Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Long Should We Be Celebrating Christmas?

Given the increasingly commercialized nature of contemporary Christmas Season celebrations, should there be a limit on how long we celebrate the Yuletide Season?

By: Ringo Bones

It is indeed the season for joy and giving, even though there are 365 or so other days that you can express those two requisites of ones “humanity”, but should there be an established duration on how long should we be celebrating Christmas? After all, if one grows increasingly jaded over the joy and giving that marks the Yuletide Season, there would be nothing left except kitschy commercialism.

During years of unbridled economic prosperity, the “signs” of Christmas – usually characterized by a seemingly endless supply of Yuletide kitsch – usually starts in the “ber” months like September. Maybe we should point the finger of blame on John Cougar Mellencamp for playing his iconic I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus during his September tour dates back in the late 1980s. Though I doubt if I will ever be welcomed again in our local musical instrument store who plays Yuletide tunes live for the flimsiest excuses. But does your concept / ideology of how long should Christmas be celebrated reflects your deeply cherished beliefs?

The Haight Ashbury Secular Humanist “Christian” types – I probably fell in this category, after recently succumbing into the belief that Santa Claus originates in Kyrgyzstan – and probably Muslim. And given the chance, would celebrate Christmas from September through to the end of January of next year. Although, I tend to end my Christmas celebration after the Eastern Christian Orthodox Christmas festivities end – usually the first Monday after the first Saturday of January.

The unabashed White Anglo-Saxon Protestant types – these folks usually “criticize” folks that celebrate Christmas too early – i.e. before Thanksgiving is over, or too late – i.e. folks that still has Christmas decorations set up after Boxing Day. They tend not to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving is over and will never play Yuletide tunes by December 26 onwards. It’s just hard to Just Say Noël to these people.

The Cultural Eclecticists – they often come from a mixed-faith marriage, like between a Protestant and a Jew. Often places an ornate Star of David atop their Christmas Tree while keeping their celebratory Christmas evening meals Kosher. As far as I know – basing on the ones that invite me during Christmas – they tend to celebrate Christmas from the start of December till the Eastern Orthodox Christmas festivities end – usually the first Monday after the first Saturday of January.

So there you have it, ways on how long folks of various ethnicity that I know of celebrate Christmas. I just hope that this coming 2010 will be a fiscally lavish year so that everyone who still cares can celebrate Christmas from September through February of the incoming year. Probably due to us smart shoppers who do the bulk of our Christmas shopping during the promo sale months of July and August. Just remember to buy only ethically produced products and only have ethically provided services. All of which is a whole lot better than “inventing” ones very own holiday, like that Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza, George Costanza’s father, invented “Festivus” – i.e. Festivus for the rest of us - after getting left out of the mass commercialism of contemporary traditional Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have Yourself a Very Ethical Christmas

Given that Christmas in this day and age is primarily driven by capitalist consumerism, can this festive season still be enjoyed in an ethical manner?

By: Ringo Bones

If ever the famed American social justice crusader Michael Moore tries his hand at making a Christmas special, he might focus on the topic of ethically produced products / goods and services as the main talking point. And very topically relevant too, given that Christmas this day and age is primarily driven by capitalist consumerism. But given that materialistic concerns will not be relinquishing its stranglehold on the Yuletide Season anytime soon, can we – the capitalist consumers / Christmas Shoppers – still have the power to do good during this festive season?

Probably since the time Rock Star turned famed humanitarian Sir Bob Geldof managed to safe millions of starving Africans via the capitalist consumer’s own game, the ethical outlook of Generation-Xers had been radically changed (is it?) in comparison to their parent’s generation. The concept of “What your parents didn’t tell you.” - i.e. how the spending patterns of us capitalist consumers could to the world a whole lot of good. Unfortunately, still not everyone knows how.

Every time we step up to a cash register – or click an item on the web, or have our credit card scanned for our preferred purchase – we vote. If you want your purchases – like I hope you honestly do – reflect your principles, you should know by now on how to shop for a better world. Or had read about “Shopping for a Better World” – a publication of the Council on Economic Priorities that rates 186 companies that make 2,400 brand name products on 10 social issues; Which can be used by all of us to help us select products made by companies whose policies and products we support - like the Free Tibet movement.

So the next time we’re checking out a product for quality and price – especially this Christmas Season where we do the bulk of our materialistic gift-giving shopping – why not also check out the social performance of the company behind the product. Like on issues of corporate social responsibility, ethical business governance, child labor use, and environmental concerns; or maybe buying only products from companies who made sure that their factory workers are provided with full healthcare coverage and matching 401K plans or equivalent. Armed with this information, we can easily turn our Christmas Shopping cart or trolley into a vehicle for social change, thus allowing everyone to enjoy a very ethical and merry Christmas. Unless of course you are planning to unleash the wrath of those three Christmas spirits that used to haunt Mr. Scrooge.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is Christmas Still Christmas Without The Snow?

