“Dashing through the oil-covered sluuuuush,
In a 5-speed Honda Civic.
Over the highways I go,
At 10 mph the whole way (hahahaha).
“Rushing to buy gifts
With money I don’t have.
What fun it is to stress and cram
During the holidays again, hey!”
If this version of “Jingle Bells” fits your holidays better than the original version, I would say that you will enjoy this article.
With an attitude that, like my song, is a little silly, a little sullen, I figured I’d take a crack at one of the most beloved and esteemed occurrences in our known society: the holidays.
It’s not that I don’t like the holidays, I do. Family, food, presents, games, an abnormal amount of cheer, songs on repeat that you’ve known since childhood, it’s all great.
However, there is more to the holidays than what is presented on the glistening surface.
Here is a look at the origins of some major holidays celebrated in America, what they look like nowadays, and some alternatives to these traditions.
I was taught since “I” was a drooling baby that baby Jesus is the reason for the season. That we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25th, and that we give presents because the three kings of Orient gave Jesus presents when they found him by following that one really bright star in the sky. That’s why there is a star at the top of the Christmas Tree. Although one year a friend put a t-rex at the top, at their daughter’s request. I like her style.
All of these symbols folks celebrate are good and fine, but these traditions are not what Christmas was all about originally. *gasp* Tis true my friend, tis true.
They say if you can’t say it better than someone else already has, then you should quote them. That is essentially what I will do now when talking about the origins of what we now call “Christmas.” Watch this video that is put out by The History Channel to learn about how Christmas came about. I highly recommend that you read the whole article as well, as it elaborates on what the video talks about. It’s as full of information as Santa’s belly is of cookies and milk! (So, so cheesy…)
Did you watch it? If not, WATCH IT! We cannot proceed in this article until you do!
Good? Good! 🙂
Mind blown? Mine was too. While Christians have reclaimed Christmas and made the holiday their own in certain ways, Christmas is in no way mandated, or even mentioned in the Bible. Jesus didn’t command it, his followers didn’t celebrate it. Christmas as it is celebrated on December 25th was created to “absorb the traditions of pagan holidays.” So you could say that the Christmas that we know it was originally a pagan holiday.
*Note: NOT liable for any heart attacks or conniption fits due to the revealing of this information.*
I am very thankful to my parents that I always had good Christmas experiences.
Now that I am older, my eyes are opened to some…yellow snow in an otherwise perfectly pristine yard, if you will ;P
That is where Christmas originated. But what up with Santa Claus?? How does jolly ole Kris Kringle come into the picture?
Once Santa comes into the picture, that’s where the perfect holy picture of Christmas seems to become a bit…unholy to me. Folks are called on to “keep Christ in ‘Christmas.’ ” Yet Santa gets all the glory for bringing presents! Come to think of it, I can’t recall watching any movies about Jesus on ABC’s Family’s Countdown of 25 Days of Christmas. It was all Santa and Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman, and Jack Skelington! Man, those old animations of Rudolph and Frosty never get old ^_^
Check out the many faces of Santa Claus throughout the years. This is an extensive article of where Santa Claus came from, and how he got to be the tubby, smiling grandfatherly figure he is today. He has worn many hats though; he once resembled a Saint of gifts and children. At another time, he was a stern figure who gave gifts to good children, and switches, not coal, to bad ones.
Though Santa Claus is thought to have originated with Saint Nicholas, the Santa we know today has nothing to do with religion. Unless you consider the repetitive following of a tradition that has been changed time and time again over the years, religion.
Now, my family would say a prayer before the Christmas meal, but the only other time I saw much about Jesus during Christmas (besides nativity scenes in front yards of neighbors) was during church. So you can see why the “time for cheer” for me has turned to a sarcastic “time for sneer.”
These little discrepancies definitely always made me question what the heck that one special day was really all about, but running amok getting love and attention and *presents* from family members silenced my questions. Until now.
Here’s an idea to make Christmas truly about family and giving back. How about instead of spending money that you don’t have on presents for your ever-growing family that they probably don’t really need, how about putting together care packages for the homeless or less fortunate or children or refugees or soldiers? You could all go shopping together, or each person could be responsible for one item for each of the gift baskets and then put them together. You would be spending quality time together, and making someone else’s life a little brighter.
