Greek New Year

Contrary to modern time beliefs, celebrating the advent of the New Year on January 1st in the cold and the dead nature of winter time is among the most universal celebratory traditions.

The custom of marking the beginning of the New Year is 4,000 years old and has its roots in ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia. From the very ancient city of Babylon these customs were passed on to ancient Greece.

Ancient Greeks were not that much into celebrating the New Year rather than the “sickle of the new moon” upon recognizing the visible new moon as the beginning of each month, a custom held in honour of Selene, Apollon Noumenios, Hestia and the other household Gods, also known as noumenia.

In Athens, however, there was an epigraph found reading of a religious ceremony that used to take place on the beginning of the New Year, or better said on the last day of the outgoing year, which involved only a small number of people. The celebration was a sacrifice of the outgoing officials to Zeus the Saviour and Athena the Saviour, which aimed at ensuring the blessings and favour of the two gods for the coming new year.

“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In modern-day Greece, one will traditionally find a Greek family around the dinner table with an extra pacesetting for St. Basil; people eating vassilopita, a is sweet and savoury bread that is baked especially for the occasion with a gold or silver coin put in it; people hanging onions or pomegranates on to their front door to symbolise fertility; people collecting mossy stones as a good omen or talisman; and people practising kalo podariko, that is, the tradition of First Footing – it is believed that the first person who sets foot inside a home in the New Year determines the kind of luck that the household will experience the rest of the year; therefore, it is believed that a First Footer should be a person with a kind and loving heart, and as such, a child is often made a First Footer as they are often associated with having pure, innocent and honest hearts.

Alcohol and the Ragdoll Effect

If you have an accident or serious injury while drunk you are more likely to recover than if you are sober. In fact, there is a thing called the ragdoll effect, where if you fall while drunk or do not brace during a crash, you are more likely to survive.

“I drink to make other people more interesting.” – Ernest Hemingway

Researchers of the University of Chicago have spent 14 years examining the ragdoll effect, analysing the blood alcohol of 190,000 trauma patients. With the exception of burns death rates from all traumatic injury fell as blood alcohol levels rose. Amongst the extremely drunk mortality rates fell by nearly 50%. Gunshot and stab victims had the greatest benefit. Amongst drivers however, you are between two-to-four times more likely to die in a car crash.

Elaine: So what you are saying is that 90 to 95 percent of the population is undateable?
Jerry: Undateable!
Elaine: Then how are all these people getting together?
Jerry: Alcohol.
Seinfeld (1995) Season 7, Episode 4; “The Wink” [No. 114]

Seven Days (vi)

On the sixth day, Man saw himself, in skins of many colors;
And speaking many tongues and languages, and Man feared.
And that which he feared, he hated.
And Man said, “Let us build great machines of war and destroy these, lest they destroy us.”
And Man built great machines, and the Earth was fired with the rage of great wars.
And Man said, “It is good.”

Kenneth Ross (Reprinted from The Idaho Wildlife Review, May-June, 1967)


Positional, Aggressive, Intuitive, Emotional

Anacondas may seem peaceful on the exterior, but the Anaconda is always preparing something menacing – a deep positional squeeze, typical of the big snake. Anacondas usually reject obvious and direct play, and instead prefer to build up positional pressure. They tend to be very attached to their own ideas, almost to the point of seeming like the result of the game is secondary. But don’t be fooled: once an Anaconda has you in his grip, you will be very lucky to escape.

“First restrain, next blockade, lastly destroy.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) was one of the best players never to become world champion and was among the leading players in the world for several decades. His legacy, however, is mostly as a theoretician of chess strategy. In his writing (which is still very influential today) he laid out his “system” of chess strategy which emphasizes preventing your opponent’s plans through such concepts as blockade, overprotection, and prophylaxis. In his own play he showed his “Anaconda” style – a positional, indirect aggression, which seeks to further his plans by preventing those of his opponent.

See other: Chess Personalities

A ‘Politically Correct’ Christmas

The story about a council attempting to avoid offence by renaming Christmas ‘Winterval’ continues to do the rounds despite it not being true. Eleven years ago, Birmingham ran a promotional campaign for businesses in the city that lasted the whole of the period from November to the end of January. The campaign was called ‘Winterval’. They have never used the word to describe Christmas and there was no PC aspect to the way they did use the word. It’s non-news, and it’s really old non-news.

Benjamin Franklin nearly killed himself in 1750 trying to electrocute a turkey for Christmas dinner.

The alleged ‘War on Christmas’ is a recurring theme in the press, but in a nation with decorated trees in every home, Father Christmas everywhere, carols and Christmas songs playing non-stop on the radio and in shops, and Christmas an official national holiday that has now grown to consume the last three months of the year, it seems clear that Christmas has never been less threatened than it is at present. Surveys show that 95% of businesses hang Christmas decorations in their premises.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Charles Dickens is largely responsible for the way we celebrate Christmas today; before the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843 Christmas seemed to be dying out in Britain. The old-style 12-day Christmas had been observed in the large households that typified agrarian England; urbanised industrial revolution period households had less use for them.

The world’s largest gathering of Santa Clauses in Newtown, Wales, in 2004 ended in a mass brawl.

Southey, Walter Scott, and Washington Irving all lamented the demise of Christmas in their time. Dickens kicked off a nostalgia boom for the family Christmas by publishing Christmas Specials of the various periodicals for which he wrote, and created the Christmas book trade with A Christmas Carol. Amongst the traditions associated with Dickens is the ‘White Christmas’. These have always been intermittent at best in southern England, but there happened to be snow every Christmas of the first eight years of Dickens’ life, and they’re a consistent feature of his stories.

Czechs eat fried and breaded carp with potato salad or plum sauce for Christmas.

In the Early Middle Ages, the big festival was Epiphany, but Christmas was the key day during most of the later Middle Ages. Oliver Cromwell’s mob regarded it as a decadent holiday, and its celebration was banned outright in 1644 – even Mass was forbidden, as well as mince pies and holly, and shops were required to stay open. These laws were repealed in 1660. But even in 1849, the headmaster of the Quaker-run Bootham School postponed breaking up until after December 25 and declared that he would rather have no holidays at all than call the period ‘Christmas holidays’.

On Santa Claus and God

Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbes: I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

Bill Watterson