Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Tradition and Lore.

So it's Christmas Eve once again. The streets are packed with men doing their last minute shopping. People are combing their rolodexes, and trying to figure out who they have forgotten (ok... I know there's no such thing as a rolodex anymore). All the shopkeepers are analyzing their receipts, and deciding whether or not they have made their nut for the year. The suburban tract houses are bathed in light, generated with the excess of energy resources that the nation fights for. The children are anticipating all the brand new shit that they have been taught to expect as their entitlement in our consumerist society. The radio airwaves are filled with songs delivering their subliminal messages of good cheer. And meanwhile the Christian Conservatives are trying to keep the "Christ" in Christmas while the nation's bilingual inhabitants realize that it is the "mas" that truly dominates this time of year. Will all our material dreams be fulfilled?

I know that for many people this is simply a time to reconnect with family and friends, and I am sincere in my apreciation of that sweetness. There are the traditions that have built over years. Many will attend midnight services in observation of their tenuous connection to their God. Sweethearts will exhange a single gift tonight, which will serve as the appetizer for the exchange tomorrow. Somewhere someone will sink into their sofa and watch Alaister Sim's "A Christmas Carol" with their loved ones. I'll be eating at the in-laws, and looking forward to the back-stabbing maneuvers of the annual gift exchange. Someone is going home with a three-foot tall stuffed Italian chef that sings... "When-a the moon hits-a the sky like a big pizza pie.." , while others will be psyched to walk out with a gift card. It's all sweetness and light.

But at the same time I can't help stopping to ponder the meaning of the mythology and lore that is the reason for this holiday. (NOTE** If you are a true believer- I would appreciate it if you just skipped the rest of this entry... the following is NOT for you. I mean it. Come back tomorrow please.) We are told that it all started under a bright star in a barn stall. Immediately we suspect the pagan roots that underlie this tale. Three wise men of ancient religions travelfrom afar to bless this birth. Mary is giving birth to the Messiah. I'm wondering what her mate Joseph was thinking as this was happening. He's going over dates in his mind, and trying to remember what he and Mary were up to approximately nine months previous. Wasn't he away on a fishing trip? Hmmm. Does he have any inkling that he is to become the most famous cuckold in Western culture?

And what's going through Mary's mind? She's been visited by an apparition, and informed that she is carrying within her God's offspring. For awhile she must doubt her own sanity. But then, inexplicably, she stops getting her period and her belly begins to swell. Does she remember the conception... the "immaculate" conception? Today our courts would have something to say about the bastard child growing inside her. There's absolutely no informed consent in her impregnation. She wasn't given a choice. How does she explain it to Joseph? Does she lie about it? Does Joseph want her to abort the fetus? Of course we assume that if she believes that it's the result of God's seed, then she's going to feel an obligation to see the thing through. It's incalculably more impressive then having Mick Jagger's baby... even the swaggering and cocky 20-year old version. Perhaps she should consider it an honor. But what example does this give young Christian men who strive to be godly?

Of course Mary will come to feel quite a lot for her kid. And Joseph seems to become resigned to his fate. We know that the Holy Mother weeps when the child's Father (who truth be told was largely an absentee parent for most of Jesus' life) decides to make him a martyr. Somehow she has to suppress her maternal instincts and give up her son forever. It sounds like a bad deal all around. But who is she to question divinity? She's just a woman, with a subservient role in the entire story... a mere means to an end. Two thousand years hence this little illegitimate whelp, conceived through some mystical but adulterous affair, will be celebrated as the King of Kings.

And this is a very important day in strip malls across the country.

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