2004 December 30

Boule de neige et jour de l'an et bonne année grandmère

I like Christmas. People always grumble about it and I can sort of understand the impulse; it's so frigging omnipresent for what seems like a quarter of the year and no one likes feeling like they have no choice in the matter. But people say things like "Merry Largely Secular Commercial Holiday Forced Down The Throats of Non-Christians, everyone!" And that's not just killjoying, but deeply confused. (And my apologies to the person who said this particular line, who I'm about to dump on as if he was the only culprit. I'm not going to name him because I'm really not trying to start an argument; the line just perfectly encapsulated the anti-Christmas spirit I want to rant agin.)

Retailers indisputably make a godawful excessive deal out if it, but fuck them. They're parasites -- you can't let them spoil the fun. Ignoring media shit is a basic modern survival skill. But complaing that a holiday is both "largely secular" and "forced upon non-Christians" is just non-sensical. If you're not a Christian, what are you doing complaining there's not enough Jesus in your Christmas? Apart from not listening to your own snark, that is.

I'm an atheist, and as far as I'm concerned Christmas is a perfectly excellent secular holiday. Everyone gets time off work, you can gather the whole family in one place, and people put up thousands of lights at the darkest time of the year. Every year I fly home before Christmas, and every year the flight is overbooked. The airlines keep thinking someone is going to fail to show up so they can get away with selling the same seats twice, but Nova Scotians are going home for their holiday. This year Delta was offering $200 to anyone willing to postpone to take a flight the next day. They announced it every five minutes; no one wanted it. This was only the 21st. How can you not love a holiday like that?

Also, presents. I love everything about presents -- thinking them up, buying them, wrapping them, giving them, and opening my own. They're magical. I'm not so good at telling people they matter to me; it's good for me to have an opportunity and a prompting to do it.

Look, the midwinter festival really is not a Christian holiday. It's a down time of the year, and people have been filling it with party since the dawn of history: Yule, Saturnalia, the Feast of Mithras. I'm with Ken Layne: "The reason for the season is the season is the reason." You don't have to be Christian to get a little drunk and wish your neighbours peace on Earth and goodwill to men.

This year's favourite fun fact: jolly old St. Nicholas of Myra is patron saint of thieves, pawnbrokers, prostitutes, and New York City. This all makes Santacon seem much more devout.

Meanwhile, the new year is upon us, which means it's time to use a bit of that Christmas cheer and end-of-tax-year accounting to go make some charitable donations. Every respectable charity these days takes credit cards online -- it couldn't be easier, it feels good, and it makes you a better person.

I'm serious. I have miserly instincts; some training in generosity is good for my soul. Aiming to donate 5% of my after-tax income seems like a worthwhile goal to me; some years I've done it. Lately I've gotten erratic, so this afternoon I've "borrowed" some time from my employer to get it sorted out. (It's not like I was going to get much work done today anyway. :-)

Charities I like: Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Rescue Committee will do some good for the devastated towns of the Indian Ocean. Also, The Nature Conservancy. Human Rights Watch. TechnoServe. FINCA. Environmental Defense. The Trust for Public Land. Accion International. But if you don't share my international-development-heavy agenda, the American Institute for Philanthropy and Charity Navigator have lots of other recommendations for you.

Be a philanthropist. It's cool.

Happy New Year!


Hee hee. I adore Mithras. He's one of my icons.

Also, props to Technoserve and Doctors without Borders. And international development! Yay! (It's like a present for everybody. :)

Posted by: ukelele on December 30, 2004 07:05 PM
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