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By Nithin Sridhar
‘Christmas’ is one of the most widely celebrated festivals among the Christians across the world. It is a time to enjoy and make merry with family. Children also look forward to getting presents from ‘Santa Claus’. More than anything, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is considered as the Son of God in Christianity.
Yet, a deeper look into the origins of Christmas celebrations as well as its various elements reveals that Christmas has almost nothing to do with Christianity! The celebration and various practices associated with it are all rooted in pre-Christian pagan religions, which were then appropriated, digested, and Christianized as part of the Christianity’s early attempts to establish monopoly over Europe.
Writing about Pagan origins of Christmas practices, George W. Curtis notes: “Christmas looks out at us from the shadow of the groves of the Druids who knew not Christ, and it is dear to those who now renounce the name of Christ. The Christmas log, is but the Saxon Yule-log burning on the English hearth, and the blazing holiday temples of Saturn shine again in the illuminated Christian churches. It is the pagan mistletoe under which the Christian youth kisses the Christian maid. It is the holly of the old Roman Saturnalia which decorates Bracebridge Hall on Christmas Eve. The huge smoking baron of beef, the flowing oceans of ale, are but survivals of the tremendous eating and drinking of the Scandinavian Walhalla. The Christian and anti-Christian feeling blend in the happy season and the Christian observance mingles at every point with the pagan rites. It is not easy to say where the paganism ends and the Christianity begins.”
Thus, various elements of Christmas celebrations, be it the use of Christmas tree, holly, ivy, and mistletoe, or the ceremony of gift giving and merriment, all trace back to Pagan religious practices. But, more interesting is the fact that December 25th was not adopted as the birthday of Jesus Christ till many centuries after his death. In fact, there is no consensus among traditional Christian accounts regarding the date, year, or the place of the birth of Jesus Christ. Hence, we can find at least half a dozen different dates, which have been put forward as the birthday of Jesus Christ, including May 20, April 19, November17, March 28, March 25, and January 6.
On the other hand, strong arguments based on Christian Gospels have been made against the possibility of December 25 being the day of Jesus’s birth. Hence, it is quite clear that December 25 is not the birthday of Jesus Christ- the Christian Son of God. In fact, before the adoption of December 25 as his date of birth, January 6 was widely accepted date among early Christians. So, naturally the question arises: Why did the early Christians change their preference and adopt December 25 for celebrating the birth of Jesus? What was the significance of the day?
The answer to this lies in the Pagan lore of ‘Mithraism’– the religion of the Sun God. The worship of the Sun God, Mithra quite clearly can be traced to Persia and India. In India, the solar deity is one of the Vedic Gods and one of his names is ‘Mitra’. The religion of Mithras appears to have spread from Persia to Europe, where the people began to worship the Sun God as ‘Sol Invictus’ (Unconquered Sun) or as ‘Sol Invictus Mithras’. It is the birth of this ‘Unconquered Sun’ which his devotees began to celebrate on December 25- the day of Winter Solstice. The celebration is further traced back to the Roman Emperor Aurelian, who officially instituted the festival Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the birthday of Unconquered Sun) to be celebrated on December 25 in 274 CE. This winter solstice occasion was further adopted by the Romans as the festival of Saturn called ‘Saturnalia’.
Raymond Kilduff in ‘The Christian Tradition: The Birthday of the Sun’ writes: “The present custom of celebrating the Nativity on December 25th was not instituted by the Church until 353 or 354. December 25th coincided with both the birth date of Mithra (the Persian god of light and truth) and the beginning of the winter solstice. So the birthday of the Son of God came to be celebrated on the Birthday of the Sun.”
