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Why Christmas is good

Written By: - Date published: 7:32 am, December 24th, 2017 - 82 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, social democracy - Tags: ,

It’s the easiest and most cynical sneer to denounce Christmas.

Don’t.

Here’s why:

Almost everyone makes a huge effort.

We show actual creativity.

We share.

Lots of people prepare food for each other.

You have to think about what other people want.

We organise heaven and earth to be with each other.

We have to deal with each other.

More people donate to charities than at any other time of the year.

The mainstream media obsess less about themselves and politics and the economy and trivia.

Work stops.

The conscience of most of society is pricked.

We try to be nice to each other.

About 1 fifth of the world recite actual ideals.

Children have the focus on them.

Whatever it “means”, whatever falsities abound, whatever the stress, this is Christmas.

It’s good.

82 comments on “Why Christmas is good”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    eucatastrophe.
    (It’s what we hope for…and expect 🙂

    • Ad 1.1

      Focus less on the mythos, and more on the practicalities itself.

      Here’s the native American version:

      https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-culture/potlatch.htm

      In the David Attenborough series Tribal Eye from the late 1970s, he shows one such ceremony in action.

      • Robert Guyton 1.1.1

        Hey, Ad; potlatch, yes! I’ve long misunderstood potlatch, believing it “crazy” – until my adulthood and the realization that we are smothering ourselves to death with stuff. Shedding wealth in its many forms as a way to live like one of God’s creatures, rather than gods, is what we have to do, imo.
        Focus less on the mythos? Hold the mythos in mind as you shed, I reckon!

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    eucatastrophe.

    “In 1942 J.R.R. Tolkien penned the essay, “On Faerie-stories.” The essay became the touchstone work of fantasy fiction, illuminating the genre. Tolkien ends the essay by discussing the “consolations of the happy ending,” what he calls the eucatastrophe.

    A euchatastrophe is the opposite of a catastrophe. Whereas the catastrophe might be employed in tragedy, and is regarded as the down-turn of a story, Tolkien’s euchatastrophe is the shift in the faerie story for the good. It’s “the sudden joyous turn.”[1] The eucatastrophe says that just when all hope appears to be lost, just when circumstances cannot get much bleaker, hope emerges.”
    https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2015/12/21/eucatastrophe/

    Chris Trotter also explores “eucatastrophe” in his Christmas column (link to Bowalley Road in the sidebar)

    • mikesh 2.1

      Technically, the opposite of ‘catastrophe’ should be ‘eustrophe’. ‘Eucatastrophe’ in that case would seem to denote a disastrous event that turns out to have had beneficial consequences. The bubonic plague which devastated Europe in the middle ages may be an example since helped promote the move away from feudalism.

      • ‘Eucatastrophe’ in that case would seem to denote a disastrous event that turns out to have had beneficial consequences.

        Well, I suppose we could consider capitalism to be the disastrous event that may still have beneficial consequences. Much has been achieved over the last few hundred years but now it’s time to end the disaster while maintaining and advancing the benefits.

  3. Takere 3

    Shouldn’t that be everyday? A mythical event in time shouldnt dictate what we do today?
    Haha! Fuck’n Socialist in me.

    Feast & enjoy!

  4. Rosemary McDonald 5

    “It’s the easiest and most cynical sneer to denounce Christmas.”

    If its so easy, then why don’t more folk do it?

    Try this…

    Exchange a few ‘isn’t it absolute lunacy coming into to pak ‘n spend at this time of year’ comments with fellow aisle waiters. Have a laugh, and engage in a positive way with the checkout operator.

    Then, in response to a heartfelt “have a good Christmas” reply, “Oh, I don’t do christmas, never have.”

    Some will not make bolt for the nearest exit (assuming they’ve just been shooting the shit with a serial killer or the like) and they’ll ask if that’s for religious reasons…no doubt assuming a JW or some weird non -Western influence…and when you tell them” no, I’m am not a christian so it would be wrong to celebrate one of their major festivals.” you get some truly funny looks.

    Occasionally a person will say, enviously, “Oh, I wish I could ignore christmas…but it would be too hard…”

    It gets easier as each year passes.

