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Is Christmas Pagan? No! It's time to learn some real history.... ^ | December 2012 | CatholicKnight

Posted on 12/23/2012 1:28:36 PM PST by Salvation

Is Christmas Pagan?

A Jewish Star of David Tops This Christmas Tree
About this time every year we hear the usual misnomer that Christmas is a Pagan celebration whitewashed by the medieval Catholic Church. We hear this from all corners. Secularists just accept it as fact. Catholics, rather embarrassingly, often try to gloss over it. While Protestant Fundamentalists frequently rail against it, usually calling for either a boycott of the holiday, or else a return to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. (For some ridiculous reason, some Fundamentalists subscribe to the notion that if a certain date happened to be used by Pagans, that automatically makes anything Christians celebrate on that same date a bow to Paganism.) It is so widely accepted that people fail to address the possibility that the scholarship behind this common assumption might be flawed -- seriously flawed.

I submit to you that everything you've heard about the supposed "Pagan origin" of Christmas is false.  It is much hyperventilation over nothing really. Not only is it false, but it is based on such poor scholarship that it ought to be embarrassing to anyone who embraces it.  Sadly, it would seem the whole modern world has embraced this error, a serious error, which ought to give us some pause.

It's time to learn some real history....

The idea that the celebration of Christmas originated from Pagan origin comes from two 18th century scholars. The first was a German Protestant named Paul Ernst Jablonski. He was the one who first put forward the notion that the celebration of December 25th was one of the many Pagan influences of the Church of Rome (Catholicism) on Christianity. The second was a Catholic Benedictine monk named Dom Jean Hardouin who, in response to Jablonski, tried to show that while the Church may have adopted a pagan celebration of December 25th, it did so without compromising the integrity of the gospel. Both men were wrong. Jablonski erred in his theory that the Pagan December 25 pre-dated Christian celebrations, and Hardouin erred in assuming Jablonski's date assumption was correct in the first place. From these two catastrophic errors, the whole modern world has come to believe that Christmas was originally a Pagan celebration co-opted by the medieval Church.

The controversy surrounds an event that happened in the late 3rd century (AD 274) when the Pagan Roman Caesar Aurelian decreed that December 25th would mark the celebration of the 'Feast of the Unconquered Sun' god (or 'Sol Invictus'), noting the rise of the sun's ecliptic after the winter solstice (December 21 - 23).  Now, the sun worshiping cult can be traced in Rome back to about AD 158.  However, the marking of the summer and winter solstices had no significant relevance to this Roman cult at that time. Instead, the dates of August 9th and August 28th held more relevance, depending on what clan of the cult one followed. The marking of equinoxes and solstices had little relevance to early Roman sun worship. That was a job for astrologers who operated from a completely different religious perspective that had nothing to do with sun worship. So according to the ancient records anyway, Roman sun worshipers had no particular interest in December 25th, or the winter solstice for that matter, before AD 274.

In contrast however, the date of December 25th did hold some religious significance to Jewish converts to Christianity during antiquity. While it is true that we are currently unable to find evidence of Roman Christians celebrating December 25th as the date of the Lord's nativity until AD 336, there is some evidence that Jewish Christians in Rome held that date in high significance as far back as the early 2nd century (AD 100's), and there were some minor celebrations going on for a different reason.

Let's begin with the ancient Christian community in Rome, which had a fairly sizable Jewish convert population for some time. These Jewish converts to the Christian faith were accustomed to celebrating the Jewish Feast of Dedication (or Hanukkah), which early Gentile Christians certainly would not have had any problem celebrating with them, since the Scriptures record that Jesus himself kept this feast (John 10:22-23). However, in the years following the forced separation of Christianity from Judaism and the fall of the Second Temple (AD 70), Jewish Christians would have found themselves increasingly isolated and alienated from the larger Jewish community, and many of these Jewish Christians were "put out of the synagogues" anyway. Jews used a complicated lunar calendar in which the months never coincided with the civil calendar commonly used in the Roman Empire during that time. So Jewish Christians living outside of the Holy Land, would have found themselves alienated from all Jewish times and seasons once they were "put out of the synagogues" (Jewish excommunication). Thus early Jewish Christians found themselves completely immersed in a civil culture that had no connection to the Jewish calendar whatsoever, and any attempt to calculate the times and seasons among themselves would have resulted in endless debates and disputes between them. So they did what any Jew would do in a similar situation. They assimilated into the prevailing culture, but kept their distinctively Jewish identity and customs. Because they were believers in Jesus Christ however, they did so in a Christian context.

