Evil Jim (evil_jim) wrote,
Evil Jim

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Happy Natalis Solis Invicti 2003

I had a good holiday with family and especially Grandma last night and today. I didn't ask for any gifts but that didn't stop people from giving them to me. For those of you wondering, I got mostly food and cash, good ideas for someone you don't know what to give.

I was briefly dazzled by the money, my eyes literally making the ka-CHING sound once I added it all together, but crushing reality soon changed those $s to ¢s when I realized both my homeowner's and car insurance will probably be due sometime next month, as well as some other bills I can't avoid. At least this and all the overtime hours will help. Damn you, reality.

Excuse me a moment, I've been wearing these clothes all day and I probably should have showered earlier...

Hi again, I'm back. That's a little better; I just scrubbed my face and hands. I'll be more thorough tomorrow morning before I go anywhere.

Xmas is finally over and I'm glad. Not with any malice, but with relief and satisfaction. I managed to make it through without anything horrible happening. Working through five seasons in retail plus a particularly miserable and traumatic year-end a few numbers back haven't given me much to look forward to in this time of year for a while, but lately I'm recovering and I can actually enjoy the day before and of as they are. It was different when I was much younger because everything all led up to five minutes and then it was over. That can be kind of a bummer but then, I had a lot of new toys to distract me.

I only realized in recent years that my family was kind of odd that way; we celebrated the holiday but not the religious part of it. We'd trim the tree and exchange gifts, but no one to my knowledge went to church or believed in anything notable. It bothers me in a way, but now that it's over my fire is gone for now and all that's left is the bleak loneliness of winter.

One more thing to note on the subject is that until this year, I was giving gifts to a Satanist. Was I being an asshole or just ironic? It wasn't until not too long ago that he seriously proclaimed this, but I still think it's funny. I'll continue to send him gifts because he's a dear friend, but I'll do better on the timing.

So I've actually been invited to a New Year's Eve party. Granted, it's a general invite to members of my Anime Club and not specifically to me, but it's still a party and I rarely have the opportunity to go to any. I do also want to spend time with my folks but this is new and exciting. I'll have to work out the timing on this one.

I'd been forgetting to mention a couple traditions in my family. Every Xmas Eve I can remember my parents and I have had fondue for dinner. If you're not familiar with this practice, fondue is where you use skewers to cook cubes of meat in a pot of boiling oil. For me it's always a dangerous and particularly nervy meal, but once the oil cools a bit I relax and get into it (not the boiling oil, enjoying the meal you silly person.)It started innocently enough 30+ years ago with a wedding gift to my parents. It was the early 70s and fondue sets were popular. By now you, being a young, intelligent and rather attractive reader of mine, have already figured out that my folks received one of these sets. They didn't really know what to do with it because, when have they ever needed one? When were they going to use it? So, rather than assign it some obscure shelf space for the rest of their marriage, they decided to use it at least once a year, Christmas Eve. Not long after, Mom discovered a recipe for a great cheese fondue (which we use for dipping French bread) that became our New Year's Eve tradition. I love them both, and have pushed to have them more often which has only worked a couple times. But as long as they have a fondue set, I'll have something to look forward to during the holidays that is special to just our family. And in the future, it is a tradition I will happily carry on for as long as I have the breath to turn the voice-activated magno-grav fondue pot to "on."

And now, for a bit of history:

"The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was born in the ancient southeastern Turkish town of Lycia early in the 4th century. Upon the early death of his parents, he fully dedicated his life to Christ, entering a Lycian seminary. It was on a boat journey to Palestine that he is supposed to have extended his arms and stilled a violent sea, the first of his many miracles. Later, he would become the patron saint of sailors." (The first of many patron saintships. Maybe back then they were like temp jobs.)

"At an early age, Nicholas was appointed bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor. His success in winning converts, and his generosity toward the poor, incensed Roman officials. During a great Christian persecution, he was imprisoned and tortured under orders of the despotic Roman emperor Gaius Diocletianus. The ruler, after a reign of terror and profligacy, abruptly abdicated at age sixty in favor of the simple life of farming and raising cabbages. This pleased many Romans and was most fortunate for Nicholas. The new emperor freed the bishop, and when Constantine converted the first Church council at Nicaea in 325, Nicholas attended as a prominent member. He is believed to have died on December 6, 342, and eventually was adopted as the patron saint of Russia, Greece, and Sicily." (That's four so far, for those who are keeping track.)

