Saturday, 16 December 2017

Advent Reflections







From 7th December 2005, comes this poem.

Advent Reflections

We come, in Advent, looking back to see
That which gives regret, weakness, failing
Bound up within us, a threaded tapestry
We can only ask forgiveness, unveiling
The secrets of our hearts, that inner self
Often so deaf to injustice, blind to need
Here is failing, that truly to know thyself
Hunger for the right, learn also to feed
On words, opening eyes to all the sorrow
Bereavement, illness, poverty and fear
This is our prayer, for each new morrow
That eyes be opened, and ears now hear
And the Spirit come, bring hope to all
As God came as infant, once so small.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Adverts in the Pilot, 1972

Some adverts from a 1970s past edition of "The Pilot" with a few gleanings from sources to bring the times alive with the people and acts mentioned in the adverts.


















The Watersplash

Spencer Leigh commented that:

In October 1956, Malcolm Vaughan was due to appear on BBC TV's Off The Record to promote his new release, "St. Therese Of The Roses". The invitation was withdrawn a few days later after a BBC committee had determined that the record was unsuitable for broadcast because "the lyric is contrary both to Roman Catholic doctrine and to Protestant sentiment." The resulting controversy helped to sell records, and with airplay on Radio Luxembourg the sugary wedding song climbed to No 3, stayed on the charts for five months and sold half a million copies.

In 1953, Thomas appeared in the revue Going Gay in Eastbourne and befriended a comedian, Kenneth Earle. They thought of becoming a double act but didn't care for the sound of "Earle and Thomas". They walked around the high street, trying out different names, and settled on "Earle and Vaughan".

Earle and Vaughan continued to work as a double act throughout the 1960s but never realised their ambition of making comedy films like Morecambe and Wise. It would have been better for Vaughan's career if he had continued making records and capturing the same market as Matt Monro. The duo split up in 1972 with Earle becoming an agent and Vaughan touring in productions of The Good Old Days.



















Swansons Hotel, St. Helier, Jersey

Tommy Swansons Hotel overlooked the bay of St. Aubins and had a great view of the arriving Sealink ferries and Elizabeth Castle, then reclaimation tookover and the sea was pushed further back, a car park and new Waterfront buildings went up and Swansons was no more, now replaced by a 'modern' office block.

One commentator said:

"I worked on the door at Swanson in 1968/69, remember Ricky Renee Drag Queen spending a season there, had a few punch-ups with scaly wags trying to gain entrance wait for it, without a neck tie and jacket, no one dresses like that these days. A Scottish Night porter named Ron often helped me out. Tommy Swanson was a lovely man who appreciated the work that I did."




















The Surf Room

“Buddy Britton”, “Britten” or “Britain” was a very fickle artist: first performing as a Buddy Holly tribute like Keith Kelly, then reinventing himself as “Simon Raven Cult” in the mid 60’s. He started fronting his own Rock’n’Roll trio then was backed by a London-based R & B group called the Regents

Nick Simper has this to say about his time with Buddy in Jersey:

"Whilst the island is still a lovely place to go to, visitors will find it very different from the Jersey of 1965. Today the island revolves around the financial industry and there is little live entertainment to be had, but back then Jersey was more famous for its night life. Along the five miles of the west coast alone, there were six or seven night spots."

"The venue that we were to play at was called the Surf Room, a dance hall cum night club situated on the edge of the beach in the centre of St. Ouens Bay, built onto the Watersplash, Jersey's number one nightspot, where audiences flocked nightly for a meal and a floorshow. Water fountains, cascading over stepped terraces gave the club a somewhat exotic look, which was marred one night when a joker emptied a packet of soap powder into the water, giving the whole area the appearance of a giant meringue!"
"During the day, Solly and I would explore the charming capital, St. Helier, or roam the many lanes and beaches. Sometimes we would just hang out with friends, or rehearse new songs whenever Buddy felt like adding to our already huge repertoire. Occasionally one of the Watersplash musicians would cadge a lift from me to visit a sunny meadow where he was attempting to grow his own marijuana. Armed with fertilizer and a watering can, he would visit the spot often. This practice ended abruptly when he found that the meadow was now occupied by a horse that had promptly scoffed his plant, leaving no trace!"















