Category Archives: Christmas

Weirdness in the Crèche

The one that started it all for me.
The zombie Jesus nativity scene. Aka, the one that kick started this weird seasonal obsession of mine.

Many of you don’t know this, but I have a thing for weird nativity scenes. Actually, I have a thing weirdness in general, especially when that weirdness tweaks a few sanctimonious noses, and what better place to to do that than with a nativity scene? It’s a sickness, I know.

I became aware of this seasonal fascination last year, when an Ohio family caused an uproar with their zombie Jesus nativity. It was my favorite story of Christmas 2015. Even after they settled their issues with the town zoning board (yes, you read that right), someone was upset enough to leave them a note saying “GOD FROWNS UPON THIS MANGER SCENE,” with an explanation of why Jesus is not a zombie (again, you read that right).

This year, folks have their knickers in a twist over a new nativity scene: the Hipster Nativity Set. I know this because Jim Denison wrote an article for Charisma telling me so. Now, I’m no fan of hipsterdom, but anything that bothers Charisma News can’t be all bad. Can it?

But, friends, these two odd little scenes represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to weirdness in the crèche. And I, as your faithful and snarky guide to all things odd, have scoured the Interwebz to suss out what I believe are some the weirdest and most surreal (i.e. best ever) nativity scenes. Gaze upon the wonder, beloved:

mermaid-nativity
Flickr: Teyacapan

First up, we have the Mermaid nativity scene. I’m not sure what it’s made of or why anyone would even concieve of a mermaid Jesus, but that’s why this one is on the list: it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Besides, the craftsmanship is impeccable.

nativitytimer
Courtesy of whyismarko.com

This one not exactly a nativity scene and, to be honest, the inherent commercialization is a little troubling. But, I do have to admire a mind that could find a way to combine the birth of Christ and kitchen gadgets in such a unique way.

meat-nativity
flickr: Greg Chow

Behold the Meat Nativity. It’s made of bacon, breakfast sausage, cocktail wieners and deli meat.  And all that pork is arrayed on a bed of sauerkraut to represent the birth of history’s most famous and beloved Jew.

spam-nativity
Courtesy of whyismarko.com

Yes, that’s Spam. Why is it here? Um, because it’s a nativity scene carved entirely out of Spam?

batman-and-dino-nativity-scene
Courtesy of whyismarko.com

A nativity scene with Batman, multiple Darth Vaders and a T-rex? Yes, please!

tampon-nativity
TamponCrafts.com

And, lastly, we have this: a nativity scene made using tampons. But, that’s not the weirdest thing about this scene: it comes from TamponCrafts.com, a legitimate craft site that teaches you how to make things with tampons. Their tagline? “For any time of the month.”

Zombies In The Crèche?

Think this is a nice, peaceful nativity scene? Look a little closer.
Think this is a nice, peaceful nativity scene? Look a little closer.

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. And, that’s true…, as long as you color within the lines. But, if your approach to celebrating Christmas falls outside the norm, it is so not “the hap-hap-happiest season of all”. Don’t believe me? Just ask Jasen and Amanda Dixon of Sycamore, Ohio.

Like many people this time of year, the Dixon’s put up a life-size nativity scene. Unlike many people, their nativity scene is pissing people off. Why? Because everyone in this particular crèche, the baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and the wise men, are zombies. Yes, beloved, you read that right: zombies. As in the undead, walkers, ghouls, zeds…, well, I think you get my point. And, that’s not sitting well with some folks.

If you’re thinking that those folks are religious, you’d be right. Last year, when Dixon first put up his zombie-themed nativity scene, a Baptist pastor from Indiana took to the internet, saying “The blasphemy that’s going on. The blasphemy!” And, this year, some other Baptists left a pamphlet that said “GOD FROWNS UPON THIS MANGER SCENE”. Someone needs to tell these people they are not helping the brand.

Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the Divine’s panties are not in a wad over a manger scene in a small, central Ohio town. In reality, there are much bigger fish to fry than one man’s twisted representation of Jesus’ birth. Like, say, the fact that too many people in this world don’t have any fish to fry.

