The real christmas story

The Browser has a great interview with Brent Landau on the biblical origins of the christmas story. Landau just released a book translating a text from Syriac that has been lying about in the Vatican archives. It is the story of the Wise Men from their perspective, only now there are twelve of them, they come from China, and the star that they see is a starchild named Jesus. From the interview:

Yes, in the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, it says he is born in Bethlehem. You would think, since these two infancy narratives agree on it, that that would speak favourably to historical credibility. The problem is that Matthew and Luke have very different ways of explaining why Jesus is born in Bethlehem. In Luke you have the census. The family lives in Nazareth and they only go down to Bethlehem because everybody is required to go back to their home town. Jesus is born while they’re there and then they go back to Nazareth, because that’s where they live. In Matthew, on the other hand, it seems as if Jesus is born in Bethlehem because that’s where his parents live. So when the Magi come and visit Jesus, it says that the star shone over the place where the child was. It doesn’t say it was a manger like in Luke; it says it stood over the house where the child was. Presumably they just lived in Bethlehem and they only left because Herod was trying to kill Jesus and resettled in Nazareth because of that. So Matthew and Luke disagree and Mark never says anything about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. John, interestingly enough, has a scene in chapter 7 where some people are debating whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. And somebody essentially says, ‘He can’t be the Messiah, the Messiah is supposed to come from Bethlehem.’

…Dell deChant, the author of the book, says that, actually, the modern celebration of Christmas is profoundly religious – it’s just not a religion in the way that most of us are used to looking at one, or conceiving of a religion. It’s got its rituals, it’s got its god, and that god is Santa Claus. One of the most interesting points that the book makes is just how angry and upset people get if anybody is so foolish as to say in public, ‘Well, Santa Claus doesn’t exist!’

Merry Christmas!

Techno-dystopias are making a comeback!

I heard that The City & The City by China Miéville is supposed to be a pretty good book, so I thought I’d check it out. In the meantime, I found a short story by Miéville online at Socialist Review. It was written in 2004, but feels very 90’s corporate-fascist (a la Snow Crash).

Call me childish, but I love all the nonsense – the snow, the trees, the tinsel, the turkey. I love presents. I love carols and cheesy songs. I just love Christmas™.

That’s why I was so excited. And not just for me, but for Annie. Aylsa, her mum, said she didn’t see the big deal and why was I a sentimentalist, but I knew Annie couldn’t wait. She might have been 14, but when it came to this I was sure she was still a little girl, dreaming of stockings by the chimney. Whenever it’s my turn to take Annie – me and Aylsa have alternated since the divorce – I do my best on the 25th.

I admit Aylsa made me feel bad. I was dreading Annie’s disappointment. So I can hardly tell you how delighted I was when I found out that for the first time ever I was going to be able to make a proper celebration of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t got shares in YuleCo, and I can’t afford a one-day end-user licence, so I couldn’t have a legal party. I’d briefly considered buying from one of the budget competitors like XmasTym, or a spinoff from a non-specialist like Coca-Crissmas, but the idea of doing it on the cheap was just depressing. I wouldn’t have been able to use much of the traditional stuff, and if you can’t have all of it, why have any? (XmasTym had the rights to Egg Nog. But Egg Nog’s disgusting.) Those other firms keep trying to create their own alternatives to proprietary classics like reindeer and snowmen, but they never take off. I’ll never forget Annie’s underwhelmed response to the JingleMas Holiday Gecko.

No, like most people, I was going to have a little MidWinter Event, just Annie and me. So long as I was careful to steer clear of licenced products we’d be fine.

It’s worth a read.