It must be noted here that it was the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity in 313 AD and the subsequent Roman patronage of Christianity that actually led to the appropriation of Mithra’s birthday into the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Thus, O M Spencer in ‘Christmas Throughout Christendom’ writes: “When, however, Constantine proclaimed the Christian faith as the predominating religion of the Roman empire, the Christian Church, relieved from persecution throughout both Orient and Occident, began to solemnize, under the aegis of imperial authority, Christmas as the birthday of Christ. One prominent feature, however, of Constantine’s political propaganda of Christianity was the adoption under Christian forms, not only of pagan rites and ceremonies, but also of pagan festivals. In order to reconcile heathen converts to the new faith, these relics of paganism, like antique columns transferred from ancient temples to adorn Christian churches, were freely incorporated into the Christian ceremonial. Thus it was that Christmas, though formerly observed on the 6th of January, was transferred to the 25th of December, the time of the Roman Saturnalia, and became invested with much of the paraphernalia of the heathen festival.”
In other words, Christianity digested various religious symbols and practices of Pagan religions present in Europe and in the process gave them new Christian meanings, thus ultimately causing the death of those Pagan religions. And ‘Christmas’ serves as the best example of this Christian process of ‘inculturation’ by which it uprooted numerous Pagan cultures and successfully evangelized Pagan people across the world. This inculturation strategy continues to be adopted by the Church even today especially in countries like India.
The usage of inculturation by Christianity against Mithraism is further reinforced by the presence of many similarities between Christianity and Mithraism. The birth of Mithra from a virgin mother, Mithra’s association with shepherds, Mithra having 12 disciples and performing miracles, his association with Lion and Lamb and his connection to Sunday, all became included into the life story of Jesus Christ. More importantly, Jesus is associated with Light similar to Mithra, who is the Lord of Light. These similarities clearly point towards the digestion of Mithratic symbols and practices into Christianity, which ultimately resulted in the spread of Christianity and the death of Mithraism. Thus, through inculturation, the original festival of the Sun God was transformed into Christmas-the festival of the Son of God.
London (CNN)- At five o'clock in the morning, the esteemed 86-year-old astrophysicist Jim Peebles was woken suddenly by the telephone ringing."In previous experience, the only phone calls at that time of night are bad news," he said. This one was great news. "The opening sentence from the caller was: 'The Nobel committee has voted to award you the Nobel Prize in Physics. Do you accept?'" Peebles recalled. The wording threw him. Who wouldn't accept a Nobel Prize? "You know the Bob Dylan fiasco?" he said during a phone interview with CNN. "That might have put the wind up them."The "fiasco" Peebles mentions refers to the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, which was controversially given to an utterly unimpressed Dylan.Aside from being ever-presents on college campuses in the 1960s, little connects Peebles, an expert in theoretical cosmology, with Dylan. But one of the starkest contrasts might lie in their reactions to winning a Nobel -- and the songwriter is far from the only laureate whose crowning turned out to be an awkward affair.
The five committees are notoriously secretive, fiercely shielding their choices from the outside world -- including the laureates themselves, who are told of their victories just minutes before they are announced to the public.
Jim Peebles speaking at the Nobel Prize banquet in 2019 Image credit: CNN
That tight-lipped mantra can lead to some heartening surprises, as it did for Benjamin List -- the co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- who was having coffee with his wife when he received the news.
"Sweden appears on my phone, and I look at her, she looks at me and I run out of the coffee shop to the street ... you know, that was amazing. It was very special. I will never forget," he told reporters on Wednesday after his victory was announced.It can also be far less celebratory. "I was lying in bed, and my wife woke up and heard my phone buzzing. And she yelled at me because my phone was waking her up," David MacMillan, who shared the prize with List, told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday."100% [I] missed the call. Classic Scottish person. I [didn't] believe this is happening, so I went back to bed," he added -- likely the most relatable sentence ever uttered by an expert in chiral imidazolidinone catalysts.
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And for some, the sudden ascension to Nobel laureate is an unwanted intrusion altogether. "Oh Christ," British-Zimbabwean author Doris Lessing said when reporters arrived outside her house to inform her she had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. "I'm sure you'd like some uplifting remarks of some kind. "It's a wonderful thing," Reinhard Genzel, an astrophysicist who won last year's Nobel Prize in Physics, told CNN of his win and the months since. "But it's a chore as well."
