As I write these words, Christmas is a little more than a month away. Normally I don’t look forward to that December day with any noteworthy enthusiasm. Granted, it’s nice to know that the auditory drool that spatters down from loudspeakers every December is almost done for another year. It also means that my wife will no longer be excluded from most stores; she’s among those who are allergic to poinsettias—the plants in question are related to rubber trees, you see, and their pollen sets off latex sensitivities in a lot of people, Sara included. Thus the annual infestation of what we call the Red Death draws a line under shared grocery runs until the pollen clears the HVAC systems. As far as enthusiasm goes, that’s about as much as I can muster.
No doubt a large part of the problem is that I don’t belong to either of the two religions that celebrate holidays on that date nowadays. That is to say, I’m not a Christian, and I’m also not a Consumerist. There’s a certain history behind the way that these two faiths celebrate the same day, but I hope none of my readers confuse Christmas with what we may as well call Glurgemas.
Glurge, as my internet-savvy readers doubtless knew long before I did, is an online neologism for a particular kind of canned sentimentality much in evidence during this season. (The resemblance to the noise made shortly before doubling over with gastric distress is of course not accidental.) To count as glurge, a bit of sentimental drivel has to be completely over the top, and it also has to be as fake as the proverbial three-dollar bill. Here in the United States, at least, nearly every scrap of holiday “cheer” churned out by the corporate media qualifies as glurge, and so the term comes forcefully to mind as a useful label for the holiday that has replaced Christmas in today’s America.
“Replaced” is of course the relevant word. Christmas is, ahem, a Christian holiday, and its symbolism centers on the birth of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. It has its own carols, its own customs, and its own iconography, all of which focus on that event. Glurgemas, by contrast, focuses on gifts and goodies. It also has its own carols, customs, and iconography, mostly focused on Santa Claus and an assortment of generic emblems such as snowflakes and sleigh rides, and it’s never hard to figure out which is which. In a certain sense, of course, the difference is academic to me; I don’t belong to either faith, and while I have an outsider’s appreciation for Christmas traditions and a healthy disgust for the various expressions of Glurgemas, I find neither one especially relevant.
Ah, but this year is different. This year I’m feeling a sudden and wholly uncharacteristic uprush of holiday spirit. It’s the season for giving, and it so happens that I have some very special gifts to hand out. So gather around, children, as your Druid uncle opens a big leather sack and reaches in.
The first gift I’d like to give is the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m giving it back to America’s families. My readers abroad may not be aware that since the Civil War, when it was instituted by Abraham Lincoln, the fourth Thursday in November is one of the quintessentially American holidays. (It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Pilgrims; they were photoshopped in long afterwards.) Its roots are in a long tradition of European harvest festivals, which are themselves based on the sigh of relief that everyone in traditional agricultural societies lets out as soon as the last sheaf of grain is in the barn and the next year’s food supply is more or less assured. Since that’s also the time when livestock that can’t be fed over the winter gets turned into sausages, cutlets, and roasts, it’s traditionally a time to gorge yourself on plenty of food in preparation for the cold months ahead.
The day after Thanksgiving, not inappropriately, used to be celebrated in its low-key way as a fine opportunity to flop on the sofa, eat meals made up entirely of Thanksgiving leftovers, and avoid doing anything useful for a whole day, since everyone but the most essential workers had the day off. Of course our corporate lords and masters took offense at this, since it didn’t add anything to their bottom line. That’s when Black Friday was invented. Black Friday? That’s the name given it by the lost souls who have to work the gargantuan Christmas sales scheduled that day by big box stores, which use rock-bottom prices and no-holds-barred propaganda to whip people up into a frenzy of abject greed. Good-bye, pleasant hours doing nothing that makes anyone a profit; hello, a rising toll of injuries and occasional deaths as people trample each other to get at the latest wretched gewgaws.
Fortunately help is on the way. Back in 1992 a bright soul named Ted Dave proposed that there should be a Buy Nothing Day every year. Despite shrieks of outrage emanating from corner offices across the land, and a frantic and ongoing effort to keep any reference to the project out of the media and off the more frequented ends of the internet, the idea caught on. From 1997 on, it’s been celebrated the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US, England, and Finland, and the Saturday afterwards in the rest of the world. This year, Buy Nothing Day is on November 26 and November 27 respectively.
How do you celebrate Buy Nothing Day? Why, by buying absolutely nothing: not in person, not on the internet, not in any other way. That one day of the year is a day of freedom from buying and selling. The gibbering inmates of the corner offices just mentioned like to pretend that the power of money extends to every corner of human existence, and that nothing matters unless it involves somebody buying something. Breaking out of that one-dimensional pseudoreality is a necessary step in regaining basic sanity, not to mention a certain degree of liberty, and reminding yourself that it’s possible to have a fine time without spending a cent is a useful step in that direction. Thus I’d like to suggest that my readers spend Buy Nothing Day in the traditional manner—you know, sitting around not doing much, eating Thanksgiving leftovers, maybe breaking out a cribbage board or some other game, and otherwise taking a break from the ongoing flustered cluck of life in a declining industrial society.
While you’re still oohing and aahing over this first gift, I’ll take the liberty of mentioning that there may be another one wrapped up with it. A few lines back I mentioned the lost souls who are expected to work on the day after Thanksgiving and have to face shrieking, foam-flecked mobs of consumers in exchange for a measly minimum wage. I hope I don’t have to remind anyone reading this post that this is part of an entire culture of abuse and exploitation directed by our society’s managerial class at working class Americans, who are expected to put up with miserable conditions and humiliating policies for absurdly low pay with no benefits so that the stock portfolios and pension funds of their soi-disant betters can continue to climb upwards forever.
Given the seasonal theme of this post, it seems appropriate to bring in a reference to Charles Dickens at this point. No, it won’t be from “A Christmas Carol,” either In Bleak House, Dickens introduces the memorable character of Mrs. Jellyby. She’s one of the self-identified Good People™ of her time, full of compassion for the natives of an African country called Booriobooli-Gha. Of course her overflowing compassion never quite manages to reach as far as helping the people who are dependent on her, much less doing anything for the working poor of London whose short and wretched lives support her comfortable existence. Dickens invented a helpful term for her style of virtue signaling: “telescopic philanthropy.” I doubt the celebrities and plutocrats who clustered around the COP-26 climate change conference, for all the world like flies on a dead rat, have ever heard of telescopic philanthropy, but any one of them could give Mrs. Jellyby lessons in how to practice it.
As it happens, however, the working people who have been assigned the role of carrying the costs while the Good People™ reap the benefits have ideas of their own. It was, as I’ve noted elsewhere, not exactly a bright idea for the managerial class of the industrial world to impose lockdowns on so many countries over the last year and a half or so. A very large number of the working people laid off as a result found other ways to get by, and you know, quite a few of them have settled quite comfortably into those new arrangements and are far from eager to go back to work under the old terms. (That’s spelled “labor shortage,” in case you were wondering.) This has encouraged people who are still putting up with employment to begin to think some good old-fashioned thoughts about staging a walkout. I’ve started to see discussions of a general strike on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and even some suggestions that it run on for ten days after that.
This seems like a very good idea to me. It so happens that I managed to claw my way out of being an employee twenty-five years ago, and the day that I quit my last job and went to work as a full-time freelance writer still counts as one of the happiest days of my life. I still remember what it was like to work for minimum wage, and deal with employers and customers who treated me as a disposable object. I always keep Buy Nothing Day quite strictly, but this year I have even more reason to do so.
What you do on those days, dear reader, is of course up to you, but I hope that plenty of people will honor Buy Nothing Day this year. It would be nice to see corporations forced to remember that their workers are human beings with human needs which have to be taken into account, even if that means that some strutting kleptocrat doesn’t get his next billion as soon as he wants it. So that’s the second gift I’d like to hand out: better wages and conditions for working Americans.
Let me reach into my bag again and haul out the next gift. It’s a big one, because I’m giving Christmas back to the Christians. It was their holiday originally, as mentioned above, and quite a few Christians have never been happy about the way it was hijacked, handed over to the mass media, and turned into a celebration of limitless greed. I think they deserve to have it back. Mind you, it’s going to take some unpacking, because Christmas has been covered with a sticky layer of Glurgemas trappings and that will all have to be peeled off. Fortunately the work is already being done. There’s an outfit with the winsome name The Advent Conspiracy that’s moving hard in that direction. I’ve also heard from plenty of Christians who aren’t in that group, but who are busy dusting off traditional religious ways of celebrating the season and doing a little necessary de-Santa-fication while they’re at it.
That’s an essential step right now because Christianity is now for all practical purposes a minority religion in the United States. It’s a large minority, to be sure, but it can no longer count on having the various perks and benefits that majorities have. This means that Christians have to get their act together, and making Christmas a Christian celebration again is an important part of that. The thing I don’t think most of them realize is that this may also be the salvation of American Christianity.
Even more than most other religions, Christianity does very poorly when it becomes a majority faith with significant political influence. Look at the countries of Europe for a good example. In Western Europe, Christianity is in its death throes, with the percentage of the population attending church in single digits; in Eastern Europe, Christianity is by and large thriving. What’s the difference? It’s quite simple: west of the old Iron Curtain, by and large, one or another form of Christianity has the role of an established church, legally privileged and protected by the state for the last several centuries. On the other side, until quite recently, Christianity was an embattled minority faith persecuted by the state. The former is the death of the churches; the latter gave the churches new life.
Most people on all sides of the political landscape misunderstand the concept of the separation of church and state: they think it’s there to protect the state from religious interference. Au contraire, it’s there to protect churches from political interference. A glance back through history shows this with brutal clarity. Religious denominations seek political privilege because they think, in their dewy-eyed innocence, that this means they will be able to tell the politicians what to do. No doubt this happens now and then at first, but the tables always turn. Before long the politicians are deciding who gets promoted to important religious positions, what items of belief are acceptable in the official creed, what Sunday sermons can and cannot discuss, and so on. Let that process run its course, and you get the standard Western European established church, staffed by government functionaries in funny clothing, who preside over big empty churches where 3% or so of the population shows up for services, and have to check any public pronouncement with the secular authorities in advance.
American Christianity came perilously close to that fate more than once in the twentieth century, but it seems to have dodged the bullet. Now all that American Christians have to do, as they move further into minority status and get used to that condition, is affirm their role as a people set apart for the worship of their god, and distance themselves and their customs from the secular world around them. Taking Christmas back is a great way to further that. In the future, if you see a family that ignores Glurgemas and instead celebrates the Advent season and Christmas in a dignified and openly religious way, you can just say, “Oh, that’s right, they’re Christians, aren’t they?”
What about those of us who don’t happen to be Christian? Well, since the Christians are getting their holiday back, the rest of us can make other arrangements. Those who are comfortable with the Consumerist faith don’t have to do a thing—they’ve still got Santa and sleigh bells and the rest of it, and since Christian symbols, carols, and concepts have been purged from public life in recent years, all they have to do is wish each other “Happy Holidays!” and get on with it. There are, however, plenty of other options available in our pluralistic society.
As a Druid, of course, I celebrate the winter solstice on December 21. Since the solstice itself is nondenominational—astronomical events generally are—those readers who don’t happen to have a midwinter celebration of their own might consider joining in. The celebration doesn’t require presents, though there can be a few if you like, and Druids don’t cut down trees to put them in living rooms, since the planet needs as many trees alive and growing as it can get. Instead, on the night of the solstice, everyone gathers together, the lights go out, and after a few minutes of darkness and silence someone lights a single candle to symbolize the rebirth of light and life. It’s quite common for somebody else to read a couple of suitable poems or what have you, and then the lights come up, any presents involved are handed out, and everyone joins in a big hearty meal.
(Yes, there’s quite a bit more to it than that if you’re a Druid, or one of the other alternative religions that celebrate the winter solstice. I’m simply suggesting this for those who don’t belong to any of these, but want to join with me in giving Christians their holy day back.)
As for Santa, silver bells, plastic trees, candy canes, and all the rest of the holiday hoopla, I’d like to suggest that they be handed over to believers in the religion of Consumerism, if they can’t simply be given decent burial. Look into the history of American Glurgemas symbolism and you’ll find that next to none of it had a honest origin. No, it was manufactured over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries by the mass media as a sales gimmick to lure people into department stores and keep them from getting out of debt and dependency. Maybe in the future, if you see somebody putting up Santa decorations, and waiting on Glurgemas Eve for the Big Corporation in the Sky to send its rotund representative down the chimney and load everyone with tacky plastic crap, you can just say, “Oh, that’s right, they’re Consumers, aren’t they?”
There are better ways to spend the weeks leading up to the solstice, or Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever other celebration helps you get through the dark days of winter. I don’t know about you, but when I think back on the holidays of my childhood, it’s not the toys I remember vividly, it’s the experiences: walking in the snow, drinking hot apple cider, smelling my grandfather’s pies baking in the oven and, yes, flopping on the sofa eating leftovers and doing nothing useful all day. Drawing a line under Glurgemas, and the entire culture of wretched excess that it exemplifies, is an important step in getting ready for the future that’s barrelling down on us right now. We might as well get started, because the empty shelves in so many stores these days are a reminder that time is getting short.
And with that, I’ll wish all my readers a happy Buy Nothing Day, and a happy and glurge-deprived holiday season to come.
Excellent article. The wife and I were just discussing glurgemas last night.
We already attempt to avoid “christmas” as much as possible and we celebrate Yule instead. This post has just re-inspired me to find more ways to remove glurge from our lives.
We will definitely be participating in buy nothing day, heck, our food is put up, maybe it’ll be buy nothing month!
I don’t get out much, so glurge is a new one on me. And very descriptive it is, too. As it happens, I was brought up way back in the last century in a home that kept both Advent and Christmas with only a minimum of glurge, although presents were given: our present as Christians was Christ; we gave each other presents in a pale imitation of that greater gift. Or that’s what I was taught. But I hate to tell you this: Black Friday is alive and well in the UK, a noxious import with all the characteristics you describe.
I will find it easy to have a Buy Nothing Day on the 27th, however, because where I live in Scotland (as a dual national; what a choice, eh?), we always have Thanksgiving on the 4th Saturday of the month, with family and friends (and dogs). We have a lovely day — a kind of late harvest festival that blends seamlessly into Advent. The only tension occasionally revolves around who gets the last of the angelfood cake and pumpkin pie for breakfast on Sunday. First up in the morning (not always an easy thing), first served.
In a piece I wrote for a community newsletter, I suggested that, due to shortages and transport problems, perhaps this year the good citizens of the UK are going to get the Christmas they piously say they want, but never actually organise themselves to have. Do not add GDP. Now, there’s a dangerous concept.
Wonderful suggestions that, hopefully, many will consider and implement.
It has always seemed to me to be that Christ’s summary of the law, to love God and to love one’s neighbor, effortlessly translates into the love of all existences.
So, as at present an ever-candidate druid, confirmed in a traditional Christian religion as a youngster, a dabbler in Buddhism at times, and a reformed Consumerist, may I wish you and Sara a care-free buy nothing day and, around Dec. 21, a joyous Alban Arthuan.
Thank you for this John. As a devotee of the Church of Stop Shopping I have been honoring Buy Nothing Day for years now. But why limit it to just one day? As with Earth Day, why not make every day Buy Nothing Day and shun the cathedrals of consumerism (the big box stores) altogether? Of course that may put a lot of low wage earning people out of work but as you said, after the many post pandemic lay offs of the past two years many working people discovered there was life after 9 to 5 drudgery and managed to find more meaningful work working for themselves. Self employment can be challenging at times but it sure beats the heck out of working for a boss you hate at a job that sucks!
Hi JMG and all. I’m proud to be able to say that I have been a practitioner and promoter of “Buy Nothing Day” for years now. What a relief to not be trampled by crazy people in stores while still “recovering” from Thanksgiving. If people would try it, I’m sure they would like it, and maybe they would get a different perspective on “The Holiday Season”.
Now I’m imagining a post-collapse cargo cult centered around Santa worship.
Believers concentrate on celebrating glurgemas, hoping that if they do it just right, prosperity will come back.
I can recall many years ago going to Walmart the day after Thanksgiving having forgotten about the Black Friday thing and finding myself in the midst of a shopping maelstrom. I managed to get what I needed and exited as fast as I could, grateful to have survived the experience with minimal injuries. Buy Nothing Day is now a sacred holiday as well as Avoiding Cyber-Monday Day.
I haven’t been to church since COVID began and find I don’t miss it a bit. The Catholic Church seems unable to cleanse itself of its dirty laundry or banana-bland liturgy borne from Vatican II. Until the current gerontocracy running the church dies off and newer blood starts moving things in a different direction, I’m not going to hold my breath for anything to change. Lighting a candle on the Solstice and meditating sounds like a far simpler cleaner way to celebrate the holiday season.
As a “christian”, though also an atheist, I subscribe to elements of ‘the faith’ that are most convivial to anti-Consumerist religion. As one example, one can point to Saturnalia and its history having been absconded by some early Christians, as well as many other cultural holy-days from around Europe in particular that became part of the ‘season’.
On the side of anti-Consumerist faith, one can advocate Christian scripture like Luke 1:52-53: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away”! Would that some priests and pastors and preachers would ponder such verses for their Advent lessons and carols! Most of these are, instead, disgusting ventures into European triumphalism and its concomitants of colonialism, racism, and classism [also very much now part of the traditions in the ‘colonies’ like Canada, Australia, and the Excited States].
While Canadian Thanksgiving was in early October, since we live in a colder climate where harvest better be done with in September, I can happily join in your gift of ‘Do Nothing Days’ of Nov. 26th and 27th. Thanks for your presents!!
While it does nothing to support By Nothing Days, small businesses came up with Shop Small Saturday to encourage you to spend your money, if you must, with small local businesses that are usually neglected due to the big box spell. Perhaps to honor By Nothing Days, shop small local business before Thanksgiving. Just a thought ;-D
Any suggestions on how to split St. Nick off from his Coca-Cola designed doppleganger?
Oh, John Michael, this is just fabulous! I just read it aloud to Connie and we both loved it more than words can convey.
Wishing you and Sara a blessed and joyful Buy Nothing Day and Solstice season, as well.
Warmly, and getting warmer and crazier by the season,
~ Michael and Connie
JMG, I very much enjoyed this weeks’ post. Your example of how to celebrate the solstice is also a way for mixed groups to celebrate the season together.
My copy of The Wealth of Nature should finally be in today. I’m really looking forward to it, as I had not read the first edition. Thank you for all you do! I rarely have time to comment, but I’m still here lurking.
“How do you celebrate Buy Nothing Day?”
If you don’t have money, the answer is very easy…Don’t buy nothing because you are poor.
Good suggestions all around. I have also been fond of the “Opt Outside” tradition for the day after Thanksgiving, the aim of which is to get humans outdoors (and, presumably, not buying stuff).
I have always enjoyed the caroling at our large Roman Catholic cathedral here (it’s a beautiful space, so can’t help it), but I will probably focus more on Saturnalia and the birth of Sol Invictus this year, if the gods allow.
Everything said in this post. Been doing lots of it for years. Much happier and connected and calmer.
I’ve been trying to get people to boycott Black Friday and/or walk out in a General Strike for 20 years. I’ve absolutely LOVED Advent since I was a little girl and we got a new preacher who explained this “new” custom to us at our little “country Methodist” church. More recently I’ve encountered the Orthodox who begin Advent on November 15 — it’s not just waiting, it’s a FAST. So I say, let the reduced consumption begin! Isn’t it exciting? Isn’t it hopeful?
A few years ago, I dreamed that I was on of three women in headscarves, praying at the edge of the woods. All of us were for some reason absolutely terrified. But then an angel came and explained to us that we were the churches that will survive …
All of which is to say, here’ s a virtual big old hug and thank you from this old church lady! Thanks for getting my message out for me!
We unknowingly instituted BuyNothing Day a decade back. During Xmas after our Xmas Feast, we were drinking beer we made at Thanksgiving, and my kids all lamenting the dreaded Black Friday. They all said we should just wait until the next day – so the following year they did just that, coming back to the house to finish off the assorted Turkey Day leftovers and further deplete the beer. This was much more enjoyable and fun than traipsing through rabid crowds of people after TVs…
We went another step to ditch the consumer horse apples – we all agreed that primary gifts amongst ourselves MUST be handmade, even if it was just a T-shirt with iron-on glitz. That was something that worked really well, and now all my kids and even grandkids start working on Xmas gifts at the start of Autumn. The big reveal on Xmas day has a lot more significance.
As a guy who absolutely loathes shopping malls and CCC (cheap chinese crap), I encourage people to jump head first into BuyNothing Day.
Everything is a business model – everything is monetized. I hope all Christians can get the money out of their churches. It’s what has hollowed out the entire religion, turning most clergy into pharisees…
@ Bruce #8
Re scripture appropriate for anti-Glurgemas
I’ve always been partial to Luke 12:15. “Beware all forms of greed. A man’s life does not consist of his possessions.”
(I’ve often partnered that verse with a line from the 33d chapter of the Tao Te Ching: “He who knows he has enough is rich.”)
HippieViking, delighted to hear it! A blessed Yule to you and yours.
Serinde, a dangerous concept indeed! It’s a worthwhile one, however. I wish you and yours ample angelfood cake and pumpkin pie for all.
