Feliz Navidad and a Christmas Full Moon
Tara A. Spears
Rudolph coughed and sneezed.
Ahh-choo! His nose was really red.
The doctor nodded ruefully.
“He has to stay in bed.”
Rudolph had a cold,
a bad one, plain to see.
He wasn’t going anywhere
with Santa Christmas Eve.
Rooftops dark and tricky.
(Hey … where’d the chimney go?)
That’s what Santa has to deal with
absent Rudolph’s rosy glow.
But Santa is a cheery soul
and a smart one, too.
He quickly had a bright idea:
“I know what to do!”
Using special Santa-magic,
he conjured up a moon,
a full one, round and shiny.
Who needs Rudolph? That old prune!
So… to those of you who don’t believe
in Santa, here’s the proof:
Look out the window Christmas Eve
at the moonlight on your roof.
(Poem published by NASA Science 2004)
Whether you look forward to Christmas as a holiday or as the beginning of winter or just as the beginning of pro football playoffs, December 25 is a special time. This year the date is even more remarkable due to a scientific phenomenon that only occurs decades apart.
The bright full moon that is soaring high in the late December sky might remind you of a shiny white Christmas ball for your tree but don’t bother reaching for it… it’s 406,700 km away!
The almost-full moon on Dec. 24th and 25th rises early, lighting up streets and rooftops as soon as the sun goes down which is perfect for Santa and his helpers to deliver toys. The silvery moonlight just adds a special glow to all the world whether it be sandy beaches or snowy banks.
The moon has always been a symbol in love songs, movies, and folklore besides being the dominant element in many ancient myths. The word ‘Monday’ is derived from moon-day.
What causes the moon to be the brightest object in the night sky is the fact that it reflects light from the sun. The moon orbits the earth about once a month (moon-th). This super bright full moon occurs when the moon is nearly opposite to the sun in its orbit.
After you’ve ogled the Christmas moon you can then appreciate the traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations with song, beer, nativity scenes and fireworks. The lead photo shows a handmade Huichol Beaded Nacimiento (Nativity) Set. These nativity scene figures are made by a Huichol artist who covered ceramic figures with bees wax, then pressed the colored seed beads into the wax to create the colorful designs.
Although the nativity scene originated more than 800 years ago, it is still popular in Mexico and Latin American countries as the Christmas decoration in homes and churches.
During the time of the Spanish conquest of the New World, and Mexico in particular, nativity scenes gained added importance. They were a useful method of explaining religious concepts to natives as the figures could transcend the language barrier. Centuries later, Nativity figures still play an important role in the culture and even economy of Mexico. Many cities are involved in the manufacture of Nativity figures: the angels of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan; the clay figures from Mexico state; figures from Ameyaltepec, Guerrero and the adorable painted miniature figures from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco.
Mexican Nativity scenes present a unique mixture of elements. In addition to the standard figures of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men and baby Jesus, figures representing traditional Mexican roles are also quite popular. This means that a Nativity scene may proudly feature characters like water boys, bakers and postmen, among others.
They’re also accompanied by an odd mash-up of plants, from cacti to pines, and various kinds of animals make an appearance. From time to time, the Devil himself is represented in the Nativity scene; he takes a number of forms, but the most common is a red figure with black wings. Some scenes even incorporate lights and synchronized music.
If you visit Mexico this year during the holiday season, be sure to take time to notice the Nativity scenes in public places, churches, and around people’s homes. This year’s Christmas full moon adds a magical touch to the festivities.