Door #1 or Door #2

By Thursday, January 9, 2020 3 5

I went to a club with some girlfriends when I was home for the holidays. Let me include the following facts to pepper the rarity of this occurrence: I’m 40, have 2 small kids, and get amped by a trip to Homegoods for pillow shams. So, yeah, this was rare and according to this photo, I had a lovely time at the Wild Cat:

I’m the one in the middle just living my best clubbing life. Oonch oonch oonch.

Sure, going to the Wild Cat was something to write home about, but I’d rather write home about what happened as we left. 

We lost one of our friends (the big haired one on the right – love you!), so another friend, Emily who was also part of my Leche!!! piece, and I decided to search for her. Since there are two doors to get into the Wild Cat, we divided in order to conquer. You KNOW we were ’bout to conquer.

I went to Door #1 and explained the situation to the bouncer, who was shockingly uninterested in my plight.

“It’s a $5 cover, no exceptions,” he said.

I pushed back with a: “Really? Just to run in and look for my friend? It’ll be 5 minutes!”

“Sorry, no exceptions,” and he moved on to the baby face behind me wearing acid washed jorts with pockets hanging out 4 inches minimum. (To whom I thought, I wore that exact outfit! When I was 13. Ooo, 40-year-old burn).

I walked back to my friends, peeved about my lack of conquer, just in time to watch Emily head to Door #2. I couldn’t hear what she said but it was a short sentence and the other bouncer waved her in. No discussion, no $5 exchange.

“GAWD DAMMMMMMMIT!!!!!” I believe were my exact words.

Of course Emily got in, Emily always gets in the door. She has always wielded her power well. I, on the other hand/at the other door, hear what sounds like a denial, get peeved, but walk away.

But not this new me. This fully woked me does not walk away because sometimes you have to push your way through the door.

I obviously thought immediately about Eleanor Roosevelt (I’ll explain later) and knew this was the Universe challenging the reality of this new me. Challenge accepted, I thought, and marched back to Door #1. 

I’ve learned that I can’t pretend to be anyone I’m not so I did not pretend to be Emily. My power is different than hers. My doors open differently. I simply channeled myself, the me that is more me than me. Does that make any sense? It does to me and me.

I said: “Here’s my ID, please hold it and I’ll get it when I come out. Thanks!”

You know what that bouncer said? “OK,” as he grabbed my ID and moved on to the next baby face with a real deal — I kid you not — scrunchie in her hair. (To whom I thought, I also had that outfit…when I was 11. Burn!)

I walked through that door like the Queen of Sheba. I am powerful but it’s in my own way. I am not an Emily, I am a me. Yes, I like pillow shams but I also like opening doors. I refuse to walk away peeved anymore. I am stepping into the arena, which is when I thought about Teddy Roosevelt. Hmm, it appears I’m a fan of the Roosevelts?? I mean, read this quote and try NOT to get off your ass to conquer your life:

Preach, brother!

Leave it to me to pontificate over the Roosevelts when I’m supposed to be clubbing. Sometimes the arenas are small — like getting into a club for free when you’re not even wearing jorts — and sometimes they’re huge — like going fully after your scariest goal. It’s not the size that matters, just the courage behind the action.

Later that night, I sent a text about an unrelated subject to my friend — the big-haired one (really love you!) who we were looking for and who we found — and it was this:

“The moral of my 2019 story is I don’t take any bullshit without previous consent.”

When I read it the next day, I cringed a little, but was in full concurrence. That really is the moral of my 2019 story. And this is where Eleanor comes in:

And preach, sister!

It’s all about consent. Life isn’t happening TO you unless you let go of the reigns and stay out of the arena. Doors are closed because you let them be closed. The bullshit exists only if I accept it; most of it comes from my own self and that’s the stuff I’m most over. That and acid washed jorts but hey, I’m 40 so what do I know?

THINGS THEY FORGOT TO MENTION:

Life is full of Door #1 and Door #2 scenarios. Sometimes the choice is not in the door you choose, but if you dare to open them and in how you approach what you find on the other side. They also forgot to mention that some Roosevelts are my spirit animals.

A Frank Reminder of Joy

By Thursday, December 19, 2019 0 5

Seven years ago on Christmas Day, I was stuck in LAX for twelve hours. There were delays, cancellations, and more delays. Before I knew it, I spent the entire day at the airport.

