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A couple of weeks ago, as class was letting out for the holidays, I put a call out to my friends on Facebook asking for book suggestions. In the spirit of my love and commitment to free speech, I wanted to read a banned book over the break. Many great suggestions came in, some of which I’d read before, some I’d heard of but hadn’t gotten around to reading, and yet more I’d never heard of but sounded interesting. With so many great titles to choose from, I decided I’d read two of them instead of one, but that still left me with deciding which two to choose from. Decisiveness not being the strong point of most Libras, and me being no exception to that rule, I opted to use technology to help me decide.
The first step was to make a list of every title suggested, followed by assigning each title with a number starting from 1 and going up. I then used a random number generator to see which 2 numbers came up first. I looked at these numbers and compared them with the numbers assigned to the suggested titles to get my reading list for the break. The results were 2 and 7, or John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
With the holiday season being as busy as it is, and with so much on the computer to keep my free time occupied, it took me forever to sit down and just read. I found the time to finish reading Of Mice and Men today. Despite being mentioned as required reading for many in high school, it was never required that I read it while I was in school. I found that while the book was certainly not inspiring or uplifting, it was a good read.
Tomorrow, all around the globe, Christians and non-Christians alike will be celebrating Christmas. For many in today’s world, the holiday is celebrated several times around this time of year (as when a child from a divorced family spends Christmas Eve with his mother and Christmas day with his father, or when a young couple celebrates the holiday on one day with one side of the family while celebrating the same holiday on another day with another side of the family), but often similar themes can be found.
One common item you will often see is the Christmas tree – that iconic evergreen which sits in millions of living rooms covered in decorations and fire-hazard-inducing lightbulbs, and often littered with presents underneath. This strange symbol always confused me growing up; it seems like a strange tradition to me to cut down a tree and bring it inside, and it’s clearly not an ancient Christian practice, so where did it come from? Over the years I’ve often heard people say that the roots were pagan and it was one of the many pre-Christian traditions to be absorbed into the ever-expanding Christmas tradition as Christianity took over. Wikipedia tells a different story however:
The origin of the Christmas tree is obscured by uncertainties of oral histories of pre-literate European and Asian cultures. For example, according to Christian lore, the Christmas tree is associated with St. Boniface and the German town of Geismar. Sometime in St. Boniface’s lifetime (c. 672-754) he cut down the tree of Thor in order to disprove the legitimacy of the Norse gods to the local German tribe. St. Boniface saw a fir tree growing in the roots of the old oak.
The custom of erecting a Christmas Tree can be historically traced to 15th century Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) and 16th century Northern Germany. According to the first documented uses of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514 the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it. In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. In that period, the guilds started erecting Christmas trees in front of their guildhalls: Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which reports how a small tree was decorated with “apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers” and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members’ children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day.
While an in depth article exploring the history behind all of the symbols of Christmas would be fascinating, it will not be done here – at least not for now, as like many others, this is a very busy time of year.
In Christmas spirit I would like to wish all who celebrate it a very merry Christmas, and may we all remember the age-old Christmas wish of peace on earth and goodwill toward manking.
Here is a teaser on my next post, but also appropriate for this post as well:
In the fourth part of the “Art” series (see part 1, part 2, and part 3), I would like to display my third project for the digital art class I took. The project was to create the packaging for a product. My product was snacks for ghosts.
Larger resolution images can be found at deviantART.
In the last two posts in the “Art” series (part 1 and part 2), I posted the two pieces from my first project in my digital art class. Our second project was to create two postage stamps; I got a little carried away and ended up with twelve.
Travis Apollonius is a mystic, writer, interfaith minister, blogger, podcaster, seeker, lecturer, poet, spiritual guide, religious studies student at Marylhurst University, and a postulant in the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.