Holidays

So This Is Christmas.. Already?

If you’ve read the other posts about how I don’t feel that Christmas can start until I hear John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), you will understand this post just a bit better.  If you haven’t read them, go find them and come back here.  I’ll wait…

(Hums Jeopardy theme song)

Back now? Good.  So for some reason, my Spotify playlist just played the song.  So I guess Christmas 2018 can now start? We just got the decorations down! At least it gives me an excuse to start the Christmas shopping early. And with the Central Florida Highland Games (Albannach & Rathkeltair providing the music, and another visit to And Sarah Smiled for more Celtic pottery) this weekend, we’ll have the chance to pick up some early presents!

So Happy Holidays, I guess??

Peace,
B

Gynger Makes Her Debut

It seems our little Elf had a bit of mischief just before she left us on Christmas Eve. We kept these pictures from the girls.  Maybe when they’re old enough, we’ll show them.

 

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I thought Elves drank maple syrup? Don’t think she knew that that’s a jar of ‘shine from North Carolina. The apples and cinnamon stick must have confused her. And on our ancestor altar too!

The liquor really got her into the mood..

 

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She tried a little “pole dancing”. She said it was “for exercise”, but I fail to understand what taking the skirt off had to do with exercise.

 

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And, as usual, She ended up “praying to the porcelain god”. Happens to the best of us!

 

 

Ginger The Elf – The Last Week

This is our last week with Ginger. She will return home to the North Pole (a.k.a The Shed) on Sunday the 24th.  I hope she gets a good employee evaluation from the Head Elf, or Santa or whoever.

Here’s what she’s been up to this week;

 

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Quite the engineer she is!

 

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I guess this is a game of “tag”? The Gingerbread man got caught.

 

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Let it snow baby!

 

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Just how many pieces of bubblegum did it take to get a bubble that big?

 

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It’s a nice thought to welcome the girls back (how did she know they would be with us a day early?), but those post-its ain’t cheap!

In case you can’t read her note it says “I brought you a snowman from the North Pole”. But this is Florida and it melted. Silly elf!

 

Caught her with some popcorn watching “Christmas Vacation”. At least she has good taste in Christmas movies.

 

 

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On her last day, she tried to make breakfast for the girls. She needed a little help. The note says, “I brought you breakfast. Daddy needs cooking, can you help?”.  I did the bacon, daddy did the chocolate chip pancakes. 

So Ginger goes off to the North Pole until next year. We hope she didn’t do anything to get into trouble with Santa so she comes back next year. We’d hate to have to train another Elf all over again!

 

Peace,
B

Winter? I Call Shenangians…

Here we are, just two days until the official beginning of “winter”. And it’s 80 freaking degrees. I know this is Floriduh, but this is the time of year we should be sleeping with the windows open enjoying the relative cool breezes. Instead, I have my AC cranked down to “morgue” setting and I still have sweat dripping off my body parts that you don’t want to hear about.

No climate change?  Sorry, but I call bullshit. There is less Arctic Ice this year than any year since Arctic Ice has been measured. In school, I was always taught that we were headed towards another Ice Age. More like a flood of “Biblical” proportions (and no I don’t believe the story of the ark is a true story, just another legend in a collection of legends). But it interesting that most ancient cultures have a flood story of some kind.

But! We “just may have” a Christmas Day cool down into the 60’s! May need to break out the parkas and gloves. Of course, this is only a “maybe”. I should have gone into meteorology, it’s got to be the only profession where you can be wrong 90% of the time and keep your job.

Growing up in Miami it was quite common to get bicycles, skates, water skis and other “summer” type of gifts for Christmas. Miami lies in a subtropical region (the line is right around Vero Beach on the East and Bradenton on the west. Daytona is about 4 hours north of there and not in a “subtropic” zone, merely a “tropical” zone. More here.

“Hazy Shade Of Winter” indeed…

Peace,
B

Tuesday Morning Blues

Tried to get Rashi, the cat to cover for me at work today as I have virtually nothing to do (Christmas holiday means damn near everyone is off). But as you can see, she was already into the catnip and was in no shape to do anything…

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I’m just a bit jealous..

“They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad…”

Peace,
B

Ginger The Elf, Week 2

This is Ginger, our apprentice Elf’s second week with us. Let’s see what she’s been up to over the week.

 

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Saturday found her hiding out in our Celtic water pitcher.

 

 

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Sunday she decided to make snowflakes with Q-tips. Those things cost money ya know! 

 

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She put on a fashion show, first the red skirt.

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Then the blue skirt. All on the top of the cat condo. A “catwalk”?

 

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Getting a little aerobatic! Ask Wifey about the “Legend Of The Trapeze”!

 

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Snow angels!  In Florida??? Our “snow” comes in little gram baggies. But what would I know about that?

