The Reason For The Season & Other X-Mas Lore

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We all know someone who says it – “Jesus is the reason for the season!”. . . I hate to burst the bubble here but that statement is demonstrably inaccurate. If we want to get super technical and snarky, it’s quite literally the Earth’s axial tilt that is responsible for the season; During the Winter solstice, Earth’s polar hemisphere is the furthest from the sun at its maximum 23° 26′.  The other glaring flaw in this claim is the simple truth that no one actually knows when Jesus was born! Historians do suggest however that it was most likely NOT anytime in December. The bible refers to shepherds tending to sheep on the night of his birth and that just isn’t cohesive with a wintry Judean night; shepherds generally only tended flock from mid-March to mid-November. And I won’t even go into all the gods — preceding Christ — who were supposedly born on the 25th of December — OK! here’s a few: Horus, Osiris, Attis, Mithra, Krishna, Dionysus, Adonis, Hermes — Suffice it to mention that the Roman Catholic church was not the first to pick that day to celebrate the birth of their savior. Not only did they choose the date but they assimilated all of the Pagan traditions into their own holiday! Study some other religions for 5 minutes and you’ll see how Christianity is not all that original.

Considering the winter solstice, it’s easy to understand why ancient cultures celebrated the season the way they did. Yule  pre-dates the Christian holiday by thousands of years. Scandinavian Norsemen and Vikings celebrated the rebirth and hopeful return of the sun and the beginning of a new cycle. The festivities of Yule honored their most powerful god, Odin (who also happened to be the god of ecstasy & intoxicating drink.) Beginning on the day of the solstice, a log would burn continuously for 12 nights of feasting and merriment. Decorated with sprigs of fir & holly, runes or images were then carved into the wood representing unwanted traits that they wished the gods to take away. When the log was extinguished, a piece would be saved to ignite the next year’s log, symbolizing the continuance of life and survival of another year.

Other cultures held similar solstice traditions honoring the sun and it’s cycle of death and rebirth. Ancient Egyptians were among those who celebrated the triumph of life over death; their sun-god, Ra is reborn every year on the winter solstice. Celtic Druids and many Native American cultures also observed the solstice with sun-centered rituals. As early as 2nd century BCE Ancient Romans held their own special kind of solstice bacchanal;  a week-long festival known as Saturnalia. (Named in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture.) The Romans revelled in feasting, drunken debauchery and gift-giving throughout the raucous celebration. During this time all crimes were permitted, including rioting and murder. Even the children were allowed to partake in the drunken orgies.

When I think of holiday cheer, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the image of an elegant, sparkly Evergreen tree; the “Christmas tree” as it is so often called. What — Christian — home would be complete without this noble. . . Pagan symbol?! — Gasp! — Yes, this tradition goes way back to the Druids who would decorate the trees with lit candles and apples for fertility. The Vikings believed the evergreen to be the special plant of their sun-god, Balder; they offered food along with various trinkets to entice the tree gods to return. Even the Egyptians brought evergreens and date palm leaves into their homes to honor the rebirth of Ra. Evergreen boughs were incorporated into the Roman Saturnalia as well.

In 1644 the entire Christmas holiday was banned by the Puritans. (Protestant Christians) All forms of our now beloved merrymaking were seen as unholy Pagan rituals. The ban was lifted in 1660 — when Charles II reclaimed the throne — but it took a while for customs like the Christmas tree to become popular. In his 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens did not mention nor did he seem to know anything about Christmas trees in English homes. It wasn’t until near the end of the 19th century that the actual “Christmas tree” tradition started popping up in Germany, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Sweden and Norway. By 1900 one in five American households had Christmas trees.

Now, I hope I’m not coming off sounding like a total Scrooge — I really do LOVE the Christmas season! — but I get sorta fed up with all of the religious rhetoric that flies around during this time of year. Skeptics have plenty to celebrate during the holidays. It doesn’t make a smidgen of sense to say that non-believers can’t decorate trees or give gifts because they don’t acknowledge Christ (during a holiday that has NOTHING to do with Jesus other than the fact that ancient holidays were plagiarized by Christians.) Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice, whatever you call it, the holidays are a time for celebrating life and appreciating what you have. We should use this time to love and help each other, not to belittle or judge one another.

