Defining Ages- coal in your stocking

Everyone knows that “Frosty had a corn-cob pipe, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal” but we don’t think about it much. When Gene Autry released the song, it was already evocative of a earlier, simpler time, probably the Depression era when kids made their own fun with stuff that didn’t cost their parents anything.I have seen ‘snowman kits’ sold with plastic coal and carrot- sort of a cold weather “Mr. Potato-head”. (Come to think of it, when I was a kid, you only got the features and limbs and poked them into a potato. That shows how cheap potatoes were, I guess.) Similarly, the coal in your stocking was something with no value (as opposed to the rotten potatoes in kids shoes in Iceland- a much better motivator IMO).

When I was a kid we had a coal bin in the cellar, even though we had an oil burner for heat. On really nasty weather days, Mama would let us put on our play clothes (does that concept even exist any more?) and go down and play in it. You could get poked by sharp pieces, but we enjoyed it. Even so, I don’t remember using coal for our snow men’s eyes. The pieces were too big, and since the bin was full, I expect anything the right size was down at the bottom. When we moved to Winchester, there was a section of the cellar in the new house that I realized had been the coal-bin, although there was no coal, when our parents let us take it over to use it as a hang-out. It was probably when we painted it that I saw the wooden slots for boards that would be removed to access the coal to put it into the furnace.
These coal bins were on the street side of the house, and I think I found where the chute for loading the coal into the bin from the delivery truck was in one of them. It now occurs to me that they probably had locks, as bulkhead doors did, to keep anyone from using them to get into the house.

Time passes. Coal bins were a fixture of houses built in the 20th century, but by mid century, they were on their way out. I assume the dwindling coal industry serves electricity manufacturing plants. I’ve read stories of other kids playing in coal bins, or dealing with furnaces that needed feeding (seems to have required a handyman to do it). Those stories preserve that aspect of normal life, just as we accept that there’s a coal car and a stoker behind the locomotive in old fashioned trains. We don’t expect it now, but we understand the tradition (back in the days when controlling power represented by the ability to pull a hundred heavy cars made being an engineer a romantic idea for kids). I now wonder what aspects of our daily lives children reading stories set in the early 21st century will find odd or romantic. Even now, if I watch an old crime show I have to remind myself that DNA analysis isn’t available to them, or that in an old horror movie, they can’t just use their mobile phones to call for help. (Frankly, even in modern movies and books, the idiots rarely think to call for help. Some authors do give an explanation of why they can’t- but you’d think anything written in the last ten years, they’d think of it!)

I love that the old songs and books and movies do keep reminding us that things used to be different. I think we’d lose something valuable if we forget that change. I could define childhood as when you don’t realize that life hasn’t always been the way you experience it, youth as when you learn about the differences (I remember teens who mock earlier periods), and adulthood as when you accept it. This is probably because you’ve seen changes in your own life. Old age would be when you start missing the things the way they used to be.
While there may be some forgetting the inconveniences that led to the technological changes, with old age we can also observe the social changes that accompany them, and start to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages. I am definitely old. This means that I get to pick which technological level I prefer, and frankly, I like picking and choosing. I like computers for accessing information, but think of mobile phones as emergency communication. I like cooking with gas, and electric lights, but I like having candles and a wood stove so I am not helpless if the power goes out.

I also see how cost dictates which aspect of technology is available to people intensifies the class inequities, and this is a disturbing issue. When Monsanto pressured the farmers of India to use their hybrid grain, with promises of better yields, they were taking away the option of saving and planting some of the previous year’s crop to grow next year. Like Nestle’ giving African new mothers just enough formula to allow their milk to dry up so they’d be forced to keep buying it, or a drug pusher giving away enough product to create an addiction… “good” business practice, but a vile thing for one human to do to another. (happy postscript: when it turned out that the yields were not better, the farmers are going back to their old seeds- when they can find them!)
By all means let us use new technologies when they improve our lives, but we should never give our very survival or that of our culture into the hands of those who have shown that they care nothing for us, or culture, the environment or anything but their own profit. An animal who has no ability to care for itself is a pet if it’s relationship to humans benefits both, but if it is under the control of the human, and only the human gets benefit, it’s livestock. This may be an over-simplification, but it looks like corporations are setting modern humans up to be their livestock. We live as they allow us. I am old, and what’s more, I am an historian. I have seen what happens when people give away their ability to survive to make their lives easier. I love indoor plumbing and heating, but I’d rather chop wood and carry water sometimes, maybe even all the time, than not have the option to do so.