Jews always marked the 25th day of the winter month of Kislev as the start of the eight-day Feast of Hanukkah. Because they no longer had access to the Jewish lunar calendar, having been "put out of the synagogue," they simply observed the 25th day of the month that most closely aligned with the winter month of Kislev. That month on the Roman (Julian) calendar is December.  So for Christians of Jewish ancestry in ancient Rome, December 25th became of significant importance as the beginning of the Festival of Dedication, in which Jews remember the light that came into the Second Temple after the Maccabean Revolution in BC 167 - 160.  From a Jewish Christian perspective, this would have taken on even more significance, marking the coming of The Light of God (Jesus Christ) into the Temple as well (John 10:22-23).  However, the Jewish Christians were about to get a surprise from the Gentile Christians that would make their celebration even more significant.

The early Church was preoccupied with debates and disputes over the proper time to celebrate not the birth, but the death and resurrection, of Jesus Christ.  Again, the problem goes back to the Jewish calendar.  Christianity had been forcibly ejected from Judaism.  This is not because Christians rejected Jews.  Quite the opposite really.  It was the Jewish leaders who rejected Christians, telling them that by following Jesus of Nazareth they had apostatized themselves from Judaism.  The acceptance of uncircumcised Gentiles into the Christian communities just exacerbated the situation.  Essentially, the early Christians were rejected by the larger Jewish population and told they no longer had any connection to the Jewish faith and religion whatsoever.  They were all "put out of the synagogue" so to speak, many of which having never been granted admission in the first place, in what amounted to a full scale mass excommunication from Judaism and all things Jewish.  It was this ejection from Judaism that led to the Roman persecution of Christians in the first place.  So long as Christianity was considered a Jewish sect, Christians were under an accommodation made between the Jewish leaders and the Roman Empire, that exempted them from having to participate in emperor worship.  (Jewish leaders had for centuries agreed to make sacrifices to the Jewish God Yahweh on behalf of Caesar, and pray for Yahweh to bless his rule, rather than actually worship Caesar as everyone else was required to.  Because such action guaranteed Jewish allegiance to Rome, there was no need to force the emperor worship cult on the Jews.)  However, as Christians were ejected from all things Jewish, the Pharisees made arguments before Roman authorities that Christians could no longer enjoy the exemptions afforded to Jews.  Thus, when Rome finally agreed that Christians were no longer Jewish (AD 67), the Christians were then required to worship Caesar.   When they refused, they were tortured and put to death in the circuses of Rome.  This Roman persecution of Christians continued from the late 1st century, until the Edict of Milan in AD 312. 

In addition to this ongoing Roman persecution, ancient Christians were confronted with a problem created by no longer having access to the Jewish calendar.  The date of the Passover could no longer be accurately projected, thus the dates marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ could not longer be accurately projected either.   No longer having reliable access to the Jewish calendar, ancient Christians set out to create their own method of calculating the time of the Passover, and thus projecting the dates of Good Friday and Easter (Pasch) Sunday.  Naturally there was a significant amount of dispute over this, especially between the Eastern and Western Christians, but in the 2nd to 3rd centuries (AD 100 through 300), there was a consensus among Roman Christians that March 25th marked the actual date of Christ's crucifixion according to the Roman (Julian) calendar.  Later research would reveal this to be impossible, but for those early days of the Church, that was the consensus among Christians living in and around Rome. 

