For the Record (On Christmas)

December 25th, 2012
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I cannot believe how many people ask me about this, so I’ll just state it here and hopefully be done with it:

1.  I most often call it Christmas, as opposed to the yuletide, the holidays, the season etc.   The reason for this is that I was raised that way and invokes the traditions I have generally been part of and the culture to which I am a member.  I don’t care what word or words you care to use.  They are all fine by me.

2.  No, I do not believe that using the word “Christmas” implies religion.  That is simply the name that is most recently associated with the midwinter festival, which has been called many things and symbolized many beliefs.  The fact that some modern traditions are based on Christianity means nothing.  Many others are based on paganism.  It’s an amalgam of different beliefs.  You can have a religiously-inspired festival and continue to celebrate it despite dropping the original religious basis.

This happened with Halloween.  We still go out and give candy and have parties, yet very few really stop and consider it to be “The Feast of All Hallows’ Eve.”  Hence, you can keep the name.  You can keep the customs and you can expand on the and invent new ones.  You don’t have to actually make it a religious thing.

3.  I will take any excuse to be festive and do things like give gifts, take off time, spend time with the family etc.  It’s not like we have enough of those to begin with.

4.  I’m opposed to the notion that Christmas, being religious in origin, should be dropped as a national holiday and I think the atheist groups that are for that are idiots.  You have to pick your battles.  If you are going to fight tooth and nail to take away everyone’s day off of work, you will gain no allies.  Lets face it, even religious Jews who in no way recognize Christmas like the fact that they generally get a day off work, and hence have established the Jewish tradition of “Chinese food day.”   So please, you are fighting to get rid of Christmas as an official holiday, find yourself something else to fight for.

5.  You can say Happy Holidays and I appreciate it and am not offended.  You can say Happy Yuletide, Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Haunaka.  I appreciate the sentiment for all of them.   Personally, I tend to use “Happy Holidays” in general public discussion.  I tend to use “Merry Christmas” on the actual 25th of December and also in conversation with those I know to celebrate Christmas, but really, it’s all interchangeable and I don’t make a big deal out of it.

6.  Christmas does not end on the 25th and it is valid to say that “Merry Christmas” tomorrow and the day after.  Christmas day is the start of the twelve day Christmas celebration which ends with the Feast of the Epiphany.   Hence, it may not be Christmas Day tomorrow, but it’s still the Feast of Stephen and therefore, still Christmas.   Religious in origin?  Sure, but again, it’s an excuse to celebrate even if you secularize it.   It’s a “FEAST!”  Why on earth would you say no to a feast?  There can be no rational justification for turning down a reason to feast.

In many countries it is known as “Boxing Day,” which again, is a great excuse to celebrate.  The name, by the way, is of unknown origin, but may comes from the tradition of gift giving to workers, who would have been off on Christmas.  Regardless of the origin, it is almost certainly not related to punching people in the face, so please, do not celebrate Boxing Day by punching someone in the face.  (Well, unless they are really asking for it.)

7.  No, I don’t have a problem with commercialism.  If Christmas, as secularized, is associated with things like buying and putting up holiday lights and decorations, then fine.  I like flashy colorful things.  Who doesn’t?   If it is associated with shopping, then fine.  It’s good to give things to other people and consumerism is not inherently bad.

As long as it is not mean-spirited or dominated by stress, then I’m all for it.

8.  If you consider the stresses of implied expectations to be a bigger deal than the festive and happy aspects of the holiday, you are doing it wrong.   Take a deep breath and reevaluate it.  You are not *required* to get anything for anyone or to even observe it.   It’s supposed to be enjoyable.

9.  Holiday lights use up almost no electricity compared to major appliances.  Even the old incandescent ones are very low power devices and the increase in electricity as the result of holiday displays is hardly noticeable to utilities.  It’s nothing compared to the surge in the summer from air conditioning.  If I hear one more person suggest we should all turn off our festive displays because it’s killing the earth, I just might feel the need to celebrate boxing day as the name might imply.

10.  Merry Christmas to everyone reading this.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 at 11:30 am and is filed under Culture, Misc, personal, religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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42 Responses to “For the Record (On Christmas)”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    Check on all counts! And Merry Christmas to all.


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  2. 2
    Jason C Says:

    I agree about the need to pick the right battles and Christmas isn’t one of them.