 

 

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Looks like she got into the chocolate. That will not help her keep her elfish figure!

Nothing like a nice refreshing mini-marshmellow bubble bath.

Looks to me like she was trying to put candy canes on the tree and something happened. Looks like an Elf slide for life now.

Be sure and check back next week to see what this crazy little Elf is up to! 

Peace, 

B
 

 

 

Christmas Movies

Since I STILL haven’t heard John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas”, I thought I’d do a post about Christmas Movies.  I’m not talking the made for TV crap that Lifetime and Hallmark channels play. You could cut whole scenes out of those movies, switch them with scenes from another movie and other than there being different actors, you wouldn’t notice the damn difference.

So I checked out several sites that have rankings of Christmas movies to see who ranks which movies versus other lists.

I looked at Rotten Tomatoes, Thrillist, and Buzzfeed simply because they were the first three in my Google search (links above go to the lists I used).  What I basically learned from these sites is that I have not seen damn near any of this movies.

Let’s start with some of the classics;

White Christmas; #25 on Rotten Tomatoes, #33 on Thrillist and not listed on Buzzfeed.  I have only seen snippets of this movie.  Usually when Wifey® elbows me to stop snoring and I wake up just enough to see that it’s still on before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Elf; #19 on Rotten Tomatoes, #6 on Thrillist, and #12 on Buzzfeed. I have never seen this movie nor do I intend on ever watching this movie. For whatever reason, I just have an aversion to Will Ferrell.  Nothing personal, just don’t care for the man.

A Christmas Story; #9 on Rotten Tomatoes, #2 on Thrillist and #6 on Buzzfeed. Again, never watched it. I can’t really give a reason why not. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Miracle on 34th Street; #2 on Rotten Tomatoes, #3 on Thrillist, and not listed on Buzzfeed.  Nope. Not interested at all.

It’s A Wonderful Life; #1 on all three sites. It’s a bit strange that I’ve never seen this one. If I understand the plot (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the main character (Jimmy Stewart?) wishes that he had never been born.  Someone (Santa maybe?) grants this wish and he gets a glimpse of what his loved ones/town/I don’t know, would have lived without him. Since my bipolar depression leads me into those kinds of thoughts on a semi-regular basis, maybe I could learn something from this movie. But that damn phrase “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets her wings”, is enough to keep me away. That did come from this movie right? Or am I confusing it with 34th Street??

So now, some of the movies that are listed as Christmas movies for reasons I don’t understand.  No rankings on these.

Die Hard; Just because this movie takes place during a company Christmas party doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas movie. Last time I looked, Christmas is (for some – not all) about the birth of the “Christ Child”. I don’t see how blowing shit up and automatic gunfire qualifies. I have seen this movie, it was during my Army years, and then I enjoyed it. Now, not so much. I’ve grown way to pacifist for this level of violence.

Trading Places; Again, just because the storyline takes place during the holidays doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Maybe it’s the greed versus the people on the margins of society that qualify it, I don’t know.  But I have seen this one and I did enjoy it. I enjoy both Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

Batman Returns; Seriously? A Christmas movie? SMDH… (But did enjoy the movie).

Now let’s talk about some Christmas movies I have seen.

Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer; My favorite character is Lemny the Elf who wants to be a dentist. A good study in breaking out of a class structure.

A Charlie Brown Christmas; One of my all-time favorites. Even with Linus’ soliloquy of Luke (a direct quote too). An interesting fact is that the network pressured Charles Schulz to take the bible quote out. He refused, and it’s still there to this day. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is also a classic holiday treat.

The Nightmare Before Christmas; A Tim Burton masterpiece!  Absolutely love this one as it spans two holidays. And the animation is just so cool.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas; The original animation from 1967. I have not seen the live action mainly because I don’t want to compare it to this one. This has become my favorite Christmas cartoon.

And my All-Time-Favorite Christmas movie is (drumroll please); National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. How did you not see that one coming? Without a doubt, this movie cracks me up no matter what time of year. The script is amazing, the acting is beyond belief.  I have an Army buddy that’s nicknamed “Sparky” in tribute to Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold. But all in all, my favorite character of all the Vacation movies is Cousin Eddie. He reminds me of a sudden depressive episode that comes with the bipolar. He shows up at the worst possible time, he turns the situation upside down, and you just can’t get rid of him.

An honorable mention goes to Christmas With The Kranks.  Wifey® got me to watch it just last year. And while not quite up there with Christmas Vacation, it was still quite enjoyable. And I will admit I will watch Jamie Lee Curtis read the phone book.  I’ve always enjoyed her work.

So there’s my list. I’m sure I’ve left off your favorite movie, or maybe you disagree my views. It’s all cool!  Leave me a comment below and let me know! (And don’t text me bro!)

