My New Year’s Eve ritual

Every New Year’s Eve, I look back on the events of the past year.  I do so by reading Dave Barry’s Year in Review.  The month by month retrospective has the virtue of being very funny, which makes the survey of the year’s madness much easier to take.

Start it and follow the link after the jump. [Read more…]

Reinventing New Year’s Eve with college football playoffs

I’ve got to say, I’m excited that the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma, one of my alma maters, is in the college football playoffs tonight.  I had given up on them after they lost to Texas, but here they are, playing the undefeated Clemson for a shot at the national championship.  For everything you want to know about the playoffs and much more than you  want to know, go here.  (Give your picks in the comments.)

The bigger story, though, is ESPN’s attempt to take over the way Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve.  Instead of going to parties, staying up until midnight, and watching the ball drop at Times Square, watch college football! [Read more…]

This last week of the year

The last week of the year is a time to look back upon the previous year and forward to the year ahead.  We’ll be doing some of that here, culminating in New Year’s Eve, for our looks back, followed by New Year’s Day when we will make our predictions for 2016.

On December 31, we will look at the predictions we made on this blog on New Year’s Day 2015 to see who was the most prescient.  I can say that a cursory look at last year’s comments includes a remarkable and highly specific prediction that actually came true.  Now we can reward our winners with something a little more tangible.  I will announce the winner, and if he reports in to claim his prize and tell us how he did it, I am asking EVERYONE to give him the highest World Table rating!

On New Year’s Day, we will make our predictions for the coming year.  2016 is an election year, after all, so it is bound to be consequential and ripe for prognostication.  So be thinking about what you think will happen.  And with that huge incentive of World Table points, you will want to make a lot of predictions.  (IF World Table is still around next year, of course, which is a matter of prediction.)

Have a merry Christmas and a happy Christmas

Two years ago, I did a post on the difference between “merry Christmas” and “happy Christmas.” (It has mainly to do, I argued, with the difference between American English, which tends to retain older constructions, such as “merry,” and British English, which favors “happy,” supposedly due to Victorian-era qualms against carousing at Christmas, which “merry” suggested.)

Anyway, if you google this topic, my post will be the first one listed.  For the last few days, thousands of people from around the world who have been wondering abut this odd English usage have done that search and have come to my post.  My readership statistics have skyrocketed.

Most of those readers have found the information they were looking for and won’t be back.  For those of you who are coming back, welcome.

But I especially want to address you long-term readers.  I feel like I know a lot of you.  I appreciate your hanging around here, sticking with us through platform changes and commenting software experiments.  I want to wish all of you both a merry Christmas and a happy Christmas.  And all blessings in the incarnation of our Lord.

Here is what I’ll do.  For every season’s greeting posted in the comments, I will give you a Christmas present:  A top “like this” rating on World Table.  (I have a score in the 90s, so my rating will carry a lot of weight.)

 

The third generation

For one millisecond somehow caught on camera, everyone was looking into the camera (except for the shepherd).

 

 

 

Santa Claus, Confessor

St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra back in the 4th century.  He has become one of the most popular saints among Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, the patron saint of sailors, children, prisoners, pawnbrokers, to name just a few.  He also mutated into the emblem of Christmas, Santa Claus.  (Say “Saint Nicholas” real fast.)

But what is the connection between the bishop of Myra and Christmas?  Stories about the saint supplying poor women’s dowries by putting money in stockings drying by the fire give us an explanation of the custom of hanging stockings for Santa to fill, but they don’t have a connection to Christmas, as such.

I think the connection is that the bishop was reportedly a member of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., which affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and authored the Nicene Creed.  A number of years ago, I wrote a piece for World Magazine about the role that St. Nicholas reportedly played at the Council of Nicaea, including slapping the heretic Arius who insisted that Jesus Christ was merely human and not divine.

The St. Nicholas Center has posted that column on its website, along with other supporting material and everything else you might like to know about St. Nicholas, including a forensic reconstruction of what he looked like. I also need to report that the St. Nicholas center has also posted the song parodies written by you Cranach commenters when we discussed my World column here.  Those songs, playing on the image of Santa Claus slapping heretics, were quite creative and funny.

After the jump is a fuller account of St. Nicholas at Nicaea, which I will then discuss in terms of our need to recast Santa Claus as a Confessor of the church. [Read more…]


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