West Park Pavilion

I've not been able to trace much on Ronnie Rand save that he came from an Army Music background where there is this snippet from Germany:

"The Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra was stationed in Germany and appeared at the Theatre and afterwards went on to a dance at the Royal Enfield Canteen. It's director was Ronnie Rand. "

James McLachlan remembers this about "The Pav".

"To some it will always be known as the West Park Pavilion, or simply the ‘Pav.’ Others will remember it as Behans, or the Inn on the Park.   Whatever moniker it went under, it remains one of the most fondly remembered buildings for three generations of islanders. From its early incarnation as a lavish ballroom to its rebirth as a live music venue, and finally as an unlikely home to the ‘rave’ scene, it mirrored the changing social trends in Jersey."

In 2001, the venue, renamed "The Inn on the Park" was demolished and is now the site of luxury flats.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A Century in Advertising - Part 12

A Century in Advertising - Part 12

My look at some of the advertisements and products of yesteryear. Some weird and whacky, some surprisingly still around today. Here are their stories.















1933 - ACME Beer

When I think of ACME, I always think of that fake company which sells gadgets to Wile E Coyote in his elaborate attempt to catch the Road Runner. But in fact there really was an ACME company producing beer.

The Acme Brewery of San Francisco was established in 1907 by Leopold Schmidt, owner of the Olympia Brewing Company of Tumwater

The aftermath of the April 18, 1906, fire and earthquake left San Francisco with few operating breweries, and a beer shortage soon followed. A $1,000,000 order was then placed with Schmidt's Bellingham Bay Brewery for beer to be shipped to the city. His Olympia Beer Company had been spared from the catastrophe and production had already ramped up at its Tumwater plant in order to meet the higher demand. Schmidt seized this opportunity for capturing market share, and set out to build his own brewery there in the City.

To oversee this new construction project Schmidt called upon William Schuldt, who was in management at his Oregon plant, the Salem Brewery Ass'n. In addition to Schuldt, a brewer that had recently joined the Salem organization, J.P. Rettenmayer, also went to SF. There the two men supervised the $100,000 plant project, and became principals in the new company.

The Acme Brewery was incorporated on April 11, 1907, with Leopold F. Schmidt, president; William Schuldt, secretary and manager; and Jacob P. Rettenmayer, treasurer. J.P. was also Acme's first brewmaster.

Acme issued numerous advertising pieces in the '30s & '40s, however very few items have survived from the 13 year period prior to Prohibition. Beer was outlawed along with other alcoholic drinks. The ACME company turned to other products, and it is at this time I like to think they manufactured fantastic gadgets for the coyote!

The ad shown above is one of the ads that set the whole west coast talking about Acme, weeks before Prohibition was ended, on April 7, 1933.


















1934 - Electric Perm

This closely resembles something from James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein.

From the photo essay on 'Permanent Waves' "The hair above has been wet with alkaline solution wound tight around rods then covered with electrically-heated clamps. The solution opens the hairs sealy surface permitting steam produced by hot clamps on damp hair to penetrate the cells."

The technology at the time was not always successful. One report says this of the electric perm:


“A little girl I know emerged from a $5.00 permanent with a head that resembled that of a native of the Congo. Fortunately, she was supremely satisfied and just child enough for its tousled outline not to prove unbecoming. But the tragedy it might have been if it had chanced to alight on an older and more serious head as it might very easily have done ! And that is why I strongly urge a preliminary test.”


1935 - Butlins

Butlins (also Butlin's) is a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom. Butlins was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families.

Billy Butlin's inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he had been locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation all day by his landlady, which was normal practice at the time.

Between 1936 and 1966, ten camps were built, including one in Ireland and one in the Bahamas. In the 1970s and 1980s, Butlins also operated numerous large hotels, including one in Spain, a number of smaller holiday parks in England and France, and a revolving restaurant in the Post Office Tower in London.


