December 26, 2005

Happy Newtonmas (belated)!

Hey, Quenchosphere! I was super-busy yesterday tearing open packages of books about the history of the alphabet, money management for twentysomethings, everything Irish, and how to find a man (the latter courtesy of my grandmother, who seems to miss the point that I'm not looking for a man). All of which means that I neglected to wish you all a Happy Newtonmas!

According to Wikipedia,

Newtonmas is a secular holiday celebrated on 25 December each year in honor of Sir Isaac Newton's birthday. Newton was born on 25 December 1642 (OS). He made important advances in science and mathematics, held a professorship at Trinity College without joining the clergy, and according to the legend, his ideas about gravity were inspired by a falling apple. For secularists who enjoy being caught up in Christmas excitement but consider Christmas a religious holiday, his birthday fortuitously provides a convenient opportunity for non-religious celebration.
Also note that "Newton was born before the introduction into England of our present Gregorian calendar; if we retroactively apply that calendar backwards to include his birth, it would fall on 4 January." Which means that, technically, I have a second chance to wish you all a happy.

Of course, this is not just a holiday for "secularists." Other brands of non-Christian can join in the fun - and even Christians who appreciate scientific inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge are finding themselves celebrating Newtonmas alongside Christmas these days. Traditions (can we call them "traditions" yet? This is all still pretty new...) include the following, from Gordon Worley:

Newtonmas is the celebration of Newton's birthday. It begins with decorating the apple tree. Because it's not nice to kill trees to bring them in your house, it's best to get something green and treelike and put apples, preferably synthetic ones, on it. But if you have a living apple tree in the yard, decorate it festively with lights and ornaments.

Newtonmas morning everyone gathers around the Newtonmas Tree---although not before everyone has showered, dressed, and brushed their teeth and had a bite to eat---and exchanges gifts of knowledge. These gifts are usually books, but CDs, videos, and other media are okay so long as they substantially contribute to the recipient's intellectual development. People with a lot of time and patience may also give free lecture passes, good for a free lecture on some topic in the near future. Creativity is encouraged, so be prepared for some `special' gifts.

With gifts exchanged, everyone begins the most important Newtonmas tradition---procrastination. Now that you have new sources of knowledge, it's time to get busy not absorbing their contents. Eat a big meal, take a nap, talk with friends and family. Just do anything but be productive.

Sounds good to me, yo. I'm off to, um ... not read any of the books I've gotten this year. If I can hold off, that is - Spoken Here (courtesy of my Estimat's mother, who apparently really likes me) is mighty appealing ...

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