The Imaginary War on Christmas

SatancupsJesus freaks are on the warpath – again. It’s that time of year, Christmas, when Christians celebrate the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ.

Of course, December 25th isn’t exactly when Christ was born (if, in fact, such an individual ever actually existed). When shaping the doctrine of modern Christianity, determining what Christians would believe and what would be abandoned (specifically, what stories would be adopted as the Bible, the alleged word of God, and what stories would be left out, no longer considered the word of God), Roman Emperor Constantine and his sanctimonious spin doctors decided to declare December 25th as the day Jesus was born.

They didn’t select this date at random. No, they stole it from pagans, the very people modern Christians claim have declared some sort of war on their Christmas holiday. Constantine and his word-of-God-declaring minions knew that their best bet for getting people to join and celebrate their new-found faith would be to co-opt an existing holiday they’re already celebrating, like the pagan one on December 25th, which celebrated the birth of their Sun God.

Yup, Son of God…Sun God…Constantine was a clever little charlatan. After all, not only did his co-opted holiday usurp and ultimately outlast the original pagan one, but his favorite stories are now considered the word of God.

Today’s activist Christians (those who disobey the teachings of Jesus to openly judge their fellow man instead of leaving that solemn responsibility to God, as their Bible teaches) claim that non-Christians have somehow declared war on their Christmas holiday. Apparently those of us who don’t follow their faith have been accused of not following their faith. In a nutshell, we are treating December 25th like any other day, and that simply will not do for them.

This, of course, happens every year – at least every year since the Republican party cut a deal with the devil and decided to defy the Constitution by mixing church and state in an effort to win more votes. Christian fundamentalists have become one of the most powerful special interest groups in Washington, forcing countless conservative politicians and their right wing propaganda outlets to declare that there is a phantom war on the holiday they stole from the pagans.

The latest target of their wraith is Starbucks, a company that dared to introduce maroon holiday cups for the holidays. The cups, according to the American Inquisition, lack the apparently essential Christian symbolism. Forgetting the fact that these cups are designed to celebrate the entire holiday season, including Judaism’s Chanukah and Islam’s Mawlid, it seems these Christians want Starbucks to reissue new cups that honor only their beliefs – perhaps by prominently displaying either a baby Jesus being born in a dung-filled manger or the cross that was used to slowly kill the adult Jesus. You know, to better celebrate the season.

It’s strange, though, because most of these activist Christians are also conservative voters, and as such they generally oppose government interference in the business sector. Yet they have their politicians out in front of the news media interfering with the way a company does business – specifically how they design their coffee cups. And, similarly, you never see these Christians or their lap-dog politicos going after retailers who have big sales on the holidays. They claim to oppose the commercialization of Christmas, but not if it’s going to diminish their investment portfolio.

What would Jesus do? Happy Holidays, even to the hypocrites!

Tapping My Inner Scrooge

USPSpeanutstampI love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, and possibly even my favorite time of year. And if you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past year, you know it’s not because I’m celebrating the alleged birthday of a dude named Jesus.

For me, Christmas is all about family and friends, spending quality time with the people who matter most, and giving. And I love to give. I’ve always been generous, and excessively so. Few things in life can compare to making someone you care about happy. And that’s what Christmas is all about, at least for me.

Now I don’t mind tipping the staff in my building. I never ask much of them throughout the year. I carry my own bags and repair my own stuff. But it’s good to know they are there if I ever need them. And most of them are pretty decent guys…hardworking, too. I can’t really afford it this year, but I’ll dig deep to give what I can to all 18 of them.

But I got a note in my mailbox the other day from my mailman. Or mailperson, as I’ve never actually met my mail carrier. It was a clear invitation for a tip, a holiday gratuity. And that kind of irks me.

The staff in my building handle all the deliveries, so the mailperson simply rolls in a cart of mail – all of which has been sorted and bundled by someone else back at the post office – and then stuffs those bundles of mail into numbered slots in the wall of our building’s mailroom. That’s it.

And we’re talking the US Postal Service here. I rarely get mail through them, and what I do get is mostly junk. I only check my mailbox about once a week. It’s like a spam folder, in that I have to occasionally check it just in case something valuable ends up there.

So there’ll be no holiday tip for my postal person. They have an easy enough job, and one that is – at least for me – rather useless. After all, I’m old enough to remember when the mail really mattered…back when it was the only way to send things…the only way to communicate long-distance beyond a telephone conversation. It was a real job back then, and those folks worked hard. In fact, long before religious freaks went on rampages, it was postal workers who periodically shot up their workplaces. There was even a name for it: Going Postal.

I hate to be a Scrooge, especially so close to the holidays, but that’s my rant. Not everyone deserves a tip. And those who do will receive as much as I can afford.

With that out of the way, Happy Holidays! Unless you’re my mailman, in which case the tip is in the mail…another old expression from back when that profession mattered.

Christmas Traditions

The innards of one of my finer Christmas balls produced over the years.

My family celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. Today, my family celebrates everything. After all, that’s the Christmas spirit.

But this year’s celebrations are special. It’s been a rough year for many of my friends. And a relative – the last survivor from the old generation – has just passed away.

That won’t dampen our spirit, though. One of the few upsides to tough times is that they help you appreciate what really matters: friends and family. And that has led to an even greater appreciation for the joy of giving this year, so I think it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas for my family.

Our final tray of Christmas cookies. Well, technically I suppose they are chocolates, but whatever.

In fact, this year I decided to pass on one of the family traditions to the next generation. My mother had taught me how to make our family’s secret Christmas balls, a special peanut butter dipped in chocolate cookie that I’ve now been making for the past 20-plus years.

My youngest nephew has always been eager to learn the recipe, and the magic that makes it work, so I had him join me this past weekend to learn the ways of the ball. It’s a two-day process, and things didn’t go exactly as planned. To be fair, we were experimenting with some new chocolate, and it was a learning moment. But I think they turned out okay. They are far from the best I’ve ever produced, but they’re still delicious.

Which, in a way, is kind of like Christmas. Things might not go quite like you planned. You may not get what you wanted, and your gifts might not produce the intended reaction. But it’s still Christmas, when the people nearest and dearest are gathered to give from the heart and stuff their face with chocolate peanut butter balls. And that’s all that really matters.

Happy Holidays!