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Year after year, we review dozens of reader nominations, revisit sites from past lists, consider staff favorites, and search the far-flung corners of the web for new celebration of new year essay for a varied compilation that will prove an asset to any writer, of any genre, at any experience level. This selection represents this year's creativity-centric websites for writers. These websites fuel out-of-the-box thinking and help writers awaken their choke palahnuik and literary analysis. Be sure to check out the archives for references to innovative techniques and processes from famous thinkers like Einstein and Darwin. The countless prompts, how-tos on guided imagery and creative habits, mixed-media masterpieces, and more at Creativity Portal have sparked imaginations for more than 18 years. Boost your literary credentials by submitting your best caption for the stand-alone cartoon to this weekly choke palahnuik and literary analysis from The New Yorker. The top three captions advance to a public vote, and the winners will be included in a future issue of the magazine.

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Koch's main research interest is the history of religion in America, with a focus on colonial America and the Atlantic world. In this book, she examines how Christian communities responded to … [Read more For most of us, COVID is the first pandemic we have experienced first-hand, but pandemics are not new. Two of our pandemics experts at MSU, Dr.

Philippa Koch Religious Studies and Dr. Tom Dicke History , gave a Zoom talk earlier this week about these past pandemics, what we have learned, and how those experiences were similar or different from what we … [Read more Pippa Koch and Dr. Like some special fabric of human culture, stories come in all possible contours, colours and patterns, and some are now worn out, torn, fraying or discarded. Oracles and the divinatory arts can be understood as stories and storytelling practices that have an ambivalent status in our post-secular society.

On one hand Tarot cards, Runes and Astrology are everywhere, just like our daily horoscope. On the other hand, these are often connected to fringe religious practices and thus fair game in the public sphere. Modern attitudes towards divination can be discussed from different perspectives, such as post-Enlightenment rationality, increased secularisation or even continuing public distrust towards some of the countercultural New Religious Movements responsible for the revival of Tarot cards and Rune stones, like the New Age Movement and Contemporary Paganism.

Yet I would like to consider here divination as a form of storytelling, as well as oracles as stories, and explore what might they have to offer us at a time of increased uncertainty, when the environmental challenges of our world have been heightened and highlighted by the pandemic. Divination was in many ancient cultures an important religious practice, used to ask about all matters — from the proper time and mode of religious conduct, to the coming harvest.

The Latin root divus means God like. However, oracles and divination had their early critics. In many cultural contexts during antiquity, religion and divination were intertwined, and supportive of each other, often in the face of philosophic and scientific adversity. Oracles experienced a decline at the beginning of the first millennium, synchronous in very different cultures and noted by Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, in the 1 st century AD.

In this disenchanted form, divination become less of a tool for predicting the future and more of a way of resolving controversies, according to some scholars Thomas Hence, when there was a choice of two or more courses of action, the diviner was called upon to elucidate the better choice — perfectly arbitrarily. Through , as QAnon promised to destabilise the US democratic process, and anti-vaxxers threatened to perpetuate a global pandemic, theories about an older conspiracy were quietly playing out by the banks of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland.

Boleskine House, the former home of Aleister Crowley and later, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, has been approved for restoration which will see it being opened to the public for tours, with ten eco-cabins built on the grounds for guests. Or rather, its shell has. Boleskine House was badly damaged by an accidental fire in December , losing most of the interior.

When I visited the site in , it was fenced off and full of rubble. It was put up for sale in April , and was bought by Keith and Kyra Readdy, who founded the Boleskine House Foundation to raise the money needed to restore the site. But a second fire broke out on July 31st, , destroyed the remainder of the interior, and claimed the roof.

The fire brigade investigated the second fire as arson. As someone who grew up in Inverness during the time that Page owned the property, the story has a particular fascination for me. Boleskine House is famous as the former home of Aleister.

Crowley, who owned it between and Crowley had impressive careers as a mountaineer and poet, but it is for his writing on the occult that he is most famous today — he was a prodigious innovator and systematiser of different magical systems and incorporating Egyptian deities and yoga techniques into his practices.

