“It’s the Thought That Counts”

downloadOkay, I hate to be that person right after Christmas, but I was just thinking about this today.

It’s too late for it to be useful this year, but maybe this will save someone from the dreaded ugly sweater/gift card to some place random/weird re-gift present next year.

(In case my mom is reading this: Mom, this isn’t passive aggressive. You, as always, knocked it out of the park on Christmas presents this year! I mean I told you not to get me anything and you still got a bunch of stuff, so consider your present duty over for the next year. Birthday presents? What are those?)

When someone gets you a crappy present the usually thought process is “Well…it’s the thought that counts” but honestly unless the person is a slightly senile family member or a co-worker who barely knows you or a small child, the fact that they got you a crappy gift says a lot about how much their thoughts count.

I put a LOT of thought into gifts.

For my mom’s birthday I planned for nearly 6 months what I was going to get her.

I fly by the seat of my pants a little more for Christmas, but I never get something for someone that they don’t need/want. What would be the point?

So, sure, it’s the thought that counts.

If that thought clearly says “I forgot you existed” or “I grabbed the first thing in the bargain bin” or “I bought you a Fry’s gift card when I was grabbing a bottle of wine on my way to Christmas dinner” then that says a lot about the person.

So don’t be the person who thought basically tells someone that they weren’t worth your time.

If all else fails, visa sells gift cards that can be used anywhere.

No one wants a gift card from the grocery store.

Just a little advice for next Christmas.

Does It Really Matter How The Salvation Army Feels About Gay People?

New_Angel_Tree_Logo_DMG

New_Angel_Tree_Logo_DMGWhen I was young I used to get my parents to give me money so I could buy gifts for a child off the Salvation Army Angel Tree at the mall in my town (yes, there was only one mall where I grew up, insane right?) and then when I got older and had a job and my own money, I did the same thing.

Then something went a little screwy and became a crazy of the “liberal lesbian” kind and went on a hardcore rampage against the Salvation Army because they aren’t all sweetness and light and fluffy bunnies when it comes to how they sometimes talk about gay people.

So I stopped giving money to the Santa’s outside stores…and I stopped participating in the Angel Tree.

It wasn’t until several years later that I realized how absolutely terrible I was being.

I still don’t put money in the pot for Salvation Army, but that’s more because I want to control where my money is going when I give Christmas Charity.

That Angel Tree is an entirely different story though.

There should never be an Angel left on those trees come Christmas Eve, because no matter how you feel about the Salvation Army’s opinion on gay people, those children didn’t do anything to deserve your disdain or punishment, just because they are getting their gifts delivered by the Salvation Army on Christmas.

So no, it doesn’t really matter to me what the Salvation Army thinks of my sexuality. What matters to me are those kids.

It’s Christmas.

That’s what should matter to you too.

It’s Christmas. Please don’t be petty.

December 1st: Brace Yourself, Christmas is Coming

Brace-yourselves-ChristmasI haven’t bought anyone any presents yet.

That’s mostly because I’m broke, but also because I like to horribly procrastinate until the last minute before I start having a panic attack and rushing all over town to find the right gifts for people.

I’m a bit of a masochist at heart.

I’m also a huge fan of Christmas.

I told my mom this morning (while making biscuits and discussing making gingerbread) that if you can’t be cheesy and schmaltzy around Christmas time, then when can you be?

So we pour on the sentimental cheesiness during the holiday season. Christmas music everywhere, gobs of decorations at home and at work, Christmas trees and pretty wrapped packages, and hopefully a chance to give to charity a few times.

Christmas isn’t just a holiday or a season, it’s a mood and a state of being.

And yeah, that’s pretty schmaltzy.

Go ahead and laugh.

In the spirit of Christmas I won’t punish you by withholding sugar cookies.

Here’s a couple of Christmas songs by Pentatonix, you should buy the whole album.

Making Mountains Out of Molehills: Bibles labeled “Fiction” and Christmas Celebrations

Photo via St. Louis CBS from Mary Margaret Meyers-Walker

Photo via St. Louis CBS from Mary Margaret Meyers-Walker

There’s a table of beautiful bound books at Barnes and Noble. They are all “classics” (which means whoever made them thinks that people will spend more money for a pretty hardback cover) and I have bought a couple of them. I bought the Grimm’s Fairy Tale collection for my sister one Christmas and I got myself the collected Sherlock Holmes stories (though I already had 2 other copies…I may have a Sherlock Holmes obsession) a couple of years ago.

On the Barnes and Noble webpage they are referred to as the Leathebound Classics series.

