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Updated from 2011

Up early on Christmas morning, snuggling with the cats, by the light of the tree, my internal reverie turns to the many faces and facets of Christmas:

  • Children champing at the bit to get downstairs to presents under trees.
  • Parents who have worked so hard to make things magical on this morning of mornings.
  • Generous folks who donated money and presents so that kids from poor families would have toys to open this morning and a Christmas meal to eat.
  • Children of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews, who get presents anyway in some sort of alien religious bonus round.
  • Children of Jehova’s Witnesses and certain Christian traditions, who sit conspicuously on the sidelines of a billion-dollar holiday.
  • Catholic children in countries where today is a time with family and who will get their gifts from the wise men a few days from now.
  • Atheists and agnostics who shoulder through the onslaught of religious sentiment to enjoy a few government-sanctioned days off from work.
  • Children who may or may not receive gifts this year, but who will certainly be terrorized today by raging drunken parents.
  • Children, who are living on the streets or under a bridge, because that’s easier than navigating the sexual violence of family members.
  • Men and women who have made their own families of friends, because they have been rejected and shut out by their relatives.
  • Parents who will liquefy themselves with alcohol and drugs just to make it through the day.
  • Men and women, who won’t make it home for the holidays because a fix is more important.
  • Those who will sell every Christmas present they get to finance booze, pills, and meth.
  • Men, women, and children who will sit in rooms of recovery today, striving to stay sober.
  • Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers whose choices or circumstances leave them spending Christmas in prison.
  • Prison guards, nurses, doctors, police, and firefighters, who will sneak in some presents and food between shifts and rounds.
  • Soldiers who are home for Christmas for the first time in a long time.
  • Soldiers who won’t be coming home again.
  • People who give up Christmas at home to serve food in homeless shelters or volunteer in hospitals.
  • Men and women who have forgotten life in a house, and spend their days in shelters, alleys, and church basements.
  • Thieves who will do their Christmas shopping under someone else’s tree.
  • Women who will work in truck stops, diners, and strip clubs.
  • Men who will tend busy bars all day long.
  • Travelers waiting in bus stations and airports.
  • Pilots, flight attendants, bus drivers, and ticket clerks, who will log many miles this Christmas.
  • Preachers and priests, who will spend the day ringing bells, reading scriptures, and glad-handing parishioners.
  • Children in Australia and South America who are celebrating Christmas at the height of summer.
  • Children in Asia, who are not celebrating Christmas, but who are working long hours in unsafe conditions to produce more clothes and more toys for the next holiday.
  • Men and women in India who are enjoying a slow day at their call centers.
  • Women in Iran, who have had enough and who are raising hell.
  • Women in Afghanistan, hearing this morning that foreign aid agencies are withdrawing services, leaving them fully at the whim of the Taliban.
  • Government officials in China fighting to control the narrative as COVID rages for a second round
  • Africans facing drought and terrorism, while Russia, China, and the US play resource chess across the continent.
  • Christians massing warily in Bethlehem after years of COVID.
  • Christians gathering for Christmas mass in St. Peter’s Square.
  • Ukranians huddling in cold and ruined streets defying Putin in Moscow.
  • Catholics and Protestants celebrating the same holiday in Northern Ireland.
  • The Pope wrapped head to toe in silk, velvet, and gold urging the faithful to “not be greedy because Jesus was poor.”
  • Kurdish immigrants protesting on strike in France after an attack from an ‘anti-foreigner’ gunman.
  • ‘El Gordo’ lottery winners celebrating lavishly in Granen, Spain.
  • The Brighton Swimming Club taking on a choppy English Channel.
  • Nearly 400,000 babies who will be born this Christmas.
  • The infant Christ (baby Jesus), the central character of the Christmas story.
  • The early church, who in the 4th century CE declared December 25th (the concluding day of the wildly popular pagan festival Saturnalia), to be Jesus’ birthday.
  • Christmas carols evolving out of naked singing in the streets during Saturnalia.
  • Kissing under the mistletoe originating from Druid fertility rites and human sacrifice.
