Bear with me, we're getting to it. This actually IS a Christmas tradition, believe it or not. If you live in New York City or have visited there during the holidays, you may have seen the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall. But here's what you DON'T know about it:
"Since the Great Depression, the Rockettes have shared Radio City Music Hall with live farm animals — from camels to donkeys to sheep — to stage a live nativity scene for its annual "Christmas Spectacular." But the world saw its first living nativity in 1224, when St. Francis of Assisi re-created the birth of Jesus to explain the holiday to his followers. During that first display, the manger was also used as an altar for Christmas Mass." (Courtesy Time Lists)
Speaking of nativity scenes leads us to our main point of today's article - the Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem, as it is more commonly known. I had an idea for this column regarding the Star (which led me to do more research on it) and came up with some fascinating facts. For example:
- There have been a number of books and scientific theories floated as to what the Star may have been. They range from comets to novas to (the most likely) a rare conjunction of planets. However even here you hit a snag, as scholars have long debated the actual birth date of Jesus. December 25th is the commonly celebrated date, but there is an ongoing debate that Jesus was actually born in the Spring and the December 25th date was used by early Christians to replace the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
- If none of the scientific reasons work, many turn to the religious, with theories ranging from the Seventh-day Adventist, who say it wasn't a Star at all, but a "distant company of shining angels" to the Mormons who believe the Star was seen that night not just in Bethlehem, but completely around the world at the same time (think on that one for a while) to the most wild theory of all (courtesy of the Jehovah's Witnesses) that the "Star of Bethlehem is seen as a product of Satan, rather than a sign from God, since the star led the astrologers to Jerusalem where they met King Herod's plan to kill Jesus." (Awake! July 8, 1994, pp.6-7 / www.watchtower.org)
For more fascinating theories and Star lore, plus an interactive slide show on how it possibly came about and would have looked, check out this Space on NBCNEWS.com article:
Which (finally!) brings us back to what prompted all this to begin with. In November 1951, Arthur C. Clarke published his short story The Star (cover seen at left). I read it in a science fiction anthology paperback in the summer of 1973 and never forgot it. I could put up a file of the story itself, but found something even better - here's the author himself reading it - take a listen!
The story was anthologized a number of times in different collections and on December 20th, 1985, it was dramatized on the remake of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. To read about the making of it (and see the actual episode), direct your attention to the Regulus Star Notes site below:
That's it for today ... join us tomorrow for more fun!