Daily Archives: December 21, 2008

A Short History of Holiday Traditions, Part 1

So after coming back from my extended hiatus, I dropped over at the Atheist blogs list to see what was going on. Interestingly, Superjesus had posted a rather cool discussion about the origins of Christmas. Turns out the Europeans had that whole sun-worshiping thing going on.  And guess what? As it turns out, tonight is the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. You know. That time when the new god kills the old god and the days start getting longer and life comes back to the earth.

Yup. Pretty silly, backward, superstitious-y religion, that pagan stuff. It got me wondering. Just how many “Christian” holidays are actually derived, condensed and rearranged pagan myths set into the church’s uptight, joyless, sexless doctrine? Let’s count, shall we? The major ones, because otherwise we’d be here all damn year, and I got Christmas presents to wrap. I am to present wrapping what Lucretia Borgia was to modest virgin Catholicism.

St. Valentine’s Day. This was originally a very fun and exciting Roman holiday called the Lupercalia. According to Wiki, The Lupercalia was an extremely important fertility holiday, in which young boys ran through the streets, striking women with thongs of goat skin dipped in blood, which was thought to aid in ease of pregnancy and labor. The things people will come up with, eh? On the other hand, afterward was the feast and the sex lottery afterward. WOOHOO, SEX LOTTERY! In which young people were paired up for a year or so, and if children were the result, marriage generally followed. I don’t mind telling you, a feast and a sex lottery sure beats the hell out of some chintzy stuffed bear holding a heart that says “I Heart you THIIIIIS MUCH” and an hour and a half wait time at the steak joint downtown.

Easter. As everyone knows, Easter came about because Jesus and all his apostles were celebrating Passover (you know. The Jewish holiday.), and Judas sold him out and told the Roman soldiers where he was and he ended up having to do the walk of shame through Jerusalem with a big assed wooden cross strapped to his back. Except for that one part, where it was carried for him. Well, in order to make it more appetizing to those fun loving Romans who, frankly, weren’t quite the guilt-ridden Catholics you now see before you, the church found it necessary to tweak a few things and told the pagans that of COOOUUURSE they could keep some of their more time honored traditions and idols, because Jesus was TOTALLY down with that, even though he wasn’t and it was a desperate ploy for converts. Let’s take the name Easter. See, way back before the church told all us Italians how incredibly bad we should all feel about Jesus’ death (because it was all our fault, after all, even if it was “pre-ordained”), there was this moon goddess. Her name was Eostara. Her totems were the hare and the egg, for fertility. Yeah, them Romans, they liked sex a LOT. This has not changed noticeably. Ever wonder how we got something like the Easter Bunny?  I mean…a rabbit? Handing out eggs?! Amazing what we hang onto, isn’t it? Cultural memory is a funny thing.

Wow. This late and I’ve only covered two holidays. This is getting a bit long, too. Okay, kids. I promise I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll go over the rest of the story. Right now I’m going to pay attention to my family some.

There’s “Reaching Across,” and Then There’s Pandering.

Alright, I realize I’m late getting here and we’ve likely blogged it to death, but I was hoping to discuss this rationally now that we’ve had a couple days to catch our breath and look at this objectively. By this, I am of course referring to Barack Obama’s recent decision to invite Rick Warren to perform the invocation at his inauguration. Let’s take a gander and see what we can see.

First off, as an atheist, I see no need for an invocation of god’s blessing at a state function. To me, it’s another glaring case of just how religion has imposed itself on our political system. But that’s just me personally. Objectively I can see that it’s part of the ceremony and expected, blah blah blah. Fine. I’m willing to make that concession for the time being. On to the meat.