The holiday camp at Portelet in Jersey was founded by Nigel Oxenden, and passed to his daughter, Joy, who eventually sold it to holiday camp magnate Sir Billy Butlin. However, it never became an official part of the Butlin holiday camp chain.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Anticipating Christmas















Anticipating Christmas

One of my favourite passages is that of G.K. Chesterton on anticipating Christmas too soon. It is a masterpiece of humour and description, and fizzes with the fun of Chesterton in full flow.


"There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article. It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is. Up to a certain specific instant you are feeling ordinary and sad; for it is only Wednesday. At the next moment your heart leaps up and your soul and body dance together like lovers; for in one burst and blaze it has become Thursday. I am assuming (of course) that you are a worshipper of Thor, and that you celebrate his day once a week, possibly with human sacrifice."

"If, on the other hand, you are a modern Christian Englishman, you hail (of course) with the same explosion of gaiety the appearance of the English Sunday. But I say that whatever the day is that is to you festive or symbolic, it is essential that there should be a quite clear black line between it and the time going before. And all the old wholesome customs in connection with Christmas were to the effect that one should not touch or see or know or speak of something before the actual coming of Christmas Day. Thus, for instance, children were never given their presents until the actual coming of the appointed hour. The presents were kept tied up in brown paper parcels, out of which an arm of a doll or the leg of a donkey sometimes accidentally stuck."

"I wish this principle were adopted in respect of modern Christmas ceremonies and publications. Especially it ought to be observed in connection with what are called the Christmas numbers of magazines. The editors of the magazines bring out their Christmas numbers so long before the time that the reader is more likely to be still lamenting for the turkey of last year than to have seriously settled down to a solid anticipation of the turkey which is to come. Christmas numbers of magazines ought to be tied up in brown paper and kept for Christmas Day. On consideration, I should favour the editors being tied up in brown paper. Whether the leg or arm of an editor should ever be allowed to protrude I leave to individual choice."

And he goes on to look at how the more puritanican look down on the riotous nature of the Christmas festivities, whether puritans or freethinkers:

"Let us be consistent, therefore, about Christmas, and either keep customs or not keep them. If you do not like sentiment and symbolism, you do not like Christmas; go away and celebrate something else; I should suggest the birthday of Mr. McCabe. No doubt you could have a sort of scientific Christmas with a hygienic pudding and highly instructive presents stuffed into a Jaeger stocking; go and have it then. "

"If you like those things, doubtless you are a good sort of fellow, and your intentions are excellent. I have no doubt that you are really interested in humanity; but I cannot think that humanity will ever be much interested in you."

"Humanity is unhygienic from its very nature and beginning. It is so much an exception in Nature that the laws of Nature really mean nothing to it. Now Christmas is attacked also on the humanitarian ground. Ouida called it a feast of slaughter and gluttony. ."

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: A Review

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a classic tale by C.S. Lewis, and at the Jersey Arts Centre it is brought to life through clever use of minimalist sets and costumes, inviting the audience to suspend belief and enter this magical world of the imagination. This production uses the dramatisation by Adrian Mitchel with music by Shaun Savey and has five members of the Jersey Arts Centre youtheatre, three from their Junior Drama group, and six adult actors.

It is the story which charms, and all the actors playing their parts do so wonderfully. The children playing the Pevensie children are all brilliant, but particular mention must go to Kate Meadows who shines as Lucy. I have rarely seen a performance so naturalistic and captivating in such a young actor.

It is through her that the audience are drawn into Narnia, and her meeting with Mr Tumnus the Faun (played by Wayne Stewart) is delightful. Their duet “Always Winter Now” is heartfelt and lovely.

Without giving away too much, the sets have four large wooden rectangular containers with doors, which are variously shifted round the stage. The back of some are painted with trees, while the one which functions as “The Wardrobe” has a lion’s face on it, and they all have doors which can be opened. Inside each is a small set to be drawn out – the wardrobe contains fur coats, of course, while another contains Mr Tumnus cave, complete with table, tea pot, cakes and chairs to be taken out. Inside another is the Beaver’s home, and inside another the White Witch’s Throne. This is a wonderfully ingenuous way of opening up the sets. It is a clever artifice of theatre which gives just enough of a hook to draw the audience's imagination in.

