"CHRISTMAS (i.e. the Mass of Christ), in the Christian Church, the festival of the nativity of Jesus Christ. The history of this feast coheres so closley with that of Epiphany (q.v.), that what follows must be read in connexion with the article under that heading.

The earliest body of gospel tradition, represented by Mark no less than by the primitive non-Marcan document embodied in the first and third gospels, begins, not with the birth and childhood of Jesus, but with his baptism; and this order of accretion of gospel matter is faithfully reflected in the time order of the invention of feasts. The great church adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany; and before the 5th cntury there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on the 6th of January, or the 25th of March, or the 25th of December.

The earliest identification of the 25th of December with the birthday of Christ is in a passage otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 171-183), preserved in Latin by the Magdeburg centuriators (i.3, 118), to the effect that the Gauls contended that as they celebrated the birth of the Lord on the 25th of December, whatever day of the week it might be, so they ought to celebrate the Pascha on the 25th of March when the resurrection befell.

The next mention of the 25th of December is in Hippolytus' (c. 202) commentary on Daniel iv.23. Jesus, he says, was born at Bethlehem on the 25th of December, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of Augustus. This passage also is almost certainly interpolated. In any case he mentions no feat, nor was such a feast congruous with the orthodox ideas of that age. As late as 245 Origen, in his eighth homily on Leviticus, repudiates as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Christ "as if he were a king Pharoah." The first certain mention of Dec. 25 is in a Latin chronographer of A.D. 354, first published entire by Mommsen. [1--In the _Abhandlungen der sachsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften_ (1895). Note that in A.D. 1, Dec. 25 was a Sunday and not a Friday.] It runs thus in English:

"Year 1 after Christ, in the consulate of Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon." Here again no festal celebration of the day is attested.

There were, however many speculations in the 2nd century about the date of Christ's birth. Clement of Alexandria, towards its close, mentions several such, and condemns them as superstitions. Some chronologists, he says, alleged the birth to have occurred in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the 25th of Pachon, the Egyptian month, i.e. the 20th of May. These were probably the Basilidian gnostics. Others set it on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi, i.e., the 19th or 20th of April. Clement himself sets it on the 17th of November, 3 B.C. The author of a Latin tract, called the _De Pascha computus_, written in Africa in 243, sets it by private revelation, _ab ipso deo inspirati_, on the 28th of March. He argues that the world was created perfect, flowers in bloom, and trees in leaf, therefore in spring; also at the equinox, and when the moon just created was full. Now the moon and sun were created on a Wednesday. The 28th of March suits all these considerations. Christ, therefore, being the Sun of Righteousness, was born on the 28th of March.

The same symbolical reasoning led Polycarp [2--In a fragment preserved by an Armenian writer, Ananias of Shirak.] (before 160) to set his birth on Sunday, when the world's creation began, but his baptism on Wednesday, for it was the analogue of the sun's creation. On such grounds certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from the 6th of January to the 25th of December, which was then a Mithraic feast and is by the chronographer above referred to, but in another part of his compilation, termed _Natilis invicti solis_, or birthday of the unconquered Sun. Cyprian (_de orat. dem._ 35) calls Christ _Sol verus_, Ambrose _Sol novus noster_ (Sermo vii. 13), and such rhetoric was widespread.

The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to the 6th of January, accused the Romans of sun-worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of the 25th of December had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus and its lections by Artemon to commemorate the _natural_ birth of Jesus. Chrysostom also testifies the 25th of December to have been from the beginning known in the West, from Thrace even as far as Gades. Ambrose, _On Virgins_, iii. ch. 1, writing to his sister, implies that as late as the papacy of Liberius 352-356, the Birth from the Virgin was feasted together with the Marriage of Cana and the Banquet of the 4000 (Luke ix.13), which were never feasted on any other day but Jan. 6.

Chrysostom, in a seermon preached at Antioch on Dec. 20, 386 or 388, says that some held the feast of Dec. 25 to have been held in the West, from Thrace as far as Cadiz, from the beginning. It certainly originated in the West, but spread quickly eastwards. In 353-361 it was observed at the court of Constantius. Basil of Caesarea (died 379) adopted it. Honorius, emperor (395-423) in the West, informed his mother and brother Arcadius (395-408) in Byzantium of how the new feast was kept in Rome, separate from the 6th of January, with its own _troparia_ and _sticharia_.

