The Holy Day Season

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So…  It is the “holiday season” and we are told we must be politically correct (PC) in how we address people and refer to this time of year.  Certainly wouldn’t want to offend.

Hmmmmmmm…  Let us think about this for a moment.  While of late “Merry Christmas” is taboo, “Happy Holidays” is the alternate preferred by the PC crowd.  Why would that be?  Why is “Happy Holidays” better than “Merry Christmas”?  Maybe because they have no clue of what they speak.  Few actually understand what they claim and are good sheep following their leader.  The leaders of course have no other agenda than keeping the sheep in line and keeping their power.  Those truly of faith do not tend to follow the PC leaders and this upsets them to no end.  Regardless, as long as the sheep are content to not question, the PC leaders can lead our nation down the path of ruin.  Let us not be PC sheep.  Let us look at the “holiday situation” from a truthful point-of-view.

“Holiday” – from where did this word originate.  To make it short and sweet, holiday means Holy Day.  And while we currently call pretty much any non-weekend day we have off from work a holiday, the celebration of such days in the past was a religious celebration.  Therefore, whether the PC crowd likes it or not, “Happy Holidays” is still a religious pronouncement.

Let us take it from the beginning to the end of the major holiday season.  This is not to leave out Easter and a few others throughout the year, but since they have yet to create a crisis in the secular world – since it is much harder to turn commercial and make a profit (other than chocolate bunnies) they tend to leave them alone for the most part.

The 31st of October is Halloween.  Halloween translates to “All Hallows Eve”.  What is a “hallow” and why would we participate in such a ritual.  Must be from some old Druid tradition – at least that is what so many would have us believe.  Nope.  “Hallow” means to “render holy by means of religious rites” or “honor as holy” and normally refers to the saints as per the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations.  According to several sources, “the best available evidence indicates that Halloween originated in the early Middle Ages as a Catholic vigil observed on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.”  Of course in today’s secular and politically correct world we certainly can’t have that.  So “it has become commonplace to trace its roots even further back in time to a pagan festival of ancient Ireland known as Samhain [Summer’s End].”  This is quite easy to pass off since very little is actually known about Samhain.  So we can say about it whatever it takes to discredit the Christian custom.  As well, again according to several sources, many “modern historians, notably Ronald Hutton (The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, 1996) and Steve Roud (The English Year, 2008, and A Dictionary of English Folklore, 2005), flatly reject the popular notion that November 1 was designated All Saints Day by the Church to ‘Christianize’ the pagan festival. Citing a lack of historical evidence, Roud dismisses the Samhain theory of origin altogether.”  Bottom line:  regardless of the continued falsehoods spread even to this day connecting Halloween to pagans (Irish or otherwise), it is and always will be the eve of a Christian holy day.  If we choose to celebrate that evening by running from neighbor to neighbor begging for sweets, so be it.

Thanksgiving is ok – so far.  Although it is called an American “holiday”, it is not technically one.  According to history.com “in November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.”  Seriously, THREE DAYS!  What gives with our current culture?!  I could sure go for 3 days off to eat, drink and be merry.  Of course, the PC crowd has yet to create a crisis around Thanksgiving.  Why is a little difficult to understand, although I suspect it has something to do with it being more a celebration of America than a “holy day”.  It is definitely not a holy day as it is normally defined.  No religion of international recognition claims it as its own.  However, they will at some point start to question to whom are we giving thanks.  Once they figure out that God is in the picture, watch out!  Thanksgiving will be on their hit list.