There is another dimension we must add to this here.  It is called the 'integral age.'  Here we have yet another example of ancient Jewish influence on early Christianity.  While such a belief is found nowhere in the Scriptures, it was widely held by ancient Jews that great prophets died on the same date as either their birth or conception.  So according to this extra-biblical JEWISH TRADITION, which was accepted by early Christians (though it was never required as an article of faith), Jesus being the greatest of all Jewish prophets, must have died on the same date on which he was originally conceived in the womb of his mother -- Mary.  So March 25th came to be assigned not only as Good Friday (which rarely fell on a Friday actually) but also the date of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced the coming of Christ to the Virgin Mary, wherein she accepted her destiny and conceived Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  March 25th is to this day marked as the Feast of the Annunciation in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.  Even though this date was determined by flawed calendar calculations coupled with extra-biblical Jewish traditions, it should be taken as the historical reason for the selection of this date as the Feast of the Annunciation.   It should not be taken as the literal date in which it actually happened.   There is no way we can know the actual literal date of Christ's conception.  Every theory out there is just speculation.  Still, the early Christians in and around Rome were satisfied with this date, and there is evidence that many Christians accepted it as both the Annunciation and Good Friday throughout various regions of the Roman Empire.

Okay, so now we have the date of Christ's conception and death, which was accepted by many early Christians from the 2nd to 3rd centuries.  The actual date of Christ's death would be recalculated in later centuries much more accurately, but March 25th would remain as the accepted date of Christ's conception in later centuries, as by that time the Jewish tradition of the "integral age" had fallen into obscurity.  To this day, March 25th remains the commonly accepted date of Christ's conception, if for no other reason than tradition's sake, and that is why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th.  Just count exactly nine months from the traditional date observed as Christ's conception (March 25th) and you land on the 25th day of December, which from the fourth century (AD 300s) onward was marked as the traditional date observed as Christ's birth -- the Feast of the Nativity.  Of course, this worked out quite well for the Jewish Christians, particularly those living in Rome, because that date happened to coincide exactly (coincidence or providence?) with the beginning of the Jewish Christian observance of Hanukkah they had been celebrating on December 25th for a couple hundred years already.  Now the Jewish Christians living in Rome were not only celebrating the coming of the Light of God (Jesus Christ) into the Second Temple (John 10:22-23) along with remembrance of the light that entered during the Maccabean Revolution, but December 25th now marked the coming of the Light of God into the whole world at his birth!  Naturally, this added significance for this date to Gentile Christians as well, who were keen on celebrating birthdays, and in all likelihood the growing observance of December 25th among Christians in Rome was enough for the Pagan Caesar Aurelian to take notice of it in AD 274.  Thus, seeing how closely this celebration was in proximity to the winter solstice, he tried to trump it with his Pagan Feast of Sol Invictus.  The observance of December 25th was not a Pagan celebration hijacked by Christians as theorised by Jablonski and Hardouin in the 18th century, but rather the other way around.  It was a growing Christian celebration that the Pagan Emperor attempted to hijack instead, in his vain attempt to reunify the crumbling Pagan religions of Rome.  His attempted Feast of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), which marked the close of a winter solstice that Roman sun worshippers never cared about prior to his decree, was a miserable failure.  Basically, it was a flop!  The cult (and the empire) went extinct sometime in the 5th century.  By that time Christianity had spread throughout all the known world, and would soon come to power as Christendom, the prevailing governance of all Europe during the Middle Ages.

So that is how the date for Christmas (December 25th) came about.  The Octave of Christmas, on the Roman Catholic calendar, which spans from December 25th to January 1st, ends with the beginning of the civil new year, and is a tribute to the contribution made by the eight-day festival by early Jewish Christians.   In time the Jewish population of the early Church faded away, and with them the Jewish origins of Christmas fell into obscurity.  Hints and clues of this have remained with us to this day, but they are veiled by a general lack of historical knowledge.  Later, the Christmas festival was expanded to encompass a full twelve days, which came to be called Christmastide or the 'Season of Christmas,' marking the time between the Feast of the Nativity (December 25th) and the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th), commemorating the visit of the wise men (magi) from the East.  In the West, the emphasis for Christmastide has always been on the first day of the twelve-day festival -- the Feast of the Nativity (December 25th).  While in the East, the emphasis has always been on the last day of the twelve-day festival -- the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).