Of course, it’s not just the religious community that’s having a hissy fit over the Dixons’ holiday decorating choices; Sycamore town officials are not pleased. Not, they say, because his crèche is offensive to Christians, but because it violates zoning regulations. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’m sure none of the council members are God-fearing church folks who are offended by the display and are using their position to defend their faith (and by “defend their faith”, I mean “shit on others”). Christians just don’t roll that way. Right?

The town isn’t playing around, either. Last year, officials let things slide and dropped the charges. But, this time around, they’re a little less forgiving. They rejected Dixon’s permit application and are threatening to fine the couple $500 a day as long as the scene stays up. Repeated attempts to contact the zoning office have not met with success.

While I, personally, think the Dixons’ crèche is pretty fucking awesome, I can see where it might not be someone else’s cup of tea. But, here’s the thing: if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. I have a feeling that people who are expending so much effort to control how the Dixon’s decorate for Christmas are the same ones who cite infringement of their religious freedom when someone tells them they can’t treat others like shit. I also have a feeling that they see no conflict between those two things.

You know, if your faith can’t handle a relatively easy tweak of the nose like a zombie nativity scene, then maybe you need to rethink that faith. Otherwise, you’re going to spend a lot of time being pissed off. And, I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Gospel is all about.

Advent South Of The Border Style

No, not Mexico, I’m talking about The Tackiest Place On Earth, good old S.O.B., located right on the border of North and South Carolina. To the uninitiated, this may seem like an odd comparison to make, but someone who’s driven the stretch of I-95 between Virginia and Georgia might just get it.

Why, you ask? Well, somewhere after crossing into North or South Carolina from those states, you’ll begin seeing billboards like this:
640px-South_of_the_Border_sign_10_-_You_never_sausage_a_placeAnd, yes, they are all just as tacky and silly as the one in the picture (On a side note, an article published today on Roadside America says that all the “Mexican-speak” signs are gone. That’s probably a good thing, as they were more than a little offensive with text like, “Pedro No Shoot Ze Bool!”). And, the closer you get to S.O.B., the frequency of the signs increases to the point that you’re seeing multiple signs per mile. In my twisted mind, there’s a pretty good parallel to Advent in there.

To understand why I think that, we’ll need to go back to my childhood in the mid to late 1960’s. That’s when my family began vacationing in Myrtle Beach. I couldn’t tell you much about the actual vacation, but I vividly remember those signs. They began an hour or so into the journey and the further we traveled, the more billboards we saw and the more the anticipation built. It reached a crescendo with the last sign which occurred less than a mile before South of the Border, all its tacky glory, came into view. Let me tell you, seeing that giant neon Pedro was like Christmas morning after that.

If you’re wondering how this could possibly be anything like Advent, you have obviously haven’t driven through southeastern North Carolina. It can be a rather desolate place, without much scenery to break things up, making the perfect setting for the expectant waiting that is Advent. Flatlands and pine trees can get pretty tedious after a couple of hours and leave you begging for any break in the monotony, even something as simple as a sign for Kickapoo Joy Juice. When those S.O.B. billboards start appearing, they are a balm to the soul and you begin to anxiously anticipate the next one, and the next one, and the next one…, well, you get the picture. And, when you get there? It’s a glorious explosion of wonderfulness. Tacky wonderfulness, to be sure. But, it’s still pretty great.

Sadly, after a couple of years, we quit going that way. My dad always said he found a better, quicker route to Myrtle Beach, but I think he got tired of my brother and I begging him to stop (he did once, but that’s a story for another day). In the intervening years, I all but forgot about South Of The Border. That changed a few years ago when Diana and I made the first of our biannual trips to Florida. As we made our way down I-95, I began seeing the signs and that familiar anticipation began to well up once again. By the time the Sombrero Tower came into view, I felt like I was 8 years old again. It was almost as glorious as it was all those years ago.