Christmas is of course the most attacked of all.  As mentioned, saying “Merry Christmas” is wholly inappropriate.  It turns all but Christians into second class citizens by its very utterance.  However, “Happy Holidays” – aka “Happy Holy Days” is perfectly fine – so far.  Curious is it not?  Are we as a society THAT afraid of God?  I mean we SHOULD be.  But not for celebrating the birth of His Son.  We should be for marginalizing or allowing to be marginalized the celebration thereof.  What is wrong with our society that is should be so afraid of one segment celebrating something.  They lean on the claim that we are bound by the Constitution to not push our religion on others.  They lose the fact that allowing a worker or even a group of workers, even in a government office, to put up Christmas decorations is certainly not forcing anyone else in that office to convert.  Although I find it ridiculous to have to say, I am lucky to work in a government facility (a school) that still decorates for Christmas.  Teachers, administrators and students are allowed to select whatever type of decoration they wish for their individual space.  Nobody is offended.  Everybody seems to be much more relaxed and happier this time of the year.  Well, except for the students’ worry about those pesky finals!  They seem much less worried though as they walk by various doors or desks and smile at the holy day decorations.  Or when they smile and laugh amid the greetings of “Merry Christmas!” (yes, we still allow that to be said as well).  I suspect someday the PC crowd will get wind of this merriment and attempt to censor it.  Maybe, just maybe, society will come to its senses prior to that and declare we’ve had enough with yet another loss of our freedom and put an end to political correctness itself.  Let us hope it is soon.

Finally, New Years!  Happy, happy, happy – at least so far.  One version holds that the celebration of New Year’s began in ancient Babylonia in Mesopotamia as the festival which renewed the world for another year.  Another (also of the same timeframe) holds that it began technically as the celebration of the creation – in this case, not strictly the beginning of time but the beginning of man.  While Western Society eventually settled on 1 January (in the year 1582 by, of course, Pope Gregory XIII), other cultures and religions celebrate other days.  Hence, the Chinese New Year (based on the Chinese calendar) and the Christian New Year (the first Sunday of Advent based on the Liturgical calendar) and Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish faith.  Cultures celebrate the “new year” (whenever it happens to fall) for various reasons.  However, it primarily boils down to the commemoration of creation and a renewal of life.  This, as these originating cultures will tell you, is from a theological perspective.  While we don’t want to stretch the point too far, yet again, God (in whatever form or theology) is present in this holiday as well.

This ends our quick journey through the holy day season.  From All Hallows Eve to the New Year.  How much more religious can you get.  All ye of no faith, if you don’t like it, QUIT celebrating OUR holidays.  Get your own.  But definitely stop pushing the idea we must keep quiet about what we are doing.  Most, if not all, religions have their holidays.  Christians have no problem with others celebrating Hanukkah (last celebrated 8-16 Dec 2012), Rosh Hashanah (next Sep 16-18 2013), Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the year for Jews – next celebrated on 25-26 Sep 2013), and of course Passover (next 25 Mar – 1 Apr 2013).  Nor do we have a problem with Ramadan (next starting 9 July 2013) or any other Muslim holidays.  Or the Chinese New Year (not technically a “holiday” but celebrated nonetheless by a visit to the temple to offer prayers) or Magha Puja, Buddhist holidays that few in this country are even aware.  There dates, similar to Jewish dates, are not on the “Western” calendar so “move” from year to year.

I have numerous friends, coworkers and acquaintances of different faiths.  I wish them a Merry Christmas.  They don’t get offended.  They may return a “Happy Hanukkah” or other greeting/response based on their beliefs.  We are a country founded in the Christian tradition – or Judeo-Christian if you must but that is actually redundant for anyone of knowledge about Christianity.  While we absolutely SHOULD respect the religious rights of all, we should NEVER secularize or marginalize the most profound beliefs and traditions of our neighbors and fellow countrymen by pushing them behind closed doors.

