06 January 2008

Now Christmas is over

In the Western Christian Churches today is known as Epiphany, the day connected with the visit of the Magi (or three wise men). It is also the last of the twelve traditional days of Christmas. This goes back many centuries and has its origin in the change from the old Julian to the new Gregorian Calendar. As there was a difference of 12 days between the two, people began to celebrate them during the coldest and darkest period of the year, around Christmas. However, this twelve-day-festival has its roots in even older Pagan celebrations from ancient times.
It only shows that humans are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to feasts and holidays. So regardless what the dominant belief system might be, the traditional times of celebrations tend to remain the same. Pick, for example, any Christian feast day and you will find that it corresponds with an older Pagan feast on the same day, or very close to it.

Nowadays, as we live in a global village dominated mostly by American customs and even more by US business interests, it can easily be forgotten what our traditional winter festival is about. It appears that the massive advertising and marketing campaign for Christmas starts a little bit earlier each year (in 2007 a local supermarket began offering special Christmas goods in late September) and from November on - just as soon as "Halloween" is out of the way - every large department store and shopping centre is festooned with Christmas decorations and sports also a fat middle-aged man with fake cotton-wool beard, dressed in a strange red outfit with white trimmings of fake fur. This creature, commonly known now as "Santa", is the most recent addition to the pre-Christmas season and as fake as his beard.
Even though the figure has its roots in ancient characters like the Christian bishop St. Nicholas from Asia Minor and the Pagan "Grandfather Frost" from Russia, the modern version "Santa" (sometimes also called "Father Christmas") was created during the depression period of the 1920s in the USA as a marketing ploy for the Coca-Cola company and dressed in their corporate colours red and white.
Few people these days seem to be aware of this, and subsequently the season that once was Christmas becomes more and more a completely meaningless conglomerate of over-sentimental trash, massive consumerism and senseless over-eating and drinking.

Personally I do not participate in this sad charade, but I can only speak and act for myself. I do not have the right to tell others what to do and how to behave. But if anyone wishes to do what I am doing now for many years - simply ignoring the fake "Christmas" and live a normal life - it would please me to see such a sign of common sense.

When I was a child, Advent and Christmas were spiritual periods and full of joy and mystery. All this has disappeared under an avalanche of greed and capitalist manipulations, and I wonder if it will ever be possible to return to the true meanings of the winter festival season.

In the Orthodox Churches of the East, in contrast, today is actually Christmas Day, since they are still following the old Julian Calendar. During the past few weeks Jews also celebrated Hanukkah, Muslims had Ramadan and not so long ago Hindus enjoyed the feast of Diwali. But even though all these religious holidays are as significant as Christmas is for Western Christians, they do not create the same silly wave of secular consumerism. Therefore I wonder what has gone wrong with our Western culture and why we are the only ones that fall so gullible into the trap of ruthless capitalism?

Perhaps there is an answer, perhaps not. For now I am grateful that it is all over for another year and am happily returning to a relatively normal world around me. However, there seems to be no escape from the constant marketing onslaught of big multi-national companies. When I went shopping for my weekend groceries yesterday I spotted already the first batch of chocolate Easter eggs...

In my small spot of sanity, surrounded by a crazy world, I remain for now

The Emerald Islander


The Wild Goose said...

The most interesting aspect of your entries is not the amazingly interesting information you can get through them but the points of view themselves.

Concerning this Christmas matter I mainly agree with you and I even would be ready to “please” you by doing the same just to rebel against the power of the insane consumerism.

The US business (which has turned into a global stream) doesn’t only present a real load of “over sentimental trash” (films, songs, cards, etc.) The worst part of it is the tasteless and grotesque range of products that will be offered and eagerly bought. It is rather depressing to see the general mental derangement and lack of consciousness of the people. Like many times when talking about American industry most of those products could even be considered pernicious for the human mental health (sort of hysterical development), and in this case they certainly bother the peace of that darkest and coldest part of the year, the quiet winter. Further more the whole western way to celebrate Christmas even proves to damage the environement as well.

And though I do believe there’s much more wisdom behind all those “pagan festivities” than we could ever imagine and I am sure that they do make a sense. I really hope that we will somehow be able to return to the common sense of the first folks and celebrate the winter solstice without the “Christmas blues” when this system somehow collapses.

Alexander "Sunny" Bergen said...

Once again I find myself in agreement with your observations and views. And I wish I had your strength to skip it all and ignore it. So far I have not reached that level, but I will work on it, inspired by you example.

I also agree with "The Wild Goose" (is there a connotation to the Irish exiled in your name?) and cannot bear these tasteless US-designed toys made in Chinese sweat shops.
I do manage to refuse buying those for my children.


Glad to know that I am not the only one who is fed-up with the completely commercialised travesty that now goes by the name of "Christmas".

And I agree that most of the toys we see now in shops are so tasteless, tacky and outright ugly that I am rather glad that I have no children. If I had, there is no way that I would ever buy one of these monster toys for them.
With a melancholic touch of nostalgia I think back to the nice toys I had as a child...

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