Keep the Christ in Christmas

Someone asked today whether either Yule or Solstice get commercialized? I would really hate to imply that Pagans are more spiritual in their holiday practices than Christians, because the lack of merchandising to them makes it seem that they aren’t as commercialized.
I know that Solstice, or at least the Saturnalia, was “commercialized” in Rome. Parties, presents, social silliness. But remember that in the city of Rome proper, the labor was done by slaves, captured for that purpose through incessant warfare. Thinking ahead to New Years Day, during the time of the Republic Roman New year was in March, and they’d have their elections of the new consuls, who’d go out and run the wars. But as they expanded their territory, they had to to farther and farther from the city to reach non-Roman lands to conquer. That made it hard for the newly elected consuls to get to the front at the start of campaign season. Rather than move the elections back (no, they HAD to be on New Years!), they moved New Year’s Day back to the end of December, thus allowing the new consuls time to get out to the legions (and keep sending back conquered slaves and loot). It does show an odd relationship with their holidays that they could change when the year started, but not when elections were held.

Neither Yule nor Christmas could be commercialized as they are now until there was Capitalism, not just the accumulation of wealth, that’s pretty much a constant with human societies, but when gaining and exchanging capital became the way of ‘keeping track’ of power, competitive spending was attached to the holiday. We were no longer simply sharing food with friends, decorating, and giving gifts, but “keeping up with the Joneses”.  When prestige was gained by generosity from your own stores (however they may have been filled), Yule was a time of celebrating what you had, and sharing with those who had less. Massive consumption and distribution of excess proved to everyone how powerful you were. This led to the customs of the poor visiting the rich, caroling, mumming, wassailing, souling, hunting the wren, many excuses to go get a handout. The taxes may have been as stiff, but giving to the poor was how being rich was justified. In the earliest times, they provided the military protection, but later also provided financial protection. And these customs strengthened community ties. It’s not that people forgot the spiritual occasion of Christmas, they remember that, however they are living in a world that has embraced the idea that if you are rich, it’s because you are favored by God, and therefore whatever gets you money, must be His will. The good of the people who work for and with you is no longer a consideration. Part of this is probably also that people follow the jobs wherever they may be, so you don’t have a multi-generational relationship with the land and the people around you.

Once again I think that they have missed something because their grasp of history is so poor.  If the culture doesn’t change, as soon as people with stuff to sell realize there is a market, there will be Solstice and Yule things being pushed at us, with ads to convince us that if we aren’t doing it with their stuff, we aren’t doing it right. We have to avoid accepting the underlying premise that we can judge a person by how much he makes, not how much good he does.

Thinking about the pronouns in that last line, when we look at how much woman are often undervalued because they are so much better at valuing raising children and making a home a safe and welcoming place, not simply trying to ‘make more money’. But don’t let me confuse the issue- men were sucked into the same trap when they moved off their homesteads where they raised the food and built the shelters. Like women, they were and are trying to provide safety and security for their children, so they won’t be cold, hungry, and scared, but they are only offered the option of working for a wage to achieve this worthy goal, and have been gulled into tracking security with larger numbers.
It’s a huge change in how we see the world, and until we can change that perspective, any holiday is at risk of commercializing. If we can help change our societies attitudes toward money and people, it won’t matter what name we give gods or which day we celebrate what they give us. Let us all help each other celebrate that which feeds our souls, and we’ll get through the long winter, the days will get longer, and we’ll all make it to spring together.


