Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Escape from the Merry Christmas Zone

Feng Zhu
Santa
I am not in the US at the moment, but in Russia. This means several things. First, today is not Christmas. (Christmas is on January 7th, having something to do with the Julian calendar. It is 3/4 of a day per century fast, but since it is only used for religious holidays, nobody cares.) Second, even for the Christians here, Christmas is a minor feast, far behind Easter. This is quite understandable: sure, virgin birth (not to be confused with immaculate conception, as some technical-minded reader has pointed out) is a bit of a trick, but it is nothing compared to the trick of rising from the dead after being crucified. Now that is one act you just never want to follow!

Third, the big holiday here is not Christmas but the New Year, which I much prefer. Actually, I would prefer to celebrate Winter Solstice, which is an actual observable astronomical event rather than an artificial date on an artificial calendar. That is what these holidays really were before the priests co-opted them: celebrations of light. Christmas was Winter Solstice, and Easter was Spring Equinox. And so, for once, I don't feel compelled to even pretend that Christmas exists. But since this just happens to be the 25th of December—the day many readers of this blog happen to celebrate Christmas—and since this year it happens to fall on a Tuesday—the day of the week on which I publish a blog post—today I will blog about Christmas.

In all the years I've spent living in the US, I have always felt the urge to get the hell out of the country whenever Christmas approached. This is because it is a season when Americans are "struggling to celebrate the holiday with some semblance of normalcy" (I just heard this very phrase on NPR's All Things Considered. The context is the mass murder of schoolchildren in Connecticut, but I find that it applies every year.) It is a stressful time when people rush around trying to find presents on which to deplete their meager savings (or, more likely, run up some more credit card debt) in order to maintain a commercially imposed fiction of normal family life. This often causes them to be overcome by feelings of alienation, depression and despair. As with that other great American holiday, Thanksgiving, people compensate for their misery with a bout of pathetic, self-destructive gorging.

Now, I am certainly not against celebrating, whatever it is you want to celebrate; celebrating is good. I am not even opposed to celebrating Christmas (as I mentioned, immaculate conception is quite a trick, although the Egyptian god Horus clearly did it first). But I am against celebrating this most toxic of all American holidays: the holiday of Christmasshopping. Please kill it, and in so doing celebrate your vaunted freedom of which I have heard so much but seen so little. It shouldn't be that hard: there is already a tradition of company Christmas parties, which are never held on December 25th. Now, just extend it to family Christmas parties. Hold them some time in January. Do buy some presents, if you wish, but be sure to buy them after Christmas, when the prices are lower. Use the savings to rent a hall, hire a band and have the occasion catered. Include not just the family but friends and neighbors. As for December 25th, throw a zombie party or something. Everyone loves zombies nowadays. Then maybe I'll stop trying to flee the country every Christmas season.

14 comments:

herlanderwalking said...

LOL...I also do not celebrate Christmas, and I don't like zombies of even the religious sort!

I do celebrate the Solstice, and will spend New Year's Eve listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ....I congratulate you on your escape!

Barullo said...

Inmaculate Conception is -according to the Catholic Churc- on December 8th.

And it's not inmaculate conception of Jesus but inmaculate conception of Virgin Mary herself, when her mother (Saint Ana) got pregnant. Egyptians didn't go so far...

From an atheist.

Dr. Doom said...

I make it a point to avoid all malls and shopping centers until well after Christmas has passed. I hate crowds, period. I hate them so much that I will gladly pay more not to witness them. I also avoid the employer or office parties by being out of town. I pay for that also, by making contributions to the party fund. It's harder to avoid family- and friend-related Christmas parties, but sometimes I've even managed that by being out of town.

As for my family, they are all accomplished at holiday shopping and gift giving, so much so that I can just relax and drink egg nog, which no one else enjoys but me and my now ancient mother. We always reminence about how dad made it from scratch, which is getting to be a lost art. Sometimes I feel as dated as Clarence the apprentice angel in Cappra's "It's a Wonderful Life".

knutty knitter said...

It's always seemed a bit daft round here - snow in December??? In the middle of summer! We junk shop round here - no present to be worth more than $10 and most heaps less or hand made and all rather silly - might as well have some fun :) I happen to like making stuff for the tree but am not in the least religious - anyhow I'm sure the tree belongs to winter solstice, so there is a little bit of christmas but I avoid mass media adverts etc like the plague. I have to say that the midwinter festival is getting ever more popular here so maybe all those worth while traditions will migrate to their proper place.

viv in nz

Matt Shaver said...