  5. Shona 6

    @Rosemary McDonald. Christmas is celebrated at this time of year to coincide with the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice. Yuletide was the pagan festival at this time. This is where the traditional colors of red and green come from as Holly berries were the only flower in the northern snow.The feast is the Yuletide feast a pagan custom. The trees are a German tradition and originally pagan totems.Victoria’s German husband introduced them to England. I could go on about how we are actually celebrating a pagan festival but it would take too much time. The church had to accept many pagan customs( Easter is a fertility rite festival) in order to sell it’s schtick back in the day. The Anglican seat of Canterbury where the Archbishop resides was originally a Druid university and learning centre. Enjoy the season.

    • Rosemary McDonald 6.1

      @Shona. Thanks..but I was born and raised in the UK… the pagan origins of ‘modern’ christian festivals..well, again, part of my early learning.

      Where I grew up we had Well Dressing and harvest festivals… complete with wheat sheaf shaped breads. And maypoles.

      Structured belief systems, be they pagan, christian, isalm, buddhist, are all fine if they’re used to strengthen and support and liberate.

      Mostly, religion is about power and control and threat and fostering ignorance.

      And encouraging the disgusting displays of mindless consumerism and faux fellow feeling we’re subjected to at this time of year.

      • Shona 6.1.1

        Harvest Festivals were celebrated in the UK imported church I attended as a child here in NZ. I don’t have a problem with the amalgam of spiritual festivals we of Celtic descent celebrate here in the antipodes. As Maori culture teaches us if you don’t know who the people were who made you ( are descended from) you don’t know who you are. I enjoy discovering the values and customs of my ancestors. I can pick and choose from the cultural and spiritual smorgasbord on offer as to what gives me meaning and understanding in this life. Maintaining a rigid belief system of any kind ( i.e all religion is superstition and superstition is ignorance) only blinkers life’s outlook. And I wouldn’t give up Yuletide feasting for any belief system.

    • Carolyn_Nth 6.2

      The good thing about Christmas in Auckland is that a whole heap of people have left the city. The roads are quiet, public transport is still running (a limited service), and the weather is not too bad.

      Otherwise, I just cannot get into the whole excess of consumerism thing.

  6. David Mac 7

    I love Christmas, we get an aligned few days off. It draws my loved ones from near and far. We get together and hug, laugh, reminisce, eat, drink and express our appreciation for one another. So much more than celebrating the birth of Jesus, it’s the glue that overcomes distance and makes us all feel special to be a part of our family.

    I wouldn’t mind if we were gathering under a Matariki star on the top of a Rimu in a pot. It’s hugging those I haven’t seen for 12 months that counts. Until something else comes along, I love Christmas.

    • McFlock 7.1

      The sentimentalist in me remembers when weekends were a thing, where almost everyone had time to spend with family, join clubs, and so on. Aligned holidays are hugely imortant for building community.

    • greywarshark 7.2

      David Mac
      +100

  7. red-blooded 8

    I think almost any celebration that most people participate in is basically a good thing – it binds together families and gives people a sense of shared humanity. I’m absolutely not religious and neither is anyone in my immediate family, but Christmas has always been a big thing with us. It’s a gathering time, touchstone and a storehouse of shared memories. We haven’t given gifts for years (except to children) and our shared food is different from most (I’m vegan and others are vegetarian while others aren’t, plus we’re a multiethnic family with more than one food culture).

    This is our first Christmas without my mother, and last year was all about giving her a happy time for what she knew would be her last Christmas. The decorations etc all had a lot of meaning to her – they were part of her latticework of memories.

    This year we’re in a different city and household and will be doing things differently. We couldn’t make it the same no matter how hard we tried, and it wouldn’t feel right to try.

    I understand people who choose to opt out of Christmas, but I’m not one of them.

    • David Mac 8.1

      Geez, you’re sending me teary red-blooded.

      Yep, spreading a bit of peace and goodwill requires no religious affiliation whatsoever.

    • Ad 8.2

      I forgot that good thing about Christmas:

      It helps you to remember.

      I lost my mother eight years ago, and it left a cannon-ball sized hole in my gut.

      No better moment than to raise a toast to all those who we have lost and wish to remember.