In the Western world, other traditions and customs developed over the centuries.  Most of them are actually Protestant in origin, but equally enjoyed by Catholics.  The Christmas tree comes from Germany, particularly from the Protestant founder Martin Luther.  Yule logs and mistletoe likely come from northern European folk customs.  Some may perhaps be Pagan in origin, but have since lost their Pagan meaning.  These things have little significance in the modern celebration of Christmas anyway.  Of course the legends of Santa Claus originated with the Catholic Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors and children.  The story of his life has been embellished with legends and myths from all over the world, resulting in the Santa Claus traditions we are familiar with today.  Much of that was commercialised in the United States in the early 20th century.

So in answer to the above question.  No, Christmas is not Pagan.  Far from it really, but it seems that some people are hell bent on finding something Pagan about it, regardless if it is true or historically accurate.  So have a Happy Advent and a Merry Christmas everyone!

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; christmas; churchhistory; tradition
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To: Yosemitest
Why I asked about the possibility of JW affiliation is they both condemn others for participating in extra-biblical practices, e.g. birthday parties, while at thesame time using a Bible they rewrote to satisfy their own extra-biblical opinions.

What you are doing is using multiple Bible translations ~ all by yourself. You need to get together with another person to do that ~ and there are many others who've been through that who have been taught to read Scripture the way Jesus said to do it.

81 posted on 12/25/2012 5:06:16 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah
I disagree. Religion is personal, between the individual and their Maker.
Sometimes you need help, but that why I search for opinions with listed references.
I have quite a collection of commentaries, and I use them.
But ultimately, my actions are my responsibility, and I'm the one who has to answer for them.
So while I may seek out others' opinions, it's between my Lord and me to come to the correct decision.
He may lead,but I have to choose and act to follow Him.
If someone else leads me astray, I still have to answer for following the wrong principle.

And I might show someone what I've learned, but it's up to them as to whether they act upon it or not.
82 posted on 12/25/2012 5:36:52 AM PST by Yosemitest (It's Simple ! Fight, ... or Die !)
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Jesus did not give us any instructions to celebrate His birthday - nor is there any record of the 1st Century Church ever keeping such a day. Rather - Jesus was very specific that we should commemorate His DEATH, something the Apostle Paul also reiterated that Christians should proclaim ‘until He come again’.

Which we do, every year, at Easter. I see no reason NOT to celebrate His Birth, because he had to be born, in order to die, so while his Death Redeemed us, His birth made that possible.

83 posted on 12/25/2012 7:03:34 PM PST by SuziQ
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To: omega4179
Jesus was born when the animals where calving.

I don't remember reading anything about that. I DO remember reading that the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. Wouldn't shepherds always do that, if their flocks are out grazing, and didn't make it back home before dark? He would watch over them to keep predators away. They wouldn't necessarily be calving.

84 posted on 12/25/2012 7:06:50 PM PST by SuziQ
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To: SuziQ
I see no reason NOT to celebrate His Birth, because he had to be born, in order to die, so while his Death Redeemed us, His birth made that possible.

So where is it recorded anywhere in scripture where Jesus commemorated His birth, or where the Apostles or First Century Church ever commemorated it if celebrating His birth is so important?

The ONLY event that Jesus celebrated and admonished His disciples to commemorate each year, was His death. His birth gives us absolutely NO SALVATION from the penalty of sin which is death.

Only His blood sacrifice - His death - is of primary importance for commemorating according to the Gospels and the Letters of the Apostles.