I’m going to suggest that anyone who enjoys my historical meanderings might like the blog posts at the CTCW website this month. Since we are in-between cons and haven’t got speakers, workshops, vendors etc. to talk about, and December is a maelstrom of traditional holidays, I’ve got about one post scheduled for every day of the month, mostly talking about holiday traditions. For example, this is the one for December 5th, St. Nicholas Day:

November 6 is the feast of Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint associated with sailors, children, and giving, tradition suggests that he brings gifts to good children on the eve of his feast day. As he is supposed to be good, he is often accompanied by another magical being who punishes, while he rewards. In recent years the tradition of Krampus has been gaining popularity. He is one of Santa’s helpers from central Europe, where Krampus- a hairy monster(s) with horns, wearing belts of chains and bells, armed with switches and whips, and bags in which to carry away naughty boys and girls, often accompany the saint in parades and other pageants. Nicholas has various helpers in that role around the world, in the Netherlands, he is said to come from Spain, so his helper was a moor, known as Svart Piet (Black Peter), who was depicted in blackface because moors were hard to come by in Holland, but that tradition has fallen into disrepute as world travel is more common. Once on shore, he rides a white horse. In Switzerland and Luxembourg, his helper(s), Schmutzli , wears a monks habit. In Poland he is accompanied by both an angel and Knecht Ruprecht. In France, the saint rides a donkey, and is accompanied by Père Fouettard, the butcher who killed 3 boys and chopped them up, and Nicholas brought them back to life. Belsnickel (from belzen, German for to wallop or to drub) was more of a combination of both the carrot and the stick- he is one of the older versions of the nocturnal visitor, going back to the Middle Ages. He was portrayed as thin, wearing black, often fur, and carrying a switch (but with treats in his pocket). Most of these characters were disguised with masks or face paint- probably as they were family or neighbors dressed up to fool the kids (and delight the adults). My favorite version of this was when the visiting St. Nicholas (having been prompted by parents) was able to tell each child of some misdemeanor that they thought no one knew about. (“He knows if you’ve been bad or good!”)

I first heard of Krampus about ten years ago in the Krampus Christmas. I was instantly enchanted and prowled the internet and youtube enjoying  videos about Krampus runs, and how craftsmen carve the wooden masks, fit in animal horns, and make the hairy costumes. Apparently so have others because Krampus figures have gained in popularity since then, including a Krampus movie, Krampus tree ornaments, and Krampus nights in America. There are many versions of processions during this time of year where drinks or treats are given the wanderers in exchange for their blessings (or entertainment). The most sedate version of this is singing carols or Wassailing, which combines both entertainment and blessing, and could often bring needed supplemental food or income to the poor. A weird variant is the Mari Lwyd where the singers brought a hobby horse made with a horses skull on top of a pole with a sack covering the man carrying it; this is more likely to take place during the Christmas season rather than Advent (pre-Christmas). As with many “traditional customs”, often we cannot find reference to them before the 17th century. The folks in the 1800s had a delight in studying and resurrecting (inventing) folk customs; and many cards both Christmas and Valentines, depicted Krampus and the horrors coming to naughty children!

The Yule season starts on December 6th as this is the day of the earliest sunset (4:11 in Boston, MA). After this date the sunsets start getting later. But, isn’t the Solstice the shortest day? Yes. January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas, is the day of the latest sunrise (7:13 in Boston- if you go to Trondheim, Norway, the solstice day runs from 10:01 dawn to 2:31 sunset, yowch!). So from December 6-January 6 the days are short, but sunrise and sunset vary. This is probably the reason that this period is considered the prime time for the Wild Hunt and other spirits to visit earth.

There are some who suggest that the Santa legends are associated with the Hunt, and thus that Odin (who leads it in some traditions) was a precursor to Santa. More likely are other early versions of the hunt that were lead by Diana, Holle, and Berchta (depending on region). The Good Ladies led their troop (of dead or souls of sleeping shaman) from house to house, eating and drinking offerings that were left for them, blessing well run households, and creating havoc in poorly run or inhospitable houses. These days tales suggest that Perchta will come during the 12 nights of Christmas and leave a coin for good children, and cut out the internal organs of bad ones and replace them with straw. She is often depicted with a mask and costume with one benevolent face, and one of an scary demonic woman showing both her pre-Christian fertility goddess aspect and her Christian make-over into a demon. When she leads the Wild Hunt it is said to be a troop of the souls of un-baptised children.

