Holiday greetings MAPpers! Christmastime is here, and we are super excited to visit family and friends, exchange presents, drink egg nog, and roast chestnuts by an open fire. This time of year tends to bring out the best in people, even in the worst circumstances. The joy of giving, the long history of great deeds by a great man, and bitter enemies deciding to put differences aside to spend Christmas without fear or strife all remind us of the true altruistic beneficence that people possess. Let’s hop on the MAP Express and explore some of those exemplary acts and times
Our first stop will take us back to last Saturday… A couple weeks ago we announced the “MAP Delivers Hope: Toys for Tots” charity drive and you amazing people turned out in droves to make this campaign a success. The outpouring was truly overwhelming. We managed to raise $1,300 worth of toys and almost $600 in cash that was all brought to KARE11 on Saturday to bring joy to dozens of children who might otherwise have gone without. This drive is not just about giving toys, but instead showing these children that they are not forgotten and good people will bring them joy during what may have been a less than joyful time.
While the toys were the real score, Toys for Tots also relies on cash donations to operate facilities, pay staff, and coordinate transportation for drop-offs and pick-ups. The turnout this year sets the bar pretty high for next year, but we know that you amazing MAPpers are more than up for the challenge!
Our next stop on this train of giving brings us to a small town in the ancient Greek Asia Minor city of Myra (located in modern-day Turkey) in the early 4th century AD, where the local bishop became so renowned for his secret gift giving and healing miracles that he has, literally, become the embodiment of Christmas.
Nikolaos of Myra was born in 270 in Greek Asia Minor in the Mediterranean port city of Patara. He was of aristocratic stock but found his religious calling at a very early age following the death of his parents during an epidemic. He was raised by his uncle (also named Nikolaos) who was the Bishop of Patara and found his skills to be quite prodigious as a reader and later as a priest.
Not much is known historically about the man, as he has fallen away to myth and legend (as great people are prone to do), but we do know that he became the Bishop of Myra where he was purported to have performed numerous miracles to help the poor and to protect it from famine and sickness. His most famous miracle is known as the “Miracle of Wheat Multiplication.” The story goes that as a ship was anchored in Myra during a great famine, loaded with wheat for the Roman Emperor in Constantinople. Nikolaos asked the sailors to unload some of the wheat to help the starving people; they did not like the idea as the weights had to match. He promised them that they would lose no wheat, so the sailors agreed. Nikolaos not only replaced the wheat that the sailors had unloaded, but was also able to multiply it to the point that it fed the city for two years with enough left to sow the fields.
Nikolaos would go on to become, arguably, the most popular saint ever as (being the patron saint of sailors) his cult spread the fastest throughout the world. The first Viking settlements in Greenland built churches dedicated to St Nicholas and Columbus named a port in Haiti to the venerated saint. He grew so popular that Martin Luther railed against St Nicholas more than any other. Before the reforms of Luther, gift-giving was primarily done on December 6 (St Nicholas’s feast day) but was moved to the 25th to draw attention away from Nicholas.
Being the patron saint of children has created his largest following as Jolly-Old St Nick, the ever-popular figure of Santa Claus. The name of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch pronunciation of the St Nicholas’s name: “Sinterklaas.” The cult surrounding the myth has grown much larger than the man ever was able to, but today he remains one of the most recognized figures for both children and adults alike and the ultimate symbol of charity.
Our third and final stop takes us to 99 years ago on the battlefields of Northern France between the trenches of Great Britain and the German Empire. The Great War began just 5 months earlier and in the first modern war, old military tactics no longer seemed suitable. This led to battlefield stalemates and trenches being dug. Unfortunately, these trenches were of the least desirable quality.
Heavy rains often led to flooding, which would require the evacuation of the trenches into the No Man’s Land for a short time. It happened so frequently that it soon turned into unofficial policy that no fighting would occur during these points, which became known as “Live and Let Live.” Gradually, fraternization occurred between the two sides, much to the dismay of the generals as they felt putting a name and a face to the enemy would dishearten the men and make them not want to fight.
December 24, 2013 marks the 99th anniversary of the Christmas Truce which started when German troops began decorating the area around their trench with candles and Christmas trees, followed by Christmas carols. The British responded in kind. The carols then turned to shouts of Christmas greetings. 100,000 soldiers were soon approaching each other to exchange gifts such as tobacco, alcohol, buttons, hats, and various souvenirs. This also gave the soldiers an opportunity to collect their dead and to get 50+ sided free-for-all soccer matches going.
While not the first, nor the last, impromptu truce between the Allied and the Central powers, the Christmas Truce was definitely the largest and most publicized. The US papers (the United States still being officially neutral at the time) ran the story about a week after the Truce, the British papers picked up on it soon afterwards. The German papers ran it in limited runs but the French papers flat-out refused to run the story with the exception of one paper describing any soldier engaging in any fraternal activities as being guilty of treason.
Today, the Truce is seen as an example of how much propaganda can play a part in drumming up soldiers for war and once on the front lines, how little they really want to be there. It’s also a strong example how, even in battle, civility could still be achieved. Multiple plays, songs, movies, books, and poems have been written on the subject, most of it relaying accounts sent in letters home from the soldiers that were actually there.
With those three inspiring stories, hopefully you too will feel the power of this time of year. The love and charity are visible everywhere and we here at MAP want to let you know just how much we appreciate all of you. Thank you for giving us a fantastic year and we head into 2014 with nothing but anticipation and excitement. Please be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more fun things and daily updates on what we’re up to down here. If you have any comments or questions for us please be sure to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again to everyone that donated to our Toys for Tots drive and Merry Christmas!!