Is this a stupid and trivial treatment of a beloved church season? Probably. But, stupid and trivial is what I’m good at and I believe one should always play to their strengths. That means you get one of the weirder takes on Advent this year. You’re welcome, beloved.

The War On Christmas

broken
As many of you know, I’ve spent a great deal a decent amount a lot some time declaring that the War on Christmas is bullshit. In the past, I’ve hinted that it’s a smokescreen perpetrated by a certain news channel to blind the masses to how they’re getting screwed or a ploy by a cynical media whore to garner a little more attention for himself. but no more. The War on Christmas is real and it’s time we took up arms to defend our traditions.

What the hell am I talking about? The Reese’s Christmas tree candy, that’s what. Each holiday season, the Hershey Company puts out a special edition of the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup: an egg for Easter, a pumpkin for Halloween, and a Christmas tree for the Yuletide season.  To say that these candies don’t actually bear any resemblance to anything other than a blob of chocolate-covered peanut butter is an understatement; the Christmas edition looks about as much like a Christmas tree as Santa does Baby Jesus. Check it out:

CSx65CFU8AEbXQh

People are tired of this kind of crap, you guys. I know this because I read an article on Fox that said so. Titled “Reese’s fans think special edition Christmas tree candy look like ‘turds‘” (which may be the most awesome headline in the history of journalism), the author says that the candy’s shape is “more fecal than festive” and that disappointed fans have taken to social media to express their disapproval. They give several examples of those comments and tweets, the best of which comes from someone going by @shelflife_shop, who said “ you call it a tree. I think the rest of us see it as a turd.” Amen, @shelflife, a-freakin’-men.

Now, some folks might point out that the confection is such a delicious combination of peanut butter and chocolate that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. Or, that if you’re busy stuffing it in your mouth, you won’t have time to notice its shape. And, of course, some wag is sure to say “Isn’t the Christmas tree a pagan symbol?” Maybe it was once, but like everything else in this country, it’s been assimilated into the cult of Republican Jesus the Christian faith (Resistance is futile, so give it up, you hippies). But, all that misses the point, which is that this is yet another assault on the season where we celebrate the birth of our savior by eating too much, buying people we don’t really like crap they don’t really need and assuaging a year’s worth of guilt by volunteering at a soup kitchen or writing a big check for agencies that help “less fortunate” (which is the preferred option, since we can write it off on our taxes).

Is this as stupid as the furor over the Starbucks cup last month? Of course, it is. But, what’s Christmas in America without all little faux outrage these days? Without it, I might actually have to think about how fucked up things are in this country. God knows we can’t don’t want that.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Red cup returns ! #starbucks #holiday #ueno
On Monday, I weighed in on the Starbucks holiday cup controversy that, it turns out, isn’t all that controversial. At least, that’s what some folks are trying to say. Conservatives are claiming that no one is upset about Starbucks decision to go with an unadorned red cup this holiday season in place of the more Christmas-ey versions from years past. And, at least one progressive voice has said the whole thing is “much ado about nothing.” Of course, it is; the statement “much ado about nothing” is the most accurate descriptor used for the Right’s “War on Christmas” since the damn thing began. But, does that phrase apply to the cup story? That’s a good question, so let’s see if we can come up with an answer.

In a post on his blog, “The Holy Kiss”, Roger Wolsey says, “It seems that the ONLY conservative Christian who was upset about it was a “pastor” whose primary ministry is posting self-glorifying rants on YouTube.” Well, not exactly. You see, in a follow-up to the Breitbart London article that spawned this “nontroversy“, Tory MP David Burrowes said the cup’s design was most likely a bow to “political correctness”. And, the Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert asked “What is it about Christmas that Starbucks are afraid of celebrating?” adding that “They should get involved and stop being Scrooges.” A Buzzfeed article also included screenshots of tweets from regular folks who were less than pleased, most of them showing their displeasure by expressing an intent not to spend any money with the chain. Granted, this doesn’t add up the “movement” Feuerstein hoped to generate, but it’s not exactly “nothing”.