Peace,
B

So This Is Christmas…

So, is this Christmas? Maybe for the folks that insist on saying “Merry Christmas” and throw a fit if you respond with any other reply other than “Merry Christmas”.  As with most Christian holidays, Christmas is just another pagan holiday that was renamed and re-purposed (i.e. stolen) in an attempt to convert more of the local “peasant” type of folks to Christianity. Easter and All Saint’s Day are two other examples.

But Christmas isn’t the only religious celebration that happens around this time of year.

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Picture source: Unvirtuous Abby on Facebook, but I’m sure others have posted it as well, so I have no idea who originally created it

And despite what my credit card statements say, “Christmas” (and yes that’s the term I use for this holiday) doesn’t start for me until I randomly hear John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)” played in a random store while, usually, standing around waiting on Wifey® to find “just the right color”, or something like that for someone in the family. My brother and I are the kind that will walk into a store and buys the first thing we see that suits us. Fini! Done! Let’s go have a beer! None of this going into every store in the mall only to go back and buy the thing you saw in the first store.

Plus now with online shopping, other than some clothes, that’s my preferred method of shopping. The holidays bring on enough anxiety as it is.  The stores are usually so crowded I can’t stand it.  The boys, Wifey®, and I went to the mall last night and thankfully it was damn near empty.

Christmas shopping brings on its own kind of  “performance anxiety”. When are enough presents just right?  Not worried about the boys (they’re adults now), but the little girls always make it difficult. They want everything they see on TV, especially if it’s electronic. I don’t want to get them too many things, not only does it promote over-consumption, I don’t want them thinking that I’ll buy them any and everything (even though I probably will – that’s what PaPa’s do). But at the same time, too few gifts under the tree leaves them open for ridicule from classmates and such.  It’s a fine line. Much like my credit line.

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We support the artificial tree industry by buying a new tree every two years on average. We only buy pre-lit trees (because I’m lazy) and they seem to burn out quickly. Can’t use real trees as the “fresh pine scent” aggravates my COPD (Pine-Sol does it too).

The girls wanted an “Elf On A Shelf”.  They named her Ginger (I wanted to spell it Gynger – so it sounded more like a stripper name). We know it’s a female elf because it has earrings, which of course means nothing anymore. Plenty of very “manly men” have pierced ears, but the box was labeled “female”, so that settled it. But I would still like to get away from labels.  That’s Gynger, I mean Ginger sitting on the hearth watching the girls put up the Christmas tree.

We figure since we only have the girls on the weekends, Ginger must be an apprentice elf. Since she only has 2 – 3 days to watch the girls, she gets bored sitting around the house.  But that will be the subject of another post, later in the season….  Keep watching this space!

So even though I still haven’t heard “So This Is Christmas” yet (I have at least two more shopping days planned – so get your requests in early), there is still a chance to hear it.  And even though my dear ol’ brother doesn’t like the song, he says the “war is over” should have been left out, but I disagree. He was never in the military (declared medically unfit for service during the Vietnam era).  As a vet, I heartily agree with the sentiment.

So here is the original video of the song.  As since I’m just posting the link, I don’t get to hear it. So if I haven’t randomly heard it by the 20th or so, I’ll come back here and listen to it.  Then, maybe Christmas will begin for me.

Please enjoy the video!

Peace,
B

EDIT:  My brother texted me (why he didn’t leave a comment is anybody’s guess), and corrected me. He does like the song, it’s just the “Merry Christmas” part doesn’t mix with the “war is over” part. He agrees with me that we wish all wars would end. 

Samhain

(This isn’t an anti any religion post. Your beliefs are your beliefs. I’m not trying to push any of my beliefs on you, please don’t try to push yours on me. This is here to show the history of one of my favorite holidays.)

The season of Samhain (pronounced SOW-win) is upon us. The greatest of the ancient Celtic fire festivals, it is usually celebrated on October 31st or the full moon closest to that date (November 4th at 1:23AM this year).  It is from this ancient festival that we believe the modern-day Halloween comes from.

