Thursday, December 11, 2014

"No Christmas Zone" around here

Christmas is that special day of the year that falls around the third week of September and ends about a week after New Year's. 

Yeah, I know.  You're probably thinking, "Gee, another atheist attacking Christmas.  What else is new?" but trust us.  All five of us are Christian, and not the Jehovah Witness type Christian.  While the other four Drunk Rednecks will reluctantly (or  maybe begrudgingly) celebrate Christmas, I have chosen to designate my eight acres as a Christmas free zone.

Maybe my sentiments come with age.  Maybe it comes with the nonsense Christmas has morphed in to.  Maybe it comes with the fact I am a tightwad.  Maybe it comes with frustration over all those redneck Christmas tree pictures people like to send me.  In fact, for the next person who sends me a redneck Christmas tree picture, I'm coming over to your house with shotgun in hand and I'll shoot every dang one of those beer cans off the tree.  Then I'll leave a bag of my hunting dog's lawn presents under your beer can-less tree as a reminder that you were naughty and not nice.

Seriously, while many well meaning Christians will flood your newsfeed with editorials and "professional" advice about why we shouldn't perpetuate the lie of Santa Clause to our kids, none will dare explain why perpetuating the lie of Jesus' birthday has ten times more negative impact on the mental well being of not only kids, but also adults.

Dang!  My Nielsen ratings just plummeted by half as readers left the page.  The other half just rushed down to the comments to let this heathen have it for daring to say Jesus' birth is a lie.  For the discerning reader, though, notice I said "the lie of Jesus' birthday."  I didn't say "the lie of Jesus' birth."

The early Christians didn't feel Jesus' birth was all that important to talk about compared to His ministry, death, and resurrection.  That is why they didn't tell us when Jesus was born nor celebrated His birthday at any time during His life. 

Historically, Jesus' birthday has been placed all over the calendar.  The earliest known celebration of Jesus' birthday took place in Rome in 336 AD with the Nativity Festival replacing the Romans' pagan celebration of the sun god, Saturn, which began on December 17th and ended on or about December 25th.  As Christianity spread to other pagan cultures, celebrating Jesus' birth on December 25th quickly replaced other pagan winter solstice celebrations. 

Distant cousins of these famous
characters on the sika side of the family
are responsible for decimating my gardens.
Today, our Christmas is a blend of Christian, pagan, secular, and commercial traditions and is truly a uniquely American invention.  Prior to around the time of the Civil War, Christmas was celebrated by very few of us.  The Puritans in New England, in fact, had, at one time, outlawed Christmas celebrations as there was nothing in the Bible to support the celebration.  At the same time, however, Virginia residents celebrated the day as a reason to hunt, drink, and eat.  Prior to the Civil War and the start of the Industrial Revolution, historians estimate that less than one-fifth of the country celebrated Christmas.

I'm pretty sure at least one - if not many - books, papers, and theses have been written on the history of Christmas and how it all relates to today's political and religious landscapes.  Fortunately for you, the reader, I won't recreate my own interpretation as I'm sure you want to get back to wrapping presents, decorating, or Christmas shopping.  Suffice it to say that the Second Industrial Revolution that began with the advent of the steam engine and railroads, and a Civil War that deeply divided the nation, both contributed to a society feeling displaced and disconnected. 

Throughout the last half of the 1800's, people gave up their agrarian way of life and mass-migrated to the cities in search of factory work.  The Civil War claimed over half a million lives and left the South in shambles.  Immigrants began to flood the country looking for work.  Technological improvements in communications made even the most isolated communities acutely aware of the world around them. 

Change was happening and happening fast.  The simple rural life centered around the family slowly disappeared.  Labor disputes abounded, and some quite violently.  The "robber barons" of the post-Civil War era manipulated the average citizen for their monetary benefit.  Class warfare protests were common and sometimes violent.  (All this should sound familiar.  Class warfare has been fought for at least the last 160 years.  The latest battle broke out in the form of the Takeover Wall Street protests, but class warfare is another story for another day.)

With the world around them changing fast, Americans longed for the simple life that once was.  Immigrants wanted a sense of the life they left behind.  Evolving Christmas traditions began to fill the void.  German immigrants brought the Christmas tree with them.  Americans were quick to adopt the tradition.  Christmas cards from London hit the market in 1850.  Advances in printing techniques made them so popular that twenty-five years later, printers couldn't keep up with the demand.  Also in 1850, Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Battle for Christmas has one of her characters lamenting about the commercialization of Christmas. 

