Category Archives: Christmas

Merry Solstice!

Solstice treeA couple I knew, determined to not succumb to the rampant commercialization that has, of recent decades, utterly cannibalized Christmas, gave their children two presents apiece on Christmas morning – one nice toy and one expensive outfit. Oh, the kids got presents from their grandparents and aunts and uncles, but, from their parents, that was it. I was impressed not only by the way they stood up to The Man, The Man being, in this case, Santa Claus, but also by their sheer sang froid. By purchasing only two quality items, this enlightened couple avoided overspending on useless junk and saved themselves not only dollars, but buckets of stress. Even better, their gifting regime didn’t turn their kids into hopped up present junkies. Now, this, I thought, is what I’m going to do when I have kids. This is a reasoned and mature way to deal with the utterly untenable situation that Christmas has become – by which I mean, people buying stuff they can’t afford and, if they don’t, the economy collapsing.

And then I forgot.

Walmart Christmas

A hardly jolly Walmart Christmas

Brainwashed by the Juggernaut that is Christmas – the holiday season accounts for about 20% of retail spending — I joined the throngs of beleaguered North Americans trudging up and down the aisles of Walmart, cart laden with Christmas morning cannon fodder made in China, one more piece of crap to be wrapped, unwrapped, broken and, after several years existence in the form of random clutter, discarded. The New Year would dawn drab and chilling. Not only was it frigging January in Canada, but I was about to receive a credit card bill that would take me the next quarter of a year to pay off.

I came to loathe Christmas. All the holiday signified for this member of the Great Church of Lapsed Catholics were endless hours of drudgery and tedium that I would never get back, mounting debt and the seemingly Sisyphean task of gift wrapping – Sisyphean because, in an effort to make the haul seem larger, I wrapped every pair of socks and underwear separately. What was worse, I had done it to myself. I had had a chance to do Christmas differently. Instead, I had bought into the brinkmanship exercised by our train wreck of a retail sector and bought presents like a crazed wolverine, setting the bar for all future Christmases at a level I could neither sustain nor stomach.

solsticeSo, with my husband’s support (and to his great relief), I decided to end my personal war on Christmas and make the Winter Solstice – the true reason for the season, BTW – the focus of our holiday celebrations. In doing so, I have managed to retain what scraps of sanity years of Walmart Christmases left to me. A script of the ceremony follows for those of you who might be interested in trying this for yourselves.  (P.S. The date of the Winter Solstice, commonly thought to occur on December 21, is, in fact, a movable feast: its date varies from year to year. Obeying the logic that, if you’re going to celebrate the Longest Night of the Year, it might as well be the Longest Night of the Year, we made sure to always schedule our celebration on its actual date. Solstice is Solstice, after all.)

For the rest of you, happy whatever-turns-your-crank-and-keeps-you-from-jumping-off-a-bridge.  What follows is what, for many a year, saved my bacon.

solstice mask

Solstice Ceremony


“For our Northern European ancestors, the Winter Solstice symbolized the beginning of the new solar year and, as such, is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun.”

Participant 1
(hanging an evergreen wreathe from the door)

“This wreath symbolizes continuity of life, protection and prosperity.”

Participant 2
(hanging a mistletoe ball in the hallway)

“This mistletoe symbolizes peace, prosperity, healing, wellness, fertility, rest and protection.”

Participant 3
(placing a seed ball outside for the birds)

“This gift to the birds is a token of our love for the creatures with whom we share the earth.”

Each child places a star, moon, or sun ornament on the tree,
hangs their stocking and receives the gift of a new set of pajamas.
Everyone is given a slip of paper and a pen


“On this, the longest night of the year, we look forward to the light and, in anticipation of its coming, we seek to rid ourselves of the things that weigh us down, that are negative, that we do not want to take with us into the new year. So we ask you to write down what you want to leave behind you and place it in the cauldron.”

The slips of paper are collected and burnt in a small cauldron.
Following this, everyone is given a package
of heirloom wildflower seeds.


“Just as there are behaviors, compulsions, obsessions and bad habits we want to consign to darkness, so there are positive things that we want to embrace in the new year. Think of what you want to do that’s good for you, whether for your health or your soul or your community and write that down on your seed package. Then when Spring comes, find a suitable place and sow these wildflower seeds.”

A bell is rung to mark the death and rebirth of the sun and
a dinner featuring tourtiere and a Yule Log is served.

solstice mask





Who’s been naughty? The CIA, that’s who!

torture 2Well, the Senate’s Torture Report has come out just in time for Christmas and, I have to say, it’s pretty clear who’s been naughty. Of all the species on Earth, human beings and cats seem to be the only ones who take delight in torturing their victims just for the sheer and unadulterated fun of it. Because all this blather about, “We had to do it in order to prevent another attack like 9/11 . . .” I’m sorry. Give me a break. There were those among us . . . are still those among us who would like nothing more than to yank out a few fingernails and roast something other than chestnuts on an open fire . . . and George Bush and Dick Cheney gave them the green light and a black site in which to do just that. And so much more. You thought nothing could top the Inquisition? Think again. American ingenuity at its worst.

Jean de Brebeuf and a fellow Jesuit meet their sorry ends

Unfortunately human beings come by this bloody mindedness naturally. I mean, what Canadian kid has not thrilled to the ritual torments inflicted on Jean de Brébeuf by the dastardly Iroquois? And what rustles up a crowd faster than a good burning at the stake? As an adult I fantasized about burying in sand up to his chin a certain little shit in my daughter’s play group because of the way he treated her, dousing him with honey and liberating an ant farm in his vicinity (see my post Nice on the Outside).Thanks to my better angels,  that same little shit is now thirty three years old and not having to relive on a psychiatrist’s couch the horror inflicted on him by Sabrina’s mother. Better angels – we all have them. It’s just that some of us have tuned them out and turned the dial, instead, to right wing talk radio and the pack of slathering hyenas that is Fox News.

Torture is central to Christianity, by which I mean that Christianity would not exist in the way that it does had Christ himself not be grievously tortured; by any measure, crucifixion is no picnic. One of the sins he allegedly died for was his fellow human beings’ propensity to torture. You’d think a country that vaunts itself as a Christian nation would eschew torture and, yet, just watch the right wing nuts line up to defend the practice. “What if it was your husband or child whose life was at stake?” they bloviate. To which I counter, “What would Christ do?”  Because my money’s on him turning the other cheek. Then again our “Christian” nation routinely murders people in the name of the State, are best pals with the money changers in the Temple and suffer the little children to get mowed down with Bushmaster M4 Type Carbines because . . . Second Amendment Rights! What could be more sacred? A war on the poor, that’s just fine. A war on Christmas? Unconscionable!

There is nothing to indicate that sleep deprivation and water boarding were able to extract any better intelligence than regular old Geneva Convention sanctioned interrogation techniques. Indeed, there is some evidence that the information it produces is worse. People who will say anything to make the pain stop tend to do just that — say anything.  And anything is, more often than not, useless. (And there was no ticking time bomb. Those who think there was are confusing reality with the television series 24, which is not surprising, since most right wingers appear to have lost touch with reality a long time ago.)

Finally there’s the little question of ethics, to which I can only say (finally!)”God bless John McCain!” He managed to wriggle free of the Faustian bargain (you remember the one: when he sold his soul down the River Styx for a chance to be POTUS)   long enough to tell us what he is uniquely qualified to know: that torture is wrong and that we’re better than that (although, it would seem, not much.)

turkey legAs for whether Enhanced Interrogation Techniques do not, in fact, equate to torture, as Dick Cheney maintains, perhaps he’d be willing to endure a few EITs himself to demonstrate how vanilla they actually are.

I’d like to start with a little rectal feeding.

How about some holiday turkey? Who wants a leg?