Santa, Baldur and Woden.

By humbug Emmet

Just because I spend hours (well, half the day) on the Internet reading E-Mail, Facebook and every sports site on the net, some people (who have jobs) think that I am wasting my day…possibly my life.
Nay, forsooth, I retort.
It is during this tiring process that I glean facts that give me a perspective on life and love and the Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the Yankees, of all people. The Yankees have more money than brains (thank God) and appear to be fading out as a playoff team, no matter how many former Red Sox players they sign.
This week’s investigations centers around our very favorite holiday, Christmas. Forget the religious side of the holiday. We only pay attention to that so we can get presents. Well, some of us do, like David Grima. But most of you don’t really know Christmas, not really.
You had no idea that Christmas was once against the law, did you? Check out Addicting Information.Com. AD reports that the famous Pilgrims, who fled England to avoid religious prosecution, instituted religious persecution as soon as they got their boots off. They believed that Christmas was a creation of man and Hammacher Schlemmer, so it was not a real holy day. Christmas was celebrated by the Anglicans while the Pilgrims looked on jealously…and got no presents. You will not believe it, but Christmas was not an official holiday until June 26, 1870, with 179 shopping days left.
I have always considered Christmas trees to be hopelessly dangerous with all the charm of gasoline-soaked rags. You will be startled to know that trees were banned from the Christmas celebration until 1640. The holiday tree was considered to be pagan and the church was always afraid that someone was having fun, somewhere. For the record, AD reports that the first Christmas tree on record was in 1510 in the town square of Riga, Latvia. They decorated, and then burned the tree. (Have you ever thrown an old Christmas tree on an open flame? It is more fun that lighting the bathroom curtains.
Why Dec. 25? The actual date of the birth of Christ has been debated since…the birth of Christ. The Dec. 25 date was actually set rather arbitrarily by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354. (Admit it, you had no idea). If, as the Bible states, the birth happened while shepherds were living in the nearby fields that would place the date from spring until December when the flock was brought indoors for protection. According to AD, the “most likely” date for the birth is March 6, 6 B.C. which is a problem all by itself. That would screw up St. Patrick’s Day, Black Friday and all those sales.
I know you like “Silent Night” even though I prefer “Chestnuts roasting by an open fire.” There are very few of us who don’t melt when they hear the holiday songs including “Silent Night.” C’mon. That gets you every time, doesn’t it? Here is one for the dinner table trivia quiz. St. Hilary (not that one) of Poitiers composed the first Christmas carol, “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” somewhere during the 4Th Century. Second quiz answer. The first English carol came in 1410, even before my cousin Jerry was born, composed by Ritson. One of the oldest surviving carols is “O Tannenbaum” of German origin.
I was told that week that it would make the “perfect Santa” especially in the big belly area. I will take that as a compliment for this month only. Santa Claus is a mixture of St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra (honest) the Norse God Woden and the Celtic King Holly. Our recognizable Santa was created by the famous muckraking cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1860 for Harper’s Weekly Magazine. Nast added the North Pole story along with the “naughty and nice” list, then coming down the chimney. Once Coca Cola added the figure to its endless ads, the lore was cemented. (You want to argue with Santa AND Coca Cola?)
No one is sure, not even AD, how many Magi there were. Because there were three gifts, gold Frankincense and Myrrh, it was just assumed there were three visitors. Gift-giving dates back to the Saturnalia, which was the basis of many of today’s holidays. That was a good thing.
If you haul off and kiss someone else’s wife during the year, you are eligible for a black eye…or worse. But if you hang some mistletoe around the house, you can maul them at will. Just make sure you are near that magic sprig. You won’t believe any of this, but the sacred plant dates back to those famous Druids and the Norse. When Baldur was killed by a mistletoe arrow (weak armor) his mother, Frigga wept white berries, which brought Baldur back to life. Frigga blessed the sacred sprig and kissed whoever stood under it. The Druids (they always sound like fun) cut mistletoe with a gold sickle, and caught in a special cloth before it hit the ground. The sprigs were then placed over doorways to protect the dwelling and, maybe to get a little from Mrs. Druid down the muddy lane.
What would Christmas be without Santa’s reindeer? The team is based on the eight-legged horse Sleipnir, owned by our boy Woden. They got their name from Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nick” in 1823. We didn’t hear of Rudolph and his red nose until Robert L. May introduced him in a Montgomery Ward catalogue. Surprise. Gene Autry got 25 million sales of the song, first released in 1949, long after Leo Karapetian was born.
Consider yourself holiday informed. In the future when I am surfing the web, don’t accuse me of wasting my time. Now, I must check on that Ellsbury trade.