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I could bitch all day about the commercialization of the holidays but I don’t have the time or the focus — perhaps next year — so here are some fun things to check out. . .

* Christians promote “Coca Cola Santa” for Christmas: http://ivarfjeld.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/christians-promote-coca-cola-santa-for-christmas/

* Liberty Council wants retialers to exploit Jesus: http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-orlando/liberty-council-wants-retailers-to-exploit-jesus

* This Season’s War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/04/opinion/04sun3.html

** Rebecca Watson at Skepticon 3 – “How to ruin Christmas.” http://youtu.be/wkXcbySuSvI

BlogFAILS & Cognitive Dissonance

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Almost a year after creating this blog, honestly I had completely forgotten about it! Wordpress is right on course with every other blog I’ve ever tried to maintain… Except for TeenOpenDiary (Not even sure if that site exists anymore). That was my first online journal and it lasted way too long! A few years later at a new school, with new friends, I maintained a LiveJournal for quite a long time and that was pretty much a repeat of the whole T.O.D experience! Oh, and who (in my expansive yet alienating circle of acquaintances) can forget Elowel!? That was a neat experience; journaling on a site created and moderated by a couple of cool nerds (btw, ‘nerd’ is a rather affectionate term for me, not meant to be rude) with whom I went to school from grade K-10 but was neither cool nor nerdy enough to actually befriend. Good times… Actually, awkward times… And even more awkward still.

Alas, here I am again attempting to start a blog that is more than just my self-involved and/or radical ranting. This time, I’ve promised myself  I will not use it as an outlet for my bitching and moaning. I sincerely hope to touch on some real-world topics that are constantly on my mind. I’m sick of all of these pesky thoughts bouncing around in my brain without an exit into the universe. Things like Animal Rights, Human Rights, Religion, Science, Chaos, Liberal Politics, Sociology, Feminism, LGBTQ issues and of course tons of other random crap. Also hoping that journaling will help hold me accountable for and battle against my severe cognitive dissonance!

How bad is my case of Cognitive Dissonance? Let’s just say that the very nature of that beast won’t allow me to even comprehend the degree to which my fickle ways deceive me. I’m beginning to ascribe my contradictory ways to my (self-diagnosed/presumed) Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome. Sometimes it honestly seems as if I’m incapable of verbally expressing my true opinions. Words just don’t seem to fall out of my mouth the way they were intended, they often aren’t intended at all; most of the time I feel I have absolutely no control of what comes out of there. Verbal diarrhea aside, my cognitive dissonance keeps me from doing everything i want to do! Seems I’ve learned from the master how to rationalize bad decisions and procrastination.

Luckily Dissonance can potentially be an ally. There’s the Ben Franklin Theory which, basically predicts that once you have done a favor for a person, you will then be more likely to do them another favor than if they had first done something for you.  I kinda figured that reasoning out long before I’d ever heard of Cognitive Dissonance or wise old Ben’s theory. Never wanting to cause anyone harm, I usually make a point to treat people with courtesy regardless of how they treat me. More or less, I used to always take the  ’more flies with honey’ approach… Quite a flawed saying if you think about it. Who actually WANTS flies? What was the point of bringing this up? I don’t even know… Do nice things for people (even if you don’t like them) and you will grow to have a more positive attitude toward them. I try to apply this approach to everything in life: prickly people, mundane chores, work. Yes, I TRY to apply this theory… But that fucking cognitive dissonance gets me every time. Will I ever be able to practically apply my beliefs to my life?!

Testing. . . Testing. . .

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Born-Again blogger here. Just trying it out. Boring job = free time and I’m hoping that honing my writing skills will pass some of the mind numbing hours of meaningless work. I’m reasonably certian this blog will be a mere drop in the vast ocean that is the blogosphere. I’m just looking for an outlet for my radical thoughts & opinions (Since I don’t actually know anyone who cares much about my hippy, eco, liberal ranting.)