Today is Eastern Orthodox Christmas Day

Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day usually on or about January 7 each year.  This is due to the fact that Eastern Orthodox follows the Julian calendar rather than Gregorian for liturgical feasts and occasions such as Christmas. So the date on the Julian calendar is December 25 but there is a 13 day difference so on the Gregorian or Western calendar it is January 7.

It is called the Gregorian calendar as Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed it in a Papal Bull in 1582. It was adopted by most Catholic countries but others did not use it right away (some for religious reasons since they were Protestant) and took over 300 years to be fully implemented. Great Britain did not formally adopt it till 1752.  Russia adopted it in 1918, Greece in 1923 and Turkey in 1926. The reason for the change was the Julian calendar was not very accurate and had to many leap years. Because of this it would fall out of sync  with fixed dates for astronomical events like equinoxes and solstices.

Eastern Orthodox Christians has over 250 million believers in Eastern Europe, Greece, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and United States. Except in countries that are predominately Eastern Orthodox, it is not celebrated as a public holiday.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst 1590–1656)
Image: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

 

Remembering The Telegraph

Samuel Morris,Paris,1840 Public Domain(Wikipedia)

For many of us it is hard to conceive a world without television, telephones, and the Internet. Sending important communications took time if significant distance was involved. And would increase exponentially if the recipient was on another continent. The speed of the horse, the foot, and how good the wind was would determine how quickly the message was delivered. Samuel Morse on 6 Jan 1838 demonstrated for the first time how electric impulse could transmit messages. He was not the only one who was working on the same concept but the first to get it beyond a concept to a working means of communication.

His prototype demonstrated the use of using dots and dashes to represent letters and numbers. In the demonstration of 1838, he showed that this method of communication was possible. Morse, who had attended Yale University interested in art and electricity, became intrigued when he learned coming home from Europe about the newly discovered electromagnet and decided to work on the telegraph. Convincing skeptics took some doing. Not many were convinced sending messages in this fashion were possible or practical. It required the use of telegraph lines that would transmit the data over long or short distances. And it meant people would have to be trained to understand this Morse code. Morse convinced U.S. Congress to fund construction of the first telegraph line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. The first telegram sent in May 1844 said: “What hath God wrought!”

Telegraph Connections (Telegraphen Verbindungen), 1891 Stielers Hand-Atlas, Plate No. 5, Weltkarte in Mercator projection Public Domain (Wikipedia)
Telegraph Connections (Telegraphen Verbindungen), 1891 Stielers Hand-Atlas, Plate No. 5, Weltkarte in Mercator projection
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Soon private companies would emerge using Morse’s patent to set up telegraph lines all over the American Northeast. Western Union, formerly called the New York and Mississippi Valley Company, completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861. Telegraph systems would spread in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Underwater cables would connect both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Messages of all kinds could be sent by telegraph. Since telegraph companies charged by the word, messages became succinct no matter whether it was happy or sad news. The period was replaced in most messages with the word “stop” as that was free.

One of the chief constraints of the telegraph is that it relied on the telegraph line and undersea cables. Thus messages could be delayed or lost by downed poles, military actions, weather related issues, or problems in the receiving office. Radio telegraphy was developed by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. Sending the same messages over the air meant they were no longer restricted to telegraph lines. But it too could have its problems as what happened with Titanic. You have messages get mixed and mashed up resulting inaccurate information being reported. Radio telegraphy would lead to radio transmission allowing voices to be heard for the first time and the radio would be born. Wireless telegraphy would continue for business and governments and develop ultimately into the radioteletype networks.

The old fashioned telegraph continued on. Western Union introduced the singing telegram in 1933 and was still a means of communication until after World War II. During the war the sight of a Western Union courier became dreaded because the War Department sent telegrams to families informing of a death or sometimes a serious injury. The scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks grabs the telegram from the messenger so that he could deliver it was not made up but reflected what most knew telegrams would announce.

The old reliable rotary dial phone. The basic rotary dial had different looks but remained the same until the 1980’s when touch tone replaced it. A remarkably simple device that needed no batteries or internet connection.
Photo: R Sull (Wikimedia Commons)

The telephone though ultimately replaced the telegraph for most communications. When you could pick up a phone and tell someone important news, there was no need to go down to the Western Union office and pay by the word for a short succinct message when an inexpensive phone call would do it. Telegraph companies folded up, were bought up by larger companies, or completely rebranded. Today Western Union primarily transfers money (money orders, money transfers, and commercial transactions) and no longer performs any telegraph service.

The development of the telegraph allowed for more rapid dissemination of information unlike anything before. No longer were messages tied to the speed of ships, horses, trains and even feet. Major events could be learned quickly rather than weeks or months. It was a major technological step that unlocked other technologies that has changed the world dramatically.

Sources:
Samuel Morse (Encyclopedia Britanica)
Morse Code & the Telegraph (History.com)

Today is Epiphany/Three Kings Day(Observed)

Adoración de los Reyes Magos
El Greco (1541–1614)
Public Domain

Epiphany or Three Kings Day is January 6 and as the Twelfth Night officially ends the Christmas season. It is a day to celebrate the baptism of Jesus and the arrival of The Magi (Three Kings or Wise Men). In the Middle Ages Christmas was celebrated from Christmas Eve to January 6. And Epiphany Day was a major celebration well into the mid 19th century when its importance diminished. The Catholic Church no longer requires January 6 to be celebrated as a solemnity and celebrates it on the Sunday that follows it. Some Protestant churches celebrate the Epiphany season from January 6 till Ash Wednesday. Orthodox Christians celebrate it on January 19 as they follow the Julian calendar.