"Two aspects of St. Nicholas's life led to his becoming Santa Claus: His generosity was legend, and he was particularly fond of children. We know this primarily through Roman accounts of his patronage of youth, which eventually led to his becoming the patron saint of children. Throughout the Middle Ages, and well beyond he was referred to by many names -- none of them Santa Claus." (Patron Saintships - 5, Cute Names - 0)

"Children today would not at all recognize the St. Nich who brought gifts to European children hundreds of years ago -- except perhaps for his cascading white beard. He made his rounds in full red-and-white bishop's robes, complete with twin-peaked miter and crooked crozier. He was pulled by no fleet-footed reindeer, but coaxed an indolent donkey. And he arrived not late on Christmas Eve but on his Christian feast day, December 6th. (I hope he didn't die on the job.) The gifts he left beside the hearth were usually small and disappointing by today's standards: fruit, nuts, hard candies, wood and clay figurines. They were better, though, than the gifts later European Santas would leave.

"During the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, St. Nicholas was banished from most European countries. Replacing him were more secular figures, such as Britain's Father Christmas and France's Papa Noël. Neither was known as a lavish gift-giver to children, who in general were not at center stage at that point in history. Father Christmas, for instance, was more the fictive sponsor of adult fetes concerned with amour.

"The Duch kept the St. Nicholas tradition alive. As the 'protector of sailors,' St Nicholas graced the prow of the first Dutch ship that arrived in America. And the first church built in New York City was named after him

"The Dutch brought with them to the New World two Christmas items that were quickly Americanized.

"In sixteenth-century Holland, children placed wooden shoes by the hearth the night of St. Nicholas's arrival. The shoes were filled with straw, a meal for the saint's gift-laden donkey. In return, Nicholas would insert a small treat into each clog. In America, the limited-volume shoe was replaced with the expandable stocking, hung by the chimney with . . . expectations. 'Care' would not come until 1822.

"The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas 'Sint Nikolass,' which in the New World became 'Sinterklass.' When the Dutch lost control of New Amsterdam to the English in the seventeenth century, Sinterklass was Angilicized to Santa Claus." (Saintships still lead Cute Names, 5-1 in the fourth)

"Much of modern-day Santa Claus lore, including the reindeer-drawn sleigh, originated in America, due to the popularity of a poem by a New York theology professor.

"Dr. Clement Clarke Moore composed 'The Night Before Christmas' in 1822, to read to his children on Christmas Eve. The poem might have remained privately in the Moore family if a friend had not mailed a copy of it --without authorial attribution -- to a newspaper. It was picked up by other papers, then it appeared in magazines, until eventually every line of the poem's imagery became part of the Santa legend. Dr. Moore, a classical scholar, for many years felt that to acknowledge having written a child's poem might damage his professional reputation; as a result, he did not publicly admit authorship until 1838, by which time just about every child across the country could recite the poem by heart.

"It was in America that Santa put on weight. The original St. Nicholas had been a tall, slender, elegant bishop, and that was the image perpetuated for centuries. The rosy-cheeked, roly-poly Santa is credited to the influential nineteenth-century cartoonist Thomas Nast. His drawings, executed over 20 years, exhibit a gradual evolution in Santa -- from the pudgy, diminutive, elf-like creature of Dr. Moore's immortal poem to the bearded, potbellied, life-size bell ringer familiar on street corners across America today. Nast's cartoons also showed the world how Santa spent his entire year -- constructing toys, checking on children's behavior, reading their requests for special gifts. His images were incorporated into the Santa lore." *

I leave you tonight with my favourite parody of "The Night Before Christmas", a nod to my father who is a true beatnik. Hope you had a great day, everyone.

* (This post contains excerpts from Panati's book, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, pages 72-74.)

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