Robert, thank you! I ain’t arguing.
Kurt, I’m with you there. It’s a little hard to avoid shopping altogether if your income comes in the form of money, as mine does, rather than (say) cattle and grain. Big box stores, however, see my shadow only when I can find no other source for something — which means about one visit every two to three years — and there are places such as Mall*Wart where I have never shopped, nor ever will.
Danaone, agreed! Putting your feet up and gnawing on a cold turkey drumstick is an infinitely better way to spend that day.
JAS, I could see it!
Jeanne, even though I’m a non-Christian, what’s happened to the Catholic church saddens me. Watching the hierarchy knuckle under to shutdowns based on straightforward religious prejudice — wasn’t it California where churches were closed but other venues of similar size weren’t? — tells me that as currently constituted, the Roman Catholic church is in its death throes.
Bruce, that’s a nice robust bit of scripture. How do you manage to be a Christian (even with quotes) and an atheist at the same time, btw?
Kay, that sounds like a very good idea to me.
Drew, easily done. Here’s the saint:
Notice any similarities to the glurgemeister? Neither do I. Wikipropaganda, for a change, has a decent article on him. Learn about his life and doings and, if you happen to be a Christian, consider praying to him. He’s the patron saint of Liverpool, among other places and things!
Michael, glad to hear it. Spread the word!
Ol’ Bab, you’re most welcome.
Aubrey, every Druid group is by definition a mixed group, because no two Druids agree on much of anything! So we’ve had to use flexible symbolism. You’re welcome, btw, and thank you.
Chuaquin, I’ve done that, too.
Fra’ Lupo, hmm! I’ll look that up. It sounds like a very good idea.
Marlena, delighted to hear it.
Nell, you’re welcome and thank you! A blessed Advent season and Christmas to you and yours.
Oilman2, delighted to hear this. As for the churches, no argument there. I know a lot of Christians these days are switching to home churches, i.e. meeting in somebody’s living room to pray together, or making beelines for the few (mostly small) churches that haven’t cashed in their ideals.
JMG – Thank you, cubed! Could you please preach this message at my ( and most) Christian church(es)? For decades, I have advocated yielding 12/25 to the Consumerists and having a separate, sacred Christmas. Even with my wife’s family (nominally Christian), we spent years trying to get them to stop the pointless gifts, but the best we could do was to get them to agree to redirect the $ spent on gifts to the Heifer Project.
Also, you are so correct about what happens to Christianity when it becomes “official.” Although I don’t look forward to its temporal consequences, I agree that the western Christian church needs the coming persecution in order to burn off its dross.
Thank you, you insightful Druid! Rejoice in the Light of the World.
C S Lewis’ ironic “lost chapter from Herodotus” essay, “Crissmas and Xmas”, is good on the quaint customs of Nyatirb… https://khad.com/post/196009755/xmas-and-christmas-a-lost-chapter-from-herodotus
Mammoth Ghastly Hospital had it’s share of Jellybys who would collect donations to pay for their trips to Africa to provide some form of US medical ‘care’. Most of the money went to transportation and housing cost. Never saw anyone collecting for Appalachia or some other US area in need. Not exotic enough. Trowing money away producing CO2 across the world.
Thanks, JMG – your opening paragraph may just have saved my Sarah’s life – she has a serious latex allergy too, and is recovering from a serious, non-COVID chest infection, so is more vulnerable this year than previous cycles. We thought her really bad allergies last year were from the weather, we had no idea about the poinsettias!
Most days are buy nothing day for me…
I’d happily have Christmas back from the consumerism. I do put up a fake tree, but it’s 6 inches tall, was bought for 50 cents at least half a dozen years ago, and I deck it with necklaces, earrings and hair ornaments I already have. I think it’s cute, it makes me laugh, and it takes up almost no space the rest of the year.
I used to make things for everybody, but lately, health issues have gotten in the way, nearly half the people I’d send stuff to are in the UK and it costs more and more to mail anything, and a lot of my people are either male or not very interested in jewelry, which is what I’m making at the moment. Last year I threw up my hands and gave everyone outside Victoria hand-painted christmas cards and a small charitable donation in their name.
The big thing for me is usually the Christmas eve service. If I’m not visiting family, I’m often playing music for it, so there’s work to put in to prepare, sometimes for several weeks prior. And the church has a christmas potluck.
Great post! I hope you don’t mind if I piggyback on it to do a bit of shameless self-promotion. (Tis the season, after all.)
On my Dreamwidth, I’ve spent the last 6 months or so going through the Gospel of Matthew a few lines at a time and discussing their meaning in the light of Occult Philosophy and Neoplatonism.
I am planning to expand that series very soon. The Christian Liturgical Year traditionally begins at Advent which itself starts on Sunday the 28th of November this year. Starting on that day I’m going to add in a series of regular posts on the Christian liturgical year understood as a magical practice, of the sort that Dion Fortune and Eliohas Levi– or Plotinus, or the writer of The Mysteries of Merlin, for that matter!– would recognize.
If that sounds interesting to anyone here, feel free to join me over at readoldthings.dreamwidth.org.
Buy nothing day and Black Friday are both celebrated in Canada, but our thanksgiving day is in October, so neither is anywhere near our thanksgiving.
My evangelical mother expects that before we open presents, we listen to her read a story she has selected, and then sing together a few Christian carols. I prefer the singing. The stories are often a kind of Hallmark-like interpretation of Christmas moralism. She is a sentimentalist to be sure.
She is also a Gemini. Before my sister had kids we had settled into a kind of awkward if relaxed celebration, more about coming together than gifts. Once her kids came along, there comes a time every Christmas eve when everyone is quite tired of opening gifts, but there is at least another half hour of the kids opening gifts from grandma, such that they have lost interest in the gift as soon as it is revealed, in anticipation of the next. Most of it they won’t remember within a week.
Alas I usually have my own quiet solitary ceremony on the Solstice, an evening of reflection and anticipation. My family is otherwise oblivious to the meaning of that day which is also much the point of Glurglemas.
Last night I was snuggling up to my warm soapstone and hotwater bottle under a half dozen heavy blankets, and between dreams, I happily recalled my Grandmother Edna Cassel, born in 1890 in Berne Indiana. She ran the 45 acre farm in Ninemile while Granpaw drove a steam locomotive for the Pennsylvania RR. About this time of year she loved to recite from memory James Whitcomb Riley’s, “When the Frost Is On the Pum’kin”. She had long braided hair wound into a coil on top of her head with long steel hairpins holding the bun in place. She was Lutheran, and Swiss decent, and a great source of love in the community of farmers and family; she helped my Mom teach me to read and write, and gave me – well, she let me find the trove of books in the dusty dark attic, wrapped in newspaper and filling a wood Apricot crate, from my uncle David Lynn, who I never met, since he died of leukaemia when he was 12. My Mom was born in 1918, graduated from Lutheran Hospital Nursing School in 1938. David Lyn died in 1947. I was born in 1955.
Granma went to the 1939 Worlds Fair in 1939, by herself, on a pass from the PRR. She had grey hair when I knew her, rimless glasses, looked like Margaret Mead. I first learned of M Mead in the 80’s along with Gregory Batson, and his book, “An Ecology of Mind” and other stuff in “The Whole Earth Catalogue” and particularly Systems Theory. They were both anthropologists who changed the field from the observation only model, to immersion in the “target culture” model – from James Frazer, to Colin Trunbull — don’t quote me on that. “The Golden Bough” was one of the books on the cot of Col. Kurtz in the movie, “Apocalypse Now”.
As I went in and out of liminal consciousness, I recalled the court proceedings from Kenosha this past 2 weeks. How the Assistant District Attorney had lapel pins from the “StarWars” movie series; how the Defence attorney was a hometown lawyer, an Atticus Finch of sorts, how he replaced the big time national suits that parachuted in from the coast. How the judge seemed to be, to an Arizona legal commentator, to run an “Organic” courtroom. How the 3 of them had a previous working relationship there in a town of 99,900 people who went for Obama, then Trump, and then Biden, and were split D & R for legislators. How the defendant waived his 5th Amendment right and testified, how at one point the ADA mentioned his 5th A right claim at the time of arrest, and got chewed out by the judge, how the defence was pretty lame, how the witnesses called by the ADA all testified surprisingly for the defence, that the defendant had used his gun only on those who had previously threatened and attacked him, how the defence moved in court for a mistrial, and also in writing. It seemed a well scripted dramatic tragedy of the sort Shakespeare might devise. Or perhaps Rex Stout. Not that it was well staged, they had 20 jurors filling up the part of the room for the state and defendant, and there were extra chairs they were stumbling over instead of just moving them out of the room. And oh yeah, the historical discourse the judge presented to the 20 jurors right off the bat. About how we have this quaint Kenosha principle of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty In a Court of Law By 12 Impartial Citizens”.
Apparently it came as a great shock to Democracy Now listeners, and the NPR audience, that the three people shot were not black men, but rather white, and they were not to be described as “victims” in court, but “rioters or arsonists” was OK. The gun used by the defendant to defend himself, was not carried across state lines, and the law defining his having it that night was not clear, so that charge was dropped the day of judges jury instructions. Then there was a witness for the prosecution who was also a medic, who was also armed with a concealed pistol, without a current permit, and who pointed it at the defendants head from 4 ft away, just before the defendant shot his arm holding the pistol. Turned out this fellow is suing Kenosha for 12 million dollars, and his lawyer was there in court.
Then there was the video images of all the Kenoshans armed with the same gun, the AR-15, worn with similar equipment, which several had carried in the American occupation of Iraq. Even those who were not veterans carried their guns in that way. They knew how to occupy the place, when the need arose, and they did it for a night. Before that, 12 small business were burned down, a museum of the dinosaurs, and 137 luxury cars which no one could afford I guess? were burned down on a used car lot. And city hall windows were smashed and several old garbage trucks were set ablaze. The next night, the 26th iirc, the National Guard did come and occupy Kenosha.
Even so, my eyes kept returning to the ADA T Binger’s haircut. If it was a cartoon cut, it was “Calvin and Hobbes” goofy. With Buddy Holly’s recently found last pair of glasses. He was the Laurel to his assistant’s Hardy. Then in his closing statement, he picked up the gun and pointed it, shouldered, around the courtroom with his finger on the trigger. May be folks got an idea of how the Iraqis liked being occupied.
Reflecting on the past 2 years, on a dark November night in Vermont, not cold enough to start a fire, I thought, this is America. Bravo! I’m proud to be an American artist, poet, Japanese handsaw sharpener, mason, carpenter, mechanic, vernacular builder, vet, and contrarian. Ya win some, ya lose some. The more ya fail, the more ya learn. Most of what I learned, I learned from my father, my family, and the Americans who came over from Switzerland and Africa and everywhere because the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Bravo Kenosha! and hey, Bravo BLM for giving a frack, you too, are Americans and Kenoshans. Yeah, the guy shot in the arm? Suing the city for 12 M$? Carried a Glock every day and is a 2A supporter.
My brother-in-law’s fiance broke her own over priced princess crystal gee-gaw piece of crapola. ebay has used ones for $50-$80. My wife found one yesterday at a New Hampshire Salvation Army store for $4 that looks brand new without a mark on it. This will make a nice gift for her, she’ll never know, cheap money for us, recycle an item, support a Christian organization helping the down and out at Christmas, and starve amazon or a big box store of a few bucks. Lots of wins across the board. For what it’s worth, Massachusetts SA stores charge almost retail. New Hampshire SA stores are filled with deals.
My favorite – Happy Festivus!
You’ve given me something to look forward to this year – the 10 day worker strike! I will be cheering that on!
I worked at Target stocking shelves a couple years ago through the “holiday season” (because we can’t even say the name Christmas any longer for fear of causing offense). The majority of people are low key shoppers but the percent of gifts bought out of obligation to give gifts I’d peg at 80%. It’s very stressful trying to figure out not just what but how much in $ is the appropriate amount.
I have a sinking feeling this could be the last normal modern Christmas we’ll have as a country. Between the inflation and mandates, it feels like it won’t be possible to do it again in 2022. You’ve imagined something to move towards and that door shuts behind us, so thank you for that.
I’ll be joining in, as usual, for buy nothing day. Years ago I expanded that to the entire Glurgemas season, except for a few groceries, and perhaps a fill up at the fuel station.
May you all share the best company this season.
For each morning with it’s light
For rest and shelter of the night
For health and food
For love and friends
For everything thy goodness sends
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The company I work for as IT director just fought off a $3.5M ransomware attack, experts and vendors are telling us we need to spends thousands and thousands of dollars on hiring experts to watch our network for us 24/7, or nightmares will happen.
We took an “Appropriate Technology” approach – the last of my staff out the door unplugs the internet that day.
A side effect is we will not be able to SELL anything from the end of the day before Thanksgiving until the following Monday.
Given your generous gifts I think it is only fitting that I return the favor. I will now give you something that I know, deep down, you have always wanted but never thought possible. Yes, that’s right Mr. Greer, I will now bestow upon you the knowledge of how to repurpose dancing Santa Clouse dolls for something arguably useful! (Please note I have not tested this idea, so it is still only theoretically possible).
Its really quite simple. You first need to secure a renewable energy source. In this case the obvious choice is a potato battery, since potatoes are a rich source of nutrition and hardy enough for most people to grow.
Then, you securely attach Santa to the end of a dock (duck tape seems reasonable for the foreseeable future, although those unconcerned with permanently damaging Santa might prefer nails).
After that you secure a fishing line around the waist of said Santa, equipped with fishing lure at end of said line.
Finally, you utilize your potato battery and let the magic happen (given the propensity for these objects to eject music more plastic than their gears gun range level hearing protection is advised if exposure lasts longer than five minutes).
Ultimately you have a self automated bobbing fishing line that should be able to get bait fish from a small pond until a moderately sized fish takes hold and breaks all the internal, plastic gears. But hey, if you have no other purpose for plastic dancing Santas, a plethora of potatoes, a need for bait fish, and a certain sort of sense of humor, then used dancing Santas are the technological wave of the future!
Please note, securing Santa to the dock is optional when using a surfing Santa.
Thank you for a wonderful seasonal post!
About 9 years ago I took my tiny homestead off the electric grid, relying solely on my array of solar panels and battery bank for electric needs. I’m in the northern region where a gloom belt develops around this time of year. Lots of clouds, overcast skies, and shorter days. My solar system is designed to hopefully let me just squeak by this period. Then the rest of the year I have supplies of power that range from ample to abundant.
Something I discovered quite quickly once I went off grid is that the winter solstice has real meaning in my life now! The hardest 6 weeks of the year for me are the 3 before and 3 after the winter solstice. In this period I become hyper conscious of the electric power I use and how much it eases my life as I need to start cutting uses out due to lack of sun. The solstice always feels like a turning point now, as it is, when the days start getting a little bit longer, bringing more life and power. The day has become for me a time to celebrate the abundance that has been in my life over the past year and will return again with the light. The period of limited deprivation around the solstice has helped me to be ever more grateful and appreciative of the incredible gift an ample supply of electricity is!
in BC houses of worship were closed (0nline only) for 5 months straight last winter while restaurants and sports bars were open for business, and you were allowed to unmask while seated at your table.
Then last summer, there was a massive rash of church burnings and other vandalism, some which hit churches in my city. This was related to the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools, but some of the churches burned to the ground didn’t belong to a denomination that had ever run a residential school.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Christianity has lost any special protections it once had in Canada, especially in BC.
Meanwhile the left wing that I would have expected would come to the verbal defence of any other religious or cultural group experiencing their buildings being attacked like this is just fine with persecution so long as it’s aimed at us.
I am angry with the NDP government in charge of BC, and with the federal NDP on this issue. None of them let out a peep on this issue, and my email to the premier got completely ignored. Normally I’d expect a form response, or a response from someone in the office that was at least vaguely related. Nothing. Despite my mentioning that I often voted NDP and this was making me feel betrayed and very angry.
And the churches themselves have been… very very quiet during all of this. The Salvation Army church I attend prayed about the residential schools mess, but if I hadn’t brought up the church burnings, I think they would have gone completely unmentioned.
For Catholics, Christmas does not start until Dec. 25. The period before Christmas, which is called Advent, is a period of fasting, contemplation, penance and alms-giving. One fasts before the feast. It’s obvious that the modern world has turned Advent upside down in the name of Mammon. The disgust with modernism and consumerism has turned many young Catholics (and several older ones like me) towards the traditional Latin Mass and the traditional liturgical calendar (meaning the centuries old practice of real Advent).
As a Pagan former Christian who is now exploring a combined PaganoChristian faith,
I recommend for Christians interested in the saints, venerating St. Nick as a saint is a good idea, just as you venerate other saints. For Pagans, much of his symbolism is derived from Odin. Neither of these figures involve tricking children into believing a fat man is bringing them gifts. I think if you exchange gifts you should be honest about where they came from, and look at older traditions to see if you can find customs worth perpetuating. And we should revive the old winter custom of story telling. Gathering around a fire telling the story of St. Nick or Odin’s myths is an excellent custom.
I come from a very large family and our Christmas custom was that the children dressed up reenacted the Nativity during the Christmas festivities (under the helpful guidance of a few adults).
If your family is large, you could easily start the same custom for literally any religion, since they all have stories.
An excellent point about Glurgemas being invented, with one goal maintaining the masses in debt. We have been programmed since birth to equate material things with celebration, which strikes me as a poor way to worship the Earth, our minds and our well being. The Christmas fund, saving small amounts of money all year long to splurge on presents or a plump goose on the Big Day is – at the end of the day – poor money management.
Materialism and self-centered goals are not propaganda that’s easily overcome for some though, and I’m finding that collapsing now to avoid the rush has some challenges trying to dispose of possessions from Glurgemas past. Hopefully we’ll see more adopt habits that spurn Glurgemas, and if a renewed religiosity provides support for that, it’s all right by me.
I’m not a christian either, but I do like to celebrate the solstice. Since the christians essentially stole solstice from the pagans and renamed it, I don’t really think we should give it back to them when it really wasn’t their idea to begin with. What I like to do is strip it all the way down to the original astronomical observations. Around September, when it first starts getting cold, at least where I live, I start measuring the angle of the sun at local solar noon. Once or twice a week, right at noon, I put a little tic mark on the floor where the shadow of the window ledge hits the floor as the sun shines through a south facing window in my office. Excitement builds gradually for 3 months as the tic marks get farther and farther from the window while showing that the sun really is getting lower and lower in the sky. As we approach the solstice the distance between tick marks becomes smaller and smaller, until for the day before, the day of, and the day after the solstice there is no perceptible change. I find this super low key process delightful and deeply grounding.
I have a suggestion… make plans to practice music on Black Friday, or to perform if you are a performer. Practice is an act of love — I believe the gods don’t hear how “bad” you are right now, they hear how great you will become one day. I know that it’s more fun to sit around and eat, and I am not suggesting that anyone avoid sitting around and eating, just make some time to practice, which is what I will be doing.
I have an online sheet music store here: https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/publishers/kimberly-steele-sheet-music/3003094 If you’d like any of the tunes, I will send them to you gratis in honor of Buy Nothing Friday, but you must email me at k steele studio at gmail and introduce yourself if I don’t already know who you are.
Thank you for these gifts.
One time many years ago I tried standing in line at an electronics store at midnight after thanksgiving. After about half an hour I came to my senses and went home to bed. Now on the day after thanksgiving I only leave bed for leftovers.
I do like putting up lights for Christmas because it’s such a dark time of the year. I appreciate the solstice as well.
I finished reading After Progress. I think I’ve read much of it before here and at the ADR. But it was worth the time. It is a lot to meditate on. Let’s not discus this now though.
Thank you for all the pressies! Much to consider!
Separation between church and state does require that one have a clear idea what counts as church and what counts as state – this must happen before one can see the need to keep them separate.
It seems to me that the “separation” we are currently most in need of implementing will take some untangling, and that will only become possible if we can see clearly what are the strands to be disentangled.
These three, to me, have become hopelessly entangled in ways that
1) rob each one of its prospect of contributing anything useful or positive to people’s lives
2) rob each one of a clear sense of itself and its own core vision of what it can do and be.
For me, I’ve been in active resistance against Santamass (my name for the mess) since the late ’80s, when a couple of popstars-of-the-moment put out their Santamass records in the middle of AUGUST.
Part of my resistance has been to pick up a collection of off-kilter Holiday tunes. Over the years I’ve gathered up a collection of off-kilter holiday songs for both Santamass and New Years. From bitter to smart-ass to lusty to depressing to just plain wrong to the mopey side of reflective, it’s all in the collection. It even has a smarty-pants name for it – “Bah Humbuggery,” so in case the link doesn’t work you can look it up on YouTube.
The Link: My Santamass Tunes (Apologies for those who don’t like YouTube. And yes, there’s a bunch of commentary to go along with the songs, so you can read through it while it plays.)
There’s also a trilogy of “contests” I’ve joined in on that involve avoiding certain songs – Whamageddon, The Mariahpocalypse, and The Little Drummer Boy Challenge (you can guess the songs). No major losses for hearing the specific tunes referenced by the contests, but still leads one to rethink what one does outside during the season.
