December 19, 2005

Hanukkah vs Christmas

This year Hanukkah and Christmas start/fall on the same day. When I was growing up there were like 2 Jewish families within 10 miles. The majority of families were Catholic, and there were some Protestants given most everyone was either Italian or Irish - so I knew nothing about Jewish holidays. I couldn't even tell you where the nearest synagogue was. Now, some of my closest and dearest friends are Jewish. This year Christmas day starts the beginning of Hanukkah. I always guessed that the start of Hanukkah had something to do with the the number of days after the solstice so I looked into it - and it does! It follows the Hebrew calendar, which follows the lunar calendar (I have no idea which came first) and is the 25th day of Kislev (apparently there was some type of re-dedication of a temple on the 25th). The Hebrew calendar follows a 19 year cycle and Hanukkah starts on the same day (25th) of every year of the Hebrew/lunar calendar. But the rest of the Christian world follows the Gregorian calendar (a solar calendar). So the Christians follow one calendar and the Muslims and the Jews follow another - I think we got started on the wrong foot. Another thing I don't get is that other Christian holidays, like Easter, follow the lunar calendar. So some Christian holidays follow the lunar calendar, others follow the solar calendar. Hmmm, weird. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool that at least this year the Christians and the Jews can start to celebrate together. Now if we can only figure out Ramadan.

December 19, 2005 in Biographical, Religion, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 02, 2005

Il Papa Morto

I was watching CNN today when the breaking news was that the "Pope has Died". I, like many others, knew it was coming given his failing health over the past several days, months - but I was still stunned. It hurt.

I was brought up a Catholic, going to church every Sunday as a family, all eight of us in our Sunday best, week in, week out. Half the time I paid attention, half the time I didn't (probably because they said mass in Latin until I was 12 or so). But I did what I was suppose to do. Later, I became a bit disenchanted, removed from the Catholic religion during my late teens and into my adulthood. I just couldn't come to grips with being at odds with the teachings of the church and my own personal beliefs. I think there were millions of others who thought the same thing during the 70's, 80's. It was a tough time for the Church. One of the things that really bothers me are hypocrites. How could I devote myself to a religion and not agree with the teachings.

John Paul II changed all of that for me. Although I still didn't, and don't agree with all of the teachings of the church, he found a way to reach out to people. It was if he transcended  the religion that he led and spoke to us beyond the "rules". I'll never forget the gatherings in Denver in the late 90's during World Youth Week. Hundreds of thousands of kids with parents and chaperons in tow, pilgramaging to Denver to be together and to be with the Pope. The scene was amazing. If he could move teens like that, he was OK in my book. Or when he led the rise against communism - Kissinger still credits JP2 as being the single biggest cause for the rise of democracy and the fall of communism. Or when he "scolded" our President for "invading Iraq" - loved it! Here was the so called "most powerful man in the world - Bush" being reprimanded by the Pope who was in his 80's and in poor health.

John Paul II died today and I was deeply saddened not because we lost the Pope, but because one of the greatest leaders of all time, a leader who gave us hope, a leader that gave us all new possibilities, is now gone. We might not all agree with what the Catholic church has to say, but when you look at what that man has done, he was a godsend. He helped changethe world for the better, he gave Catholics a reason to be proud again. JP2 - we love you!

April 2, 2005 in Religion | Permalink | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

Thank God Lent is Over

I had always thought that the season of Lent went right up until Easter Sunday. Well, last night (Friday night) when I got home from work, my daughter Alexa informed me that Lent actually ends on midnight the Friday before. So, being the good catholic that I am, I quickly did some math and figured that it was indeed past midnight in Jerusalem and cracked upon a great bottle of White Oak Chardonnay! Oh yea, for those of you that haven't been keeping up, my sacrifice for Lent was not drinking any alcohol for that period of time.

Now, I did have a slip up here and there (probably two or three times) over the forty days/nights but that's the cool thing about being a Catholic - you mess up and then go to confession. You should try it, it works. No guilt here. Although Christine would always argue that I was born guilt free. For those purists out there, yes I am human, yes I do believe in choice and the freedom of self expression, so if you don't like it - oh well!

So tomorrows Easter, the kids are all excited, they still believe in the Easter Bunny (so do I but in my mind she looks a little bit different :-). Easter is the only holiday that I know about that isn't the same weekend every year. It's actually determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (btw, the vernal equinox is when the sun crosses the equator from south to north and the amount of daylight equals the amount of sunlight at that point - it always happens on or about the 20th of March. It's also known as the first day of spring. When it happens the other way, crossing from north to south, it's called the autumnal equinox - our entry to fall). So this year the vernal equinox is on the 20th, the first full moon is on the 25th and viola - Easter is on Sunday the 27th!

Another tid bit of information. The Great Sphinx - one of the 7 wonders of the world - was positioned to point to the exact spot of the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox. Also, the vernal and autumnal equinox days are the only days when you can balance an oblique object on its point - that's why you can balance an egg on its end on the 20th of March every year.

OK, full disclosure - every vernal equinox I sneak to the fridge when no one is looking , take out an egg and try this.

March 26, 2005 in Religion | Permalink | TrackBack

February 13, 2005

Lent - The "Sacrafice"

So last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) was the start of Lent.

Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday. We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection. Lent begins on 9 February 2005 and ends on 26 March 2005.
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. By the way, I had to look this up after my duaghter quized me on it the other day. I thought the 40 days had something to do with Noahs ark.
So, it's about sacrifice. Most of us relate to Lent as something we "have to give up" for 40 days. Our kids go to a Catholic school so a good number of our friends celebrate Lent in one fashion or another. Last night we were at a party and of course the issue of Lent came up (as well as a number of other non-appropriate subjects) and some of us shared what we were sacrificing as a badge of honor. It was hilarious because most of what we were giving up were vices that we have developed over the years (drinking, smoking, eating sweets, etc, etc). But the funniest comment was when one (of a couple) said that they were giving up "sex". I'm not sure who was sacrificing what, or if indeed it was sacrificial or more like a gift, but it occurred to me that the original precepts of Lent had somehow been mitigated over the years. I for one am giving up all alcohol for Lent, yet another great sacrifice among man - although I was intending to cut back anyway to try to shed a few of those Holiday pounds that are sticking around. It's a good excuse anyway... :-)

February 13, 2005 in Biographical, Religion | Permalink | TrackBack