Christmas has never been about Jesus, at least in this country.  It's an evolving folk tale intertwining our collective history with borrowed cultural traditions.  Tying it all together to give us that sense of belonging that the Industrial Revolution and growing technology were robbing from us, we threw in the message of peace and goodwill towards men.  We topped off the folk tale with our Christian religious belief because, after all, Jesus was born - and December 25th is as good a day as any to celebrate His birth and ties nicely into all that family, charity, peace, and goodwill stuff.

A hundred and sixty-five years after  Harriet Beecher Stowe's Christmas commentary, we have refined the Christmas folk tale and took the tale almost to an art form. 

On the one hand, we allowed businesses to steal the holiday and make it all about shopping.  Businesses start celebrating Christmas during the last two weeks of September as they move Christmas items to the store shelves and send press releases to the media to start hyping Black Friday two months away.  If the Twelve Days of Christmas were rewritten to reflect modern times, Black Friday would be the first day.  Businesses have taken away Thanksgiving and made Black Friday into a two-day shopping event and they tacked on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday to make the whole holiday a four-day celebration with a rest from shopping only on Sunday.  Harriet Beecher Stowe's character complained about two weeks for shopping.  We complain about two months.

On the other hand, some well-meaning Christian folk (and some not so well-meaning Christian folk) take to the battlefield in the imaginary War on Christmas.  Chanting "Don't take Christ out of Christmas", they skewer each other over whether they should be allowed to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" from the Black Friday holiday through the New Year.  Just as Christians fifteen hundred years ago stole the pagan traditions and celebrations of the winter solstice, today's Christians are determined to steal other people's religious celebrations, many of which fall in the month of December, by forcing "Merry Christmas" from Thanksgiving until the New Year to the exclusion of all the other holidays and beliefs celebrated during the same time frame.

When one builds a holiday on through-and-through lies, one can only expect to end up with the corrupted holiday we now call Christmas.  I can't celebrate a lie in the name of Jesus and I certainly won't celebrate unbridled consumerism, a politically correct term for greed and gluttony.

When my mother-in-law, who is up there in age, asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I responded, "You to be here for next Christmas."  For the first time since I got laid off six years ago, I will be able to afford a donation to Toys for Tots and a few canned goods to the local food bank.

The only gift I am buying is for a friend who gave me free crabs this year.  Acts of unselfish generosity goes a long way with me and getting a bottle of his favorite rum for him to enjoy over the holiday is the least I could do to say thank you.

Busy schedules and distance hampers my spouse and I from visiting my Mom as often as we should, but she can always count on us being there around the Christmas-New Year time frame.  No matter how old her children are, Moms always want to feed them and my Mom is no different.  We'll take my Mom out to dinner so we don't have to compete with the kitchen for sharing quality time with her.

And, of course, we'll spend some time with my mother-in-law.  We don't know how many Christmases she will be around for, but we make each one special.  If she feels up to it, we'll take her out to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants that she hasn't been able to get to for awhile.  On the way home, we'll take a circuitous route so she can enjoy all the decorations while we sing to Christmas carols on the radio just like she used to do many decades ago when she raised her children, including my other half.  When we get her home and settled in with her blankets and oxygen tank, we'll say a prayer or two and she'll ask God to forgive her for not being able to make it to Church again this year.  Then we'll turn on a Church service on one of her cable stations and turn it up really loud since she can't hear all that well and head home on our two-and-a-half hour drive.  We won't say much to each other, but we will pretend that we get to do it all over again next year.

Yup, I can declare a "no Christmas zone" on my eight acres and discard all the lies and gluttonous consumerism that goes with the holiday.  But the true spirit of Christmas knows no boundaries, reads no signs, and recognizes no religion. The true Christmas spirit only finds hearts to dwell in and it's already marched onto my eight acres despite my protest. 

For the TL;DR folks:

Christmas is an evolving folk tale and a relatively recent one as celebrated today.  Despite the lies Christmas is fabricated from and the excessive consumerism Christmas promotes, don't forget what Christmas is really about: children, family, friends, and simplicity.  Presents will be forgotten tomorrow.  Memories of simplicity, kindness, generosity, and family-togetherness will last a lifetime.

For your viewing pleasure:

<Insert memory of your best Christmases past here>

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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