They adopted it, and recommended it to Chryostom, who had long been in favour of it, as were the other three patriarchs, Theophilus of Alexandria, John of Jerusalem, and Flavian of Antioch. This was under Pope Anastasius, 398-400. John or Wahan of Nice, in a letter printed by Combefis in his _Historia monothelitarum_, affords the above details. The new feast was communicated by Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople (434-446), to Sahak, Catholicos of Armenia, about 440. The letter was betrayed to the Persian king, who accused Sahak of Greek intrigues, and deposed him. However, the Armenians, at least those within the Byzantine pale, adopted it for about thirty years, but finally abandoned it together with the decrees of Chalcedon early in the 8th century.

Many writers of the period 375-450, e.g. Epiphanius, Cassian, Asterius, Basil, Chrysostom and Jerome, contrast the new feast with that of the Baptism as that of the birth _after the flesh_, from which we infer that the latter was generally regarded as a birth according to the Spirit. Instructive as showing that the new feast travelled from West eastwards is the fact (noticed by Usener) that in 387 the new feast was reckoned according to the Julian calandar by writers of the province of Asia, who in referring to other feasts use the reckoning of their local calendars. As early as 400 in Rome an imperial rescript includes Christmas among the three feasts (the others are Easter and Epiphany) on which theatres must be closed. Epiphany and Christmas were not made judicial _sine dies_ until 534.

For some years in the West (as late as 353 in Rome) the birth feast was appended to the baptismal feast on the 6th of January, and in Jerusalem it altogether supplanted it from almost 360 to 440, when Bishop Juvenal introduced the feast of the 25th of December. The new feast was about the same time (440) finally established in Alexandria. The _quadregesima_ of Epiphany (i.e., the feast of the presentation in the Temple, or _hupapante_) continued to be celebrated in Jerusalem on the 14th of February, forty days afer the 6th of January, until the reign of Justinian. In most other places it had long before been put back to the 2nd of February to suit the new Christmas. Armenian historians describe the riots, and display of armed force, without which Justinian was not able in Jerusalem to transfer this feast from the 14th to the 2nd of February.

The grounds on which the Church introduced so late as 350-440 a Christmas feast till then unknown, or, if known, precariously linked with the baptism, seem in the main to have been the following: (1) The transition from adult to infant baptism was proceeding rapidly in the East, and in the West was well-nigh completed. Its natural complement was a festal recognition of the fact that the divine element was present in Christ from the first, and was no new stage of spiritual promotion coeval only with the descent of the Spirit upon him at baptism.

The general adoption of child baptism helped to extinguish the old view that the divine life in Jesus dated from his baptism, a view which led the Epiphany feast to be regarded as that of Jesus' spiritual rebirth. (2) The 4th century witnessed a rapid diffusion of Marcionite, or, as it was now called, Manichaean propaganda, the chief tenet of which was that Jesus either was not born at all, was a mere phantasm, or anyhow did not take flesh of the Virgin Mary. Against this view the new Christmas was a protest, since it was peculiarly the feast of his birth in the flesh, or as a man, and is constantly spoken of as such by the fathers who witnessed its institution.

In Britain the 25th of December was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede (_De temp. rat._ ch. 13) relates that "the ancient people of the Angli began the year on the 25th of December when we now celebrate the birthday of the Lord; and the very night which is now so holy to us, they called in their tongue _modranecht (modra niht)_, that is, the mothers' night, by reason we suspect of the ceremonies which in that night-long vigil they performed." With his usual reticence about matters pagan or not orthodox, Bede abstains from recording who the mothers were and what the ceremonies. In 1644 the English puritans forbad any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II. revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view.

Outside Teutonic countries presents are unknown. Their place is taken in Latin countries by the _strebae_, French e'trennes_, given on the 1st of January; this was in antiquity a great holiday, wherefore until late in the 4th century the Christians kept it as a day of fasting and gloom. The setting up in Latin churches of a Christmas _cr`eche_ is said to have been originated by St Francis.

