Saturday, December 21, 2019


     Welcome to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, Gentle Reader. Today we will have the winter solstice: the moment at which the plane that passes through the Earth at the equator is at its greatest angular distance from its orbital plane. Thus, today will be the shortest day of 2019 in the north. In olden days this was sometimes called “the dark of the year:” the day on which pagan tribes would light great fires and offer great sacrifices to their gods in propitiation: a plea for the return of the light and warmth of the Sun.

     Of course, we don’t do that any more. Now we get seriously soused on brandy-laden eggnog and Vin Glogg, stuff ourselves with finger foods and chips and dip, and carp to one another about the roads, the property taxes, and our ungrateful kids. Later in the evening, when the lights have been lowered and everyone is sufficiently pickled, we might “take liberties” with one another’s spouses in between Christmas carols. All in the spirit of the season, of course. Hey, it’s only once a year.

     By sheerest happenstance, today the Wall Street Journal has posted an article about Christmas’s influence on the secular world. I passed the C.S.O.’s desk as she was reading it, and the following exchange occurred:

FWP: The Journal has a news story about the Nativity?
CSO: About its influence on the secular world.

FWP: If that’s considered news, I can’t imagine when they’ll get around to Moses parting the Red Sea.
CSO: That was about “climate change.”

FWP: So the disturbance of the previously stable Egyptian climate began when the waves crashed over the Pharaoh’s army?
CSO: Naah, it really began with the frogs. Remember, from the plagues?

FWP: And if only the Hebrews had been willing to negotiate, we might have been spared this!
CSO: Just think of all those dead firstborn sons. My God, the horror!

     Have a nice day.

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