It is now becoming a cliché, but one to which few listen.  The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares freedom OF religion (“Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof” [religion]), NOT freedom FROM religion.  The public square has always been a place for display and discourse for ALL.  Those that want to shut it down must be afraid of SOMETHING.  I for the life of me have no idea what it is.  I only hope we can learn to discuss and not bury our differences.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Things (aka, “stuff”) we “need”

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What most these days call the “Christmas Season” is almost upon us.  It is actually the Advent Season, the season in which Christians prepare for the birth of Christ, and it begins 2 Dec.  Of course, for most it begins the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday.  It is the season in which all men should celebrate and share God given time, talent and treasure.  Even if you don’t believe in the Western philosophy of God, at least a time when we should all look to each other and ask, what can we do to make our lives, the lives of others and this world better?  However, this is not a thought for this time of year only.  I would contend that each and every day of our lives could be devoted, if only in some small measure amidst the difficulties of life lived, to such an end.  Nonetheless, since few days are (or at least few by most), such thoughts and actions should dominate this time of year.

Yet this time of year seems more and more devoted to that ultimate goal.  The goal to die with the most toys…  We also need the most expensive toys.  We need what everyone else has.  We need it whether we need it or not (confusing isn’t it?).  It is almost impossible for many these days to differentiate between a need and a want.  Commercialism wins.  Not Capitalism mind you. Commercialism.  The art of convincing us that “wants” are “needs”.  Sometimes, often times, convincing us that things we didn’t even know we wanted, we need.  The art of devotion to the ultimate goal.  How depressing.  How miserable.  How distressing.

It is interesting that most people’s unhappiness comes from the desire for things they want but don’t have.  Notice I didn’t see “need” but don’t have.  I have traveled the world and met many that have far less than those in America we consider in poverty.  Interestingly enough, they are happy.  Maybe ignorance IS bliss.  If it means lack of knowledge of what we are persuaded we need, I am convinced.  Few Americans know what true poverty is.  I hear or read about many that are “so impoverished” due to lack of something the rest of the world gets along just fine without.  Mind you, many in America ARE hurting.  Have no doubt.  Not nearly though the number of which we are convinced.  And certainly not for the reasons we are oft times given.

I have many students that live below the federally established “poverty line”.  Two come to mind and have two very different perspectives on their situation (there are many others in both categories).  They are of pretty much the same financial status.  One is miserable.  Everyday he’s miserable.  His friends have this and his friends have that.  It affects his happiness.   It affects his attitude.  His attitude toward his school work (yes, he grades are below average in all classes).  His attitude toward extracurricular activity.  His attitude toward life.  His is owed!  And he is not getting his due!  The other, as you might imagine, is actually quite happy.  I am utterly amazed by his outlook on life.  He takes advantage of every opportunity and couldn’t care less if he lacks the toys or clothes or houses or what-have-you of so many of his friends.  He is getting good grades and participates in every extracurricular activity he can fit in his schedule.  If you believe I am writing fiction here you’d be wrong.  One is a senior, the other a sophomore.  One is happy, the other – not so much.  Both attitudes come from the same “concern”.  One is making the most of what little he is given.  The other is lamenting the fact that he doesn’t have more.  One will be going far in life and, as most parents wish for their children, will surpass his family status and make a better life for his kids (I’m making a presumption here – he doesn’t actually have kids yet).  I have little doubt we, as taxpaying Americans, will be taking care of the other.  One is happy with having his needs, and a very few of his wants, fulfilled.  The other is miserable because he doesn’t have what society (in the form of mass media and advertisers) tells him he should.

