NORAD Santa Tracker

Once again NORAD is tracking Santa Claus as he makes his yearly trip around the world delivering presents. Right now he is in the Balkans. He’s already covered all of Asia and Australia.

Here is a story on NORAD’s Santa tracking facilities. There seem to be quite a few grinches (or trolls) in the comments section.

Update 5:45 The jolly elf is on his way to Poland.

Update 6:30 Santa has just left Paris..

Update 7:30 Santa is in Senegal right now. I think he is getting ready to make the jump across the Atlantic.

Update 7:45 He’s going through the Sahara. It looks like he hasn’t reached Spain or Britain yet, so we still have some time here in America.

Update 8:10 I was right. Santa is over Spain now.

Update 9:00 Santa is flying over Greenland now. I had better get to bed.

The Holiday That Must Not Be Named

A Christmas tree inside a home.
Happy generic winter Holiday

I don’t know about you, but I really love the Holiday season. I like Holiday carols and Holiday gifts and the whole Holiday spirit. We have already put up our Holiday tree and our Holiday decorations and we are eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa Claus on the Holiday Eve.

It seems to me that the Holiday used to have a name, but I cannot for the life of me recall what that name is. I think it began with a “c” or a “k”. Kissmus perhaps. Anyway, it turned out that the name of the Holiday was so offensive that it should never be spoken aloud.

I wonder if the original name of the Holiday might have something to do with the filthiest, most obscene word in the English language. The word that must never sully the ears of innocent children. The word that is far worse that f—

I am referring, of course, to the G-word. Come to think of it, I seem to recall a story about someone, Christ?, being born on the Holiday. Some people say he is the son of, oops, almost wrote it. I can see how that could be offensive to any right thinking person.

 

Merry Christmas

Here is what Christmas is about.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14)

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas.

Tracking Santa Claus

If you want to see how far along Santa is on his route check out NORAD‘s official Santa tracking website. It looks like he has already lifted off and is busy delivering presents in China. I guess it is already December 25 over there. I hope everyone is on his nice list.

Update 2:00 PM EST Santa is in Uzbekistan.

Update 4:25 PM EST Santa just entered Moldova.

Update 5:10 PM EST He is in central Africa. The old guy sure moves fast.

Update 6:30 PM EST He just left Monaco. Delivered over a billion gifts.

Update 8:00 PM EST Santa is heading to Iceland. It looks like he’s finished with the Eastern Hemisphere.

Update 8:30 PM EST Santa is making his way across the Atlantic Ocean. I had better go to bed soon.

Update 9:00 PM EST Santa is in Argentina. We’re going to bed. Wouldn’t do to be up when Santa arrives.

Bah Humbug!

Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherd...
It wasn't on December 25.

I wonder how many people who quote Ebenezer Scrooge’s famous comment about Christmas know what a humbug actually is. It’s not a word we commonly use nowadays. According to thefreedictionary.com a humbug is;

1. Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud.
2. A person who claims to be other than what he or she is; an impostor.
3. Nonsense; rubbish.
4. Pretense; deception.
In one sense Scrooge was absolutely right; Christmas is a humbug. Don’t worry! I am not turning into a Grinch. What I mean is that Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a humbug in that he was almost certainly not born on December 25. The general consensus seems to be that a birth in the spring or early summer is far more likely.
The truth is that the early Christians were not greatly concerned with the nativity. Christ’s passion, death and resurrection were far more important to them. Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke provide us with any information at all about Jesus’s life before his public ministy and they only give out scattered anecdotes. It may not be until as late as the fourth century that the birth of Jesus was cerebrated. So how did they decide on December 25th?
If you live in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, you may have noticed that the weather is getting colder. The days are getting shorter and the Sun seems to be growing weaker with each passing day.We are approaching the Winter Solstice, of course.  It wouldn’t take much for primitive people to imagine the Sun growing weaker and weaker and the forces of night and winter defeating the Sun.That had never happened before, but who’s to say that this year wouldn’t be different. It must have been a source of profound relief and celebration as the solstice came and the days started to grow longer. Naturally, nearly every culture has some festival around this time of year. Here is a list of some winter festivals. Notice how many share a theme of the triumph of good over evil.
The Romans, in particular had a solstice holiday, known as Saturnalia which was much like Christmas, including gift giving. In the late Roman Empire the cult of the Unconquered Sun was very popular, and of course, the Winter Solstice was the day on which the Sun was victorious. The  fourth and fifth century Christians did not want to miss out on the fun, nor did they want to participate in pagan ceremonies, so they adapted the winter festivals of many nations into a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Some Christian writers even made an explicit connection between the birth of the Sun and the birth of the Son. Cyprian wrote, “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born…Christ should be born” and John Chrysostom, “They call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .?”
So, is Christmas a humbug? Should Christians celebrate the day? Not all Christians do. The Puritans didn’t, either because it was too “Catholic” or it was too rowdy for them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t either because Christmas is too pagan for them. The churches of Christ have no official celebration on Christmas because it is not in the Bible, and if it isn’t in the Bible, they don’t do it. Individual members do celebrate Christmas. For myself, I don’t think there is any harm in Christmas and it is my favorite day of the year. I have to admit to being a little amused when I see posters demanding we keep “Christ in Christmas”, when I consider that Christ wasn’t originally a part of Christmas. I do wish that people would feel a little more “Christmas Spirit” the other 364 days of the year.