The other children – Mac Galvin as Edmund, Lily-Mae Fry as Susan, and Xander Meadows as Peter are also extremely good. Lily-Mae Fry is perhaps the hardest part, as Susan is the least realised of the characters in Narnia, but she plays her part well.

Edmund of course is a plum role, as he has run the full gamut from being sneaky and lying about Narnia to a full blown traitor, and yet part of his story is also redemption and sorrow and mending broken relationships with his siblings. Mac Galvin does this very well.

Peter’s part is more heroic and also a more physical role, and Xander Meadows plays the part well. The battle with the wolf – Peter Jones as Maugrim in a rasping scenery chewing role – is well choreographed and looks natural.

Not quite so natural is Mr Beaver (played by Nick Carver) getting fish for the children to eat (I won't give away spoilers) and Mrs Beaver (Jenny McCarthy) to cook. It’s very funny though. Indeed the two have a wonderful comic rapport throughout, and “Swiggle Down the Lot” is a rousing musical hall style song.

A number of parts are doubled up – Peter Jones also doubles as Father Christmas – and while some of the doubling is easy to spot, this wasn’t. He turns in a completely different performance from the rasping and threatening Maugrim and had I not the benefit of the cast list, I would not have known it was him. His outfit as Father Christmas is interesting, with traditional red and white and hint of green, but drawing perhaps more on the Dutch roots of Sinter-Claus than the Americanised Coca-Cola image. “Christmas is here at last”, with Father Christmas and the company is very much a song for this season, highlighting that this is a play for the Christmas season.

At the heart of Narnia is Aslan, and in Jyothi Nayar we have Aslan played by a woman. Actually a female Aslan works very well, and the way she plays the part conveys both the strength of the Lion but also a kind of stranger otherness. This is not just any old lion, this lion is the true ruler of Narnia, in contrast to Jadis as the false Queen. There is real power in her performance.

The quest to find Aslan takes the children and the Beavers to the stone table, and others of the company join them there in the song “Come to the table”, which is replete with implicit overtones of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, for like an altar it is a stone table, where all are welcomed.

All who love living
come to the table.
All who love loving
come to the table.
All who love Aslan
come to the table.
There's plenty of room
At the table for all.

By contrast the White Witch and her creatures take Aslan when he has given his life for that of Edmund, so that the Deep Magic may not be broken, they sing “Come to the Carnival”, which is full of menace, and a direct counterpoint to the festivity of Aslan's table. This is a carnival of monsters, and it ends in Aslan's death.

Come to the Carnival
Come to the Feast
Come to the Taunting
Of the Royal Beast

Nicole Twinam excels as the White Witch, seductive in the song “Turkish Delight” as she enchants Edmund, and angry and powerful when she turns a woodland crowd to stone. And she manages just to hit the right note with her laugh, which sounds thoroughly evil.

The adaptation is an abbreviation of the book – how could it not be at around 1 hour 45 minutes? – but manages to capture all the right parts of the story, including the humour, present in the books but so sadly lacking in the movie. There are also nods to "The Magician's Nephew", mention of a painting of a winged horse flying across a landscape of hills and valleys, and Professor Kirke (one of several distinctive roles played by Hettie Duncan) mentioning his childhood friend from that story, Polly Plummer..

This is a play of great warmth, ending in the finale song “Long Live”, of which the final stanza is:

Long live the children
and the professor.
Long live adventures
and hearts so true.
Long live the music,
long live the magic
and long live the land
of Narnia too.

And at this point “Lucy” comes across the stage and gives a copy of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to a little girl in the audience, and the rest of the cast come forward to shake hands with some of those in the first two rows and wish us happy Christmas. It was magic indeed.