      • David Mac 8.2.1

        Yes, no better time to remember someone because most of those present recall the departed from Christmas Days past. If a departed Mum loved the Christmas songs of Elvis, a simple tune can pluck the heartstrings of all those there.

      • No better moment than to raise a toast to all those who we have lost and wish to remember.

        Strange, I would have thought that would have been Día de Muertos. Even better for NZ would be if there was a Māori tradition for the same thing.

        • red-blooded 8.2.2.1

          Except we don’t decide logically which traditions are going to be big in our families – we grow up with the ones that have acquired meaning to our parents and their generation. We may change them (like my family deciding to phase out Christmas presents and changing our eating traditions), but any true tradition overlaps from one generation to the next. That’s what makes it a tradition.

          And that’s not to say that Māori traditions like matariki and traditions from other cultural communities aren’t important already to those who identify with them and won’t take more of a centre stage over time (look at how Halloween has – sort of – taken off in recent decades) but if we’re raising a toast to those we want to remember, we’re doing it partly because we remember sharing past Christmases with them.

          • Draco T Bastard 8.2.2.1.1

            (look at how Halloween has – sort of – taken off in recent decades)

            Halloween was, most likely, the celebration of Samhain:

            The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.

            But that happens at the transition from summer to winter whereas Día de Muertos was:

            Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer.

            Which would much better suit the NZ calendar. Of course, the date has changed to match that of ‘Halloween’ now.

            • red-blooded 8.2.2.1.1.1

              To be honest, Draco, I don’t think most people care what the origins of various traditions are. What they are now is what we make of them, built upon what previous generations made of them and becoming what new generations are making or will make of them. For some people there will be special religious or cultural significance, but for most of us there isn’t, and that’s fine. It can be interesting to know the histories of these things, but it’s not what gives them their meaning in the life of a family or an individual.

              • To be honest, Draco, I don’t think most people care what the origins of various traditions are.

                I tend to disagree. People like to have a reason for the celebration. It’s that reason that makes it communal.

                The culture around the celebration may change but the fact that its ‘always been there’ goes a long way towards people accepting it.

  8. eco maori 9

    Christmas is for the mokos as for me well I will be working every day except Christmas and new year. It use to have me wondering why there were two big piss ups 1 week a part but at the time the family I was living with would use any reason to get on the piss. Being a empty nester we just go with what my daughter and son in law plans on the farm it’s good to watch the mokos with there new gifts. I see a programme on TV trying to justify money the way I see its the rot to all bad things let’s take the share market it’s a gambling game for most people except the biggest player set it up so they never lose IE they cheat and as scientists tell us one cannot get something for nothing so when someone is winning well someone is losing there assets. The stock market is not a necessity for us and neither is money money just gives to much power to the 1%
    And that gives them the power to piss on the 99% that is why money has to be retire to have a equal humane society Ka kite ano

  9. RedLogix 10

    Ad is correct, festivals, celebrations and holidays are the act of community made visible. They are a very ancient and fine aspect of being human, albeit this particular festival comes with a lot of creaky baggage.

    Plus it’s all a lot of fun if you feel part of it. Not so much if you feel alienated, isolated or shamed. None of us will ever be perfect, but for a few days we can look to our better nature, set aside our shortcomings and griefs … and reach out in love.

    Cheers

    • Ad 10.1

      Good to see you back RedLogix.

    • David Mac 10.2

      The things that touch me the deepest during this time of the year are the completely unexpected gestures of goodwill. A card from someone I’d nearly forgotten, the barman buying me a beer, someone mowing my lawn when I was lame.

      It leads me to believe that the same goes for others. I think the biggest kick to get out of Christmas is to be the purveyor of unexpected and unsolicited goodwill. It’s the biggest buzz to be had for both parties.

      It’s a good time to reach out to those people you speak of Red, the alienated, isolated or shamed.

      • Incognito 10.2.1

        This comment struck a chord with me.

        Are we so closed off the rest of the year that we don’t see, and more importantly perhaps not perform, acts of goodwill and kindness? They are often labelled “random” acts of kindness and I always thought this referred to the recipient being selected in a completely (??) random fashion – something I can see now that is doubtful and just shows my naivety. More likely, the randomness refers to the perceived sporadic and rare nature of these acts.

