Archive for December, 2008

Christmas Spirit(less)

 

The causative factors that influence a tendency  to despise Christmas to arise out of a seminal blend of lack of imagination and selfishness.

 

If you consider the essence of “christmas spirit” (and the general contemporaneous celebrations thereunto – Hanukah, Kwanzaa,  Saturnalia, etc. ), the notion of bringing the family together, of reinforcing bonding, of sharing (giving of oneself) and spreading good will, in fact, transcend the supreme religious figure(s)  (E.G. Christ). The season’s primary impact and drive, for most, come from the simple acts of kindness and good will most often symbolized by giving. The concept of sacrifice immediately spring to mind when giving is engendered. Most animals understand acts of sacrificial giving as demonstrations of familiar reinforcement: the mother nearly starving to death while fetching food for her young; the father fighting to the death a large predator or invader to give the mate/young/pack a chance at survival, the old man of the village walking quietly off into the wilderness to die and leaving the young, strong brave in uncontested power and rule for the good of the tribe/village.

 

We use the excuse of winter solstice/Christmas/Id al Fith/Kwanza to renew our fundamental sense of familiar bond and exercise our ability to share with each other emotionally, spiritually and physically. It is as incumbent upon us to be easy targets for low-level giving as it is to seek relevant gifts to give. Our enculturation makes us more sophisticated  than our animal and aboriginal brethren and that increases the complexity of the quasi-transactions.

 

Thus, to be a modern, enculturated homosapien is to understand that the notion of modern “christmas spirit” is to give of oneself by taking the time to understand the givee-elect, pursue with tireless, enthusiastic vigor the discovery of quintessentially appropriate gifts and deliver said gifts with thoughtful artifice (clever wrapping, well practiced guile, etc.). In so doing one will have, at once, given magnificently of oneself and the givee will have given in return your opportunity of self-fulfillment.

 

Okay, Grasshopper, now for the point (at long last). A young man, for example) lacking imagination and being sentimentally and/or romantically challenged, may discover that he has no clue (and is scared spitless of looking foolish and unmanly) about what to get for gifts or even how to begin. This is most commonly because he spends virtually no time thinking about what people like and why.

This is his shining moment in the sun! It is his opportunity to reach down into the depths of his manliness and “figure it out” by thinking it through and doing something even if it turns out to be wrong. Simple courage mixed with a modicum of brain will do him magnificently.

 

This is where the lack of imagination gets the opportunity to merge with selfishness. He notes that girls always like jewelry (furs, fancy cars, fine clothes, nights at the Ballet – AKA expensive things). Sooo, the simplest thing to do is to cop out and just lay out the big bucks and be done with it. This is a weak-kneed cheat in that it dodges the visceral/emotional connection that real discovery would engender and denies each an important part of the gift. The part where you have made a deeper connection with the givee-elect and are now self-fulfilled with your knowledge, certain, that she will love it because you know why it is important to her. However, there can creep in here the feeling of deep resentment at being “taken” for the big bucks and that this gift giving is excessive and outré in the extreme (remember whose idea spending the big bucks was!). There can follow a deep reluctance and outward avoidance of the season’s celebration in usual cant, proselytizing vehemently and championing extreme reduction and/or avoidance.

 

Fear of failure forces the unwary into the corner. Reluctance to actively get in touch with the feelings of those closest to him, lures him into adolescent choices. Faulty decision making brings him to the brink of excess. And a penurious spirit drives him into the cold, black pit of peevish abandonment. If one simply didn’t like Christmas, festive decorations and gifts, one would simple avoid or minimize one’s participation. Continuous provoking of opportunities to preach against it betrays the deeper issues extant.

 

The idea of actually living a major part of your life paying attention to the feelings of those closest to you; working to understand the essence and reasons of their tastes and peccadilloes, finding the way to bring your own tastes and vagaries into the mix with proper scope and room requires temperance, love, understanding and real courage. It is one of the toughest things for many young men to accomplish.

 

Interfering with the spirit and joy of giving and receiving in these “family seasons”  in order to cover a paucity of spirit, impoverishment of emotional connection and fundamental selfishness is miscreant at least and, in severe cases, demonstrates a possible need for redirective psychological/social intervention.

 

 

In many cultures, customs practiced at Christmas go back to pre-Christian times. Many involve divination–foretelling the future at a magic time: the season turning of solstice.

In Russia, there’s a Christmas divination that involves candles. A girl would sit in a darkened room, with two lighted candles and two mirrors, pointed so that one reflects the candlelight into the other. The viewer would seek the seventh reflection, then look until her future would be seen.

 

The early Germans built a stone altar to Hertha, or Bertha, goddess of domesticity and the home, during winter solstice. With a fire of fir boughs stoked on the altar, Hertha was able to descend through the smoke and guide those who were wise in Saga lore to foretell the fortunes of those at the feast.

 

In Spain, there’s an old custom that is a holdover from Roman days. The urn of fate is a large bowl containing slips of paper on which are written all the names of those at a family get-togehter. The slips of paper are drawn out two at a time. Those whose names are so joined are to be devoted friends for the year. Apparently, there’s often a little finagling to help matchmaking along, as well.

 

In Scandinavia, some families place all their shoes together, as this will cause them to live in harmony throughout the year.

 

And in many, many cultures, it’s considered bad luck for a fire or a candle to go out on Christmas Day. So keep those candles burning!

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