Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God.The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed rest at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!
Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.'” from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2
Winter begins in the northern hemisphere on this, the shortest day of the year. In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented darkness giving way to light, and death giving way to life. The dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. Hope was restored. Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme.
For more on this and other winter observances and feasts, check out our display: Holidays and Holy Days.
The English writer Jane Austen was born on this day in 1775. Her books, including Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, are so beloved that in recent decades there have been scores of books and films based on Jane Austen’s novels, her life, and her fans, including adaptations, biographies, sequels and mashups.
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. ”
This 9 day festival is central to Navidad (Christmas) celebrations in Mexico. This is a neighbourhood festival that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph, who could not find posadas, (Spanish for “lodging”) before the birth of Jesus. A procession, including people dressed as Angels, Saints and the Holy Family, marches through the neighbourhood, knocking on doors looking for a place to stay. Like Mary and Joseph, they are refused, until finally the parade ends at one home where they are welcomed in. Feasting ensues, including a pinata for the children.
Be sure to check out our display, “Holidays & Holy Days.”
With heart warming traditions such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength,” Festivus is a holiday which owes its popularity to the sitcom “Seinfeld.” For more on this secular anti-celebration, click here.
The religion known as Buddhism dates back to the 6th or 5th Century BCE, when the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama became the “Buddha,” literally, “the Enlightened One.” The followers of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism observes Bodhi Day in celebration of the day that the Buddha sat below the Bodhi Tree and meditated on the meaning of life. Bodhi Day is celebrated mainly by the Buddhists of northern and eastern Asia (in Japan the day is known as Rohatsu) and in countries to which those people have immigrated (such as Canada). For more on Bodhi Day and the life of the Buddha, click here.
If you haven’t yet read How the Irish Saved Civilization, put it on your reading list! Author Thomas Cahill tells some remarkable stories from the era that he calls one of the “hinges of history.” Cahill makes the case that ideas that came from the Greeks, the Romans and the Jews, ideas that are among the foundational ideas of our civilization, were on the edge of an abyss, possibly to be lost forever. If not for the Irish, our civilization, at least civilization as we know it today, may have slipped away forever. Read it for yourself and see what you think.
One of the remarkable figures that jumps off the pages is Colm Cille. Known also as Saint Columba in the Roman Catholic Church, Colm Cille was one of those Irishman who inspired the notion that Ireland is the land of “Saints and Scholars.” In a world of darkness, Colm Cille helped to bring light.
Fifteen hundred years ago, in the wake of a terrible battle, full of remorse, St. Colmcille left Ireland for Scotland. On the remote island of Iona he began a new life and helped create a new world. The beautiful manuscripts he and his followers produced helped spread not only Christianity but ideas about literacy, peace-making and nation-building, not to mention punctuation! His followers became missionaries, builders, teachers. It’s no exaggeration to say that these men from the North of Ireland rebuilt Europe. (source: The Return of Colmcille)
If people tell you that Santa Claus isn’t real, tell them to think again! Saint Nicholas lived in the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD(CE). He lived in what is now known as Turkey, but what was then a Greek area of the Roman Empire. The legends surrounding his life grew and evolved over the years, eventually leading to our modern picture of Santa.
In much of Europe and in many parts of the world, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6, or on another date other than Christmas. For more information, check out the St. Nicholas Centre.
Jews in Canada and around the world celebrate Hanukkah starting at sundown tonight. The Festival of Lights is a celebration of God’s deliverance and provision. The event began in remembrance of Maccabean revolt in the 2nd Century BCE, when the Hebrews recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual centre of Judaism. Each candle of the Menorah is lit, one per day for the 8 day Festival. Like all Jewish Holy Days, which follow the lunar Hebrew Calendar, Hanukkah can occur anytime from late November to late December according to the Gregorian Calendar. This year Hanukkah will begin at sundown on December 24 and will conclude on the evening of January 1st. For more information on Hanukkah, check out some of the following: