Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Post 2011: Traditions and basics

I continue my semi-serious series of holiday posts for 2011. Today I am looking at some of the traditions and basics related to Christmas and the holiday season in general. These are mostly links to things I find amusing or a little thought provoking that relate to the season and its traditions.

Some thoughts on the so-called War on Christmas

This has become a theme in recent years, thanks in large part to loudmouthed right wing conservatives who like to wear their religion on their sleeves and play the victim card during the holidays. The fact that Fox News keeps enabling this nonsense does not help neither.
  • John Scalzi offers some interesting and thought provoking commentary in his post "Reminder: Tis the Season Not to be an Ass." I do agree with most of what he says, but I still think he may be a bit too passive. Let's be honest, given how some of those religious conservatives behave to those who may choose a different tradition, or none at all, once in a while, saying “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass" may be in order. They sure as hell do it to us, so I say turnaround is only fair. Personally, I would wish everyone would be civilized, but there are few moments when one has to stand up and fight fire with fire. These fake War on Christmas Christians (TM) behave like bullies, and bullies only learn when you toss it right back at them. At any rate, the post is worth reading because at the end of the day the season is more than just both sides behaving, well, like asses.  In the end, I live by a very simple philosophy, live and let live.
  • Via the Texas Freedom Network, a look at "The Right's 'Plastic Indignation' over Christmas."  The whole thing is worth reading, but here is a choice quote: "To say that Christians, particularly the conservative, evangelical, Republican kind, are oppressed is to insinuate that the Dallas Cowboys play in a cardboard shack."
  • This year, unfortunately, we are headed into an election year, and the campaigning has started early. Not even Santa is safe. The War on Christmas means that new candidates are rising to replace the jolly incumbent of the North Pole. Found at AdWeek, the video pokes good fun at both the War on Christmas and those pesky election ads. 

The Christmas Tree and the Ornaments
  • Via Christmas Tree Market, here is a very nice infographic with a visual history of the Christmas tree
  • Christmas lights are an important part of the season. Not only do we decorate the tree with lights, a lot of people often put a lot of work to put up lights on their houses. You have to buy them someplace. Via Retail Hell Underground, here is a vintage ad for Gay Christmas Lights.
  • You have to put ornaments on the Christmas tree. Most people go with those cute balls, or maybe they buy something fancy from Hallmark. But why do with the usual when you can put one of these "Monstrous Christmas Tree Ornaments"? Via Dangerous Minds
  • Want more offbeat ornaments? Topless Robot presents "10 More Nerdy, Shameless Christmas Ornaments."  
  • And even more tree ornaments. Now, these are "21 Upsetting Christmas Tree Ornaments." From really tacky to a little risque to just plain wrong, odds are good there is something here that will piss someone off. And what better way to have a holiday gathering than these conversation starters that have the potential to stir even more drama?  Actually, there are one or two I would not mind putting on our tree. Via BuzzFeed.
  • How about decorating your cubicle or office? The Shoplet blog has some ideas for "a Cubicle Christmas."  All you need are some supplies and a little imagination.
  • Duck tape (or duct tape) is pretty much something that works for just about anything. It is a versatile staple. You can even use it to make a tape wreath and a Christmas tree. Via Shoplet blog. 
  • You know that somebody will burn down a Christmas tree, by accident or ignorance or neglect. There will likely be at least one news story related to someone who overloaded the electrical outlets or put a flame near a tree, resulting in some home burning down. Don't be that dumbass. Make sure things are safe. It is why we get to see some of those PSA's (public service announcements) about Christmas tree safety. Here is a sampling of those ads. Yes, they can be funny, but there is a serious point to be made.  Via The Daily Beast.
  • More tree safety advice, this time from Reader's Digest.
The Big Man, a.k.a. Santa Claus

An item or two about the jolly fellow in the red suit.

    The Music

    Yes, music is an important part of the holiday season.

    • Dangerous Minds shares an alternative music mix suggestion. The actual music list, by dj, writer and Voodoo practitioner Stephen Grasso, can be found here: "A Voodoo Christmas in South Northwood." Hey, a list that features Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera can't be bad. 
    • Now if you prefer more traditional music, here are "the 19 Best Secular Christmas Songs." We are talking Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Eartha Kitt. Via BuzzFeed
    • Getting a little chilly? The Calgary Philharmonic Chorus offers some tips on staying warm. Via BuzzFeed
    • Via, here are "Five Christmas Songs That Don't Suck." They also include a nice Spotify song list.  Besides, I am sure some folks out there have had the same thought the folks at have had: "Christmas music is absurd. What if every holiday was celebrated with music dedicated to it that began a month in advance, played in all major stores and public places?" Yes, we get the bombardment nice and early, and it keeps getting worse. So, listen to something different for a change. 

    Greeting Cards

    I hope everyone got their holiday greeting cards out by now.

    The Parties and gatherings

    • For many people, getting invited to Christmas parties is a big deal or at least a common occurrence. I would not know as I am not that popular, haha. Now, you may get invited to an event that you do not really share. By this I mean, you could get invited to a Christmas party with a lot of religious Christian elements, and you don't believe in nor celebrate Christmas (you celebrate something else, celebrate Christmas in a more secular way, or nothing at all). Yet, you feel the polite need to attend. I don't think this gets considered very often, so I found this advice on "How to Attend a Holiday Party When the Holiday's Not Yours" helpful. Via Jezebel
    • Are you going to an office or workplace party? Via Grub Street, "how drunk can you get at your office Christmas party?" This is applicable to place where the workplace may be cool enough to actually have some alcohol on premises.  In other words, not applicable to my workplace. 
    • This is not really a Christmas piece, but I think it is worth a look. Whether you are eating out or at home, table manners are important. Here are some reminders on "How to Be Polite at the Table" from Reader's Digest
    Food and drinks

    Whether you go to a party, host one yourself, or are just going to spend some quiet time at home, odds are good there will be some good food and drinks. Here are some ideas and things of interest related to eating and drinking. Remember that if you choose to drink alcohol, please do so in moderation.