And while you may see no reason not to celebrate His birthday - there is a scripture to keep in mind when one decides to reason things of God for themselves apart from the bible:

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. - Proverbs 14:12 & Proverbs 16:25

85 posted on 12/25/2012 8:23:19 PM PST by INVAR ("Fart for liberty, fart for freedom and fart proudly!" - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: Salvation

Nope. It is perfectly obvious a great many common Christmas and other Christian customs are of originally pagan origin.

The relevant question is whether the customs were sanctified or the Church was corrupted by this adoption.

86 posted on 12/26/2012 12:52:40 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: Salvation
What is wrong with Christianity co-opting the festival of the season?

What? The early Christians were supposed to like, lie low during Saturnalia? Besides, before the Emperor Constantine joined up, he was a follower of the Cult of Mithra, the Bull God, which was very popular throughout the empire, especially with the military. Mithra's birthday was ... you guessed it ... like right around now.

The Christianity of Western Europe was Roman Catholicism. Notice that word "Roman?" The Pope is the "Pontifex Maximus." Julius Caesar held the same title. So what? It would be incredibly naïve for any Christian of whatever denomination to think that this classical heritage counts for naught.

Christianity is our living link to the wonders of ancient civilizations. Deal with it, anti-papists!

87 posted on 12/26/2012 4:37:12 PM PST by Kenny Bunk (Say, what the hell happened to Reggie Love? Who's in the playroom with Barry now?)
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To: boatbums

it’s funny, i spent Christmas Eve at a Presbyterian service in Philadelphia. there was a huge decorated Christmas tree in the church, but i don’t recall anyone worshipping it or the “god” thor! the worshippers didn’t seem to believe they were taking part in a pagan service. i suppose at the end of the service, when we all held lit candles and sang silent night in the darkened church, this was also pagan? surely pagans sang songs to the “gods”, no?
surely pagans must have lit candles in their worship of their “gods”, no?
i am not “pretending pious holiness”, i defend the historical, orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Faith from attacks of atheists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, 7th Day Adventists and those who think they are Christian, but will attack and defame the Church will all kinds of falsehoods. a prime example is accusing those who choose to celebrate the birth of Christ, commonly known as Christmas, as having pagan roots. but, any stick to attack the Church, right?

88 posted on 12/26/2012 6:53:23 PM PST by one Lord one faith one baptism
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The ONLY event that Jesus celebrated and admonished His disciples to commemorate each year, was His death. His birth gives us absolutely NO SALVATION from the penalty of sin which is death.

OK, so you think we shouldn't celebrate Christmas because there is nothing in Scripture that mentions the Apostles celebrating it? If that's the case, where in Scriptures do we read of the Apostles commemorating Jesus's Death and Resurrection? Yes, they preach Christ Crucified and Risen, but did they have any celebrations surrounding it? If not, then are our celebrations of Easter also 'extra Scriptural'?

Christmas commemorates the Birth of our Redeemer. The Apostles probably never thought about celebrating Jesus's Birth; they were too intent on distributing His Message to the world. After the Gospel writers included the story of Jesus's birth, those who read it began to consider celebrating it, so that naturally WOULD have been well after His Death, and not included in the Scriptures.

89 posted on 12/28/2012 7:52:19 PM PST by SuziQ
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To: SuziQ
OK, so you think we shouldn't celebrate Christmas because there is nothing in Scripture that mentions the Apostles celebrating it?

Because I want to live not by bread alone, but by every Word of God - since the tradition of Christmas is not found anywhere in Scripture (but has deep roots in paganism) - I do not observe the tradition.

If that's the case, where in Scriptures do we read of the Apostles commemorating Jesus's Death and Resurrection?

You read of the commemoration, and Jesus' admonition to commemorate His death at the Passover - because Jesus had to LITERALLY become mankind's Passover sacrifice.

I Corinthians 11:23-26 gives Christians specific instructions and understanding of the Passover pointing to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explains why proclaiming the Lord's DEATH is the only biblical instruction of commemoration regarding Jesus.

but did they have any celebrations surrounding it? If not, then are our celebrations of Easter also 'extra Scriptural'?

