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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2016 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS Well, because when Emperor Aurelianus, in 274 AD, unified the cults of the three sun-gods into one, the Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun), he chose the 25th of December to celebrate it. The end of December was already an important moment of the pagan calendar, because of the Winter solstice and, in Rome, of the Saturnalia: it was easy and clever to associate the new feast with one already so well estab- lished. In Rome, cradle of Christianity, the step from cele- brating an invincible sun divinity to feasting for the birth of the Son of God was brief: less than a century. It was the year 336 AD, when Roman writer and painter Furius Dionisius Filocalus mentioned for the first time the 25th of December as the day of the birth of Christ. As an incise, historians are more prone to consider the Spring as the actual moment of His birth, yet, when it comes to Christmas as we know it, it is all about the Winter. The people of Late Antique Rome, we know now, have a lot to do with this. Rome, then, as Mother of Christianity and head of a multi- cultural Empire, is behind the fact we celebrate Christmas the day we do. Yet, the connections between Christmas and Italy are more. Fast forward about a millen- nia from the times of Aurelianus and move east of about 100 miles: you may recognize the soft, oil-pastel shaded hills of Umbria and their undiscussed queen, Assisi, home to Italy's most recognizable saint, Francis. It is thanks to him that one of Christmas most popular repre- sentations, that of the traditional nativity – which we call Presepe or Presepio in Italy – came to be. It was the 29th of November 1223 when Pope Onorius III approved the Friars Minor order. In the following weeks, Francis expressed his wish to spend that Christmas in solitude in the little mountain village of Greccio. While there Francis, who was a man of unbreakable yet pragmat- Throughout the centuries, the imagery of Jesus's birth has filled the mind and inspired the hand on coun- tless artists who gave shape, form and color to the heart of Christian belief in their works Continued to page 3 Continued from page 1

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