I’m sure you’ll agree that this time of year is usually fraught with religious symbolism. Trees, stars, angels, bells, candy canes, mistletoe, wreaths, gingerbread men, candles … and crap. Yes, I imagine that most Americans know very little of traditions involving festive poop, but they are out there.
For example, not to be confused with the Yule Log, there is the Spanish Tió de Nadal, woefully translated as Christmas Log. On Christmas day or on Christmas eve, the log is placed partly in the fireplace and ordered to defecate. To make it “shit”, it is then beaten with sticks while traditional songs about it are sung. In the weeks leading up to this tradition, a hollow log is ‘fed’ nightly with small candies, nuts and sometimes figs … as well as a salt herring or head of garlic which when dropped suggests the log is all ‘crapped out’. It has been suggested that in recent years, the log was even graced with a red hat to make it more festive.
Also in Catalan, Spain, a common though often misunderstood custom is the placing of ‘El Caganer’ in the corner of nativity scenes. There are many beliefs for the inclusion of the Caganer, literally translated as ‘the shitter’, but the ones I think are most salient are that it reminds us of the idea that all men are created equal and also of the importance of fertilizing and giving something back to the Earth from which we sprang.
To most in Spain, the Caganer is a symbol of good luck, good health and peace of mind. For the religious it signifies that Jesus was born a man, and that when God is ready to reveal himself, he will do so whether we are ready or not. Of course, for the fecal humor intensive, it’s just a gas and it takes the piss right out of the holier than thou lot!
Relatedly, in Santa Monica, California, an almost 60-year old annual mega-exhibition of various life-size nativity scenes, at one pont numbering 14 dioramas, fell under attack by non-local atheist groups invoking the ‘fifth amendment’ and the separation between church and state. These out-of-towners and spoil sports inundated the city’s lottery for the traditional nativity oriented spaces. Consequently, this year there were a grand total of 3 nativity scenes, and apparently 11 spaces filled with mainly with posters and bearing mind numbing slogans like:
- “Reason’s Greetings”
- “You know it’s a myth!”
- “This year, celebrate REASON.”
- “Religions are all alike — founded on fables and mythologies”
- “37 million Americans know myths when they see them.”
Normally, I’m not one for engaging in debates regarding the separation of church and state. I have no desire to force my ideas on others or to brow beat those I disagree with simply to self-aggrandize my own spiritual or secular beliefs … well not usually … (long pregnant pause) … ok, well sometimes I do. But still, I do think that rabid atheists and agnostics should show a bit more tact in expressing their own beliefs than by taking a dump on the sensitivities of those who are simply making merry with their own beliefs.
Yes, it certainly seems like the spirit of brotherhood has been lost on upholding the American virtue of free speech and fair play. The holiday season has become a contest of one-upmanship for both the religious and secular minded. If indeed there ever was a time for a holiday symbol to unite us all, now would be it (cue the music for South Park’s Mr. Hanky, The Christmas Poo).
And, let’s not forget that besides Christmas, there is also Hanukkah, Kwanza, and even Newtonmas. Oh you haven’t heard of Newtonmas, also coincidentally falling on December 25th? Why, that’s the celebration of the birth of Issac Newton. It’s a special day hallowed by atheists, skeptics and physics professors … you know, the nerdy heathens that Santa reserve lumps of coal for. Those who celebrate the day exchange apples and science themed gifts. They even have their own carols and put up pseudo christmas trees, some of them topped with an Albert Einstein ornament. Note: Newtonmas is not sanctioned by Scientologists, nor the chamber of commerce of Newton, Massachusetts.
In reality, the fabric of ‘christmastide’ is all too easy to pick apart. In fact, in some cases it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. Here are some examples:
- Throughout the years, many parents regularly lie to their kids about Santa just in order to control their behavior.
- Many of the symbols and customs associated with Christmas, originated in Pagan celebrations such as Saturnalia.
- Originally, the Catholic Church did not endorse Christmas, and still does not specifically preach that Jesus was born on December 25th. The date was apparently chosen to clash with Pagan celebrations of the winter solstice and winter festivals, with the view of replacing them with one of a Christian nature.
- The story of Santa Claus apparently condones tresspassing on private property, as well as “breaking and entering”, which in most places are crimes.
- The origins of ‘Santa Claus’ varies from culture to culture. None of the related supposed individuals wore red. The Americanization of Santa Claus was characterized by the same cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who also created the Democratic and Republican party symbols. By the way, just in case you were wondering, Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus, nor did it invent his suit. For that matter, neither did Colonel Sanders.
- Although the Charles Dickens’ fictional character of Ebenezer Scrooge eventually reformed his stingy ways and went on to commit great humane acts of charity and kindness, he is basically remembered as an asshole. Mythbuster: at the end of the story, he did not carve the Who’s rare roast beast; that was the Grinch.
- The Pope, representing an organization reportedly worth perhaps as much as 400 billion of dollars in material riches, urged his followers to strip away the superficial glitter and glitz of the Christmas season, dismiss consumerism and rediscover the true nature of the holiday, “the child in the stable in Bethlehem”. I guess he wasn’t talking about the Caganer.
Christmas Rebooted: H0-H0-No!
For me, Christmas and the holidays in general have more to do with the spirit of celebration and joy than religion. It’s about giving, sharing and expressing the sentiments to loved ones that you unabashedly hold in check throughout the years. Understandably, the holiday is sacred to some, but I’d venture to say that as man reveals more and more of his true nature and as our values as a society evolve, so must the meaning of Christmas. Still, taking Christ out of Christmas is like taking the egg out of eggnog. I understand that, and I’m not even Christian, though I do celebrate the holiday in my own festive and gastronomical ways.
So, perhaps the time has come for us to re-evaluate what the holiday season really means. Perhaps we should dispense with the excessive spending on food, drink, home decorations and gifts. Last I heard gluttony and avarice where sort of sins. Maybe we should do away with 200-gigawatt flashy Christmas light home displays that contribute to global warming and that blind poor wayfaring night creatures. Staying home and sharing family quality time might be a better idea than running off to see the latest Hollywood holiday blockbuster. In the process, maybe we can lower the holiday suicide rate and even save a few trees from the wood-choppers’ blades?
Really! Who needs tinsel, eggnog, candy canes, another stuffed turkey dinner, and Santa, as well as Frosty and Rudolph, anyway? Let’s defy the expectations of others and be true to ourselves and just say no to outdoing last year’s holiday expenditures. Let’s send a clear message to Big Business that we won’t be led to financial slaughter just to buy our kids overpriced toys they only get bored with by New Year’s. Moreover, maybe we can come to the realization that a human life is worth more than a few measly bucks saved by stampeding over each other on Black Friday. In addition, perhaps we could stop depending on a hanging mistletoe just to steal a kiss from someone we fancy but don’t have the guts to go up say hello to, or from those we’d have a snowball’s chance in hell of scoring a kiss from anyway? And lastly and most importantly, maybe we can just stand together in an open meadow and hold hands while we sing about love, peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind …
I say, bring on the New Year’s celebration! As far as I’m concerned, life is too short, so any reason to celebrate anything is good enough for me. 🙂
P.S. To all my loyal readers, I want to wish you and yours Happy Holidays and a Merry ‘Very’!
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