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Faith and Festivities 2
Why does Santa wear red?

Faith and Festivities 2

More on the customs of Christians in this Faith and Festivities quiz!

Here's a second selection of brain-teasers, to discover how well-versed you are in the customs and practices associated with the annual Church calendar as it rolls round, and at various other feasts and festivals.

1.
John Betjeman (him again! That astute observer of church matters, architecture, customs and attenders) wrote another shrewd and much-loved seasonal poem about how many people only come occasionally to worship. His Diary of a Church Mouse (1954) laments:

' ( ... ) All the same, it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at ... ' [Which annual church event?]
... the St Valentine's Ball
... Bingo in the Hall
... Harvest Festival
... Saints Peter and Paul
There is an undeniable correlation between how 'dressed up' a church is (e.g. for Harvest and Christmas, probably Easter and perhaps also to some extent Remembrance) and how many irregular congregants will come along to join in the worship. Ordinary week-by-week services seem not to hold quite the same visual attraction!
2.
St Valentine's Day has been honoured for over 1500 years (since 496; so, pretty well the exact latter three-quarters of the Christian era) ~ on 14 February, which is the day when Valentine was martyred on the outskirts of Rome. What else is known about him?
Nothing whatever
He wrote an influential mystic treatise on the Scriptural image of 'the Church as the Bride of Christ'
He was a priest who was murdered for having secretly married a young Christian couple, who were in love despite their parents' disapproval (somewhat 'Romeo-&-Juliet' style)
He proclaimed that 'the Love of the Lord' was the supreme ideal, and was stoned to death by a group who disagreed with his preaching
Surprisingly perhaps (given that there are various saints by this name), nothing beyond this appears to be known on any authority!
3.
The symbol of Christian faith can variously be a crucifix ('with a little man on it', as one rather insensitive souvenir shop-keeper allegedly once offered to a young pilgrim 'at the same price as the one without' ... ) or a plain 'empty' cross, which is simpler, more elegant ~ and expresses the belief that Jesus conquered death and left it behind, even after undergoing it in one of its most barbaric forms.
Almost incredibly, there are some devotees (other than 'mere' Passion Play actors), almost 2,000 years on from the historic event on the hill outside Jerusalem, who put themselves through a form of crucifixion, usually also on Good Friday and clearly not right to the point of death. Who, and where, are the most well-known examples of these?
Pious Filipinos, without the official approval of their local Catholic church
Trainee priests in the Catalan region of Spain
American Evangelicals and/or members of extreme local sects, in some more isolated enclaves of the USA
African revivalists in the sub-Saharan region (where formerly there was French colonial rule and cultural Catholicism)
The Catholic church, as a worldwide whole, has a long and fine tradition of religious processions and other public acts of witness, but fairly enough prefers to distance itself from the extreme (and medically risky) self-imposed penance of these particular devotees.
4.
A group of people has assembled at a (probably fairly traditional) place of worship. A smart car arrives, and the one person they have been waiting for is brought into the church which has been tastefully decorated with flowers. The assembled people sing All things bright and beautiful, The Lord's my Shepherd and, later, The Day Thou Gavest (or, equally possibly, Abide with me). After the service the congregation re-emerges for a few photographs, watches the smart car depart again, and comments on what a lovely service it was.
What form of service, probably, was it?
A wedding
A funeral
A baptism
A confirmation
The traditional and perhaps rather old-fashioned, slow and maudlin hymns make this a more likely answer; the car would have been a hearse with the coffin in it, rather than a bridal limousine. The hymns would probably not be particularly appropriate to a Confirmation, and if the person in the car was the visiting Bishop, in this day and age he should probably not be travelling in quite such style!
5.
Why, and since when, has Santa Claus been established as wearing a red coat?
It seems he has always been shown thus; nobody knows quite why nor since when.
The red-coated Santa came in with colour printing of books, cards etc in the Victorian period (mid-C19th +; the Penny Post, for instance, having been introduced in 1840)
The now universally-recognised colour-scheme appeared in magazines and advertisements for refreshments in the earliest decades of the 20th century
The red 'livery', with white detail, was a blatant case of commercial muscling-in by the Coca Cola company during the post-Depression years of the 1930s
Popular legend may well like us to accept Answer 4, but Wikipedia and other sources suggest others had already beaten Coca Cola to it. No doubt the company nonetheless enjoys the apparent match!
6.
If you had been alive, and perhaps growing up, in England during the 1650s you would probably not have celebrated Christmas: why?
There were wars and plagues going on ~ and people in general avoided any form of festivity because they believed it inappropriate to the tough times, and likely not to encourage God to make life any easier if they treated the Christmas date with any frivolity
The Puritans were in charge, who banned all Christmas celebrations as 'popish' (i.e. Catholic, and hence not belonging in British life)
Priests did not allow people to carry on any form of ritual celebration or party in their homes; there would only be a simple, dignified service in some churches
There was too much poverty and sickness, and nobody had the energy or resources to celebrate
Christmas (as we might think of it) was formally banned between 1647 and the Restoration (in 1660).
7.
Apart from the obvious urge to share 'nice things' with people we love at an otherwise fairly miserable time of the year, why do we traditionally give Christmas presents?
To score subtle 'points' among our family and friends for offering the most expensive / wacky / original gift
Because 'God gave the supreme gift of His only Son', and what we do in response to that is the best we can fairly manage
To remind ourselves and each other that some 'family time', and gifts beyond the everyday, are an important part of the higher nature of human life
To maintain appearances and support business and manufacturers
The 'gift impulse' ought best to be interpreted as at least a pale echo of God's generosity in Creation and in His gift of Jesus, so Christians generally believe.
8.
What is the annual feast day at which the 'Galette des Rois' ('King-cake') is widely eaten in the French-speaking world and elsewhere?
The feast-day of Christ the King
Ascension Day
Epiphany
Whit Sunday / Pentecost
The cake usually has a small token inside or underneath it, either in the form of a miniature plastic baby, or more likely a small plastic crown or coronet. Whichever lucky eater finds this becomes 'king' for the occasion. Epiphany marks the day when the 'three kings'* arrived to pay homage to the baby Jesus.
(*Probably not three of them, nor necessarily kings; the Bible does not specify either such detail, though we may at least dub them 'the wise rulers', not least since they were knowledgeable enough to study the night sky, and wealthy enough to take leave of their responsibilities for as long as their pilgrimage might take, and wealthy enough also to bring precious gifts with them.)
A fairly widespread alternative time for such a cake to be eaten is around Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, e.g. in New Orleans), beyond which such luxuries and frivolities are foresworn during the sterner 40-day fast of Lent.
9.
Why is it considered a good omen if a baby responds, during its baptism ceremony, by making a lot of noise?
The child may well turn into a vociferous and unflinching Christian
Such crying is known as 'letting the Devil out'
The child may be showing signs of ability and keenness to join a church choir later in life
The baby can't be expected to respond in a fully linguistic way, but a good loud wail is the next-best signal of encouragement
This appears to be a longstanding customary belief!
10.
When a robed priest has performed and declared a marriage, it is customary for him or her to wrap a part of his/her vestments around the joined hands ~ and rings ~ of the new couple, before pronouncing, 'That which God has joined together, let no man put asunder' (or near equivalent words).
What part of the priestly vestments is used for this purpose?
The alb
The cassock
The stole
The belt
The long, thin fabric stole lends itself admirably for this purpose.

 

Author:  Ian Miles

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