AUTHORITIES -- K.A.H. Kellner, _Heortologie_ (Freiburg im Br., 1906), with Bibliography; Hospinianus, _De festis Christianorum_ (Geneva, 1574); Edw. Mart`ene, _De Antiquis Ecclesiae Ritibus_, iii.31 (Bassani, 1788); J.C.W. Augusti, _Christl. Archaologie_, vols. i. and v. (Leipzig, 1817- 1831); A. J. Benterim, Denkwurdigkeiten_, v. pt. i. p. 528 (Mainz, 1825, &c.); Ernst Friedrich Wernsdorf, _De originibus Solemnium Natalis Christi_ (Wittenberg, 1757, and in J.E. Volbeding, _Thesaurus Commentationum_, Leipzig, 1847); Anton. Bynaeus, _De Natali Jesu Christi_ (Amsterdam, 1689); Hermann Usener, _Religionsgeschichtlicke Untersuchungen_ (Bonn, 1889); Nik. Niles, S.J., _Kalendarium Manuale_ (Innsbruck, 1896); L. Duschesne, _Origines du culte chre'tien_ (3e e'd., Paris, 1889).

-- Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare, M.A., D.Th. (Giessen). Fellow of the British Academy. Formerly Fellow of University College, Oxford. Author of _The Ancient Armenian Texts of Aristotle_; _Myth, Magic and Morals_; &c."

-- From the 1912 Enc. Brit., 11th ed., orignally posted by Curtis Johnson in HOLYSMOKE.


Some things to think about today:


Midwinter has always been a time when spirits and monsters were on the prowl. It is also a time that looks forward to the coming of spring hence a good time for fortunetelling and weather forecasting. The following is a collection of only some of the superstitions of the Christmas season. Some are associated with specific countries.

1) At midnight on Christmas Eve, all water turns to wine; cattle kneel facing the East; horses kneel and blow as if to warm the manger; animals can speak, though it's bad luck to hear them; bees hum the hundredth psalm.

2) In Ireland, it is believed that the gates of heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve. Those who die at that time go straight to heaven without having to wait in purgatory.

3) A child born on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve is considered very lucky in some countries, but in Greece he is feared to be a Kallikantzaroi; in Poland he may turn out to be a werewolf.

4) The weather on each of the twelve days of Christmas signifies what the weather will be on the appropriate month of the coming year.

5) In Germany, a blindfolded goose will touch first the girl in the circle who will wed first.

6) The branch of a cherry tree placed in water at the beginning of Advent will bring luck if it flowers by Christmas.

7) In Devonshire, England, a girl raps at the hen house door on Christmas Eve. If a rooster crows, she will marry within the year.

8) You burn your old shoes during the Christmas season in Greece to prevent misfortunes in the coming year.

9) It's bad luck to let any fire go out in your house during the Christmas season.

10) It's bad luck to let your evergreen decorations fall or to throw them away. You should burn them or feed them to your cow.

11) If the husband brings the Christmas holly into the house first, he will rule the household for the coming year; if the wife is first, she will hold sway.

12) If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning, you will be able to carry weights.

13) In Hertfordshire, England, a plum cake is stuck on a cow's horn on Christmas Eve. Cider is then thrown into her face. If the cakes falls forward, it will be a good harvest.

14) From cockcrow to daybreak of Christmas morning, the trolls roam the Swedish countryside, stay indoors.

15) During the recitation of Christ's genealogy at Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, buried treasure reveals itself.

16) If you don't eat any plum pudding, you will lose a friend before the next Christmas.

17) If you refuse mince pie at Christmas dinner, you will have bad luck for a year.

18) A loaf of bread left on the table after Christmas Eve dinner will ensure no lack of bread for the next year.

19) Eating an apple at midnight on Christmas Eve gives good health for a year.

20) You will have as many happy months in the coming year as the number of houses you eat minced pie in during Christmas.

-- Original from Joe Nicholson at 1:202/911 in "MEMORIES." Forwarded Dec 05 97 by Alan Hess at 1:261/1000 to HOLYSMOKE.