He received a series of channelled communications in , and years later these would form the basis of his esoteric religion, Thelema. This had more to do with the homophobia of the Edwardian period than reality, however, exacerbated by his adoption as a figurehead of the sex and drugs culture of the s, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Crowley was certainly an egotist, and could be cruel, but a more sober assessment of his life would have to also count him as one of the most important figures in the history of twentieth century new religions, directly influencing the development of Wicca, Scientology and Discordianism, as well as founding Thelema and leading the Ordo Templi Orientis OTO. The more traditional Conservative press picked up on the story , even as global pandemics, Brexit and a climate crisis all reached a head, showing there is still a deep-seated fear of the occult.

Take this article which appeared in December in the Herald. But a closer reading shows that it is embedded in a worldview in which Christian forces of light are battling an occult, even Satanic, darkness. It is said the experiment was not properly completed, with the spirits raised never fully banished leading to a number of unexplained events at Boleskine.

This might be due to the fact that Satanic Ritual Abuse, which she refers to directly and indirectly, does not and has never existed — at least, outside the imagination of conspiracy theorists and fundamentalist Christians. It might also be due to the fact that the other complainer is the Fresh Start Foundation , who have a connection to Robert Green, an independent investigator who has been jailed twice over the Hollie Greig case, UK Column, a news website known for circulating right-wing conspiracy theories , and the grand dame of UK conspiracism, David Icke.

This report concerns a man trying to sell a wax-splattered box supposedly found in the basement of Boleskine, despite the fact that it is of the kind which costs a few pounds from any head shop in the country and looks almost new. Why take up valuable newspaper real estate at a time when there are other, more important things to write about. Funnily enough, this brings us back to QAnon.

Both of these are inheritors of the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic of the s and s, predicated on the existence of an imaginary secret religion who deliberately invert Christian morality, and use sexual abuse and cannibalism in rituals. The same goes for the Church of Satan, as founded by Anton LaVey in , which is probably best regarded as a particularly theatrical version of Humanism.

Creator: Ted Eytan. Attribution-ShareAlike 4. Nevertheless, large numbers of people believe that such an imagined Satanic Other exists. For most, this is probably just an internalisation of Christian narratives about good and evil, and of the existence of demons and devils. These implicit beliefs are stoked up by more active players, however, mostly though not exclusively Christian fundamentalists with an axe to grind, and who, because of the traditional association of Christianity with moral good, are able to speak into the ear of the press, police and politicians.

But there is certainly an aspect that is to do with defending the body politic against invasion — which is why such ideas tend to flare up at times of societal unrest, and why we see the same motifs popping up in antisemitic tracts from the Middle Ages to the Third Reich. So while the battle between good and evil plays out on the steps of the US Congress, it is also playing out in local newspapers and planning applications. Commemorating the Christian narrative of the birth of Jesus, they can vary from the miniature to life-size.

Nativity scenes are examples of religion in the public domain that have become so commonplace as to be almost unremarkable; they are indicative of the sometimes creative, sometimes uneasy negotiation of a Christian tradition that in some respects has become secularised, as well as being observed by people of a variety of religious and cultural heritages. As with many calendar customs, it is not until you look at different national, regional, family and even individual variations and understandings of notionally the same thing that the complexity of such events becomes clearer.

I find contemporary Nativity scenes fascinating on a number of levels, because there is just so much going on in them—and behind them! Thereafter the Franciscans spread the tradition of creating nativity scenes with live actors and animals. With the development of static nativity scenes came further opportunities for the addition of all sorts of local and contemporary material culture and traditions, and the vernacular expansion of the details of the nativity story.

Nativity scenes have become the visual shorthand for an amalgam of the Christmas story from the Gospels in the Christian New Testament. If you envisage a typical Nativity scene in the UK, what do you see? The usual scene consists of a hut-like building, the stable, with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in a manger, and probably also shepherds, three Kings, assorted animals in the background, and perhaps angels and a star above the stable.

They reflect a timeline in which, according to Christian tradition, Joseph and Mary, having to travel away from home and encountering difficulties in finding accommodation at their destination, end up in a stable, where the baby Jesus is born. Eventually some days later three Magi wise men or, as they later became thought of more popularly, kings appear bearing gifts, led to the location with the aid of a guiding star.

So the typical UK nativity compresses events which occur over a period of time into one simultaneous image as with the Kimber Farm example above. In other parts of the world, nativity scenes might be far more elaborate. I remember being amazed by the detail and complexity of Spanish nativity scenes when first encountering a specialist market in Barcelona, selling all sorts of nativity scene requisites beyond simple statues of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Spanish nativity scenes tend to incorporate a far broader range of side-scenarios in a Bethlehem that looks distinctly local. There are miniature mills with water courses and moving wheels, groups of people gathered round a flickering fire—and somewhere in the scene the Caganer, a bare-bottomed, defecating figure usually discreetly positioned away from the holy family.

