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O The Weather Outside Is Frightful (but It Could Be A Lot Worse)
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O the Weather Outside is Frightful (but It Could Be A Lot Worse)

Hello World – xmas time approaches.

S’funny how we look forward to the holidays and get excited by the ideas we get for gifts for certain people, and how we love to think to ourselves what a wonderful thing it would be if we got the thing we’ve been wanting, as an xmas present. And we look forward to visitors from far away, whom we haven’t seen in donkeys years; and we plan delicious and joyous feasts to celebrate the gathering together.

What’s funny is how that excitement and planning, the preparation and anticipation can so easily become the opposite of what we’d hoped for—the conflicts between work-parties and college-buddy get-togethers and family reunions, the shrinking of time when the shopping and the prepping and the cooking aren’t done yet, when the drive to one party leaves us too drained to enjoy the evening, and we spend the entire time worrying over the many things left to do. The holidays are like homework: if we do them on time, our friends resent us, and if we do them late, we drive ourselves crazy and get ourselves into trouble.

And money—what is one to do about money during that time of year when magic and wishes are everywhere? If we worry over it, everyone sees a Grinch—and if we don’t worry over it, we may spend New Year’s Day being evicted. Yes, the holidays are a miniature microcosm of the human condition—the whole panoply of civilization reviewed and re-enacted in a brief fortnight of reveling and worship.

In ancient times, the mid-winter feast was a time of promiscuity and drinking, feasting and raucous singing and brawls and pranks—it was the ‘steam release’ valve of a culture that needed to survive a harsh winter each year. After the mid-winter festival, it was back to doing nothing, eyeing the shrinking food stores and waiting for the return of life in Spring. That gets dark enough when giving the community a chance to kick things off with a bang! The idea of smoothing its rough edges and dressing it up as a Christian holy day was a lousy idea—and many Brits and Europeans, otherwise submissive to this new church, found no sense in ruining the best part of Winter by spending it praying.

Thus, the early church actually banned the celebration of Christmas in the middle ages (not that the ban was enforced) and would remain opposed to all this pagan libertinism until a way was found to weave the old and new traditions together. We still suffer from this dichotomy—the ‘commercializing’ of Christmas, the ‘secularizing’ of Christmas, the confusion that arises when we try to combine solemnity with the sybaritic—none of this is new and is in fact quite an old story.

The only thing that has been lost is the Fear. Surviving the Winter was no small challenge for pre-industrial civilizations—their Mid-Winter bacchanals were important morale-raising occasions, during which everyone sang and drank and ate and made love. They laughed in the face of the cold, starvation, darkness and disaster that every Winter’s coming could presage—and the memory of those happy times helped them retain their senses until the world once again awoke to sunshine and new life.

So, keep that in mind this Christmas, Channukah, Kwanza, what-have-you—no matter what happens with the parties and dinners and gift-giving, at least you won’t have to worry that all the food from last Fall’s harvest will be eaten before Spring returns. That may help you keep things in perspective.


Street Talk

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