Conservative media hasn’t been silent on the matter, either. The New York Daily News ran an article quoting student pastor Nate Weaver, who wrote on Facebook, “I’m officially banning Starbucks from my life”. Of course, most of the conservative offerings seem to be an attempt to downplay the matter. The Federalist, The Blaze and Right Wing News have all run pieces laying the whole thing at the feet of Feuerstein and claiming that no one is actually upset about it. Which, as I’ve just shown, is not strictly true. Of course, publications like these wouldn’t trash a story because it makes conservatives look stupid, would they now?

Interestingly, The Blaze’s piece  says the “controversy” hardly represents “conservative Christian thought, or any thought in general.” It then goes on to say that it was “invented by anti-Christian bloggers and cable news personalities, aided by the work of one or two convenient patsies, and designed to make all Christians look weak and ridiculous.” That’s eerily similar to Bristol Palin’s comment that the whole thing was “an attempt by the LEFT to make Christians look stupid.” Yeah, as if Christians need any help looking stupid; we’re doing a fine job all by ourselves.

Whether this tempest in coffee cup is an actual controversy or an aborted attempt by an attention whore to get people to…, well get attention, what it is not is an attack on Christmas or Christians. Starbucks still sells a coffee they call “Christmas blend” and they still sell the same seasonal drinks (aka flavored sugar-water that has been in the same building as actual coffee). They still sell Advent calendars, gift cards that say “Merry Christmas”, even Christmas tree ornaments (although, it is a representation of the hated red cup, so maybe I shouldn’t have included it). But, this whole stupid mess is indicative of the farcical exercise known as “The War on Christmas”. Which, as I said at the beginning of this post, is most definitely “much ado about nothing”.

The Battle Of The Cup

Red cup returns ! #starbucks #holiday #ueno

Apparently, this is what a “war on Christmas” looks like.

I had originally planned to start this piece by telling you that the conservative’s “War on Christmas” has started early this year, thanks to Starbucks’ new minimalist holiday cup design. Unless you live under a rock, however, you already know that because “The Battle Of The Cup” is all but inescapable. If, however, you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is in a nutshell: the 2015 Starbucks holiday cup is red and unadorned with any Christmas-ey decorations. For some reason, that has sent conservative Christians into a frenzy and declare that Starbucks did so “because they hate Jesus.” I don’t know who started this shit, but Starbucks needs to track them down and thank them because you just can’t buy this kind of publicity.

This brouhaha started over the weekend and, by now, it has been written/discussed/dissected by people much smarter than I and all the decent, intelligent comments about this situation have already been made  so there’s no point in my going there. But, that’s okay because it allows me to play to my strengths: ridicule and sarcasm. And, I have to say, if ever a situation called for ridicule and sarcasm, it’s this one.

Think about it for a minute: Some Christians, members of the dominant culture in this country (78.4% of Americans identify as Christian, a decline from previous studies), are upset because a business decides not to cater to their whim and declare that it’s part of some liberal, PC “War on Christmas”. I swear, some days, this shit writes itself.

Now, most of this freak out is part of the the aforementioned “War on Christmas”, which is really a fabrication perpetrated by a certain television news network to keep conservatives whipped up about bullshit so they don’t realize how badly they’ve been used by the Republican Party. But, that whole “decline in the number of people who identify as Christian” plays a role, too. If only because, without it, said news network wouldn’t have any fear to play on and what would they do then?

Seriously though, have things gotten so bad for Christians that we can no longer afford to share the month of December with folks who believe a little differently? I mean, we’ve only been sharing this month for, well, as long as there’s been this thing called Christmas. In the next month and a half, there are at least 8 non-Christian holidays being celebrated. Granted, the majority of them are either Muslim or Pagan, which don’t really count as far as the folks who have their knickers in a twist over all this are concerned. But, at least one of those holidays is Jewish and I thought we liked Jews. Or, do we only like Jews when we’re separated by an ocean?