A distinctive Tyrolean style of nativity scenes has developed with scenic backdrops unlike the Holy Land, again self-consciously relating the local to the universal in a manner highly typical of vernacular religiosity. As examples of what is regarded as traditional local craft, scenes in this genre are displayed in the Museum of Tyrolean Regional Heritage in Innsbruck.

Weihnachten , Krippenausstellun at the Hotel Mondschein, Sexten, Liturgically, Advent is the period ahead of the birth of Jesus, which in the Western Christian calendar can start between 27 November and 3 December; Advent is a time of solemn reflection, and in some traditions is still marked as a period of fasting, similar to Lent before Easter. The celebration of Christmas technically starts with the birth of Jesus and lasts until Epiphany 6 January when traditionally the three Magi visit Jesus: these are the 12 days of Christmas.

Liturgically, however, the Christmas season lasts until 1 February. An interesting aspect of nativity scenes that I have become increasingly aware of in recent years relates to the logic and logistics of timing. At Christmas far more people come to cathedrals and churches generally than at other times of the year, and clearly it expresses for many a sense of belonging.

Our fieldwork with cathedral clergy, volunteers and other staff around the Christmas period revealed a sense of ambiguity, even ambivalence, over public perceptions of Christmas and how they relate to the wider framework of Advent. For the Minster it goes on till Candlemas [2 February]. Popular expectations and experiences of Christmas tend to foreground the run up to Christmas as a period of partying and pleasant expectations, as opposed to seeing it as a reflective or indeed penitential period.

Although the twelve days of Christmas are referred to in song and on Christmas cards, for many people the Christmas season largely ends with Boxing Day 26 December , actually before the Christmas story has liturgically ended. This can cause some issues in relation to nativity scenes, which our partner Cathedrals handled in different ways. We were told that, following an attempted theft, the Jesus figure is now screwed into his crib! In the Durham nativity scene, the baby Jesus figure is customarily placed in the crib early on, but is covered by hay until Christmas Eve, when he is removed and then placed back during the Midnight Mass.

Volunteers are informed that he must be hidden until the appropriate point of the service. However, in December our researcher Tiina Sepp spotted the baby Jesus uncovered well before Christmas Eve and mentioned this fact to a steward, leading to a swift restoration of the layer of hay above the statue.

Elsewhere, however, the timeline of the twelve days of Christmas is more closely observed. This was strikingly demonstrated by a visit to Cologne in January , timed to coincide with Epiphany on January 6th, when according to tradition the Magi finally arrived to see Jesus. Cologne Cathedral houses the magnificent Shrine of the Three Kings, said to contain the treasured relics of the Magi. Through a grille in the beautifully crafted 13 th century shrine, three crowned skulls can be seen, above each their name picked out in precious stones.

While normally access to the shrine is limited, on 6 January people are allowed to go through the gates and get close to it, which still proves an enormous attraction. Visiting nativity scenes in various Cologne churches after Christmas but ahead of January 6, we became aware that the Kings were absent.

After a while we realised that in some churches there was simply no sign of them, while in others the Kings were to be spotted perched up on the gallery, or out in the church entrance, or gradually moving up within the church as Epiphany approached. It was only on January 6 that the scene was complete, in line with the liturgical calendar. Among other things, this prompts repeated visits to churches to see the nativity scenes as they develop over time!

Three Kings in nave, heading towards nativity scene, Minoritenkirche, Cologne, 3 January There is a lot going on behind nativity scenes—from Bible of the Folk embellishments on the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, to craft traditions and local pride, from a sense of belonging to evangelising and sometimes uneasy negotiations of secularised assumptions and religion in the public domain.

So, as you encounter nativity scenes in this strange year, think about the implications of what you are actually seeing, who is there, what the setting is, what part of the story is being represented—and notice how long they last! And of course, if you see any interesting examples, please do send them to us at david. Three Kings arrived at nativity scene, Minoritenkirche, Cologne, 6 January Klassen and Monique Scheer, eds. Primiano, Leonard.