I am writing on “Black Friday”.  What a bizarre day of greed, insatiability, and self-indulgence.  It is bad enough that people wait in line for days for things neither they nor the others for who they may be buying truly even need.  But the stories of pushing and shoving, fights, arguments, etc that take place show the true nature of many indulging in such activity.  Stories abound but some of the most grievous include “a Massachusetts man [that] left his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in a car while he went shopping for Black Friday bargains, then went home with his new 51-inch flat screen television and left the toddler behind” (apparently the TV wouldn’t fit in the car so he called a friend for a lift home and forgot about the child) and “a man who tried skipping line outside a Sears store in Texas punched a fellow shopper and that man responded by pulling a gun”.  Doors busted down by shoppers who “couldn’t” wait for the store to open, a customer actually run over in a store parking lot, shots fired, “gang” fights, actual battles over merchandise.  These are all true stories of this year’s Black Friday.  This is a typical year.  Seriously people.  We see this every year.  We are appalled every year.  We continue every year.  Also interesting is that it supposedly revolves around the Christmas holiday.  Who is this Christ?  Why does He matter?  What is His message?  Why are we celebrating His birth?  Who has time to consider such silliness?  “Get the best deal on Christmas gifts for the whole family!” is the cry of the retailer.  “Save, Save, Save” on SO MANY things nobody actually needs.  This is neither the Capitalism nor the values upon which our country was founded.  It is the Commercialism contributing to its fall.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with people living a comfortable life within their means.  The concern is threefold.  The extent to which they will go to get what they think will make them happy, the debt they will incur for the same reason and those that feel they need to emulate them (not their fault of course, but a concern in the big picture). Every day we are told that material things will not make you happy.  For the most part this is true.  We obviously need SOME material things.  The Physiological Level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs dictates that.  We truly need food, water, shelter, etc.  However, we don’t need lobster and filet mignon, we don’t need Perrier, and we don’t need a McMansion in a gated community.  If you are truly able to afford such things (this means without getting into debt you are unable to repay as a practical portion of your income) I am all for living a good life.  I am a big proponent of the ultra-rich.  Many people are employed by those that build, maintain, and supply yachts (as a single example).  Many are employed in numerous industries that provide products and services for those able to afford great luxury.  Do not condemn those that have the means and spend well above most of our capabilities.  They are providing jobs and therefore income to many of us.  However, if you are NOT one of them, it is within you to be happy in whatever state of life you live.  Strive for more if you wish.  It is the drive of man to want to be and have better.  Just strive to be BETTER and to make your community, country and the world better.  Not for more “stuff” for the sake of more “stuff”.

Live and let live.  This doesn’t mean don’t get involved or allow others in society to just do what they please.  I do not advocate anarchy.  What it means is leave others to their own material goods.  Consider only that which is necessary to YOUR happiness.  And “what makes YOU happy” should be actually well thought-out.  No, being “convinced” by that cool advertisement on TV is not a considered choice.  Is that new video game bringing happiness?  Is that new pair of shoes bringing happiness?  Just because someone else has it doesn’t mean it belongs in your life.  Live your life.  Live your goals.  Notice I didn’t say “dreams”.  Dreams are nice ideas.  Goals are dreams to which you apply action.  Many have dreams.  Few turn them into goals.  Consider what would actually make you happy.  Turn that thought into a goal.  Live your goals.  Let others live through commercialism if they must.

As well, consider on occasion that using some of what you have to help those that ARE truly in need might actually provide you with more fulfillment than acquiring more “stuff”.  Having lived through some level of this in my young adult years I can assure you that it is not worth it.  The sleepless nights, paycheck-to-paycheck living due to acquisition of unnecessary things, constant worry about how to pay for not only the true necessities but those unnecessary things acquired is more headache than it is worth.  Ensuring “needs” are reasonable and limiting consumption of “wants” will allow for time and treasure to be devoted to something besides yourself.  Maybe a favorite charity looking for a cure for a disease or medical condition about which you are concerned.  Or helping those in areas of our country or abroad that truly need more to eat or fresh water to drink.  Even if you have no extra money, your time is also of great value.  Many of my students have little of their own.  However, visiting the elderly in retirement homes or helping younger student at elementary schools doesn’t cost them a thing yet sure seems to bring far more happiness and fulfillment to them than I see in the kid that just received the newest video game.

I could go on and on about this topic.  So much greed – so little time.  So many examples of those that are sad they don’t have more and others so happy because they understand what they don’t need.  Do you need most “stuff”?  My departing counsel – consider what is truly important in your life.  Consider what is driving your attitude.  Are they balanced?  Are you happy?

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…