A couple of things about the Deity represented today,
Mithras (as opposed to rash immitations like Jesus, etc.):
Mithra, Superstar

"A cult closely associated with sun-worship, and one popular with the Roman army, was Mithraism. Mithras, a god with strong solar associations, derived from Zorastrianism, the official religion of the Persians under the Sassanids. In the pure Zorastrian faith Mithras was a god of light, the eye of Ahura Mazda, god of heaven and victor over Angra-Mainyu the power of darkness. In Mithraism, Mithras received strong Hellensitic elements and became the very sun, the heavenly and unconquerable light that protects mankind against evil. Through his sacrifice of a primeval bull the young and virile Mithras gave the promise of eternal life to mankind; through his mediation even the poorest of mortals could rise to the supreme heaven and share in a life of everlasting bliss with the godhead. The background was frankly pagan, yet the compound was so well blended with attractive ingredients, even to the point of suggesting spiritual redemption through voluntary castigations and self-discipline, that it proved a serious rival to Christianity.

Both doctrines had points in common. Mithras, like Tammuz and Adonis (the beloved of Venus), spent half the year in the lower and half in the upper world. Likewise the sun spends half the year below the celestial equator and half the year above it. Likewise Christ was born, gave His moral light to the world, died, and rose again -- but without any connection with a seasonal drama. Both Christianity and Mithraism shared a belief in immortality and the importance of moral purity through suffering. Both devolved on the idea (although at vastly different ethical levels) of sacrifice and divine mediation.

That Mithraism had astronomical connections is suggested by inscriptions and paintings which portray a bull (representing the dying year of nature being attacked by other animals. Mithras, wearing a peaked Phyrgian cap and attire, kneels on the bull, grasps its nostrils with ne hand, and slits its throat with the other. As the life-blood flows from the unfortunate animal an outstretched serpent attacks the fore-hoof, a devouring dog (_Sirius_) leaps up to the gory neck, and a scorpion nips his genitals -- doubtless with more effect than the crab who once pinched the heel of Hercules. Ears of corn (the _Pleiades_) spring from the brush of the bull's tail Egyptian fashion, and hold out the promise of new life.

On either side stand Hesperos and Phosphoros, two divine torch-bearers, one with his torch inclined upwards, the other with his torch inclined downwards, whilst the entire scene is often framed by the twelve signs of the zodiac. The panel probably perpetuates the time when the vernal equinoctial point fell in the sign of the Bull which therefore ushered in the solar year, and when the autumnal equinoctial point fell in the Scorpion. The two figures seem to present both the evening and morning aspects of Venus, and their torches, the ascent and descent of the sun from the celestial equator.

Since the sun reaches its lowest noon-day altitude in the northern sky on the 25th December, the time of the winter solstice, this date was chosen for celebrating the nativity of Mithras. On this day his initiates held festivals and kindled lights, the gleaming tapers of which represented the fire of the newborn sun. On this day also the Syrians decorated the pine trees sacred to Adonis, and branches of holly and yellow mistletoe adorned respectively the revels of Saturnus and Diana-Artemis. Thereafter the sun rose with increasing height in the heavens and heralded the approach of yet another spring and the promise of summer fruits. In view of the widespread popularity of this winter festival, the early Western Church chose December 25 for celebrating the nativity of Christ. For similar reasons the festival of His resurrection was celebrated at the time of the full moon on or next following the vernal equinox."

-- Source: Homer C. King, _The Background of Astronomy_ (Braziller, 1958), pp. 92-94. Originally posted by Curtis Johnson in HOLYSMOKE.


                 Mithras the Sun God Filksong
           (Sung to the tune of Frosty the Snowman)

                     Mithras the Sun-God
                   Was a jolly happy soul,
                      And he slew a bull
                       On solstice day
               So the world would not get cold.

                     Mithras the Sun-God
                  Is a solar myth they say,
                    But the Gnostics know
                      He obeyed the crow
               And he killed that bull one day.

                 The Sun required a sacrifice
                  To keep from getting dim,
           And when Mithras slew the bull, old Sol
                 Came down to feast with him.