I, and my friend Conservative New Ager, sometimes laugh over the choices that someone made on what books to offer in this series. How many people really want a leather bound copy of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, or Gray’s Anatomy.*

One of the books offered is the King James Version Bible. The cover is sort of pretty, but since I look with ultimate disdain upon the KJV translation I would never buy it.

Continue reading

While We Were Celebrating

Far be it for me to take away from the joy of Christmas.

I love Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday of the year.

Christmas Eve we open presents, Christmas Day we get gifts from Santa and cook enough food to feed a small army.

But while we are celebrating and arguing with our relatives over politics (don’t deny it, the number of hits this blog got and the google searches that led you here gave you away) the news cycle keeps going and some big stories broke and some merely heartbreaking ones.

The Big

Midnight Mass at a church in northern Nigeria was interrupted by a group of Islamists who shot and killed six Christians before torching the church. So very non-violent.

A “newspaper” in New York  has apparently published the names and addresses of every person in New York  who has a concealed carry permit. The people who should be REALLY pissed right now are those who AREN’T on the list, because this is basically a guide to all burglars on what houses to NOT rob. Thank LoHud.com for suddenly increasing the likelihood that you will be robbed if you don’t have a concealed carry permit. *thumbs up* Not really sure what they were trying to accomplish here, but I’m pretty sure whatever it is, they failed at it.

Chicago, one of the bastions of strict gun control, suffered a rash of shootings on Christmas Eve. Yes, there is something wrong with our society and gun control isn’t going to help that.

DC police are investigating David Gregory of Meet the Press for possibly violating part of DC gun control laws. Whoops. I guess you CAN still buy assault weapon magazines regardless of gun control.

Hamas is planning to break that pesky ceasefire thing with a resumption of suicide bombings in Israel. Merry Christmas!

President Obama is still in Hawaii. 

Bushehr Nuclear Plant, in Iran, is paying the Russian women working their to put on a Hijab. I guess the men can’t get anything done with those women’s hair and forearms distracting them. I know I just lose all focus when I see some pretty forearms. Drives me wild. Iran is, apparently, perplexed that Russian women aren’t keen on doing this, despite the extra pay.

Netflix went down on Christmas Eve, which caused understandable outrage. I would be mad too if I was trying to avoid my relatives by watching old episodes of Seinfeld and then I had no Netflix to use as an excuse to avoid family gatherings.

In China a man rammed a car loaded with a gas tank and firecrackers into a crowd of middle school kids, injuring 13. I guess we need to ban cars, gas cans, and firecrackers, as well as guns. Damn, that’s basically 4th of July weekend for my family.

Feminists might want to take a look at Swaziland. The king (who had 13 wives) has banned miniskirts, low slung jeans, and tank tops because they make it easier for a women to be raped.

The Heartbreaking

In Britain, Children are asking Santa for a dad.

And one child called in to NORAD asking if Santa could bring extra presents so they could give them to the family’s who lost family in Newtown.

These stories actually made me cry, I’m not kidding here. Not as hard as I cried at Les Miserables, but there was sniffling and tears.

____

So that’s what happened while were celebrating our Christmas.

Let’s keep fighting for our freedom and our values in the coming year.

Spoiler alert: Don’t Read This if You Believe in Santa Claus (AKA if you are a member of American Atheists, turn around now)

Apparently Santa is real…or atheists are just confused and trying to be witty.

I wasn’t home last night, and even when I am I rarely turn on Fox News for anything other than The Five or Red Eye, but when I got in it was to hear from my dad that Hannity had been talking to the President of American Atheists on his show, about a billboard they have put in in Times Square.

Thanks to The Blaze for putting up this photo.
Credit goes to American Atheists for the photo itself.

Apparently atheists are operating under the idea that Santa is a real person or something.

Technically I suppose they were trying to be witty and reference how the secular trappings of Christmas are a-okay with them, but cut out the religion right this very minute because they can’t stand one myth being talked about…but the other myth of the jolly fat man in a red suit is perfectly fine.

Can we just take a moment to recognize how utterly ridiculous this is?

No really, does American Atheist understand how stupid they are for implying that only one of those images is a myth?

Santa and Rudolph and the sleigh with all the toys are a myth. They know that right?

Last year I wrote a post about Nativity scenes on public property and this was part of it.

So why is it that a holiday that is based on some fictional account of a baby being born in a barn, is so offensive to an Athiest or Liberal’s sensibilities?