    • The Intoxicated Zodiac blog has some offerings of cocktail recipes for the 12 days of Christmas based on your zodiac sign. I have to admit this is an interesting and different take on the usual holiday cocktails. The Capricorn cocktail (my sign) does seem a bit heavy on the sweetness (it uses molasses), but hey, I am willing to try anything once. The Better Half is a Libra, and her cocktail does look perfect. 
    • offers some cocktail suggestions and some links for various cookie and treat recipes. Hey, you need to have something to go with those drinks.  They also offer some helpful tips for making eggnog.
    • Drinkhacker offers some rum recipes, including a recipe for Coquito, which they label as the "Puerto Rican eggnog." I suppose that is a close description. If you have never tried coquito, find a Puerto Rican friend to make you some, or try the recipe provided. You probably want to be a bit more generous with the rum than the recipe calls for, especially if you are serving it to Puerto Rican friends. We like our coquito very loaded. 
    • Here is a recipe if you wish to make prime rib for the holiday dinner. However, it does come from Holy Taco, so naturally, it also goes over how the dinner scene itself might go.  You know this is not the usual recipe when one of the ingredients includes "an almost inhuman level of tolerance for your family’s inane bullshit." Sounds like Christmas gathering at some folks' homes I know.
    Reflection and thought(fulness)

    The holiday season is one that invites reflection. Whether you are religious or secular, this time of year is often one that invites people to take stock of the past year and reflect on what may come ahead. Also, this is a time of year to be thoughtful of others.

    • Via the Anecdote blog, "May your Festive Season Be Filled With Stories." Here are some small questions and prompts to help you out a bit as your reflect. There is some stuff here for Christmas and some for the New Year's celebration. 
    • This I found interesting, and I hope it may be useful to some folks if they face this situation. From Salon, "How to talk to someone with cancer." I think much of the advice is very good when dealing with any terminal or grave disease or health condition situation.  
    • The holidays can be a time of stress, and there can be unique sitations. Reader's Digest has some "Commonsense Advice for the Holidays." Some very curious situations here with suggestions on how to be thoughtful and considerate. 
    Other Traditions and Items of Interest

    Yes, Virginia, there are other celebrations going on during this time of year besides the predominant Christmas as envisioned by the Christians (who to be honest, stole it from the pagans anyhow). In addition, I am putting here anything else that does not fit in the categories above.
    • As of this writing, our Jewish friends are in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, sometimes also spelled out as Chanukah. Here is a "Gentile's Guide to Chanukah" so you can get a basic idea of what that holiday means and its significance. It's a bit serious and a bit light in the tone, but it does get the basic information across. Via Addicting Info
    • A bit more on Hanukkah. Mental Floss blog answers the question "Why do Jews Eat Potato Pancakes During Hanukkah?" Recipe is also included.
    • Even more on Hanukkah, some gentle reminders for everyone else, from Reader's Digest. For example, please do not call it "the Jewish Christmas."
    • has a feature with various holiday tips from flying and going through airport security to healthy eating to dealing with your holiday lights.  A hat tip to Lori's blog.
    • Most if not all college students are gone by now for the holiday break. Hopefully, they remembered to winterize their lives before they left. This article offers some reminders and tips of things to do before leaving campus. Very useful advice. Via Inside Higher Ed.
    • And this is from last year, but it is still cute. What if Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men all had online social media? Video from YouTube
    • I thought this was interesting and worth a look. A radical homemaker reclaims Christmas.  So, is her family and her a pain in the ass (using her own words) or is this kind of more aware observance something viable others may consider? I will let my three readers decide. Via Yes Magazine
    • Many of our African American friends will be celebrating Kwanzaa during this time. Learn a bit more with this primer. Via BeliefNet
    • Our Pagan friends may be celebrating Yule, a.k.a. the Winter Solstice. I have to admit that finding some information on this to share with my readers was not easy. Search engines, particularly Google, show a slight (ok, more than slight) prejudice and tend to present more negative pieces about Pagans (the "expose," why Paganism is bad, Christianity is good variety of nonsense). But I have a few things to help folks learn a bit more about what our Pagan friends are up to this time of year. In addition to looking in BeliefNet, learn a bit about Winter Solstice here at Circle Sanctuary. And here is another article from By the way, please keep in mind Paganism does take various forms, Wicca practice being one of those forms (though depending who you ask, Wiccans may say they are different from pagans. Pagans overall are a very diverse group). Now, being a pagan at this time of year, especially in the U.S., where Christmas (the Christian version or the secular version) are so predominant can be hard on our Pagan friends. To help them out, here is a small guide from WikiHow on "How to Celebrate Holidays as a Pagan Around Non Pagans." The article has some useful, practical advice.
    • Here we have "109 Cats Celebrating Christmas." Why? Hey, anything gets cuter if you put cats in it, regardless of where you stand on people dressing up their pets. Via BuzzFeed. The photo I used for this post comes from this gallery. 
    Regardless of what form your celebration takes, I would like to take this moment to wish friends and family, near and far, a happy and safe holiday. Whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Festivus (which is today), or just mellowing out with some eggnog and Christmas music, may you have some peace and rest. 

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