, especially more fundamentals) tended, to me, to be more focused on the testaments pre-Jesus, dealing with fire and retribution and all that very unhappy stuff, except for a certain fondness for Revelations. While my Catholicism was more focused on the New Testament, and the more laissez-faire style of getting along with other people, try to be mellow, try (you will make mistakes) to learn from your mistakes, etc. with some understanding of Revelations. Weird. But, well, we got more holy days of obligation (off from school for mass) than they did, but they didn't have to walk around on Ass Wednesday with ashes on their foreheads or not eat meat on Fridays during Lent (mmmm, cheese sandwiches, mmmmmmm (tuna not travelling well)) and such. On the other hand, no snake handlers in my church, so...

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    1. Yes, Protestantism and Catholicism are very different, the various Protestant sects differ from each other as well.

      I knew of the names of the Magi, had no idea where they got those names from. There are multiple traditions surrounding those personages.

      Much of what we perceive as "truth" isn't in the Bible, probably passed down by oral tradition and pooh-poohed by some early priests.

      I'm a bit of a heretic when it comes to things religious, there really are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in many philosophies.

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    2. Okay, Horatio...

      I think I remember some learned Catholic scolar saying most likely the 3 Dudes were from Ethiopia, Persia and India. All three places (yes, Ethiopia) were centers for learning that differed from the Judeo-Romano-Greek centers of thought.

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    3. Yup, I've seen that same source. Another says they were all from Persia.

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    4. This Lutheran Badger learned their names as Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. I am not sure what difference spelling it with a C or G makes.

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    5. It's a German thing I suppose.

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  6. Advent arrived so soon after Thanksgiving that we almost missed the start.
    Thanks to choir practice we didn’t.
    The tree is now erected much earlier than in the past because we only have to track to the shed to find it.
    There were a number of years where extended absences that precluded having a ‘live’ tree.
    This year the decoration has been late because of living room renovation.
    We’ve caught up now.

    Everything will remain until at least January 6 for the traditional (Twelfth Night) reason, and because it’s She Hulk’s birthday.

    My first awareness of Advent came about when my much younger sisters received calendars and everyone looked forward to the opening of each day’s little door.

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    1. My awareness of the Jewish holiday season came about when I delivered newspapers.
      I had several customers who observed and decorated for them.

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    2. Skip the 1st - My first experience of Advent was with those little calendars as well, not in my family but in a friend in the neighborhood's family.

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    3. Skip the 2nd - Delivering newspapers, everyone should do it. It builds character. Then again, that particular media is slowly dying.

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    4. I delivered papers in Central Maine. I think the coldest I went out in was twenty below. You do what you have to. I liked the (looking back on it, paltry) money.

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    5. We may have delivered papers in the same cold snap, I too saw -20 on my route. (Southern Vermont.)

      I too liked the money, small though it was.

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    6. Regarding the remuneration from the paper route, in the mid to late 50's my two younger brothers and myself had a route that took about 2 hours by bicycle split up in 3 parts. We expanded the stock and services to include selling home raised rabbit, TV Guides, collecting the old newspapers and magazines, and collecting used bottles which we refilled with home made beer and sold to the other students in High School. It kept us too busy to get in the usual teenage predicaments. Ancient Gunner's Mate

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    7. You were definitely an entrepreneur. I guess in those days though, it was called a "go getter."

      Knowing you, none of that surprises me. 😁

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  7. Beautiful post, Sarge. Thanks very much. A good reminder that the stuff in the mediatainment ether doesn't reflect 99 percent of what's actually happening in the world, such as people worshiping and going about their daily lives in peace and prosperity, even in the third world!

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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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