PUT THE $ BACK IN X-MAS!
I think it good that folks use holidays to reflect on their religion’s founding myths to reassess how they are living up to the standards expressed therein, as long as their subsequent activities do no harm and they don’t try to get me to join them. So you all have my permission to enjoy Saturnalia, good people, whatever you call it.
Saturnalia was a Greco-Roman festival held in late December where folks dressed up (or down) and partied, sometimes to excess; they exchanged gifts and cards, too. Sound familiar? When members of a formerly banned religion took over that empire, they kept the holiday with the goal of converting the pagan masses with it. They renamed Saturnalia X-mas, and that was that.
Almost … shortly thereafter those wily priest/marketeers added the northern practice of decorating trees and Norsified a Turkish saint to wrangle another batch of pagans into their clutches. But eventually, more secular marketeers took over. Thomas Nast, a late 19th century artist began the commodification of the saint to sell newspapers and then, half a century later, Haddon Sundblom finished it. This time the point was to sell a carbonated beverage.
And not quite … 17th century puritans—on both sides of the pond, I believe—thought that the holiday activities such as singing in public whilst naked were not very X-ian. Imagine that. So they tried to ban the holiday whenever they could, which wasn’t that often. There are still lamentations from the hypocritical pseudo-puritan clickjunkies on the far right radio and internet; “The War on X-mas” and all that.
Some pagan aspects of the holiday never really went away. Back in Greco-Roman times, the fantasy was an inversion traditional master/slave arrangement allowing the lower classes to pretend to be wealthy and free for a week or so. These days this fantasy is still around, it is now brought to you by media corporations producing holiday movies that, unlike episodes in our real lives, always end happily and all the adver-tainments sold therein that convince us that love can be bought by buying things.
But there remain some differences. The lower classes of yore had a real “carne vale” week, then it was back to “the world [not] upside down” for another 51. Not so for us, these days the omni-present media invites to a year-round faux party, the artificiality of which brings on cognitively dissonant hangovers of epic proportions—for the those of us who cognate, anyway.
But just saying no is oh-so hard as we all want to believe holiday fantasies can be true. Who doesn’t want happiness and love? So 21st century holiday fantasies are produced for us because we continue to buy them. They are obscenely profitable for corporations that make them. Our realities would cost them money, so they are ignored.
First, get over “X”-mas thing, it’s not an ‘merican “eks” but a Greek “chi” as CHrist, OK? And be worried instead about the “I” jammed through the “S” and how it symbolizes the dehumanizing commodification of you and the monetization of yours all year round. And accept that buying into the short-lived illusions of the season only makes it worse when the stories end and the gifts are unwrapped.