As the hours passed, my mood progressed from bad to pissy. It was so unfair that I had to waste my Christmas day away from my husband and family. The Christmas music was grating to my ears. The carpet was fugly. Everyone was annoying and gawwwwwd, the children were loud. Just leave me alone, people, don’t you know I’m being wrongly held here in this gross airport?

Merry Christmas to all!

About six hours into the ordeal, I was in a very long line preparing to be rude to a frazzled ticketing agent. The tall man behind me started talking in a way that meant he wanted to engage the people around. I thought, oh hellz no, there is NO way I’m going to talk to him. Doesn’t he know life is unfair and I’m pissy?

But then something switched in me and I turned to face him. I was going to talk to a stranger, you guys. *GASP!*

Along with a few others in line, we chatted about where we were supposed to be. The tall man listened to our woe-is-me’s and when asked where he was supposed to be, he dropped this one on us: he was wrongly incarcerated for 27 years and this was his first Christmas out. He was going to see his son, Nick, and spend Christmas with him for the first time since Nick was 4-years-old. Nick was now 31.

Wait, what???

His name was Frank O’Connell and he was sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit in 1984. He fought for decades to be exonerated, and finally after 27 years, 27 Christmas days, he was free.

He told the small group gathered around him that he feels no anger about what happened to him. He forgave everyone involved long ago since he didn’t want to carry that energy. “It was too heavy, there was no need to let it weigh me down,” he said.

Now THAT is a problem, THAT is a delay in plans, THAT is unfair. What was happening to me was nothing. So I was stuck in an airport, was that really a problem? I was free, I was safe, I would be going home, but I was angry. And here was a man who lost 27 years and the chance to raise his son, but he was not angry. He could have been bitter and pissy but he didn’t want to lose the rest of his life to that energy.

Everyone who heard Frank’s story shifted and the entire airport felt our shift. Suddenly the Christmas music was beautiful and uplifting. I saw friendly faces and cute kids running happily around me. The carpet was actually pleasantly retro.

We moved through the slow ticketing line, desperate for Frank’s story and his joyful energy. I was disappointed when it was my turn, but now I was not rude to the frazzled ticketing agent. I was light, I was joyful, I was free from anger.

Frank went to a different gate but I maintained my shift and over the next six hours, an airport family formed. We chatted and laughed, we sat on the retro carpet and shared food, we were perfectly content to spend Christmas Day in the airport with our new family. And when I finally got on my flight home, they gave out free wine. Hallelujah heard on high!!

To Frank, thank you for one of the best Christmas days I’ve ever had. Know that people who heard your story seven years ago remember you and your energy. Know that you single-handily changed a bad day to a fantastic one for those who dared to talk to a stranger. Know that you are a pure example of the power of mental choice.

To everyone else, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy life. If your day doesn’t go exactly as planned, remember we can all be Frank. Your mental outlook is a choice and the most powerful tool you have in life. It holds the key to whether you have pissy day or a life-altering day while stuck in the airport. Friendly faces are always waiting for us to turn around and chat. The music is always waiting for us to listen. A happy life is always waiting for us to start living.

THINGS THEY FORGOT TO MENTION:

The energy you carry is a optional. If it’s too heavy, put it down and pick up something light. And frankly, to be frank, just be Frank and choose to be mentally free.

The True Meaning of Christmas, revisited

By Thursday, December 12, 2019 0 2

Every December for the last four years I’ve been asked to repost my “what is this Christmas business?” two part series. Ask and ye shall finally four years later receive, everyone.

I was always confused by how Jesus, Santa Claus, and yule logs had anything to do with each other, so I did research and found so much interesting information that I wrote a two part series.

Click below and discover how pagan we really are:

The True Meaning of Christmas, Part I
The True Meaning of Christmas, Part II

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, yule, yuletide, tree, ornament

Who Is This Easter Bunny?

By Thursday, April 2, 2015 6 6

It’s that time of year again! The time when I get completely confused by societal traditions we somehow think are totally normal!  The tradition this time of year? The muthah-friggin Easter Bunny.  I mean, what? We are a weird people, people.  What does a secretive and kind of creepy bunny who defies the laws of nature by laying eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? There is no mention of Easter celebration, Easter eggs, or the Easter bunny anywhere in the Bible, so where did it come from? Just like my Santa Claus confusion, I had to do the research to get to the bottom of this trippy bunny trail (epic pun! virtual high five!).