    The battle I think ought to be waged is the saying of the pledge of allegiance at the start of each school day. I’m not talking about the God clause section, I mean the whole thing. I takes at least 1 minute for a group of rowdy kids to all stand up and recite this day after day and it doesn’t advance their education nor does it make them especially loyal to the country. It takes time away from class and if you add those minutes up, each kid is wasting 3 hours of the school year reciting the pledge. Multiple that by 10 or 12 and now we have several days of school being wasted from K-12 reciting the pledge.

    Could it at least be cut back once a week? Once a month?


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  3. 3
    Sigivald Says:

    I’m pretty patriotic, as things go, and I’m totally with Jason C.

    The Pledge borders on anti-American in spirit, I figure. There’s a reason it’s a late-19th-century innovation, not adopted formally until 1942.

    (Not that there’s anything at all wrong with liberty and justice for all, or loyalty to the ideals of the Republic, or using the flag as a symbol of that.

    The problem is the quasi-mandatory group nature of the pledge; if it was something people did voluntarily and individually without public spectacle, well… I’d think they were kind of weird for wanting to do it like that, but it wouldn’t be a problem.)


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  4. 4
    Q Says:

    Religious in origin or not, any day which starts with “the feast of” is okay in my book.


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  5. 5
    Jonny Says:

    I find the idea that a non-believer would go around celebrating Christmas or worse saying that it “is an excuse to celebrate” is deeply offensive to what the holiday and what real belief is all about.

    Christmas is not about giving presents or taking time off or being with family. Those are all there to celebrate something much deeper. On Christmas the lord Jesus came to earth and he came to walk along side of us, as a human being and to teach us how to live our lives, to extend his love to us and to be on our earth in peace and love. Then he would die for us so that our sins could be forgiven and our souls could be saved.

    If you believe in this truth, then you have every reason to celebrate on Christmas, but if you are going to deny it then you have nothing to celebrate and your participation is a mockery of all it stands for.


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  6. 6
    Anon Says:

            Jonny said:

    I find the idea that a non-believer would go around celebrating Christmas or worse saying that it “is an excuse to celebrate” is deeply offensive to what the holiday and what real belief is all about.

    The pagan festival for the northern hemisphere winter solstice?

    Christians didn’t like people who they forcefully converted continuing to celebrate the old pagan holidays so they renamed them and said they were actually Christian.

            Jonny said:

    Christmas is not about giving presents or taking time off or being with family. Those are all there to celebrate something much deeper. On Christmas the lord Jesus came to earth and he came to walk along side of us, as a human being and to teach us how to live our lives, to extend his love to us and to be on our earth in peace and love. Then he would die for us so that our sins could be forgiven and our souls could be saved.

    There is no way that the character of Jesus Christ could have been born in December.


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  7. 7
    Jonny Says:

    Anon, you are clever to say that Jesus was not born in December, but it does not matter. It is the day of the year we celebrate it, but it really should be celebrated every day of our lives. It’s the celebration of Christ. It might have been on that day to end pagan days, but what is wrong with that? Replace false idols with a real one. Christmas is just a day for Christ. If you refuse Christ then Christmas can’t mean anything to you.


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  8. 8
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I hate to tell you this, Johnny, but pagan, christian or otherwise, I will continue to eat, drink and be merry and you can just try to stop me.


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  9. 9
    Jonny Says:

    I can’t stop you and oinly you can stop yourself. All your drinking and hedonism is just poison for you. You have nothing to celebrate but you can go party anyway like any other denier and just know that Jesus died for you too, even if you are not perfect and maybe you should come around before it is too late.


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  10. 10
    Jonny Says:

    Remember, you can only party because jesus died for you. He died to save you.


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  11. 11
    Arcanyn Says:

    Personally, I think it’s extremely blasphemous for people to go around using Cronos’s holy day to instead worship their own false god. Put the Saturn back in Saturnalia, I say!


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  12. 12
    PsihoKekec Says:

    According to history sources, people partied centuries before the crucifixion I don’t think he’s the reason we are partying.


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  13. 13
    jordan Says:

    it’s fullish to deny the existence of God because it’s sure He exists and He created the world because of love, of too much love. He doesn’t punish us, if our life is miserable sometimes it s because of us


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  14. 14
    Shafe Says:

            jordan said:

    it’s fullish to deny the existence of God because it’s sure He exists and He created the world because of love, of too much love.

    Are you implying that the world is made of God’s semen? I’ll never envision the Big Bang the same way again.


