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The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

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Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

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Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween and November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas   [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers and childcare providers and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

That is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

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Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

Because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”   [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

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Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic.

 

I told you not to encourage her.

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Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Back I’m Not Talking Behind

Comments Off on The Back I’m Not Talking Behind

 

Department Of If Vegetables Could Talk

This one might say, “I’m Not A Crook!… but I am the Third [1] Memorial Richard Milhouse Nixon Eggplant.”

 

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Department of Succinct Advice On How To
Handle Today’s Cutthroat, Back-stabbing Social and/or Business Culture

 

If someone talks about you behind your back, just fart.

 

 

Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.

 

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Department of H.E.L.L. [2]

Remember to involve your children in age-appropriate party prep and hosting tasks.

 

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Department of Ugly Pretty Things

Two days ago my morning walk listen-to was the Fresh Air podcast of a recent interview with American singer/songwriter Iris DeMent. Dement was raised by a Pentecostal parents and had a very conservative religious background – beliefs that for the most part, she has since left behind. Still, her music, which critics have variously labeled in the folk/country/gospel/bluegrass genres, reflects her roots.

Early on in the interview FA host Terry Gross asked Dement to play a song that has “stayed with” her and influenced her. Dement chose a gospel tune, Pass Me Not:

DEMENT: (Playing piano, singing)

Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.
Savior, oh, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

 GROSS: That was beautiful. You know, I…

 DEMENT: That’s a pretty song….

(from the Fresh Air Transcript)

And I’m thinking, seriously? You call that beautiful?

 

 

I had to turn off the rest of the interview to keep my stomach from turning over. I’m just not as good as I used to be when it comes to pretending I don’t hear things.

Yes, the song’s piano melody had a lyrical, almost haunting simplicity, as did Dement’s high lonesome vocal styling…but, in classifying the song as “beautiful,” did either the host or guest actually pay attention to the lyrics?

I enjoy many bluegrass-influenced songs and musical groups, but that Pass Me By song crystallized my objections to much of religious/gospel-influenced bluegrass and country music. Such “beautiful” melodies and instrumentation are ruined – for moiself, anyway – by lyrics depicting a world of obsequiousness and fear-mongering – a world extolling the “beauty” of people kept on their knees with their eyes blinkered; a world where humans must continually assuage the ego of an insecure, capricious and petulant deity; a world where people question their own worth and “salvation” and plaintively beseech a so-called loving savior not to pass them by….

 

Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.

 

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Department of H.E.L.L., The Continuing Saga

Don’t waste valuable menu planning time fretting over your home’s appearance.

 

 

 

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Department of Bad Halloween jokes

Consider yourself warned.

 

 

What is a ghost’s favorite Halloween party drink?
Ghoul-aid

What is a Mummy’s favorite music genre?
Wrap.

Why do female ghosts diet?
So they can keep their ghoulish figures.

What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?
Mas-scare-a.

Why couldn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He had no guts.

Why Count Dracula use a mouthwash?
Because he had bat breath.

Why do ghosts patronize bars and pubs?
They go for the boos.

What happens when ghosts have too many drinks at those pubs?
They get sheet-faced.

Told ya.

 

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Who’s in Charge of Feasibility Studies for Aphorisms?

I hear on the radio that old cliché about someone preparing to run for political office, and so when I got home I tried to toss my hat into the ring. It doesn’t work.

 

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Department of Almost Random Thoughts Almost Apropos of Nothing

Or perhaps simply another scary thought that I can blame on Halloween time.

A while back I was cleaning up my home library and found a book a friend had lent me over 10 years ago (ahem). [3] I had fond memories of reading it way back when, and flipped through the book’s forward, which noted that the author had died at a relatively young age. This led to me googling said author and finding out he’d died of AIDS.

Whenever I read something about the historical aspects of the AIDS outbreak, I come across recitations of one of the few positive aspects of the epidemic – stories about how the gay community came together and took care of “their own.” During the early years of the outbreak the medical and scientific establishments were confused about the disease’s etiology and transmission, and medical personnel often acted indifferent, even hostile, toward the afflicted.

I’ve read touching stories of dying gay men, many if not most of whom had been abandoned or shunned by their biological families, being tenderly and courageously cared for by gay friends, neighbors, and even strangers – lesbians in particular. Although the AIDS epidemic in this country was initially almost exclusively confined to gay men, a high percentage of the caretakers were women (sure enough, the afore-mentioned author was, at the end of his life, nursed by his ex wife).

Any cynical – or would that be realistic? – moiself  couldn’t help but wonder then (and still wonders now): if the AIDS epidemic in America had, for whatever epidemiological reasons, struck lesbians instead of gay men before spreading into the general population, would there have been the same stories of care-giving?  Would gay men have organized to care for their dying gay women friends?

Methinks not.

There is no way for me to “prove” this. Except for extrapolating from that pesky thing called history.

 

 

Gaymen, schmay men – they are still men. And no matter their interest or lack of interest in women for sexual or other reasons, men grow up with the culturally induced expectation that women will serve and care for them.

I remember reading [4] a history of the “lavender menace” as recalled by a lesbian activist, who wrote of her disappointment in the early 1970’s with both the feminist movement and the gay rights movement. Straight feminists didn’t want to take up what they saw as the “distraction” of lesbian rights. Gay rights organizations were dominated by gay men, who discounted or ignored the lesbians’ opinions when the women tried to organize and speak out, showed little interest in getting to know the women personally but still “…expected us (women) to bring them coffee.” To paraphrase the author, “The (straight) women broke our spirits, but the gay men broke our hearts.”

 

“If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”
Rita Mae Brown

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Department of H.E.L.L., Die Hard with a Vengeance

Welcome your guests with a hot beverage and a smile that says, I’m so glad you’re here.

 

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Happy Halloween!

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May your Halloween Night be truly fit for a Bright, [5]
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yes, more than once in my years of vegetable procurement I’ve returned home from the market/farm to discover that my produce basket contains an eggplant with a profile resembling that of our nation’s 37th President. I have led a charmed life.

[2] Holiday & Entertaining Labor-saving Lists.

[3] Yes, I returned it.

[4] In Ms. Magazine? Rolling Stone? ‘Twas way back in the 80s, I think. I remember the article, but not the source.

[5] SCM will be upset if there aren’t at least five footnotes.