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Putting Christ back into Christmas

What Christmas means to you?

It’s near Christmas time, and I thought I’d try to give folk an overview of the topic of Christmas – and of Christ Himself – in history and in literature. Rest assured this will be a very personal trawl through the literary arts, and what it lacks in comprehensiveness it hopes to make up for in fun.

We begin at the beginning. Well, not at the start of all things, but with Emperor Constantine. Absolute ruler of Rome a short while after Christ was crucified, rose again and returned to Heaven to prepare us a place. Constantine was well aware of all this because he was the first Christian Emperor- but he felt challenged by the (likely) murderous mutterings of many of his subjects. No doubt feeling his dictatorship wobbling a little from banning all those pagan holidays, he apparently decided to ‘cut himself some slack’ by giving one of the most powerful groups – worshippers of the ‘Sun-god’ Ra, a perk. He officially changed the Sabbath day from the Saturday (observed by the Jews) to the Sunday. As this was about fifty years after Christ, we can be well assured that Jesus didn’t change it Himself; it was the first Head of the Roman church.

Going up through the ages we now come to a couple of literary references; Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ was actually the story of a doctor of science (Frankie himself) who created a monster – and then worried what this meant for his immortal soul. Naturally the ‘monster’ he created out of dead body parts (anyone thinking of Burke and Hare)? became a bit peeved at being referred to as an unnatural creation. All the more so because he knew he was, indeed, just that. Horrible things happened and both Frankie and his monster were left to regret it.

Bram Stoker, another one to write about the dark side, created what might have been an almost unstoppable villain in Dracula, the original vampire. This guy used to creep into the bedchambers of eighteen year old girls and… Drac, I mean, not the author. Well, I can’t be sure about that. Still, it would have been a very short and depressing book if Stoker hadn’t included the ‘fact’ that this evil creature knew that he was doing wrong in the eyes of God, and therefore was terrified by – and could be hurt by – the faith of the potential victim, given the literary from of the cross. Drac also wasn’t particularly keen on garlic, but as regular readers will know, neither is this author…well, I don’t agree with most of ol’ Drac’s views, but he had the garlic thing bang on.

Zooming forward we have a song by Chris de Burgh, in which a ‘Spaceman Came Travelling’ to Earth, apparently to light up the sky and show three wise men where to find the stable in Bethlehem where Jesus had been born. Wise they may have been, but it’s only in modern times we’ve created the Satnav.

An aside to all this literary fun is the discovery that ‘Kris Kringle’ actually means ‘Christ Child’ in German. An embarrassing fact about this is that, despite being married to a half-German man myself, I had to google that to be sure!

Not a lot of people know it, but the original Star Trek series contains an episode called ‘Bread and Circuses’ where Kirk and his men explore a civilisation where Rome never fell. Gladiators still fought in arenas, and lions still got used as a way of controlling anyone whom the Emperor saw as  ‘inconvenient’ . Chief in this last category were a huge group of people from all walks of Roman life, who claimed to worship the Son (of God). This episode doesn’t get played so often as the ones where Kirk battles Klingons, but trust me it’s well worth waiting for.

I could go on, but I sense it’s time to call it a day. Anyone sufficiently fascinated please say so on the website, and I will further attempt to enlighten you as to more places Christ has reached in the minds and imaginations of mankind.

For now, God Bless –

Janine. xx

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