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December 08, 2006

No Winterval / Luminos / Ineffabilis Deus holiday for me today

December 8th is a national holiday here in Austria, although nobody seemed to be able to tell us why. A little bit of digging around on the internet didn't help very much at first, but my Austrian diary for next year claims the day is "Mariä Empfängnis" - a celebration of the Immaculate Conception.

Of course, if you take December 25th to be the date of the birth of Jesus, then the 8th of December can't literally be the anniversary of the conception, unless Mary was only pregnant for a couple of weeks, or for over a year. Mind you, I suppose we are talking about the birth of someone who could apparently walk on water, raise the dead, make wine at will, and whose birth was announced by angels - so I guess anything goes really.

The date 8th December derives from a tradition of celebrating the Immaculate Conception, ratified by one of the 'infallible' papal bulls in 1854 - Ineffabilis Deus by Pope Pius IX.

The_sunAll of which is somewhat academic for me, as I am having to work today.

Up until I read that, I had begun to suspect that the holiday had been made up by PC killjoys inventing spurious festivals like 'Winterval' or 'Luminos', who are apparently causing chaos in the UK by banning Christmas according to The Sun and The Daily Mail.

So it was another surprise to me when I visited the UK, because as far as I could tell, every store was packed full of tinsel and presents, cards were being exchanged, Christmas trees were on display, and you couldn't move in Walthamstow's "The Mall" or Oxford Street for Xmas muzak and Christmas displays.

Perhaps, as Andrew Rilstone and Oliver Burkeman point out, there isn't actually a PC 'war' against Christmas going in the UK after all.

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Immaculate Conception is not the conception of Jesus but the conception of Mary his Mother.
Mary was conceived without sin and was always free of sin....Immaculate Conception

The Annunciation is the celebration of the conception of Jesus.

Now, you've got me all confused - I thought only Jesus got the unique virgin birth treatment. How far does this process of Immaculate Conception have to go back? What about Mary's mother herself?

Here's another possibility, though it's mellower than North American Christmas, and more Dutch than Austrian - Sinter Klaas.

Depending upon who's counting it, St. Nicholas Eve is the first Friday/Saturday in December, and is the time for Sinter Klaas to give children small presents. This is definitely not a pc holiday, as Sinter's best mate is "Black Peter", a guy usually wearing blackface, and who whacks naughty kids with sticks.


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