By: Amit Kumar Bhowmik
Pune: Christmas has just passed. December 25 was officially declared as Jesus’ birthday by the then Pope ruling the roost at the Vatican, simply because it was a celebration of the ancient people at the beginning of the winter solstice – long before the times of Jesus.
Never-the-less December 25 is celebrated with great fan-fare and gusto by Christians the world over, regardless of the numerous sects, as the birth-day of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew; the first born of a poor carpenter. Jesus had four other brothers. James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (not Iscariot, his Apostle, who supposedly betrayed him) Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3.
The Gospels say nothing as to the day of Christ’s birth, and accordingly the early Church did not celebrate it. In time, however, the Christians of Egypt came to regard the sixth of January as the date of the Nativity, but at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century, the Western Church, which had never recognized the sixth of January as the day of the Nativity, decided that the twenty-fifth of December was the true date, and in time its decision was accepted also by the Eastern Church.
However, as I personally view it, if the narrative of the “Magi”, the three wise men, from Persia, who were probably, Zoroastrian priests, following this bright Star and visited the baby Jesus soon after his birth, is to be given any credence, then his birth, according to astronomy, would have been between June 6 and 9. The essence of Jesus’ basic teachings were re-produced from memory, long after his death.
The names of the twelve disciples were: 1) Simon, who is also called Peter 2) his brother Andrew 3) James, the brother of Zebedee 4) John, his brothers 5) Philip and 6) Bartholomew 7) Thomas 8) Matthew, the publican 9) James, son of Alphaeus 10) Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus 11) Simon, the Canaanite and 12) Judas Iscariot.
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No Man cometh unto the Father but by me.
Suffer the little children to come unto me. For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thou hypocrite! First cast off the beam from thine own eyes. Then shalt thou see more clearly to cast off the more from thy brother’s eye!
Whoever exalts himself shall be abased. And, he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
It is easier for the rope to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich (haughty; egoist) man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
A Prophet has no honour in his own country.
Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth. This defiles a man.
If the house be divided against itself, it cannot stand.
Physician. Heal thyself! \
Love thy neighbour as thy self.
Father! Forgive them. For they know not what they do!
The character known today as ‘Santa’ originated with a man named Nicolas, who was born in the 3rdcentury A.D. in the village of Patara, then Greek and now Turkish. His parents died when he was young and the religious Nicolas, who was raised by his uncle, was left a fortune. Ordained as a Christian priest, he used his money to help others and become a protector of children, reportedly performing miracles to help them. He was persecuted by the Roman Emperor, ‘Diocletian’ and put to death. Nicholas was buried in 343 A.D in a church, where a substance with alleged healing powers, called ‘manna,’ forms on his grave.
After the American Revolution, New Yorkers remembered with pride their colony’s nearly-forgotten Dutch roots. John Pintard, the influential patriot and antiquarian who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both the Society and the city. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the Society and on St. Nicholas Day that same year, he published the satirical fiction, ‘Knicker-bocker’s – History of New York,’ with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character.
This was not the saintly bishop; rather an elfin Dutch ‘burgher ‘with a clay pipe. These delightful flights of imagination are the source of the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends. The first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas. The first church there was dedicated to him, with stories gathering momentum that St. Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts.
Irving’s work was regarded as the ‘first notable work of imagination in the New World!’ The New York Historical Society held its first St. Nicholas anniversary dinner on December 6, 1810. John Pintard commissioned artist Alexander Anderson to create the firstAmerican image of Nicholas for the occasion. Nicholas was shown in a gift-giving role with children’s treats in stockings hanging at a fire-place.
The year 1821 brought some new elements with publication of the first lithographed book in America, the ‘Children’s Friend’. This “Sante Claus” arrived from the North in a sleigh with a flying reindeer. Santé Claus fits an educational mode also; rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad.
Then, in 1823, the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” later known as “The Night Before Christmas,” became popular, and the modern version of the plump Santa started to become established; his sleigh led by a reindeer with a red nose and the chimney as his delivery system. By the 1850’s Norman Rockwell and other illustrators portrayed Santa as a gentle gift-giving character.
That Santa became the one children around the globe know today, though in many other countries, St. Nicholas — not Santa — is still celebrated as well. Some say, St. Nicholas existed only in legend, without any reliable historical record. Legends usually do grow out of real, actual events, though they may be embellished to make more interesting stories.
Many of the St. Nicholas stories seem to be truth interwoven with imagination. And now, Santa Claus has become almost synonymous with Christmas … both of which may really be make-belief — but well worth celebrating; cementing ties, brotherhood and a general good-will, which is truly the need of the hour in these trying and murky times, and, hopefully, a pandemic – free New Year!!
About the Author: Amit Kumar Bhowmik is a Pune-based lawyer.