I am a member of an overlooked minority in the US you don’t hear much about—people who don’t celebrate Christmas. There are many reasons why, not the least being the blatant materialism of the season in a culture that’s wasteful and materialistic on the best of days. For more on our culture of waste, please see The Story of Stuff. I also happen to think that buying someone something is one of the worst ways to try to show them they mean something to you (it is, however, one of the easiest). So, for those of you who have similar feelings, I offer an alternative: Newton Day.
I got this idea from the writer of a blog I follow, Off the Hook Astronomy. She made a post about this a few years ago, and I thought it was brilliant. I found her term of "Newtonmas" a bit cumbersome, so I decided to go with "Newton Day." I think she explained the concept very well, so I'll quote her here:
I ... subscribe to a much more scientific belief system .... Therefore, this year I've decided to celebrate Newtonmas. Isaac Newton, considered by many to be the father of modern Physics, was born on Christmas day in 1642. There was some confusing stuff going on with dates back then, and so according to our modern calendar, his birthday is on January 4th, but since the calendar back then said it was December 25th, I think I'll stick with that one for the sake of the holiday.
Newton is most famous for discovering the Law of Gravitation by showing that the same force which causes objects to fall towards the ground also governs the motion of the planets around the sun. However, he is also credited with inventing calculus (though Leibniz also gets credit for that), building the first reflecting telescope, discovering that light is made up of many different colors, and much more. He was also very religious and a practitioner of alchemy. He might also have been a bit of a jerk.
Anyway, to properly celebrate Newtonmas, I will be doing the following:
Eating an apple
Singing some Newtonmas carols
Shining light through a prism to watch it split into a rainbow
Doing some calculus problems
Dropping stuff on the ground
In addition to these fun activities, I also recommend learning something new (and scientific) today. We're very fortunate to live in a time where we can find real answers to our questions. We don't have to rely on superstition. I'm very thankful for that!
Happy Newton Day!