But, all the reasons aside, I really don’t get what all the shouting’s about. I mean, it’s not like previous Starbucks holiday cups were an integral part of “putting the Christ back in Christmas”. In years past, the cups have featured snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas ornaments, and other secular symbols of the season. No nativity scenes, no stars, no Madonna’s (Jesus’ mom, not the singer). So, what’s the big deal about a plain red cup? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that most of these people were singing some piece of crap song about red cups? Maybe if they’d put a little of the stuff from their red solo cup into the Starbucks cup, they wouldn’t be so pissed off.

Look, there are plenty of things in this country that are a war on the very spirit of Christmas: violence, poverty, hunger, racism, homelessness, etc. Why is it that those things are bearable, but a fucking paper cup that doesn’t have Christmas crap plastered all over it means secular forces have declared war on the season? A more cynical person would probably say it’s because getting mad at Starbucks doesn’t require people to do actually do anything other than be outraged, while addressing those other things might mean giving up some of our stuff or interacting with “those people”. But, I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all.

I’m Dreaming Of A White(washed) Christmas?

Something's missing from this picture, but I'm not quite sure what.
Something’s missing from this picture, but I’m not quite sure what.

Well, I did it, beloved. I made it all the way through Advent without talking about Christmas once (okay, so maybe I mentioned once or twice, But, still…). But, now that the Christmas season is here, I can yammer away as much as I want and not worry that some damn high-church liturgy freak will try to “educate” me about church seasons. At least, I can until January 6th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany. After that, it’s time to prepare for Lent((Oh boy!)), which marginally better than Advent because at least there’s the promise of decent weather at the end. It’s not easy being a curmdugeon at Christmas, but someone has to do it.

Now that Christmas has finally gotten here, let’s talk about something that is usually swept under the rug: racism in our celebration of the holiday. And, if you don’t think this is a thing, you really need to open your eyes because even a cursory look will reveal the racism is evident in Christmas. From art to music to Jolly Old Saint Nick, himself, we have whitewashed this holiday so completely that very little of the original people involved remains.

Let’s start with art. Take a look at Gerard van Hanthorst’s painting of the Nativity:
 1622Gerard_van_Honthorst
 Now, what do you see? A group of people gathered around a manger in a stable, oohing and ahhing over 8 lb 6 oz new born infant Jesus? Sure; but, look a little closer. Notice anything about those people? Like, maybe they’re all white, European folks? That’s interesting since Jesus was born in 1st century Palestine and, at that point, most white European folks didn’t even know that Palestine existed, much live there. To steal from paraphrase a current meme, perhaps Jesus’ greatest miracle was being born a white guy in 1st century Palestine.
Next, there’s music. There are many excellent African-American carols, like this version of Children, Go Where I Send Thee:

If that doesn’t give you the chills, something’s wrong. But, most of us only know about Mahalia Jackson singing Go Tell It On The Mountain. And, even you do look for these songs, good luck finding a version that isn’t performed by white artists. That’s a problem and not just because you’re cheating yourself out of some excellent music by excellent musicians.
Lastly, there’s Saint Nicholas. These days, when you say St. Nick, the first image that pops into people’s minds is of a jolly fat man in a red suit who just happens to be whiter than sour cream, i.e. Santa Claus, probably because Saint Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving. While that reputation seems to be based on legend and folklore((which is still cool since it inspires people to be a little less shitty to others, if only once a year)), we do know some things about the real Saint Nicholas: like the fact that he was born into wealthy Greek family in the Roman province of Lycia et Pamphylia, which is now part of Turkey in 270 CE. In other words, St. Nick was one of the brown people, not a lily-white pagan god who ultimately morphed into the jolly fat guy we know today. Here’s an interesting side note: Sinterklaas (a Dutch holiday figure who contributed his name to the current dude) had a sidekick named Zwarte Piet, who just happens to be a black guy. While Sinterklaas has pagan roots((see “lily-white pagan god” link above)), Zwarte Piet’s origins are little later, sometime around 1850. But, even here, people of color get screwed because Zwarte Piet is traditionally played by a white person in blackface. Isn’t that nice?
Like everything else in this world, Christmas wouldn’t be what it is without our brothers and sisters of color. Maybe it’s about time we realized that and did something about it.