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Easter, easter bunny

Research on this topic was somewhat unfulfilling because it’s not entirely clear where most of our Easter traditions come from.  That’s right, there is no definitive consensus.  What is clear is that most of the traditions we associate with Easter have nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity at all, and most seem to be truly pagan (the heathens strike again!).  Allow me to explain.

Spring Fling

The return of spring has long been a season for celebration, probably since we were weird little amoebas.  Pretty much every ancestral culture has a history of celebrating the end of winter, usually kicked off by the Vernal Equinox on March 21.  The Vernal Equinox is the day when the amount of day and the amount of night are equal.  It’s exciting because from that day on there will be more light and less dark.  Sayonara Snowmaggedon.

Spring is a time for life, birth, and fertility.  To celebrate, many ancient traditions honored common symbols of spring: rabbits, due to their stellar reputations as prolific makers of babies (a female rabbit can get pregnant while she’s already pregnant. A little, uh, loose of you, rabbit girls); and eggs, a globally-shared, long-held symbol of fertility and birth.

The most widely accepted theory on the origin of the word “Easter” is that it was derived from Eostre, the Germanic goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility.  The Anglo-Saxons would celebrate Eostre’s return every spring, honoring her symbols, the rabbit and the egg, and coloring eggs to express appreciation for Eostre’s gift of abundance.

There is suspiciously little written about this goddess, however.  In fact, she is only officially mentioned once by one English monk and historian, St. Bede, in an 8th century book.  He wrote that Ēosturmōnaþ (‘Month of Ēostre’ in Old English), was a time to celebrate a goddess of spring and fertility he called Eostre.  And that’s pretty much it.  No one else talks about her in any other book, before or contemporary to Bede.  Because of this, some theorize that Bede simply made Eostre up as a joke, which would make part of me really happy because that would mean this entire megaholiday came from a few flippant lines written by one man.

Over time, the basic legend of Eostre evolved wildly.  There are many different versions of the legend, but it essentially says that one year Eostre arrived late for spring and to make up for it she saved a bird who was partially frozen by snow.  The bird could no longer fly so Eostre turned it into a rabbit (her earthly symbol), but retained its ability to lay colored eggs (her other earthly symbol), which it did in her honor and gave to children.  And here we have one theory on the origin of the Easter Bunny.  To be continued later…

What is amazing to me is that this whole thing — the origins of the word Easter, the existence of the goddess Eostre, her turning a bird into a bunny, and possibly the Easter Bunny himself — may have been completely fabricated by single individuals with some sweet imaginations.

I love this stuff!

What Came First: the Rabbit or the Egg?

The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs and giving candy eggs has a few origin theories:

  1. To honor the mysterious Eostre’s bird-turned rabbit that laid brightly colored eggs that were given to children.
  2. As mentioned before, eggs, along with rabbits, were widespread symbols of new life and fertility found in many pre-Christian cultures around the globe.  There are many, many old customs that involve decorating eggs and giving them as gifts around the Vernal Equinox.  Eggs were boiled with flowers and other materials to change their color to bring spring into the home.
  3. Decorating eggs are seen by many Christians as a symbol of Jesus’ empty tomb and thus His resurrection, and some dyed eggs red to symbolize Jesus’ spilt blood.

So what came first, the rabbit or the egg? My opinion is that since so many cultures, including as old as the Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, all used eggs as symbols of spring, this pagan rabbit came before the Christian egg.  Research shows that the association between Easter, eggs, and Jesus’ empty tomb came in the 15th century when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany.  It seems very likely, and very natural, that the tradition merged with already ingrained pagan traditions.

Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat

As mentioned earlier, the rabbit was a symbol of fertility and celebrated at the start of spring by many ancient cultures.  Regardless of whether Eostre was a fabricated goddess or not, these animals were always associated with spring festivals and what came to be Easter.

At some point, the Germans took the pagan fertility rabbit, probably smashed with the legend of Eostre, and turned it into Oschter Haws (“Easter Hare”), a hare that lay a nest of colored eggs for good children.  The first mention of Oschter Haws was in the 1600s and when the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in America in the 1700s, they brought the hare with them.  Over time, Oschter Haws evolved into the Easter Bunny and now he’s in a photo booth in a mall near you!

Just like they did with Santa Claus, the Germans took a pagan character to the next level (what were the Germans smoking back then? Impressive imaginations).  Same as the history of Santa in the United States, the Puritans rejected this pagan character for a long time and it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that it was widely adopted, celebrated, and incorporated into Christian traditions.  And just like Santa Claus, the original purpose of the bunny was to bribe children into good behavior with the threat of no candy since apparently candy is somewhat important to children.

The Resurrection of Easter

After all this research, it is clear that the Easter Bunny and Jesus’ resurrection are totally unrelated.  They are two separate celebrations.  And so maybe we can’t thank Jesus for Cadbury Eggs, but we can still thank God or Eostre or the Vernal Equinox or weird fertility bunnies or whatever you honor for the start of spring.

For me, the fact that Easter is the amalgamation of pagan traditions, Christian traditions, and maybe even certain individuals complete fabrications doesn’t do it any disservice.  I think it gives it even more depth.  Celebrating the beginning of spring is reason enough for feasting, pastel party dresses, and jelly beans.

And that makes me so very — don’t do it, Sunna — egg-cited. *groan*  For Peeps sake!

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, The Pecking Orders, pecking orders, Easter, peeps

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Our traditions are much stranger and mishmashed than they appear. They began rooted in nature, hobnobbed with religion, and ended covered in chocolate. It seems that the Germans have not only provided us with delicious beers and brats, but also two of our most celebrated holiday characters. And let’s just forget about that one guy with the mustache…

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This Can Be Your Year

By Thursday, January 1, 2015 0 6

Things They Forgot to Mention, Happy New Years, New Years, Resolutions

Well, hello again, New Year.  How are you here already? Clearly 2014 canceled a few months because it went by faster than what Einstein would find legal.  I was hoping for a little more quality time with 2014 but here you are, 2015, staring at me with your arms crossed in expectation.

Your first day is always so intimidating; it’s seductive in its freshness yet melancholy in its retrospect.  You make me paraphrase John Lennon while humming this with only minor heart palpitations:

So this is 2015 and what have you done?

Another year over, and a new one just begun.

Today is the most overt line in the sand you get.  It’s an undeniable request to look at that line, to examine the sand, to see if there are any amendments you would like made.

Today also tends to make you feel like a loser.  You can’t help but remember this time last year and all the stuff you said you were going to do, the long list that remains unchecked.  Your palms get sweatier, the tick of the clock gets louder, and the unfinished list gets shoutier.

There is a phrase called the “normative power of the actual” which essentially says that whatever exists, seems right.  It is used most often in the context of legal precedence and how that which is law generates a sense that it should be law, that it’s correct because we’re used to it.

As part of the human experience, we are all too familiar with this concept.  Whatever way we are living seems right.  We are creatures of routine and comfort.  Our habits are carved slowly like grooves on a vinyl record.  We go round and round, the grooves getting deeper, their paths more permanent.

The song your vinyl makes sounds fine to you because it’s the background music of your life.  It’s soothing because you know it.  It seems right because it exists.  But, it’s hard to truly hear your music when you are the one making it.  Maybe the grooves you carved don’t suit you anymore.  Maybe you really want to play a different song.  Maybe smooth jazz should be out and hip-hop should be in.  Days like today help you stop and really listen.

I’ve been waiting to do a lot of things my entire life.  I suffered from a common affliction I call the mañana factor: “Mañana (tomorrow) I’ll do that, it doesn’t feel right today.”  For years I waited for so many things.  I justified the inaction because I was “waiting” therefore it felt out of my hands.  I wasn’t ready, the time wasn’t right, it seems hard, so-and-so has to do this-and-that first, blah blah blah.

What I finally realized was I was waiting for me.  Just me.  I was the only piece missing.  I was waiting for me to show up to break free of the normative power of my actual.  It finally registered that life is entirely up to me, no one else can get me the life I want, and no one else can make my grooves.  That is the harsh reality of growing up.  I am responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen to me; no one else gets credit or blame.

We all need to remember that life is happening now.  Like, right NOW now.  The more you delay, the deeper the grooves in your vinyl record.  You only get this one record so make it play the song you want, the music you deserve, the life that is you.

So, let’s say goodbye to 2014.  Let’s do it with pride and with respect.  Let’s remember all the things we did last year that made us wonderful.  Let’s think of all the things we want to do this year to make us even more wonderful.  Let’s try to forget we probably had a very similar list last year.  And, let’s really do it this time.  Go Team!

Here are a few motivations that may induce helpful panic attacks:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspiration

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspirationAnd one final quote that seems to contradict the last quote, but actually it doesn’t at all.  I’ll leave it up to you to decipher them:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspiration, buddha

Happy New Year, lovies!

Things They Forgot to Mention:

A new year isn’t entirely new.  It takes with it all of the years before.  But you don’t have to take it all with you.  Your new year is waiting for you to show up and tell it where to go.

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The True Meaning of Christmas, Part II

By Thursday, December 18, 2014 0 8

If you haven’t read Part I, please do so now before continuing. I’ll wait…

I left us last week when Christmas was a drunken Mardi Gras opposed by many Christians and barely resembled the holiday we celebrate today. Before Christmas became something we would recognize, we must add the third element: el Señor Claus.

Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop from the 4th century in what is now Turkey. He gave away a substantial inheritance to help the poor and sick, and was widely revered for his generosity and piety.

Most famous was when he saved three sisters from being forced into prostitution. He secretly paid their dowry by throwing bags of gold coins into their home — one went down the chimney and another landed in a pair of stockings hanging to dry on the mantle. This is where our chimney and stockings tradition comes from. While gifts arriving via chimney was common for many pagan figures like trolls, fairies, and Norse gods; it was also part of St. Nicholas’ legacy.

During the Middle Ages, the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death on December 6th was celebrated by giving children gifts in his honor. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, whose Protestant reform work led to the Lutherans, wanted to increase children’s interest in Jesus, so he sought to change the custom of gifts coming from St. Nicholas to gifts coming from Jesus. Then the transformation of St. Nick really started.

Over time, St. Nicholas morphed with England’s Father Christmas, a character symbolizing Christmas joy, and became known as Santa Claus (the name evolved from his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas). Santa Claus also took on shades of Odin, the Norse god celebrated during the yule with a long white beard and an eight-legged horse he rode through the night sky delivering gifts.

The Santa Claus celebration moved to December 25th, and the gift tradition remnant from St. Nicholas and Odin was continued to remind people of the gifts the three magi brought baby Jesus.

All the pieces were now there: Yuletide/Winter Solstice + Jesus’ birth + Santa Claus. We just had to revise.

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

In the 1800s, the upper class had had enough of Christmas. Many Christmas traditions were pretty crappy for wealthy people as they involved mobs of drunk men prowling the streets, breaking things, and going door to door demanding food and alcohol. Sounds like a Hallmark holiday the whole family can enjoy. “Children, gather ’round and look at the drunken throngs of dudes damaging property! A Merry Christmas to us all!” said no one ever.

A movement started to domesticate Christmas, to take it inside the home, to give it meaning, and to give it to children. In 1843, Charles Dickens played a large role in revising Christmas when he wrote A Christmas Carol and the Christmas he described was an intimate family celebration of generosity and reflection. Santa Claus fit right in with this Christmas revision and the New York elite latched on.

Santa further matured with the help of two New Yorkers:

  1. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, a professor, wrote The Night Before Christmas and almost single-handily created modern Santa and secular Christmas (click here for the poem). He added more Odin to Santa when he took Odin’s eight-legged horse and changed it to eight reindeer (Rudolph was envisioned 100 years later by a Montgomery Ward employee as a marketing ploy).
  2. In 1863, Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, was commissioned to illustrate Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Over the next decade, his Santa series changed Santa into a tall, plump man with a white beard. He also gave us the North Pole, the workshop, the elves, Mrs. Claus, letters from children, and the naughty and nice list.

Now we had our jolly Santa, and after a Coca-Cola ad in the 1930s where Santa wore a red suit with white trim, we had his outfit.

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Santa, Santa Claus, Coca-Cola

Although many churches were historically opposed to Christmas and the new Santa Claus, they found Santa, gift giving, the pagan traditions of the Christmas tree and caroling improved church attendance. So, they adopted them full force. According to the St. Nicholas Center, “in a strange twist of fate, the new ‘secular’ Santa Claus…helped return Christmas observance to churches.”

Silent Night, Holy Night

What I found so interesting in my research was how single individuals had such large impacts, how many minds it took to craft this holiday, and how it reflects our culture throughout history.

But in writing this story, I started to feel like Scrooge Mc(Lame)Duck. I felt like I was taking something beautiful and trying to prove it wasn’t beautiful simply because it was made of stuff found on earth and not given to us from above. This would not stand for this Christmas Lover so I went back to the essence of Christmas and found it unchanged.

