In a comment to my last posting entitled “Warring Against Liberals, Part 3,” Doris from Doris and Dave’s Excellent Adventure provided me with a link to an article at History.com with more information on Christmas and other Winter holidays. Incidentally, Doris and Dave’s blog site is one that I read daily.
While Doris was not rebutting me, the article was at least an interesting read, one in which I found some comments that concerned me enough to question the author of the History.com article. This post is not a rebuttal of Doris, but is one where I will have to question those comments in the original article.
Sadly, the article does not give the name of the author, nor does it provide any footnotes or links to corroborating information that authenticates the article. Then, at the bottom of each article is this little comment: “Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!”
However, in an honest statement of my own, I’m not really familiar with much of the festivals, holidays, feasts, and other celebrations of the really early cultures and countries. So, rather than try to counter every statement in the article, let me merely point out some things that really seem to be conjecture on the part of the article’s author.
This conjecture is enough in my mind to begin to throw some doubt as to the authenticity of the rest of the article, because the author is making some statements that seem to lack validity. So, let me start with at least two statements that really began to make me doubt the author’s credibility.
In the portion of the History.com article with the heading of “An Ancient Holiday,” this following statement was made:
“The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter.”
What disturbs me about this statement is that part that refers to most cattle being slaughtered. Having been a farmer and cattleman, the idea of slaughtering most of one’s cattle is alien. If one slaughtered most, one would still have to keep breeding stock so as to be able to raise more cattle later. However, most cattlemen don’t just raise cattle to provide meat for themselves.
They raise cattle to provide meat, milk, and to sell or trade for other goods. In our ranching operations, the bulls were turned out with the cows in the summer and the resulting calves would be born in the spring of the next year. As such, one’s calves would not even be a yearling yet at the time a winter slaughter would occur, leading to very little meat to eat from those calves.
Then if cows died or calves were killed by wild animals, I wouldn’t think it would take too long for one to run out of cattle entirely. It hardly seems to make sense to me. Then again, I am unaware of the nature of animal husbandry in Europe in the Middle Ages and before. So, perhaps they did as described in the article, but it certainly seems suspicious to me.
The second comment that REALLY blared out to me is in the area of the article under the heading of “Saturnalia.” In that section, what disturbed me was this statement:
“Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25.”
First of all, what else would be done with the sheep? They certainly don’t hibernate so that the shepherds could have a few months off. Sheep require care all year long, and since grass will have nutritional value even when dormant in the winter, that would be their logical source of food. While some hay might have been stored for the winters, I really have my doubts as to how much would be available for so many sheep from so many owners.
Unlike colder climates, I would think that the Middle East’s weather would be more temperate than what occurs in lands further north. Thus, there wouldn’t be the need to forage into deep snow to find grass, so it would be natural for shepherds to be out with their flocks, at least until time to take them into the folds.
The author’s question as to why shepherds would be out with their sheep in the winter seems to ignore the fact that sheep would still need to be fed or grazed. So, he has made a leap to a conclusion with that question and that leads me to doubt at least that part of his article. With such a glaring error, I really have to wonder about some of his other comments as to whether they are actually factual.
Now, let’s move to more modern times. There is this reference:
“In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city's first police force in response to a Christmas riot.”
While I haven’t done an extensive search for the possibility of early police forces, the following ling indicates that the New York Police Department wasn’t established until the 1850’s, and I couldn’t find any references to an earlier force being started as the result of a Christmas riot.
While the first paragraph of that article does refer to an earlier “force,” there is no reference to when and why that force was implemented.
I am really disappointed that the article’s author chose to not identify himself or provide any footnotes or other references to the sources of the material used for his article. While it is an interesting read at that article, for now I will have to seriously question it validity.
One final touch that is not related at all to the article, but is in relationship to a post at Doris’s blog, here is a photo that I took back in 2002 at Yellowstone National Park. It is a very close up image of an elk. In Doris’s article entitled “Clackity, Clickity, Clack,” she wondered whether the critters she saw were deer or elk. Thus this picture is for her benefit. Incidentally, the deer she took pictures of have some very healthy racks of antlers. See them at the link just above.