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Tet Zoo Christmassy wishes, 2012

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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I knocked this up in a hurry yesterday but I think it’s good enough to share publicly. The pristichampsine is meant to be trotting along at speed, and that explains why its hat is falling off. Have a great Christmas and New Year – here’s to 2013. 2012 was a crazy year for me (annual Tet Zoo review to appear at the end of January); I’m not sure that 2013 is going to be much different. Anyway: peace and love to all. Well, nearly all.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. John Harshman 10:56 am 12/24/2012

    So there’s no War on Christmas on your side of the pond? A joyous winter-solstice-associated festival to you and everyone who reads Tet Zoo. My only wish it that some of the crocs had been shown pulling a sleigh, and that one of them had been given a large, red nose. Though on reflection that sound dangerous for Santa.

    Link to this
  2. 2. naishd 11:30 am 12/24/2012

    War on Christmas? Sorry, news to me… As for your wishes – all good; if only I had had more time…

    There’s always next year.

    Darren

    Link to this
  3. 3. Heteromeles 11:43 am 12/24/2012

    And a very merry Christmakwanukahsolsticanalia to all.

    In the spirit of All Yesterdays, yesterday I played around with drawing the obscure heterodontosaurid Festivus solstitialis in its fully display, with its tail held vertically and the cone of red-tipped green tail quills fully erect. Maybe I’ll do a better job next December.

    Link to this
  4. 4. llewelly 12:54 pm 12/24/2012

    How do the marine crocodylomorphs keep their hats on?

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  5. 5. Heteromeles 1:13 pm 12/24/2012

    @4: Gorilla glue.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Jerzy v. 3.0. 3:51 pm 12/24/2012

    Merry CHristmas and Happy New Year, too!

    Link to this
  7. 7. Jenny Islander 7:33 pm 12/24/2012

    The War On Christmas is the annual festival during which certain persons get to talk about how persecuted they are for practicing their religion because they weren’t provided the religiously correct greeting while shopping. The cause is generally understood to be a coalition of assorted political and social groups that conservative U.S. Christians generally don’t like. Sometimes the President gets dragged in as an unindicted co-conspirator. Never mind that it’s actually Advent while all this foofarraw is going on!

    Anyway, in the spirit of the (secular) season (Happy Holidays BTW), have you ever considered turning some of your life restorations into coloring pages? Because I would so totally buy multiple copies of the Darren Naish Coloring Book of Marvelous Beasts and Birds.

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  8. 8. JoseD 8:33 pm 12/24/2012

    Naishd: “Have a great Christmas and New Year – here’s to 2013. 2012 was a crazy year for me (annual Tet Zoo review to appear at the end of January)”

    You too. Will said review be your next article?

    Link to this
  9. 9. Mark Young 8:51 pm 12/24/2012

    Cheers for your Xmas email of this earlier. Not a good Christmas on this end, so it’s a nice wee thing that puts a smile on your face.

    Oh, I love seeing metrios with Santa hats on!

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  10. 10. Dartian 5:18 am 12/25/2012

    Jenny:
    The War On Christmas is the annual festival during which certain persons get to talk about how persecuted they are for practicing their religion because they weren’t provided the religiously correct greeting while shopping.

    I thought that ‘War on Christmas’ is what certain religious people believe non-religious people to be planning/already waging; they think that non-religious people actually intend to prevent other people from celebrating Christmas.

    Personally, from now on I think I’ll be switching to wishing people Merychippus instead. ;)

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  11. 11. Jenny Islander 1:59 pm 12/25/2012

    Yeah, but apparently we’re being prevented from celebrating Christmas by not being wished Merry Christmas by overworked retail clerks. Also there’s fussing about how not setting up religious displays on government property is just like forbidding worship. Or something. And again (grump grump grump), all of this flipping out takes place during Advent!

    And but so anyway, Merychippus is the perfect comeback! And a cute inspiration for a card too. Which I would so totally buy.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Dartian 2:40 pm 12/25/2012

    Speaking of holidays: Darren, considering that this blog is semi-officially called Tet Zoo, shouldn’t you also consider starting to celebrate Vietnamese New Year, a.k.a. Tết? (In 2013, Tết will be on 10 February.) ;)

    Link to this
  13. 13. David Marjanović 3:04 pm 12/25/2012

    So there’s no War on Christmas on your side of the pond?