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  15. 15
    drbuzz0 Says:

            jordan said:

    it’s fullish

    I agree, I often feel fullish on the holidays. Not so fullish that I can’t have desert, of course.


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  16. 16
    DV82XL Says:

            Jonny said:

    Remember, you can only party because jesus died for you. He died to save you.

    I am always amused by the incredible arrogance of those claiming to be Christian. Apparently the more ignorant they are of basic Christian theology, the more they believe they can instruct others.


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  17. 17
    J Rosen Says:

    Coming from a Jewish family, we never celebrated Christmas, but I agree that taking it away as a holiday is a losing battle, because everyone likes a day off.

    What kind of argument could they possibly make that anyone would want?

    The fact that you get the 25th of December off from a lot of jobs and if you do have to work, you get time and a half is too religious. We want to make it more fair by ending the practice of people the day off or extra pay for a day.

    How about….. NO

    If they want it to be more inclusive and less one-religion then they should say that one of the days of Hanukkah should be made a bank holiday.


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  18. 18
    drbuzz0 Says:

    panem et circenses!

    It is a very basic tenant of mankind. It may be possible to change core beliefs, but the populous demands entertainment and comfort. Shallow appeasement, but it is just how we are. People don’t want to lose that.

    Only a damn fool would tell the people they can’t have their bread and circus. It will be war if you try.

    This is why Christmas exists. They could not take away the pagan midwinter festivities. They could take away the pagan beliefs, but not the part people enjoyed.

    Similarly, you are a damn fool to try to remove a holiday if doing so means a lot of people don’t get to sleep in. They will simply not stand for that and you will make no allies in advocating it.


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  19. 19
    BMS Says:

    Let’s not forget that it was the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, who tried to ban Christmas. It didn’t work.


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  20. 20
    Anon Says:

            BMS said:

    Let’s not forget that it was the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, who tried to ban Christmas. It didn’t work.

    It actually did for a time.

    The more modern approach to deal with the problem of Christmas is to rename it again, it may even end up working.


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  21. 21
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    This is why Christmas exists. They could not take away the pagan midwinter festivities. They could take away the pagan beliefs, but not the part people enjoyed..

    Every culture and every religion has found some way to mark (approximately) the solstices and the equinoxes because these are major points in the calendar and even though they do not carry the same weight in terms of planning that they once did for folk in pre-industrial times still are deeply ingrained in us all. What you chose to call these celebrations is nobody’s concern but your own. To the best of my knowledge, none of the popular names like Christmas, is subject to copyright.


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  22. 22
    Anon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    To the best of my knowledge, none of the popular names like Christmas, is subject to copyright.

    That’s probably because you can’t get a copyright on a name.


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  23. 23
    George Carty Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Every culture and every religion has found some way to mark (approximately) the solstices and the equinoxes because these are major points in the calendar

    The Muslims don’t — in fact their calendar isn’t even synchronized to the solar year! They probably don’t care much about the solstices though because most Muslims live at low latitudes.

    The solstices are most important at the high latitudes of Northern Europe, and that is where Christmas has its greatest importance, not in the more devoutly Christian countries of Southern Europe, which place more emphasis on Easter instead.


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  24. 24
    George Carty Says:

            BMS said:

    Let’s not forget that it was the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, who tried to ban Christmas. It didn’t work.

    That’s another way in which Wahhabis can be considered “Muslim Puritans”. Some Muslims have a celebration of Mawlid (Muhammad’s birthday), but Wahhabis strongly oppose this just as the Puritans opposed Christmas.


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  25. 25
    BMS Says:

            Anon said:

    It actually did for a time.

    I’d say it worked about as well as prohibition of alcohol in the US.


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  26. 26
    Chuck P. Says:

    Couldn’t agree more Steve.
    I can think of no more effective way for the secular/humanist community to alienate itself than to attempt to cancel Christmas.


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  27. 27
    ddpalmer Says:

            jordan said:

    He doesn’t punish us,

    Really?

    I seem to remember a story about a flood and another about two cities being destroyed and a third about some guy called Job.

    Maybe you should learn more about this god.


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  28. 28
    Shafe Says:

            ddpalmer said:

    Really?

    I seem to remember a story about a flood and another about two cities being destroyed and a third about some guy called Job.

    Maybe you should learn more about this god.

    Job wasn’t being punished, he was simply being tortured so God could prove a point to the Devil. That’s totally different.

