Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Caesar Augustus. Augustus was born September 23 in 63 B.C., but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if we celebrate his birthday all month. Augustus was the first emperor following the Roman republic. I don’t know why Rome did it in that order – democracy, then empire. I thought the proper order was:

1. Nasty Controlling Monarch

2. Dumping of the Tea

3. Write a fancy, historical document about your complaints

3. A revolutionary war, and if you win the war . . .

4. Set up a republic. 

Why did Rome reverse the order? Come to think of it, wasn’t France similar to Rome? They had a revolution, and later the Nasty Controlling Monarch named Napoleon came along. Maybe they forgot to dump the tea into the River Seine. Maybe they dumped wine instead. But who dumps French wine? That’s just wrong. Maybe that’s when Napoleon sashayed in and said, “What’s this? There will be no dumping of wine on my watch.”

Since I know next to nothing about French history, let’s get back to Caesar Augustus. Interesting fact: He’s in the biblical book of Luke and comes up in the story of Jesus’ birth. Augustus decided it was time for a census in 5 B.C. Augustus didn’t know it was 5 B.C. because B.C. and A.D. are named after Jesus, and Augustus and Jesus never met. B.C. means before Christ in English, and A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which means the year of our Lord in Latin. Keep this in mind and throw out some Latin at your next cocktail party. It impresses people.

Like this: “Can you believe the weather? We have these temperatures only during an Anno Domini summer.” That makes no sense, but if you say it with authority, people will believe you, especially if there’s an open bar.

Back to Augustus and his census: Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph, traveled to Bethlehem when Mary was about 40 weeks pregnant because Augustus said, pregnant or not, all the people had to return to their ancestors’ hometowns to register for the census. My guess is the hospitality industry suggested the idea so everyone would stay in hotels for Christmas. Of course, no one knew it was Christmas because Santa Claus (aka, St. Nicholas) wasn’t on the scene til a few hundred years later. St. Nicholas was born in the fourth century, A.D. Yes, he was a real person. Too bad he came along too late to squeeze down Caesar Augustus’ chimney.

Jesus was born in 5 B.C., although it would make more sense if he’d been born in the year zero, the year we switched from B.C. to A.D. Jesus was born in 5 B.C. because the guy in charge of the Calendar Department had spent some time at that open bar when he started numbering years. Okay, fine, I’m not sure he was drunk, but there is indeed a 5-year mistake in the calendar. Drunkenness is a reasonable explanation. Napoleon agrees and says the whole staff of the Calendar Department was probably drinking French wine. Except was there a “France” in 5 B.C.?

Or was it called Gaul at that point? I don’t know, but I know Gaul didn’t look much like France because there was no Eiffel Tower. Have you noticed the tower looks nothing like the rest of Paris? I think the tower is ugly, and so did the French when the tower was first built. They said to the chief engineers, “Do you see the rest of Paris, how it’s made of white limestone? Do you see how a brown iron monstrosity doesn’t quite work?”  But someone with money must have liked it because it stayed.

It’s funny how France keeps coming up. I think Napoleon would approve.

As I said, Augustus was born in September, which may also be Jesus’ birth month. We know he wasn’t really born on December 25 because shepherds came to visit, and they were out in the country, keeping watch over their flocks by night. December is cold in Bethlehem, too cold for sheep to be out under the stars. I’ve heard it was probably summer when Jesus was born, so maybe early September.

We celebrate Christmas in December because that’s when the winter solstice arrives. People said, “This would be a good time for a party because it’s so daggum cold and dark in the northern hemisphere.” December is when the summer solstice arrives in the southern hemisphere, but we don’t care because in 5 B.C., Australia hadn’t been invented yet.

Here’s the point. Now is the time to buy your decorations for Caesar Augustus’ birthday party. In honor of Napoleon, I suggest blue, white, and red décor like the French flag and a big banner inscribed, THREE CHEERS FOR NASTY CONTROLLING MONARCHS, but written in French. It’s just a joke, of course. I don’t fancy monarchs. Next time we have an emperor election, I’m voting for Jesus.   

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