Thursday, December 24, 2009

Year Zero and Other Observations

'Tis the season when Christmas music has taken over the airwaves at home, at the mall, and in the car. While struggling to manage a semblance of holiday cheer, I have three somewhat random observations (i.e., pet peeves) inspired by things I've heard said in various Christmas songs.

1. THERE IS NO YEAR ZERO. The Gregorian calendar goes from 1 B.C. (or B.C.E.) to 1 A.D. (or C.E.). Even if there was a year zero, it's not the year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The change of era was off by a few years. If we accept the Gospel of Matthew account, Herod the Great was alive and well when Jesus was born, and Jesus's family lived in Egypt for some months or perhaps even years until Herod died. Herod died in 4 B.C. Jesus's birth must have been before 4 B.C. at the latest. Update: This online article from Biblical Archaeology Review discusses the date and location of Jesus's birth.

2. "In excelsis Deo" from the hymn "Angels we have heard on high" is NOT to be pronounced "in ex-Celsius Deo." Latin only has a hard /c/ like English /k/. Proper choir pronunciation (which doesn't follow pure Latin) is "in egg-shell-sis Deo." But whatever you do, "Celsius" should not leave your lips.

3. Christendom. It's pronounced "Chris-en-dom", not Christian-dom, as in "the belfries of all Christendom" from "I saw 3 ships."

Well, I feel better just getting those observations off my chest. I am now  free to celebrate Christmas as my usual cheerful and festive self.

Oh, one more thing. I drove by a billboard yesterday that had a picture of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. Joseph was wearing a leather vest and he looked an awful lot like Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride.

My random Christmas observations are ended.

Merry Christmas!


  1. I dislike the line in "Away in a Manger" that says, "but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.". You've had 3 babies, do you see the problem with that? (Heidi)

  2. Well, since Baby Jesus was God made flesh, he had the consciousness of an eternal deity, thus self-control from birth = no crying. But seriously, yeah, that's a good one, too.

  3. "My name is Joseph. I'm not really your father. I just wanted to say hi." ~Joseph, in quoting the Princess Bride.