Utley, Francis Lee. Evidence of Kanniyakumari as a centre of Hindu pilgrimage, especially for devotees of the Devi Goddess , stretches back well over a millennium. Its striking seascape is renowned for its spectacular sunrises. I suggested that these representations of Cargo cults were structured by a Western conception of rationality that, while abstractly premised upon the psychic unity of humankind in practice furthered the active denigration of black voices and experiences.

Such critiques in anthropology are not new: for example in Talal Asad in Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter — and 13 years later Renato Rosaldo in Writing Culture — insisted that attention be directed to the techniques through which anthropological and scientific knowledge has been separated and insulated from the colonial contexts in which it was produced.

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But the ability to write-in religious affiliation on the census has been successfully used my many smaller minority groups to lobby for better acknowledgement in local and national provisions — including pagans, Sikhs , Valmik i s and Humanists , amongst others. Better understanding the complex kaleidoscope of affiliations , belief s and practices people draw upon to face complex global challenges like the current pandemic is part of the core mission of our department to promote the understanding of contemporary religion in historical perspective.

In the late 19 th century, as the sheer diversity of religions dawned on nascent traditions of enquiry in the social sciences and the humanities, a number of scholars sought to define Religion by establishing the key common traits and features they assumed would be shared by all of the different religions.

This project generated new research which, while certainly adding to the sum total of human knowledge about religions, nevertheless did not deliver on the promise of a definition of Religion, or at least not a universal one that could boast any consensus outside usage by particular interest groups. In the early twenty-first century, the standard approach to Religion still with a capital R is somewhat different.

Instead of trying to delineate a distinct class of religious facts we approach Religion through metaphor. It is a metaphor with enormous resonance in cultures that celebrate the individual as a source of its own authority and in societies keen to celebrate local authenticities and eccentricities against imaginaries of bloated institutions and zombie bureaucracies.

The first comes from the functionalist school in twentieth century Sociology which regarded the performance of religious rituals as sticky occasions because of their capacity to cement or glue different societal elements together. The second comes from feminist and post-colonial theory but shares certain affinities with the first.

For example, according to Ahmed, words become sticky through the various resonances and associations that they gather through time and through use. If we apply her insights to Religion, it is clear that it is a word that has accumulated many layers of meaning and significance, both emotional and intellectual, largely without anyone being particularly aware of the when, why or how, and those meanings cannot easily be unstuck or separated.

The third comes from contemporary cognitive anthropologists such as Pascal Boyer and Dan Sperber, who regard religious beliefs as side-effects of ordinary thinking. In their view, human brains are pre-wired to anticipate reality.

Religious beliefs break all of these hard-wired assumptions about reality: ghosts walk through walls, mythical horses fly, and gods are privy to every human thought. But if religious beliefs contravene our expectations of reality — expectations which in other circumstances our lives depend on — why do people believe them? Why do these beliefs persist when they deliver false expectations?

According to our cognitive anthropologists, people believe them because they are sticky, first activating and then bonding with, other cognitive capacities associated with social life. It neither offers to explain nor understand Religion. Instead it positions it in a fragile and shifting web of connections. Ahmed, S. Boyer, P. Swain, London: Allen and Unwin. Like some special fabric of human culture, stories come in all possible contours, colours and patterns, and some are now worn out, torn, fraying or discarded.

Oracles and the divinatory arts can be understood as stories and storytelling practices that have an ambivalent status in our post-secular society. On one hand Tarot cards, Runes and Astrology are everywhere, just like our daily horoscope. On the other hand, these are often connected to fringe religious practices and thus fair game in the public sphere.

Modern attitudes towards divination can be discussed from different perspectives, such as post-Enlightenment rationality, increased secularisation or even continuing public distrust towards some of the countercultural New Religious Movements responsible for the revival of Tarot cards and Rune stones, like the New Age Movement and Contemporary Paganism. Yet I would like to consider here divination as a form of storytelling, as well as oracles as stories, and explore what might they have to offer us at a time of increased uncertainty, when the environmental challenges of our world have been heightened and highlighted by the pandemic.

Divination was in many ancient cultures an important religious practice, used to ask about all matters — from the proper time and mode of religious conduct, to the coming harvest. The Latin root divus means God like. However, oracles and divination had their early critics. In many cultural contexts during antiquity, religion and divination were intertwined, and supportive of each other, often in the face of philosophic and scientific adversity.

