Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clear and Present Damon: Its the most wonderful time of the year?: Part 2

Didn't Thanksgiving go by fast? Oh well, now its time to break out the Christmas lights and deck the halls because Christmastime is here again.

But it seems like more and more as the years go by, this holiday becomes more and more commercial and less and less secular. So an appropriate place to begin this column is where it all began in the little town of Bethlehem. But how do we know that Jesus was actually born in December. Actually, nobody knows at what exact time of the year when he was born, but to adhere to pagan winter solstice celebrations across the world, the church decided it was the appropriate time to put the savoirs birthday at this time. After all, there were no other holidays in that timeslot yet(besides Chaunakah, but thats another story).

Christmas was a widely adopted as a secular holiday by the Catholic church, but not all Christmas festivities were religous. Christmas festivities across Europe involved drinking and dancing, a lot of citizens went about the streets drinking and the church thought it was getting out of hand. Surprisingly, this is where we get many of our festive Christmas carols from. And you thought Christmas wasn't a big drinking holiday.

When the puritans came to the new world, they banned Christmas saying that it was too pagan along with many beloved holidays of today. Of course we know how much of a killjoy the puritans were and America soon grew out of the whole anti-Christmas thing. And America would give birth to the defining character of the holiday. The jolly Santa Claus.

There was an actual guy called St. Nicholas who lived in what now is modern day Turkey. An old legend says that in order to save three impoverished girls from selling themselves into prostitution, St. Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down there chimney. In time Santa would downgrade from bags of gold due to budget cuts at the north pole. Hey, even he is feeling the effects of the economy. Another legend is that of Sinterklaas, a European variant of Santa. Sinterklaas also delivers toys but also has another person come with him that was lost in the American version of the Santa legend. A devil figure that comes with Sinterklaas to scare naughty children. Also due to budget cuts, the devil companion was laid off and Santa resorted giving coal to the naughty children. Don't worry about our devil friend here. I here he's open to doing the next Exorcist move.

The American version of Santa was epitomized in Clement Clarke Moores poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." You know, the one that goes "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the etc..." Also new to the Santa legend is the reindeer. Actually their described as eight tiny reindeer, which is necessary, because regular sized reindeer are huge.

As Football is Thanksgivings must watch event, Christmas is packed with specials. As a kid I used to love these. Now there all sort of humdrum to me. The most sucessful special of them all is 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Why it is so sucessful i have no idea. It has no reindeer with a glowing nose, or a talking snowman. The Charlie Brown catoons normally have him taking a lot of verbal abuse and i'm surprised he is not in a mental institution as of today, I guess because it talks more about the secular part of Christmas more tha the commercial side is what has made this special last as long as it has.

As I spend my Christmas break relaxing at home and anticipating the "Doctor Who" Christmas special, by the way, this is the first time that it will be aired on Christmas in the U.S. Usually we have to wait till spring in order for the BBC to let us see it. Anyway I wish you a merry Christmas and try to avoid last minute shopping. It's a madhouse out there. I'll see you at New Years.

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