The leaves are changing and falling off the trees. The weather is turning crisp. Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread lattes at your local Starbucks. And of course, the time for the perpetually offended to put on their holiday prune face.
Let us begin with Thanksgiving, or as some think of it: the gluttonous celebration of oppression and genocide. Sounds delicious!
Listen, I realize that history is a messy affair and there are no angels among the human race. Our nation’s history has highs and lows. Heck, all history has highs and lows. But the fact is, being thankful for having food on your plate, for surviving another year, and for family and friends and fermented beverages is pretty much a universal event. As to the various crimes against the Indians/Native Americans/American Aborigines/First People, I do believe this exchange from Buffy the Vampire Slayer sums it up. (You have to read, because no one on the internet has done a clip of this and I’m inept.)
Spike: I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians.
Willow: Uh, the preferred term is…
Spike: You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what Caesar did, and he’s not goin’ around saying, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.
Buffy: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of – Not that I don’t like Spaniards.
Spike: Listen to you. How you gonna fight anyone with that attitude?
Willow: We don’t wanna fight anyone.
Buffy: I just wanna have Thanksgiving.
Spike: Heh heh. Yeah… Good luck.
Willow: Well, if we could talk to him…
Spike: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It’s kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick.
Xander Maybe it’s the syphilis talking, but, some of that made sense.
So, we survive Thanksgiving, fatter, with a little more family baggage, and more or less intact. But now things are really gearing up. Because why Thanksgiving is often celebrated as a non-religious holiday (although how you can be thankful for something without actually being thankful to someone is beyond me), we are now hitting the veritable festive minefield: Christmas.
Don your battle gear and let’s look at all the ways winter festivities can be observed:
- You can celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, specifically a religious holiday.
- You can celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, with no religious connections whatsoever.
- You can celebrate other religious holidays.
- You can celebrate other secular holidays.
- You can not celebrate any holiday, feast, or special occasion.
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And then you can mix and match. Like this! (Yes, I realize it’s a bit overkill for a Venn Diagram. I got carried away.)
The point is there are a myriad of ways to celebrate the holidays. But whether you celebrate it or not, you can’t avoid the general trappings. Unfortunately, neither can you avoid the special brand of holiday jerks that accompany the season.
I’m not just talking about those who would forbid any public celebration of Christmas: the school Christmas concert, the city nativity display, or store clerk who would dare utter “Merry Christmas.” It’s not enough that their long winter nights are filled with gloom and despair, they live in fear that someone, somewhere, might be publicly expressing themselves in religious and/or culturally insensitive ways. (Although it does crack me up that they want to substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas.” Yes, happy holy days to you, too! Bwahahahahaha!)
In addition to the “burka your religion” crowd, there are the people who judge your level/manner of Christmas participation: the “You’re doing it wrong!” crowd.
- Do you use a artificial tree? You don’t get Christmas at all!
- Do you use a real tree? TREE KILLER!!11!
- Do you not celebrate Christ in Christmas? Jesus is the reason for the season, heathen!
- Do you move the birth of Christ from the spring to winter solely for the purpose of co-opting pagan holidays, when in fact the early Christian church probably didn’t observe the birth of Christ? Do you even read your Bible?
- Do you lie to your children and tell them about Santa? Liar, liar pants on fire. (Seriously, this can backfire on you, as the Headmistress can attest.)
- Do you cheat your kids out of one of the joys of childhood and ruin for every other kid in your child’s orbit? Scrooge!
- Festivus? Kwanzaa? Boxing Day? (Boxing Day? We beat the British! We don’t celebrate stinking Boxing Day!)
- Okay, other religions’ feasts get a pass from me, simply because I’m ignorant of their celebrations. But I’m sure quiet a few people could tell me all about the “right” way to celebrate Hanukkah. Or Chanukah. (Covering my bases here.) And Ramadan moves all over the place and has me feeling woozy.
I swear, it’s enough to make a girl want to hide until spring. Can’t we just celebrate what we want to celebrate the way we want to celebrate it? Seriously? If you aren’t sharing joy on Christmas, but rather are scolding people for not “doing it right”, perhaps you need to watch a few more Hallmark specials on the True Meaning of Christmas. Or Hanukah. Or Kwanzaa. We all have our beliefs about truth, and I’m not saying not to share them. Just don’t be a jerky killjoy, m’kay?
There is one last group of people that ought to be considered in our winter festivities. The ones just trying to make it through the season intact. Perhaps it’s their first (or second or fifteenth) without a loved one and it just hurts too much to go a wassailing. Maybe they put on a brave face, but in reality Christmas brings back horrible memories of those who were suppose to love them and didn’t. Perhaps their loved ones are far away, and they’re praying for their safe return. For a lot of reasons, the holidays are hard for some people. They populate every category of celebrators and non-celebrators. When I think about Dana and Amy, or about the families of soldiers overseas, or about any number of people who have really rough holidays, the petty arguments about the right way to celebrate life and family and grace seem very silly.
I wish you all peace this holiday season, however you celebrate it.