What it's like to win a Nobel PrizeFew Nobel winners can honestly say their lives weren't changed when they received the phone call.As long as they believe it, that is. "These days you get these cold calls, and I thought this is another one of them," Abdulrazak Gurnah, the winner of this year's literature prize, told the BBC on Thursday."This guy said, 'Hello, you have won the Nobel Prize for Literature,' And I said, 'come on, get out of here. Leave me alone,'" Gurnah said. "He talked me out of that, and gradually persuaded me."Winners often can't be contacted at all, leaving them to find out about their wins from the news, their family, or even their next-door neighbors.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Ressa and Muratov Image source: CNNEconomist Paul Milgrom was woken in the middle of the night in California by his colleague Robert Wilson banging on his front door. "Paul, it's Bob Wilson. You've won the Nobel Prize," he shouted into the intercom. "Yeah, I have? Wow," an utterly confused Milgrom responded, in an exchange captured by a doorbell camera.
Genzel's phone call came while he was in a Zoom meeting with colleagues last October. "I had absolutely no inkling," he said. "I thought, my God ... obviously this is a fantasy."
The committee's secretary told him he "couldn't say anything for 15 or 20 minutes," so Genzel tried his best to keep the news to himself. "I walked over to our meeting room ... (my colleagues) told me afterwards I was stumbling in there, slightly gazed, telling them to switch on the TV," he said.Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel winner at 17, was midway through a chemistry lesson at a school in Birmingham, England, when a teacher interrupted to tell her she had won, she told Reuters.She later told Vogue that she modestly left the achievement off her university applications, because she "felt a bit embarrassed." But there are occasions, too, where the winner isn't quite as thrilled as the Nobel committee might imagine.
Dylan and Ernest Hemingway both skipped the Nobels' annual banquet; the latter made a point of telling the Swedish Academy that he had "no facility for speech making and no command of oratory." But arguably it was Lessing who had the most memorable reaction. She learned of her win as she stepped out of a taxi on the way back from the grocery store. "Have you heard the news? You've won the Nobel Prize for Literature!" an enthusiastic reporter told her. Her eyes rolled back in her head before the journalist had even finished his sentence. Lessing -- accompanied by a male acquaintance who stood next to her, bemused, his arm in a sling and a single artichoke in his hand -- was clearly more interested in collecting her shopping than talking to the world's media.
Also read: Abdulrazak Gurnah- The New Nobel Laureate
Asked how she felt, she expressed little enthusiasm: "Look, I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one."
"Am I supposed to get excited, or elated, or what?" she remarked. "One can't get more excited than one gets, you know?"
'I was treated like a rock star'
As soon as Genzel's win was announced last year, his face was on televisions around the world. The announcement of a Nobel Prize winner makes the front pages of newspapers and websites almost everywhere, throwing a sudden spotlight on little-known scientists and their complex research. "Once the announcement is made, you lose your identity within half an hour," Genzel said. "The telephone rings all the time. "Peebles had a similar experience just minutes after his early morning phone call. "When I returned to bed my wife said, 'What was that about?' I said 'Nobel Prize,' and she said: Oh God." Within minutes, the couple had a photographer outside their door. Genzel suddenly found himself answering questions about politics on late-night German TV, angering some of his friends with his responses. Peebles, meanwhile, spent much of the day looking through emails from every corner of the world: "Please come visit us, please read my manuscript..."
