Posted tagged ‘Christmas’

Happy Christmas!

December 24, 2013

May I wish all readers of this blog a happy, relaxed and satisfying Christmas. As I write this, storms are battering where I am staying for Christmas, in the Irish Midlands. I hope that this will pass (here and elsewhere) without causing excessive damage or distress. So may this holiday season be everything you wanted it to be. And many thanks for stopping by here, today and on other days.

Maybe it may also be of interest that, if you are celebrating Christmas, you are doing something that was illegal for a number of years in some countries. Christmas was banned by Cromwell’s government in 1647, and observing it (even privately) was prohibited until 1650. The American Puritans took a dim view of it also. As a holiday it only became popular after Prince Albert (after whom the building where I worked for some years in DCU was named) introduced his inherited German customs to England in the mid-19th century, and when US popular culture (from Coca Cola to Disney) introduced the ‘modern’ Santa Claus to the world (‘Santa’ being of course a re-branded Saint Nicholas of Myra).

A very happy Christmas to you all!

The Christmas story

December 25, 2012

Christmas has been an extraordinarily resilient festival, surviving theological and political turmoil over the ages. Of course we all know that Christmas Day falls on December 25th, but then again, the event it commemorates – the birth of Jesus Christ – may have taken place on any day of the year, as there is no reliable record of the date. It was not a festival kept in early Christian times. The key elements of today’s Christmas festivities, such as the socialising and exchange of gifts, did not emerge until much later – some of them not until the 19th century.

By the time of the Reformation some of the reformers had become hostile to Christmas in part because they regarded it as an un-biblical festival, in part because they disliked the catholic resonance of the ‘Christ-Mass’ concept, but largely because of what they regarded as the excesses ‘giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights’. This led to Christmas being banned in England under Oliver Cromwell – alongside all other religious feasts apart from the normal Sunday religious observances. Christmas was also banned under the influence of the Puritans in some parts of the American colonies around the same time.

So maybe Christmas has an unreliable pedigree, and there is still no shortage of people today who will argue that we have got the spirit of Christmas all wrong and that it is nothing more than an orgy of wasteful excess. But as for me, I don’t particularly care whether people celebrate the Christian festival (as I do), or pursue a secular escape from (what at any rate in Europe is) the winter, or try to have a family get-together during a holiday season. I believe that communities need holidays, and should be able to enjoy them.

I wish all readers of this blog a happy, peaceful and refreshing Christmas!

 

Christmas is coming, not (yet)!

October 31, 2012

One of the hazards of being in public buildings with PA systems in late October or thereabouts is that you are transported into a weird world where Rudolph is pushing his red nose through a winter wonderland in which Slade wishes everyone a ‘merry Christmas’. Roy Wood’s dream has nearly come true, and it more or less is ‘Christmas every day’.

Right now I am waiting for a rather delayed plane in Edinburgh airport. And my mood is not helped by the Christmas music. Paul McCartney may be ‘simply having a wonderful Christmas time’, but I’m not, nor am I intending to for nearly two months. I hope I can find a corner in which the music cannot be heard. Now.

I’m dreaming of a commercial Christmas

December 26, 2011

Everyone is at it, so I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Pope on the bandwagon. According to news reports, Benedict hit out at the commercialization of Christmas and asked worshippers to ‘see through the superficial glitter’. Alrighty, I guess. A bit of a cliché, but then again, don’t we all want a Christmas when happy families come together and, after church and Christmas dinner, play games and talk?

Well, yes. Sort of. But the reality is that if we all did this, and stopped buying presents, having dinners and indulging in treats at this time of year the economic consequences would be serious. Of course we should try to see festivals such as this as community building opportunities, but I am inclined to think that quite a lot of what goes on around Christmas does just that: presents are an opportunity for us to try to understand and then give pleasure to people close to us, and parties bring us together. Christmas also often brings out the best in people, as support for charities and for good causes increases.

So, I think the Pope would do more good by reminding us of the ways in which we can all help to sustain each other. And as it happens, a bit of commercialization is one of them. Not least because it secures employment.

Happy Christmas

December 25, 2011

I would like to wish all readers of this blog a happy, peaceful and refreshing Christmas holiday. For those of you wanting some relief from Christmas gatherings and meals, there will be more posts here today and tomorrow.

In the meantime, I wish you all every happiness and fulfilment.

Christmas greetings

December 25, 2009

May I wish all readers of this blog a happy, relaxed, social and satisfying Christmas. For many people 2009 will be remembered as a less than perfect year, but perhaps we will be able to say that it ended well. And so I hope that this holiday season will be everything you wanted it to be. And many thanks for stopping by here, today and on other days.

Maybe it may also be of interest that, if you are celebrating Christmas, you are doing something that was illegal for a number of years in these islands. Christmas was banned by Cromwell’s government in 1647, and observing it (even privately) was prohibited until 1650. The American Puritans took a dim view of it also. As a holiday it only became popular after Prince Albert (after whom the building where I am writing this is named) introduced his inherited German customs to England in the mid-19th century, and when US popular culture (from Coca Cola to Disney) introduced the ‘modern’ Santa Claus to the world (‘Santa’ being of course a re-branded Saint Nicholas of Myra).

So if the whiff of something heretical attracts you, Christmas can be that! Enjoy it to the full – you deserve it!

Christmas contradictions

December 26, 2008

During the afternoon of Christmas Day I settled down to read a little, and one of the things I was reading was a brief history of Christmas Day. Of course we all know that Christmas falls on December 25th, but then again, the event it commemorates – the birth of Jesus Christ – may have taken place on any day of the year, as there is no reliable record of the date. It was not a festival kept in early Christian times. The key elements of today’s Christmas festivities, such as the socialising and exchange of gifts, did not emerge until much later

By the time of the Reformation some of the reformers had become hostile to Christmas in part because they regarded it as an un-biblical festival, in part because they disliked the catholic resonance of the ‘Christ-Mass’ concept, but largely because of what they regarded as the excesses ‘giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights’. This led to Christmas being banned in England under Oliver Cromwell – alongside all other religious feasts apart from the normal Sunday religious observances. Christmas was also banned under the influence of the Puritans in some parts of the American colonies around the same time.

So maybe Christmas has an unreliable pedigree, and there is still no shortage of people today who will argue that we have got the spirit of Christmas all wrong and that it is nothing more than an orgy of wasteful excess. But as for me, I don’t particularly care whether people celebrate the Christian festival (as I do), or pursue a secular escape from (what at any rate in Europe is) the winter, or try to have a family get-together during a holiday season. I believe that communities need holidays, and should be able to enjoy them.

Happy Christmas!

Season’s greetings

December 24, 2008

I would like to wish all readers of this blog a very happy and restful Christmas. I hope that for all of us the year ahead will see peace, prosperity, equity, innovation and tolerance.

For those with really nothing better to do, there may be a post or two on this blog over the coming days.

With best wishes to everyone,

Ferdinand

It’s on the cards

December 20, 2008

This time last year, there wasn’t a single table or shelf in my office that was not completely covered with Christmas cards. Such things are a terrible waste of paper, I suppose, and perhaps are not always the product of much thought by the sender – and yet there is something I like about them, a kind of affirmation of community and empathy, even if the sentiments are superficial. In my own case, I have tended to send out a reasonable but not excessive number of cards – just so many that I can write a personal message by hand on each one.

Anyway, at this time in the current year there are cards, but far fewer than in 2007. And those that have come arrived much later; most of them came in the last five days. Perhaps it is a sign of the recession. Friends and colleagues tell me they have experienced the same thing. I hope, as the climate gets more hostile, that we are not just getting more introspective and less aware of the community around us.

A small number of friends – those who I think will not be disturbed – may be getting unusual cards from me this year. On my visit to California (mentioned in previous posts), I was able to pick up some rather different Christmas cards from a market stall. I confess they caught my eye. One offered the greeting “Here’s your f***ing Christmas card, I hope you’re happy”, and another ‘Happy F***ing Holidays’. I am sending them to people who, I hope, will not think them offensive, but who may be amused. Right now, we can all do with a laugh.

PS. What I am getting lots of is e-cards. Dozens.

Christmas mood

December 5, 2008

Just over a week ago I was able to spend a little time browsing through an Austrian Christmas fair. Doing so always takes me back to my childhood in Germany. Maybe it’s because our childhood memories manage to retain something of the excitement and mystery of the child’s-eye view, and maybe it’s because my German childhood ended when we moved to Ireland (I was seven years old at the time), but I could not help feeling that Germans (and Austrians) ‘do’ Christmas better than we do. The smell of ginger Christmas pastries, and the Glühwein (mulled wine), the quaint stalls and the music all combine to create what at least to me is a unique atmosphere.

I brought back too much, however. It’s wonderful where it is, but I am not sure how well it travels. But try as I might, I cannot get quite the same feeling of Christmas when I walk down Grafton Street in Dublin, even with the lights and decorations and cheesy music coming from the Brown Thomas store. I don’t often miss Germany, but this time of year I do, just a little bit.


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