Doing good for others is ultimately the reason for the season 🙂
The yearly Thanksgiving Feast is one of my favorite times of the year. The traditions of Thanksgiving are even taught to most kiddos in school. Do you remember making turkeys created using the cutout shape of your hand, or headbands to look like Native American headdresses? I do.
And what was the story that most of us were painted a lovely picture of what happened between the Puritan settlers and the Native Americans who were already there. Most American kids are taught the story that the settlers came over to the “undiscovered” North America on a ship. It took the settlers a little while to get it right, but once they had their first successful harvest, the Native Americans brought food from their own gardens and meat from their own backyards to celebrate with the settlers. The settlers were so thankful that they formed a friendship with the Native Americans and then decided to commit genocide on an entire group of people, I mean, create Thanksgiving to honor that meal!
From what I can tell, that story is true.
The spirit of thankfulness really shines through on this holiday I believe. The day itself, in my experience, simply brings families back together to share a big meal and remind ourselves what we have to be thankful for. It is the day after Thanksgiving that has been tainted. The all-known “Black Friday.” Hey, since the day is named, does that make it a holiday itself? Hmmm…
Growing up, my mom and sisters would get up early and go shopping on Black Friday. I think I went one year and that was enough for me. Personally, I never saw the appeal in it. For one, they always wanted to get up early, so I was pretty much out based off of that. Not only that though, it seems like every other Christmas-celebrating, deal-loving person in America is going to be out too, in order to get their Christmas shopping done early. I have social anxiety. That does not sound like fun. Here’s another reason why I’m not into it: with everyone out, those lines are crazy! Have you seen the videos of people wrapped around the stores? Here’s one. Nope, no thank you, I’ll stay at home in my jammies!
Black Friday seems to have some sort of magical powers over people, if it can make you want to do that. Not only that, it has growing powers. Seriously, every year, Black Friday lasts longer. Growing up, people would wake up early and show up at the stores on Friday morning. Nowadays, at some places, people show up the night before and wait in line all night long!
Remember when Cyber Monday became a thing? Honestly I was a little bit more on-board with that, since you don’t have to leave the house, and plus things tend to be cheaper online anyways. But now? Oh ho ho no, now, the spirit of Black Friday has crept from Friday to Monday, and now there is shop small Saturday (which I actually value a lot in comparison). I’m here to tell the world, I don’t need my days of the week labeled with what to buy on that day! I am not your obedient little consumer.
The frenzy of Black Friday and all of the other named days turns normal people into greedy, corporate savages. There is a growing list of shopping accidents of folks who are injured and even killed on in the Black Friday Frenzy ( can we take a minute to appreciate what a morbidly funny phrase, “shopping accident” is). This website has compiled them. The first accident I remember hearing about was of a worker who was trampled by would-be shoppers as the doors of Wal-Mart opened.
Those accidents are just the ones that were “headline worthy.” Now let’s take into account the numerous incidents that didn’t end up on the front page of national news. There are fights, fist fights, all over the place as well. Check out this compilation of fights…over stuff. That’s all it is, is stuff… We seem to forget and think that it is the secret to happiness.
Oh, I did learn a few other interesting things about Thanksgiving this year! One is that the Dallas Cowboys and the Indians compete in a game of football on this day every year. I just found this out this year… I’m really more of the creative type, a quiet writer if you please, and thank you. This year, that game marked the first football game I ever watched all the way through. And, heh, something some other folks thought was very funny, I got really excited at one point and declared that I had finally watched my first Superbowl….. Ahem. Apparently, the Superbowl is not, in fact, on Thanksgiving. Sooo, I incited some laughs with that one.
The bigger issue here besides my moment of embarrassing ignorance is that we as a nation are still glorifying the brutal fighting between settlers, the Cowboys, and those Native to this land, the improperly named Indians. I was honestly flabbergasted when I found out that this was a tradition that is celebrated by so many. I don’t mean to knock what so many love; maybe I’m just really not into men smashing into each other over and over as entertainment so much; especially when it has classist, white power undertones. I realize that it’s just a game; I also realize that societies are shaped by culture and what is popular and that symbolism ingrains itself in the mind no matter how “innocent” a game might be.