I’m only a dilettante about both St. Nick and Odin, and I’m curious about the overlap as the only one I can come up is a tendency to move other peoples’ stories forward. Perhaps, is it that they also have a habit of showing up in exactly the right time and place that they need to be? Thanks, Drew
Incoming rant: *inhale*
I work at a local furniture and appliance store chain. We have most holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving off, but we always work on the Eve’s and the day after. Sometimes we work federal holidays anyways. I’d very much like to have my birthday and the next day, New Years, off. But hey we get 50 lb boxes of potatoes ( a pie for CA employees), a ton of over time, and a taxed $50-100 gift in our bank accounts during the holidays! Yay!
Work work work stuff stuff stuff. If there’s anything that has fueled my disdain for consumerism and rage/insanity inducing music played on repeat, it’s by working at a furniture and appliance warehouse during what most shipping companies and warehouses call “peak season”. And yes I worked at UPS during peak season one year. I won’t go into detail what trauma I suffered from that. There usnt one “peak season” buuut the winter holidays are among the worst.
Interestingly enough during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weeks of certain holidays, sales are dead. It’s the next 2-4 weeks after that the nightmare begins when 20+ drivers will walk out and quit making the work prep crew does a waste of time and energy. Oh and prep crew is short staffed too.
If I can summerize all that into a letter…
To those who have to get the most expensive California King Bedroom set with a master chest and industrial grade kitchen package …f you for ordering the heaviest and most cumbersome pieces in the warehouse. Also, screw the Karens who damage their pieces in front of the drivers or complain about how their piece is not exactly like the one in the store….you guys are lucky that prep crew doesn’t have to see your mug or deal with you otherwise you’d be prepping the piece or pieces yourselves. As for those who tip the drivers , keep little ones restrained/preoccupied, the house clean, fridges clear, stay out of the way, and are the sweetest most understanding people, thank you, we love you, we need more people like you, you’re the reason why we do what we do, even if you do end up ordering the heaviest most cumbersome pieces in the warehouse.
The drivers and preppers who have enough patience to deal with your crap and will go out of their way to break their bodies and minds (literally) just to make you happy and earn an income.
*exhale* Rant over.
Ok. Gifts…gifts… gifts…I grew up in a single parent household, needless to say i didn’t get much and my mom would bend over backwards sometimes to get me the fire truck, a Nintendo DSi/3ds, or whatever. Sometimes I got nothing. Our tradition was to go out to get something to eat and see a movie. Had no family to go to, no one invited us to celebrate with them, etc. I’ve had a series of disappointing birthdays and Christmases. I understand the struggle of having to choose between the bills or suprising people now that I’m an adult myself, holidays are the roughest on people in general. For two to three years now I’ve bought big ticket items, gave money to pay a bill or two or gave money to buy stuff to someone I know who is a single parent. Few have any idea how much joy it gives me when I’m giving people I know are struggling or stressing some kind of relief. I want to continue that new tradition I made for myself, but that may change slightly. I personally don’t get the hype around shopping, I’d rather just make stuff , hang out, cook, eat, and play games during the holidays. Just being around people I know is better in my opinion than recieving stuff I most likely won’t use or wear.
Honestly this is not something I like talking about, but might as well give my two cents because the holidays to me have lost their glimmer long ago for me despite the much welcomed feeling and “smells ” of the winter months .
Michael, I doubt your church would be especially sympathetic to having a Druid in the pulpit! That said, by all means share this with as many people as might be amenable thereto. 😉
Robert, ha! I hadn’t read that before, and it’s classic Lewis. Many thanks.
DenG, it’s a very common custom, and it deserves to be humiliated.
Harry, I’m glad to hear this. Yes, the Red Death is much more of a problem than most people realize, and (ahem) masques don’t seem to help much. 😉 Best wishes to your Sarah for a prompt recovery!
Pygmycory, that tree strikes me as a good idea on all counts. A very merry Christmas to you!
Steve, thanks for this.
William, I suspect a lot of people have to put up with that sort of thing.
Mark, thanks for this.
DenG, good. Ah, the joys of salvage and surplus!
Denis, if we never again have another “normal” Christmas I won’t weep!
Susan, thank you and likewise.
Harry, I’m delighted to hear that common sense is beginning to seep in. I’m wondering how long it will take before people start realizing that if you have your files in filing cabinets and just hire a couple of file clerks, ransomware attacks can go shuffle off to Buffalo…
Stephen, funny. I know a guy who likes to use them for target practice; does that count?
David, that is to say, you’ve returned to the real world. Congratulations.
Pygmycory, ouch. I hadn’t heard of that.
Evie, I hope more Catholics follow their lead. Prayer, fasting, and repentance are about the only hope your church has these days.
Drhooves, here’s hoping!
Thenoblepeasant, no, Christians didn’t “steal” the solstice from “pagans,” whichever group you mean by that very vague word. Most cultures in the temperate zone have a midwinter holiday; Christmas is theirs. That said, if you like to celebrate an astronomical solstice, by all means!
Kimberly, a fine idea. Thank you for this!
Piper, glad to see common sense breaking through. As for After Progress, if you read The Archdruid Report in 2012 or so, yes, you got most of it in first draft.
Scotlyn, a very valid point.
Godozo, many thanks for this! I like to play “A Very Scary Solstice,” which consists of Lovecraftian parodies of Christmas songs — “I’m Dreaming of a Dead City,” “Do You Fear What I Fear?” and so on — but your collection looks tempting.
Copper, one good rant deserves another. 😉
Mrs Jellyby is a brilliant character, for me the most memorable among many great ones in Bleak House. I feel like I had never really ‘seen’ the ‘type’ before, but the moment I read her it was like a revelation.
Thanks for the memories.
Just a nit-picking comment from a European about Church and State. Unlike the Church of England, which lost any real power centuries ago, and unlike the churches (plural) in most Protestant states, the Catholic Church in Southern Europe has been politically powerful until modern times. In Italy and Spain this power declined only recently (in Spain, for example with the formal separation of Church and State as late as 1978.) In France, the Church fought a long and bitter struggle against democracy and republicanism, which didn’t really finish until after the Second World War, where the Church disgraced itself with its open support of Vichy and collaboration with Hitler. Until perhaps a century ago, it was common for country priests to tell their flock that democracy was heresy (since it undercut the dominance of the Church) and they would go to hell if they voted in elections. The Church fought a long, if ultimately unsuccessful battle against both mixed education and women being given the vote. Although Church attendance in France today is low, it’s disproportionately concentrated among old, and often powerful, aristocratic and upper middle-class families of a deeply conservative bent, whose members are found in the military, the banking world and the government. Church attendance in all of these countries went into a catastrophic decline after Vatican 2, for reasons discussed elsewhere. By contrast, evangelical Protestant churches are doing well.
Why does this matter? Well, in France, for example, the history of animosity between Church and state means that Christmas (in the traditional sense) is not celebrated in any public buildings, schools etc (no mangers or Christmas carols, thank you) and it has a lower profile than in most Protestant countries, in spite of massive efforts to commercialise it in recent years. Only those with children really bother, and it’s only 25 December itself which is a holiday: the next day you are back at work. New Year’s Eve is a time for gatherings of adults, and indeed people talk not about “Christmas” but about “the end-of-year celebrations,” including both.
Tom Lehrer has a good song about Glurgemas:
Hark, the Herald Tribune sings
Advertising wondrous things
God rest ye merry merchants
May ye make the Yuletide pay
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and – buy!
Buy Nothing Day has always been my practice on Black Friday (ugh), but I hadn’t heard that name before…I will be more than happy to extend it to Saturday..I’ll call it Scrooge McDuck Saturday! I never want expensive Christmas presents, or any really except a book or two, I’ll work harder on that this year….
And for those hyper rationalist skeptics there is Gravmas.
“On December 25, Isaac Newton’s birthday, we celebrate the existence of comprehensible physical laws. ”
I like it merely for the pun of combining gravity and mass. That plus Issac Newton was one smart fellow.
As for the yearly consumer fest, my family gave up on any form of gifts years ago. Just so much easier and really we all agreed, we don’t need anything more. The schedueled holiday is just a big fest – I love it!
Being in the southern hemisphere, the solstice ritual may not fit so well. 🙂
I remember seeing an interview maybe a decade back (I cannot find it now), it was one of these talking heads news networks – some one booked an anti consumerist in the run up to Christmas. The interviewer insisting that his position is “unamerican” was very sweet to watch as they turned their heads insideout trying to figure out how anyone could come to this position. The whole thing ended with them trying to play music over the chap being interviewed as he made his one last point “We consume 3 times as much stuff as we did 70 years ago and yet we are no happier than we where then.”. Some fine words to remember.
In honor of Buy Nothing Day, here are a couple of wonderful old magazine advertisements from the last years of WW2:
No doubt a thorough web search would turn up many more variations on that theme.
I’m very fond of those old advertisements put out by the War Advertising Council. (They coined the slogan, “Use it up / Wear it out / Make it do / Or do without!”) I remember seeing them in old magazines as a child. They are still good advice for today.
I’m old enough to remember when every Sunday was a Buy Nothing day. That tradition, which surely has Christian roots (remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy), began eroding in the 70s and is now virtually extinct. You’re right that the first stirrings of our consumer society go back to the late 19th century but it surely exploded after WWII and has been metastatic ever since. By the 50s the malaise began spreading like wildfire so we’ve had four generations fully immersed in it. These days I strive to make most days Buy Nothing Day, a practice of healthy austerity with LESS (Less Energy, Stuff, Stimulation) as the guiding principle. Thanks for the fine essay.
JMG and #24 Harry Thanks for the tip about poinsettias. My wife has a serious latex allergy so now I can probably convince her not to get one this year.
Dear John Michael Greer and Ecosophia,
Thanks you very much for this article! For me, this reminder could not come at a better time. The past few years, I have tried to get myself into the best shape, mental and physical, that I can possibly be. Spiritual shape, has gone by the wayside. I’ve always put it off as, I can do that latter.
Last Gluggermas, I put the fake tree up, bought the presents for everyone in my family. They never used them, in fact a good number of them are sitting next to me right now or have already begun accumulating dust in the basement. This Solstice, I do not know what faith to call myself.
Celebrating Christmas, as a Christian doesn’t feel quite right just yet as it feels too much like the Gluggermas knock off. The one image that comes to my mind thinking of the solstice, is angels. Not so much a baby in a manger. Though when you think about it, angels dropping a baby in a manger, on the solstice makes total sense from a metaphorical/spiritual perspective. Too that end, I can celebrate Christmas. If not the Christian version, then the Druid one based on rebirth will do.
I think I am going to be putting my two week notice into my full-time/part-time minimum wage job at the end of this year. So either the first or second week in January will be my last week. What comes then? I do not know. The job doesn’t pay enough to live on here in Taxachusetts, and I’ve thought of packing my car and just heading out to see the country.
You’ve advocated the building of skills. One thing I’ve found is that the beginner/intermediate level crap sold in stores is designed to keep aspiring musicians, artists, tailors, etc. from succeeding. For instance 8×10 inch canvass panels are slightly larger than 8×10 so they don’t fit into standard picture frames. Student trumpets don’t have a way of tuning the first valve slide as the player plays, and use a smaller bore and that knee-caps the higher notes. (Not these instruments can play high notes just not with agility.) Furthermore I recently bought a sewing machine to speed up the mending of pants, and it crapped out after ten seconds.
In other words MOST ALL THE GOODS in stores exist as decoration only, with little if any practical use towards creating a local business. I’ve thought of buying a professional Trumpet before leaving MA at the start of next year… I’m just debating if I should wait until the snow clears in spring to leave. My plan is to stick a tent in the car, I already have all the tools necessary to camp out for a few months. I’m just debating what track to take across the continent. A piece of me wants to end up in Maine, I know its right next to Massachusetts, and in the wrong direction but I think I should see the rest of the country first. I don’t plan on driving all the way to California, maybe as far as Colorado. I don’t know.
I just know that staying where I’m at means a slow living-death via consumerism. I have SKILL SETS THAT CAN SUPPORT me. I can’t use them here in Massachusetts. I just turned thirty. I am in shape. Have never really had a romantic life. Did the college thing, majored in Environmental Science/Stem, wasn’t worth it.
Christmas/the Solstice seems like a good time to pull the plug on my job/ this dead end lifestyle. Then head out and see the country. Anyone have any advice for making a living traveling/while living out of your car?
I am looking for a Winter Solstice gift idea for my darling wife. Someone had mentioned a series of spy novels where the protagonist is a retired women and I cannot find the note I made about it! Does anyone remember?
@ JMG – Here, here! Better working conditions for the working people of this country is long overdue! May the Great Resignation continue! Long last Striketober!
“Don’t Buy Things Day” sounds like a great idea to me. Our family will be hosting some out of town friends we are most certainly thankful for, and I’m sure many leftovers will be consumed!
Your idea about celebrating the solstice by celebrating light, is most apt, and really reminds me of the Christmas Eve candle lighting services at the, of all things, Unitarian, church I attended as a child and youth. It’s funny really, since you bring up the point about memory; that service was the most explicitly Christian service i ever went to at that church, with a sharp focus kept on the story of a young family with a, shall we say, special, child.
Speaking of childhood holiday memories, I remember the services, the time spent with family, the advent calendars, and once or twice, talking my parents into having live trees that we could replant at the end of the season. BUT, I also remember the anticipation of gifts, the endless waiting to see what cool plastic crap my parents or grandparents had gotten me. So, i guess what i’m getting at, is that Christmas was a bit ‘all of the above’ with religion, tradition, and family, mixed in with a, not exactly healthy, dose of consumerism.
I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience, I know a number of friends and coworkers who would both A – consider themselves devout Christians (not myself, of course. I fall firmly in the ‘worship in nature category’), but B – 100% love the crass consumerism of the season. Okay, maybe ‘love’ is a strong word, but my point is that they don’t see the two mindsets as mutually exclusive, so why do it get the feeling from this post, that you do?
I get that a lot of people self-identify as Christian in the US, while maybe only going to church on Easter and Christmas, but those people have always existed. I’m sure there are those who refer to themselves as Christian, but worship at the alter of Progress. But either way, some 80% of Americans identify as Christian, so why do you think Christians are a minority in the USA?
Last year when covid was causing many stores to close on Sunday I was remined of my childhood in a small town in the midwest. Everything was closed Sunday, except the drug store which opened for 4 hours in the afternoon. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to buy, and people really took it easy. I was inspired to sort of relive my childhood and to that end, for about a year now, I’ve been treating Sunday as my buy nothing, do nothing day. It’s incredibly restful to do absolutely nothing – not even those ever present home repair chores. At first I felt a bit guilty not accomplishing anything then I realized no one else was sitting in judgement of me. So, I probably won’t make any special effort to avoid purchases on the official buy nothing day, but I’ll refrain the following Sunday, and the Sunday after that and ……….
On Fridays after Turkey Day, I avoid the so-called “Black Friday” sales as if they were plague ships. I hate the aura of corporate greed, Consumerist excess and the mass insanity that one sees in big box retailers on that cursed day. I have nothing but contempt for the Big Slimy River, Mal-Wart and their epigones and have as little to do with them as I can manage.
In the community where I live, every fourth Saturday (not just in November) is Small Business Saturday and I do make a point of shopping local and supporting local businesses whenever possible, many of which are hurting because the asinine policies of Biden and the rest of the liberal elites, especially those of our Blue State wannabe dictator with his absurd overreaction to the current flu strain making the rounds. I understand other communities have developed similar traditions, a tradition I am proud to support. Why contribute to the wretched excesses of Jeff Bezos or the Walton family when one can help mom-and-pop businesses, local entrepreneurs and their employees?
Yeah I realized that after my dorky self pressed the post button…gave me a chuckle.
Just remembered something. Your tradition is very similar to the luminary services I grew up with which had a very similar connotation.
On that note.
Has it occured to certain people that they sound like the SJWs who argue and whine about cultural appropriation, dont see the hypocrisy, and then wonder why or applaud certain cultures dying or struggling to get back on their feet?
Its Wednesday and along with this post, we’ve got some interesting topics going on at the Green Wizards website. Come join us and check them out.
First the new main page blog post for this week, Vancouver Green Wizard pygmycory takes us on a look at doing without an automobile in a major city up North. I wonder if they make snow chains for scooters?
“What Living Without a Car is Like, and How to Do It Well”
A couple of forum threads this week might be of interest.
First, this one explains that if you don’t have a 5G compatible phone now, best shop for one this holiday season. Cell service providers are AGAIN pushing out an upgrade that probably doesn’t do anything but take some cash from your pocket. I don’t know what rural communities are going to do.
“Your Cell Phone May Soon Be Useless”
Second, California has seen droughts, earthquakes and wildfires, how about a biblical flood soon too? This post explains that the Central Valley has been a deep lake several times in the past. Hasn’t it been raining on the West Coast recently?
“Got Flippers? California Mega Flood”
And how about some pictures from a “new” fashion ban raising, done recently by one Green Wizard?
As always, reading is free but if you want to join us and comment, you’ll need an account. Contact me via email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com), or FB Messenger (Greenwizardry).
God bless us every one! (Or Cthulhu, as the case may be.)
Besides its Christian and commercial aspects, the Christmas complex is also associated with family gatherings (and associated sentimentalism), which not everyone is in a position to appreciate, but I do try to telephone. Fortunately, Taiwan doesn’t much observe Christmas, although you might see a tree here and there, and of course the churches will have services. Chinese New Years is getting closer to American Christmas, what with the piped-in music and orgy of consumerism (“red envelopes” of money are given to one’s junior relations, not gifts per se), but fortunately it still only lasts a few weeks.
The Armenians celebrate Christmas on 6 January (because they disagree liturgically on when Christ was born), while the Russians celebrate it on 7 January (because “Old” [Julian] Calendar). I think other Christians ought to consider moving their celebrations to one of those dates, if they think Santa has gotten out of hand. At least they’d get everything on sale!
And then there are the Polish Druids, who celebrate the solstice according to the Julian Calendar.
I remember signs everywhere in my conservative, midwestern town that read, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Perhaps it won’t be necessary to put up those signs in the future.
Like others have said, Advent has given me some fond memories. My favorite Advent song, growing up Catholic was “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” The church seemed much, much more sacred at that time of the year, as all waited in quiet anticipation for the Nativity.
I haven’t been to a Black Friday in decades but this year I get a front row seat, though standing. I recently got a part time job at a big box hardware store as a shelf stocker, so I’m in at 5am that morning to do what I can, then watch the stampede at 6am until I leave at 10. Should be fun, lol.
Hilarious article JMG, you had me LOLing
We always got our whatever-mas trees by thinning out young conifers in our backyard, or sometimes poaching them from power line access roads that get chainsawed every decade anyway. Thinning young conifers means that somebody 50, 100 or 150 years down the line will have a huge, straight grained tree that they will hopefully put to a wise use. The resulting trees had more bad sides than good, and were best displayed in a corner. But decorating them together with family was much better than decorating a perfectly conical farmed tree – think of a certain orange man’s combover, but with lights and popcorn and fake cranberries.
I would suggest that there is a third option in the false binary between Christmas and Glurgemas – for several years my extended family’s winter tree sacrifice festivals have been, by 2019 standards, materially sparse (aside from food) but extremely joyful occasions that we call Christmas because we don’t have another name for it yet.
I expect a Do Nothing Day would become a TV and selfie/twitter/etc. day in practice.
I’ve wondered the same thing and can’t find a real connection. My best guess is some old Norse/Germanic traditions survived, but people forgot they were about Odin, and instead were about more of a generic Father Time figure, and then Christians picked a saint they thought could fit the existing traditions. But that’s really just a guess.
In order to kill Santa Claus, you have to start with kids and grandkids. My family was secular, not observant, and celebrated consumerist christmas when I was a kid, including santa and all that. They were horrified when later as a parent I told my young kids that Santa Claus was a game, a trick people play on dumb little kids, and that I knew they were so smart that we would never get away with it. They would figure it out in no time. And they were satisfied with that explanation, and no doubt wreaked havoc during their school years amoung their friends who were lied to. Later when we dumped christmas entirely and returned to chanukkah, gifts were very small & low key, books, music, candy, and a movie night. Now we strive to buy local, regift or buy second hand, or bake goodies. It’s a process of shifting expectations downward over time. The sooner people can get kids and grandchildren off the santa lie, the better. Kids appreciate honesty. Lying to them when they’re very young sets them up for trust issues later when you really need them to trust your guidance. Just my 2 cents worth, as a non christian who used to celebrate secular consumerism christmas, and motger of 4 adults who survived without santa. 😏
Christmas this year will probably be a bit odd round here. Not only do we have the usual supply chain problems and covid, the month’s worth of rain we got in 24 hours last weekend resulted in major flooding and landslides that just happened have taken out pretty much all the major highways running east-west across southern BC, as well as resulting in the complete evacuation of Merritt. So transportation came to a halt.
They’ll probably get something up and running again by early next week, but damage in some areas is pretty bad and it may be significantly longer before everything is open but this is not going to help our supply chain issues!
I told my Dad (in England) I was fine, and approx. what had been happening (he hadn’t heard), and he went and looked at the Canadian news and said that nothing this bad had ever happened in the thirty odd years he’d lived in BC.
