A carving of the Chinese zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka, JapanA carving of the Chinese zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan

I guess that depends upon which of about 30 calendars you’re using. The Gregorian calendar is the one used in most of the world. This calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, for whom it is named. It is a modification of the Julian Calendar, created by Julius Caesar. The pope was interested in a more regular calculation of the date for Easter. We have 12 months, but they vary in length from 28 - 31 days. The Western signs of the Zodiac roughly equate to the 12 months, but they don’t match exactly. The names of the signs originate with constellations of the same name.

Sunday also was the beginning of the year of the Rabbit for the Chinese calendar year 4659. The Chinese also have 12 signs of the Zodiac, but they name them for animals. The Chinese New Year will hold special significance this year after a long period of isolation due to the policy of zero-tolerance of Covid-19. The door arbitrarily swung open for travel recently. The effects of that remain to be seen The Chinese tradition is to visit families for the new year. In the U.S. we usually consider that a tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday, which is unique to the U.S. and calendar.

Read more: Happy New Year!

The Nativity by Toros Taronatsi, Gladzor monastery, 1318, ms206 Matenadaran collectionThe Nativity by Toros Taronatsi, Gladzor monastery, 1318, ms206 Matenadaran collection

The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has an article titled “Calculating Christmas” that includes a discussion if Jesus was born on December 25th. The author focuses on a 3rd Century historian Hippolytus. A statue of him in the Vatican contains an inscription that notes that Jesus’ conception occurred on April 2 2 BC. Calculating the birth to be 9 months later leads to December 25th. He argues that the Romans didn’t celebrate the Winter Solstice until later so the historian was not influenced by a pagan celebration. Many historians declare that his birth occurred in 4 BC because of the Roman Census and the death of Herod.

Read more: Advent

Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want"Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want"

Thanksgiving hasn’t been as commercialized as Halloween or Christmas. It doesn’t have a retail market. The day still primarily is reserved as a family gathering around a big meal of turkey and the fixings. Of course, the meals vary by region, and the family dinners are not always harmonious. It has its myths, like all our holidays, but I think it still focuses on one aspect of life that often is ignored. Taking time to express gratitude, in more than just a few perfunctory prayers or in a journal, has been increasingly rare. My paternal grandfather always celebrated July 4th with gratitude for a new life as an immigrant. The recognition of the day to him had little to do with the event long ago.

As part of my mindful meditation practice, one step is to journal three things for which I’m grateful. It can be expressed in a variety of ways so that it doesn’t become perfunctory. I’ll admit that it has been a great fault of mine that I did not always express gratitude. In fact, for many years I was an ingrate. I had to grow outside of myself to experience the benefits of gratitude. It’s a lot more than just “Thank You.” We expect that as a matter of common courtesy. We’re supposed to reciprocate for a gift with a card, or at least a phone call. Emails don’t count.

Read more: Thanksgiving