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Boy, Lucy was right

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johnhattan

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After 38 years on this planet, my thinking has gone back and forth on several subjects. The most recent is the holidays. In the past I've had drilled into my head that all of the glitz and commercialism and such that surrounded Christmas was shallow and distracting and wrong and that you should instead cherish all of the "deeper meanings" of Christmas, be they religious or family or otherwise.

But I've got to thinking about it, and I'm now having a very hard time figuring out exactly WHY the commercialism of Christmas is so very wrong. While I can certainly see why some would find the hustle-n-bustle of holiday shopping to be overwhelming, I rather enjoy it. This year I made an Excel spreadsheet in early November containing a list of what we were gonna get everyone, and whenever we had an "aha, that'd be a great gift for " moment, we put it on the list. Last week we finished getting the last of the items on the list, and I think we got everybody something that they'll like. For the folks we won't see soon, we boxed up and shipped off the stuff. The rest is wrapped and under the tree.

And I enjoyed all of it. I didn't stress over the shopping, even when I was in the crowded mall. I took the rugrat with me, and we made time to stop in at "Starbooks" (as she calls it) for a coffee and a chocolate milk to watch all the goings-on while we checked out the latest animated furry Sesame-Street toys.

All my life I'd been like Charlie Brown, often worried that I wasn't getting the "deeper meanings" of it all. Even when I thought I had properly plumbed the depths of these Christmas meanings, I still worried that there were even deeper meanings that I was missing. The whole time, though, Lucy was still telling me that Christmas was all about "Santa Claus and Ho Ho Ho and Mistletoe and Presents to pret-ty girls", and I now think Lucy's right. While I've heard of people who've stretched out far enough that they've found this brass ring of meaning, I'm not convinced that they have, because they're inevitably unable to articulate it. And I'm never one to embrace concepts that cannot be articulated. True meaning and self-hypnosis look virtually identical to the outside viewer as well as the practitioner.

Watching cable news (a thing that I really must avoid more), I'm told that there is a culture-war surrounding Christmas, and it's being perpetuated by those shallow department stores and toy manufacturers and soft drink vendors who are trying to hijack Christmas and turn it into a bigass commercial greedfest, and the religious and cultural forces are defending against this onslaught as best they can. Seems to me to be the opposite, though. Christmas is whatever I make it to be, and those who insist that there's something wrong with ME for embracing the mirthful shallowness of it all are the ones firing the culture-war shots.

. . .and that's the meaning folks. So if you want depth to your holidays, have some. Meanwhile, I'm going to the mall. Last week along with the gifts I discovered that Sears was selling gigantic boxes of laundry-detergent (quite highly rated in Consumer Reports) for $10, so I now have enough to last at least a year.



On another note (and one that I'm fully convinced that you don't care about, which is fine because I write this journal for me and not for you), I finished Mountain Man and am now working through Managing Ignatius : The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in New Orleans, which is a chronicle of the Lucky Dog hot dog company in New Orleans and the dotty array of human flotsam that drifts through the company to sell hot dogs on the street. It's a perfect read for a ConfederacyOfDuncesophile such as myself.
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I imagine that the holiday which is currently incarnated by "Christmas" has been around in one form or another back through history and into prehistory, as a festival of feasting and gift-giving. I know that the Romans had a similar holiday, around the same time of the year, and I'm certain they didn't make up that holiday, just kept it going from whoever they inherited it from.

Sure, from time to time, a religion tries to add its flavor to the holiday. That's what religions do.

But basically, it's still just a "you know, it's really cold out, so lets take our minds off of that fact by eating way too much and giving each other gifts".

And I think holidays in general are necessary for any human society in order to give themselves some sort of cultural identity. Without days upon which to focus your attention, look forward to, and look back on, life is pretty dull.

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I'm not looking for inner meaning I'm just tired of the marketing.

This year in July a local instantiation of a major national chain had a Christmas display complete with a life-sized talking Santa and two aisles dedicated to Christmas stuff. This is in July! I guess other people complained also because in August it was pared back to one aisle with the Santa turned off.

This sort of over-marketing has taken a fair amount of joy out of holiday shopping for me. I used to really enjoy holiday shopping. Now I just tolerate it. The result is that during the holiday season I tend to shop less.

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I've always found it funny how religous people generally hate the "secularising" of Christmas. I mean, helloooo, you stole the frigging holiday from the Romans in the first place, who probably stole it from someone else, who stole it from... and so on.

I say Merry Christmas to someone and they say "What makes you think I'm Christian?!". I say "Happy Holidays" to someone else and they flip out and say "Why the hell are you bowing to that PC crap, why doesn't anyone say 'Merry Christmas' anymore?" (this actually happened to me, believe it or not.).

Now I just go around wishing people a happy Winter Solstice from now on. You can't deny that the Solstice occurs, and you don't risk offending anyone of a particular religion.

Unless, of course, there's a whacky religion that denies the existence of solstices.

Wouldn't surprise me.

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TAN: yes, There are tons of holidays based on the Winter Solstice.

The ancient Germanic tribes introduced the ideas of using a Coniferous tree to represent the renewal of life during the solstice, and thus we have Christmas trees.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, another Solstice tradition, which eventually turned into Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, which was then co-opted by the early Catholic Church in order to convert Christians easier.


Before the Germanic tribes, there's not much available on their traditions during the solstice, but interestingly enough, solstice traditions have started independently throughout the world anyways. The Persians celebrate Yalda, The Chinese celebrate Dong zhi, The Celts celebrate Yule, The early Saxons celebrated Modranect, The Seinfeldians celebrate Festivus, and so on.

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