I’m thinking that coastal BC is going to find itself increasingly cut off from the rest of Canada. Because fires and extreme weather events in high mountains cause landslides and wreck highways and we can expect this sort of thing to happen more often. And with resource shortages and associated issues, it’s going to be harder and harder to keep fixing the transport links.
Info on BC’s current transport woes related to my previous post:
An excellent list! I would also add the press as an additional group that needs to be independent from all the other groups. I think the common theme is each group is (or could be) quite powerful by itself, so when these powerful groups combine, checks and balances disappear.
A lovely and thoughtful post as always. Thanks for the gift!
I’m sort of on topic here. My next door neighbors are moving after twenty years as renters (the landlord sold the house to be turned into short-term vacation rentals).
They gave me a box of good-quality camera equipment, all of it at least thirty years old or older. That is, it predates digital.
We can’t use it. It’s a pair of cameras, bags, and a whole lot of lenses. It fills about a 2 foot by 2 foot box.
If anyone here wants to pay for shipping, I’ll mail you the lot.
I have no idea how much the shipping will be.
This would make a lovely gift for a photography buff or collector AND it would keep good equipment in use.
I don’t begrudge my fellow Christians their Christmas, but I do see the in it the tendency to do what the Light of the World never said, and not do what he did say.
But I draw the line at the annual slaughter of millions of trees and putting their dead and decaying bodies in our lounge rooms, buying trashy short lived goods for each other, eating and drinking too much and the subsequent fights. There are 365 days in a year to share our time and the things we love with one another.
As to Bye Nothing Day, due to mendacity, greed, poor energy planning and Cipolla’s fourth law, it looks like being a regular event in a town near us all.
A tale for our times. My twenty-something son works as a contracted delivery driver for a nationwide package delivery service. Last week, all of the crews were gathered together in the warehouse to hear an announcement from the Representative of the Package Delivery Service company. “We’re going to be working Thanksgiving,” he said.
“Like Hell, we are.” said my son’s boss (the contractor).
“Thanksgiving has become a symbol of oppression to the Native Americans…” the Representative began. He was cut off.
“Just because YOU don’t have any family to gather and celebrate with, doesn’t mean that you can tell us to make deliveries on Thanksgiving Day instead of spending the day with our families. You go ahead and sort packages on Thursday. We’ll start delivering them on Friday.”
(These are not exact quotes, of course, because they’re based on 2nd-hand story-telling.)
By the way, in case anyone doesn’t know this: a given delivery driver can serve the same route for years. They will get to know their customers (the ones who receive packages, at least). And if you offend them (say, by complaining that THEIR truck is blocking YOUR driveway while they are hauling another 50-pound box of dog food up your steps), they can simply decline to deliver to your address, and you’ll be notified when you can pick up your own packages.
My favorite Christmas memories from childhood: Candlelight services at our Protestant church featuring traditional Christian music, Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Roman Catholic church of close friends, and many years when my parent’s Jewish friends from up the street spent Christmas eve with us. Thank you for prompting those memories.
Although I grew up Presbyterian, I haven’t darkened the door of a church since the previous century, and my children are not baptised. Nonetheless, I have been doing bible study with the kids each week because I think it is an important part of the heritage of western culture that they need to know about. We also do have advent and christmas celebrations in our home.
I also enjoy what is blandly called the holiday season. It is a time for music, parties, getting in touch with old friends, and doing kindness in such a way that no credit devolves upon oneself, perhaps even to a stranger. I still think there is a lot of value in all of that as a civic tradition, if all of the plastic tinsel and tinny electronic soundtracks can be stripped away.
Lately I’m spending a lot of time with a Jewish community. Usually the gift-giving craze is not an issue, but a few people caught the consumerism disease in their youth and I’ve at times been the recipient of ten days of Hanukah “stocking-stuffer” gifts. None of which I needed. What I need, mostly, you can’t buy. So I and all her friends put a lot of energy into opening each of the items, praising them loudly, and then giving them away covertly, as soon as possible. Rather like, I recall now, the Buddhist notables (Tibetan lamas, mostly but also the Theravadin divines I knew) who, within minutes or at most days of being gifts, have re-given them to more appropriate recipients.
Except (brrr!) some of the Hanukah gifts were too awful to re-gift. To the dustbin with them, then. Alas, my gift-giving friend (who was otherwise generous in quite welcome ways) has been shipped off to a nursing home and no longer finds it possible to give all those gifts. She enjoyed it so much. I think I might still have one or two that managed not to get given away…
When I was much younger, I used to spend a great deal of money I didn’t have to give expensive gifts to people who likely were puzzled at my giving them such things. I never knew how to judge that stuff (aspbergian much?). This includes family. It was a strange time. The best memories I have involved your nicely described days-after, since there were still plenty of family and friends to share that, and there was waaay more than enough food. And I liked the Trad. celebrations of Advent-then-Christmas quite a bit, since I was usually in choirs in those days. No zoom church services, and incense doesn’t translate to a television screen very well (the more, the better).
Me, I give to charities when I think of it through the year so the solstice period is not a particular focus of mine. I avoid stores as much as possible, so Buy Nothing Day will be business as usual for me.
In a few years, though, we may look back on the craziness you described fondly, if our civ. becomes as chaotic as it’s promising to lately. Ah, the good old days of Black Friday and Christmas Presents and nonstop vapid tunes piped in everywhere!
I’ll jump into the gift exchange!
A year or two ago I published a small collection of five short stories, called Shifted Visions. If anyone here wants a short read to add to their day off, hanging-out, and munching leftovers plans, I have .mobi and .epub versions available to give you (blurb below). Just email me at the gmail account that is preceded by my username here.
A paperback version also exists, but I don’t have the ability to conjure free copies of those.
If you’d like a teaser, the one flash-fiction-length story in the mix is up on my dreamwidth journal.
Genre: magical realism/mythic fiction/urban fantasy-ish
rated probably pg-13 for one light cuss word (that is integral to the storyline 🙂 )
Back cover blurb as follows:
“Not everything is as it appears…
and what appears will shift everything.
From a river-shore park in the heat of summer to the stillness of a dense, ancient forest; on an early commute or at the door of a hardscrabble apartment, five striving, committed people find their lives turned upside down when the impossible intrudes on reality.
A bored civil servant tries to spice up the daily grind and accidentally invokes an out-of-practice trickster-god…
An up-and-coming intern’s likely promotion threatens her link with an affirming and mysterious apparition…
A lonely man, consumed by emptiness, meets a miracle-working woman who quotes Mother Goose and requires his most closely guarded secret…
A devout acolyte undertakes her order’s sacred pilgrimage and goes astray into an encounter with the profane…
…each must decide whether or not to trust their senses, and each must make a life-altering choice.”
As a Christian, thank you for your message. Many blessings to you Mr. Greer.
A few years ago on the Archdruid Report, I shared this story about my “criminal” past — quite literally about nothing — but I’ll share it again since it’s about Buy Nothing Day.
Over fifteen years ago, my sisters, a few friends, and I would celebrate Buy Nothing Day by promoting the product NOTHING-TM. We’d dress up like real salespersons (and one of us as Santa) complete with T-shirts that read “NOTHING – What you’ve been looking for!,” Santa Hats, big bags that said “FREE SAMPLES (and NOTHING in smaller print), and wear lanyards with fake salespersons’ names like “Frida Laff” and “Joy Full.” We would enter the largest shopping mall in Delaware to promote our wonderful product. We fit in quite well (at first) because there were lots of other salespeople giving out free samples of their products. We didn’t approach anyone, but waited for customers to come to us as we wandered around. When customers saw we offered FREE SAMPLES, they’d come up and ask for whatever we had. We would ask them to hold out their hand, then we’d take out a clear container (labeled NOTHING) from our bag, and pour NOTHING into their hand, while enthusiastically telling them, “It’s a revolutionary new product, guaranteed not to put you in debt, zero waste, family friendly, fun and creative, satisfaction guaranteed..etc. !”
Every customer we interacted with laughed and thought it was funny (we weren’t being antagonistic towards anyone; it was all done in a lighthearted, friendly, and goofy manner). I specifically remember one man was elated upon receiving NOTHING, telling me that he kept telling his wife that was what he wanted for Christmas but she wouldn’t take that for an answer and he had been dragged by her to the mall to choose a gift for himself. He then went and got his wife to come up to us to prove his point that he really wanted NOTHING for Christmas!
However, despite the positive reaction from customers, mall management was not so happy. Within 15 minutes, the mall manager had stopped us in the hallway, and various police officers gathered around. We were told that we had to leave the mall immediately, that we were soliciting (what were we soliciting – NOTHING?), that our T-shirts were offensive (is NOTHING really that offensive?), etc. We kept asking for more detailed information on what mall policy we were really violating, but they refused to give us answers. Mall management had no sense of humor whatsoever. Then because we weren’t quick enough about leaving the mall, police officers put us all in handcuffs and arrested us (our improvisational act was pretty innocuous and getting arrested really wasn’t in our plans). We had mug shots taken of us, were fingerprinted, and were banned from mall property for three years. The next day, the main headline in the state’s local paper was “Sisters arrested for ‘nothing'”
The real-life farce continued. We had to go to an all-day trial for our charges (what a waste of taxpayer money). At one point “evidence from the crime scene” was brought out (yes, in complete seriousness). Item #1: T-shirts that said “NOTHING What you’ve been looking for” Item #2: Santa hats Item #3: Security Camera photo of the group of us walking goofily down the mall hallway. During the entire trial, the mall manager never smiled or laughed. I thought the greatest crime was for someone to have no sense of humor whatsoever.
And yes, we ended up being convicted (of trespassing). The next day the headline in the newspaper was “Guilty of Nothing.” I think the journalists covering our story had fun playing around with the word “nothing”. The last time I applied for a job I had to have a criminal background check, and was worried I might get questions about what showed up on it. I was prepared to tell my potential employer that yes, I had been arrested but not to worry — it was about nothing — really!
I guess in this era when the Consumerist religion still dominates, a group of people armed with NOTHING entering a shopping mall is very threatening!
This is a slideshow of our activities, set to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “I Got Plenty O’ Nothing:
This was our ad for the product “NOTHING”:
(We could have mentioned a lot more attributes than we did here, such as “fossil fuel – free!”)
Wishing everyone plenty o’ nothing this season! There are endless possibilities with NOTHING.
Thanks for mentioning the walkout, I whole-heartedly support these workers across all sectors as they fight for better pay and the right to live a dignified life. I know the future looks bleak, but workers finally uniting across party lines gives me some hope for this country’s future.
Thank you for the post JMG. Here in India, Diwali is being turned into a consumerist shopping season just like it has been done to Christmas. Earlier, the consumption around Diwali was limited to one, may be two sets of new clothes, and a modest quantity of firecrackers. Some jewelry if you had extra cash. Sweets were prepared at home with healthy ingredients, not bought from a store. Now Diwali is an excuse to sell completely unrelated things like Cars, TVs, Real Estate and Smartphones. The advertisers have gradually moved the start of the shopping season to a few days before the festival to a full month before that. The Glurge is in full display here as well. The layered religious and cultural meaning behind the festival is being replaced with short, catchy ad phrases like “festival of lights”.
We definitely need to take back the festival. A Buy Nothing Day would be a good start.
r/antiwork… No arguments here. I remember my father, a Methodist minister railing against the repeal of Sunday blue laws in the Old Dominion. He was so right…
Matt, my reaction when I read Bleak House and encountered Mrs. Jellyby was “Why, we’ve met before, haven’t we?” 😉
Aurelien, so noted! I’m thinking here as much of the established churches in Scandinavia as I am of England.
Ecosophian, that’s a classic!
Pyrrhus, hmm! I shun Disney as one need not mere plague, but if a Disney character works for you as a mascot for the day, by all means.
Michael, funny. I hadn’t heard of Gravmas before; I gather it dropped out of sight at 32 feet per second squared. 😉
Robert, thanks for these! The awareness of the problems with wartime inflation is intriguing…
Jim, I think it depended on which state you lived in — where I grew up, many stores were open Sundays well before I was born. But it’s worth considering the old custom; would it make sense, I wonder, to make one day a week Buy Nothing Day?
Piper, tell her never, ever to prune or trim one. The sap’s notorious for setting off anaphylaxis in people with latex allergies.
Austin, what a wonderful adventure! I don’t have any suggestions, other than “have fun.”
Ben, the number of people who identify as Christian has been dropping like a rock in recent years, and church attendance — always a better measure than what people say to pollsters — has also declined steadily. I also note that some of the more thoughtful Christian bloggers such as Rod Dreher see their faith as a minority religion in the US at this point.
Christopher, by Frith, that’ll do!
Galen, an excellent point.
Copper, no, probably not.
David, thanks for this.
Bei Dawei, since Orthodoxy seems to be gaining in popularity in the US these days, that relocation of dates may well happen.
Jon, I was amused to see signs saying “Axial inclination is the reason for the season”…
David, oof. I hope you don’t regret being there.
Monkmil, just one of the services I offer.
Justin, oh, it’s a real binary, but it can be resolved in various ways — one of which I suggested in my post. 😉
Lunchbox Bike, not unless you choose to make it that.
Leah, good for you! I bet your kids are great.
Pygmycory, I’m glad to hear that you’re okay. The news stories are pretty harrowing.
David, I ain’t arguing.
Lathechuck, excellent! I’m delighted to hear this. (And the use of woke rhetoric to justify maltreating employees is a classic.)
Rhino, you’re welcome and thank you.
Weilong, by all means! I’d just like to see an end to the glurge.
Clarke, er, if you include me in that “we,” no, not a chance. If the planet were to be blown to smithereens, I’d console myself with the reflection that at least I wouldn’t have to go through another round of squealing poptarts going on about sleighs…
Temporaryreality, thanks for this. If I may offer some encouragement, it’s a fun little anthology!
Trustycanteen, you’re welcome, and best wishes for a blessed holiday season to you and yours.
Beneaththesurface, it’s a delightful story, worth retelling — and I hope it inspires some comparable actions!
Varun, thanks for this. Me too.
Ramaraj, how ghastly! By all means introduce Buy Nothing Day to India — it’s apparently needed.
I’m surprised to report I’ve been following Buy Nothing Day for some years now. I didn’t know it was a real thing. I skip Cyber Monday too.
This year there will be no Christmas tree because because I have no pine trees that need thinning. Often I do, then I save the pruning for December. I do have a blinking LED tree that I use in treeless years. It runs on rechargeable batteries and seems a reasonable compromise.
Maybe it’s time to dig out A Charlie Brown Christmas again.
I use Black Friday as “drive home from the parents after Thanksgiving day.” It works out well, because while everyone else is off to the fights at the mall, I drive out on nice empty highways, avoiding the Saturday and Sunday traffic. It also gives the wife, kids, and I a nice weekend to relax and recover. For me then, I guess Black Friday is buy nothing but some gas day.
As for Christmas, I haven’t been Christian for a long time but I unabashedly love Christmas carols and choir music. I have a few good stations to tune into on the way home from the parents, although the religious music has been purged from my local station (boo!). I think I’ll put up a picture of St. Nick (the real one) this year.
beneaththesurface at 82:
I tip my hat to you – yours is the best performance art piece I’ve heard of in a while!
My strategy is the exact opposite: buy as little as possible most of the year, and then glurge as crazy on Black Friday (since the prices really are lower then). But YMMV, as our host likes to put it. 😉
As for Christmas decorations and so on, I admit that I feel almost like a rebel putting up a “Star of Betlehem” in my window on Advent Sunday, because of all the “culture war against Christmas” stuff. (My blog always goes full High Church during Christmas season.)
Otherwise, I find it fascinating to contemplate that most “traditions” associated with Christmas really aren´t that old…
that’s hilarious and appalling. I’m amazed they didn’t quietly drop the charges once you were out of the mall. Talk about giving yourself bad press and the person you’re trying to silence free publicity! What a spectacular own goal.
I hope they didn’t actually fine you or anything over nothing.
I’m completely fine.
Here, we just had some very heavy rain for a couple of days. When I went out for my daily walk I got wet despite a full rain suit and it being a short walk. Those rainpants are dead. It’s time I admitted it. Nothing I can’t handle. But inland, some cities and towns are built on floodplains, and the roads through the mountains are prone to landslides. And they got hammered.
My biggest personal worry is the earrings I just stuck in the mail heading east, and the item I bought that is currently stuck in customs and may get delayed in the mess when it’s released. So long as it gets to me I’m fine, but a harp kit is not a minor item for me and I really don’t want anything bad to happen to it.
Ramaraj (no. 84), here in Taiwan, for Chinese New Year and other festivals, I’ve seen cartoon Chinese gods used to advertise junk food and such. I bet that never happens in India!
Beneaththesurface (no. 82) “is NOTHING really that offensive?”
As I recall, the “Buy Nothing Day” people attempted to buy TV ads around Thanksgiving, but were rejected on the grounds that they would offend other advertisers.(This was decades ago. The ad can be seen on YouTube–it’s the one with the claymation pig devouring America.)
Leah Kiser (no, 70), my old ethics professor believed that it was wrong to lie, unless you have a good reason. His students usually nodded their heads, thinking this quite reasonable, until he went on to tell them about the Santa Claus incident. I should mention that he and his family are Jewish. Anyway, he told his six-year-old daughter that Santa Claus is just a fun story that Christian parents tell their children, but that she must *never tell her friends* about this, because people will get mad. (Not blurting out the truth is different from an active lie.) Well, guess what happened? She told the whole school. There were parents’ meetings.
Michael Gray (no. 52) “We consume 3 times as much stuff as we did 70 years ago and yet we are no happier than we where then.”
Sakyamuni Buddha, call your office!
OT delete this if you want, but I wonder what Mr Jung would have to say about this meme (in terms of symbolism, unconscious projection etc)
teresa from hershey #74,
If it is a question of digital vs film, there is a way of converting an SLR film camera to digital by means of a kit made by Imback35. It replaces the film element with a digital sensor and its supporting computing infrastructure, while keeping everything else about the original camera intact. I’m not sure if it’s unusable to you because of the film vs digital issue, but this is a possibility for the eventual recipients and users of the camera set.
I offer a Krampus gift from the tar paper shacks:
It relates to the work of George Cove, who used tar paper shack methods to build a type of hybrid photoelectric/thermoelectric solar electric generator. After several trials, using an array dimensioned roughly 7×7 feet, he managed to get 240 watts and charge 5 lead acid batteries. What is fascinating is that the solar cells are fabricated using press fitted caps of German silver and copper on either end of a zinc-antimony plug secured with wire wrapping and set into panels using asphalt. By varying the proportions of the zinc antimony alloy, different light spectrum sensitivities can be adjusted from mostly thermal with some visible, to mostly violet end visible spectrum. Technologically, it uses Schottky junctions to provide the necessary band gap, producing electricity at a 5% efficiency (comparable to 1960s silicon cells, but in 1909), yet be completely rebuildable.
The solar work of George Cove has been apparently been gathered together by a Philip Pesavento, who apparently gave an archive of the material to the editor of LowTechMagazine. So if anyone wants to replicate this design, that would be the way to obtain a copy of the design material. Someone linked some time ago to an in print translation of Augustin Mouchot’s book on his solar thermal devices by the title Steampunk solar. This George Cove material may be worth collating and put into print.
I speculate that between these solar electric generators, Nickle-Iron batteries, and careful DC-DC electrical management, a very modest and long lasting electrical system can be maintained for the few things that electricity is truly needed for: smokeless lights, refrigeration, and radio.
Just a heads up JMG that you are being cited by Aris Roussinos:
Buy Nothing Day is known in my country as “Día sin compras”; it’s not very popular…yet. It’s promoted by ecologists.
When I was a child, in the 80s, Black Friday was an unknown concept. It was promoted some ten or twelve years ago emulating the US “feast”.
” I also note that some of the more thoughtful Christian bloggers such as Rod Dreher see their faith as a minority religion in the US at this point.”
The same situation in Spain, too. Smart catholic theologists have been thinking in christianism looking like minority since the country had a democratic system (with theoretical separation between Catholic church and civil bureaucracy). However, the bishops keep on pretending that catholicism is the hegemonic faith, not agnosticism/atheism.
I don’t know if this is for laughing or crying…
Meanwhile, evangelical and even orthodox churches are relativelly thrieving all across the country.
Growing up in London, my most consistent memory of Christmas is the annual disappointment as it once again would fail to snow, due to the Gulf Stream warming these northern latitudes. Many a Christmas Day spent drearily splashing in the puddles that had gathered the previous night, thinking “why? why was I not born during the Maunder Minimum, when the crowds gathered on the frozen Thames?”. You might think I would have outgrown such childish meteological fixations long ago, but alas, I have not, and my only memory of a snowy Christmas comes from the unusually cold winter of 2010. I am told there is a strong La Nina current this year, so perhaps my juvenile glee will return…
However, there are plus sides to Christmas in Old Blighty – mince pies and Christmas puddings, while not to everyone’s taste, are a few of the rare leftovers of traditional British cuisine that actually satisfy (regrettably, between the Industrial Revolution and the development of processed food, British culinary culture has been almost totally destroyed, along with our tastebuds).
My seasonal gift to all of you, whether you are celebrating Alban Arthuan, Yule, Christmas, or even Glurgemas (as unlikely as that may be), is my recent conversation with our gracious host, on Oswald Spengler, psychedelics, Trump, covid, and the fate of Western civilization. Enjoy!