Actually, suicide rates peak in the springtime, rather than at Christmas ( http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201212/is-suicide-more-common-christmas-time ). I agree with the remainder of your evaluation of the season though. If I ever hear, _Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer_ again, it will be too soon. Happy New Year Dmitri!

Neil said...

Hung out with fam and exchanged quirky cheap gifts last week, check. Spent a bunch of time last few days preparing the shop and classrooms for the course we're offering in a few weeks "transition technology skillbuilding series". A group of friends showed up over time and as I chipped away at things made some soup & pies then went foraging for wild mushrooms in the forest- a mellow satisfying time. Here's the description of the course for those interested: http://www.aprovecho.net/programs/transition-technology-skills-workshop-series/

Breedlove said...

Bought nothing. Sprurged and ate some meat, but it wasn't much different than any other day of the year. No tree. No Christmas muzak. It was delightful.
On another note, I like the zombie idea. I don't necessarily obsess over zombies because I accept the fact our civilization is dying. But I did write a song some time ago, Zombie Clowns, and found it appropriate to play yesterday. On the mindless spectacle of mass consumption.
"A stroll through the mall, you can see it clearly. The umdead in training are tugging at sleeves. 'Come this way, mommy, or I'll kick and scream.' The carosel's turning in this carnival of greed."
Happy New Year.

1gumdoc said...

Immaculate Conception works best as teenage rationalization. (We didn't do IT) Everybody wants to be special. As a 60 yr old I can't criticize the glistening pageant that I love to warmly recall when now it's my turn to put on the production. That I'm not as good as my parents is a shame but we are not working with as much innocence as I had. So we probably cannot hold onto the past forever.
The point at which you shake the dust off your feet of accumulated history is a scary one and I rather enjoyed the convivial singing and communion on Christmas Eve at our shrinking mainline protestant church. Even though I don't believe a word of it. I am neither ready to go gentle into that good night nor find and slay the rough beast slouching to Bethlehem to be born. Whether my happy neighborhood is an illusion or delusion is for the future to certify...

dragonfly said...

we got drunk on whiskey and beer Christmas Eve. Then horror movies and bong hits. none of us related. such a great time.

Mrs. Clark said...

We celebrate the solstice. We give small gifts that cost 1-10 dollars. We also make gifts. The rule is simple. One gift per person, per day of our holiday. the first day we put up the tree. The second they get stockings. The third a small dollar present. Until the last day, the 12th day they get a large feast, plenty to drink over 21, and the last present. We have duck every year about this time.

Kevin said...

You are so right. Xmas is forced festivity and obligatory squandering even when your family is destitute. The undue emphasis on immurement within the suffocating familial sphere is also a source of much misery.

A festival of light is where it's at. I like your suggestion of a wider communal gathering.

I've read that for the first couple of days after the solstice, the sun doesn't appear to rise significantly sooner or higher, so far as the naked eye can tell. I gather that's why the day is set on the 25th, which is also the birthday of Mithras, a sun god. I think I'd enjoy upsetting my fundie neighbors by posting a banner which proclaims that Mithras is the reason for the season.

onething said...

Christmas is good. I get time and a half, my coworkers bring in all sorts of baked goods, and I trade it for New Year's off. For the few weeks prior, I lay low, keep my head down, (stay off the streets and avoid stores) and wait for it to blow over.

Amy La Gato said...

FYI. You have confused two different doctrines, that of the Virgin Birth with Immaculate Conception. The birth of Jesus was the virgin birth as Mary had been a virgin when Jesus was conceived. The Immaculate Conception was the process were Mary was conceived in the normal fashion between her Mother St Anne and her father Joachim, the act was Immaculate in that she was conceived without original sin of Adam and Eve and was thus able to bear the child Jesus.

diane kamp said...

I am enjoying this season by reading "Reinventing Collapse" and talking about it at holiday parties. I also wrote a piece on it for correntewire. It throws the usual mundane chatter into a whole new level especially if the mix is conservative and liberal (whatever those old labels mean). Deciding what friends you have that will be useful in a collapse is a great party game. Thanks, Dimitry.