The Christmas Truce

Christmas eve 1914100 years ago today, something amazing happened. In the midst of the horror that was World War I, men stopped trying to kill each other, came together between the lines and celebrated Christmas.

December of 1914 was still early in that epic struggle and both armies had only recently given up mobile warfare and settled into the trenches that have come characterize The Great War. The previous month had seen the end of the Race to the Sea which had resulted in a series of fortified positions reaching from the Swiss border to the North Sea in Belgium. In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, there had been some attempts at arranging a truce: one by a group of British suffragettes and another by Pope Benedict XV. Both were unsuccessful. As is usually the case in war, it fell to the ordinary soldier to get things done.

It all started in the Ypres sector, where German troops decorated their trenches with candles, put up Christmas trees and began singing Christmas carols. British troops across the way began singing carols in return and, eventually, a few troops from each side ventured into No Man’s land and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs((buttons, caps, badges, etc)). Artillery fire ceased and the truce allowed both sides breathing space to recover their dead. There are even stories of football matches(soccer games to us barbaric Americans) between the combatants.

The truce wasn’t confined to the Ypres region, nor just to the British and Germans. In the Commines sector, a similar truce occurred between French and German troops(no football matches, though) and the soldiers, who only days before had been doing their level best to murder each other, met between the lines, exchanging food, cigarettes and alcohol(the fuel that armies really run on). Some of these truces ended Christmas night, while others lasted until New Year’s Day. But, for a few days, soldiers on both sides were able to recover a little bit of humanity in that hell on earth.

Of course, the generals were not happy with the truces. They knew the dangers inherent in these events: if their troops spent too much time with the enemy, they might begin to see them as human beings and that would ruin everything. It’s a lot easier to kill a Hun or a Boche than it is the fellow with whom you shared a cigarette and compared notes about family. Commanders issued orders forbidding contact with the enemy, but they were mostly ignored(a notable exception was Adolf Hitler). After Christmas, the generals got their wish and things went back to “normal”, with each side attempting to dismantle the other.

Spontaneous truces broke again in 1915, but not on the same scale. Maybe the orders against fraternization issued by commanders had some effect. Or maybe another year of brutality had squashed the desire to put aside differences and celebrate the birth of a man called the Prince of Peace. Who knows. What we do know is that 1915 was the last time that troops met between the trenches, exchanging gifts and greetings. Subsequent Christmases saw soldiers singing carols to each other or throwing gifts across No Man’s Land, but nothing more.

What can be learned from Christmas 1914? Well, if men involved in a conflict as horrific as WWI can put aside their differences for a little while and behave like human beings, should it be so hard for us to do the same today? Maybe if we took a page out the German’s book and extended an olive branch to our enemies (both personal and national), things might turn out okay. Stranger things have happened, you know.

It’s Advent (Sigh) Pt V

My expression whenever one of my friends waxes eloquent about Advent
My expression whenever one of my friends waxes eloquent about Advent

It’s usually around this point that I begin wondering why I chose to do a series of blog posts and this time is no exception. Chalk it up to my ADHD, but maintaining focus on a subject for more than a couple of posts can be difficult, to say the least. But, we’ve come this far, so let’s finish things up with Peace. 

Once again, I’m sure you’re wondering how I can have a problem with the word “peace”. Especially as a progressive Christian. I mean, aren’t all progressives non-violent peacenik Jesus hippies? No, not really. Well, let’s say that I’m not a non-violent peacenik Jesus hippie; I want to be, but I’m not there yet because society isn’t there yet. But, I digress. Once again, my problem is not so much with “peace” as it is the way we talk about it.

Much the same way Christians have trivialized “joy”, they’ve reduced “peace” to a good feeling you get when you’re saved. We’re all way too familiar with this bumper sticker:

Know Jesus Know Peace

I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever I see it, I think “What utter bullshit”. Because, if you really know Jesus, peace shouldn’t be on the agenda.

Even Jesus’ own words back me up on this. In Matthew, he says

Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.