Yes, we created Christmas from unrelated traditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. The things we create reflect the things we value, and with Christmas we value family, generosity, reflection, antiquity, and the high fashion in Wham’s Last Christmas.

After my research, Christmas reminded me even more of the people that came before me, of the light that is bigger than me. The imaginations of our ancestors can be seen all over our traditions. They are still there celebrating with us, reminding us to look up.

Do we lie to our children about Christmas? Yes. Why? Because Christmas gives them magic and that magic stays with us for the rest of our lives. We’ll always remember kneeling on our beds, whispering with our siblings, scanning the dark sky for Santa. Christmas tells us there is beauty in our imaginations. It tells us it’s ok to think beyond what is logical, to go beyond ourselves, to look into the dark for the light that is waiting. That is what the yuletide and winter solstice revered. That is what St. Nicholas sought. That is Jesus’ birth. And that, to me, is Christmas.

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, yule, yuletide, tree

(Sources: I spent way too much time on the History Channel website and multitudes of religious websites for this information.  If you want backing, ask and ye shall receive.)

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Christmas was built from the minds of our ancestors and is a beautiful reflection of our cultures changing and melding through history. It reminds us to keep imagining, keep seeking the unknowns, and never forget to look up.

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The True Meaning of Christmas, Part I

By Thursday, December 11, 2014 4 9

Similar to Easter, Christmas causes me much confusion. It seems to be a mishmash of several unrelated traditions all jammed into one that mostly revolves around buying junk, eating chocolate, and lying to children. I’ve always wondered how Jesus, Santa Claus, and yule logs have anything to do with each other, so I did a little research. I found so much interesting information that this will be a two part series.

I started by writing a list of questions I have about Christmas, which was hilarious since it became quite clear I don’t understand this holiday AT ALL. Who is Santa Claus and why does he have so many aliases (St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas)? What does he have to do with Jesus? Is Santa immortal? Is it wrong that there is a globally sanctified lie we tell children? When did flying reindeer and elfin sweatshops come into play? Why is Santa the only person (besides pimps) who says “ho ho ho”?  What is a “yule”?????

I should disclose that I am no Scrooge. My husband laughs at the magnitude of my Christmas joy. I am listening to Christmas carols as I write this. My ringtone is “Carol of Bells” every December. I honestly think the phrase: “It’s the BEST time of the year!” with embarrassing enthusiasm. Christmas to me is magical, intimate, and feels sacred and heavy with emotion. It reminds me of the quiet found only in winter that seems ancient and aware. This time of year makes me ache for the line of humanity that made me, for the light that is bigger than me. I. Love. Christmas. A lot.

Yet our traditions make no sense to me.

From my research, I learned that my confusion was warranted. Christmas is essentially the merging of at least three separate celebrations with very different meanings:

  1. Yuletide/Winter Solstice
  2. Jesus’ birth
  3. Santa Claus

When you look at the celebrations, they don’t make sense combined together. At first. But when you look deeper, they have the same basic root: a celebration of life and light.

The Yule. The What? The Yule Y’all.

Let’s begin with the yuletide. This is a pagan festival originating in Germany and Scandinavia celebrating midwinter and winter solstice. Heathens celebrated this, you guys, heathens! The yuletide honored the sun and the lengthening of days that starts on winter solstice. It was a celebration of birth and the end of darkness.

The yuletide was celebrated between November and January, centering around the winter solstice on December 21. There was lots of ale drinking, sacrificing of animals, smearing of blood on walls/people, and supernatural activity. There was also a focus on, uh how do I say this, female fertility, so…

During the yuletide, people brought evergreen trees indoors and hung evergreen boughs to remind them of the life that would grow when winter ended — the origin of our Christmas trees and wreaths.

Candles, fires, and yule logs were lit to push back the winter darkness — the origin of our Christmas lights and, obviously, yule logs. This celebration is where we get mistletoe, caroling, and eating ham.

The Norse god Odin was honored, who Margaret Baker, described as: “the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts.” Remind you of anyone else?

The yuletide/winter solstice was hugely important across many cultures long before little baby Jesus. Grocery stores and radiant floor heating didn’t exist. Fireplaces weren’t just fun, crackle ‘n pop, winter accessories — winters were hard. The return of the sun was a significant moment and revered globally by our non-equatorial ancestors for survival reasons.

Then Add In A Little Baby Jesus

I was surprised to learn that (1) Christians didn’t always celebrate Christmas, and (2) there is no mention of December 25th anywhere in the Bible. No one knows the date of Jesus’ birth and some religious historians believe there is evidence for Him being born at other times of the year.

