Merry Christmas & Happy 2012
I really cannot compete with the many recent and excellent TMV posts on this subject. I particularly enjoyed Walter Brasch’s post from yesterday confirming that anyone can guiltlessly embrace the many versions of this ancient holiday to which many cultures, religions, and people have contributed.
I appreciate all the religious and secular aspects of Christmas. I feel sorry for those who wish to define it narrowly and exclude all its hopes, excitement, fun, kitsch, mirth and merriment that do not comport to their particular religious beliefs. They foolishly fabricate political, religious and social controversies for the sake of crass publicity and narcissism while missing the fundamental universal religious sentiments of peace, joy, inclusion and embracing others around us – including strangers, the poor, and those who do not share the same religious beliefs. All human beings should be encouraged to celebrate the aspects of Christmas they enjoy and contemporaneously respect those who take a different approach.
I was raised a Roman Catholic in a French-Italian Tradition. The Christmas Holiday season was much longer than just one day. It started with the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th and ended with Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas and New Year’s Eves required that fish was prominent on the menu. It was a time to seriously review the past, think about the future, and celebrate the presence of friends, family, neighbors and newcomers. The home’s Nativity display was the central focus and a tree was of secondary importance. There were other feast days, religious traditions, and special menus during those 30 days that were designed to emphasize strong community bonds, family relationships, and our ethical and moral duties to our Creator and to our fellow human beings.
When I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it was easier for most families to prepare for and fully celebrate this holiday season when only one parent needed to work in order to adequately support a household and also have some extra income at the end of the year. In the 1980’s and 1990’s it took both parents working to meet the escalating costs of raising a middle-class family and many traditions fell by the wayside due to time constraints. During the past decade, many households have regressed to surviving on just the income of one spouse with the other spouse unemployed or seriously underemployed. Meanwhile the salaries of the vast majority of Americans have been stagnant for decades yet the basic costs of living have increased exponentially. We also have a rising underclass of broken families, permanent unemployment for tens of millions of adults, and tens of millions of children with few educational or economic opportunities.
Overall we live in a much more callous, uncaring, angry, self-centered, nasty, greedy, and divided nation and where the rule of law has been widely forgotten. This holiday’s past ability to engender a decent amount of goodwill, compassion, hope, kindness and civility among us has been severely diminished during the past decade. The more many Americans narrowly define “our neighbors” to those few who share their limited religious, economic, political and social beliefs, and simultaneously disregard, vilify, and shun far more people who do not possess similar viewpoints, economic success, employment status, inherited wealth, educational attainment, personal connections, plus simple good fortune and luck, we ultimately impoverish ourselves and our nation.
All the bright lights, Christmas Carols, and excessive eating, drinking, partying and gift-giving by a shrinking minority among us, cannot mask the growing desperation, sadness, hopelessness, and marginalization of many of our fellow citizens. And to what end does this serve humanity? In a nation that now measures everything – including the value of a shared, civilized quality of life – solely in terms of money, Christmas seems to have become an anomaly and only its mindless materialism remains.
I sincerely wish all TMV writers, editors, contributors, bloggers, and readers, plus their families and friends, a joyous and peaceful Holiday Season including Christmas and the start of a New Year.
I won’t include in this post my preferred list of deserving “lump of coal” recipients. It’s a rather long list and I don’t want to encourage unsustainable carbon burning. In addition, I prefer not to spoil the holidays for those who really need a pleasant diversion and temporary respite from the depressing reality that many have dealt with for several years and will continue to face next year and beyond.
Submitted on Friday, the 23rd of December, 2011 by Marc Pascal from Phoenix, Arizona. (firstname.lastname@example.org)