Yes. Easter is a tradition grafted into the church almost 3 centuries after Jesus' Resurrection. There is no record of commemoration in the New Testament of a feast or commemoration of the Resurrection until around the 300's A.D.

Up until then, the Christian church commemorated the Lord's Death at Passover - until the Roman church at the council of Nicea outlawed the practice and adopted Easter to replace it. That's historical fact.

Christmas commemorates the Birth of our Redeemer.

So declared the church some 3 centuries after the Ascension of Jesus, with no evidence or record or mention of His mother, father, or disciples ever commemorating it, much less WHEN.

The Apostles probably never thought about celebrating Jesus's Birth; they were too intent on distributing His Message to the world. After the Gospel writers included the story of Jesus's birth, those who read it began to consider celebrating it, so that naturally WOULD have been well after His Death, and not included in the Scriptures.

Your logical progression serves you well if you never knew or understood the history of how the tradition was grafted into the church and the faith. I marvel however at the lack of understanding of WHY the account of Jesus' birth was included in the Gospels.

It was NOT for the purpose of commemorating a birthday. Certainly scripture gives no indication that ANY messenger of God, including Noah, Abraham or Moses had dates given in which Israel commemorated their births.

The account of Jesus' birth is NECESSARY to illustrate that He is the Messiah, just as much as the account of His death is. The difference is that Paul tells us to proclaim Jesus' death, but there is NO biblical evidence or admonition to proclaim His birth. That is simply a man-made construct due the combining of pagan traditions that replaced the god that was worshipped with Jesus, while the traditions itself remained unchanged.

I therefore do not observe those traditions. I recall God's absolute anger at Ancient Israel whenever His people combined the worship God laid out in scripture, with the traditions of the Canaanite nations that surrounded them. I believe God is the same yesterday, today and forever and does not change. In fact I believe Jesus WAS the God of the Old Testament that spoke to Moses and the patriarchs band laid down the Law and the Commandments (John 1:1-3. 14)

90 posted on 01/02/2013 11:39:55 AM PST by INVAR ("Fart for liberty, fart for freedom and fart proudly!" - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: omega4179

“Evergreens-pagan....” symbolism of being green and surviving all year long, symbol of eternity...
“Yule-pagan...” earliest symbol of Jesus being a sun and associated with warmth, and a fire with a long-lasting log being associated with warmth, too much of a stretch eh?
“lights and fires-pagan...” because Jews didn’t light candles or use fires...
“Date of solstice-pagan...” because Jews didn’t celebrate anything around the same time that they would have liked to bring into their new faith...
“Christmas tree and wreath-pagan...” Christmas tree again having symbolism of life, and according to Martin Luther the lights on it being symbolic of the beauty of the stars and God’s creations.... the wreath being in a circle, again a symbol of eternity and god with no beginning and end...

You really bought into the idea that there’s no other explanation than “pagan.” School system and History channel at work. Reality? Symbols are only symbolic according to what you prescribe to them. For instance, an early symbol of Christ and Christians was the pentagram. But because of recent rewriting of history, that symbol has been stolen and rewritten as belonging to a religion that didn’t even exist 100 years ago. Let it go.

As far as when Christ was born... ever celebrate President’s Day growing up instead of every President’s birthday? Yeah, history seems to point towards Spring for His birth and His death. (Why would anyone do a census in winter when it was harder to travel?) However, again looking at Jewish Christians (which would have been the majority when Christianity was starting...) wouldn’t it have made sense to replace one festival of lights with another festival of lights to commemorate Christ coming into their lives?

91 posted on 12/08/2013 9:15:34 PM PST by Carousel_damsel
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To: Salvation

Giving gifts to others is a way to give to Christ. “When you do it to the least of these my brethren you do it unto me...” etc.

92 posted on 12/08/2013 9:15:34 PM PST by Carousel_damsel
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