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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 15 Dec 2018, 03:14


As I write this there are 47 days to Xmas but this piece will be published on December the 14th so I have to address what to many is a lovely time of the year but to others is a worry. When I was in a home with young children Xmas was a delight and eagerly anticipated. Now the kids are grown I have to admit that in many ways the magic has diminished but I still remember the good times.
One of the things I think we all did was decorate the house for the 'festive season'. Years of reading and research has uncovered the origins of much that we do as a tradition. For a start, the oldest origin for a mid-winter festival was the Pagan celebration of Yule, which was round about December the 21st, the shortest day after which the days started to lengthen giving hope of a new season and easier times. We still use the word 'Yule' in connection with modern Xmas. In the year 595, Pope Gregory the Great chose Augustine, the prior of a monastery in Rome for a mission to what was then the Isles of Britannia. His task was to convert the population from the early forms of Christianity which were already rooted here, together with the remaining Pagans, to the Roman form of Christianity.
Even in the early church many remnants of Paganism had survived, veneration of wells and springs, earth worship and around Xmas, the use of greenery to decorate the church. Gregory wrote clear instructions which still survive in Rome, instructing the missionaries not to destroy existing churches, only any idols that might remain and that existing customs should be kept and given a Christian meaning as he argued this would make it easier for people to convert. So Yule became a celebration of the birth of Jesus and the decorations were used to celebrate the fact. This is how evergreen foliage like Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe became part of the modern Xmas.
The 'traditional Christmas Tree' had a slightly more gory ancestor. Pagans used to worship certain trees and hang sacrificial offerings on them as an offering to the god Thor. In many Germanic and Scandinavian cultures this became a fir tree, supposedly chosen because its triangular shape pointed to heaven and was reminiscent of the Trinity. The sacrificial offerings became our baubles and lights. From Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, first via the wife of George the Third, Queen Charlotte, and then more widely by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria in about 1841.
Today of course Xmas is hijacked by the retail industries and their advertising agencies. Xmas is seen less as a religious festival and more as a sales opportunity. Much of this persuasion is aimed at children who then use 'pester power' on their parents. I am sure many of you will recognise that one. Don't let knowledge of the origins dull your enjoyment, just enjoy it!


Our modern versions in Town Square
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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