- Holidays and Celebrations
What to do When Christmas is Not so Merry
What to do When it is Not so Merry
All in their beds and I with my night cap upon my head
When you think of Christmas, you usually start with childhood memories, then of traditions shared, gifts, foods, and shopping. There is Santa Clause, Yule Logs, and Egg nog. Many will think of Macy's, pageants, and Christmas carols. Perhaps candy canes, stockings, and Christmas trees will pop up in your thoughts but never did I consider things to cross my mind like they did this year.
As children we innocently participate in the whimsy of sugar plums that dance in our heads. So why is it so different now? What happens to us once we grow up? As adults, we become so stifled that our thoughts prance around our time management, budget restraints, and who to delegate to bring the Figgy Pudding. Some of us start to just move through the motions because it is what we think is expected of us.
As adults, we usually carry Christmas a little longer living it through our children's eyes. Suddenly, we are able to recapture some of that excitement again. Instead of anticipating our own rewards for being good all year, we anxiously await our child's joyous reaction as they open the gift from "Santa". Now, this can be a doubled edge sword and dubiously sharp as it stabs into our heart when the expected joy is shrieks of utter disappointment from your child. Of course, it is unknown to them that "Santa" had to sacrifice, scrimp, and save to secure that gift that had been significant enough to be in almost every conversation over the last year. Significant enough to be listed at the top their Santa's letter, specifically described down to the color and style. So as confident as you think you will make your child's face shine, you find, it seems not so significant anymore.
This is not necessarily, something from a spoiled child syndrome as well it could be, but just an average child's attention span is enough to send a curve ball into your well laid out plans. We want so much to please our children, especially at Christmas, suspending the time which they will spend as children.
Not so long ago, the Christmas Season carried excitement, enthusiasm, and engagement from the week of Thanksgiving right through New Year. Is it me? Is it the world today? or is it the loss of innocence that darkens the Christmas ideal? I'm ..."unwrapping all these memories fighting back the tears it's just a different kind of Christmas this year"...
Everyone has a Different Kind of Christmas
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer; Christmas In the News
Honestly, there is only one place to find news stories like these; so, thanks to the NEWS OF THE WEIRD, here are some reports you may or may not associate with either a BLUE CHRISTMAS or A MERRY CHRISTMAS. It may be just a different kind of Christmas.
Some callers to Boston's major homeless shelters became angry that their requests to help out this year on Thanksgiving and Christmas day were rejected because the shelters have too many volunteers on those days (yet too few on the other 363 days a year). A Boston Globe reporter found that volunteers even try to cajole officials to bump them up the waiting list (170 on one shelter's list, which started accumulating names in August), but express disappointment at suggestions that they help at less "popular" (and less prestigious) suburban shelters. [Boston Globe, 11-29-02]
In December, Australia's TV Channel 7 reported that many schools across the country, at the behest of the Australasian Performing Rights Association, were discouraging parents from making keepsake movies of their kids' appearances in Christmas musicals, because recording the holiday songs might violate copyright law. [Seven Network Ltd. (Australia), 12-22-03]
Every Dec. 24 in Sweden, at 3 p.m., a third to a half of all Swedes sit down to watch the same traditional television program that has marked Christmas for the last 50 years: a lineup of historic Donald Duck cartoons. According to a December report on Slate.com, the show is insinuated in the national psyche because it was the first big holiday program when Swedes began to acquire television sets in 1959. Entire families still watch together, repeating their favorite lines. [Slate, 12-22-2010]
Because this past Christmas fell on a Sunday, nearly one Protestant church in 10 in the U.S. reported having canceled Sunday services that day out of fear of low attendance, as parishioners remained at home with family. (The poll, by Lifeway Research, noted also that other churches, while not canceling, had left services to their second-string clergy.) [Washington Post, 12-23-2011]
