Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Last-Minute Stocking- and Bra-Stuffer

≖ We've survived another non-shopping season. The biggest surprise for me was that relentless self-promoter Sarah Palin didn't saturate the airwaves with this year's "War on Christmas" epic, Good Tidings and Great Joy.  I think she was caught flatfooted when her Fox News colleague Megyn Kelly stole the show with just a little bit of dog-whistling.

Fortunately, Dan Savage took the time to review Ms. Palin's book, or at least the introduction where we learn that Peace on Earth involves buying guns and admiring one's own breasts.  Read his book review, Good Grief and Great Tits, it's the reason for the season!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spugs Unite!

≖ I don't know how we missed this, but last year Treehugger had an item about the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.  The group was known as SPUG for short, and its members, Spugs.  Membership was bipartisan, ranging from former President Teddy Roosevelt himself to the daughter of President Woodrow Wilson.

Also around this time every year we get news items about the banning of Christmas by the Puritans.  It was a different sort of celebration then, not really about buying stuff, so it's a bit out of our purview ... but here's an especially good roundup of information about that.

Finally, if you haven't seen the Christmas Resistance Movement page on Facebook, have a look-see!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a White Nicholas

Saint Nicholas of Myra

≖ To think that only a year ago, Jon Stewart noted that the War On Christmas had become a rote observance, devoid of its original spiritual meaning. I expected a bit of a resurgence this year simply to promote Sarah Palin's latest dumb book, but I never expected it to actually go off the rails into a national debate over whether Santa Claus is white.

Much has been said about this nonsense over the last few days, but I'd like to focus on the man depicted here, St. Nicholas of Myra. This image is from his Wikipedia page, and I'm surprised there haven't been edit wars to replace it with a lighter-skinned depiction. The real Nicholas lived in what is now Turkey and was a swarthy man, though as his fame spread northward, the paintings showed ever-lighter skin. (I imagine it must be hard to maintain a tan at the North Pole.)

Nicholas is one of the most popular Saints there is, even for folks who aren't Catholic or Orthodox. That's because he was by all accounts a vigorous champion of the poor and disadvantaged. Hagiography tends to attribute miracles, supernatural events, and oft-told legends to Saints, which historians naturally tend to be skeptical of. (Personally, my favorite Nicholas legends are in the hardboiled detective genre, but these have yet to be published. Or written.)

One deed stands out as an original and plausible account: A poor family with three daughters could not afford a dowry for them, which meant they would most likely be sold into sexual slavery. When each of these daughters came of age, Nicholas surreptitiously delivered bags of gold, enough for their dowries.

This secret gift-giving has, over the centuries, morphed into a compulsory consumption potlatch ritual. The meaning has been lost. The real Nicholas would probably be called a bleeding-heart socialist by Fox News, the very network that insists he's white (and which is, of course, the primary fabricator of the mythological War On Christmas).

So even if you're resisting what Christmas has become, give a thought to the real Old St. Nick.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Celebrate Without Worshipping Consumerism

≖ For the perplexed, Alternet has a nice Celebrating Without Worshipping Consumerism article this year. A little late for Thanksgivukkah, I'm afraid, but suitable for celebrating Christmas.

Or, if you're Fox News, one of those "Holiday" Celebrations you hear so much about on Fox News.