Monday, November 28, 2011

The Turning of the Year: Thoughts about the Holidays
There's been a lot of talk about Christmas round these parts lately.  The reason for the season, Santa Claus, trees, etc.  There's so much conflict over this particular holiday.  It, quite frankly, cracks me up.  People will believe anything at all if enough people tell it to them, or if they are told the same thing over and over enough times.

Why do we think Jesus's birthday is at the end of December?   Well, because the church says so, right?  It's just always been that way, right?  Baaaaa Baaaaaaa  Good sheep.  Now go read your bible and tell me whether or not logic dictates that December 25th is the most reasonable time to plug his birthday into the calendar.  Mary and Joseph were on their way to pay their taxes, right?  Right.  Now, way back when in the days of long ago and far away, when was tax season?  It wouldn't likely have been in the middle of winter.  Taxes were often paid in stuff, not coin.  First harvest, first product of the flocks, or the stuff created after harvesting has been completed, which would mean a spring - early summer time frame.  Midwinter is just illogical.

Do you know why we have "Christmas" in midwinter right around the time of the solstice?  Because that's when the Sun/Son is reborn into the world.  The longest, darkest night of the year.  Traditionally people would stay up all night, with candles lit, yule logs burning in the fire place, singing songs, telling tales, and praying that light would come back to the world so they could have another year of crops and critters.  The earth based wheel of the year is agriculturally based.  The Christian cycle of holidays mirrors the pagan cycle on purpose.  The christians, while attempting to supersede the pagans' beliefs, took over the heathen holidays and made up stuff to justify them.  Michaelmas, Candlemas, Pentacost, Christmas, Easter...

And how about this modern take on midwinter?  What's up with the presents, and the stress, and the rush-rush-rush?  I was told that we give and receive presents on Christmas because the Magi brought presents to baby Jesus.  Mmmkay... I don't buy it.  I think our capitalist culture just wanted another way to goad loads of people into spending more money than they ought to yet another day out of the year.  I have the same skeptical feelings about Valentine's day.

People shouldn't feel like it's required to give presents.  If you like it and it makes you happy, then by all means go for it.  But don't overtax yourself.  Don't break the bank.  Don't feel like it's an absolute necessity just to keep in people's good graces.  If someone wants to be offended that badly because they didn't get a present on some trumped up holiday, then they apparently have ulterior motives for keeping you around.  That includes family.  If someone loves you, then they will love your company, or the knowledge that you were thinking of them.  They'll love a small token (like a letter or a phone call) just as much as they would love a present and possibly even more than some present that you went out and bought just because you felt like you had to because "it's Christmas".

Holidays should be spent doing what you enjoy with people you enjoy being with.  Behaving differently just because it's supposed to be a special day does not fly in my book.  If I don't like you the other 364 days a year, chances are I don't like you on Christmas either.  If I want to give you a present, I can just as easily do it any other day of the year and vice versa.  Yes, I do give Christmas presents, and I like doing it.  But no, I do not go out and rack my brains and my bank account trying to find something for everyone.  I do what I can with what I've got, and assume it will be enough because of the love that goes with it.  Not how big the price tag is.

I do admit to having  a bit of a blind spot when it comes to kids, though.  Christmas is a holiday that can be filled with all kinds of magic and memories for children.  Find ways to make the magic happen and make the memories happen.  That doesn't mean take out a personal loan so that you can afford that state of the art toy that just came out.  Make special treats that only get made once a year.  Sing songs.  Play games.  Make decorations.  They'll remember that a lot longer than they'll remember what presents they got.

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