Oracles experienced a decline at the beginning of the first millennium, synchronous in very different cultures and noted by Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, in the 1 st century AD. In this disenchanted form, divination become less of a tool for predicting the future and more of a way of resolving controversies, according to some scholars Thomas Hence, when there was a choice of two or more courses of action, the diviner was called upon to elucidate the better choice — perfectly arbitrarily.

Through , as QAnon promised to destabilise the US democratic process, and anti-vaxxers threatened to perpetuate a global pandemic, theories about an older conspiracy were quietly playing out by the banks of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. Boleskine House, the former home of Aleister Crowley and later, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, has been approved for restoration which will see it being opened to the public for tours, with ten eco-cabins built on the grounds for guests.

Or rather, its shell has. Boleskine House was badly damaged by an accidental fire in December , losing most of the interior. When I visited the site in , it was fenced off and full of rubble. It was put up for sale in April , and was bought by Keith and Kyra Readdy, who founded the Boleskine House Foundation to raise the money needed to restore the site. But a second fire broke out on July 31st, , destroyed the remainder of the interior, and claimed the roof.

The fire brigade investigated the second fire as arson. As someone who grew up in Inverness during the time that Page owned the property, the story has a particular fascination for me. Boleskine House is famous as the former home of Aleister. Crowley, who owned it between and Crowley had impressive careers as a mountaineer and poet, but it is for his writing on the occult that he is most famous today — he was a prodigious innovator and systematiser of different magical systems and incorporating Egyptian deities and yoga techniques into his practices.

He received a series of channelled communications in , and years later these would form the basis of his esoteric religion, Thelema. This had more to do with the homophobia of the Edwardian period than reality, however, exacerbated by his adoption as a figurehead of the sex and drugs culture of the s, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Crowley was certainly an egotist, and could be cruel, but a more sober assessment of his life would have to also count him as one of the most important figures in the history of twentieth century new religions, directly influencing the development of Wicca, Scientology and Discordianism, as well as founding Thelema and leading the Ordo Templi Orientis OTO.

The more traditional Conservative press picked up on the story , even as global pandemics, Brexit and a climate crisis all reached a head, showing there is still a deep-seated fear of the occult. Take this article which appeared in December in the Herald. But a closer reading shows that it is embedded in a worldview in which Christian forces of light are battling an occult, even Satanic, darkness.

It is said the experiment was not properly completed, with the spirits raised never fully banished leading to a number of unexplained events at Boleskine. This might be due to the fact that Satanic Ritual Abuse, which she refers to directly and indirectly, does not and has never existed — at least, outside the imagination of conspiracy theorists and fundamentalist Christians. It might also be due to the fact that the other complainer is the Fresh Start Foundation , who have a connection to Robert Green, an independent investigator who has been jailed twice over the Hollie Greig case, UK Column, a news website known for circulating right-wing conspiracy theories , and the grand dame of UK conspiracism, David Icke.

This report concerns a man trying to sell a wax-splattered box supposedly found in the basement of Boleskine, despite the fact that it is of the kind which costs a few pounds from any head shop in the country and looks almost new.

Why take up valuable newspaper real estate at a time when there are other, more important things to write about. Funnily enough, this brings us back to QAnon. Both of these are inheritors of the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic of the s and s, predicated on the existence of an imaginary secret religion who deliberately invert Christian morality, and use sexual abuse and cannibalism in rituals.

The same goes for the Church of Satan, as founded by Anton LaVey in , which is probably best regarded as a particularly theatrical version of Humanism. Creator: Ted Eytan. Attribution-ShareAlike 4. Nevertheless, large numbers of people believe that such an imagined Satanic Other exists. For most, this is probably just an internalisation of Christian narratives about good and evil, and of the existence of demons and devils. These implicit beliefs are stoked up by more active players, however, mostly though not exclusively Christian fundamentalists with an axe to grind, and who, because of the traditional association of Christianity with moral good, are able to speak into the ear of the press, police and politicians.

But there is certainly an aspect that is to do with defending the body politic against invasion — which is why such ideas tend to flare up at times of societal unrest, and why we see the same motifs popping up in antisemitic tracts from the Middle Ages to the Third Reich.