The Christmas Nativity scenes in northeast Spain's Catalonia region have, for three centuries, featured not only Mary and the Three Wise Men but the ubiquitous "caganer" icon, always portrayed with pants down answering a call of nature (and often so obscured in the scene as to popularize Where's-Waldo-type guessing by children). The origin of the caganer (literally, "pooper") is unclear, but some regard it merely as symbolic of equality (in that everyone has bowel movements). Catalonia is now home to artists who craft statuettes of religious figures poised to relieve themselves, and the franchise extends to renditions of sports figures and celebrities (and even a squatting President Bush). One family in Girona province sells about 25,000 a year, according to a November dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel. [Spiegel Online, 11-25-08]
Christmas Madness: (1) In November, the upscale New York City menswear and accessories store Jack Spade removed from its holiday catalog a $40 frog-dissection kit (with a real carcass) after numerous queries from people wondering what in the world the store was thinking. (2) A holiday party for inmates at Britain's Peterborough Jail promised a fun time with Xbox and PlayStations, along with cash gifts of 5 pounds each (about US$9), which is greater than the value of the candy boxes the jail will give its guards for Christmas. (3) Police in Rock Hill, S.C., put a 12-year-old boy under arrest at the insistence of his mother after he had defied her and opened his Christmas gift three weeks early. [Reuters, 11-21-06] [The Sun (London), 11-25-06] [The State (Columbia, S.C.), 12-6-06]
Melody Howell of Richburg, N.C., expanded her collection of full-sized, designer-decorated Christmas trees this year to 52, all placed inside her 2,500-square-foot home. (Said Howell's adult daughter, "My mom is over the top. (E)verything she does is over the top." On the less joyous side, the city council in Kingston Upon Hull, England, prohibited its trash collectors from wearing their traditional Santa hats this year, declaring that the hats "(do) not create a professional impression." [Wilmington Star, 12-10-06] [The Sun (London), 12-9-06]
Because jellyfish genes contain a protein that turns green, scientists have used them frequently in recent years in genetic modification work, including the protein's introduction into a potato to enable the spud to glow when it needs water (Scottish Agricultural College, June) and its proposed introduction into a Douglas spruce to create Christmas trees with glowing needles (Hertfordshire University, England, October). A similar process can be done with firefly genes, which was proposed for the Douglas spruce project and is also now being done with zebrafish in order to produce organisms that light up when they detect certain water pollutants (University of Cincinnati, December).
Yule Log Fire
Returning to the TV screen on Christmas morning was the WPIX-TV (New York City) "Yule Log," a two-hour "program" consisting of a shot of a log burning in a fireplace; it garnered a 3.1 rating (10 percent of all TVs on at the time) and helped the station to its day-long ratings victory. And Andy Park, 42, of Melksham, England, is still going strong, though concerned about his health recently; 10 years ago, he decided that Christmas dinner was so tasty that he should eat it (turkey and all the trimmings) every day of the year, and he figures he has since consumed more than 5,000 helpings of turkey, 7,300 helpings of mince pie and 8,000 glasses of sherry. [Yahoo-Variety, 12-27-01] [Western Daily Press, 12-24-01]
About 50 inmates at a Portuguese prison refused to eat special Christmas lunches because the bread, usually freshly baked, was not, due to bakeries having closed early the day before (Belas, Portugal). Police said a 29-year-old woman ordered her 11-year-old daughter to help her shoplift clothing, including some items the woman later returned to the girl as Christmas presents (Fort Myers, Fla.). [News Ltd. (Australia), 12-23-03] [Agence France-Presse, 12-26-03] [St. Petersburg Times-AP, 12-25-03]
And a Cloverdale, Australia, terminal cancer patient complained that he suffered through an agonizing Christmas because a Greenpeace protest shut down the Sydney nuclear reactor that makes his high-tech pain-relieving radioisotope Quadramet. [Washington Times, 12-17-01] [Tampa Tribune, 2-13-02] [Sunday Times (Perth), 1-13-02]
And finally but not least, The Jerry Seinfeld show aired an episode that was written by scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe. This episode became famous or infamous among fans because it focused on commercialism at Christmas. O'Keefe came up with a fictional celebration called Festivus. "The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength", and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles".