        How often do we realise, and acknowledge with gratitude, that we ourselves are the recipient of (very minor) gestures of goodwill and kindness? I’d suggest that much flies past us largely unnoticed.

        Do we expect the unexpected [gestures of goodwill] and therefore spot it more easily and more often around this time of the year? Maybe, just maybe, we should look up more or open our eyes and experience the beauty of kindness that is around us all the time and everywhere …

        People seem to think that myths and symbols enrich our [inner] lives but it is the exact opposite: they are projections from the unconscious onto and into the outer external world. In other words, we’re the unsuspecting actors/extras and spectators/audience in our own movie [think: Matrix].

        • David Mac 10.2.1.1

          The time of the year prods me into breaking routine. It’s just not practical for me to drop a hamper into the old bloke over the back every week. Anne and her nephew were prodded by Christmas into starting their little card giving tradition.

    • Anne 10.3

      It’s the littlest things that count. Like a nephew of mine with whom I have an ongoing competition to see who comes up with the funniest Xmas card. He outdid me this year so I embarked on a grand search and found a brilliant card, which means he’s getting two from me this Xmas. (Mind you I’ve asked for the second one back to put among my own display.) 😉

      Human nature being what it is… we… don’t… like… being… outdone.

  10. joe90 11

    Anti-Carol.

    It weren’t no picnic
    It weren’t no picture post card
    It was cold as ‘taters in the mould
    When the couple come lookin’ for a room
    Cold shouldered they were when the landlords looked at her
    And saw the baby in her womb
    Cold comfort they got
    Was there a room? There was not
    The town was crowded for a start
    And it was cold, cold, cold, cold
    Cold as a beggar boy’s heart

    It could have been in Jo’burg, Detroit. Chittagong, Calcutta
    So long since it happened
    I’m wrong! It happened yesterday
    It happens now more and more…
    Then somebody said he could lend them a shed
    Crashing down on the floor
    Just concrete and iron and a blanket to lie on
    They’d been walkin’ all day
    And their home was such a long, long, long, long,
    Long way away

    They never heard no angels
    Just the big police siren
    When the light come fumblin’ through the night
    Her waters broke. The kid begun to come
    “Is there a doctor?” “No fear,
    Only poor people here
    What would you pay him with, chum?”
    There war ice on the door.
    She sweated; he swore
    He saw the head of his child
    And then together him and her
    Helped it into the world

    There weren’t no cattle watching
    Just a rat and twenty cockroach
    The kid cried. His dad soon had him washed and dried
    When his mother woke she give him breast
    He shared his parents’ love
    And he was heir to their poverty
    It war all they possessed
    And then the rumors got ’round
    There were soldiers in town
    With orders “Search and Destroy”
    They didn’t want to get wasted
    They left town a bit hasty
    The man, his wife and their boy, boy, boy, boy,
    Young wife and new baby boy

    He was theirs they made him
    Out of love, hope, and suff’ring
    God’s son? Or just another one!
    More like millions born to slave, starve, and die
    Oh p’raps when he grows and sees how the world goes
    He’ll help to change it by and by
    Let’s hope the soldiers don’t hang this new son of man
    Like they done one before …
    Will he bring peace or a gun?
    When his kingdom does come
    It’ll belong to the poor, poor, poor, poor.
    The homeless and poor

    John Pole

  11. Koff 12

    Christmas has changed over the years. Guess it will never die out. In secularised Uruguay it’s called “Family Day”, while the traditional Catholic Semana Santa (Holy Week) was renamed Tourism week. http://www.latintimes.com/uruguay-celebrates-day-family-instead-christmas-140852. Not a nice time of year if you haven’t got any money or family!

  12. Chris 14

    “About 1 fifth of the world recite actual ideals.”

    Forgive if a stupid question but what does this mean?

  13. Tanz 15

    Merry Christmas, thank you Jesus. Of course it’s a good thing! God is in charge, and laughs at man’s governments. The left and right are both wrong at the end of the day. Glory to God, who gives meaning to life.

    • Uh, yeah, allahu Akbar, or whatever it is you guys say.