Mrs Beaver and Mr Beaver

Monday, 11 December 2017

Election Line-Up












Election Line-Up

In a shock public announcement at the Constable’s Soiree at St Brelade, Constable Steve Pallett said that he would not be standing for re-election as Constable but would still seek to be engaged in local politics. The likelihood is that he would try for Senator. Who will stand for Constable? At least one candidate is almost certain but I won’t mention them by name until they declare themselves. It may be that the early announcement is to give time for other candidates to come forward.

John Refault is definitely retiring as Constable of St Peter. St Peter’s is very much a divided Parish between newcomers who have settled in the last 20 years or so, often in housing developments close to the Parish hall, and long standing families who resent them. A contested election is on the cards.

Will Kristina Moore remain as Deputy or try for Senator? Rumour has it that she might, as well as some other sitting Deputies. It is a truism that a Senator has no longer term of office, and no more votes in the house than a Deputy or Constable, but it is also extremely unlikely that a Chief Minister would be chosen from ether of the other ranks.

Ian Gorst has yet to decide whether he will stand again. This may depend on whether his amanuensis, Paul Routier is standing.

The JEP list of 22 September 2017 had the following sitting members intending to stand for the assembly, but as events have shown, evidently not necessarily in their current seats. It is possible that other may throw their hats in the Senatorial ring.

St John Constable Chris Taylor
St Mary Constable Juliette Gallichan
St Brelade Constable Steve Pallett
St Saviour Constable Sadie Rennard
Grouville Constable John Le Maistre

St Helier District 2 Deputy Sam Mézec
Grouville Deputy Carolyn Labey
St Helier District 1 Deputy Judy Martin
St Helier District 3/4 Deputy Richard Rondel
St Ouen Deputy Richard Renouf
St Helier District 3/4 Deputy Jackie Hilton
St Saviour District 1 Deputy Jeremy Maçon
St Mary Deputy David Johnson
St Brelade District 2 Deputy Graham Truscott
St Helier District 1 Deputy Russell Labey

Of the sitting Senators, Senator Ozouf is clearly vulnerable over the States Innovation fund, and the tardiness over repayment of expenses accrued by himself on his States credit card. According to Bailiwick Express, he was finally issued with an invoice by the States for up to £11,455, four months after he was first asked to repay the money, and only then promptly repaid the sums.  While technically he did nothing wrong, the Express noted that he paid no interest on the delayed payment. Rumour has it that he may be looking to take over Terry Macdonald’s seat in St Saviour if Terry retires, coming in as a Deputy.

Also in St Saviour, I would think that Louise Doublet is vulnerable because of her continual absence from the States - a look at her voting record or rather lack thereof - does not make pretty reading. Will Rob Duhamel try to come back? I think he could stand a chance.

Senator Andrew Green is clearly vulnerable over the hospital. First he went for the People's Park, then backed down, ruled out the Waterfront locations - it is rumoured after political pressure was put to drop those sites - and came up with a close to current site option whose scale on computer generated mock ups seem to bear little resemblance to the actual size, and asked for compulsory purchase of buildings before plans have been approved. And the decision to move catering off site far out to St Peter seems daft when the States must own property closer to hand. Given the post of Health Minister as a safe pair of hands, he is in desperate need of political life support.

Lyndon Farnham's track record has not been too brilliant. Rapped over his part in the States Innovation Fund, he has also failed dismally in managing to ensure that Condor provide a reliable service to the Channel Islands. He's very good at saying words to the effect that "this isn't good enough" but poor at doing anything about it - the electorate may decide likewise. His radio interview blaming Guernsey for no inter-island service and saying that the timetable was proceeding as plan when his Guernsey counterpart thinks otherwise suggests someone who has not forged good lines of communication with Guernsey.

Meanwhile Alan Maclean, in charge of the Island's finances, is managing to find extra money in the pot - as with the surprise increase in student grants. The Treasury Minister is always in the advantageous position of being able to effectively bribe the electorate, but has rather mismanaged hospital funding plans - first Ben Shenton, and now Philip Ozouf have both come up with better strategies. The failure to sort out hospital financing, highlighted by a letter from senior clinicians, highlights the fact that he has withdrawn and amended proposals, causing further delay in a badly needed project.