I know that Star Wars is just a story, completely fictional. However there is an entire religion based on The Force. There are huge groups of a devoted fan base that worship The Force and even those that don’t follow the religion still collect relics, dress in odd clothing, and attend huge gatherings to, essentially, worship the films. Do I ask that Star Wars conventions be shut down? No, absolutely not, because while I’m not a Star Wars fan (I’m a Trekkie okay) I know that it’s just a story, that some people enjoy and maybe put a little too much of their lives into.

So if I don’t demand that Star Wars conventions be shut down (which are both more physically and olfactory offensive than Christmas and probably much less healthy for the convention attendees) why is it that a bunch of plaster fictional characters on a lawn can invoke such irrationality?

Atheists reject one myth, because it’s more popular or believed by more people, but completely accept another myth as socially and politically acceptable in the public forum, simply because they believe it’s secular.

I have news for you. Nothing about Christmas, from it’s name right down to the elements of the celebration, is based on secular ideas.

Okay, possibly Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph are purely secular and capitalistic creations, but the core traditions are religious, whether they are Christian or not.

Let’s break this down shall we. What are some of the key ‘secular’ parts of Christmas.

Christmas Trees: Extreme pagan and Christian religious symbolism.

The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.

The modern Christmas tree, though, originated in western Germany. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a “paradise tree,” a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of  Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes.

- Encyclopedia Britannica

Lights: Lights on the tree and elsewhere came from a Christian practice, as well as pagan practices.

Candles, symbolic of Christ, were often added [to the Christmas tree].

- Encyclopedia Britannica

The Celtic fire festival of Yule was a time of renewal and rebirth, celebrated by lighting fires to welcome back the lengthening days. The remnants of this practice may be found in the charming tradition of the Yule log, still enjoyed by many people at Christmas even today.

The lighting of candles and modern Christmas lights is also a relic of this ancient need to bring light to the darkest time of the year, and even in this era of electric lights that dispel the gloom all year round, many people still enjoy the warming feeling of seeing a beautifully lit tree or an array of lighted candles.

Decorations

The circle of the Yule or Christmas wreath represents the pagan “Wheel of the Year” or “Circle of Life” that marks the annual changes in the seasons at the Festivals celebrated at the solstices and equinoxes.

The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of  Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes.

Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick: Literally a Catholic saint and the basis for the modern Santa Claus that was so wittily placed on a billboard mocking Christianity. Brilliant move American Atheists!

Santa Claus, legendary figure who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other countries, bringing gifts to children. His popular image is based on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint. Father Christmas fills the role in many European countries.

- Encyclopedia Britannica

Giving gifts:

“The giving of presents at the midwinter feast almost certainly began as a magical more than as merely a social custom. Saturnalia presents included wax dolls, given to children. A charming custom, no doubt, by times of record, but with a macabre past: even contemporaries thought this probably a vestige of human sacrifice, of children, to aid the sowing.”

- History Today

We have many recorded events in history that show the giving and receiving of gifts dates back at least to the 4th century. St. Nicholas, a Christian Bishop, was known for his generosity in giving to those less fortunate than he, as well as giving to children of all backgrounds simply because he felt they needed to savor their childrood, and have joyous times to remember.

- Wiki Answers

These really aren’t that secular after all then. So I guess what your real problem is, is that Christianity is involved (in which case, no Santa for you either, he’s a Catholic Saint).

If you have a problem with religion in general, then keep in mind that those lights you are hanging, that tree you are decorating while singing secular x-mas carols, and those gifts you are giving out, all have religious connotations.

So you should probably ask your job if you can come in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, to let other non-Scrooges enjoy a day with their family, since you can’t stand any religions at all. Since you totally reject all religions that believe in “magical sky daddy’s” or whatever mocking phrase atheists are referring to god by these days.

24 days of Christmas Music

http://onmilwaukee.com/images/articles/yu/yuleradio2010/yuleradio2010_fullsize_story1.jpg

 

Last year I did 24 posts, leading up to Christmas, on Christmas music.*

Here are the links for you to peruse.**

#24 Christmas songs that aren’t really about Christmas.

#23 Have a Weird Christmas

#22 Broadway Christmas… *jazz hands*…oh, shut up.

#21 Twelve Day of Christmas

#20 Christmas songs that make us laugh.

#18 Bah Humbug!

#17 Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

#16 Jingle Jingle

#15 Pine Needles and Pretty Pretty Lights

#14 Songs about something I have to drive 2 hours to see…Snow.

#13 Christmas songs that I feel are vaguely creepy

#12 Celtic Christmas

#11 Sixpence Christmas

#10 We Three Kings

#9 Christmas Romance

#8 Religious Christmas Songs

#7 Bright Eyes Christmas

#6 Hollywood Christmas

#5 – #9 and #8 of my absolute favorite Christmas songs (in no particular order)

#4 – #7 and #6 of my absolute favorite Christmas songs.

