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Friday, 26 December 2008


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I love the fellowship of the holidays. My wife is Hungarian so we do that with her folks and the basic American thing with mine. Both are cool, the company's always enjoyable...Always good food, drink and conversation.

Doilies give me the creeps, especially when they're draped over the back of a vintage Herman Miller sofa.


Happy Holidays!

Very nice choice of illustrators for the illustrations. Anything by either Sundblom or Rackham is good.


Stopping by your site, first thing on the morning after, I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas, too. And a Happy New Year!

In the Netherlands we celebrate "Sint Nicolaas" or "Sinterklaas" on the 5th of December. In Belgium it is celebrated on the 6th of December. He rides a white horse of the roofs of the houses and drops presents through the chimneys. Santa Claus is seen as the commercialized UK/US version of it. A lot more background can be found here:


And, the holiday is pagan before that. Celebration at the winter solstice probably predates history.

Apropos lights, it took the wonders of modern technology to create something like this:


It chases the dark spirits away as surely as torches and shouting. :-)

OT but OTM (On the Mark). Thanks.

Well said - I also love The Muppet Christmas Carol with Kermit, Miss Piggy (and of course Michael Caine). Every time I watch it I am moved by the assertion that you can tell the measure of a man by counting the number of his friends. Reminds us of what life is really about.

Mike: A somewhat belated Happy Holiday. Watched "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve. I still get pissed at Uncle Billy for being so careless with the $8K. That was real money in 1946.

Great Christmas history lesson! And this is a photography blog?

I just found your blog a few days ago -- what a great find. Keep up the good work!

In my own way, I feel the same way. My new tradition for the last few years are dim sum brunch in Chinatown, followed in the evening with cheese fondue at home. Much easier to prepare than that damn turkey dinner.

Christmas and the celebration of same, however we do the day depending upon your beliefs and your upbringing is still
a marker, in all our lives.

December 25, 2008 is a marker in my own life
too, for a number of personal reasons.

First, my younger brother, and sister in law came from Bellaire Texas. They have given up
their Canadian and Belgian citizenship
(respectively) for US citizenship, they are no longer "family" IMO. Secondly their daughter at age 23 has completed her
education and is now working in Waltham Mass. And she is a child of her world,
so unlike me who tends to stay at home in Canada. And doesn't go to the USA.

And there are other reasons too. My Mum at age 92 lives with me as she has for the last
twenty years, in the family home. She has early dementia, a normal conversation is not.
Her arthritis is a problem however she
does walk with a cane and like me does try to get out and walk as much as possible.

And finally for myself at age 62, history may repeat itself. My own father died suddenly of a brain tumour in February 1982. My father was 62 and this then would've been his last

Given my on going cancer and Lupus, it may
well be my last Christmas as well.

And in the mood of the column, all the photographs were taken with film, using my Pentax point and shoot Espio 108.

Two rolls of 36 exposed frames to the lab next week. The way photography should be, none of this digital hokey-pokey.

Bryce Lee
Burlington, Ontario

Pagan solstice holidays and Christmas have nothing to do with each other, unless proximity on the calendar automatically indicates dependency.

We might as well say the public holidays of Lincoln's Birthday and of Washington's birthday were subsumed into MLK day and a generic Presidents Day, and therefore MLK is really a continuation of a presidential chain, and indicative of an insinuous calculated inheritance and overthrowing of the previous tradition.

Because assignment of Christmas to December is admitedly a guess, and has been for over 1500 years of tradition. There has never been a 100% claim that December is anything more than a convenience.

A lot (most) of the Mithraic rituals in fact post-date Christian practice. Full blown Mithraism 'inherited' more Christian practice than anything close to v.v. By the 2nd century Mithraism and gnosticism were freely borrowing Christian practice, mythos, and ritual.

Love the photo commentary though.

Hello Mike,
Please do correct the typo 'Wiligia' in the article. It is spelled Wigilia, and means Christmas Eve when written with capital W (just 'evening before' otherwise).
All the best to you and your relatives, and a Happy New Year!

At my house we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. Was that the actual date of his birth? Not likely. Have other festivals been celebrated on that date in antiquity? It seems so. Have many of the symbols of the season (holly, stars, etc.) been shared with ancient, pagan cultures? Yes, but symbols can have whatever meaning one attaches to them. So even though the date and symbols have meant something different to other peoples, in other cultures, in other times, my family, and multitudes of others around the world, still choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at this time of year, however the date of December 25th was chosen. We still think His coming into the world is something worth remembering. We also have no problem with other people celebrating other things, in other ways, for other reasons at the same time of year. I think there's still room on the calendar for all of us. Merry Christmas!

"Doilies give me the creeps, especially when they're draped over the back of a vintage Herman Miller sofa."

That ain't no doily. That's an antimacassar.

Agreat way to sum up the meaning of the day. I must confess I never really felt close to the meaning of the day, even less to the modern incarnation of Santa, drawn by a Coca Cola publicist to help sell it in winter. In a Catholic country, the weight of religion was overwhelming and scaring. I never understood why if the Christ was born on january the first, we celebrated his birth six days earlier.
But three decades of persuasion -American movies, telefilms, ads, even Muppets!- have left their mark. We use to have the Three Wise Men, wich I find moer engaging than Santa. While the bearded man is a lone character (they had to invent elves, reideer, rednosed or not, even a Mrs Santa), the Wise Men were a team, one black, two whites, kings from strange lands, adventurers, and rich...Still they never had the benefit of being redrawn by a talented publicists and since we celebrate them in january the sixth, too late in the Christmas holidays, they've lost ground to the American Santa. By the way, it seems the original St. Nicholas was an Spanish priest...
One tradition I like is rewatching It's a wonderful life. I never understood how such a dark and desperate tale got asimilated so well.
Well, hope the snow meltas away and you can celebrate the new year wherever you like, and I wish you, Zander and the rest of the family a great 2009...

You lost me at your very first word. "Pagan" is a perjorative term essentially meaning "non-follower." The problem with your "history" is that all history perceived from a Christian perspective is revised history. The power structure gets to rewrite the past, and centuries of Christian hegemony has meant that reality has seldom gotten a fair hearing.

Mike J.

If you haven't read "Hogfather" by Terry Pratchett, now is the time to do so!

Haven't read "Status Anxiety", but I usually manage to reread "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and/or "The Art Of Travel" annually - highly recommended.

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