On Vacation

Once again I am on vacation. We are not going anywhere, so if any burglars are reading this, don’t get your hopes up. We will be here. Not to mention we have two guard dogs, three attack cats, two ferrets specially trained to bite ankles, and eight parakeets with razor sharp beaks. My son is also planning to get a deadly tarantula soon. So stay away.

Come to think of it, if we did go anywhere, we would have to get someone to take care of all of those animals. So, we don’t go anywhere.

 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Christmas Grinches

Christmas is almost upon us and no Christmas season would be complete without the Grinches coming out to steal Christmas from all of us. I’m putting together a few stories I’ve found here and there.Grinches come in all shapes and sizes. Some ruin Christmas for a single family. Others try to ruin Christmas for whole communities.

First, there is the attempt by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to force a Texas Town to take down a nativity scene. I have already mentioned this here.

The so-called War Against Christmas is coming to a head in a Texas town Saturday, as protesters from across the country will be rallying against a nativity display put up in front of the town’s courthouse.

A Wisconsin-based group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation took major issue when they heard that the Christian display was put up outside of the Henderson County courthouse, prompting them to write a letter of complaint.

But a letter from out-of-state isn’t going to leave the people of Henderson rattling in their cowboy boots, as the Attorney General Greg Abbott has boosted the beef to a Texas-sized proportions.

ur message to the atheists is don’t mess with Texas and out Nativity scenes or the Ten Commandments,’ Mr Abbott told Fox News & Community.

Fair warning: The Attorney General stood up for the town’s right to a nativity

The FFRF sent a banner to the court house that it wanted displayed, with a very different message then the birth of Christ.

The group’s banner read ‘At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail.’

‘There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds,’ it finished.

A mystery man put the sign up on Wednesday on a tree next to the nativity scene in Athens, Texas, about 70 miles south east of Dallas, but it was removed shortly by sheriff’s deputies about 10 minutes later.

Though Judge Richard Sanders may have ordered its removal because of the missing forms and compliance with city procedures, the state’s Attorney General is taking a much more philosophical stance.

There is a school district in New York that has banned the phrase “Merry Christmas”.

New York State’s Batavia City School District is taking the “merry” out of Christmas. The school board is banning the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas” and they have a list of other holiday activities deemed “unacceptable”.

The school board has asked principals to enforce a policy banning Christmas and Hanukah decorations in classrooms.

In a memo titled “Religious expression in the schools” the board lists unacceptable holiday activities. Teachers have been told they cannot use the phrase “Merry Christmas” and it quote “should not be included in any spoken or written remarks.” That includes songs.

I guess the war on Christmas has expanded to include Hanukah. Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised at that. A festival commemorating people who fought for the freedom to practice their religion is not the sort of thing we want to teach kids nowadays.

Here is a neighborhood association that takes exception to one man’s Christmas decorations.

It is not unusual to see a crowd in front of Thyno Zgouvas’ house.

“We come out every year. It’s probably the best show in town,” says one passerby.

For eight years Zgouvas has wowed folks with 70,000 blinking lights.

This Christmas, that number was cut in half.

“The homeowner’s association decided that it was a nuisance–which I completely disagree with,” says Zgouvas.

But other residents–like Terry Phillips–raised concerns about the amount of traffic the show brings to the neighborhood.

“I’ve come home sometimes and it’s taken me 30-45 minutes to get to my house.”

Others worried it would be difficult for emergency vehicles to find homes because of it.

Zgouvas downsized the show to appease the homeowner’s association–all the while making a point of his own with HOA signs and blow-up grinch figures behind them.

“They’ve blown it way out of proportion, I feel,” says Zgouvas.

Each year Mr. Zgouvas puts music to his light show and all you have to do is turn up your radio. He says he does it to keep music from blaring out into the neighborhood.  This year, it’s the theme to the Grinch.

“I have to take my stand just because it’s Christmas lights,” he says.

I understand their concern about traffic, but still.

The Obama Administration tried to get into the season with a Christmas Tree Tax, but wisely backed off. I hope Obama fired whoever came up with that idea. Actually, it seems that the Christmas Tree growers wanted it.

