Today: Hannukah, Yule, (yesterday’s) Winter Solstice, the Dreyfus Affair, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Embargo Act, Beethoven, Battle of the Bulge, Lech Walesa, Richard Reid, Christmas Music,
And More . . .
Holidays and Observances on December 22
Happy Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks who were threatening the existence of the Jewish religion. As well, it celebrates the miracle of the lights when only one day’s worth of oil to keep the holy flame alive lasted for all eight nights needed to re-sanctify the Holy Temple. You can read Ms. BWR’s 2012 explanation of the holiday here. And watch the videos below. Hanukkah will continue for eight nights, until Dec. 30 this year.
And today is yesterday was (damn UT) the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the Yule celebration for our neo-pagans. In their honor
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
Isaiah had prophesied:
“For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4
“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.Isaiah 64:8
1894 – The Dreyfus affair
The Dreyfus Affair, an act of scapegoating and antisemitism in France, had a profound effect on Jewish and world history. It began this day in 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an officer in the French and a Jew, was convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island to serve out a life sentence.
Dreyfus’s alleged crime was passing French military secrets to Germany. In 1896, French intelligence investigated and determined that the real culprit was a French Army major, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. When Esterhazy was put on trial, high French officials suppressed the evidence against him and he was acquitted.
The Dreyfus family pushed to bring about a new trial with all of the evidence developed by French intelligence. They were championed by the popular French author, Emile Zola, who on 13 Jan. 1898, famously published on the front page of a Parisian newspaper an open letter beginning with the title “J’Accuse…!” In the letter, Zola accused the President of France and his government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Dreyfus. It cause an international scandal. It wasn’t until 1906 that Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army.
Theodore Herzl, an author living in Paris at the time, was profoundly effected by the Dreyfus Affair. It led him to the conclusion that Jews would never be safe in non-Jewish society and that they needed their own homeland. Herzl took leadership of the Zionist Movement that would eventually lead to the creation of the modern state of Israel.
1968 – Chairman Mao’s Bloody Cultural Revolution:
Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Revolution in China, was responsible for more deaths than any single person in history. Between 1958 and 1962, Mao had instituted a series of programs to modernize and collectivize agriculture and industry known as “The Great Leap Forward.” It was a disaster. Agricultural production declined, upwards of 30 million Chinese starved to death, and the economy contracted. As a result, Mao was pushed out of the day to day leadership of the Communist Party.
By 1966, Mao went on the offensive, leading a “Cultural Revolution,” aimed at retaking control of the Communist Party at whatever the expense in blood and gold:
Mao launched the movement in May 1966, soon calling on young people to “bombard the headquarters” and proclaiming that “to rebel is justified”. Mao charged that bourgeois elements had infiltrated the government and society and that they aimed to restore capitalism. Lin Biao, head of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was written into the constitution as Mao’s successor; Lin had compiled the Little Red Book, a selection of Mao’s sayings, that became a sacred text for Mao’s personality cult.
To eliminate his rivals within the Communist Party of China (CPC) and in schools, factories, and government institutions, Mao insisted that revisionists be removed through violent class struggle. China’s youth responded by forming Red Guard groups around the country, which split into rival factions and sometimes open battle. Schools and universities were closed. Urban workers likewise split into factions, and the PLA had to be sent to restore order. Senior officials, most notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, were purged or exiled. Millions of people were accused of being Rightists and persecuted or suffered public humiliation, imprisonment, torture, hard labor, seizure of property, and sometimes execution or harassment into suicide. . . .
And on this day in 1968, the People’s Daily posted the instructions of Mao Zedong that “The intellectual youth must go to the country, and will be educated from living in rural poverty.”
In the end, Mao’s Cultural Revolution cost another 5 and 30 million lives. After Mao’s death, in 1981, the Party declared that the Cultural Revolution was “responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic”.
1807 – The Embargo Act, forbidding trade with all foreign countries, was passed by Congress, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson. This was not an act of economic policy; rather, it was to hurt the economies of France and Britain who were raiding American ships as part of the Napoleonic Wars. It failed in every possible way, including angering most American voters.
1808 – Ludwig van Beethoven conducts and performs in concert at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto (performed by Beethoven himself) and Choral Fantasy (with Beethoven at the piano).
1942 – Adolf Hitler signed the order this day to develop the V-2 rocket as a weapon. The V-2 project would progress after the war – and right into the space age. Both Soviet and U.S. forces tried to secure the scientists and their equipment at the end of WWII. In the U.S., Warner von Braun led the team of largely German V-2 scientists who would create America’s rocked and space program.
1944 – During WWII at the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of the war, a pivotal moment came on this day German troops surrounded U.S. troops in Bastogne, Belgium, and demanded their surrender. General Anthony McAuliffe, commanding the 101st Airborne Division, famously gave his one word reply this day – “Nuts!” “That reply had to be explained, both to the Germans and to non-American Allies.”
1978 – The pivotal Third Plenum of the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is held in Beijing, with Deng Xiaoping reversing Mao-era policies to pursue a program for Chinese economic reform. No longer, announced the party, was it necessary to be in a constant state of revolution. It set the stage for a police state overseeing a quasi-capitalist economy that now exists in China.
1989 – Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opens after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany. It let all of the Communist apparatchiks into West Germany, like Frau Merkel.
1989 – Communist President of Romania Nicolae Ceaușescu is overthrown by Ion Iliescu after days of bloody confrontations. The deposed dictator and his wife flee Bucharest in a helicopter as protesters erupt in cheers. Ceausescu would eventually be tried and executed. The Romanian Revolution was the only violent revolution during the 1989 fall of communism in the Soviet Union and its satellite nations.
1990 – Lech Wałęsa, who led the Solidarity Movement against communism in Poland, becomes the first freely elected President of Poland.
2001 – Richard Reid, a street thug who made a prison conversion to Islam, attempted to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63, all for the glory of Allah.
244 – Diocletian, who would rise to become one of Rome’s most effective emperors, expanding Roman borders and introducing a number of bureaucratic and tax reforms to stabilize the empire. That said, he also conducted the most brutal persecution of Christians in Rome’s bloody history.
1095 – Roger II of Sicily, a Norman noble who became King of Sicily in 1130. Over his 24 year reign, Roger succeeded in uniting all the Norman conquests in Italy and North Africa into one kingdom with a strong centralized government.
AD 69 – Vitellius, who became the emperor of Rome for eight months in 69 AD, a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Vitellius’s reign ended when he was captured and, on this day, executed by Vespasian.
Christmas / Winter Music