Alleluia! Merry Christmas! Today is the Solemnity of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ in Bethlehem, as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Today is the First Day in the Octave of Christmas. And today is the First Day of Christmas, and tonight is the Second Night of Hanukkah.
“Christmas” is a compound word originating in the term “Christ’s Mass”. It is derived from the Middle English word Cristemasse, which is from Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038 followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131. By the early to mid fourth century the Church assigned the date of Christmas to December 25th, most probably to agree with the date of March 25th as that of the conception of Jesus (the Annunciation); in his work Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus (c. 130–202) identified the conception of Jesus as March 25th and linked it to the crucifixion at the time of the equinox, with the birth of Jesus nine months after on December 25th at the time of the solstice. In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in the west focused on the visit of the magi. The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066. By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. Following the Protestant Reformation, groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention. The Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England shared radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas, and celebration of the holiday was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom. In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (popularly known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas). The poem helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol, which helped revive the ‘spirit’ of Christmas and seasonal merriment; superimposing his secular vision of the holiday on the existing religious basis, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as decorating the house, putting up a Christmas Tree (a German custom dating from the 18th century, which made its way to England during the reign of the German Hanoverians, and had reached the United States by about 1870), family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit. Since 1969, Christmas is one of only two Solemnities that are celebrated with an Octave (the other one being Easter). It is worth noting that in the secular world, Christmas ends today, but in the Church, the Christmas Season continues until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year will be on Monday, January 9th. (It is also worth noting that Christ is not Jesus’s last name; it is a title, from the Greek khristós, “anointed, covered in oil”; transliterated from the Hebrew word māšîaḥ, Messiah.) Today is also the First Day of Christmas, with a Partridge in a Pear Tree; we shall be keeping a count of the Days of Christmas in these Daily Updates until Twelfth Night. And at Sunset we will have the Second Night of Hanukkah.
On waking up to get ready for work today, I posted to Facebook that it was Christmas, and did my Book Devotional Reading. When we left for work, I saw that Liz Ellen had put out a small Luminaria (just on the front door steps), which looked quite nice. (Thank you, Liz Ellen.) On our way to work Richard told me that Michelle had called, was not feeling well, but would be over during Sunday afternoon. I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Fifth Day of my Novena to the Holy Family. Once we arrived at work, Richard suggested that we sign the Early Out list, which we did. (He later came to report that he was 9th on the list, and I was 19th, so he told them to scratch our names off the list.). Richard was on Mississippi Stud all day. I was at first on Macau Mini Baccarat, then when they closed my table they made me the Relief Dealer for Macau Mini Baccarat (which turned into Mini Baccarat) and Pai Gow. I kept getting short breaks for the first half of my shift, since my breaker would come back exactly on time, so it was about 8:00 am before I was able to do my Daily Update on my Tablet for yesterday, Saturday, December 24th, 2016, at which point I had time to eat something. I was still very unhappy that I had gotten sick and missed Mass yesterday afternoon; I did check, and none of the churches in town had afternoon Christmas Masses (the latest one was at 10:00 am.) I took some of my Xanax at about 7:00 am, and got into a better mood.
When we got home from work I read the morning paper; I then set up my Hanukkah candles, lit the Advent Candles to burn all the way down, and the Christmas Candle to burn until the last person to go to bed tonght blows it out. I also prepared Liz Ellen’s monthly package to her, once I found a box that was the right size. I then came to the computer to work on my Daily Update while Michelle cleaned out the front part of the house. We (Richard, Michelle, my sister Liz Ellen, and I) then ate Christmas Dinner, and then we gave out presents; and all were happy and full of good spirit (or spirits). Michelle then left to take a plate of food to her friend Blake (who is on call today with EMS), and Liz Ellen started getting her stuff together, as she will be leaving us tomorrow. I lit the Hanukkah candles, and then came back to the computer to do today’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr (died c.33), and the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!). It is the Second Day of Christmas, with our gift of the day being two turtle doves. It is Boxing Day in Commonwealth countries, the day when one historically gave Christmas boxes to tradespeople and employees. And tomorrow is the first day of Kwanzaa, a relatively new holiday celebrating African-American values and culture. Since Christmas this year was on Sunday, tomorrow is the Federal Holiday of Christmas (no mail or banking). When Richard and I get up to get ready for work, Liz Ellen will get up, and she and Widget will say their goodbyes before we leave for work, as she will be on the road not long afterwards to return to Eastern Kentucky. At the casino it will be the start of the new two-week pay period, and on my breaks I will get back to doing some reading. I have nothing much planned for the afternoon. And at sunset we will celebrate the Third Night of Hanukkah. Our New Orleans Pelicans (11-21, 0-6) will be playing a Home NBA game with the Dallas Mavericks (9-21, 1-6); I will record the score of the game in Monday’s Daily Update.
On this First Day of the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!), our Parting Quote comes to us from George Clayton Johnson, American science fiction writer. Born in 1929 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he was born in a barn, was forced to repeat the sixth grade, and dropped out of school entirely in the eighth grade. He briefly served as a telegraph operator and draftsman in the United States Army, then enrolled at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) under the G.I. Bill, but quit to return to his travels around the United States, working as a draftsman. He married in 1952. In 1959 Johnson wrote the story “I’ll Take Care of You” for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. From 1959 onward, Johnson’s work began to regularly appear in magazines such as Playboy, Los Angeles, The Twilight Zone Magazine, Rogue, and Gamma, and he began to write stories and scripts for TV. In 1960 he co-wrote the treatment (with Jack Golden Russell) for the Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11, although most of the details were changed for the actual movie. That same year Johnson submitted a story to The Twilight Zone called “Sea Change” which wasn’t used but was later adapted for Johnson’s 1994 comic book series Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology. Later, Johnson joined the Southern California School of Writers that included, among others, William F. Nolan, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. Through them he met Rod Serling, to whom he sold his story “All of Us Are Dying” (nominated for the Balrog Award), which was produced as “The Four of Us Are Dying”, scripted by Serling. Eventually, after selling other stories and having them scripted by other writers for the show, Johnson asked Serling to let him attempt a teleplay for The Twilight Zone, which was 1961’s “A Penny for Your Thoughts”. He wrote the teleplay for 1962’s “Kick the Can”, which was also featured in the 1983 movie The Twilight Zone: The Movie. Later, after completing more scripts for The Twilight Zone, he worked as a writer for other television series, including Honey West, Wanted Dead or Alive, Route 66, and Kung Fu. Johnson also wrote the Star Trek episode “The Man Trap”, which was the first episode telecast in 1966. Johnson briefly had a L.A.-based radio program called “The Writer and the Story” which featured interviews with authors, including Charles Beaumont and William F. Nolan. As his career progressed, Johnson formed in the 1960s a loose, short-lived federation with fellow authors and friends Matheson, Theodore Sturgeon, and others called The Green Hand. The intent was to leverage their works in the fashion of a union within the Hollywood system for TV production. Unfortunately, the enterprise fell apart after a few months. With William F. Nolan he wrote the novel Logan’s Run (1967); when the novel became a movie in 1977 he was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Script and for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. In 1999 he wrote All of Us are Dying and Other Stories (died 2015): “For me, fantasy must be about something, otherwise it’s foolishness … ultimately it must be about human beings, it must be about the human condition, it must be another look at infinity, it must be another way of seeing the paradox of existence.”