    And what about the Flood and Sodom & Gomorrah? That’s just God trying to wash away and then burn away the gayness of mankind. It didn’t work. We’re still really gay.


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  29. 29
    Matthew Says:

            Shafe said:

    Job wasn’t being punished, he was simply being tortured so God could prove a point to the Devil. That’s totally different.

    And what about the Flood and Sodom & Gomorrah? That’s just God trying to wash away and then burn away the gayness of mankind. It didn’t work. We’re still really gay.

    My reading of Sodom and Gomorrah is a bit different – if you look at the base crime involved, it wasn’t sexual. It was the betrayal of hospitality – customs which in that place and time took precedence over pretty much anything else. In the eyes of the tribesmen of the day, there was almost nothing worse than attacking or abandoning a guest.


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  30. 30
    Shafe Says:

            Matthew said:

    My reading of Sodom and Gomorrah is a bit different – if you look at the base crime involved, it wasn’t sexual. It was the betrayal of hospitality – customs which in that place and time took precedence over pretty much anything else. In the eyes of the tribesmen of the day, there was almost nothing worse than attacking or abandoning a guest.

    Is there a tongue-in-cheek emoticon? I could have used it.

    Lot was saved from destruction because his ardent defense of the visiting angels proved his righteousness. (Somehow it’s more righteous to offer to let the mob gang-rape his virgin daughters to save his guests. Such is the value of women and children in the Old Testament.) The hospitality angle served to play up Lot’s virtue. But the angels were already there on the business of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah for general wickedness (which included a willingness to gang-rape foreign men.)

    …for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.

    My claim that God was trying to “burn away the gayness” was a sardonic comment on the capriciousness of old testament justice. For the record, the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were most definitely punishment, but I still contend that Job was tortured just to prove a point.


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  31. 31
    Peter Says:

    Actually an interesting aside to this is that Christmas may not be a good thing anymore.

    Some of the Green Party chapters at universities have made some points about how we either need to completely change how we celebrate Christmas or get rid of it as an old tradition that is based on unhealthy habits.

    The first thing we do on Christmas is kill a perfectly good tree to bring it inside. Then we spend the holidays eating unhealthy amounts of food and food made with the worst ingredients like refined sugar and candies with all kinds of chemicals and artificial flavorings. We put up lights everywhere and they are unnecessary and just waste electricity. We buy a lot of decorations that we end up throwing away when done and its all about materialism. We give presents which are now all kinds of high tech things we don’t need and are made in China in factories that have no good environmental record and worse we throw so much away because we have unnecessary wrapping paper and bows and cards and it all goes into the trash.

    I think they have some pretty good points. It is also all supporting big corporations who make a lot of money off of the season and they are the same ones who are killing the environment.

    I think they have a point on this. The day after christmas I noticed a lot of garbage bags full of wrapping paper. It is pretty unnecessary waste and the earth sure can’t take it these days


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  32. 32
    Anon Says:

            Peter said:

    Actually an interesting aside to this is that Christmas may not be a good thing anymore.

    Yes, but not for the bogus reasons you state (renaming it Santamas and getting rid of the religious carols would actually fix the main problem with it).

            Peter said:

    Some of the Green Party chapters at universities have made some points about how we either need to completely change how we celebrate Christmas or get rid of it as an old tradition that is based on unhealthy habits.

    Funny how when the greens get something right it’s only by accident.

            Peter said:

    The first thing we do on Christmas is kill a perfectly good tree to bring it inside.

    Is there any reason you couldn’t use a plastic tree? You could even use it again the next year.

            Peter said:

    Then we spend the holidays eating unhealthy amounts of food and food made with the worst ingredients like refined sugar and candies with all kinds of chemicals and artificial flavorings.

    All food contains chemicals.

            Peter said:

    We put up lights everywhere and they are unnecessary and just waste electricity.

    ‘Wasting’ electricity is only a moral issue if you’re stupid enough to be anti-nuclear.

    Besides, what is necessary anyway? Caring for the environment for its own sake (instead of when our pollution causes us problems, it doesn’t always) is just as unnecessary as all those lights.

            Peter said:

    I think they have some pretty good points. It is also all supporting big corporations who make a lot of money off of the season and they are the same ones who are killing the environment.

    The Green movement is doing a good help helping them kill the environment.

            Peter said:

    The day after christmas I noticed a lot of garbage bags full of wrapping paper. It is pretty unnecessary waste and the earth sure can’t take it these days

    We’re not at risk of running out of land to dump our garbage any time soon.


