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Christmas Farewell: Merry Solstice And Shopping Instead!

The nativity scenes, signs of hope and time for contemplation of modern Christmas is so retrograde! Let's celebrate the secular and modern solstice. But really?

Winter Solstice lantern festival in Vancouver, Canada
Winter Solstice lantern festival in Vancouver, Canada
Marie-Hélène Miauton


GENEVA — Why do we continue celebrating Christmas while simultaneously eradicating our Christian traditions? Why do we illuminate streets, organize Christmas markets, decree public holidays, all the while failing to commemorate the birth of the divine child?

To make Christmas compatible with the ideal of secularism that now suits Europe, the only solution seems to resurrect the old pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which marks the year's shortest day and a prelude to the gradual return of light.

But what an awful mistake that'd be.

By diminishing the role of religious beliefs that are deeply rooted in our culture, we are undermining the foundation of our civilization and effectively building a new society. There's a precedent to this: the Nazis, who also hated Christianity. Imagine that: a Jewish god! That's why, on the basis of the Germanic Yule, they invented a new celebration during the winter solstice, with songs written specially to praise a world with purely Germanic references.

The blending of religions is fascinating because, during all ages and in all regions of the world, people have tried to supplant existing cults by superimposing their own beliefs on them. Roman gods were based on Egyptian deities. Christians, too, often used dates and sacred locations of other religions — as far as Mexico, for instance, where places of Indian pilgrimage were dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

That's why it was natural for Christmas to coincide with the Roman Saturnalia and particularly on the day of the unconquered sun's rebirth. And it explains why the Edict of Thessalonica, in the year 380, places the birth of Christ at midnight on Dec. 24, whereas the Gospels put his birth nearer to the midseason, when shepherds keep their flocks outside at night.

Winter solstice in Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire, UK — Photo: Mark Hemsworth/London News Pictures/ZUMA

Christmas has always been an opportunity to feast and give each other presents, but traditionally the enthusiasm for celebrating the birth of Christ wasn't eclipsed by all that. You would only eat after praying during mass or the service. You would sing by the Christmas tree before opening presents.

What's the meaning of celebrating when the manifestations of Christian Christmas are disappearing? The decorations no longer include traditional angels or stars announcing the holy birth. Gift wrappings and ornaments are now devoted to a new cult. Nativity scenes that represented the smallest and most vulnerable are beginning to be forbidden in public spaces. Resurrected by Coca-Cola, Father Christmas and his sack full of toys has dethroned the infant Jesus in his little manger. On the streets, only the Salvation Army is still there to remind us, with its cooking pots and off-key carols, that loving thy neighbor is the cardinal virtue of Christmas.

Please forgive me for originally planning to wish you a traditional "Merry Christmas and peace on earth and goodwill toward men." Instead, I'll wish you a merry solstice and happy purchases. No doubt the world will be a better place like this!

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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