Reinhard Genzel posing with his medal Image source: CNN
"It's one thing to say that the Nobel Prizes attract attention. It's another to experience it," he said. Sometimes, personal relationships change. "There is of course a lot of envy, from some colleagues -- many people who are close to me in the same field might very well say, 'Why did he get it?'" said Genzel. But before the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered plans for two years in a row, winners were also treated to a gala in Stockholm. "I was treated like a rock star ... I experienced what I expect rock stars to experience," Peebles said of his banquet in 2019. "It's a wonderful honor." "My attache had an almost endless list of things to do," he added. "'Now you must meet these influential people. Now you must go to a news conference. Now we will have dinner with some important people. And on and on.' "Genzel missed out on the festivities last year, but he enjoyed a low-key affair in Germany. "The governor of Bavaria offered us his residence, (and) we had a fairly nice event with the Swedish ambassador," he said. Two years on, CNN asked Peebles whether his email inbox has finally receded to pre-Nobel volumes. "I'd have to look at the data on that," he responded, ever the empiricist. But for both men and many other laureates, the most exciting part of the Nobel experience is simply that it gets people talking about science and culture.
"I find it almost a necessity to tell the public at large that there is truth, there is absolute truth," Genzel said. "What I hope is understood is the importance of the Nobel Prize in making people aware of the importance of curiosity-driven science or arts," he said. "I think it must be unique."
(This article is originally written by Bob Picheta)
Keywords: Nobel Prize, Reactions, Laureates
Married Hindu women are recognised by a red streak of vermillion in the middle of their foreheads. This is traditionally called 'sindoor', which is derived from the Sanskrit word sindura, meaning 'red lead.'. Sindoor is traditionally powdered turmeric and lime, sometimes red saffron, or red sandalwood. It is also called vermilion, or Kumkum.
Sindoor is traditionally powdered turmeric and lime, sometimes red saffron, or red sandalwood. It is also called vermilion, or Kumkum. Image source: Photo by Gayathri Malhotra on Unsplash
The origin of the practise of wearing sindoor is ambiguous, but historical records from the Harappan civilisation show that women wore sindoor as a sign of being married. Today's generation considers the wearing of sindoor an outdated and patriarchal ritual. However, there is still a large population of women who uphold the ritual of adorning their foreheads with vermilion every day.
Sindoor implies the longevity of a woman's marriage to her husband in the Hindu tradition. The longer the streak, the longer her husband's life is believed to be. Women wear it for the first time on their wedding day, when the husband applies it during the ceremony. As long as he remains alive, the red streak that fills the woman's maang, or hair partition, symbolises her fruitful married life.
When the finger used to apply the sindoor touches the pituitary gland every time, it arouses affection in a woman for her husband. Image credit: Photo by Amish Thakkar on Unsplash
The components of the red powder are believed to improve the sexual energy of the woman. When the finger used to apply the sindoor touches the pituitary gland every time, it arouses affection in a woman for her husband. The mixture that she wears on her head controls her blood pressure and activates her sexual drive.
These days, feminists do not take very lightly to the practice of wearing sindoor, as they view it as a sign of patriarchal dominance. They do not like being branded as 'belonging to a man'. They prefer to wear it as a style statement because it enhances beauty. Fashion designers have recently commissioned models to sport sindoor on the runway. New age feminists are making bids to allow widows and single women to adorn their foreheads with the vermilion streak.
Keywords: Sindoor, Marriage, Symbol, Women, Patriarchy
Actress Urvashi Rautela has recently announced the name of her next film which is titled 'Dil Hai Gray'. It's a Hindi remake of Tamil film 'Thiruttu Payale 2'. Urvashi Rautela will be seen alongside Vineet Kumar Singh and Akshay Oberoi.
Urvashi shares: "I am excited to announce the title of my next film 'Dil Hai Gray' on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami. The film is very close to my heart and it was lovely working with director Susi Ganeshan sir, producer M Ramesh Reddy sir, and my co-stars Vineet Kumar Singh and Akshay Oberoi. "
"The film has created a massive response in the south industry and I am very positive about the story that it will be also be loved by the audience here. I hope my fans would bless us with their love and support. Super excited to watch my film on the big screen after a long time," she concludes. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: urvashi rautela, movies, bollywood, south, remake, film