In many Spanish speaking countries, Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day)is celebrated with special foods and gatherings. Many European countries have their own unique observances as well. Children often gets treats or presents on this day. In Italy, La Befana flies through the night on January 5 on a broomstick to deliver gifts to good kids and give coal to the bad ones.


Titanic Exhibition Coming to Falmouth in 2018; Old Titanic Game Gets New Lease on Life

As we wind down 2017, here are some news items of interest to Titanic enthusiasts.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall, UK
Photo: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

1. National Maritime Museum Cornwall Will Bring Major Titanic Exhibition To Falmouth In 2018 (Cornwall Live, 29 Dec 2017)
The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth has confirmed that the ‘TITANIC STORIES’ exhibition will be on display from March 8 next year until January 7, 2019.The exhibition which will examine the stories of the Titanic’s sinking on April 15, 1912, and reappraise the several assumptions, controversies and myths that still linger around one of the most renowned historic events of the 20th century. As well as retelling personal stories of survivors, it will present rare and never-seen-before objects and items -thanks to collaboration with private collectors from major UK museums and private collectors from overseas.
Information about hours of operation and admission fees can be found at https://nmmc.co.uk/.

2. Some of you might remember all old Titanic action adventure called Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. It was actually a decent computer game with good Titanic graphics and an intriguing story. But that was a long time ago (1996). But now it has been resurrected at Gog.com. The reviews so far are mostly positive. Right now it is only available on Windows. No word if a MAC version is coming.
Source: 1996 Point-And-Click Game Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time Sails Onto GOG (PC Gamer, 29 Dec 2017

3. Titanic Belfast is holding a New Years Celebration reports Belfast Live. They report that for £40 per person you get a cocktail upon arrival, a light supper, a midnight piper to herald in 2018 and of course a DJ to control the music being played.

4. And finally if you have $100,000 to spend, then come May 2018 you can take a diving tour of Titanic reports Wate.com. According to the news report: “London-based travel company Blue Marble Private will begin taking people down to the wreck in May 2018. Nine people at a time will leave from the coast of Newfoundland and take a 10-day trip, which includes a deep ocean dive to Titanic. The cost of the voyage matches the name of the ship — the per-person cost weighs in at a hefty $105,129, the company told CNN. Blue Marble Private says the cost is the equivalent of a first-class passage on the ship’s inaugural voyage after an inflation adjustment. The trip includes three potential days of diving, with each dive lasting three hours. During the three hour tour, clients will explore the deck, bow, ridge and cavern where the grand staircase once stood.” Perhaps Clive Palmer, who famously said he was going to build a Titanic II and never did, will buy a ticket to see the real thing.


Today is St. Stephen’s Day(Boxing Day U.K.)

The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen
St. Stephen from The Demidoff Altarpiece(Carlo Crivelli–circa 1435–circa 1495) Photo:Public Domain

If you remember the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas you heard the name. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian church who was accused of blasphemy and put on trial by Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. After a trial in which he denounced them, Stephen was stoned to death. One of the witnesses to the event was Saul of Tarsus, who later converted and is known today as the apostle Paul. Stephen is considered the first martyr for the faith, the reason his feast day immediately follows the celebration of Jesus birth. All the major Christian congregations–Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox–all venerate him as a Saint and celebrate the feast day (Western churches on 26 December, 27 Dec Orthodox, and 8 Jan Oriental Orthodox). In some countries (mainly Western Europe)it is a public holiday.

In the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand it is celebrated as Boxing Day, a secular holiday that falls on the same day as Feast of Stephen. Traditionally it is the day in which servants and tradespeople receive the “Christmas box” from their employers. While that tradition may still hold true, it is either a second Christmas day for some or an extra shopping day (though in some countries it apparently is a day when a lot of returns to retailers takes place). It is also a major sports day as well.

St. Stephen (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Boxing Day (pauldenton.co.uk)


Merry Christmas!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! NOLLAIG SHONA DHUIT! JOYEUX NOËL! FRÖLICHE WEIHNACHTEN! BUON NATALE! FELIZ NAVIDAD!

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst 1590–1656) Image: Public Domain (Wikipedia)
The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst 1590–1656)
Image: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

“….And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

Christmas Eve

Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. Photo:Gakuro
Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.
Photo:Gakuro

Silent Night(Stille Nacht in German, Silens Nox in Latin) is perhaps the most beloved Christmas Carol. It was composed in 1818 by Franz Guber, an organist and schoolmaster, to lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr of the St. Nicholas parish in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 and since the organ was broken, the only musical accompaniment was the guitar. The popularity of the song spread and the version commonly used today comes from a translation in 1859. John Freeman Young, serving as an Episcopal priest at Trinity Church in New York City, translated and changed the tempo of the song. The original rendition by Gruber was more like a dance tune and sung faster. Young made into a slower lullaby style that is the most common version today. Because it has been so widely translated, it is the one Christmas carol that is known worldwide.

In Austria Silent Night is not heard until Christmas Eve, usually around 9 p.m. Then it is played on the radio once an hour and of course during church services. In the movie The Nativity Story Mychael Danna composed a version that is both beautiful and wonderful. He used Latin but in a different way to match the well known melody (the normal Latin text would make this hard). Here is the version used in the movie. There are variations on YouTube where others have created wonderful montages using his version.

Silens Nox
Silens nox et sacra
Pastores tremisco
Caelis indicat gloria
Canunt Angeli alleluia
Christus natus est
Christus natus est.

English
Silent Night
Silent and holy night
Shepherds tremble
At heaven’s glorious sight
Angels sing, “Hallelujah!”
Christ is born.
Christ is born.

Translation by Josh(SilentRebel83) at http://lyricstranslate.com/en/silens-nox-silent-night.html.

Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.

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