Blessings (and the occasional treat) was what one expected from these visitors. Gift giving is a recent development, from the time of the Roman Empire it was more associated with New Year’s celebrations, later transferred to St. Basil’s Day (January 1st). St. Nicholas brought treats like cookies and fruit (and the threat of punishment). I’ll mention more supernatural visitors when the Yul Lads start arriving.


NEUSTIFT IM STUBAITAL, AUSTRIA – NOVEMBER 30: Participants who arrived by bus gather before dressing as the Krampus creature prior to Krampus night on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria. Sixteen Krampus groups including over 200 Krampuses participated in the first annual Neustift event. Krampus, in Tyrol also called Tuifl, is a demon-like creature represented by a fearsome, hand-carved wooden mask with animal horns, a suit made from sheep or goat skin and large cow bells attached to the waist that the wearer rings by running or shaking his hips up and down. Krampus has been a part of Central European, alpine folklore going back at least a millennium, and since the 17th-century Krampus traditionally accompanies St. Nicholas and angels on the evening of December 5 to visit households to reward children that have been good while reprimanding those who have not. However, in the last few decades Tyrol in particular has seen the founding of numerous village Krampus associations with up to 100 members each and who parade without St. Nicholas at Krampus events throughout November and early December. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 453330551

Talk Like a Pirate Day

This is a great day to remember what a combination of imagination and the internet can do.
Wikipedia says: “International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD, September 19) is a parodic holiday created in 1995 by John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy), of Albany, Oregon, U.S., who proclaimed September 19 each year as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate. For example, an observer of this holiday would greet friends not with “Hello,” but with “Ahoy, matey!” The holiday, and its observance, springs from a romanticized view of the Golden Age of Piracy.
According to Summers, the day is the only known holiday to come into being as a result of a sports injury. During a racquetball game between Summers and Baur, one of them reacted to the pain with an outburst of “Aaarrr!”, and the idea was born. That game took place on June 6, 1995, but out of respect for the observance of the Normandy landings, they chose Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday, as it would be easy for him to remember. (much more on Wikipedia)
Spin-offs of this invented holiday include talk like Shakespere Day, Talk like William Shatner Day, and even Skulk like a Ninja Day. There are other sources of weird holidays as well. I remember a calendar when I was a kid with a holiday every day; it included four or five Bluebeard’s Wedding anniversaries. There are holidays made up for TV shows: Festivus (Seinfeld), Freedom Day (Futurama), or Best Friends Day (Sponge Bob Square Pants), or books/movies- Hogwatch (The Hogfather), or Durin’s Day (LotR), or even comics- Sadie Hawkins Day was made up by Al Capp for L’il Abner, but it’s become a part of culture. Terry Pratchett’s 25th of May where those in the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road “wore the lilac”, has become a day to support Alzheimer’s awareness in honor of Sir Terry. Marketers have been using holidays to promote their products since at least the 19th century. The folks at Wellcat have come up with many, some of which have taken off (at least on the internet) Weird Al’s song Weasel Stomping Day parodies this phenomenon.
So just as we remind kids that anything that goes on the internet may haunt them forever, we also can revel in the idea that two racquetball players can create a holiday just for fun that will spread across the world.

Blog Post for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day

Hands holding a blue rose

Yup, Fibromialgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are pretty much the same disease. The difference is that if your pain bothers you more than your fatigue, they call it FM, if your fatigue is more debilitating than your pain, they call it CFS. In England they call it ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). It’s described as having the flu for the rest of your life.

The majority of sufferers have these symptoms to varying degrees, so think about this when your friends don’t respond to “How are you doing?” :

Fatigue, generally worsened by exertion, non-restorative sleep, weakness, nausea, pain in joints, muscles, lymph nodes, eyes, & neck, chronic sore throat, headache, digestive issues, fever and chills, heat/cold intolerance, bladder problems, immune dysfunction, allergies and sensitivities, weight gain or loss, hair loss, coordination problems, twitching, …
but wait, aside from physical symptoms that come and go without warning, they also get these mental problems:
confusion (brain fog), difficulty in concentration, memory that comes and goes, dizziness, aphasia/ dyscalculia, numbness, strange tastes and smells,
and these emotional ones:
anxiety, mood swings, and depression (yathink? Who wouldn’t if that was your day-to-day life?)
And there’s no magic treatment. Incremental improvements can be made by eating well, with supplements, reducing allergic exposure, reducing stress, mild exercise, sun or SADD lights, meditation, and the usual things that make you healthier.