                     Mithras the Sun-God
                He saved the world from Night,
                      And his immolation
                    Also brought salvation
               To the men who sought the Light.

                 _Pater accipe, Sancte accipe
                     Thuricremos leones,
                     Per quos thuradamus,
                     Per quos consumimur
                      Ipsi, O Meithra!_

                     Mithras the Sun-God
                   Asia Minor was his home,
                    But his chosen priest
                   Travelled from the East
              And established his cult at Rome.

                     Mithras the Sun-God
                   Had an initiatory cult,
                    Through seven degrees
                 They sought Light and Peace
                   In a subterranean vault.

               There must have been some magic
                In that Phrygian cap he wore,
            For when they placed it on their heads
                  His initiates were reborn.

                      Jesus the Sun-God
                    Made Mithras go away,
                     But he waved goodbye
                    Saying 'Don't you cry,
                I'll be back again some day!'

[The middle section, corresponding to 'Thumpety-thump-thump...' in the original, is adapted from an invocation inscribed on the wall of the Mithraeum under Santa Prisca.]


Well everyone, it's that day. Today we celebrate a holiday which is birth date of a man born of a virgin, with lowly shepherds in attendance. He was a man known as "The Way," "The Truth," "The Light," "The Life," "The Word," "The Son of God," and "The Good Shepherd." In fact, he was often pictured carrying a lamb on his shoulders. Sunday, his Lord's Day, is considered sacred to him, and has been for some time. Today we celebrate his life with the traditional methods surrounding him: gifts, hymns, candles, bells, and perhaps even communion. This man died and was put into a rock tomb, but rose from it after only three days. Because he rose, his followers believe that there will someday be a day of judgment where nonbelievers will perish, and believers will go to paradise forever. That's right, today is THE Taurobolia in which we celebrate the Messiah Mithra. {A}

Ooops, waitaminit . . . I think I was confused there. Give me a second . . .

No, the man/Deity I speak of is someone different. Because of him, we know of a loving father God who is omniscient and concerned for our welfare, since we are his children. Because of him, we can look forward to the Kingdom of God, Heaven, and don't have to worry about Hell, since we know we will rise again after we die . . . he is often called the Sun, and he was later made the supreme Deity of the Roman Empire in his title of Sol Invictus. We know of his angels and archangels, and we know of Satan. But our beliefs, which concentrates on works rather than on faith, will sustain us. I'm speaking of, of course, our faith in Zarathushtra, and our religion of Zoroastrianism. {B}

Dang, that's not quite right either.

Okay, he was a Deity that was killed without a bone being broken. He is our symbol of immortality, and he and his father are one: he is the manifesting son of God. He is known as the light of the world, and is the way, the truth, and the life by name and in person. He is the one true plant (vine?). He came down from Heaven, and in him has been assigned Eternity. He is a light that drives away the darkness. He was baptized by someone known as the Baptizer, and was born in a place associated with bread. He is known as the good shepherd, and is often depicted with a lambing crook. He is the Lamb and the Lion, and is identified with the cross and referred to as the Crst. He is part of the Trinity . . . he is a son of a virgin and the son of the Supreme Deity. He was carried off by the Evil One to the mountain top, where they contended. A star indicated his birth, and he is known as both the bringer of peace and he who brings the sword. As a child, he taught in the temple, and later had twelve followers, attested to in the revelations written by another. I'm speaking of, of course, the God Horus. {C}

All right, I've got it this time . . .

This Deity/Savior was immaculately conceived and born of a spotless virgin (attended by angels and shepherds), through the agency of a holy ghost and in accord with prophecy. At birth he was presented with frankincense, myrrh, etc. While an infant, he was threatened with death by the ruling tyrant, but his parents fled with him, the tyrant slaughtering all the male children under two years of age. He was saluted and worshipped as the savior of men, and lived a life of humility and practical moral usefulness. He wrought many astounding miracles, including healing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind, casting out devils, raising the dead to life, and so on. He was finally crucified between two thieves. Afterwards, he descended to Hell, rose from the dead, and ascended back to Heaven in the sight of all men, as his biblical history declares. I'm speaking, of course, of our savior Vrishna. {F}


He was born of a spotless virgin and led a life of deep humility and piety. He retired to the wilderness and fasted for forty days, was worshipped as a God, and was finally crucified between two thieves, after which he was buried and descended into Hell, but rose the third day. His name was Quexalcote . . . {F}

Uh . . .