However he is one of those politicians who are naturally lucky, and have a smooth tongue, as evidenced by the fact that the electorate never seemed to take into account his £200,000 fantasy film grant, or for that matter locking the island in the current contract with Condor due to the haste in which the deal was signed off.

Having done well in Trinity in the last Senatorial bi-election – where he topped the Parish – Hugh Raymond may well return to topple Deputy Anne Pryke, whose Ministerial post has become increasingly a sinecure since the last election, with most of the old Housing Department staff transferred to Andium Homes and any administration done on an ad hoc basis by officials seconded from the Chief Minister’s Office.

It is not yet known whether Murray Norton will stand again in St Brelade No 1, but John Young is back on the Jersey scene, and may well contest that seat.

Deputy Eddie Noel is leaving the States, so it is again almost certain there will be a contest in St Lawrence.

There might also be a Constable’s election.  Constable Deidre Mezbourian is vulnerable over her handling of the extension to St Lawrence’s Church. St Lawrence Parishioners have invoked an old law to force a parish assembly and vote on the £80,000 plans to build a new toilet near the entrance of their 800-year old parish church. But she took legal advice and rejected holding an assembly. It is not a question of who is right here, it is a perception of being high-handed in her dealing with the matter that makes her vulnerable.

I hear reports that at least two other sitting Constables are vulnerable to being contested as they have upset Parishioners. Simon Crowcroft, with his recent windfall on rates, and agreement that the States pay rates, as well as an extension to Millennium Park, is sitting pretty. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Coming of Christmas – Part 2













I found a nice second hand book on Christmas Traditions from 1931 at the Guide Dogs for the Blind biggest book sale, and as Christmas approaches, thought it might be interesting to share it with my readers. Although it dates from 193, the author was well-informed and a good deal of his history, which is judicious on matters of ignorance, stands up well with modern scholarship.

The Coming of Christmas – Part 2
by William Muir Auld

In so far as devotional interest ranged back over the earthly life of Jesus, during the first two hundred years, it tended to stop short at His Baptism, as if the prescriptive Gospel were St. Mark, which begins the story of the Son of God at this point. The occurrence by the Jordan, with its wonderful accompaniments, was considered of supreme importance in the career of the Messiah and around it a feast grew up called Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ's glory, on January 6.

The origins of this festival are exceedingly obscure. It is first heard of in connection with certain Basilidian heretics in the second century; but by the fourth century it has found a place in the larger Church, "in the East, in Gaul and probably also in northern Italy." Owing to the extreme vagueness of the term Epiphany it is impossible to tell what its first significance may have been, or even all that entered into it at any time.

Some writers call attention to a mystery-religion celebration of the birth of the on from the Virgin Kore, which took place on the eve of January 5-6, and suggest that Epiphany may have been created by certain Gnostics as a kind of rival festival. But this, while alluring to the historical imagination, means little more than chasing the subject into an underworld of uncertainty with nothing better than analogical speculation to guide the footsteps.

That Epiphany stood related in some way to the Baptism of Jesus admits of no doubt. But why, it is natural to ask, should this particular experience have been singled out for preeminent recognition?

There is a reasonable answer to this question. In the early Church the belief was not uncommon that Christ was not born divine, but attained to that dignity and power when He was thirty years old, by virtue of the descent upon Him of the Holy Spirit at Baptism. To those who held these views Epiphany would be the annual commemoration of the deification, or the apotheosis, of Christ, when the voice from heaven said, "Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," or as some old readings phrased it, "This day have I begotten Thee": in other words, the festival of His spiritual birthday.

But in the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch, both Arian and Orthodox, at the beginning of the fourth century, it was quite definitely a joint commemoration of the Baptism of the Saviour and of His Birth in the flesh. In the Jerusalem Church it appears to have had mainly a Bethlehem significance. As far, then, as the East is concerned the Holy Nativity, or Christmas as we would now say, was first widely observed on January 6 in the festival called Epiphany, and, of course, in a manner distinctly spiritual and religious.