And it’s true- usually they don’t “look sick”. Symptoms vary day-to-day with almost no logic, so it’s hard to plan anything. Let them let you know what they feel up to at any given moment.

Raising Pagan Children (with magick) podcast

Please join Tchipakkan on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, date, 8-9 p.m. est.
I’ve raised four children openly pagan in our small town, and they are now adults with various spiritual paths, and comfortable with magick. The most difficult bit was probably the same as many other people have this time of year- convincing the kids not to spoil the beliefs of other kids about Santa (I’ll talk more about that on the podcast).
When first-generation pagan parents start bringing their kids up, they don’t have the generations of tradition to draw on, it’s hard to go to your parents for advice if they are still dealing with their own discomfort with your choices. And let’s face it, for many on the Wiccan path, this mystery religion wasn’t really designed to work with small children and other aspects of families. So for the last decades neo-pagans have been working on ways of dealing with the challenges. Celebrate Yule at Solstice, but go to Grandma’s for Christmas? How perfect is your trust with covenmates and your kids?
And magick- at what point do you think it’s OK to teach the kids how to cast? When are they ready to use athemes and candles? When should they come to a circle, and if not yet, what do you do with them? How do you teach them to be descrete without making them feel our faith is a dirty secret? How do you help them resist the efforts of school and society to convince them this stuff is all imagination? I can share my perspective and experience, but hope other pagan parents will call in with theirs.
If you can listen live, and want to join the conversation (otherwise it will be a monologe) Please call in with any stories or questions: 619-639-4606 The New Normal “airs” Wednesdays at 8-(nearly) 9 eastern time on

Holidays and Rites of Passage

Maypoles2-24-16, Holidays and Rites of Passage

Listen to the archive here:

Please join Tchipakkan on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, 2-24-16, 8-9 p.m. est.

Those who’ve known me for long know that my passions include history and food, and these come together to create a fascination with holidays. Why are certain days considered holy? Why do humans need holidays? What do they have in common?

Many times holidays provide an occasion for us to stop and orient ourselves with our culture, with the world around us (passing of seasons), or with the gods and spirits with whom we interact. Rites of Passage usually mark a change in our relationships with others- birth, death, marriage, becoming an adult, joining a group that is seen as different from other groups within our culture. Often we take these occasions to remind ourselves of old  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)stories, we eat (or avoid) special foods, we clean ourselves and our living spaces. If these actions weren’t important, they would not be so prevalent. Looking at what they mean, what they do, we can make them more meaningful in our own lives. When we don’t celebrate the “mainstream” holidays, and try to get time off for minority religious or personal holidays, how does that effect your relationship with those around you, both those who share, and who don’t share your faith based holiday?

Please feel free to call in with any stories and descriptions about how you and your family and friends celebrate holidays. Do you have special meaningful ones, or do you just go along with whatever happens and take advantage of a day off to sleep in?

The call in number is: 619-639-4606morris dancers

To listen live: open a window on your computer to, sign in, and click on Shows, and the New Normal to listen. To listen later at your convenience, shows are archived by date

“Propose Day”

Today is apparently “Propose Day”. Since this list appears to be generated by some blogger or maybe a site that sells romantic “stuff” it should be taken with a glass of water, and maybe a dose of ex-lax.

Valentine Days List extended






The thing is that I have nothing against giving the people you love flowers, candy, and positive affirmations. My view is that most of these very silly holidays are simply to serve as reminders to appreciate something you like but sometimes forget to appreciate consciously. I think that’s a good thing, which is why I make a big deal of holidays.