Hi John and friends,
So over here in Russia, it is very different from how “Christmas” (and I quote it as a false holiday in the West these days) is celebrated.
For starters, the country celebrates “The New Year” rather then a traditional Christmas Day. Every 31st of December is when work places close, people clean up their apartments and watch old Soviet movies. Then we wait for Putin’s speech (which is the same old crap every year) as a matter of tradition, then we all start eating food and exchanging presents at 12.00am. Then a two week holiday off work happens where everything but shops, hospitals etc are shut.
The reason for this was the Communist Party. Brezhnev realised that there was no holiday in winter for the Soviet people but they could not go to using Christmas as the Communist Party was atheist. So they settled on New Year.
That said in Putins Russia, Christmas Day is also celebrated on January 7th but it is more of a Christian religious day. That said sometimes people have a meal on that day but mostly it is dedicated to the church.
I think Russia has the best idea with this. We celebrate the New Year with all the food and presents and separate the Christmas tradition for actually remembering the Birth of Christ.
Unlike the West that has turned a holy day into a gluttony of sin which is completely anti-Christian (but they pretend it is!)
@Austin I’m excited for your journey around the country! In my 20’s drove and hitchhiked around the southern half of Africa (Nambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa) and if I did it again I wish I had kept more of a journal of the experience. Something small and handwritten. I packed light and depended on synchronicity to provide.
Things occurred I wasn’t prepared for – like a job offer in Uganda. I didn’t take it because I wanted to come home and be normal again. Of course one can never be normal again after doing something most people don’t do, but I didn’t realize that. So I spend a dozen years trying to fit back into society or make them understand me until I hit my mid 40’s and said [undruidly word].
If you have people in different places you can ship some things to like clothes, you’ll enjoy seeing them and being reunited with familiar things. People will also get to live your adventure with you a bit.
The people you meet on your journey will tell you things about their life. I wish I had recorded these myself. Perhaps you may want to too.
Us Jews have had a buy nothing day built into every week for a while. On Shabbat I like knowing I do not need to buy anything, and I avoid going to places where other human beings need to give me service for money.
Much like in the US the religion of consumerism is also strong in Israel, so there are constantly voices in the public discourse who want more businesses to open on Saturdays. They use the rhetoric of freedom of religion, but it’s interesting how their idea of freedom always seems to be the freedom to buy.
I’d like to finish by saying I spent some time working in retail, and remember Black Friday as a day where we barely had time to have a lunch break, we took turns literally running to the falafel stand and eating it on the way back to help the other employees fight another wave of zombies, sorry I meant valued customers. I truly feel for those who have to work on this truly black day this year.
Jake #85 No, he wasn’t right. The constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice. That means the christian religion doesn’t get to legislate your beliefs or have them imposed by judicial fiat. In other words, christians don’t get to tell other people of other religions (or no religion) that we have to obey the beliefs of your religion – such as being forced to close our businesses on your sabbath, not to mention having your beliefs about marriage, sexual orientation, women’s rights including abortion, or anything else imposed on us. Blue laws are an establishment of religion, as is the rest of the list. They’re unconstitutional.
Buy nothing day once a year is a nice small step back toward the weekly sabbath (or its other incarnations) that are a key part of the liturgy of life in many cultures. I love the idea of noting and offering congratulations when appropriate to anyone who is authentically living a minority ritual tradition. One of the glaring intellectual failures of the 20th century was the failure to distinguish between totalizing political metanarratives (that can’t coexist with democratic pluralism) and coherent cultures, ideas and traditions that are voluntary but encompassing of most aspects of life and therefore are totalizing in the lives of individuals and their voluntary communities. The experiment to show that these can flourish together within a pluralistic society has often been successful when totalitarian political tendencies can be held at bay, and is the best hope for humanity moving into the difficult decades to come.
@Austin (#56) – My family spent about a year and a half traveling in an RV. Our pattern was to travel until the kitty was looking low, then stop somewhere and find a temporary job until we were flush enough to travel some more. My husband spent the Christmas season in a Big River warehouse, and I spend tax season answering phones for an accountant, for instance. We knew a number of full-timers in the RV community who were doing online things to pay for their travel habit.
@Matt (#57) – That sounds like the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. I can testify that they are absolutely delightful. The first one is called “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax”. Dorothy Gilman also wrote “The Clairvoyant Countess”, which I always enjoyed but my most recent re-reading found me amazed at how much of the Countess’ life and attitudes resonated with the themes of this blog. The magic in this book would pass muster with our host, I think!
@David, by the lake #19
Which translation of the Tao Te Ching do you use? All mine have some variant of “He who is content is rich”. ““He who knows he has enough is rich.” appears to mean the same thing but is actually more penetraring and a more plausible translation.
I don’t know if you all are familiar with “white elephant” gift exchanges but here’s the rules https://www.whiteelephantrules.com/ . In practice it’s a complete degeneration of the regular glurge activities. In regular glurge exchanges people will at least tolerably often receive gifts they will use. In white elephant exchanges 90% of the gifts are quite literally garbage. Often made for TV sale kind of stuff. Like a coat to put on your baked potatoes for some odd “purpose” (I can’t remember if that was actually an item one year, but some of the stuff is really close to that). Anyway, the whole thing is really weird, and people get pretty into it which is even weirder.
I will participate in Buy Nothing day this year.
@ JMG – I’m sure my view on the matter is influence by the Bible belt state I live in, but i sure see a lot of people going to Church on Sunday morning, then hitting the mall in the afternoon. On a less superficial level, I know people who are both A – people of faith and acts, B – love giving presents on December 25th. Do you think that someone cannot both be a practicing Christian, and enjoy the Consumerist side of the holiday as well?
Rod Dreher is an, interesting, person to cite. It makes sense to me, that he would see Christianity as a minority religion, because, as far as i can tell, his view of what makes a person a Christian is so restrictive, most people wouldn’t meet his definition. That said, I’m not Christian, so I’m not trying to gate-keep who gets to be considered one, and who doesn’t.
@ Socal Rhino #77 – My family attended candlelight services growing up, and it is certainly one of my favorite memories of the season!
@ Wellong # 78 – Well said. There is certainly something of value in pausing (or at least slowing) the rat race, during the darkest time of the year.
@ beneaththesurface # 82 – That is a great story (except the criminal record part)! I lived in Delaware in the mid to late 00s too. From the video, it looks like Christiana Mall?
@ Varun # 83 – I’m cautiously optimistic that the Great Resignation and Striketober will keep rolling until things get better (before they get worse).
You asked Bruce how he can be both a Christian and an atheist at the same time. I’ve read about some Dutch theologians (and others) who reject notions of a transcendent god but accept a human (even if legendary/mythical) Jesus as a rabbi/guru for ethical guidance. Of course, this doesn’t work for one who defines “Christian” as only those who believe the Nicene (or similar) Creed. I think Bertrand Russell was willing to be called Christian in a cultural sense simply due to time/place where he was born/lived.
@ Leah # 70 – I’ve wondered about this. My kids are 2 and 3, so still a bit young, but this issue will come up sooner or later. On the one hand, I don’t want to be some joyless parent who says ‘Santa is a lie’ because I want to trust my kids to figure it out as they grow up, but OTOH, I really appreciate the point that lying, or lying by omission, can create serious trust issues later. How did you come to the decision about how/when to handle the Santa issue?
If i can be, maybe too honest, our kids are adopted, and my wife and i agree that we will be honest with them about it when they ask, but we aren’t going to bring it up as soon as we think they are ready, because that may send the message that ‘you kids aren’t really one of us’ because you’re not our bio-babies. Does that seem like a good middle path that both A – maintains honest communication but B – lets them understand and process it at their own pace?
Austin, Good luck on your trek. Used sewing machines can be found 2nd hand. New Home is the brand to look for in all metal machines. I learned to sew on a New Home. Be aware that American made machines take Singer needles. However, mending, including of heavy work clothes can be done by hand. In some ways, hand mending is the better way to go, hand stitches being far more flexible than machined. There are good youtube videos on strong hand stitches called running back stitches. There are help wanted signs up in almost all but the tiniest town. Do what working class intellectuals have always done, take whatever job is available and leave when you are ready to go. If foreign born workers can demand to be paid in cash, you can as well. Do, please, spend on some kind of auto insurance to satisfy legal requirements and be aware that there are tales now of police confiscating large sums of cash from travelers with the excuse that it must be drug money. It is never wise to flash large bills around.
The War on Glurgemas cannot end until Glurgemas stops its illegal occupation of November
I like the 10-day “strike” concept. “Nothing” happens from Buy-Nothing day until the Monday the week after. “Nothing”, of course, having a very precise definition. A good time to meditate on spiritual matters, and perhaps to commune with the Earth and to reconnect with the skills needed to sustain oneself directly from (and with) it — a little like the “walkabout” of the Australian aborigines.
Perhaps this could become a yearly festival…
I would guess that when future historians graph the Glurgemas activity vs time it will closely resemble the graph for energy use since the beginning of the petroleum age. The abundance of cheap energy is what really set off this holiday consumerist Frenzy with the retailers just helping it along like Santa’s Elves. But as the energy curve tapers down Glurgemass will be doomed. The true faithful will have a hard time accepting it though. I can imagine them burning weeks worth of precious petroleum to drive cobbled-together jalopies to the remaining big box stores to fight over the few remaining trinkets. They will of course think that all the problems will be solved by next year when they can once again buy an affordable new car, fill it with cheap gas and cruise to the mall stuffed with plastic Santas and wall plaques with talking fish on them.
Actually, we did get fined for “Nothing” after we were convicted (of criminal trespassing). It was considered a misdemeanor and I think the fine was $75, in additional to being banned from the mall for a certain length of time.
Yes, you’re right — it was the Christiana Mall. If you drive on I-95 going through Delaware (home of tax-free shopping!) you’ll pass by it between Wilmington and Newark.
I fully agree and that’s exactly why I’m not raising my kids to believe in that.
As a spiritual person, I plan to teach them about Christian and Pagan traditions, and I expect them to believe me. I don’t know why you would expect that if you’re tricking your kids all year round (tooth fairy, easter bunny, etc.) and I suspect these traditions have a lot to do with the rise of atheism. (Not that there’s anything wrong with atheism, it’s just not what I plan to teach my kids).
Santa is not only the god of Glurgemas; to his credit, he is also the patron saint of Skepticism. Every child raised in the Santa cult eventually learns that there ain’t no Santy Claus; this is a salutary initiation into the rigors of doubt. Better yet, this wise incredulity is linked to consumerism and the media. The child learns that the world need not be telling the truth; a valuable lesson indeed. Therefore I say that Santa is infinitely generous. He sacrifices his very existence for children’s enlightenment.
I am not a devout Consumer, so I do not participate in the rites of Glurgemas. But I did initiate my daughter into critical thought with the help of the Tooth Fairy.
pygmycory, about BC being isolated from the rest of Canada, maybe in the coming dissolution of North American giant nations which JMG thinks is likely, BC might join up with the Pacific Northwest to constitute a country large enough to be viable, with defensible boundaries, and climate and soils which would allow food self sufficiency. That long coastline is a famous graveyard of ships.
youngelephant @ 106, Clothing for veges is indeed a thing. From the free, indispensable and absolutely delightful FEDCO 2022 seeds and supplies catalogue, p. 4, I quote:
“Double Whammy Carrot-Organic A miracle of modern breeding brings us this consistently two-legged carrot for those of us who can’t get enough of sewing little pants for our favorite root crop….One customer enthused ‘Wowie zowie! I got a bandy-legged cowpoke, a pirouetting ballerina and a pair of entwined lovers–all in one ten foot row….” Druidly rules won’t allow me to quote the immortal Frank Zappa, alas.
Luke Dodson, mince pies, christmas pudding and christmas cake are things I eat at Christmas, too. That’s what I get for being a child of british immigrants, I suppose. I make the mince pies, but buy the other two.
Mince pies are awesome.
To answer, briefly, your question: Reinhold Niebuhr of the U.S., Paul Tillich of Germany and the U.S., Lloyd Geering of Australia, John Dominic Crossan of the U.S., John Shelby Spong of the U.S., David Gaulston of Canada, the long discussions of the ‘human Jesus’ without the Christological overburden, and many more who shaped my “atheism”, or as some others call it, “non-theism”. A lot of the impetus towards this view comes from avoiding the plethora of ‘gods’ within the Christian denominations/cults. For a polytheist this might not be a problem!!! And then there are hints in the Christian scriptures like the Gospel of John that wants those around Yeshoo to be ‘friends’ rather than servants or worshippers.
A travesty of justice. The fine should have been… nothing.
Seriously, why didn’t the judge throw it out or just give you a warning?
Some people have no sense of humor.
Siliconguy, works for me.
Chris, I enjoy Christian carols a great deal. It’s the Glurgemas stuff that needs to die a merciful death.
Tidlösa, of course they’re not that old. They were invented as marketing gimmicks. I mean that quite literally — most Glurgemas customs were created by the mass media and industry in the 20th century as ways to move product.
Pygmycory, I’m glad to hear that.
BB, I think Jung would start by shaking his head and saying, “Mein Gott, I thought I’d already seen the last word in lame.”
Ighy, I’m delighted to see this. Solar electricity will only be viable in the long term if it can be created by methods on that level of technology — but if you combine that with small-scale hydroelectric power and backyard wind turbines, you’ve got a nice useful trickle of electricity, and combine that with simple solar thermal methods and a good grasp of insulating technologies, and the result is a significant improvement in human lives for the long term.
Phil K, fascinating. I’ll have a look at that.
Chuaquin, good gods. Orthodox and Evangelical churches thriving in Spain? The Catholic church is toast.
Luke, growing up in Seattle, I had the same experience. I wrote a carol when I was ten or so…
“I’m dreaming of a damp, gray Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where the rain drips dismal
From clouds abysmal,
And kids say, ‘Daddy, what is snow?'”
Thanks for the link! I’ll get it up on Dreamwidth shortly.
Ksim, a very sensible approach.
Bakbook, also a very sensible approach!
Ganv, that’s a useful analysis.
Youngelephant, good heavens, yes. That’s a grand old custom, though one I can do without.
Ben, of course you see a lot of people going to church on Sunday. That’s what “large minority” amounts to.
Dan, yes, I know, and I’m also familiar with the “death of God” theologists in the 1960s who pushed something they called Christian atheism. I’m interested to hear what OP’s version amounts to.
Andy, funny. I could go with that!
Helix, that strikes me as a very good idea.
Clay, I trust you’re writing that as a short story for New Maps…
Paradoctor, maybe so, but it also teaches them to assume their parents are lying to them. That’s one of the things it taught me, certainly.
“Chuaquin, good gods. Orthodox and Evangelical churches thriving in Spain? The Catholic church is toast. ”
Well, they are thriving between East European immigrants (orthodox) and Latin immigration and gypsies (evangelicals). Between “Native” Spaniards thrives: Indifference, agnosticism and atheism,at least the young people.
I have decided if my family ever does a white elephant exchange again (the side that does it is afraid of Covid) I will try to arrange it so that each party makes some kind of baked good (cakes, cookies, brownies, bread) and use that for a gift instead of cheap plastic (destiny&will -> power). At the very least I will bake cookies for my gift. Unfortunately I don’t think I can subvert Glurgemass as a whole unless I start a family of my own one day.
Nice to know I’m not alone. I cringe when I think of all the “stuff” and it’s packaging that will soon end up in a landfill anyway. We spend little and what we do give is usually in the form of restaurant gift certificates or donations in one’s name to charitable causes.
Bruce, interesting. Thank you for this — I’ve been watching that end of the Christian spectrum for a good many years now.
Chuaquin, fair enough.
Youngelephant, that sounds like a good start, certainly.
Peter, glad to hear it.
@ beneaththesurface #115
I’m from Delaware and I remember the Christiana Mall as being so huge I couldn’t handle it. I drive past it when I return to visit my parents. I never have an urge to stop.
As for Delaware “Home of Tax-Free Shopping”. I seem to remember that the state used to have signs saying that at all the major roads leading into the state!
I haven’t seen one in years.
@ ighy #95
We have a digital camera which suits our needs. I’m not a photographer, never have been, and the only reason we take pictures anymore is for our Instagram feed.
Photographs are clutter.
When my parents die, I fully expect to dump the cases of slides and discard photo albums crammed with unknown landscapes and unidentified people. What do you do with them?
The pictures that mean the most to me are framed and hanging on the wall where I can see them. Everything else can go.
The camera equipment I’m giving away if the recipient pays the shipping:
I forgot my email address!
Email me at tdbpeschel @ gmail.com Remove the space before and after the @.
Off-topic, but you got a shout-out in Unherd, regarding civilizational collapse:
Gifts for kids at Christmas: we gave the kids three gifts apiece.
Jesus got three gifts. Why do you think you need more?
Relatives more than made up for the lack.
I vividly remember the young child of a friend, decades ago, with a mountain of gifts. He got bored opening them! It was appalling and most of the gifts were cheap junk. This mountain was followed by more mountains from relatives. Seeing that made me decide to limit my own kids’ gifts.
As they got older, we scaled back from three to one. They were fine.
We also never and I mean *NEVER* handed out gifts when someone ELSE had a birthday.
When a good friend’s child had a birthday, they gave an equal pile of gifts to the other kid so “they wouldn’t feel left out”.
I thought that was nuts and ensured that the kids grew up believing that the world owed them gifts merely for existing.
As a personal note here but relating to the post. When it comes to the great resignation, today I will finally become a part of it. After over 13 years of being treated as nothing more than a resource, and through all the horrors if the pandemic reactions on the business (6 day weeks, 12+ hour days), today is my last day.
The funny thing is that my last shift will finish right around the Luna ecplipse peaks. Completely unintentional but I hope it augurs well.
I didn´t write faux Xmas carols in high school, but my high school buddies did…
See *shameless*, shameless I say, link above! 😀
“Glurgemas” is perfect!
Haven’t celebrated Glurgemas for a few decades now. I do, however, celebrate Yule on the Solstice and Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 6. Doing the Russian Christmas keeps it completely focused on the holyday of Nativity and not the glurge.
Watching the loss of “days off” over the years has been painful. People have forgotten that once upon a time we had hard fought for labor rights and protections. The last place I want to be on the day after Thanksgiving is dealing with frantic shoppers. Ugh.
The Japanese celebrate Winter Solstice, traditionally by having a citrus bath. The Vernal Equinox seems more popular tho.
“I doubt your church would be especially sympathetic to having a Druid in the pulpit!”
Many years ago there was a convention of pastors, preachers, para-church workers etc here in Australia and they had one session where it was limited to pastors of churches who had more than ‘x’ in the congregations on Sunday mornings, para-church organisations above a certain size etc (basically the senior/’successful’ ones). iirc the convention was about church growth.
Anyway they arranged for their speaker to be Phillip Adams (a well known atheist and church basher). He started his talk by saying “Well I feel like a lion in a den on Daniels” and proceeded to give them a hard time about the various failings and foibles of organised religion. To his surprise they were amen’ing and cheering him on and pretty much agreeing with him. Basically these were the guys who had dumped the traditional modalities and were doing things differently so they had pretty much rejected large parts of what he was criticising.
Sadly the critique was not based on comparing the current churchianity to the teachings of the Christ but the lambasting of traditional Christianity.
You *can* make a case from the bible for things like prosperity preaching (aka God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and wise) but you do have to leave a decent number of key elements out.
So you might be able to find a church that would welcome a druidical viewpoint 🙂
As the ‘mom’* in a ‘mom & pop’ small business**, I will not only not be buying anything on Bleak Friday (except absolute necessities that didn’t get or couldn’t be planned for), our business won’t even be selling anything. We will be closed for most of the week to be with family. Some things are just more important.
* Unpaid labor. I need to get a real job, if there are any out there that would be good fit.
** Struggling, but staying around would only be depressing. I’m looking forward to seeing family.
Thank you JMG for a great post and to all the commenters. I don’t feel so all alone for feeling bah-humbug this time of year.
@ Skygazer #105
Re Tao Te Ching translation
Shambhala Dragon Edition, translated by John C. H. Wu, reprint (originally published 1961)
Thanks for this! I did not know about “Buy Nothing Day.” I’ll be sure to celebrate it.
In 2001, I was working a reporting job at a small town newspaper, as I’d lost my tech writing job due to the dot.com bust. I was told that a few years before, a pregnant woman had been trampled at the local big box store by the hoards trying to get in. The gods of consumerism demanding a blood sacrifice?
I wish you and Sara a happy holiday and much non-consuming.
@Mary Bennett. Maybe, especially for the lower fraser river and along the coast. Though I’m not sure we’d want to be part of the same thing as California. We could team up with washington state and Alaska if they wanted to do something. The Alaskan coast is so closely intertwined with BC it would make a lot of sense.
The thing is BC’s not just going have difficulty with the passes through the rockies into Alberta, but with the passes through the coast range, and elsewhere in the province all over the place. I mean, the malahat got shut down between Victoria and Nanaimo. The two main cities on one island. It’s open to alternating traffic again now, but still.
The First Nations in this area have extremely divergent and diverse languages. There’s a wide range of ecotypes that, if we’re living closer to the land, are going to require different economic bases and ways of living. And transportation in BC has never been easy away from the coast.