Twas the Night Before Christmas and I'm Still Not Feeling it
During a different era, old holiday television specials shown once spurred sightings of Santa and paid homage to one of our holiest days of the year. Before TV, stories and songs still prepared our hearts and minds with the Christmas spirit. However, it did not always automatically with a turn of a switch mean we are decked to the hall. History has shown other times of indifference that dampened our outlook on Old St. Nick and other holiday symbols including even the religious sanctity of it all.
To my surprise, there are a series of similar sentiment evident at various times. For instance, prior to the publishing of THE CHRISTMAS CAROL, Christmas was all but extinct. One reason the resurrection of the holiday rests with the impact from the Victorian literary character invented by Charles Dickens, Ebeneezer Scrooge and his story of the Christmas Carol. It seems crucial showing us that the trappings of man's indifference could lead us to suffer eternity wrapped with the chains we crafted throughout our lives played an important part. With Scrooge, he was saved of his own damnation by the haunting of three spirits, the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas Present, and the ghost of Christmas future. It seems that a combination of Dickens' haunting of Britain's' populous and the crucial contributions innocently introduced by Britannia' Prince Albert of his traditional German Christmas heritage proved to put the light back into the season. Dickens' actually came to be called "Father Christmas" nicknamed due to his revitalization and talent for detail as a writer successfully cast out hum bugs from Christmas.
Wrapped in the Chains of Indifference
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Christmas dismay is a well documented occurrence during several segments of our history on both a sociological and personal standpoint. There are a number of reasons for our opposition to Christmas. One of the more common reasons, most of us are acquainted, is the hype and commercialism associated with the holiday. It is easy to lose the Christmas spirit, when one is battling the consistent sprawl of the Christmas creep. After Thanksgiving dinner use to be the time to pass along a Christmas list, as family finished one celebration and braced for the next. Black Friday was such because it was "the FIRST" official shopping day for Christmas. Now, it has crept into late September, superseding even Halloween.
Another accolade against Christmas sums it all up insurmountably, it is simply, the act of growing up. Becoming an adult strains the strength of Christmas Spirit because of our diminished capacity to imagine or throw caution to the wind; but then, you add in our more cynical and less innocent outlooks on everything and it is the equivalents of the Grinch, Heat Miser, and Scrooge.
While Christmas does allow us to act like children again, it is not always captured the way we remember. We strive to relive the nostalgic feelings we once felt. The failure to accomplish those idealized memories can be an unforgiving folly. Whether you celebrate Christmas for the religious aspects, or you enjoy the festivities, or you follow tradition, it is commonplace to fall into a Christmas funk. “There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster"...Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2010-12-surviving-christmas-blues.html#jCp .
As adults, we at some time will lose some of that Christmas magic because of factors beyond our control. The most common reasons for our dismay during the holidays involve finances, social relationships, or stress. Sometimes our emotions encompass all of the above due to loneliness and loss. However, on occasion success does filter through salvaging our Christmas spirit for a time and like Dr. Seuss's Grinch, we are able to capture that spirit again, we just have to be willing.
Tidings of Comfort and Joy or Not
Have you ever experienced a BLUE CHRISTMAS?
Come Adore Him
From the holiday's conception, there has been controversy and growing pains. Contrary to what you may think, Christmas hasn't always been around. Actually, I really never thought about it before, but it had to start some how. Originally, Christmas was a form of celebration feasts honoring winter solstice. It came at the time of year when live stock would be butchered because there would not be enough feed for them the rest of the winter. Even of more importance for some, it is also the time grapes and other fermented items become ready. So, at this point there is an abundance of fresh meats that couldn't keep and kegs of drink that no longer needed to be kept. Therefore, the feasts could commence.
Winter Solstice is marked by the day of the year which is the shortest daylight and the longest night. The celebration traces back to early beginnings of time, as early as the year 900 and before. The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day "midwinter" (winter solstice) holiday called Yule (It is believed that the celebration of this day was a worship of these peculiar days, interpreted as the reawakening of nature. Julblotet was eventually integrated into the Christian Christmas. As a remainder from this Viking era, the Midsummer is still important in Scandinavia, and hence vividly celebrated.