In the 3rd century, Pope Julius I chose December 25th as Jesus’ birthday, most likely because pagan and winter solstice festivals were already celebrated at that time. By choosing the same time, church officials made it easier for people to embrace Christmas. They also assimilated many pagan traditions into Christmas to ease the transition. For instance, they adopted the pagan tradition of evergreen trees but added a new Christian twist: they put apples in the trees to symbolize the Garden of Eden, and these apples became the ornaments we use today.

Christmas was not always as solemn, biblical, and family-oriented as it is today. For a long time it was wildly pagan; it was still the yuletide and it was more like a drunken Mardi Gras celebrated in public, not privately as families.

There were so many pagan roots in Christmas traditions that it was opposed by many Christians (and still opposed by some today). The Puritans in colonial New England banned Christmas and in 1644 the Massachusetts legislature fined anyone who celebrated Christmas 5 shillings (I tried to convert this into today’s dollars using my iPhone app but oddly it didn’t know the valuation). The “war against Christmas” has been going on since like 1644, you guys!

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, yule, yuletide, tree, ornament

To Be Continued in Part II…

I’ll end the post here and save the rest for Part II where we’ll discuss when Santa came into the picture, how Coca-Cola contributed to who he is, when the pagans finally lost, and how Christmas turned into a massive assembly line of gifts and harmless, little lies for our children.

(Sources: I spent way too much time on the History Channel website and multitudes of religious websites for this information.  If you want backing, ask and ye shall receive.)

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Christmas is our creation. A wonderful creation of ancient traditions all mashed into one weird but beautiful celebration of life and light and the stuff bigger than us. Also heathen stuff, LOTS of heathen stuff.

Click here for Part II

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

By Thursday, November 27, 2014 1 7

Today is Thanksgiving; the day dedicated to saying “thank you” by eating so much you have to go lie down.  Every year your mom makes you read the Ann Landers “Thankful” poem.  You feel like a 5th grader wearing a paper Pilgrim hat (more on that later).  Then, everyone is forced to go around the table and awkwardly say what they’re thankful for.  You get irrationally nervous and cannot think of a single thing that’s appropriate for Aunt Maybelle to hear.  But there really is a lot to be thankful for and we rarely stop to appreciate it together, so this day is significant.

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Thanksgiving, table, grateful, gratitude, thankful

This year I discovered what gratitude really means, what it means to really give thanks.  I’m sure most of us, when asked if we’re grateful, would say “Sure, yeah, totally, of course.”  But, I bet all the candied yams in the world that’s not really true.  I can admit that I wasn’t truly grateful until this year.  I didn’t know what it really meant.  It took challenging myself for 30 days to consciously work on it to finally feel gratitude.  What I felt was overwhelming.

I learned that being grateful is not an action, it’s a feeling.  I picture it — and actually feel it — like water ripples that I send out.  I imagine the ripples reaching people around me and washing over them, letting them in on the secret.

It takes practice to really feel grateful, but I can attest that once you feel it, you will know what I’m talking about.  It’s the most beautiful feeling, the fullest vibration, the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had.  Feeling gratitude for me is like becoming a kid again where I experience moments of pure happiness, awe, and excitement.  I always wished that as an adult I could experience what my birthday felt like as a child where my face pretty much exploded with how special and rad it all was.  Gratitude lets me feel that radness again.

So today, when you’re sitting around a table with friends or family or whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to pause a moment.  Take stock of your life, your health, your past, your air, your water, your everything.  Try to feel it, how much you have.  Do this alone so your mom doesn’t ask you to share all your thankfuls with Aunt Maybelle.  Put aside the Ann Landers cheesiness of giving thanks and really give thanks.  There is so much to be thankful for, so give yourself that moment and really look around.

I will end today with this gem:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Thanksgiving, pilgrim, grateful, gratitude, thankful That’s me being a festive little prairie girl on the left.  Sugar and spice and everything nice, for sure.  I believe that’s my turkey chandelier hanging above us too (dope!).  Special shout-out to my siblings: tssk tssk to my brother wearing a hoodie (not a feather in sight), and to my sister clearly not into pilgrim fashion at all…

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Today is more than the feast, the tryptophan, or the football.  There is so much to be grateful for, so share that today.  Because giving thanks is something you give — to yourself, to those around you, and to the world.

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