During dark ages, polities tend to split up and get a lot smaller than during the height of civilizations. Think of the map of Britain in the time of King Alfred. BC might do that, depending on how deep the coming dark age is.
I’m far from sure BC won’t split into several pieces that may or may not attach to other things. The Peace River District east of the rockies in particular has far more in common with Alberta and has a big mountain range between it and the rest of BC. It doesn’t make much sense that it is part of BC and not Alberta.
And we’ve got more rain today, and forecast for next week.
Bei #93 – lols!
Ben #110 – how we came to that decision is that the kids were getting old enough to understand things going on around them.
My husband is a convert. His mother died when he was 14 and he was raised afterward by his aunt, a deaconess in a church which went crazy on the christmas decorations and parties for the kids and youth. So we had to have some serious conversations about what spiritual and social directions we wanted to go (he did convert later) and santa got looped into that process.
And I had some childhood issues with the whole santa thing. The problem with “santa bringing gifts” is that poor kids are inevitably labeled as “bad” by other kids because they don’t get the same kinds and quantities of gifts as wealthy kids. It’s a lie with serious underlying peer group consequences, and I didn’t want to be part of that, having been a relatively poor kids myself who never got all the big ticket stuff.
And my husband never went to college, HR capped out his salary ages ago, and we were never going to be wealthy, either. I didn’t want my kids to experience what my sister and I did realizing santa never brought us things other kids got, and being embarrassed when other kids asked us about what we got.
There is no reason to perpetuate santa, in my opinion. (It’s not like my kids weren’t getting gifts at all, they just understood we could only buy what we could afford.) It’s one problem from my childhood I *could* solve, so I did.
Cliff, interesting. We’ll see if it’s the beginning of a trend.
Michael, congratulations on your freedom!
Meta, that works. Me, I just celebrate the solstice and call it good.
Marvin, hmm! Sounds pleasant.
Dreamer, Groucho Marx used to say that he refused to join any club that would have him as a member. I feel pretty much the same way about Christian churches; a church sufficiently detached from Christian faith and tradition to invite a Druid to preach is not a church I’d want to bother with.
PatriciaT, and a happy Bahumbugmas to you and yours!
Chronojourner, something like that happens most years now. Another good reason to flee the accursed spot.
Minor point: Ever since 1900 the Julian and the Gregorian calendar have been 13 days apart, so that Julian December 25 = Gregorian January 7. The difference was only 12 days between 1800 and 1900; it will increase to 13 days in 2100.
These shifts have to do with the facts that in the Julian calendar, every fourth year without exception is a leap year. In the Gregorian calendar certain “fourth years” are not leap year. 2000 was one of those exceptional “fourth years” that did have a February 29th, as did/will the years 1600 and 2400. The years 1700, 1800 and 1900 had no February 29th; neither will the years 2100, 2200 and 2300.
Last I looked, the Russian Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar for liturgical purposes, so that Russian Orthodox Christmas now falls on Gregorian January 7th. At any rate, that’s when my Russian Orthodox friends plan to celebrate Christmas here in the USA.
You ain’t seen nothing yet. In the year 20 AF (after Facebook), a holographic Santa will emerge from your virtual chimney bringing digital gifts chosen by algorithmic evaluation of your online activity and billed to your bitcoin account with meta-AmaWalMart while the chip in your head sings “Hark the herald angels cry/Now’s the time to buy buy buy.”
Regarding: electricity generation using low tech methods
You might like to read up on atmospheric electricity generators. They’re both theoretically possible as well as economically feasible – the designs were worked out in the late 19th – early 20th century. Sure, they can’t compete with fossil fuels, but as a steady trickle of electricity, when coupled with that from the solar thermal tech as well as small hydropower plants, they can still enable one to live a relatively comfortable life. I guess a low tech small factory which uses some variant of intermediate technology can be run on this.
Although my people were nominally Anglican, we never really celebrated the Christian festival of Christmas at home. Carols on the radio were about as far as it got, and my mother managed to get us to the midnight service a grand total of once over the years. At the same time, my parents had neither the money nor the inclination to go after the consumer side of things either. I come from a secure home and a loving family, so my main association with the season is gathering around the fire with my parents, grandparents, sister and cat, and battening down the hatches against the dark world outside.
I suspect most children around where we were got their main exposure to the Nativity story and Christmas carols through primary school. The school was divided into infants and juniors, and each half would put on some form of play in the week before the holidays to celebrate the season. It was mainly a variation on the Nativity, but one year the infants put on a play about a tree spirit, which, in retrospect, was an interesting change of approach. I once had the role of a Puritan chopping down the Glastonbury thorn, although the context completely escapes me now.
One branch of my family comes from the Llanfyllin area, in the old county of Montgomeryshire in north Wales, and my grandfather used to tell us about ‘canu plygain’ – the churches or chapels would be lit solely by masses of candles and people would sing from the early hours of Christmas Day until daybreak. There are examples of ‘canu plygain’ on a well-known video streaming site, should anyone be interested in hearing the music. It’s a disappearing tradition, but I think a number of dedicated people are trying to hang on to it.
There are also a few books that have great emotional resonance for me and that I associate with the Christmas season.
I suspect quite a few of you here are familiar with ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Susan Cooper – for me, the supreme Winter Solstice story. I believe some people have created their own personal tradition of reading it around the Winter Solstice every year.
Less well-known, and not easily available these days (I would love to get my hands on a copy), is ‘Holly from the Bongs’ by Alan Garner. The author was roped into writing a Nativity play for the primary school his children attended in Goostrey, Cheshire during the early to mid-60s. He drew on mummers’ plays to write a piece in Cheshire dialect that was performed by the children in the stable of the local pub. Sadly, the stable was later demolished to make way for a car park, and Cheshire dialect isn’t what it once was. The children in a fairly recent radio adaptation spoke with a more general Manchester accent.
Finally, ‘Father Christmas’ by Raymond Briggs is a lot of fun. Father Christmas as a bad-tempered but fundamentally kind member of the English working class.
JMG, I’m sorry to read your reference to Marx. I was considering asking if you would be a guest in our pulpit.
@David, by the Lake #138
Many thanks. I’ve put it on order.
Oh good Heavens, Black Friday–was that today? I thought it would be next week. We just happened to need a couple of things coming back from hiking and stopped in at the local Aeon Mall, and they had all these signs up for “Black Friday,” selling all sorts of black items in the entryway. Among them I noticed funeral wear.
I suppose that made shopping on Black Friday worthwhile for me. No crowds either.
I remember my introduction to Glurgemas (lovely way to put it). I must have been all of two at the time. My mother said, “Today is a very special day. Santa Clause will be visiting us.” I knew my father had unusual friends, but this was something I really had to see. “Isn’t it rather late?” I asked. “Oh well, he has to visit all of the other houses around the world too.” “How does he do that?” “He’s a very busy man.”
Well, Santa never came, and I queried my mother about that the next morning, and she said, “He came while you were asleep.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “We were all asleep then.” I wondered why my mother felt such a need to lie to me. By the time the next season rolled around, I’d figured out during trips to Sears that Santa was a symbol and lying about him was part of an odd pageantry. My next most memorable Glurgemas was when my grandmother splurged and got me an actual microscope, rather than a plastic toy one. She put on a feast every year on Christmas and Thanksgiving, too, really great Cajun cooking, and fantastic conversations among my father’s relatives. Oh those are good memories. We were all Unitarians then, but they did Christmas quite respectably at that time. They made it special.
Another occasion that has become unmoored somewhat from its original purpose is Remembrance Day, at least in the UK. Although celebrated on the 11th November to commemorate the 1918 armistice, and the nearest Sunday when there are parades to war memorials and church services etc. People traditionally wear a paper/plastic poppy which the Royal British Legion take donations for.
However, maybe particularly in recent years, the level of display has become competitive among some people. Not content with a standard poppy they wear a fancy one, or multiple poppies. Instead of being a voluntary gesture of solidarity with the deceased service people, poppies have become effectively mandatory for anyone appearing in the media around the Remembrance season, which seems to begin earlier and earlier each year.
The following article has a display with a mannequin in a supermarket coated entirely in poppies, as an example:
A ‘poppy tree’ from 2018: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/poppy-tree-salisbury-bemusement-remembrance-day-christmas-old-george-mall-a8597551.html
JMG & Ighy – I read the story about tin-antimony low-tech solar cells with great interest, and deep within one of the linked articles was an objection that this “sun-powered motor” can be of no practical use without efficient STORAGE of the energy for those moments when a cloud passes by (and it went without saying that no such storage was available). It was true 100 years ago, and it’ll be mostly true 100 years from now.
I like to think that my solar panels contribute take a little off the peak load of a hot sunny day, so less dispatchable power needs to come on line. In that sense, the “storage” is fuel that didn’t need to be burned that day, but it assumes the existence of power available on demand (e.g., gas turbine).
The Nativity Fast began on the 15th of November, so we are well into the season! Fasting involves sacrifice and giving things up. So it was with a tiny twinge of guilt that I sent my regrets to a Christmas party invite, citing “religious obligations”. On the one hand, we are definitely not supposed to be going to parties during the fast. On the other hand, I really dislike parties anyway, so *going* would have been the larger sacrifice.
In some ways, we are so gorged all the time that a fast gives us permission to do what we’ve been wanting to anyway: cut back. Simplify. Say “no”.
We are still fighting the glurge battle, though. I think we’d be vastly relieved to trim down to a few gifts for the kids on St. Nicholas day, but Glurge dies hard, and there is no convincing the grandparents. Another year or two of massive inflation, though, and perhaps they’ll come around…
@Ighy You might be interested in the project being implemented by a small farm and intentional community in central Virginia called Living Energy Farm. They have set up a DC microgrid that they use for all of their electricity, hot water, and even tool needs. They use nickel-iron batteries and run tools directly off the solar panels during the day, and they have started to sell startup DC solar setups as well. As JMG said, this all works well because they have highly insulated the house by adding a hay bale layer around the outside. There is a lot of information on their website and my brief contact with them has indicated that they are more than happy to talk to someone interested in implementing sustainable DC solar systems. https://livingenergylights.com/ and http://livingenergyfarm.org/
OT: not Glurgemas-related, except that what’s expected of the tech-heads may be expected of the factory workers who make the Stuff Glut products. And our own Great Resignation.
Sorry to hear of your wife’s allergy to poinsettias.
Perhaps it would be worth while for her to orally ingest very small amounts on a daily basis for the months leading up to the Christmas season.
This should give her a healthy tolerance.
Careful it’s a potent psychedelic!
This is sort of a reply to Ben #110 and Leah #70 but is more just on the topic of wintertime consumerist extravaganzas:
I don’t really feel bad for the most part about buying fun gifts for my kids. Other than their birthdays, it’s the only time of year where I get to splurge on them. And it makes them happy! There’s also the fact that I LIVE with them and know them very well, so choosing gifts they’ll like and actually use isn’t that hard.
I DO get annoyed with some of the gifts we receive from relatives though. Most of the time the question is “what would [kid] like for Christmas?” and we answer more or less the same thing: “he’s into this, this, and this, PLEASE do not get us any clothes, do not get us anything with a million parts, do not get us anything with a complicated assembly, and do not buy us cheap plastic landfill fodder”. Of course, we usually get up getting a ton of #1, #2, and #4 and occasionally #3. Why do people insist on ignoring the most basic of instructions and buying landfill fodder that’ll get played with once and then taken to Goodwill to make room for the next round of useless garbage that comes the following year? And don’t get me started on the adult-to-adult gifts. There’s no point. For the millionth time, I do NOT wear a large, and I have enough sweaters, thank you.
As for Santa Claus…I don’t really know how I’m supposed to handle that one. On one hand, it’s deceptive. And a big lie. But it’s such a big lie, and it’s pretty much culturally ubiquitous. Thing is, to be the parent of the kid who tells all of his friends “yeah, my dad told me Santa wasn’t real” isn’t really something I want to do. Plus, Santa does definitely bring plenty of joy to kids…and it’s ultimately the parents’ responsibility to have Santa bring stuff that isn’t just useless landfill fodder.
Santa’s “existence” leads to some amusing situations though: my 2nd grader is getting fed up with his mother and I saying “no” to an iPad (he only wants it cause a couple rich kids in his class have one…and honestly does anyone NEED an iPad? no). So what does he do? Tells us that he’s going to write a Christmas list to Santa and not let us see it cause we’re going to tell Santa “no” to some items on it. “You know that Santa doesn’t like deception” is the best I could come up with to counter it. Something tells me that he’s going to figure out the Santa myth soon enough on his own.
We totally modified the Tooth Fairy myth for our purposes. Instead of just some kind of abstract fairy (who in my youth bore a STRIKING resemblance to my stepmother), we actually repurposed a late family friend of ours who absolutely loved entertaining children and dressing as numerous supernatural entities when situationally appropriate — his Kachina costume was amazing. So instead of the tooth fairy, we have the Tooth Perry. And yes, I did my best to try and figure out if he’d be okay with us invoking him as the tooth fairy — and got a resounding yes, both psychically and from his widow who thought it was hilarious. Is it technically true? Well…no. But it seems innocuous enough.
If he ever asks me “is Santa real/or is Tooth Perry real”, I’ll tell him the truth. That’s a silly white-lie to hold onto. Heck, I don’t think I actually told him about Santa to begin with, someone else did and we just play along!
It can’t be harder than explaining to him how his beloved aunt died a few years ago — suicide by gunshot. We never elaborated on that beyond just “we miss her” for a few years, but he asked. So we told him. “Why did she do that?” “I don’t know, she never told us”. “No Santa is not real, it’s just us buying into a cultural myth” and “yes Perry was a real person and a great dude, here’s a picture of him, but no, I’m the one putting stuff under your pillow” are philosophically easy compared to that. I suspect that’s also a lot less of a load than “yes you’re adopted” as well.
Thank you for your gift, Mr Greer. And thank you for the blog. Whether I agree or disagree with you on individual subjects, this is one of the better places on a largely toxic internet to have serious discussions.
And I would like to thank the other commenters that come here to share their beliefs and opinions and interesting bits of news. I have always found it all very informative.
Folks are sharing their anti-consumerist holiday stories, so I will too. Years ago, I held a Christmas party and had a contest. Folks were to create their own tree ornament, preferably from found materials. Winners (selected by me, for creativity and beauty) would get a gift made by me. It was an entertaining activity. Maybe I will revive this.
I will comment also that I do like the Christmas (Glurgemas?) lights that go up every year. Not so much the inflatable Santas and plastic reindeer. But the lights I find very pretty and cheer me up in the midst of a gloomy season in the rainy Pacific Northwest. I consider it a kind of gift to random strangers from the homeowners. I think they have merit beyond the mindless consumer frenzy of the season. I will put mine up soon.
Martin, now there’s a dystopian fantasy!
Owain, many thanks for this! The Dark is Rising was a fave of mine when I was a kid, though I went off the whole series hard after Cooper published the brutally disappointing final book in the series.
Great Khan, now, now, I said Christian churches — last I checked the UUs don’t qualify. As for speaking from the pulpit, though, er, I’ve given speeches at UU churches in the past, and let’s just say they were not well received.
Patricia O, no, it’s next week.
Lathechuck, simple chemical batteries were functional in Roman times — the famous “Baghdad battery,” despite a great deal of pseudoskeptic gaslighting, is a good example of same — and a lot of rural families in early 20th century America kept a radio and a light bulb going with a wind turbine and batteries, so I think there’s still a point to it.
Patricia M, good for them!
Travis, we’ve tried that with other allergens, with unwelcome results, so she simply avoids the Red Death during the Glurgemas season.
BCV, thank you as well.
Thank you for making me feel I’m not alone in my detestation of all that Christmas has been made into! I grew up in a traditional, rural Anglican household in the 1960s, my father being a Rector, and Christmas really did seem magical, despite all the hard work. The candles shining in the dark, singing our hearts out at all three services, the scents of the spices, the holly & the ivy, the Nativity, the feast, and being given treats like satsumas, chocolate and nuts that we never saw at any other time, clergy being very badly paid in those days. Presents were usually things that we actually needed – new socks, hand-knitted jumpers (sweaters) hats & gloves, books, small musical instruments and the odd creative toy like art sets, Lego or a crystal radio set. My own kids were appalled by my tales of “deprivation” as they saw it, but we never felt deprived in the slightest; in fact we knew we were lucky & that some children had nothing, or had unhappy home lives regardless of their level of material privilege. And we understood the symbolism, and didn’t set much store by “Santa” or Father Christmas. (Side note: the only one of my kids who truly believed was utterly horrified by the idea of a strange man coming down the chimney & wandering around her bedroom in the dark…)
I’ve spent the last ten years trying to wrestle some sanity back into our Christmas, so that I can love it again instead of dreading it. A couple of years ago I came across the Icelandic tradition of the “Jólabókaflóðið” or Yule Book Flood, so now my (adult) offspring get given a book, from our local bookshop, that I think they’ll enjoy, and chocolate (or similar! Two of them can’t abide chocolate) instead of a “stocking” full of meaningless & environmentally-ruinous tat. This has been greeted with great appreciation, and allowed me to start a dialogue with them about how we might keep it meaningful and magical, in the loosest sense of the word. As they start their own families and make their way into the world in different directions, with or without faith, I just hope they’ll escape from the Glurgemass commercially-induced madness and find their own ways of celebrating the light in the darkness. And that more people will join them…
Lastly I had friends over a few times sitting in my kitchen. I was in front of the stove and performed the pentagram ritual to sanctify the upcomming process of cooking.
It worked out very well, given the quality of what I cooked especially.
Long before I consciously did anything spiritual or read the archdruid report I bemoaned that singing and songs were very lost on me and the society around me. GIven at some Hippie parties someone might pull out a guitar, but in general it’s rare.
In the Phillippines young farm workers were singing romantic songs. Quite interesting to note the difference: if anything most young Europeans would immitate some warband hiphop manifesto trying to look cool.
Which brings me back to the pentagramm ritual. That is probably the only thing I have in the direction of singing or ritual.
I have one good and close friendship among the few. Though this friendship has also been ridden with no little chaos and once of unfriending over the course of a year, until it mended again.
My companion has been good at sports and drinking always, a very calm manner and some rooting in a baser, more rural society originately.
Therefore we have probably shared growing up that we like the wilder, more authentic nature found outside of the PMC circles we grew up in.
He is rather good at chemistry and to some degree physics, and in the beginning of my first contact with spiritual exercises and philosophy, he did not like what I was doing at all.
To some extent justified for the people I had enrolled to then.
Our friendship has always consisted of observing the world around us, and also going on endeavours outside, sometimes also to the darker places with darker realities, to learn and reflect together at what this world around us is.
Conversing well so, in time in these past years his certainly competent scientific worldview and the esoteric world view I have adapted found together at many points.
Though both of us have always believed in rebirth, even through all the rationalistic years.
Ritual, yes, and a core mutual directing of our minds to the occasion.
The next sprint of lockdown has now started in my country, and now mandatory vaccine will be ordered.
I have been vaccinated, but have been since summer worried about my unvaccinated friends and their fate.
“An uncomfortable Christmas” our whatever our prime politican promised to them via the channels.
I don’t like that rhetoric at all. Just a few days there has been a case of arson, youths firing crackers and someone frying a police car.
Got to admit, in this quiet and for the most part provincial country, that’s quite spectacular.
I am not worried above average about the situation, because since a long time I am used to and expect bad news anyways. But the people around me and society in general seems a bit to loose it’s nerve.
Today there were many police cars at the station where I enter and exit every day and that isn’t so usual there.
Police officers also in my vicinity;
Let’s see what becomes of this!
I hope I can revive some mutual ritual to accompany these times, it works out well for myself already.
@ beneaththesurface – I only went in Christiana once or twice. Most of my context for it was waiting for the inter county bus at the DART stop.
@ Leah – thanks for this response. Those are all good reasons not to perpetuate the myth.
@ Big JILM – I like the idea of metamorphosing ‘traditional’ characters into a play on a person they know! Yeah, we’ve talked about just going the route of letting them unpack adoption as they are interested in asking about it. I don’t think there’s much need to throw as much as we can at them as young as possible.
Thank you for the presents!
I’m just old enough to have seen first-hand what it was that made Christmases of yesteryear, whether secular or religious, seem so much more special. It was limits and moderation the rest of the year. When the view through a window is the most entertaining thing on your walls, some shiny tinsel hung on it and some colored lights in the view outside is an exciting change at the darkest time of year. A turkey dinner instead of beans or stew or fish sticks is quite the treat. Kids whose parents’ answer to every request for a new toy is “but you just had Christmas” for half the year and “we’ll see, Christmas is coming” the other half can (I hope) be forgiven for getting a little materialistic when Christmas actually comes.
What happens when you try to live up to expectations of Christmas being uniquely festive, but against a background of year-round indulgence and stimulation instead of moderation or privation? In that case following family or community traditions will seem more like sacrifices than treats, a kind of inverted festivity. Turkey dinner when (according to many people I know) they’d rather have pizza or fried chicken. Convincing family members to decorate cookies or sing carols when they’d rather be playing video games with their friends. Instead of the one time of year one gets presents, it becomes the one time of year one has to wait for presents, until they’re duly wrapped up and displayed under a tree. A lot of the glurge is social browbeating to participate anyhow.