    On our side, kurisumasu is the Japanese festival of love and rampant consumerism. ^_^

    BTW, happy Newtonmas!

    Anyway, in the spirit of the (secular) season (Happy Holidays BTW), have you ever considered turning some of your life restorations into coloring pages? Because I would so totally buy multiple copies of the Darren Naish Coloring Book of Marvelous Beasts and Birds.

    This is a wonderful idea!

    Link to this
  14. 14. naishd 4:21 pm 12/25/2012

    Hey – it _is_ a wonderful idea. I actually mentioned it twice back in May 2010. Now that Irregular Publishing is up and running, I’ll do it. Stay tuned.

    Darren

    Link to this
  15. 15. Heteromeles 1:28 am 12/26/2012

    For commentary on the War on Christmas, see http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-december-3-2012/the-war-on-christmas–friendly-fire-edition

    Link to this
  16. 16. Jerzy v. 3.0. 10:43 am 12/27/2012

    War on Christmas? I know it! In communist Eastern Europe there was no Santa Claus but Father Frost, he came from Soviet Union and not North Pole, and no Christmas Tree but New Year Tree.

    And all the young communists were grumpy how Christmas trees force lots of people towards religion (opium for gullible masses). And how attempts to have new, better, atheist celebrations are failing.

    I thought this movement died out after 1989. But maybe it persists, in places like North Korea or Cuba? So, comrades, Christmas is over, Happy New Year!

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  17. 17. vdinets 11:48 am 12/27/2012

    Jerzy: In Russia, New Year is still more popular than Christmas, despite the current government’s massive effort to shove Christianity down everybody’s throat. New Year has evolved into a much-loved family holiday, a bit like Thanksgiving in the US. Also, note that the “Christmas tree” ritual is actually pre-Christian.

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  18. 18. Andreas Johansson 3:01 pm 12/27/2012

    Reference on Christmas trees being pre-Christian? One’s usually told it’s a 19C invention.

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  19. 19. Heteromeles 10:46 pm 12/27/2012

    Ahem. The War on Christmas is promulgated by the Right-wingers, not the atheists. They use every minor action that atheists take (such as getting creches taken down from government property) to claim that godless liberals are threatening that American holiday, and that red-blooded Christians have to fight even harder to give Christmas its proper place in American society (By their standards).

    In other words, it’s the same tactic bullies always use, blaming the victim as an excuse to brutalize them. As a result of the war on Christmas, we’re now deluged with Christmas mercantilism for the entire month of December, which shows how weak and ineffectual Christmas and Christians are.

    In my opinion, the best way to deal with it is to go out and loudly sing carols, especially if you’re not Christian (Do it the old fashioned way, if you know all the verses to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”), to wassail, burn the yule log, and generally get medieval about the entire holiday.

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  20. 20. Jerzy v. 3.0. 1:05 pm 12/28/2012

    @Heteromeles
    Precisely! Communist propagandists were always complaining on unbearable religious propaganda. And secret police muscleheads were complaining how aggressive priests, nuns and elderly women protest against bulldozing churches.

    @vdinets
    Russia had one generation longer destruction of national culture than post-communist EU members. I sincerely hope Russia will rebuild cultural identity, but I understand that it is difficult.

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  21. 21. vdinets 3:56 pm 12/28/2012

    Andreas (#18): According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.”

    Jerzy: considering that Russia is rapidly turning into real-life Mordor, whatever cultural identity it comes up with might not be a good thing.

