Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Merry Christmas?

Santas have been torturing little kids since, well, whenever Santa first put on that big red suit.

Exhibit A:
Scared Santa

Exhibit B:
Rick Atlansky

Dropping of the Yule Log - New and Improved

I decided to add more Yule stuff to this post, so enjoy!

Happy Solstice everyone. Ahh, the return of the light. That should mean less sleep for us, since Owen's favorite thing is to open his eyes at the crack of dawn (which fortunately right now is 7:15 AM) and say "The sun is up! Its not dark anymore!! Lets get up!"

For those of you interested in the title of this thread, go to this page and scroll down to the file of the same name.

Some tidbits on Christmas and Yule...
The Yule Log is a custom that springs from many different cultures, but in all of them its significance seems to lie in the iul or "wheel" of the year. The Druids would bless a log and keep it burning for 12 days during the winter solstice; part of the log was kept for the following year, when it would be used to light the new yule log. For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them.

Perhaps this lead to the Twelve Days of Christmas...which stretch from Christmas to Epiphany. In the Western church, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated as the time the three Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

More on what the Christians view each verse of the Twelve Days of Christmas song to mean: http://www.cresourcei.org/cy12days.html

My favorite way to burn the Yule Log: http://www.opb.org/programs/yulelog/

Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means "be well," "be hale," or "good health." A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael," to which they would reply "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well." Over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved. Full Sail Brewing's Wassail Winter Ale is particularly delicious.

Evergreens, which in ancient Rome were thought to have special powers and were used for decoration, symbolized the promised return of life in the spring and came to symbolize eternal life for Christians.

In Winter, when all is brown and dead, the evergreens symbolize immortality. They are reminders of the survival of life in the plant world, a means of contact with the Spirit of Growth and Fertility, which has been threatened by the absence of Light. Especially good for this purpose are plants like Holly and Mistletoe, which actually bear fruit in Winter. (Mistletoe, the Golden Bough, the All-Healer, is traditional both at Winter and Summer Solstice.)

In the middle ages, the Church would decorate trees with apples on Christmas Eve, which they called "Adam and Eve Day." However, the trees remained outdoors. As late as the sixth century, Bishop Martin of Braga forbade the "adorning of houses with green trees." So obviously, the Christian adoption of the evergreen tree as a holiday symbol was another case of "If you can't beat'em, join'em!"

In sixteenth-century Germany, it was the custom for a fir tree decorated with paper flowers to be carried though the streets on Christmas Eve to the town square, where, after a great feast and celebration that included dancing around the tree, it would be ceremonially burned.

Saturnalia is one of the best known ancient celebrations of the Winter Solstice. The name comes from the Roman God Saturn, who ruled over agriculture. He was the main God honoured at this time, after the fall crops had been sown. Saturnalia lasted for several days (typically 7, but various officials changed the length of the festival on a few occassions). Saturnlia was the greatest festival of the Roman year, and was marked with great feasting, gift-giving, dancing, playing, and relaxing. Homes were decorated, work was suspended, and there was general merry-making done by all.

In early times, December 25th was commemorated as the Birth of the Sun God, Mithra, and January 6 was a Dionysian festival. In Egypt, a celebration dedicated to Osiris was also held at this time.

You can check out how pagans are currently celebrating the holidays (Yule and otherwise) at www.paganparenting.com.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Choose the Blue

Like it or not, when you spend money you are financially supporting a political party. You can now go to ChooseTheBlue.com and see which party will get your money. Obviously from the domain name, they want to you buy from companies that support the Democrats, but there is nothing stopping someone from using the info to donate to Republican backers, too. But you wouldn't want to do that, would you. WOULD YOU!!?!?

I'll Be Your Best Friend

If you haven't gotten me a Festivus present, yet, here's an idea -- buy me Green Noise Records! I noticed on Craigslist that it is currently for sale. It's a little record/zine store on SE Clinton Street here in Portland. I would quit my job in a second to do this. Plus, I could eat lunch across the street at Dots every day.

Glorious Cheese

I was listening to the brainwagon podcast on the way to work this morning and a particular book on Project Gutenberg was mentioned. (If you are unaware, Project Gutenberg is a website where you can download books that are in the public domain) Anyway, the book mentioned is a 1955 book called The Complete Book of Cheese, by Robert Carlton Brown. It is a book about cheese. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like it would be enjoyable to those passionate about cheese. At a quick glance, I notice cheese poetry, cheese history, cheese descriptions, and many recipes. Heck, there's a whole chapter devoted to "Welsh Rabbit" (not really rabbit), including 65 different variations. Beer and cheese on toast!!! It's a dream come true!

We Suck

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Life has been really busy lately (surgeries, parties, recovering from surgeries, recovering from parties...) and blogging has taken the back-seat. I also wanted to take a break from political posts for a while since I was (am) so disenfranchised. Plus, now that I have built a kegorator for the house, I have a hard time getting ANYTHING done :)

To make it up to you, I will actually make multiple posts today. I won't guarantee quality posts, but there will be posts nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Marching to the Beat of Their Own Drummer

So I watched the Macy's "parade", and the Meier and Frank Christmas Parade, and I noticed something. Kids in marching band can't march. It is amazing. It isn't just that there are a few kids marching with their right foot on the beat instead of their left, but there are kids that seemingly wander along, completely out of synch with the music. How can you be in MARCHING BAND and not be able to walk along IN TIME WITH THE BEAT?? I know sometimes it is hard to play your instrument and march, but half the time these kids were just walking to the drum cadence!! Morons. I remember circling the track 100 times, or practicing marching up and down an alley by the school when I was in band. I was talking to the t.v. - "left, left, LEFT! Agh!" I found myself leaving the mall the other day, walking out to my car in step with the Salvation Army bell ringer. Old habits die hard.

I had something else insignifigant to vent about, but I've forgotten what it was.

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