If you look around the internet there are some pretty spectacular stories about proposals. My favorite which was at least partially filmed and shown at the wedding was a mini role-playing adventure that Z did for Kiaya. Another, probably more typical story is from my uncle, who was very young and romantic. Unc took his intended to the top of a moon- washed tower with a gorgeous view. He had, we can assume, rehearsed dozens of beautiful and romantic speeches in his head, but when the moment came he choked, took the ring from his pocket and handed it to her saying “Take this or I’ll push you off”.  I think we can all understand this, what if she stops you half way through? What if one of your analogies means something different to her than it does to you? The moment aside, settling the question moves you from a stage of infinite possibilities to many fewer, and you are looking at possibly mourning a life together that you had hoped for but will not happen, as much as combining plans with your loved ones. That’s a lot of pressure, to put on the poor guys. Big decisions like this should be made by discussion, it’s not a present from one to the other, nor is it irresistible, but requires serious thought.

The whole idea of making it up to the male to initiate the process is totally unfair, and I hope passing away, but it has a lot of tradition behind it, so it’s hard to break. I suppose there are folks out there that need a little push, a reminder that they aren’t the only one who’s trying to decide whether to move from working solo to in tandem. So having the holiday is OK, but shouldn’t be seen as a law. Can you imagine a “Appendectomy Day”? Important things you do when they’re right, and how it’s right for the people involved. I suppose a couple could stage an announcement as if it were a proposal, but frankly, if you are close enough that you think the girl is going to say yes, you may also be fairly certain she doesn’t want to embarass you in front of a crowd, so what might be a “wow, let me think about it” may turn into a “yes” today and “no” next week. In my mind, that’s worse.

Another thing the irritates me about the list above: the presumption that you have a good enough relationship that the word Love can be applied, gifts given, proposals and promises made, and then you “break up” and start over. That’s not the way I’ve experienced or observed love. Actually I find that superficial level of affection depressing. No wonder people get depressed around holidays!

I found a dress code for Valentines on line as well (in several places, so not as I’d guessed, a one-shot).

a ) Blue  – Love application is invited
b ) Green – I’m Waiting for you
c ) Red   – Already in love
d ) Black – Proposal Rejected
e ) White – I’m already engaged, So very sorry to you
f ) Orange – I’m going to propose him/her
g ) Pink – Proposal is accepted
h ) Grey – I’m not interested at all. You try your luck next time
i ) Yellow – I broken up with him/her
j ) Brown – Sign of broken heart

I suppose that this might work in the confines of a high school or some other insular subculture. Or it might spread- like the Victorian Meaning of Flowers, or what gifts you give for a certain anniversary (clearly these were developed by the people who sell those gifts!). But any time there’s a Code, whether it’s wearing a certain color bandana or wearing your wallet on the right or left, or putting a star on your house, it’s going to mean one thing to those who know the code, or another or nothing to those who don’t- thus pretty much rendering it useless. What would happen if a girl wore her favorite “little black dress” on her valentines date and the guy took it to mean that his proposal would be rejected when she meant nothing of the sort?

As my daughters are wont to point out, if people actually talked to each other, there would be no plots for romantic comedies. Communicate! and have fun. Holidays are there to celebrate the stuff we may take for granted unless reminded. Today, for example, 2-8Hari-Kuyo-customis the Shinto Festival of broken needles, where we honor the tools that have served us well all year. (Seamstresses save broken and bent needles and pins, and they are put in a block of tofu at a Shinto temple.) I believe that it’s a wonderful thing to remember to care for those things that enhance your life.

Bottom line- if you want to spend your life with someone, asking to see if they’d also like to is a good idea. But DON’T do it in public!

Expressing Joy

January 14th is Rubber Ducky Day, and as a promoter of celebrating holidays, last night I was posting a reminder about that on the Holidays that might get Overlooked page on Facebook. Years ago I started collecting files of holidays. I’ve always loved them. I love to see the interconnections. This year I enjoyed a series of books from World Book called Christmas in many Lands and I love seeing how culture and religion and food and people intersect in holidays. I enjoyed the facebook and when I contributed a lot, was made an administrator. Then a few months ago, the fellow who ran it entered a political race and stopped posting, so I took over. Even though I had decided I’d collected enough to satisfy me. When I saw someone else asking where the holidays were, I knew there was a way I could bring pleasure to others. So I’m sharing my holidays there, and even now keep finding new ones (like “Kiss a Ginger Day”, January 12).