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  22. 22. Jenny Islander 10:15 pm 12/28/2012

    @Andreas Johansson: I actually did a research paper on this for my church newsletter (we’re Episcopal, of course we have research articles in our church newsletter!). I even corresponded with somebody at the University of Dammit, I Forget Where who kindly translated some primary source material for me. Unfortunately I lost all of my notes. Here’s the gist as best I recall:

    0. There is no documentation for entire trees being cut down, brought indoors, and decorated by any non-Christian culture. Outdoor trees yes, swags of greenery yes, indoor trees no.
    1. In the late 15th century, Catholic parishes in a swath of Europe to the east and north of present-day Germany used a cycle of mystery plays that assigned the story of the Garden of Eden to Christmas Eve.
    2. The prop specified in the script for this play is “a green tree hung with fruit.” At that time and in that place, this pretty much had to be an evergreen with apples from the cellar on it.
    3. In the very late 15th century, some busybody in Church administration decided that the play cycle needed fixing. They removed the Adam and Eve story from the Christmas Eve play, thus removing the need for the prop.
    4. The first record of a Christmas tree comes from the very early 16th century, in Latvia.
    5. Accounts of Christmas trees spread steadily westward through the following centuries. By the 19th century they are well established as far west as the UK and becoming known across the Atlantic.

    My conjecture is that when the families came to the premises of the church (script wasn’t clear whether this play was on the steps or took place inside) and the beautiful three of It’s Gonna Be Christmas Tomorrow wasn’t there, somebody’s little child was crying. Hence the tree at home.

    Anyway, Christianity borrowed a lot from pagan practice, but not the Christmas tree.

    Link to this
  23. 23. vdinets 1:42 am 12/29/2012

    Jenny: I did a quick search on Google Scholar (using plain Google would probably be considered insufficiently scientific by some), and found a lot of different opinions on the subject. For example, one book traces CT tradition to Roman custom of bringing evergreens indoor for January calendae:
    Miles, Clement A. 2008. Christmas in ritual and tradition, Christian and pagan. Wildside Press LLC.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Andreas Johansson 6:38 am 12/29/2012

    vdinets & Jenny: Thanks for the replies.

    Link to this
  25. 25. Heteromeles 11:31 am 12/29/2012

    I think the distinction, as Jenny noted, is between bringing evergreen branches indoors, and bringing in an entire small tree.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if people have bringing in evergreens since antiquity, since a) it smells nice, b) even in December, a bit of greenery soothes the soul in the season of mud and snow (although by that argument, Christmas should be in February or March), and c) there’s that nifty symbolism of the resilience of life against the cold of winter.

    There are a bunch of issues here with the cutting whole trees:
    1) where do you put it? If you’ve got a castle, that’s fine, but most Medieval homes were pretty darn small.
    2) how do you see it? Said homes were also pretty dark. An unlit Christmas tree by the light of the hearth fire isn’t nearly as romantic, and who the heck could afford all those candles to light it properly (other than the rich)?
    3) there aren’t that many small trees. A Christmas tree farm’s a weird place, in that it has a lot of small trees, which take years to even get to salable size. In Ye Olde days, you’d have to really hunt through the woods to find a Christmas tree, and then bring it back.
    4) Worse, the town council would probably fine you for cutting a Christmas tree. Good timber was extremely valuable when each township had to grow their own or buy it from those who did, and having all the good saplings cut down every Christmas for decorations would rob the township of all its usable timber. If you’re really unlucky, the king’s men would come after you too, for robbing the navy of future ship’s masts.

    So yeah, I’m pretty sure Christmas trees are a newish tradition.

    Link to this
  26. 26. David Marjanović 11:04 am 12/30/2012

    4. The first record of a Christmas tree comes from the very early 16th century, in Latvia.

    Hmm. That’s not long after the neighboring Lithuanians officially converted. I’ll immerse myself in Wikipedia.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Jerzy v. 3.0. 11:30 am 12/30/2012

    Can you explain what is the difference between decorating the house with evergreen branches and the whole tree?

    I also don’t understand why mercantilism and customs like decorated trees are confused with the religious sense of Christmas?

    Link to this
  28. 28. David Marjanović 11:49 am 12/30/2012

    Seems useless.

    Link to this
  29. 29. Heteromeles 12:28 pm 12/30/2012

    @Jerzy: I’d suggest reading the wikipedia entry on Christmas (link here). This will answer your questions, including pictures of everygreen branches used in wreaths and other decorations.

    Link to this
  30. 30. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:51 am 01/2/2013

    @29
    I meant reliable source.

    Link to this

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