So while the battle between good and evil plays out on the steps of the US Congress, it is also playing out in local newspapers and planning applications. Commemorating the Christian narrative of the birth of Jesus, they can vary from the miniature to life-size. Nativity scenes are examples of religion in the public domain that have become so commonplace as to be almost unremarkable; they are indicative of the sometimes creative, sometimes uneasy negotiation of a Christian tradition that in some respects has become secularised, as well as being observed by people of a variety of religious and cultural heritages.

As with many calendar customs, it is not until you look at different national, regional, family and even individual variations and understandings of notionally the same thing that the complexity of such events becomes clearer. I find contemporary Nativity scenes fascinating on a number of levels, because there is just so much going on in them—and behind them!

Thereafter the Franciscans spread the tradition of creating nativity scenes with live actors and animals. With the development of static nativity scenes came further opportunities for the addition of all sorts of local and contemporary material culture and traditions, and the vernacular expansion of the details of the nativity story.

Nativity scenes have become the visual shorthand for an amalgam of the Christmas story from the Gospels in the Christian New Testament. If you envisage a typical Nativity scene in the UK, what do you see? The usual scene consists of a hut-like building, the stable, with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in a manger, and probably also shepherds, three Kings, assorted animals in the background, and perhaps angels and a star above the stable.

They reflect a timeline in which, according to Christian tradition, Joseph and Mary, having to travel away from home and encountering difficulties in finding accommodation at their destination, end up in a stable, where the baby Jesus is born. Eventually some days later three Magi wise men or, as they later became thought of more popularly, kings appear bearing gifts, led to the location with the aid of a guiding star.

So the typical UK nativity compresses events which occur over a period of time into one simultaneous image as with the Kimber Farm example above. In other parts of the world, nativity scenes might be far more elaborate. I remember being amazed by the detail and complexity of Spanish nativity scenes when first encountering a specialist market in Barcelona, selling all sorts of nativity scene requisites beyond simple statues of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Spanish nativity scenes tend to incorporate a far broader range of side-scenarios in a Bethlehem that looks distinctly local. There are miniature mills with water courses and moving wheels, groups of people gathered round a flickering fire—and somewhere in the scene the Caganer, a bare-bottomed, defecating figure usually discreetly positioned away from the holy family. A distinctive Tyrolean style of nativity scenes has developed with scenic backdrops unlike the Holy Land, again self-consciously relating the local to the universal in a manner highly typical of vernacular religiosity.

As examples of what is regarded as traditional local craft, scenes in this genre are displayed in the Museum of Tyrolean Regional Heritage in Innsbruck. Weihnachten , Krippenausstellun at the Hotel Mondschein, Sexten, Liturgically, Advent is the period ahead of the birth of Jesus, which in the Western Christian calendar can start between 27 November and 3 December; Advent is a time of solemn reflection, and in some traditions is still marked as a period of fasting, similar to Lent before Easter.

The celebration of Christmas technically starts with the birth of Jesus and lasts until Epiphany 6 January when traditionally the three Magi visit Jesus: these are the 12 days of Christmas. Liturgically, however, the Christmas season lasts until 1 February. An interesting aspect of nativity scenes that I have become increasingly aware of in recent years relates to the logic and logistics of timing. At Christmas far more people come to cathedrals and churches generally than at other times of the year, and clearly it expresses for many a sense of belonging.

Our fieldwork with cathedral clergy, volunteers and other staff around the Christmas period revealed a sense of ambiguity, even ambivalence, over public perceptions of Christmas and how they relate to the wider framework of Advent. For the Minster it goes on till Candlemas [2 February].

Popular expectations and experiences of Christmas tend to foreground the run up to Christmas as a period of partying and pleasant expectations, as opposed to seeing it as a reflective or indeed penitential period. Although the twelve days of Christmas are referred to in song and on Christmas cards, for many people the Christmas season largely ends with Boxing Day 26 December , actually before the Christmas story has liturgically ended.

This can cause some issues in relation to nativity scenes, which our partner Cathedrals handled in different ways. We were told that, following an attempted theft, the Jesus figure is now screwed into his crib!

In the Durham nativity scene, the baby Jesus figure is customarily placed in the crib early on, but is covered by hay until Christmas Eve, when he is removed and then placed back during the Midnight Mass. Volunteers are informed that he must be hidden until the appropriate point of the service.

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Vadim Putzu, Associate Professor in Religious Studies, is currently on sabbatical in Italy but recently sent us a link to an article in Magazine, where he was interviewed about cooking with squash blossoms.

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