Before you get your panties in a wad, understand that I’m not quoting this as a justification for doing violence. I read this passage as Jesus serving notice of his intention to upend a status quo that has no place in the beloved community to come((I have issues with imperial language like “Kingdom of God”)). Like all scripture, this passage needs context to be understood. That context tells us of time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; when violence wasn’t the answer, it was the question (the answer was “yes”); when women and children were second-class citizens at best and religion was a servant of power, not the people. Any of that sound familiar?

In case it doesn’t let me break it down for you: today, the gap between rich and poor is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. A study published earlier this year shows that “the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families((italics mine)), and that wealth is about 10 times as unequal as income”. While violent crime is on the decline in this country, in the last 4-5 months, we have once again been forced to confront the fact that young black men face far greater risk of state-sponsored violence than their white counterparts. There are politicians working overtime to undermine the rights that women have fought so hard to get and seem to be hellbent on removing the social safety net that protects children and ensures that every child, regardless of family wealth or social standing, has adequate nutrition and a good education. And, all too often, the Church is complicit in these acts. So, if you call yourself a Christian and feel at peace, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

Of the four words associated with Advent (hope, joy, peace and love), peace is the one I struggle with the most. Really, it was the inspiration for this series. Why is it included here? How are we supposed to feel peace when we live in a world that delights in shitting on people? What do I have to do to feel this peace? ((FYI, if anyone comments that all I have to do is accept Jesus as my personal Lord and savior, I will not react as a nonviolent, peacenik Jesus hippie)) The truth is, like so much of the Christian faith, Advent leaves me with more questions than answers. Which is the real reason I’m not really a fan.

Happy Effin’ Holidays

Happy holidays vs Merry ChristmasAh, yes, Christmas is almost upon us((I almost said it was “the Christmas season is here”, but didn’t because pedantic liturgy nut would’ve felt the need to correct me with “It’s Advent! Christmas doesn’t start until Christmas Day.”)), which means some people have the their panties in a wad. Well, that’s not strictly true, since the people I’m talking about always seem to have their shorts in a knot. A better way to put it would be that, right now, their knickers are twisted for a different reason. And, what might that reason be? Folks saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, that’s what.

Personally, I don’t care whether you say “Happy Holidays”, “Merry Christmas” or “Kiss my ass, you bastard”. Okay, I might take exception to being called a “bastard”, so strike that last one. But, I think you know what I mean. I do not understand folks getting so bent out of shape about this. You’re pissed because someone said something nice to you? What the fuck?

Of course, most of the people who are upset about the use of this phrase identify as Christians. They also tend to be more conservative and believe there is a War On Christmas and that Christians are being persecuted in this country (if you’re wondering whether you are, check out this handy-dandy flow chart). I won’t say they’re wrong, but I will say it’s funny that changing the date we celebrate Jesus’ birth to accommodate a Roman celebration, the addition of pagan traditions and rituals (see previous link) and the rampant consumerism (which is a funny way to celebrate the birth of a man who told his followers to not worry about food, drink, safety or shelter because God would provide all that) that characterizes Christmas these days isn’t an attack on Christmas, but a nice, heartfelt greeting is. Go figure.

One of the more interesting bits about “Happy Holidays” is that it significantly predates the modern-day culture wars of which it’s such a big part. Its use dates back at least as far as the 1860’s and was fairly common by the 1890’s. In other words, it was around way before the current (nonexistent) PC plot to eliminate Christianity from the United States.

Being the contrarian that I am, the uproar over “Happy Holidays” just makes me want to say it more than I already do. As a curmudgeon, it makes me feel like Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge who said “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with a ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” Is that a little extreme? Yes, it is. It’s called hyperbole and all the cool kids use it.

Here’s the bottom line: if you want to wish me “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “Joyous Kwanzaa”, “Hanukkah Sameach”(Happy Hanukkah) or “Reasons Greetings” (for all you atheists out there), go ahead; I’m cool with all of them. All I ask is that you don’t be an ass about it. Okay?