It would be interesting to know how matters fared in these respects with the Christians in Rome; but the whole situation is extremely cloudy. Some think that there December 25 was always the recognized date of the Saviour’s Birth, while others again do not.

Kirsopp Lake, who surveys the whole field with impartial critical skill, will only say: "It is certain that in the East January 6 was the feast of the Nativity, as well as that of the Baptism, and it is probable, though not quite so certain, that the same is true of the West."' The evidence is of that elusive sort which hardly permits of historians being positive either one way or the other.

At all events, some- where in the middle of the fourth century, a day, which may or may not be entirely new, destined to be famous thereafter as Christmas, namely December 25, was formally set aside by the Church in Rome for the observance of the physical Birth of Christ.

The festival may have been in existence as early as 336; "but farther back than that it cannot be traced."

Since by no stretch of imagination can the choice of the day be ascribed to a reliable tradition, why the Church fastened upon it raises an interesting subject; and many points of view are possible. Some have professed to see a well conceived ecclesiastical plan to supplant sooner or later January 1 by the Birthday of Christ as the beginning of the civil year.

This may be so; certainly the Church long fostered this ambition; though its efforts were never crowned with complete and permanent success. Doctrinal matters undoubtedly played their part. As theological thought attained greater clarity and definiteness the notion that Jesus became divine at His Baptism was regarded as heretical.

Other vagrant fancies required to be combated. By certain sects it was maintained that Jesus, as He appeared among men, was a mere phantasm and had never been born at all. The new festival served to counteract these irregularities of belief, first by emphasizing the Saviour’s actual Birth in the flesh; and second by asserting that His divinity, as well as His humanity, potentially at least, were as real in the manger as at any later period of His life and ministry. 

It is pleasant to think that the children were not without a share in the creation of Christmas. The practice of infant baptism had now become almost universal. This somewhat belated recognition of their place in the life and privileges of the Church found its appropriate counterpart in the festal celebration of their Lord.

But there were other reasons, doubtless, which led churchmen to set covetous eyes upon the day. The selection may be seen as a phase of the stern struggle of the Church with the enveloping paganism. According to the Roman calendar, inaugurated by Julius Caesar in 707 A.U.C., or 45 B.C., December 25 marked the winter solstice when the mighty parent of fertility, having reached its lowest point in the heavens, began again to rise over the world with renewed power and splendour. Among Romans this was known as the Brumalia, but what festive significance attached to it at first is not clear. 

Under the Empire, however, heathendom everywhere tended more and more to focus its devotion on the source of all light and life. Nor were the Emperors, particularly in the third century, slow to capitalize this tendency of thought in the interests of their ideas of absolutism in the state. "The great temple of the Sun," writes Samuel Dill, "which Aurelian, the son of a priestess of the deity, founded on the Campus Martius, with its high pontiffs and stately ritual, did honour not only to the great lord of the heavenly spheres, but to the monarch who was the august image of his power upon earth and who was endued with his special grace."

Under this Emperor (270-275), December 25, when the world annually hovering on the brink of darkness and desolation was saved by the resurgent sun, acquired a new significance. It was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Aurelian had faithful successors in Diocletian, in Constantine the Great before his conversion to the religion of the Cross, and also in Julian, that ill-starred champion of solar paganism.

In themselves, however, the cult of the Sun and the worship of the Emperor were not supremely well suited to the needs of the common religious instinct. But what they lacked was amply supplied by Mithraism in its mystical doctrines, its meaningful rites, its ties of brotherhood and its promise of immortality. This strange Eastern faith, whose god Mithra was identified with the Unconquered Sun, long proved the most formidable rival of Christianity. Considering its rapid spread throughout the length and breadth of the Empire, and its strong appeal to the minds of intelligent men, the opinion has been hazarded that, "if the Christian Church had been stricken with some mortal weakness, Mithraism might have become the religion of the western world."

But Christ was destined to conquer Mithra; and the victory was to be complete, even to the appropriation of his birthday. Vicisti Galilee-thou hast conquered, O Galilean!