Then there’s the opposite approach to making Christmas seem festive, by trying to escalate to even greater more indulgent festivity, if you have (or think you can borrow) the means. That leads to the absurd excesses, which are also stressful in their own ways. The balance of the glurge is propaganda for trying it anyhow.
A case in point: one of the events that kicked off the recent U.S. political controversy over “the war on Christmas” was an evangelist being publicly outraged that Starbucks’ special holiday disposable hot-beverage cups for the year 2015 were merely colored red, rather than imprinted with any Christmas symbols. I wish instead of getting counter-offended in return, someone had told him, “if you want your fancy coffee to be special for Christmas, try having it only on Christmas.” That works infinitely better than printing a snowflake on the literal piece of trash you drink it out of, or making sure the minimum-wage cashier says “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” How do they think demanding more glurge is going to help?
Big #157 I’m glad your kids have pleasant memories. Your comment on relatives and annoying gifts omg… I gotta tell you this one. So, we had a “no toys that require batteries” rule until the kids were well into school age. So, my sister decided to ignore that rule and got my oldest son this incredibly annoying He-man the magnificent sword that use to scream “by the power of greyskull” and make an infuriating “schwiiiiiiiiing” sound when they swooshed it around. I hated that thing with a passion. So, her son, their little cousin, was only a year younger. Guess what I got him for christmas the following year.
A drum set.
JMG, okay, fair enough.
Lathechuck, energy storage is not always needed. For instance, if you can stop and start the electricity-powered process easily, then there is no problem with intermittency. Of course, the whole thing would be so much simpler if you just used mechanical energy from the wind to do something useful.
Just for the record, the low-tech thermoelectric and photovoltaic semiconductor alloy is ZINC-ANTIMONY, not “tin-antimony” as I had written above, nor “zinc-antinomy” which looks like a naive spell-check anti-correction error in some of the references.
Justin – To paraphrase Dmitri Orlov… without electrical energy storage, wind power is fine for keeping your home cool when there’s enough breeze that you can just open the windows, and solar power is fine for keeping lights on in the day time. Sure, we could live with radios and motors that only work when the sun is shining and/or the wind blowing, but it would be (and will be) a vastly different world.
If I’ve read the Cove patent correctly, it’s not quite as described in the LowTech article. The patent says that alternating connecting strips use two different metals, not the opposite ends of the strip do. This doesn’t actually make sense to me, but maybe the patent writer got it mixed up.
Electrochemical refining seems like a plausible use for intermittent electrical power. We’ll see.
Many thanks for the gifts, JMG.
Curiously, there appears to be a nostalgia for paper catalogs this year, as opposed to shopping online. One could call this consumer porn, I suppose, but I find it interesting that many people are taking great pleasure in catalogs. One analyst (in the article below) notes that some people feel that shopping online is “too much like work.”
As for the rest: As a Christian myself, the holiday has a great deal of meaning for me and I hope to be more focused on Advent this year. I’d also suggest that for those of us who want to avoid Glurgemas, a positive reorienting might be in order. Hospitality, a virtue in many traditions, is particularly important this time of year. Learning to cook (then actually doing so), planning dinners and parties, and welcoming friends and family into one’s home, particularly when it is cold, dark and society so uncertain, is a true gift that many of us can offer.
Thriftwizard, excellent. I think your daughter who was worried about Santa was paying attention!
Curt, interesting. Thanks for the data points.
Walt, hmm! That makes a great deal of sense. I wonder…would that imply that the way to make Christmas special again is to embrace limits?
Leah, funny! Well done.
Lainie, strike up the music: “Everything old is new again.” As for Christmas, focusing on hospitality sounds like a very good idea.
Writing as a Christian preparing for the penitential season of Advent (my favorite in the liturgical year), I thank you for a very pleasurable read. “Glurgemas,” indeed!
Hi John Michael,
Thanks for mentioning the Baghdad Battery. What a fascinating ancient relic. It certainly looks like a battery to me, and wouldn’t have been too difficult to make. I wonder what offended the researchers so much with that explanation? As far as I can understand, their arguments against the battery theory had more to do with discussing electroplating rather than disproving that the relic was indeed a battery. A curious logic to employ.
Anyway, back to the essay at hand. All eminently suitable and appropriate suggestions. Just for kicks and giggles, you should try experiencing Christmas in a state of lock down.
Speaking of which, one of the amazing unintended outcomes of the current set of policies being so dogmatically pursued by the powers that be, is that the policies are just so weird that they are having contradictory and competing outcomes, thus accelerating decline, rather than ameliorating it. I do wonder which policy will be the first to be quietly shelved as a bad idea? In the meantime, the unintended consequences continue along their merry way.
If we are sharing Santa stories in the Glurgmas tradition, I have one.
When my oldest was about seven, someone was asking her what she asked Santa for and pushing her to reply. She, weary of the badgering, replied, “Who? That big fat faker?”
Same child let the younger ones discover the fakeness of Santa on their own, but now as adults we all giggle about political incorrect Big Fat Faker.
I think Christmas can become special again when it is no longer a national holiday and is not part of the retail calendar. If believing Christians are no longer a majority of the population, surely there is no good reason for expecting our mid winter spending to uphold the entire retail sector. Some sort of ritual gift exchange seems to be part of every health culture, but I do agree that Santa could be dispensed with. Christians need to decide, shall we worship God or Mammon and never mind whose profit suffers. I do deplore the conflation of sacred mystery with retail excess and the telescoping of the original Twelve Days of festivity and observance into one day produces extreme stress before The Big Day and boredom thereafter.
There are sound, practical reasons underlying the original liturgical calendar as it evolved in Europe in the middle of the first millennium. After the harvest festival came Advent, a time of fasting when you did not eat up the stores put away for winter and you did make sure the meat was smoked and hung, the ale brewed, and the grain securely stored. Christmastide, from Christmas Day till Candlemas in February was the time of feasting, when the winter stores were used to keep spirits up and bodies healthy. In early spring came Lent, another fast, at a time when the meats would have been already eaten, fish were appearing in thawed rivers, and women were able to gather sallats (wild herbs) in the fields, a kind of ritual cleansing after the meat and grain winter diet.
Jim, I think it depended on which state you lived in — where I grew up, many stores were open Sundays well before I was born. But it’s worth considering the old custom; would it make sense, I wonder, to make one day a week Buy Nothing Day?
Yeah, I grew up and have lived most of my life on the east coast…blue laws all over the place. I like the idea of promoting a weekly Buy Nothing Day. Sunday still seems like a fine choice…could be core practice for celebrants of the emerging LESSophian faith! It ‘comports with reality’ as Kunstler likes to say.
Great Khan, now, now, I said Christian churches — last I checked the UUs don’t qualify. As for speaking from the pulpit, though, er, I’ve given speeches at UU churches in the past, and let’s just say they were not well received.
The UU church where I live is completely captured by wokist/social justice/lgbtq zealots. I’m curious if Peter’s church has a similar vibe…I have the impression that most of the New England UU churches have been swept up in it. We tried engaging with our local congregation for a while when our kids were young, wanting them to experience the ‘religious education’ component. They were never enthusiastic and I found the pmc-dominant ultra progressive congregation pretty off putting. I like some of the core features of UU creed…our local church is a beautiful mid-19th century Greek revival building, Emerson was a guest in the pulpit on more than one occasion. I can easily imagine that any sermon you might deliver there would really make the folk squirm and I confess I’d love to witness that!
Here’s a fine old New England farmer’s saying:
Candlemas Day, Candlemas Day!
Half your wood and half your hay,
And you might make it through to May!
It gives you a real sense of how chancy it was to merely stay alive through the winter here in the 16th and 17th centuries.
On another subject that’s been broached this week, concerning the more esoteric side of traditional Christian liturgy, the late Alan Watts wrote an excellent book titled Myth and Ritual in Christianity (1971). Though a Buddhist, Watts also remained (IIRTC) an ordained Episcopal priest all his life long.
Likewise, the magisterial Biblical scholar Morton Smith, though an avowed atheist, became an ordained Episcopal priest early in his career, and kept up his ordination throughout his life. Smith disbelieved in the existence of Deities and spirits, but was firmly convinced of the effectiveness of traditional magical practices. See especially his fine work of scholarship, Jesus the Magician (1978).
(I wonder just how many ordained Epioscopal priests have foregrounded something other than strict Christianity in their private lives …)
OT: Singapore. In case you’re not paranoid enough. Attn: George Orwell.
Sidney, you’re welcome and thank you. A blessed Advent to you and yours!
Chris, if the pseudoskeptics admitted that the Baghdad battery is in fact a battery, they would have to surrender the claim that modern industrial civilization is in sole and exclusive possession of the Truth™, and they don’t dare do that. As for unintended outcomes, why, yes — get some popcorn going and watch how the follies turn out…
Mary, I’d like to see Christians go back to giving gifts in commemoration of the Three Wise Men, and doing that explicitly, leaving Santa entirely out of the picture. As for the liturgical calendar, of course! Traditional calendars always fit the human ecology of the people who practice them, for very good reasons.
Jim, works for me — though I’ll certainly encourage my Jewish readers to keep their Shabbat instead. With regard to the UUs, the interesting thing here is that the Gnostic lineage in which I was consecrated as a bishop comes from the Universalist end of that melange: three Universalist ministers left their church once it voted to merge with the Unitarians, arguing that everything they valued in Universalism would be hitting the trashheap once the merger took place. (As indeed it did.) They were consecrated by +Robert Monroe of the Liberal Catholic Church — but the rest of the story is for another time.
Robert, good heavens. I didn’t happen to know that Smith was an Episcopal priest. It makes perfect sense, though.
Patricia M, now surprise me.
I’ve been reading through the comments, been trying to get off of the internet, didn’t occur to me till now to mention this in regards toy your wife’s allergy to poinsettias when someone mentioned building a tolerance.
Another holiday plant I’ve had experience with and see becoming more prevalent than the poisonous red plants are Amarillis flowers. Can keep them alive for a long time, years, and it blooms every winter or late fall, growing and shedding leaves throughout the year. Have to clean every so often, and keep the water at a certain level, but it’s really easy to care for.
Then there’s the Chinese plum tree… I remember a saying I learned in Chinese class while we created red paper flowers and drew (rather blew black India ink across paper) trees during the month of December or January along the lines of “The plum blossoms smell sweetest during the bitterness of winter.” Or “Despite the bitter cold and snow, the plum blossoms still smell sweet”. I think it’s used in Chinese medicine, cosmetics, and food.
So if you and your wife are interested in long living plants that keep on giving during the winter time, are far more pretty, and potentially safer and/or more useful than toxic rubber plants, there’s two.
Didnt expect to see someone drop Alan Watts for a third time in a year…guess that means I gotta read some of his work. Only reason why I know about him is because of a song that utilizes soundclips from him . Overthinker-INZO.
JMG (no. 178) “…three Universalist ministers left their church once it voted to merge with the Unitarians…”
A little googling brings up the name of Rev. Albert Q. Perry (1915-2001), who resigned upon the 1961 merger, but rejoined at some point; and had a New Thought connection.
https://huuc.net/rev-albert-q-perry/ (first par. mentions a merger of his Cincinatti church with the New Thought Temple founded by Christian Larson)
I look forward to a future blogpost covering him and the other single-U’s!
Robert Mathiesen (no. 176), I can add the names of William Melnyk (also a Druid), Ann Holmes Redding (also a Muslim), and Kevin Thew Forrester (also a Zen practitioner–he did not consider Zen to be a religion), As I recall, the first two were defrocked, while the third was denied a bishopric.
Copper, thanks for this.
Bei Dawei, interesting, but no, it wasn’t Perry. The three ministers in question were Rev. Omar Zasluchy, Rev. Owen Symanski, and Rev. Matthew Shaw, and they never returned to the fold. They founded the Universal Gnostic Church in 1951; the first two were fairly old and I don’t know much about them, but after his consecration as a bishop, Shaw moved to Colorado, became an associate of Juliet Ashley and an initiate of the various orders she headed, and passed on his consecration to her and other senior members of her circle, including my teacher John Gilbert. Thanks for the links to Perry, though — that’s intriguing as background.
Huh, well, this year Black Friday falls on the date the wholesaler/farmer from whom I get my family’s annual supply of nuts sets up market in town. Seems appropriate, somehow.
Whatever goals or principles the Canadian and BC NDP had in Dave Barrett’s day and before appear to be gone. The federal NDP is led by one of Klaus Schwab’s people and anyone who doesn’t go along is destroyed by the identarians and his people. The BC wing isn’t much better,.the platform was thrown out after James’ trip to NYC where the major players in finance gave their orders. The unions are even worse, full of WEF appointees and grifters, at least Horgan appears to be struggling with what is happening. On the whole, I can’t say I am surprised there was no condemnation of the church burnings, the First Nations groups were furious and it would have only caused more havoc. What I don’t understand is what reason this all was made to blow up then. It’s no secret that happened among those with a historical background, people were smeared hard for publicizing it before, but not now… have not figured that one out yet
Regarding how we as a society have gotten into this consumerist Glurgemas mess…
We’ve definitely lived with a lot of excess, and few enough of us have had to truly suffer. This time of the season is a great time to be reminded of the meaning to “bear the cross”. Certainly one would hope that meditating on the life of Jesus could remind us that there is suffering we must go through in order to attain the richer rewards, something that is more than just material.
The mention of Advent got me reading up on it. It had been customary to fast in a lot of the traditions which practiced Advent. A great reminder of sacrifice, and how truly great of a reward that feast will be when the weeks of fasting have been finished. It’s also a great reminder of will, and how it is something which must be exercised. Suffering, sacrifice, and will.. all of things which seem to be missing, in great abundance. I have to think it is to a large extent because we’ve collectively sacrificed our personal will in lieu of the shiny, bright things that are constantly flashed around in front of us. Not much different than the cat chasing after the laser pointer. The corporate execs have definitely been back there, overseeing it all, laughing their jolly way to the bank.
I’ve never knowingly partook in Black Friday. It seemed absurd to waste hours of good sleep to line up in a mass of sheep who would stop at little to get the items they wanted. This year though, I’ll make a very conscious effort to not go shopping from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, and also, to take some time to participate in Advent, despite my not being Christian. I can see some merit in practicing my will, and possibly saving a little food for later.
Thanks for the gifts JMG and commentariat!
This post may have influenced me subconsciously. The day after first reading it I had a hankering for coffee. Only had whole beans but no electric coffee grinder. I searched on Amazon for a while for electric coffee grinder reviews, ranging from $15 to more than a $100!
Decided not to buy one. Next day I remembered my old mortar and pestle in the kitchen cabinet. The last couple of days I’ve been grinding the whole beans in the “oldest school” way! Yeah it take a few minutes…and yeah it’s not a super fine grind. But it’s oddly satisfying.
No waste, no additional gadgets, and a connection to tens-of-thousand-of-years-old Appropriate Technology!
Happy thanksgiving to our host and fellow guests.
Maybe PV guy can point me in the right direction, but regarding the low-tech Schottky-barrier solar cells, I see tutorials on the Schottky-barrier diode being “metal-semiconductor” structure, but it’s obvious that the device has metal contacts on BOTH ends. So why is one end a Schottky-contact and the other end merely an ohmic contact? The Cove patent seems to show a homogeneous zinc-antimony semiconductor with metal caps on both ends, which seems too symmetrical to form a diode.
@CHris re #171 Baghdad battery
The link below gives the main arguments as to why the battery is not really a battery
Since it disappeared during the Iraq invasion there’s no way to have unbiased eyes examine it to see what it really is. Always keep in mind that necessity is the mother of invention. If it is a battery then it would have to serve the purpose of a battery, namely energy generation. Was there a need for such a device 2200 years ago? Probably not. At best it would have been a curiosity for intriguing inquisitive minds but not much beyond that, much like the steam powered bird created by the Greek philosopher Archytas.
The ancients could build innovative things using the materials they had at hand but without necessity driving the inventive process, they would only build what they needed, not what we moderns think they could have built. I think our high-tech environment slants our perceptions in ways we don’t realize. I’m not trying to splash cold water on everybody but I think our own modern biases could blind us to the unique innovations the ancients actually did build. Everybody marvels at many ancient megalith structures and speculate about what clever devices were used to build them while ignoring one of the things the stone structures were meant to do which was generating electro-magnetic fields in order to enhance the fertilization of surrounding crops using what we now call electro-culture.
JMG, what happened to the “Universal Gnostic Church”? Does it have a website? Also, does the “Independent Sacramental Movement” you keep talking about have a website? I assume “sacramental” means something like “High Church”, but most High Church denominations I know of are either firmly conservative or subscribe to the “we’re really Smart Atheists but we still like dressing up on Sundays” kind of liberalism.
As a former Catholic and consumer, I have found that giving up on my old habits of guilt induced consumption and Christianity came about by trying to get a better understanding of what it is that humans really need, as you touched on in your line – “It would be nice to see corporations forced to remember that their workers are human beings with human needs which have to be taken into account”. Whether it is our religion, our economy, our employer, our government, or whatever institution, holiday, induced action we are compelled to take, if we aren’t having are human needs met as a consequence – we mostly likely will be disappointed. I have a naïve belief that if more of us could really understand what human needs are, then we could figure out how to stop buying what we are told we should want by our prophets, profiteers, or professors – leading to participation in seasonal celebrations that that could not only allow us time to practice what your refer to as the fine art of “doing nothing useful all day”, but combining that need with some other ones, resulting in much richer celebrations of humanity. I think this craving for the lack of action you mentioned, fits well with what Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef called the human need of “Idleness”, something I definitely try to practice much more frequently than once a year. Anyway, wondering if you have pondered the idea of human needs or even the writings of Max-Neef on the topic on a deeper level? If your interested, I share some of my takes on the topic as it relates to the Happy Holidazed here https://placesiam.blogspot.com/2020/12/no-thanks-to-happy-holidazed-all-i-want.html .
Thanks for any thoughts and enjoy the coming couch time!
@JMG (#159) and others re the Baghdad battery:
More specimens have now been found, and at least a few researchers accept that they were used to generate electricity. See Paul Keyser, “The Purpose of the Parthian Galvanic Cells,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 52 (1993), 81-98.
The article is available to download for free on http://www.academia.edu. You need to sign in, but you can do that through either google or facebook–or just set up a free account of your own.
Here’s a link, too:
For people who like occult fiction, the Baghdad battery figures largely in Sax Rohmer’s excellent The Bat Flies Low (1935). You can download the whole novel from the Canadian site http://www.fadedpage.com. (It seems to be out of copyright in Canada.)
Spencer McDaniel, in the short article you linked to, doesn’t seem to know Keyser’s article, and doesn’t seem to be aware that there are other examples still extant. The scroll-container theory is certainly a possibility, but not more so than the battery theory.
Re your words/message not being well received from the UU pulpit.
I remember reading about John Wesley (who later founded the Methodists) – he was initially preaching from the pulpits of the local Anglican churches and someone once asked him something along the lines of ‘but do they understand where you are coming from’ … John replied something like ‘I can always tell then they get what I am saying … that’s when they won’t let me in their pulpit anymore.’
(had a quick look to see if I could find the proper quote but failed – did find another one I liked … “Vice does not lose its character by becoming fashionable.”)
There are many 50% marked down products… still.
I’m not American, but I honestly I never understood the appeal of Black Friday. Camp out in the cold overnight outside some shops… to buy a television? Whyyyyyyyyyy?
On the other hand, I have met many people who spend a good amount of their time chasing Good Deals for the sake of a Good Deal. As someone of a miserly temperament, I can half-sympathise, but mostly because I hate spending money (and probably need to work on the virtue of generosity). I still don’t see the point of filling your house full of junk, or buying a new thing to replace a perfectly working thing that’s barely a few months old (which one managed to “score” in the last “Good Deal”).
On that note, I’ve noticed that the tech shortage has caused a strange phenomenon where youtube tech reviewers are basically now preaching the virtues of prudence and temperance. “Should you buy now, or should you wait for the Next New Thing? Well, given the state of the market, if you do need a computer now for whatever reason, go ahead and buy one, current offerings are actually decent. But if you don’t, just wait. It’s just a computer.” I’m like, this is really common sense (or I should think), and frankly the tech press and their social media offspring are entirely complicit in this phenomenon because their entire shtick revolves around showing off the next new toy that needs to sell (and I don’t care if one is an “independent” reviewer, same goes). However, the shortages and high prices have basically forced them to give actual useful consumer advice to their audience for a change.
Here’s a telling data point. The price of a top-of-the-line iPhone 3G back in 2008: $299. The price of a top-of-the-line iPhone 13 today: $1,100. So much for trickle-down innovation. Yeah, I know, the 13 is so innovative, blah blah. It can call, and browse the internet, and take pictures. Just like the 3G. Okay, fine, the 13 is bigger and beefier than the 3G, but still. My life circumstances meant I need a smartphone for daily use, but I’ve never spent more than $100 for one, and my last two phones were hand-me-downs! My current one is a 5-year-old(!) Samsung that was an upper-midrange model when it was brand new, still works for my purposes and I am using it till it breaks.
P.S. As a Roman Catholic, thank you sir for giving me my holiday back. 😉
My family get together with a few friends, wish each other well and have a hearty meal. The only gifts allowed are food and drink. No decoration, we have one of the few houses on the street not to be covered in brightly colored plastic stuff.
