Monday, January 04, 2010
[If you actually take the time to read every word of this, there might be prizes.]
As I’ve mentioned here before, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment - seeing relatives and giving gifts during the ‘normal’ December 25th holiday - we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.
You may be wondering why we do this. Too bad. What, we owe YOU an explanation?
(Sorry. I sometimes get tired of explaining it all to the yahoos and nincompoops of this world. You, of course, don’t fit neatly into either of those categories. You’re special! You deserve better. If you had had sense enough to go to someplace that could have given it to you, I wouldn’t have complained.)
(Really? Best explanation I can offer is HERE.)
January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as they’re concerned, Christmas is over come midnight on December 25th. Then there’s that New Year’s thing to deal with, but since the main components of that are gulping down as much alcohol as possible and then having drunken sex with strangers, it sells itself. The next things that need an actual advertising campaign are Valentine’s Day and getting folks revved up to spend their big bucks on President’s Day car sales (although many women are more than happy to shove Valentine’s Day down mens throats without aid of the candy and jewelry manufacturers, some even giving it the entirely hideous nickname of 'Womens Christmas', and if you know anyone like that, I’ll be happy to shoot them for you. That’ll be gift enough for me.)
(Someday, in the not-too-distant future, you can expect to hear an announcer saying something like…
Free at last! Thank God almighty, free at last!
Well, OK, we’re not giving away our cars, but it’s as close as we can get! It’s our Martin Luther King Day sale! Our sales staff has a dream – of putting YOU in the driver’s seat of a brand new Toyota! You won’t have to march all the way to Selma for Crazy Ed to notice you! Just come on down, between now and January 20th, and he’ll ensure your civil right to a deal based on the content of your wallet, not the color of your skin!
Financial experts might even take into account the failure of some merchants to break even over the Christmas season and start calling it Black Monday.
You might not think that anyone would have the balls, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Give it a few years. Do you think folks back at the beginning of the previous century would have thought Abraham Lincoln might someday co-star with a beaver in ads for sleeping pills?)
Where was I? Oh, yes, The Feast of the Epiphany. In secular terms, it is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi, the 'Three Kings' of Christmas carol fame. It is the date some suppose as that when they visited the infant Jesus and bestowed upon him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
The day is also remembered, although obliquely, in the song 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas'. Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in that song? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some Western European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th.
In any case, it can be argued reasonably that the 6th of January is a more correct time than December 25th to exchange gifts in honor of The Lord’s nativity.
MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own exchange of presents until the 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 11 days following.
(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off at the folks who want to start the Christmas season some time in October. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November], but it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of celebration that occur in December and January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75 day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)
Since we celebrate on the 6th, I won’t be at work then. I’ll be taking off the 7th and 8th as well. It’s my own personal Christmas vacation. And, since my only internet connection is at work, there will be nothing new in this space. I won't be spending any of my time during our holidays writing. Aside from my general tendency towards sloth, I'd consider it slightly sacrilegious to do so. Therefore, you might get new writing on the 11th, but only if I've got something inside of me itching to burst through my fingers much as the alien burst through John Hurt's stomach.
That IS pretty much what it feels like to me when I have an actual original idea. It's very painful. That's why I recycle stuff so often. Less agony.
In other words, this may be the last new entry you'll see until the 12th, and I wouldn’t put it past me to foist re-runs on you for most of the remainder of the month after that. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s taking an excuse and running with it.
Ah! I see the river of tears coursing down your collective faces. Just so you truly know that I do care about you, here’s a story that is not about Little Christmas specifically, but IS about Christmas and is also little.
UNCLE JIM’S STOCKING
First things first: This is a story about an Irish family. While my name is Jim, and I’m an uncle, I also have an Uncle Jim of my own. There is an Uncle Jim mentioned in this story, but he’s not THAT Uncle Jim. Actually, he’s Uncle Jim’s Uncle Jim, making him my granduncle (although some folks prefer the title 'great uncle', but let’s not open that can of worms.) It’s all very confusing to the uninitiated. If it will keep you from getting a headache, feel free to call him Aloysius.
When my father was very young – let’s say six - his Uncle Jim taught him a very valuable lesson.
My father had hung his stocking on Christmas Eve, as did all of the family. This included the older relatives, and that group included Uncle Jim. Come Christmas morning, everybody took down their stockings and looked inside to see what Santa Claus had brought them.
The usual things were found inside the stockings - little toys, tasty candies, and so forth. Nice, but nothing unusual. That is, until Uncle Jim inspected the contents of his stocking. He turned it upside down, and out rolled a lump of coal and an onion.
While good little boys and girls receive toys and candies, a lump of coal and an onion are, by tradition, what bad boys and girls receive. Seeing those things come from Uncle Jim’s stocking, my father laughed and laughed. Uncle Jim was a bad boy! He got a lump of coal and an onion!
While my father was laughing, Uncle Jim said, "Oh! This is wonderful! A lump of coal and an onion? These are just what I needed!"
My father thought his Uncle Jim had gone round the bend. How could someone be happy to have received a lump of coal and an onion in his Christmas stocking?
Uncle Jim picked up the lump of coal, then took my father’s hand and led him to the basement. They stopped at the furnace. Uncle Jim said, "It’s so cold today! This lump of coal is the perfect gift! I can put it in the furnace and we’ll be nice and warm all day!"
Uncle Jim then led my amazed father back upstairs. They went back into the family parlor, where Uncle Jim now picked up his Christmas onion. He led my father into the kitchen. Uncle Jim chopped the onion, and then mixed it with celery, bread, and spices. During all of this, he went on rapturously about how his stuffing for the turkey would have been no good whatsoever without an onion.
Later on, as my father sat in a warm house eating delicious stuffing with his Christmas dinner, the lesson was permanently burned into his memory: It doesn’t matter what you’re given. It’s what you do with it that matters.
I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that in mind when you see the parade of re-runs.
Soon, with more better stuff.
(A few of the more perspicacious among you might have recognized that a fair amount of this entry, itself, was a re-run. I appreciate your loyalty, though, as well as your persistence in having reached this final parenthetical without bailing. At the beginning, I said there might be prizes. Well, I only said there ‘might’ be prizes. In reality, there aren’t any, but it’s too late now. You already read every word. Of course, some folk might consider that reward enough. That, and the fact that I offered to assassinate someone for you earlier on.)