While I was posting about rubber duckies I remembered a wonderful moment when the song Put down the Ducky, came on the television; it was one of the PBS fund raising specials, with many stars from the cast of Upstairs, Downstairs to Paul Simon to the NY Giants and Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman joined in, all dancing and singing and having a great time. We stood up and started singing and dancing too, and even now, when I heard it, it took me back to that wonderful moment. There are many other moments that transport me back to joyful times of my life, like when we were on the road to Pennsic and the theme from the Greatest American Hero, came on the radio and Ælfwine touched my knee and filked “Believe it or not I’m prince of the East, I never thought I would be,,,”. Many, many songs can do that for me- we sang in the car a great deal traveling too and from events, often filking. We filked the Gloustershire Wassail: “Wassail, wassail, wassail to you, our toes they are white and our ears have gone blue, our noses are red and our fingers are grey, please don’t send these wassailers away!” on a Yule drive to Mountain Freehold in a car with rather inadequate heating.  Another time Lisa Goldenstar and Steve had given us a tape of Clam Chowder, and we almost ran off the road laughing at Winter in the Colorado Rockies. We stopped and danced in supermarket aisles and other stores more than once. Not worrying about disapproval is liberating.

And why should anyone disapprove? Seeing people being happy, having fun, loving each other…, this is not cause for disapproval. It is far more likely to cause smiles, perhaps a twinge of jealousy, occasionally people joining in. Certainly it showed our kids that expressions of joy are good, and these are the moments I enjoy going back and replaying time after time. There should be a special word for the joy of nostalgia, or nostalgia of joy; for those “best of” our life moments. Perhaps the first step is to have the moments, to be open to and welcome the joy when it occurs, to dance, to sing along, to laugh out loud. IF you feel it happening, embrace it, don’t avoid it in case you look “stupid”. There is nothing more foolish than turning happiness away when it knocks on your door and asks to come in, and then, it always stays there in your memory, ready to reemerge at a signt, a sound, a scent. The briefest of moments can last forever if you let them happen.

War on Christmas on the New Normal 12-16-15

war on Christmas memeWhat a thing to be arguing about! Let’s have some discussions about how to find a way we can share this time in a positive way.

I’m a pagan, but I love the holidays. I love the trees, the music, the cookies (especially the cookies) the colored lights, gathering of friends. I like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, and the way so many people open their hearts to joy, and to giving. I don’t like the stress, and the over-spending on things we don’t want, and the way pushing too hard to be happy can make us feel even lonelier sometimes. But I’m a bit weirded out by this “War on Christmas” concept. (I already blogged about it once.) Yes, I realize that Joshua Feuerstein is an internet preacher who apparently repeatedly comes up with weird things to rant about, not only that Starbucks seasonal cup design isn’t Christian enough for his idea. I look at all these snow scenes and wonder why the rest of the country doesn’t get annoyed about the whole Northern Idyll, when sleighs and snowmen were never part of their Christmases.

I recognize the value of not wrapping the whole country up in a big white Christian package and ignoring and marginalizing all the people who don’t fit into those images. But we’re still feeling our way into a more balanced multi-culturalism. One hears stories about Churches being told not to put up their nativity scenes, and schools having to “generic down” their holiday celebrations- even though the vast majority of the kids are Christian. It feels like when they say “one of the kids is allergic to peanuts, so no one can bring PB&J sandwiches for lunch in case he wants to trade with you.” Really? At the same time my pagan sites are full of stories about how Christianity stole most of its traditions from us, and how all their symbols are really pagan. They seem to want to rub people’s noses in their research, even though more research would show that most of the time these borrowings were entirely intentional and acceptable. Symbols, being what they are, are capable of many layers of meaning, and even having the meaning shift. It happens all the time.

war-on-christmas-731x411So how can we live together amicably? If we can’t do it during the holidays, when can we?



“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season;

the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church;

the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue;

the atheists went to parties and drank.

People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’”

~ Dave Barry

Maybe there’s nothing we can do, but maybe we can figure out what is underlying the discomfort we are feeling, and find a way where we participate in a pluralistic society without unintentionally offending others. Celebrate each other’s joy.

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