For those of us celebrating the Yuletide Season in much warmer climes, is Christmas still Christmas without the snow?

By: Ringo Bones

Given that most of the people on planet Earth, including most of the dry land, lies in the upper part of the northern hemisphere, it is more than likely that a significant majority of us will be celebrating the Yuletide Season with snow – i.e. White Christmas. But for those of us living in much warmer climes who still consider celebrating Christmas a big deal – thanks to our Anglo-Saxon Protestant Capitalist Consumer indoctrination – can still celebrate Christmas properly without the white stuff? (I mean snow, not cocaine hydrochloride, by the way).

I do admire brave folks out there who stick out their necks to make Christmas a more egalitarian holiday in which any person regardless of faith, color, or creed can enjoy. In which I am truly grateful for Mel Tormé and Robert Wells – two great Jewish composers who toiled in the Tin Pan Alley in order to create musical masterpieces – for bequeathing humanity that Yuletide Season perennial called White Christmas. In which Irving Berlin’s rendition that was made famous by Bing Crosby is probably the first Christmas song that doesn’t contain overt religiosity when paying homage to the Yuletide Season.

Sadly, the song White Christmas had managed to indoctrinate most of us who celebrate Christmas that Christmas without snow is not Christmas at all. Given that global warming is getting worse each passing year if we don’t drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, a White Christmas could become a relic of the distant past – like a Druid religious service. But is snow really an indispensable part of celebrating Christmas?

Just because there is no snow the Nativity Scene – i.e. the traditional portrayal of the night Jesus Christ was born 2,000 or so years ago – doesn’t mean that Catholics don’t know how to appreciate a “White Christmas”. That Yuletide Season perennial White Christmas might have an inescapable metaphysical dictum on everyone when it comes to celebrating a “proper” Christmas. Luckily, there is still quite a healthy number of Yuletide Season tunes that allow you to “properly” celebrate Christmas without the snow. Unfortunately, you have to root for them because they never have been a recent part of mainstream FM’s Yuletide Music airplay list.

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album is a testament that you can still enjoy celebrating Christmas in the warm climes of almost perpetually sunny “Califor-nah-yeah”. And Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island and Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas in the Caribbean gives you a deep philosophical insight on why those rich folks at The Hamptons vacation into the Caribbean during the Yuletide Season given that they have a perfect “White Christmas” right at their doorsteps. There are probably others out there, so you have to root them out in better independent record stores - Unless of course you’re perfectly fine with playing Islamic Devotional Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan during Christmas Eve.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Did Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern Christmas?

With his invention of the incandescent light bulb - and a myriad of other ingenious devices, did Thomas Alva Edison inadvertently invent the modern Christmas?

By: Ringo Bones

Known for his thousands of inventions, the incandescent light bulb is probably one of the most significant – if not the most significant – invention of the Wizard of Menlo Park named Thomas Alva Edison. But by inventing the incandescent light bulb, did Thomas Edison inadvertently invented the modern Christmas – i.e. the "modern look" of Christmas as we know it?

Some folks still harbor the belief that Christmas is no longer Christmas without the snow. But for those of us who experience a “White Christmas” about once every decade or so - or even less as time goes by if we can’t stop the harmful effects of global warming - Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christmas Lights. Thanks to Thomas Edison. But did Thomas Edison eventually established the look of contemporary Christmas more or less aesthetically pleasing – or is it more or less kitschy?

Have you ever tried to use burning candles or other open-flamed light sources as a substitute for those cutesy incandescent series Christmas lights? Given the flammability of a typical real Christmas Tree, using candles and other open flamed light sources in a typical natural Christmas Tree is not exactly a recipe for a happy Christmas given the fire hazard involved in this set-up.

Energy-saving light emitting diode-based Christmas Lights or LED-based Christmas Lights might be disliked by purists because it detracts the warm glow of Edison’s original incandescent light bulbs. But if you ask me, LED Christmas lights are better than lighting your Christmas Tree with candles or other open flamed light sources. Plus, given that some folks tend to set up their Christmas lights before Thanksgiving and put them away two weeks after the Russian Orthodox Christmas, electrical bills during the Yuletide Season could be significant. So LED-based Christmas Lights do make environmental sense.

Plus LED-based keeps “preventable” greenhouse gases from being released into our atmosphere to cause global warming. Keeping the prospects of a White Christmas more on less a regular annual occurrence. So there’s no need to keep playing Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas in the Caribbean album – especially the vinyl version - whenever there is no snow during the Yuletide Season. Yet another reason to thank the inventiveness of the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Alva Edison – the man who made modern Christmas – or at least the modern look of contemporary Christmas - possible.