Happy Heretical Holidays

Happy Heretical Holidays

In search of more inclusive ways to celebrate the Yuletide season

By Ellen Snortland 12/04/2013

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Tis the season! Time to roll out tired images of sweaty fat-ass Santa and his enslaved, abused elves and reindeer while forgetting about Mrs. Claus thanklessly doing all of Santa's work backstage, crass commercialism and the baby Jesus lost in a manger at the center of credit-card debt and hedonism! It's enough to make a thinking person's eyes cross.

Does the prospect of the holidays make you cringe? Do you want to crawl away and hide? Does the disappointment on your kids' faces for not getting the gift that has been touted as the "must have" present make you ill? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, perhaps it's time to reconsider the holidays.

To start, take the "Belief-o-matic" quiz on http://tinyurl.com/BeliefQuiz. You may be celebrating a Kwanzaa tradition when in fact you're more Buddhist than Methodist. Take that Menorah and swap it for old-fashioned ancestor worship, ala the Han Dynasty! Chuck that Christian Nativity scene for a rollicking drunken bonfire with your Wiccan sisters and brothers. As Beliefnet.com states on its Web site, "Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature and more, and Belief-O-Matic will tell you what religion (if any) you practice ... or ought to consider practicing."

I was raised a Lutheran, and I was variously married to two Jewish men and one lapsed Christian Scientist. I am currently married as a Buddhist. I am technically a Unitarian Universalist but haven't joined a UU church, which is right in line with UU practice all over the world.

Over the course of five years or so I've taken the quiz and I've come out Unitarian Universalist each time. As the joke goes, a Lutheran man says, "I hear that you allow all sorts of weirdoes in your church: atheists, Jews, Buddhists, pagans." A UU woman answers "Oh yes, we allow Christians too - we're very open-minded!"

So much has been lost and forgotten since winter solstice gave rise to ancient and universal celebrations worldwide in a holiday that should be called "GWIAG," an acronym for "Grateful Winter Is Almost Gone." On the darkest day of winter, everyone knows that it's only sun-up from here on out.

But what traditions should I have here in our home if I'm UU? Anything I want! I can celebrate the coming of the baby girl Jesus, a symbol of transformation and renewal if there ever was one! I can include a Menorah, the Kwanzaa Kinura, a Wiccan hearth log, anything I want, because that is how we UUs roll, baby!

I have also thought of some original holiday activities. One is the "I love my family more than my views" custom. Before the big family dinner, right-wingers stand in the east part of the living room, the left-wingers stand in the west. The youngest member of the family strikes a gong, signaling all the people over 18 to turn around, drop their pants, moon the other side and be done with it: no talking, no arguing. This practice will reaffirm that opinions are not all that they are cracked up to be, and it's also a great way to lose one's appetite, thus cutting calories for the holiday dinner.

Jesus needs a break for taking on all of the sins of the world, OK? This new custom is an amalgam of holiday wishes. La Befana, an Italian winter legend, awakens three naked dummies she finds in the forest at midnight, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. She yells, "Get the f#*k up and run!" as they dash through the woods toward a distant light. When they arrive at the light, it is Joss Whedon, Sandra Fluke and Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Rush, Bill and Sean beg for forgiveness from all the women, African Americans, Jews, Muslims and the rest of the people they have maligned, hurt, whipped up hatred against over the years, with Buffy, Sandra and Josh making sure they really mean it, then giving them clothing and a vegan meal. Hey, it beats crucifixion! The sublime aspect of this holiday custom is that it's very hard to commercialize images of Rush Limbaugh naked (another appetite suppressant).

The main thrust of this is that when we actually reflect, what means a lot to us are the times shared, not the material goods given or who brings them. Santa, a symbol of all things gauche that I've been working against, has always given me the creeps. What I am for is more like La Befana, a kindly Italian crone who inadvertently turned away the three wise men, realized her mistake and spent her afterlife attempting to make amends. That is a value that is worth celebrating.

Happy Whatevers everyone!

Attend the Allendale Public Library annual Holiday LitFest where yours truly, along with other less bah humbug lit folks, will be reading their holiday favorites. The event is from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday. The Allendale Branch Library is at 1130 S. Marengo Ave., Pasadena. Admission is free. For more information, contact the Allendale Branch Library at (626) 744-7260 or visit pasadenapubliclibrary.net.

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