An “Olde” Christmas Tradition

christmas

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  I love Santa and the reindeer, jingle bells, mistletoe (yeah, I said it) the baby Jesus and the Wise Men – everything.  I like the crowds and the bitchin’ and the music in the malls.  I even tolerate that stupid Little Drummer Boy – the first 500 times.  It’s all too cool, but I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like the older traditions best.  That’s why, every year, I wait, in uncontrollable anticipation, for one of our society’s oldest and dearest traditions — the arrival of The Annual Christmas Basher.  For me, the arrival of the Christmas Basher actually kicks off the Christmas season.  When I was younger, the Christmas Basher was usually just an odd malcontent who’d been disappointed with Christmas (and perhaps, life) since puberty and wanted to spread the misery around.  However, in the 21st century, Christmas bashing is trending, and the Basher could be anyone — a friend, a colleague, the guy you meet in the mall, even a family member.  Like Christmas itself, the Christmas Basher has become somewhat universal.

So who are Christmas Bashers?  They’re that person, who, filled with the spirit of “I’m Smarter than You Are” (and overcome with joy at the sound of their own voice) takes it upon themselves to explain just how screwed up Christmas really is.  This could be the guy who stops you in mid “Merry Christmas” to tell you to say “Happy Holidays.”  (Or vice versa.)  Or the woman who tells you, “Christmas is becoming just too commercialized.”   Or it could be that pompous ass who explains, “According to the fragmentary records from the Augustan period of the Roman Era BCE, tax collection was done in July of the Julian calendar; therefore, Christ could not possibly have been born in December.”  But the one I like the best is the cynical jerk who questions the holiday itself, asking, “How did we get from the birth of the ‘so-called’ Saviour to Santa Claus and elves?  All of the things we have for this ‘so-called’ Christian holiday are really just pagan symbols.”   When I hear these dulcet voices singing, I know it’s finally Christmas.  I like to take a second or two to contemplate the infinite universe and its delights before I respond, in my best little kid voice, “Sorry, I forgot.”  What these neo-fascists don’t realize is that they’re actually engaging in a Christmas tradition that is one of our very oldest.  Christmas bashing actually pre-dates most of what we know to be a traditional Christmas.  In truth, these modern merry morons are merely acting like our most intolerant Christian ancestors – the Puritans.  They didn’t like Christmas, either – over 400 years ago.

In Elizabethan England, Christmas was the main holiday of the year.  When good Queen Bess was on the throne, the locals really knew how to party.  First of all, Christmas lasted 12 days – the 12 days of Christmas, from the song.  Secondly, nobody went to work, so if you wanted your wood chopped, your candles waxed or your doublet patched, you were out of luck until January.  What people did was roll out of bed and head for the local tavern.  They drank and gambled and chased women (who returned the favour by not running that fast.)  They sang bawdy songs, ate, laughed, joked and then drank some more – and this went on every day.  They dressed up as supernatural creatures and animals and danced in the streets or watched acrobats, or bear-baiting or one of Will Shakespeare’s new comedies.  It was called Topsy-Turvy time — when the servant became the master and the shepherd became the sheep.  The Elizabethans celebrated by honouring the Lord of Misrule, a local dimwit or barmaid who rode backwards on a donkey through the streets to the steps of a church or cathedral where he or she was crowned, in front of the cheering, jeering mob.  Basically, it was all one big, queen-sized debauch.  Clearly, our ancestors saw Christmas as an opportunity to have fun, much as we do.  So it was only a matter of time before somebody wanted to put a stop to it.

Enter the Puritans.  Without overstating it, the Puritans were a gang of uptight, intolerant fanatics who wanted the world to do as it was told, and they wanted to do the telling.  They were so narrow-minded they could look through a keyhole with both eyes.  They believed life was a serious business and anybody who wasn’t serious about it needed to be whipped into shape – literally.  They also believed they had all the answers, and were willing to provide them– even when nobody was asking for their opinion.  Actually, they compare very well with our contemporary Christmas bashers — except the Puritans didn’t have Twitter.  They looked at Christmas, circa 1570, and practically burst a blood vessel.  One unnamed source wrote “There is nothing else [at Christmas] but cards, dice, tables, masking, mumming, bowling and such fooleries…”   It was clearly the work of the Devil.  As early as 1583, some churches were setting penance for “keeping the superstitious day called Yule,” and by the turn of the 16th century, the common folk were well-advised to stay off the streets after the middle of December.  The times were changing in Merrye Olde England: it was getting a lot less merry.  By the time Cromwell and his Puritan crowd actually came to power, anybody who wanted to celebrate Christmas did it at their peril, and in the privacy of their own hovel.  Within a couple of years, there was nothing much left of Christmas, and on December 24th, 1652, it was formally banned.  The proclamation read, “That no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches.”  It would take Christmas just about 200 years to recover.