#3 – #5 and #4 of my absolute favorite Christmas songs.

 

*This is a purely subjective list, Conservative New Ager.

**Let me know if any links aren’t working!

 

and CALL OFF CHRISTMAS!!!

Robin Hood is a heroic story of conservative principles, I’ve said that before on this blog.

Now the only real bright point of that Kevin Costner film that clip above is from is Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Especially his death scene.* It’s a crappy movie, but if you don’t judge my brain candy, I won’t judge you for that time you watched Jersey Shore.

The quality of the movie, or lack there of, isn’t the point of this post though.

You see, the Obama administration has effectively placed themselves as the Sheriff of Nottingham in America’s little version of Robin Hood.

They even threatened Christmas! What kind of monster does that?!

In a Monday report, the White House warned that failure to resolve the impasse over a tax and deficit deal could undermine consumer confidence this holiday season.

A new report from the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers timed to the online shopping holiday “cyber Monday” estimated that consumers could spend close to $200 billion less, while GDP growth could slow by 1.4 percentage points in 2013.

The report also warns that the psychological impact of a looming middle class tax hike could put a huge dent in retail sales over the holidays — traditionally the most important retail period of the year.

“Consumer confidence over the next several weeks is particularly important,” the report warns. “If Congress does not act on the president’s plan to extend tax cuts for the middle-class, it will be risking one of the key contributors to growth and jobs in our economy at the most important time of the year for retail stores.”

- Politico

As Doug Powers said in his article on MichelleMalkin.com: Raise taxes on the rich or Christmas gets it!

The funny thing about this is that the article was published on Politico on the 26th, but on the 25th Politico reported that there was a “Record start for holiday season”.

It’s estimated that U.S. shoppers hit stores and websites at record numbers over  the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey released by the  National Retail Federation on Sunday.

All told, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the  four-day weekend starting Thanksgiving, up 9.2 percent of last year, according  to a survey of 4,000 shoppers that was conducted by research firm BIGinsight for  the trade group. Americans spent more too: The average holiday shopper spent  $423 over the entire weekend, up from $398. Total spending over the four-day  weekend totaled $59.1 billion, up 12.8 percent from 2011.

- Politico

Hmm…so which is it Obama? Is the looming fiscal cliff really going to effect consumers that much? Because it seems like it isn’t doing much at all.

I argue that is because the majority of American’s are morons, I’m certianly not out spending tons of money this Holiday season, but then again my argument is confirmed by Obama winning the election.

People are idiots and sales will continue to pull them in. They are spending MORE now than they were in years previous, which means your little threats that Christmas will be ruined if we don’t let you raise taxes, we’re not buying it Scrooge.

Stop threatening to call of Christmas and do your damn job.

I’m on Robin Hood’s side here. If you are going to raise my taxes, I’m probably not going to be spending much at all. You can’t spend my money better than I can, especially not in the Holiday season. A welfare check doesn’t mean quite as much as buying my sister that new Taylor Swift songbook** and it doesn’t look as nice when wrapped up under the tree.

______________________________________________________________________

*Because if there is one thing Alan Rickman is fantastic at, it’s overblown death scenes.

**Here’s hoping she doesn’t read this blog.

Christmas, Nativity Scenes, Federal Holidays, and the First Amendment…oh my.

Ah Christmas, the time for family to gather together and…get into arguments about whether Nativity scenes can be placed on public property?

What? You’re family doesn’t do that? Mine does, or at least my brother and I do…sometimes my parents come along for the ride, but my brother and I are the most vocal about it and it doesn’t look like either of our opinions are going to change any time soon.

However our argument made me think about something and so I decided to devote and entire post to discussing just what I put in the title.*

I certainly don’t claim that Christmas doesn’t mean different things to different people and, as this is a free country, you may celebrate the winter holidays in any way that you choose. You may even call it Christmas and be completely secular and atheist.

That, however, is not what this post is about. This is about legal definitions and whether Nativity scenes on public property, such as a courthouse, is legal according to the First Amendment.

The United States of America there are 11 Federal Holidays, usually these are a chance for businesses to close, banks to shut down, and for people to have a day off…or to get paid time and a half if they do work.

Most of these, such as President’s Day and the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day, are completely secular and related to historical or political or cultural norms.

However there is one very different holiday on the Federal books.

Christmas.

What is Christmas?

Well here are a few definitions.

A Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday

- Webster’s Dictionary

Christmas, Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.” Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.