He was born of a virgin, who was visited by an angel to tell her that she carried the young godling. He is considered to be god incarnate. His human father was a carpenter, though the child was of royal descent. He was called `Savior' and was without sin. He was crucified between two thieves. We shall meet him again on the great and final day of judgment. His name was, of course, Krishna . . . {F}

Well, something's clearly wrong here . . . Abraham Ben Samuel Abulafia,
Christopher Columbus,
Geuiseppe Desa,
Hung Sin-tsuan,
Jan Bockelson,
Jemima Wilkenson,
Jesus Christ,
Joan of Arc,
Orix Bovar,
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson,
Sabbatai Zebi . . . {D}>

. . . no, this isn't getting anywhere
Akditi, Juck-Shilluck,
Ahriman, Kumani,
Ajbit+Alom-Bhol, Mahaskti,
Amon Re, Num,
Aten, Manibozho,
Bochica, Marduk,
Brahma, Maui,
Coyote, Pachacamac,
Dohit, Parica,
Gamab, Radogast,
Inti, Tengri,
Jar-Sub, Yahveh . . . {E},

. . . nor is this (flipping through list of Saviors many crucified):

Adad of Assyria,
Adonis, son of the virgin Io of Greece,
Alcides of Thebes,
Atys of Phrygia,
Baal & Taut `The Only Begotten of God' of Phoenecia,
Bali of Afghanistan,
Beddru of Japan,
Budha Sakia of India,
Cadmus of Greece,
Chrishna of Hindostan,
Crite of Chaldea,
Deva Tat, and Sammonocadam of Siam
Divine Teacher of Plato,
Fohi and Tien of China,
Gentaut and Quexalcote of Mexico,
Hesus of Eros, and Bremrillah, of the Druids,
Hil and Feta of the Mandaites,
Holy One of Xaca,
Indra of Tibet,
Ischy of the island of Formosa,
Ixion and Quirinus of Rome,
Jao of Nepal,
Mikado of the Sintoos,
Mohamud/Mohomet of Arabia. {F}
Odin of the Scandinavians,
Prometheus of Caucasus,
Salivahana of Bermuda,
Thammuz of Syria,
Thor, son of Odin, of the Gauls,
Universal Monarch of the Sibyls,
Wittoba of the Bilingonese,
Xamolxis of Thrace,
Zoar of the Bonzes,
Zoroaster and Mithra of Persia,
Zulis/Zhule/Osiris/Orus of Egypt,

Well, to hell with it. Let's all just get drunk and go naked. Where's my presents? Happy and safe holidays to you and yours. <G>

SOURCES: (Though there are many sources listed here, they all in reality come from {D}, which has many articles and much information reprinted in the collection. I recommend it highly.)

{A} Information for this came from Volume 2, Issue 9, edition of The Edelen Letter, from September 1992.

{B} Information for this came from The World Bible, Edited by Robert O. Ballou.

{C} Churchward's book Of Religion, first published in 1924.

{D} The Book. Also called: The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You To Read, edited by Tim C. Leedom, ISBN 0-8403-8908-6.

{E} Ye Gods by Anne Baumgartner.

{F} Kersey Graves, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, Truth Seeker Co., New York, 1875.

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(C) Copyright 1998 by Richard Smith. Permission to repost freely given, as long as it is done so unaltered and unedited.




'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood-burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title,of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebra. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal cranial coverings, were about to take slumbrous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing the fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline aqueous precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself - thus permitting my incredulous optical sensor to peruse a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by an octet of diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a miniscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his undulate motive power traveling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen ... "Now Dasher, now Dancer..." et al. - guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved - with utmost celerity and via a downward leap - entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebon residue from the oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his molar regions and nasal aptenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion's floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirstute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smokingpiece whose gray fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned hosiery with articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith affected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic yuletides to the planetary constituence, and to that self-same assemblage my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."


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