So, as you can see, all the oh-so-enlightened Christmas bashers who wander the earth, setting everybody straight year after year, are just following in the footsteps of their Puritan ancestors. They’re actually celebrating a very, very old Christmas tradition.  That’s why I wait for them so eagerly every December.  They’re as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus himself and, for me, the irony is just too good to miss.

Christmas Trivia 2018

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Any Laplander will tell you that all reindeer have antlers.  However, they will also tell you that male reindeer lose their antlers in late November or early December, whereas female reindeer do not lose their antlers until spring.  Therefore, the reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh are all female – including Rudolph.  There were originally eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.  Rudolph was added in 1939 when Robert L May created a colouring book for retailer Montgomery Ward to give away at Christmas.  The book told the now familiar story of Rudolph and how he came to guide Santa’s sleigh.  Ten years later, in 1949, Gene Autry had finished colouring all the pictures, so he decided to record a song based on the Rudolph story.  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was an instant hit, and Rudolph has been around ever since.

“Frosty the Snowman” was written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson in 1950, for Gene Autry, who wanted to follow up the success of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from the previous year.

Originally, there was one other reindeer in Santa’s team pulling the sleigh on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately he became bitter and belligerent, so Santa had to take appropriate disciplinary action.  His name was Dinner.

The names of The Three Wise Men are Gaspar, Melchoir and Balthasar not Manny, Moe and Jack as some TV ads would lead you to believe.  However, if you want to astound your friends with your Christmas knowledge or win drinks at any pub in the world just ask the question; Which Wise Man brought which gift?  The answer is Melchoir brought gold, Balthasar brought frankincense and Gaspar, who, like most of us left his Christmas shopping to the last minute, brought myrrh (whatever that is.)

The traditional Christmas poinsettia originally came from Mexico.  It was first brought to the United States by Joel Poinsett in the 1820s.  Even after all these years, the name is still almost universally mispronounced.

Although, under various aliases, Santa Claus is claimed by a number of countries he is, in fact, a Canadian citizen.  On December 23rd, 2008, the Canadian government’s Minister of Citizenship, Jason Kenney, declared, “The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian Citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete.”

Like most of the cool Christmas traditions, candy canes come from Germany.  They started out, in the late 17th century, as white sticks of candy given to children to keep them quiet during the long and infinitely boring Christmas church services.  Many people believe candy canes are bent so they could hang on the Christmas tree.  Originally, however, the canes were bent to resemble a shepherd’s crook and so calm the objections of stodgy old churchmen who didn’t want kids having candy in church.

If you’re trapped in Dublin at Christmas, “Merry Christmas” in Irish is “Nollaig Shona Dhuit” but I have no idea how to pronounce it.

Oddly enough, Mrs. Claus does not have a first name; nor, for that matter does any of the elves.

Canada was the first country to issue Christmas stamps — in 1898.

Nova Scotia exports more Christmas trees than anywhere else in the world.

The reason that relentless movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is on TV so much is that television stations don’t have to pay for it.  Apparently, when it was made, there was a mix-up in the contracts, so nobody who worked on the film — including the actors — ever gets residuals.

It is a well-known fact that the stupid “Little Drummer Boy” (who was put on this earth to annoy me) has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  The real little drummer boy was a pickpocket and sneak thief who fell in with the Three Wise Men in order to gain their confidence and eventually rob them.  He was already a hardened criminal by that time and had a list of previous offences as long as the Ohio River.  He was caught with his hand in the frankincense jar and sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour — which is exactly what the treacherous little bugger deserved.

Did you know?  There was once a dyslexic devil worshipper who sold his soul to Santa.