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: Yes, the Obama administration did propose a tax on Christmas trees, and no amount of obfuscation by its knee-jerk defenders can change that fact. The Department of Agriculture planned to impose a 15-cent duty on every Christmas tree sold by tree-sellers who unload more than 500 trees a season. That is an excise tax — a tax on a specific product, levied per unit of sale, just like federal taxes on tobacco and gasoline.

The proposal provoked an uproar, and the White House will now “revisit this action.” That’s politician-speak for “run from the issue like a scalded dog.”

Was the tax sought by Christmas-tree growers? Indeed it was. They wanted the federal government to run a Christmas-tree promotion campaign, much like those it runs for eggs and other agricultural products. But that’s no excuse. As Ilya Schapiro of the Cato Institute notes, this little tale epitomizes everything wrong with government today.

Here is a Grinch that really did steal one family’s Christmas.

A family came home to find the gifts under their Christmas tree stolen.

The family arrived at their apartment in the 500 block of F.M. 1488 in Conroe Wednesday and found that their front door had been kicked in.

“Someone came in and took away my hard work,” mom Felicia Cunningham said. “My hard work and what I’ve done for my kids.”

Conroe police said the thieves unwrapped all the presents before taking off with the ones that they liked.

“The ruined my Christmas because they took my stuff,” Cunningham’s 9-year-old daughter said. “They just came into the wrong house.”

Cunningham, a single mother, also has an 11-year-old daughter whose Christmas was destroyed.

“Why me? Why this apartment? Why here? Why my kids’ gifts?” Cunningham asked.

I am sure that Santa has lots coal to put in the stockings of all of these Grinches

Here is a slightly different take on Christmas.

Few people engaged in the “War on Christmas” are aware that at one time it was a crime in Massachusetts to celebrate Christmas. Oh sure, some will say, count on liberal Massachusetts to pass a law against Christmas. But it was Calvinist Massachusetts, in the days of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, the Pilgrims and Puritans, that established penalties for the observance of Christmas Day “by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way.”

Those Puritans seem to have been as much fun as modern secularists.

And, finally, to end on a lighter note,  here  is a scientific discussion over just how strong the Grinch actually is.

 

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Well, there was, at any rate. He was not a “jolly old elf”, he did not live at the North Pole, and he never made any toys or drove a sleigh with eight reindeer. He didn’t look like this.

He actually looked more like this.

Of course, I am talking about Saint Nicholas of Myra, the historical person on which the legends of Santa Claus are based.

Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch “Sinter Klaus”, and it was Dutch immigrants who brought over many of our ideas of Santa, including the idea of a man who gives out presents to well behaved children. Another influence was Father Christmas from Britain. And, of course there was the poem “The Night Before Christmas” which introduced the whole idea of the reindeer, going down chimneys, etc.The cartoonist Thomas Nast is believed to be responsible for the first portrayal of Santa in his red suit, and also the idea that he lives at the North Pole.

But the real Saint Nicholas was a bishop of the city of Myra in Asia Minor, or present day turkey. He lived from around 270-343. He was a Greek Christian whose parents died of an epidemic when he was very young. From his childhood he was religious. His uncle, also a bishop, raised him and when he was old enough made him a monk. Eventually he was made a bishop by the Christian community of Myra. There he stayed until his death in 343.

Nicholas apparently was quite a zealous bishop. He was imprisoned during the last great persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, but was released when Constantine became Emperor. He debated against and fought the pagans and the Arians, a heretic branch of Christianity, and participated in the great Council of Nicaea, where he lost control of his temper and actually slapped Arius. He was imprisoned for this but released after three days.

He was most famous for his acts of charity, many of which are probably legendary.The most famous story is that passing by a house he heard three daughters lament because their father could not afford a dowry for any of them. Without a dowry they could not get married and would probably have to resort to prostitution to survive. (Somehow this story never made into the children’s specials.) He threw a bag of gold into their window as each girl became old enough to marry. In one variation of the story, by the time of the third daughter, the father lay in wait to discover the identity of his benefactor. When Nicholas saw this, he threw the bag into their chimney.

After his death, Nicholas was buried in Myra, but in 1087, with Asia Minor being overrun by the Turks, some Italian sailors stole the remains and brought them to Bari, where they remain to this day.

Nicholas is a Saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches His feast day is December 6, today, and he is the patron saint of children, sailors, repentant thieves, pawn brokers, and others.

So, now you know the true story of Santa Claus.

 

If you want to know more about Catholic saints see here.

Christmas in November

I noticed that they started to play Christmas music in Wal Mart yesterday, or maybe the day before. I don’t want to give the impression that I am some sort of Grinch, actually I love Christmas, but I do wonder if celebrating the holiday could be restricted to the actual month it is in.

 

And, by the way, would it be possible for candidates for president not actually campaign until the year of the election?