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  33. 33
    Shafe Says:

    Paraphrasing…

            Peter said:

    I read a pamphlet, now I’m an activist.


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  34. 34
    BMS Says:

            Anon said:

    … renaming it Santamas

    Considering what is, by far, the most universal and popular holiday tradition, I suggest “Creditmas” as a possible new name. ;-)

    Funny how when the greens get something right it’s only by accident.

    They got something right?

    I think that it’s funny how you can complain about the religious components of what is today largely a secular holiday and then endorse the ideas of quasi-religious fanatics in the same comment. ;-)

    The Greens are the Puritans of the twenty-first century. They even want to ban Christmas again. What a bunch of joyless twits!

    All food contains chemicals.

    You mean that angel food cake is not made from real angels? :-(


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  35. 35
    Nick P. Says:

            Shafe said:

    Paraphrasing…

    Zing!

    BMS:

    Well it might be, but angels are made of chemicals also.


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  36. 36
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I agree with Peter 100%

    The absolute best thing that the Green Party can do is try to campaign for an end to Christmas. And by an end, I don’t mean renaming it or something. They should campaign for a complete irradiation of the mid-winter holiday celebrations. They must tell everyone that they wish to get rid of festive decorations, gift-giving, parties, large meals, sweet confections, time off from work and school and so on.

    A firm commitment to the elimination of merriment and celebration is exactly what the Green Party needs!

    It will, no doubt, result in an enormous outpouring of support from the public.


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  37. 37
    PsihoKekec Says:

            Peter said:

    The first thing we do on Christmas is kill a perfectly good tree to bring it inside.

    Not exactly. In order to achieve maximum timber output, the trees need to be evenly spaced, but to first you need to plant more of them and thin them periodically until the trees mature. Best time for this once the temperatures fall which is just before the holiday season. So it would get cut anyway, but this way some profit is made on the side.
    This kind of thick growth also occurs in nature, most of trees in such cluster die off eventually, so it’s not an ecological crime to cut one and take it home once a year.


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  38. 38
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Not sure where you are from, PsihoKekec, but in my part of the world, most trees sold as Christmas trees are sold from tree farms that are dedicated to growing small pine trees for use as Christmas trees and sometimes also for landscaping.

    As far as farming goes, Christmas tree farming is about as low impact and passive as it gets. The trees need very minimal care, aside from occasional pruning to keep them in the right shape and possibly removing unwanted weeds and bush on occasion. Basically they are allowed to grow on their own for several years then harvested and a new crop is planted.

    This has some benefits, actually. Some of retired farmers become Christmas tree farmers. It allows them to continue to have their land considered an active farm, and thus avoid excessive property taxes. They get some income from it, but it requires minimal labor.


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  39. 39
    Shafe Says:

    And if you want to drive home the environmental arguments for Christmas trees, point out that growing them acts as a carbon sink, many of those trees get thrown into landfills (sequestering the carbon), and many others are recycled into mulch or compost (very green).


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  40. 40
    Shafe Says:

    Of course, they’re also a tremendous fire hazard as they dry out. It pays to keep them watered and throw them out before they get droopy and brown.


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  41. 41
    Tetsubo Says:

    I was raised with Merry Christmas. Now as a Pagan I celebrate Yule. I say Happy Holidays because there is more than one at this time of year. I like to be inclusive.


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  42. 42
    I'mnotreallyhere Says:

            Jonny said:

    If you believe in this truth, then you have every reason to celebrate on Christmas, but if you are going to deny it then you have nothing to celebrate and your participation is a mockery of all it stands for.

    I’m an Atheist not an atheist, I believe in Atheos, the Greek god of stubbed toes. Hence I say OH GOD! whenever I stub my toe. It’s hard to explain without a strong grounding in ancient Greek history, but he was basically a less-cool version of Achilles.

    Since the days of ancient Greece we’ve celebrated Chrïstmàs: the festival (chr) of Ïstmàs, an early philanthropist who would host a huge festival every year. Preparations would start on the winter solstice
    and take four days before the casks of wine would be broken open, money would be given out, families would play games with boards (a traditional favourite, Mônopolïe, involves the youngest children of a family stealing each other’s money, then kicking, biting and beating each other with wooden planks). Instead of dancing, couples would pair off an engage in a yelling match about whose turn it was to wash out the oenochoes (wine jugs), the aim being to be crowned as the loudest couple in the town.


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