On a different subject, I recently finished an interesting book by Seb Falk – “The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science”
Interesting, especially as my family was from St. Albans and we know some of the places mentioned. My thought is if the English monasteries could fall, then any institution can (it’s not actually about the fall of the monasteries, though!)
JMG, likewise, my recollections of Christmas are of the experiences, the earlier it seems the more vivid, like the wondrous lit up tree, the smell of evergreen, the Sunday school nativity play, the decorations, the incense and hymns at church.
When I was a kindergartner our priest said something innocuous in his sermon just before Christmas Day which grew and grew in my mind; that Jesus will be among us, which I took literally, meaning that on Christmas day, and to my understanding, right there in the church in front of us, he would be smiling and maybe waving, but who knows what God does when he visits.
For the next week or so I couldn’t shut up about it, I drove my parents to distraction, Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming, and no amount of reasoning would persuade me otherwise, after all that’s what the priest said, he said Jesus would be among us and who knows better than him?
On the appointed day I was so wound up I could hardly breathe, I was anxious about getting a good seat near the front, hopefully the first pew. I think we ended up on the third row, good enough I thought. And so the mass started and the clock ticked away and any minute now Jesus would come. What would he look like? Would he come through the front or the back? It was cold so what would he wear? Why was nobody else excited, why was nobody talking about it? Maybe they’d seen him before?
And the time passed and, as you might guess, Jesus didn’t show up. But why? Maybe he was busy, maybe he forgot. I was utterly deflated. How could this happen?
This followed on the heels of the fire drill at school. The teacher told us there would be a fire drill. I knew what a drill was as my dad had one which I saw him use, and so in my mind a fire drill was a drill which started a fire by means of friction, which I’d also seen done by a woodsman on TV twirling a stick on a piece of wood.
The thing is who would be nuts enough to start a fire in a place full of kids? The teacher instructed us as to evacuation procedures, which confirmed that these crazies were really going to start a fire. And so I told my parents those people are all nuts, they’re gonna burn down the school with a fire drill. My parents tried to explain but I wasn’t having it, the meaning of the words and the circumstances were clear enough.
The school didn’t burn down. The fire bell went off, we filed outside with me more than a little nervous. So there we were outside the school house and there I asked the other kids if they saw the guy with the fire drill. I explained what a fire drill was. And nobody saw the guy with the fire drill. Explanations were suggested, maybe the guy’s car broke down, maybe he got lost. And one kid said something which stuck with me all these years, maybe the teacher lied. I was impressed with his acumen, yes, maybe she lied. There was no fire drill, maybe there was no such thing.
The lesson learned when I was small, don’t believe everything you’re told. Especially after that fateful Christmas day, and no Jesus. I was bitterly disappointed. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Appropriate #186 Lehman’s online has .ots of old fashioned manual appliances and amish type products. They have a coffee grinder that’s on my wish list. It’s not cheap, but it will last way longer than an electronic grinder.
I am a long time Grinch. I find Christmas to be stressful and unbelievably annoying. There is too much pressure to do things a certain way, and let’s be honest, most Christmas music is gag inducing.
But like you, for some odd reason I am feeling rather Christmas positive this year. My wife thinks it’s because our son is going to be with us. He is staying with us until he ships out for Navy boot camp. That might be it. But it feels odd. I don’t feel like sending cards, or buying gifts, or any of the typical Christmas activities. It feels more like a desire to bar the doors and seal the windows. I feel like pine bows, spices, and holly are wards against an intruding world. I feel like decorating the *interior* of the house, not the exterior. I guess I feel like a big old bear trying to spruce up the cave for winter.
@ Robert Mathiesen #192
Thank you for the Keyser article. I was unaware of that as well. The idea of using a crude battery to deliver a mild current as an analgesic sounds a lot more plausible than electroplating and probably a lot less jolting than the electric eel treatment Keyser mentions which was apparently used for arthritis and migraines. Yipes! That electric eel thing had to have really stung! They must have been thinking in terms of ‘like cures like’.
The really curious thing about those “Baghdad batteries” was how archaeologists keep finding them in pairs–one pointed up, the other pointed down.
I tend to echo this thought, just with some slightly different nomenclature. I’ve been teasing my more consumerist friends with the notion of “Santamas” – as in the secular holiday having kicked Jesus of Nazareth to the curb and His holy day being hijacked by Santa Claus as it’s patron deity by Macys and, since supplanted by Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon.
I find myself as a Bard and Ceremonial singer increasingly irritated by Christ–… sorry, Holiday music. The stuff pumped into the stores and over the airwaves is almost entirely shallow, contrived, holiday pop involving Frosty, Rudolph, shallow relationship drivel, Santa, and improbable traffic accidents involving senior citizens and reindeer. Of course traditional religious songs, hymns, and carols are studiously suppressed, even though they are typically superior music in every meaningful way. But heavens forbid that the people should be reminded to go to church instead of spending every waking moment from labor day till the morning of the 25th of December obsessed with shopping.
We have studiously boycotted Black Friday for decades, and see no reason to not continue that particular form of worship. We’re quite content to leave the Way of the Great Material Continuum to the lemmings that care to worship at the feet of their corporate overlords.
@ Appropriate Tech Respector #186
I used to grind coffee beans with a pestle and mortar, but A) they are hard and need a lot of work to make them fine enough, and B) they keep jumping out of the mortar.
I didn’t want an electric grinder because the noise of my early-morning coffee grind might disturb other apartments, so I bought a quality hand grinder. It’s not much effort if you sit with the grinder clenched between your knees and crank away. It’s still quite noisy (coffee beans are hard!), but I’m very happy with it, and you really feel you’ve earned your coffee if you grind it yourself. Plus of course it’s freshly-ground.
Please, a dash of restraint is called for here. Batteries do not generate electricity, they are only ever used to store and then supply electricity. We can’t really ever know how, or for what purpose those ancient cells were developed and constructed, but I doubt that such an effort would be made lightly. The alternative suggested uses such as for preserving scrolls could be achieved with far less effort. My best guess is that the acid would be replaced and replenished, and thus the charge of the cells would be topped up. So much of our current technology is directed towards preservation, that I hardly doubt the ancients would also have had such a bent.
I’d have to suggest that just because we cannot know the exact use an ancient item was put to, it does not then imply that the item is not what it actually appears to be. There is an old saying which suggests that if something looks like a banshee, sounds like a banshee, and acts like a banshee, it most likely is a banshee.
Your efforts at logic do not convince me otherwise.
Hi John Michael,
Please excuse my following off topic comment, but you know, fossil fuels are just so good that few people realise that they are irreplaceable. I read this gushing article today: When EVs take over our roads and demand for petrol dries up, what will happen to service stations?
My gut feeling suggests that things may indeed be otherwise. Mate, I really dunno about the belief systems being pedalled.
@ #198 Leah Kiser: Thank you! That looks fantastic…with a 25 year guarantee on the grinding mechanism too.
Is deciding between persisting with a mortar/pestle vs a robust multi-generational traditional grinder the most wholesome conundrum ever?
@ Robert M – thank you for:
“Candlemas Day, Candlemas Day!
Half your wood and half your hay,
And you might make it through to May!”
My husband still applies a local rule of thumb which says you want to make sure you still have “half your stack” (haystack) on St Patrick’s Day, or you may run into trouble before the winter finally takes itself off. I never heard a rhyme to go with it, but there probably used to be a few of them.
Re the idea of turning a fine and meaningful custom or tradition into a “blue law” – it seems to me that this is a deep and fatal flaw in operation right across the board in western morality and custom.
The perceived imperative to legally encode a voluntarily kept custom/tradition (for example, a Buy Nothing Day) into a law or regulation (for example, a Sell Nothing Day). These are subtly, but definitively, different.
This imperative is obviously at work across the whole spectrum of the moral arguments we are all having, or at least continuously exposed to, aimed at turning voluntarily kept precepts, traditions, customs into rigidly encoded regulations and laws.
@ Leah Kiser #198 and hand-crank coffee mills.
We bought that exact model from Lehman’s (great catalog, great products, great service) almost 20 years ago and are still using it today. It does take some effort and if you’re feeble and arthritic, you may not like it.
But it works really well and should last for decades to come.
@ Chris #204
To some extent I agree. My caution was meant to point out that
our own preconceptions can skew how we view objects from the past
without our even realizing it. Yes, it looks, sounds and even seems
to act like a banshee but that only reflects our modern view of banshees
(or ducks). Was it used for energy storage, medicinal purposes or
was it just for scroll storage after all? Without an intact example
of the ‘battery’ we can only guess at its purpose.
Never assume anything because we all know what happens when we do that…
Nuff said on the topic. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog regarding glurgmas.
JAS wrote, “Now I’m imagining a post-collapse cargo cult centered around Santa worship. Believers concentrate on celebrating glurgemas, hoping that if they do it just right, prosperity will come back.”
I think the future you’re imagining may already be here!
Most of the ways people around me have been celebrating Christmas since the 1980’s have struck me as desperate attempts to check all the right boxes in the hopes of magically rekindling nostalgic feelings from an earlier, simpler time. Folks may not consciously realize that the nostalgia they’re feeling is for the lost prosperity they remember from back when the benefits of gathering to celebrate together actually outweighed the costs, but what we’re all grieving, consciously or subconsciously, is that rapid loss of prosperity.
Isolated island cargo cults utilized whatever resources they had available to mimic the resources that were necessary to give them access to abundance and ease for a fleeting moment. Since most urban dwellers don’t have endless coconuts and vines lying around, our cargo cults mimic our remembered age of abundance with the degraded resources we continue to have in excess: energy and plastic. Vanishing is the warm glow of candles and the crackling of the Yule log, replaced by chaotically blinking LED lights and video simulacra of holiday fireplaces. Disappearing are the evergreen boughs, the mistletoe, and the fir trees, all replaced by plastic reproductions in an array of peculiar colors and metallic finishes (some with fiber-optic lights!) Abandoned are the Mummers and carolers, replaced by a near endless supply of celebrity Christmas albums, played on repeat. On repeat. On repeat…
With all the plastic we keep throwing at it, how can Santa’s runway not eventually deliver the abundance we so fondly remember? Have we not yet offered enough plastic to propitiate those fickle cargo gods, Rudolph and Santa? Quick, we must away to make more monetary offerings at the great temple of the box store, lest we have somehow offended our demanding and capricious gods!
@ Martin Back #203 — Yes there’s definitely been some grinds spilling on the floor! I will probably go with dedicated hand grinder.
@ Teresa from Hershey #209 — Good to hear it’ll last more than year or two!
actually, the First Nations governments were louder and more eloquent in condemning the church burnings than Trudeau or Kenny, let alone Horgan or Singh. Neither of the latter two said anything at all. Whoever’s doing it, I don’t think they’re approved of by a lot of First Nation’s governments. At very least, not in public.
Given some of the churches targeted were orthodox churches, which I don’t think had anything to do with the residential schools, I’m left wondering if some of the vandalism may have been non-native people using this as an excuse to settle unrelated scores of their own with various Christian churches.
I certainly saw a petition going the rounds at this time demanding that the Roman Catholic church, and the roman catholic church alone be denied any public funds for religious schools (which private schools of all types get) on grounds mostly that they refused to fly rainbow flags and support pride, with a mention of the residential schools for good measure. Didn’t say anything about Islamic, Jewish, or other non-Catholic Christian religious schools that I would bet do the exact same thing with regards to pride and rainbow flags. I stuck this in the round file (delete), on grounds of religious freedom and discrimination against a specific religion. I don’t like the roman catholic hierarchy either, but religious freedom is important!
JMG – As heard on NPR this morning, following the tragic assault in Waukesha last night (quotation approximate): “The assailant drove his vehicle into a crowd at a holiday parade, still known as the Christmas Parade in Wisconsin.” “… still known as…”!
I’ve heard a lot of coastal elitist condescension on NPR, but that intro seemed exceptionally tone-deaf. Maybe they got some feedback during the day, because in the evening news, it was the Christmas Parade.
Meanwhile Resident Biden describes himself as “angry, and concerned” about the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial. I hope that he has better things to do with his time than to follow court-room drama, and more discretion than to express opinions on matters of which he is uninformed. The jury saw the trial testimony. Biden didn’t.
Pixelated, it invites any number of jokes…
Prizm, thanks for this. It makes a great deal of sense.
Respector, delighted to hear it!
Tolkienguy, the UGC is currently dormant, as far as I know. It’s not extinct by any means, and won’t be so long as there are consecrated bishops in its lineage — and it has a daughter church, the Gnostic Celtic Church, which is doing quite well these days. One of my longer term projects, after I get the Order of Spiritual Alchemy and John’s Golden Dawn offshoot back on their feet, will be to revive the UGC. As for the Independent Sacramental Movement, try typing that phrase into your favorite search engine — there are a lot of websites about it.
Tom, thanks for this. I hadn’t encountered Max-Neef before, and will want to remedy that.
Robert, many thanks for both of these. I’ve suspected for a long time that the “secret fire” of the alchemists was electricity, generated by chemical batteries.
Dreamer, oh, granted — but I had my fill, and more than my fill, of speaking to hostile audiences when I was the head of a Druid order. These days, I prefer less confrontational options.
Michael, and most of them are still 100% more expensive than they’re worth!
Carlos, okay, I’m looking out the window to see if the moon is blue. Prudence and temperance in the tech industry? Next you’ll tell me that a politician told the truth and an economist made a prediction that wasn’t obvious nonsense!
SW, that sounds like a pleasant holiday, Thanks for the book recommendation — it’s been on my get-to list for a while now.
Roger, adults should be a lot more careful talking to kids! Thanks for these memories.
ACV, maybe the actual spirit of Christmas is trying to put in an appearance.
Samurai, I ain’t arguing. Most religious Christmas music is lovely. The Glurgemas carols are vomitous.
Chris, we’ve reached the stage that Vico called the barbarism of reflection, where words no longer mean anything and saying “we’ll all have electric vehicles next year” becomes an incantation to chase off fears of an unwanted encounter with the real world.
Lathechuck, I’d be amazed if Nitwit Propaganda Radio was anything but tone-deaf!
If allowed, as one of those who have joined the Great Resignation, I know this is a bit contrary to the idea of not buying over the next few days, but I’d sure appreciate anyone who might be looking for a bit of art to consider my wife’s art at her Etsy shop, https://www.etsy.com/shop/SofiShaftoArt. A bit of mercy on us as we are trying to find our way through the rubble that is only becoming apparent. Thanks!
JMG, what made a great deal of sense to me as I wrote that comment, thinking of the old jolly fat man making his way to the bank, I couldn’t help but realize what a perfect image was conjured for Santa. While everyone works hard for Scrooge, saving every penny to have a bit of extra for Christmas gifts, the old fat man socks it to them extra making sure he earns their hard-earned savings back by making them buy into the idea that this is the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Perhaps off topic, but, could be considered a gift from the scientists to the rest of us–yes we can colonize Mars! All we need to do, it turns out, is build a magnetic field around the red planet.
This is being reported in Newsweek, so it must be doable.
@JMG indeed it might be time to look for flying pigs, but mind you this is the tech _review_ industry, as opposed to the tech industry proper. The latter are still going around governments and industry players to panhandle, er, I mean, solicit investments. To the tune of tens of billions of dollars of course, no signs of temperance there!
Let’s see when (if?) supplies and prices of computers normalize if the reviewers have actually ended up finding the classical virtues, or they’d go back telling people to buy the latest and greatest. I know what I’d bet on.
@JMG well sure, but I feel I was getting a reputation for vulgarity, so I try to avoid the low hanging ones.
Agree with most of it. “Druids don’t cut down trees to put them in living rooms, since the planet needs as many trees alive and growing as it can get. “is in my view a bit strange though. Of course it depends on where you live but at least where I live (Sweden) spruce is more or less a weed that will take over the whole forest. Even if you would like them to do that there are really many more small spruces than needed, many of them will die from the competition as they race for the sun. After servicing you can use them for firewood, a bonfire, give to your goats or sink them in the lake for the fish to spawn. Happy buy nothing day!
In regards to children and Santa Claus, Santa Claus is a game we play, where everyone is Santa for everyone else. Three generations of stockings go up (plus one for the pets), everyone looks for tidbits for everyone else’s stockings, and then after the children have gone to bed the adults fill the stockings. Of course my husband has to fill mine and I, his. The grandparents still participate in the giving and receiving but not the one am filling.
Santa doesn’t leave under tree gifts or big gifts: those are signed by the givers. Fancy flavored coffees, scratch tickets, chocolate, fruit, pencils, and anything useful anyone, particularly adults, has whined about a lack of (I hope for a stocking of tape!) are his stock. One year my dad complained all year about not being able to find scissors and got pairs in all sizes from nail up. Another year my mom got spatulas. Santa can be a bit excessive in rewarding whiners, you see!
So the children learn early that Santa Claus is a game, they learn the history of St. Nicholas, and we tell them that not everyone plays the Santa Claus game, and many who do play it don’t play it the same way we do. I don’t believe in lying to children, but rather in explaining exhaustively as far as is appropriate for their ages, and telling them when it is not. So when we hit the hard topics they know there are limits to what I know, limits to what can be known, and limits to what I think they are ready to know, but not lies and cover-ups. My husband is on board with this as long as he doesn’t have to be the one explaining most of the time, so it works out, so far so good.
@ Mary Bennett #218
Thanks for the link on Mars! Yep, that’ll be easy and cheap too.
I’m guessing since I couldn’t find the story at MSN but by golly, they were willing to help me shop for Christmas.
@ Mary Bennett #218
The kicker of course is the mass quantities of resources
to pull this off. But wait! I have it! All that radioactive
waste we’ve been pulling our hair out trying to figure out
how to dispose of. All we have to do is ship it all to Mars,
dig a deep enough hole (Elon are you listening?), dump all
the waste in and the radioactive decay will reheat Mars’s
core regenerating the magnetic field. A win win!
Of course, I suspect it might take a few million years……
I suspect it’s past my bedtime too.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.
Jeez Mr. Greer …
‘How Dare You! .. Dude, you’re harshin my consumer buzz! What am I supposed do NOW that I’ll miss my one-and-only chance at acquiring what my green heart Too Big desires? .. a plastic St. Greta doll – replete with swiveling arm that points an accusingly offensive jab, and mouth agape that inveighs in a tinny spittle-flecked teen voice*, stern consternation at not following SantaKlausSchwabian happy directives .. all activated by the flick of an electronic wand!! ..
!’ll have to go to Plan B, and just chill on ‘coldTurkey’ Day. ‘;]
All kidding aside, may you and your’s enjoy a very pleasant Friday.
For Glurgemas soundtracks, instead of elevator and department store muzak, I recommend listening to church choirs composed of Anglo-Saxons attempting to sing African-American spirituals. Talk about humorous auditory torture.
@BoysMom we do Santa-as-a-game as well, not exactly the same way but very similar. I think is the most sensible way for Christians who want/have to engage with the prevailing culture but disagree with all the Glurgemas trappings.
Personally I found the whole santa thing rather strange as a kid. In my region, houses don’t have chimneys, so how do they enter our homes? But then again I didn’t feel shocked or lied to when I learned “the truth” about him, so I suppose my parents, though not very religious, mostly treated it as a game too.
About the thriving of evangélic and ortodox churches in Spain, I think that It is caused by the increasing of inmigrant groups from Hispanameric and Slavic countries.
Is true that catolic churches are empty, but catolicism is deeply rooted in the collective personality of Spanish people. I’ll not dismish the posibilty of a schism of the traditionalist branch.
I’m currently reading “The World for Sale” which is about a commodities company called Glencore and a bit of a follow-up to “Out of the Shadows: The New Merchants of Grain.”
Whenever somebody bitches to me about how they lost money buying stock in Nordstrom or McDonald’s, I tell them that they have to think like a big trader and not like themselves. The person who wanted to know how that sort of person thinks could do worse than to read “The World for Sale.” The sort of greedy world-destroying behavior one ought to expect of traders is all there, and those guys don’t even trade stocks. Commodities are wonky and unpopular among the Wall Street crowd, or they were until this year.
I haven’t finished it! I just got to “The Big Bang” which I hope will be the chapter on China.
Trade in aluminum sticks out. The traders, the oblivious make-it-happen commodities traders, more out of touch with things than even Jack Dorsey (who is a fluff) call aluminum “congealed energy” because it takes so much electricity to turn it from bauxite to alumina to sheets of aluminum.
More nuclear power, more aluminum. Though we ought to be getting aluminum before it goes to landfills.
And they talk about cheap electricity without mentioning other things that only work if you have cheap electricity, like mining Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency that requires heavy computer calculations.
Look, crypto could be the world’s great carrot. It can be used to cause all sorts of game economy sorts of things. I don’t believe that the excessive use of electricity is necessary since it doesn’t have to be mined like Bitcoin is. I need to do more research about this.
The absence of the mention is worrying. It’s like they left it out on purpose, and it’s not the only notable absence. Still, a good book on the macro end of things. And the ending of things! Commodities won’t keep going like they’ve been going. It changed in the 1990s and as usual the stuff that is a big deal isn’t on most people’s radar. Maybe Oilman’s? Hey dude, you read that book?
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