    • Ad 15.2

      Glory to God indeed.

    • God is in charge, and laughs at man’s governments.

      If s/he exists then s/he may laugh at man’s governments. Considering the disaster that those governments are bringing about with their ideological/pathological adherence to capitalism then I think s/he’d be more likely to cry.

      That said, s/he’s not in charge and here’s why:

      As anybody knows the best learning comes from making mistakes and learning from them. This means that any god cannot force/command any living thing to do something as it would remove that living entities ability to learn from those mistakes. A suggestion here and there maybe but even that would lessen over time as a parent’s advice to their child lessens as the child grows and learns more.

      • Chris 15.3.1

        Well your god can force/demand you

        Or you wouldn’t have to spend eternity in your hell for not following his rules or begging subserviance if you get it wrong

    • One Anonymous Bloke 15.4

      Tanz, who bears false witness on a daily basis, paying lip service to the Toad of Nazareth.

      During the day thou shalt approach the frog whenever convenient, and speak words of worship. And thou shalt ask it to perform such miracles as thou desirest to be done; and they shall be done according to Thy Will. Also thou shalt promise to the frog an elevation fitting for him; and all this while thou shalt be secretly carving a cross whereon to crucify him.

    • fender 15.5

      You failed to mention: mandate, biggest party, won the election, rort, 44%, FPP, Winston, foisted etc etc

      Are you feeling OK?

    • ropata 15.6

      Agreed Tanz. The ancient words of Scripture have outlived many civilizations. Rangimarie whaea.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 15.6.1

        “The ancient words of scripture” borrow heavily from pre-existing texts. Some of these pre-existing texts explicitly reject the notion of divinity.

        The sermon on the mount, for example, appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which predate the Jesus character, who is thereby cast as the town crier.

        Have a great holiday 🙂

  14. Merry time-off-work, everyone.

  15. Ed 17

    Andrew Knight: think about the turkey

    ‘New Zealand’s leading animal advocacy organisation SAFE wants people thinking about tasty alternatives to turkey, lamb and other kinds of meat this festive season. Well known for its advocacy for the safe treatment of animals Safe pushes to improve conditions in which the animals we eat are kept, through campaigns involving bobby calves, pigs and free-range chickens. Its new Director of Research and Education Andrew Knight is a veterinary professor of animal welfare.’

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018627489

    • timeforacupoftea 17.1

      Andrew Night you are sad sad man.

      I was brought up on prayer and prayed at every meal.
      Let us pray for those tasty yum yum bits of flesh, rabbits, birds, lamb, mutton, chickens, bobby calves, bull, cow, pigs, turkey, fish, whale, deer and horse.

      My praying is well behind me now so I asked “God Google” a question ‘can I eat dog or cat and got this’. ————–

      You must try to free yourself from your cultural pre-conceptions to be able to see the heart of this matter. Let me mention to you some interesting facts:

      – In south east Asia, they eat the meat of dogs and the brains of monkeys

      – In France they eat frog’s legs.

      – In Arabia they eat the eyes of sheep.

      – In some rain forests there are Pygmy tribes who eat the big hairy tarantula spiders.

      – In Peru they eat the meat of Guinea Pigs.

      Naturally the culture we both come from makes it repulsive for us to eat any of these animals, but does that make it unlawful to eat them? The answer is no, it is all a matter of culture and what a person is used to.

      So if you invite me to dinner and ask me to eat a cooked dog, monkey or spider I would not enjoy it very much and I would not want to eat it. This is not because these animals are prohibited by God, but because I am not brought up in a culture that accepts such meat as food.

      Some people say: how can you eat a dog or a cat when these animals are kept as pets ? Well, in many countries of the world rabbits are kept as pets, and in others pigeons are kept as pets yet in those countries rabbits and pigeons are eaten everyday! They do not see anything wrong in doing so, even if they keep them as pets. So what preference is there for a dog over a rabbit? Does a dog have more rights to exist than a rabbit? You have to remember that it is not all about us humans, whether we keep an animal as a pet or not is totally irrelevant to the legality of eating the meat of such an animal. All animals, pets or no pets, have souls and are living creatures?

