Commercialism; it’s what makes the holidays so… Ick.
Now, before you read any further I’d like to let it be known that I’m not a huge fan of the common perception of holidays to begin with so the following might be a bit more scathing than anticipated.
What started my whole “HoliRant” today was while I was on the way back from the shop; I happened to have the radio on and hadn’t made it to the CD play button yet when a commercial came on (imagine that):
This commercial was an advertisement for holiday shopping at the big “Mills Mall” in Denver. They were sure to mention several times during the ten minute ad that the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. But what made the ad truly odd was when it ended with a hotel near the mall advertising special room rates for the sale…
Yes, the rooms at the Hilton near the Mills Mall in Denver are only $55 a night if you mention the radio ad and there is special bus service to and from the hotel…
Some other interesting points of this radio add was that they made a big deal out of the fact that one woman’s clothing store would be open at 6am Friday and another would be open at 5:45am. Several stores have special prizes for the first X customers and the mall in general will be open 24/7 till Monday.
Christ! It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and the Christmas “consume” programming is going on full force. I mean, you win a freaking PRIZE if you’re one of the first people in there on Friday and stores are having competitions to see who opens first…
And people wonder why our civilization is self-destructing.
This of course all leads into the common misconception of “Christmas” in general. Xmas is about as religious these days as Easter…
Speaking of which, can someone please tell me what a freaking bunny rabbit and painted eggs has to do with the puppetry of Emmanuel rising from the dead on the third day? C’mon here, are people really this stupid? The bunny and eggs come from the Teutonic lunar Goddess Eostre and the holiday is for the pagan vernal equinox celebration, Oestara which is held on the Vernal Equinox Full Moon. Of course, the Church doesn't celebrate full moons, even if they do calculate by them, so they planted their Easter on the following Sunday. Thus, Easter is always the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox.
If you've ever wondered why Easter moved all around the calendar, now you know. (By the way, the Catholic Church was so adamant about NOT incorporating lunar Goddess symbolism that they added a further calculation: if Easter Sunday were to fall on the Full Moon itself, then Easter was postponed to the following Sunday instead.)
So back to Xmas; which is about far more than buying stuff and cutting down a perfectly good pine tree…
Xmas is another of those pagan holidays that was usurped by the Church. Rather than outlawing Yule, they just changed it’s meanings a bit and got everyone singing their tune eventually… Remember, the Church was staffed by people who came up with the term, “If we can’t beat them out, we’ll breed them out.”…
Yule, for those of you who don’t know (yes, you two over there in the corner), is associated with Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism which is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it, and why it was even made illegal in Boston for a while. But further back in time, Yule was a pretty big thing:
In 529, it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks, bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season. This last point is perhaps the hardest to impress upon the modern person who is lucky to get a single day off work. Christmas in the Middle Ages was not a single day but rather a period of twelve days from December 25 to January 6. Ever hear of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”? It is certainly lamentable that the modern world has abandoned this approach along with my favorite, the Twelfth Night celebration. Thanks be to the SCA who still ensure this wonderful celebration continues to this day.
At any rate pagan customs are still enthusiastically followed. Once, the Yule log had been the center of the celebration. It was lit on the eve of the solstice and must be kept burning for twelve hours for good luck. It used to be made of ash but later the Yule log was replaced by the Yule tree and instead of burning it, burning candles were placed on it. In Christianity, Protestants might claim that Martin Luther invented the custom, and Catholics might grant St. Boniface the honor, but the custom can demonstrably be traced back through the Roman Saturnalia all the way to ancient Egypt. Needless to say, such a tree should be cut down rather than purchased, and should be disposed of by burning, the proper way to dispatch any sacred object.
Above all the holiday is a festive occasion to celebrate the turning of the wheel of time and to remember, in happiness and amongst friends, those who have traveled it with you and those who have moved on. In a more religious vain it is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God – by whatever name you choose to call him and on this darkest of nights, the Goddess or Mary – again your choice, becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth and in doing so, gives us another year to do what we will.
It all makes perfect poetic sense; that on the longest night of the winter, “the dark night of our souls”, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World and that we all travel onward.
So, don’t get caught up in the commercialism of the season. There is no need to sweat the details of what gifts you’ll buy for which person.
Your gift could simply be remembering them in a kind light; a memory of fun and happy times and the retelling of it around the dinner table. For after all, isn’t that what makes us who we are? We are judged solely in the memories of others; all of our great acts and dismal failures are just another spot of paint on the canvas for others to see.
Looking at it that way; just spending some time laughing with your friends or relatives over dinner will mean far more than a pair of socks or a new kitchen gizmo ever could.
With the best of wishes for this holiday season, to all those I know, will know, or have known. I remember you all fondly,