- Encyclopedia Britannica

Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, literally “Christ’s mass”) is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ,[5][6] celebrated generally on December 25[2][3][4] as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.[7] Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations,[8][9][10] is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians,[1][11][12] and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

- Wikipedia

Two of these 3 definitions do address what I mentioned earlier, that any number of secular of pagan traditions have become part of the traditional celebration of Christmas and many secular and non-Christian people still celebrate “Christmas” as a gift giving holiday in mid-winter, however all three have something in common.

All three note that the origin of the Christmas holiday is Christian in origin and it is a religious celebration at it’s core. I, as a non-Christian though not an atheist, have no problem with this. I listen to religious Christmas carols and listen to the story of the Nativity every year before I open presents with my family. These aspects are not particularly important to my enjoyment (well the carols are, I prefer them to most secular carols), but they certainly don’t offend me or make me feel marginalized or an outsider in my own family. It’s part of Christmas, always has been, always will be. If I chose to celebrate solstice the situation would be different, but I don’t, I choose to celebrate the Federal and religious holiday that is Christmas.

Now that we have established the Christmas is both a Federal and religious holiday, we can talk about how ridiculous it is for people to demand that nativity scenes be removed from Public Property.

First, as Pat Condell said, it does not actually physically or emotionally harm anyone to see a Nativity scene. If it does cause you emotional harm…well I hate to be rude, but stop being a wimp and grow the fuck up. It’s a plaster and plastic cast of shepherds, sheep, Wisemen, parents, and a baby in a manger. Even if certain church or denomination has hurt you grievously in the past and caused to irreparable emotional scarring, I highly doubt the nativity is going to be the object that brings back debilitating flashbacks of horror.

Second, should there be secular displays and displays of other religions as well as the Nativity? If the display is maintained by a public organization, such as the city or state government, then absolutely. If taxes are going to maintain it, then we should put up displays that show the belief systems of the other holidays that are celebrated at this time of the year. This is not because those are Federal holidays, which Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Solstice are not, but because we are a country that has many diverse religions and traditions and we should show that proudly. However, if the display is paid for and maintained by a private entity, which many are even when they are placed on public property, then that entity is under no obligation to put up other displays to represent any other faith.

Third, is it a violation of church and state? No, it is not. ‘Huh?’ you say, ‘but isn’t a Nativity scene favoring one religion over another?’ Well, yes, I guess you can put it that way, if the only display is the Nativity. However it isn’t really, because it is a Christmas decoration and Christmas is the Federal Holiday so the display is honoring a specific holiday. The Nativity is just as much a Christmas decoration as a Jolly Old Saint Nick or a Red Nosed Reindeer and tiny little elves and snow flakes.

The actual question you should be asking is. Is Christmas as a federal holiday a violation of church state separation? Possibly, but do you really want to take Christmas out as a Holiday? Is it really hurting you so much to be surrounded by holiday cheer and Angels singing on high and peace on earth, goodwill toward men? If so, then I have one thing to say to you. Hello there, Scrooge, I hope you get a few visits from some ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Fourth. I know quite a few atheists, or did once upon a time when I considered myself an atheist as well. Now I basically just know my brother. However one of the key things that I heard a lot of things about how the Bible was really just a fictional story that (depending on the person) was very poorly written, very well written, interesting, boring, morally reprehensible, had a few good things to teach about morality. Just a story. So why is it that a holiday that is based on some fictional account of a baby being born in a barn, is so offensive to an Athiest or Liberal’s sensibilities?

I know that Star Wars is just a story, completely fictional. However there is an entire religion based on The Force. There are huge groups of a devoted fan base that worship The Force and even those that don’t follow the religion still collect relics, dress in odd clothing, and attend huge gatherings to, essentially, worship the films. Do I ask that Star Wars conventions be shut down? No, absolutely not, because while I’m not a Star Wars fan (I’m a Trekky okay) I know that it’s just a story, that some people enjoy and maybe put a little too much of their lives into.

So if I don’t demand that Star Wars conventions be shut down (which are both more physically and olfactory offensive than Christmas and probably much less healthy for the convention attendees) why is it that a bunch of plaster fictional characters on a lawn can invoke such irrationality?

Sure, almost all religions have their problems and almost all have done bad and harmful things to society at one time or another and I fully support stopping harm done to society by religion, but how is Christmas and Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus hurting society? I’d say the story of Christmas, redemption and hope, are one of the best things imparted by Christianity.

I just don’t get it.

 

*Mostly because the presents are wrapped already, baking is in the oven, my family (minus the brother) are all at Christmas Eve services, and I still have several hours before I can start unwrapping the ones with my name on them.