Rick Warren. Mr. Obama is attempting to be reasonable in the face of the lashback but quite honestly, I think he’s over reaching on this one. He could have played it so much differently. He’s made it clear from his cabinet positions that he intends to listen to those who are best equipped to help the nation, regardless of the letter after their name. It was totally unnecessary to extend that invitation to Rick Warren. Forget for a moment what he stands for (because we WILL be coming back to it), and let us remember all those who supported Mr. O when he needed us. That, effectively, is the most glaring and obvious mistake in this whole issue. Not who he has chosen to include… but in so doing, who he has forgotten. The GLBT community is currently undergoing, collectively, its toughest challenge in the history of our country. It is the civil rights issue of our generation. This was an opportunity…a HUGE opportunity…to reach out and say “thank you” and “I recognize you.” Neither of which happened. For Rahm Emanuel, whom I admire, to come out and say “We’re going to have someone else friendly to the GLBT community do the benediction” felt like a placating gesture. A pat on the head. And in favor of what?

Rick Warren (I told you I’d get back to him). The man who has compared being gay to being a pedophile. Who has compared gay sex to bestiality. Called it a sickness. Campaigned and campaigned hard against women’s rights. This man has no place giving a “blessing.” I don’t care if he invited Obama to the christening of his first child. There is simply no excuse for him giving the invocation when there were so many other GLBT-friendly pastors who could have done as good a job.

Yuh, so this has turned out to be less than the rational, reasoned post I had hoped it to be. And yes, I thoroughly understand the choice. I just disagree with it. Because civil rights are not earned by being reasonable. Civil rights are not earned by rational discussion. Sadly, history shows us that the only way civil rights are earned in this country is by taking them and refusing to let go.

And So This is Christmas…

…And what have you done?

Good question. I feel exhausted enough to have crossed every damn task off Hercules’ list. Those Agatean horses got NOTHING on moving house from San Francisco to Dallas in a soft market with kids in tow.

I decided that since I wasn’t especially in the holiday spirit, I’d take the advice of all those gushy, I-heart-Christmas people and try to jump start myself into it. I went shopping. This has never been high on my list during Christmas. The advent of the internet was, IMO, the best thing that ever happened to Christmas shopping. I get the soft happy emotion without having to deal with one idiot on the road.

Yesterday was asshole day at the mall, my friends. Yes, yes, the parking lot was full of them; I can’t believe they all just hung out circling for the best space before finally giving up, grabbing the best spot they could and going in. And THOSE are the people I spent time around. So many varieties of asshole, so few adjectives and modifiers.

The malls here have a different flavor of asshole than those in California. They’re all every bit as self absorbed regardless of state, but there’s a subtle difference. Texans are louder for starters. Drunker, too. Coming from a place where cops just can’t WAIT to try out their breathalyzers, it’s stunning to look around and realize the reason for all the swaying is not the Christmas music. Then there’s the gods. Damned. Perfume. Holy mother of fuck, people, there is simply no REASON for all that damned scent. I went from ground state to raging headache in 0.5 seconds just walking through the doors. Everyone is trying to outsmell everyone else. It’s worse than the perfume counter at Macy’s. And what is WITH you idiots who decide the very best place to unload your Christmas shopping and chat with your friend is right here in the middle of the damn walkway where everyone has to go AROUND you? HUH? Do you REALLY believe you’re that goddamn important? Get out of the damn way or I’ll kick your presents over the ledge and you’ll have to move just to get them from the first floor.

Yeah. So shopping didn’t work. Moved on to baking Christmas cookies. This may have been a mistake. Four teenagers able to do math and add up mom in the kitchen + sugar, eggs & butter=treats gone the second they come out of the oven without even being decorated. I managed to salvage a few so that the darling man could have one or two at least before our voracious offspring could continue their piranha imitations.

We picked our oldest boy up last night from a party and, taking a side route, decided we’d look at the various houses running up their electric bills with ornate displays. This was once guaranteed to elicit “oooo” ‘s from the kids, who looked forward to such diversions this time of year. The response last night? “Are we lost? Aren’t we going home?” *sigh*…. Maybe it’s time we looked into military schools…

Ah, well. We went home and rewarded our attempts at the Christmas spirit by going to bed and staying there, which is what we should have done in the first place.

Merry Christmas.