To the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the most important of four Celtic fire festivals. Located halfway between an equinox and a solstice, it is one of four cross-quarter festivals. Every year on the first frost after the full moon in October, families allowed their hearth fires to burn out. At this time, they brought back herd animals from grazing and completed gathering the harvest. After the fires died, they gathered with the rest of their tribe to observe the Druid priests relighting the community sacred fire using friction. The priests induced friction with a wheel and spindle: the wheel, representing the sun, turned from east to west and lit sparks. At this time, they made prayers and offerings or sacrifices related to their needs. The Crom-cruach came out: this was an emblem of the sun, and scholars are uncertain whether it represented a Pagan god or symbolized an aspect of nature embodied in a stone pillar. The villagers left offerings of food at the edge of their village for wandering spirits and faerie folk. There was also a sacrifice of a black sheep, a black sow, or cattle. At the end, every person returned home with a brand lit from the sacred fire, which they used to relight their own hearth and then to light bonfires or to set torches at the edge of their fields. These ancients considered it a sin to relight the hearth fire any other way. To the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the completion of the harvest and called them to put their energy into preparing for the coming winter. It also betokened a day when their ancestors would come to visit, followed across the veil by all sorts of creatures both good and bad that moved freely in the mortal world on Samhain night. Since faeries were often unfriendly, the Celts dressed themselves as animals or as other fearsome creatures as a way to prevent kidnapping by faeries and later by witches.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 154-168). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Not only did this festival mark the end of the harvest, it was a time the “veil between the worlds” thinned. This “thining of the veil” was of great import to the ancient Celts. (And it’s pronounced Kelts, with a hard “C”).  It was a time to welcome lost family members back to ask questions of them, or just sit in remembrance of them. It was also a time that creatures of all sorts, good and bad could cross between worlds. I would like to think that when I’m gone, on this day I will be able to stand at the veil and watch my family. To see how they’re doing and maybe, somehow, let them know I’m thinking (if that’s the right word) of them. John Lennon (he of Beatle fame) is said to have told his son Julian that if he can communicate from the other side he will float a white feather in front of him. That would be cool.

In today’s world “fairy” brings up images of “Tinkerbell” and other cute little sprite-like creatures. That was not the thinking in the 3rd – 5th centuries CE. In more ancient times (maybe as far back as 30,000 BCE) these fairies and sprites were looked upon as belonging to the Mother Goddess (Cerrwiden for most of Isles) and were usually benevolent. It wasn’t until the coming of the Celtic Christians (which was separate from the Roman Catholics) that these fairies were taught to be mischievous at best, evil at worst.

Most of the “Old Gods” of the Druids (which were stolen by the patriarchal religions) were manifestations of the matriarchal religions’ Mother Goddess (or Mother Earth). To try to convert the pagans of the British Isles, the priests either turned these old Gods and Goddess into saints, as in “Saint” Brigid or claimed they were evil and cast them to live in the hills underground.

 

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Our Jack o’Lanterns from 2016

 

So the Catholic church tried to change all the pagan holidays, Samhain being only one, into a Christian holiday. They didn’t invent these “holy days” so much as usurp them from the pagan calendar.

When Christianity spread throughout Europe, the church officials went about converting the area heathens by converting their holidays. Sometimes church officials did this by scheduling an observance for a different time of year. Other times, they simply renamed the old Pagan holiday for a saint’s day. In the fifth century, Pope Boniface attempted to repurpose the ritual of honoring otherworldly spirits and the dead, identifying it as a day to honor saints and martyrs, and moving the holiday to May 13. When the late October/ November fire festivals continued anyway, in the ninth-century Pope Gregory decided to move the saints and martyrs day back to the same day as the secular festival of the dead. In the case of Samhain, rather than negate the festival of the dead, the church resorted to declaring November 1 All Saints’ Day, alternatively called All Souls’ Day. Later the church added All Souls’ Day on November 2, possibly because All Saints’ Day failed to displace the Pagan rituals. Eventually both All Saints’ and All Souls’ became distinct holidays unto themselves, with All Saints’ an observance for souls believed already ascended to heaven, and All Souls’ as a day to honor souls possibly still working out some issues in purgatory. In Ireland, these days marked a time for family reunions after cow-milking season finished. Over time the night before November 1, called among many names Hallowe’en, Allhallows eve, or Hallowmas, became the repository for most of the original Pagan practices.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 169-179). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

As you can see, it didn’t really work. We pagans are a stubborn bunch. But I have to admit, that when I did call myself a Christian All Saint’s Sunday was an especially meaningful day for me. To hear the names of the “saints” that had left us the previous year and to have a bell chime for each name was very moving.

Despite the best efforts of the ninth century Christian Church, Samhain did not so much return as it remained. That, alongside Halloween, speaks to humanity’s enduring need to acknowledge fear, death, uncertainty, and loss. Samhain offers a chance for renewal and a chance to connect lovingly with the dead again. Halloween offers a release from the norm— often exactly what people need after enduring powerful grief. Pagans celebrate life, and with Samhain they do so by revering the dead, celebrating the chain of lives that brought us all together.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 423-427). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

I have quoted extensively from Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween. This book is part of a series “Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials”.  While I couldn’t find a link to the entire series (there are several books) this particular book can be found here on Amazon. From there you should be able to find the rest. While I found the “recipes & crafts” section rather boring, you may enjoy that kind of stuff. The rest of the book was quite interesting to me.  If you buy it I hope you enjoy it!

Peace,
B

P.S. Long live the Celts!