  • A 7th-century missionary who chopped down a Norse tree dedicated to Thor and declared it a tree for Christ.
  • St. Nicholas’, who in the 11th century Italy replaced a local pagan goddess, ‘The Grandmother’, who was famous for filling children’s stockings with her gifts.
  • St. Nicholas’, who later moved north to replace Woden, a Norse god with a long white beard who rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn.
  • Saint Francis of Asissi, who popularized nativity scene in the 13th century.
  • Pope Paul II revives a Saturnalia tradition by forcing Jews to run naked through the street as part of 15th-century Christmas celebrations.
  • Spanish missionaries, who co-opted public bonfires for the first Christmas celebrations in the new world in the 16th century.
  • Spanish missionaries and explorers, who melted down gold sculptures and religious items of new world cultures in accordance to a ban on idolatry by the Vatican, which converted all indigenous peoples of the new world to Catholicism by decree.
  • Puritans, who banned Christmas in the 17th century as papist trappings, and ‘Rags of the Beast.’
  • Colonial Americans, who banned Christmas after the Revolutionary War because it was too English.
  • Early American children who would ‘catch’ household slaves and ransom them for Christmas gifts.
  • Harriet Tubman, who escaped on Christmas day.
  • Abolitionists who used Christmas to sell gifts with anti-slavery slogans and to raise money for emancipation efforts.
  • Washington Irving, who wrote a satire of Dutch culture in 1809, including their flying Santa Claus (St. Nicholas in Dutch).
  • Dr. Clement Moore, who wrote the Night Before Christmas about Santa Claus in 1822.
  • Charles Dickens, who in 1843 tried to de-emphasize the church-centered celebration of Christmas by focusing on the family in ‘A Christmas Carol’
  • Sir Henry Cole, who produced the first Christmas card in London, also in 1843.
  • Thomas Nast, of Harper’s Weekly, who in the late 19th century placed Santa Claus in the North Pole and gave him elves.
  • Lou Prentice, who lent his jovial face to the modern Santa Claus, when Haddon Sundblom used him as a model for a Coca Cola campaign in 1931. That’s also the year Santa’s outfit became Coca Cola red with white trim.
  • The buyers and product designers who created the ideas behind the most popular gifts for Santa to deliver this year.
  • Factory workers around the world, who made the items that ended up in malls, box stores, and outlets.
  • The captains and sailors who spent long months at sea moving merchandise through shipping channels, avoiding storms and pirates.
  • Commercial pilots flying FedEx, U-Haul, DHL and other time-sensitive packages to destinations around the globe.
  • Truck drivers who hauled goods from ports to distribution centers to stores and even your front door.
  • Contracted security forces guarding wells providing petroleum to fuel the mass movement of Christmas gifts worldwide.
  • Forests and lumber mills which originated Christmas cards and rolls and rolls of wrapping paper.
  • South American rain forests which were cleared to provide raising room for cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, fish, ducks, and geese that will end up on dinner tables this Christmas.
  • Millions of pounds of sugar and butter that go into Christmas cookies, cake, and candies.
  • Credit card companies and banks, who will make billions from Christmas-related commerce.
  • Thousands of people who will wait for after-Christmas sales to do their holiday shopping.
  • World football fans coasting on a World Cup high, while American football fans indulge in an orgy of Christmas day games.
  • Hollywood producers holding their breath to see who will hit the cinema on Christmas night
  • Garbage collectors and recycling plants that will process tons of cardboard boxes, shredded gift wrap, ribbons, plastic, and thrown-away food.
  • Accountants who will begin working shortly after Christmas to prepare 2022 tax returns.
  • Designers, strategists, and project managers who already know what will be on the shelves next year.

What a holiday!

In the midst of this Yuletide samsara,

May we all be filled with love and kindness.
May our hearts be tender and forgiving.

May we all be happy, healthy, and at ease with life.
May we all be protected from danger and harm.

May we all avoid suffering, confusion, and fear.
May we all feel safe, respected, and loved.

May we all have success, prosperity, and joy.
May we all be grateful for our good fortune.

May we all see things clearly, exactly as they are.
May we all be undisturbed by life’s changes.

May we all take responsibility for our own happiness or unhappiness
Both are a natural result of our actions.

painting: Merry-Go-Round by Cesar Santander


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