      Ultimately, we return to the only issue that matters: The only animal whose meat is prohibited by God is the pig, anything else is not prohibited.

      http://www.quran-islam.org/faq/meat_of_dogs_and_cats_(P1138).html

  16. Ad 18

    Does anyone do the Secret Santa thing where it’s all randomly allocated but then anyone can then steal your present, and it goes around in a circle with everyone stealing and swapping?

    While you get shitfaced?

    I’m doing it now.

    • timeforacupoftea 18.1

      I did the secret santa clothing / wearable thing last year in Minneapolis -16 degree C.
      You were asked to go home in what you won.
      Thank God, I managed to get rid of a Texan hat, a mini skirt and a pair of silk stockings right on the bell ended with a pair of ear rings on the bell.

      Fun though

    • Anne 18.2

      Yes. We do. Lot of fun provided you don’t take it all too seriously. We try to ensure all presents are quality presents by setting a minimum amount to be spent. Anyone who goes below that minimum soon gets to hear about it and they don’t do it again. We have a rule that you can only steal once but there are plenty of deals done after the event. It’s a great way to reduce Xmas costs and there’s lots of laughter to be had. Everybody takes a number out of a Xmas hat with No.1 getting first choice and so on.

      The children don’t take part. They get their normal quota of individual family presents.

  17. Eh ? … awww Gerofff !!!

    Christmas is all about Jesus Christ being born . Whether or not the date was changed due to pagan Germanic seasonal observations or not. And if you look in the annals of contemporary writings , Jesus Christ was mentioned a fair few times by Romans of note.

    And so was his death.

    And if you care to accept it , it was for everyone. In fact ,… much of what he taught went on to form the basis of western laws. The fact it took 2000 years before it found its way into those laws and continually got / still is being perverted by opportunists wasnt his fault.

    Thats our fault.

    We often act just like the very Pharisees Jesus spoke out against . Jesus Christ was the original socialist. And he criticized those Pharisees for not following what they taught . Look how he elevated women in his reckoning to be as equals to men in a heavily Patriachal society like Israel 2000 years ago for a start , – or how he valued the poor as much as the rich.

    So yeah – Christmas is a great time – for all the things the OP mentioned.

    How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1/9) Movie CLIP – The … – YouTube
    the grinch you tube▶ 3:19

  18. mac1 20

    I have had again the great joy of being the ‘white-bearded gentleman” in a local store. For more than 30 hours I have had the company of hundreds of children (young and old), older siblings, parents, grand-parents, teens, American couples, seasonal workers from Vanuatu, friends, students, store workers, and delightful old lady to sit upon my knee.

    They came in a solid line queuing for well over half an hour. Sessions of 200 unbroken minutes were common.

    Each child had my full attention for a short conversation. This is a special time for them. The photograph would be a reminder of a happy time and a record of the family as it changed.

    I have held 10 day old babies, very special early Christmas presents I call them, and on two occasions had four generations of the women of one family in a photo.

    Santa has a special role. To children he is an example of how the universe can bring love and gifts without any reciprocity, unconditional and benign.

    My very last visitor for this year made me sit in my chair for a little contemplative moment before going off to feed the reindeer. She and her mother, who was suffering from some muscular degenerative condition, sat with me. Her nine year old wish for a present from Santa was to make her mother well again…………..

    Christmas is good. Its real values shine like the Bethlehem star in the eyes of children. Merry Christmas!

    • Patricia 20.1

      Well done – Mac1. Making lives a little happier with your gift of time, interest and attention.

  19. Descendant Of Sssmith 22

    Ahhh a more realistic view of Christmas but I enjoy it anyway. Cheers to you all.

  20. Bill 23

    Had the number 263 had a blow-out in its front tyre and careened uncontrollably to the left, then…yeah – “Why Xmas is good”.

    Not very “goodwilly” of me, I know.

    • weka 23.1

      number 263?

      • Bill 23.1.1

        It might be the 253 or a 243. My eyesight isn’t so good 😉

        I’m referring to the double decker bus in the post’s graphic.

        • weka 23.1.1.1

          Lol then. Maybe shift those spikes designed to stop people sleeping on the streets onto the road and pointing in the appropriate direction.

          (yes, I think 263)

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