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Posted on Friday, December 22 - 2006

" Copyright The Budapest Sun OnlineWe are now deep into Advent, a special time that takes its name from the Latin ad-venio, “to come to.” It is a period of expectant waiting for Christmas, which begins with the Sunday nearest to the Nov 30 Feast of St Andrew the Apostle, and..."

Christmas Tree

Copyright The Budapest Sun Online

We are now deep into Advent, a special time that takes its name from the Latin ad-venio, “to come to.” It is a period of expectant waiting for Christmas, which begins with the Sunday nearest to the Nov 30 Feast of St Andrew the Apostle, and embraces four Sundays.During this time, the faithful prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love and, in the western churches, Advent marks the start of the ecclesiastical year. It is not clear exactly when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church, but some theories suggest it is related to the feast of the winter solstice thatwas dear to our pagan ancestors.This could explain why several strange folk customs still survive in this period of preparation for Christmas, one such being Luca’s Day, a popular festival held on Dec 13, and a remnant from our sun-worshipping past. In fact, all the religious feasts around the winter solstice seem to combine elements of the sacred and “profane” – even Christmas itself. As found in texts from the year 1038, the late Old English term for Christmas was Cristes Maesse – the Mass of Christ – but the Hungarian name for the same festival seems to have very different roots. Linguists agree that Karácsony comes from the Slavic word korcun, which means “passage” and refers to the passing of the winter solstice, and the beginningof a new cycle.

Feast Ridiculed Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of what we know as the Christian Church, however. The first theologians ridiculed the feast: in the Scriptures it is written that only sinners – but not saints – celebrate their birthdays. The very first evidence of the feast comes from Egypt in about 200 AD, and placed Christ’s birthday on the equivalent of May 20 in the 28th year of the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus. Only from the fourth century on did western calendars make Dec 25 Christ’s birthday, upon an order of Pope Julius I, perhaps in the hope of imbuing the long-held pagan rituals of winter solstice with Christian meaning. The Armenian Christian rite still ignores the December festival .......


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