I don’t have an alternative holiday or way to celebrate Thanksgiving. What I do have is a suggestion of an alternative way to think about togetherness and gift-giving, as well as a reshaping of what we value about our history as a nation. We don’t need a special day to get together with our families, to cook, to watch a game, to be thankful for what we have; and we should be honest with ourselves about the actions of our ancestors and seek a more conscious respectable way of thinking than what has been passed on to us. If Thanksgiving Day is the only day we are celebrating thankfulness and growing in knowledge and wisdom, I feel like we are missing out, which is a shame to our own potential and to the influence we have on our brothers and sister around us.
I say, practice thankfulness every day. In your morning or evening prayers or meditations, in those still moments are you are awakening or drifting off to sleep, consider allowing your mind to exude gratitude for the people and events and things you have in your life. If you want to learn from the Native Americans like the settlers did, try taking a brief moment to send out thanks to the earth and its inhabitants whenever you receive a meal. It will taste so much sweeter, as you will be even just a bit more connected with the energy inside of the plants and animals, if you choose to eat meat. Living things are given life from the Sun and the nutrients in the soil, and when we eat, we are taking this light and these nutrients into ourselves. Having a meal really can be a spiritual experience if your heart is opened to the wonderful blessing of it.
Also please realize the irony of going into a nationwide consumption frenzy the day after we collectively celebrate a day of giving thanks. You don’t need to buy a bunch of things just because they are “on sale” or to make your loved ones love you or because corporations have twisted the meaning of holidays into an marketing strategy to make you help them meet their fiscal goals. The feeling of satisfaction you get when making these purchases are a short-lived illusion. I will let The Beatles drive this point home:
There is one more tradition commonly practiced in the United States that I would like to talk about, and that is breaking piñatas at children’s birthday parties.
Breaking piñatas stuffed with candy and toys is a tradition that is thought to have originated in Spain, although some think it may have come from China originally, then moved to Spain. Either way, it moved from Spain to Mexico, then into the United States.
These days, the American tradition of piñatas has little to do with the beliefs practiced in its roots. It really is quite terrifying if you think about it! You are giving a child a weapon, blindfolding them, then spinning them in circles and hoping that they hit the piñata instead of you, another child, or any unlucky yard decoration that might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (She says in a joking voice but is actually kind of serious.)
The truly frightening part is that once a child does hit the piñata , it is a free for all frenzy akin to what the children’s adult counterparts are doing on Black Friday! Every child there rushes towards the pile of goodies, kicking, screaming, and knocking each other over so that they can have the most toys and candy. I get that it’s all in good fun, but in a certain light, teaching children to bust open animals and fight each other to consume and have the satisfaction of getting more fallen entrails than their playmates can send a message that the way to the top is by pushing and fighting.
Wouldn’t it be better if the children were intentionally taught a lesson for their betterment than just teaching them greed and consumption? Check out how the Mexican Catholic Church used piñatas as a lesson for good: “The Mexican Catholic interpretation of the piñata rested on the struggle of man against temptation. The seven points [on the piñata] represent the seven deadly sins. The pot represents evil and the seasonal fruit and candy inside the temptations of evil. The person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith. The turning, singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates. In some traditions, the participant is turned thirty three times, one for each year of Christ’s life. These interpretations were given to the piñata for catechism purposes. As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil. When the piñata breaks, the treats inside then represent the rewards of keeping the faith.”
Even if you aren’t a Christian, the point about beating down evil and getting a reward for remaining strong-minded in what you believe in can be taken away from this old tradition.
Though these aren’t life-threatening or even terribly politically stirring issues, I do think the undertone of them speaks a lot of the mindsets of the typical American.
My point in writing this is to show my appreciation for the upbringing I had, and to show an alternative way of thinking than the sometimes mindless traditions we engage in. Also, to educate about those traditions so we can at least have the choice of choosing how we celebrate.
Thanks for reading!