The beginning of the pagan day, which in many cultures fell on the previous eve. Because the event was seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures which used cyclic calendars based on the winter solstice, the "year as reborn" was celebrated with reference to life-death-rebirth deities or "new beginnings" . Also "reversal" is yet another frequent theme, as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals. Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. Sometime before 352 AD, he decided December 25th to be the day celebrating "the Nativity". The custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century.
Christmas started taking on certain rituals of a collection of festivals. For our purposes, it is enough to elaborate further toward just the sentiments associated with Christmas, rather than digging deeper into it's origins. The 1600's through to 1800's Christmas did not resemble the format which we recognize. Due to primarily, religious reasons (ironically) Christmas was frowned upon by the Puritans/Pilgrims because it was based on pagan rituals.
Criticized for its commercialization, Protests against the pagan origins, and now subject to the political correctness instigated by other beliefs including agnostic, atheistic, or as a compromise from fear of offending others still plaque the Christmas holiday today. Sometimes, these societal growing pains or even our personal prejudices cramp our Christmas spirit. Intermittently throughout history, there are times that Christmas is relatively non-existent.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Winter Solstice Daylight Comparison Chart for World Cities
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Now that we have pieced together how the Pope decided on December 25 as the date for Christmas, we have also discovered how our more decorated traditions came about, and we also determined why the sentiments of the holiday are so dear to us. So, to carry on, how did the birth of Christ and Santa Claus come together as one celebration?
During a time of respite from the Christmas holiday, much like we learned earlier, both England and America created a new degree of celebration. Christmas didn't become an official holiday until June 26, 1870. For America, the Revolution caused many customs to cease because as the taste of independence grew. Christmas was just one of them affected. Interestingly enough though, the similarity between the United States and England's resurgence of the holiday is oddly related.
As mentioned earlier, the popularity of Christmas in England was partially due to the publications by Charles Dickens. Ironically, America's holiday renewal occurred about the same time and can rest in part on an American writer and also an illustrator for the modern portrayal of Santa Claus. A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS by Clement Moore 1822 gave us the story of our Santa as we now know him. He was based on St. Nicholas, a saint of giving. While the illustrator, Thomas Nast, used the TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS version of Santa in his idea and added more to his composite. Nast, contracted for Harper's combined a little of more of SINTERKLAAS (St. Nicholas) rather than Moore's version of the elf form from TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
An added accolade for Santa came to print when a little girl wrote a letter to the New York newspaper, asking if there was indeed a Santa Claus... "YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS". Unable to break the little girl's heart, the writer went on to exercise diplomacy in enlightening his readers to the possible existence if Santa was not real. So, without saying yes or no to her question, he eluded to the promise that there had to be a real Santa Claus.
It was the age of reformation, Victorian families validated themselves with extravagance but remained practical and utilitarian somehow. They expressed this philosophy architecturally, sociologically, and psychologically. For instance, for all practical purposes people think of the Victorian age as prim and proper; external appearances completely covered and etiquette stiff with formalities but internally, families were less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children. So when the opportunity to indulge under the guise of Christmas and Santa Claus, rather than observed as "spoiling" their children, the holiday celebrations fit. Even today, The sentiment of the holiday has the illusion of centuries old, yet it was only just reborn.
Yes, Virginia...Click thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas is for Children
What is the lesson we should learn from this "Odd Christmas Story"? Remember that the odds are high you will have at least one Blue Christmas or more in your life time. If you do, it is important not to be discouraged. If you celebrate the sacredness of the holiday, it will be your faith that should shine and share with the secular world. For no other reasons, the act of unlocking your chains of indifference will lighten your heart toward your fellow man. Let your self be a kid again. Keep all your Christmas memories, treasure your holiday traditions, and indulge in your family for at least one day a year. Don't let your adult life lose your spirit for being young and enjoy every minute you have with dignity, diligence, and determination.
© 2016 Tracey Walsh