Christmas Quotes

“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” – Erma Bombeck
“All Christmas trees are perfect.” – Charles N Barnard
“It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts.” – Henry Van Dyke (Dick and Jerry’s other brother?)
“Christmas is a whispered conspiracy of love.” – Anon
“Nothing is as mean as giving a child something useful for Christmas.” – Kin Hubbard
“Santa is very jolly ‘cause he knows where all the naughty girls live.” – Dennis Miller
“Bah! Humbug!” – Ebenezer Scrooge
“Merry Christmas, Nearly Everybody!” – Ogden Nash

Christmas Trivia

Any Laplander will tell you that all reindeer have antlers.  However, they will also tell you that male reindeer lose their antlers in late November or early December, whereas female reindeer do not lose their antlers until spring.  Therefore, the reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh are all female – including Rudolph.  There were originally eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.  Rudolph was added in 1939 when Robert L May created a colouring book for retailer Montgomery Ward to give away at Christmas.  The book told the now familiar story of Rudolph and how he came to guide Santa’s sleigh.  Ten years later, in 1949, Gene Autry had finished colouring all the pictures, so he decided to record a song based on the Rudolph story.  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was an instant hit, and Rudolph has been around ever since.

“Frosty the Snowman” was written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson in 1950, for Gene Autry, who wanted to follow up the success of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” from the previous year.

Originally, there was one other reindeer in Santa’s team pulling the sleigh on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately he became bitter and belligerent, so Santa had to take appropriate disciplinary action.  His name was Dinner.

The names of The Three Wise Men are Gaspar, Melchoir and Balthasar not Manny, Moe and Jack as some TV ads would lead you to believe.  However, if you want to astound your friends with your Christmas knowledge or win drinks at any pub in the world just ask the question; Which Wise Man brought which gift?  The answer is Melchoir brought gold, Balthasar brought frankincense and Gaspar, who, like most of us left his Christmas shopping to the last minute, brought myrrh (whatever that is.)

The traditional Christmas poinsettia originally came from Mexico.  It was first brought to the United States by Joel Poinsett in the 1820s.  Even after all these years, the name is still almost universally mispronounced.

Santa Claus actually lives in Canada.  He has his own address and postal code.  It’s Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0.  If you write to him he will reply in whatever language your letter is written in.  Try it!

Although, under various aliases, Santa Claus is claimed by a number of countries he is, in fact, a Canadian citizen.  On December 23rd, 2008, the Canadian government’s Minister of Citizenship, Jason Kenney, declared, “The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian Citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete.”

Like most of the cool Christmas traditions, candy canes come from Germany.  They started out, in the late 17th century, as white sticks of candy given to children to keep them quiet during the long and infinitely boring Christmas church services.  Many people believe candy canes are bent so they could hang on the Christmas tree.  Originally, however, the canes were bent to resemble a shepherd’s crook and so calm the objections of stodgy old churchmen who didn’t want kids having candy in church.

If you’re trapped in Dublin at Christmas, “Merry Christmas” in Irish is “Nollaig Shona Dhuit” but I have no idea how to pronounce it.

Oddly enough, Mrs. Claus does not have a first name; nor, for that matter does any of the elves.

Canada was the first country to issue Christmas stamps — in 1898.

Nova Scotia exports more Christmas trees than anywhere else in the world.

The reason that relentless movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is on TV so much is that television stations don’t have to pay for it.  Apparently, when it was made, there was a mix-up in the contracts, so nobody who worked on the film — including the actors — ever gets residuals.

It is a well known fact that the stupid “Little Drummer Boy” (who was put on this earth to annoy me) has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  The real little drummer boy was a pickpocket and sneak thief who fell in with the Three Wise Men in order to gain their confidence and eventually rob them.  He was already a hardened criminal by that time and had a list of previous offences as long as the Ohio River.  He was caught with his hand in the frankincense jar and sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour — which is exactly what the treacherous little bugger deserved.

Did you know?  There was once a dyslexic devil worshipper who sold his soul to Santa.

Christmas Quotes

“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” – Erma Bombeck
“All Christmas trees are perfect.” – Charles N Barnard
“It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts.” – Henry Van Dyke (Dick and Jerry’s other brother?)
“Christmas is a whispered conspiracy of love.” – Anon
“Nothing is as mean as giving a child something useful for Christmas.” – Kin Hubbard
“Santa is very jolly ‘cause he knows where all the naughty girls live.” – Dennis Miller
“Bah! Humbug!” — Ebenezer Scrooge
“Merry Christmas, Nearly Everybody!” – Ogden Nash