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Monday, December 12, 2011

Does it really matter?

I’ve been reading a great deal online, as I have given up watching the news on television as it is an entirely too much of a drain, about the various issues coming up this year regarding the winter holidays. I do not say winter holidays to be politically correct or to avoid offending someone, it simply is the way to encapsulate everyone who celebrates a Holy time during this part of the season, and that season would be the end of fall and the start of winter as marked by the solstice on the 21st of December and conveniently stamped onto every calendar. I have a growing concern as a spiritual person that perhaps all arguments are beginning to infringe upon the purpose of each of our celebrations. People seem to be spending so much time this season saying what is correct, what is not correct, that they take away from their own celebrations.

Unfortunately the largest outcry I have witnessed has been by Christians. Do not get me wrong, I was a Catholic for much of my life, later Baptist, and have a great fondness for the story of Christ and his teachings. However, that said, one of the reasons I sought my own spiritual path was because the teachings of Christ were getting lost in the argument of “We’re right, everyone else is wrong”. And when it came to Christmas/Yule the arguments were so strong, so thick, that I wondered if even my fellow Christians at the time understood what was happening to their own walk.

Most who read my column know that when I use a label now, though I don’t feel they are necessary, that I use the term Pagan. That said I’ve spent the last several years researching, reading, and finding out the origins of said Yule time myths. I did not do this so that one day I could sit here and say “Oh look at you, you’re all wrong”, but so that my own understanding of the season would be personally enriched, so I might understand my fellow mankind better. So even though I know that this type of writing does come across as it does, it is not meant to do so. It is meant only as a little light back to what we all want, peace and love during the year and to remember the Light at this time of the year.

Recently I read about an elementary school who took out a word of a popular carol. I then read several varying statements across the last week of how the real season is for Christ and how Santa has taken over the season. What I find interesting about both of these commentaries is that so many simply do not know the origins of their own myths and beliefs. They have never been taught, never listened, or simply chosen to ignore them. I do not claim to be the expert of folklore, but I do know many experts have written about them and are happy to explain to explain them. I can only share what I do know in the hopes that perhaps we can all celebrate with gladness.

For some time, I suppose since the dawn of Christianity, there has been debate of what is the “right” way to celebrate. Early Christians were still clinging to either Pagan or Jewish beliefs and trying to live the best of both worlds. I summarize this for brevity but in short over the history of religion in general people have tried to get the best of both worlds. In America, as we’re quite young, we’ve gone from hard core purist to easy go secularism over a short 200 years. Does this make one better than the other? Does it make us less spiritual?

In my own humble opinion nothing can make one more or less anything unless one wants to be so. However, if it is the belief that for example celebrating Santa makes one forget the season than the answer is to simply not partake of said custom. Though the custom originates with a Saint, spiritually inclined (but human), it does not mean one has to celebrate it. It also does not mean that said abstinence is right for all. In the Christ myth the baby was given three gifts. Something I did or at least encouraged with my older children was the lesson of three gifts. Of course, in order to do so one must be able to put a halt to overly zealous relatives who may or may not agree with your chosen path. It does not though make them any less spiritual because they believe or do not believe in the spirit of Santa.

When I think to the teachings of Christ, especially the Sermon on the Mount, I think that it is something that should be done all year, but it is something that we especially take to heart during the Christmas season. As a pastor stated in his article recently, it is about giving. Instead of running around yelling blasphemy to every Santa, holiday lighted house, perhaps one should be out doing what Christ would have done. He wouldn’t have been running to Macy’s for the latest gift, or standing in long lines for a two dollar waffle iron. He would have been out feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, sitting with the poor and out of luck. Even I admit, there is a bit of irony when those who cry out the most about how Christmas is losing its meaning are the first to the stores, have trees up inside, hang stockings, give out handfuls of gifts, and cry if they don’t have the perfect Christmas dinner.

Let us look to the secular side of things for a moment. In researching the song held in contempt the words were added later in America, or so they have been thought to have originated as the original was simply a melody without words. It reminded me of the indifference of many that we now say Happy Holidays at schools, etc. instead of Merry Christmas. If we knew the origins would it really matter? Society’s issue today seems to be that most of us are caught up in the storm of saying what offends us that we forget to live what we believe. We have created an environment in which we want to sit here and point out “That word now means something different. It is offensive”. “That belief offends me”. “That person is ruining my holiday”. Yes, I’m well aware that my own articles could be said to be the same, yet there is a part of me who hopes that by pointing out a few of the arguments I’ve heard recently, that we can all come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what our neighbor is celebrating or how they are celebrating. What matters is how are we celebrating, does it go along with our own beliefs, our own path, and does it make us a better person, and have we helped our fellow sentient beings in doing so. If it does not, then perhaps it is time to check, but it is to check with one’s own self, not to blame others for our own choices.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Home Made Yule/Christmas Ornaments (Support the 99)

I grew up watching the Hallmark holiday commercials and still continue to find them rather enduring, but I've come to realize that they are not selling the spirit of the season, but rather simply profiting from it. This year instead of giving into the corporate processing of cheap plastic or glass ornaments, make ones that will endure generations of love.

One of the most precious ornaments on my tree is one my third daughter made me when she was in kindergarten, and it still is proudly hanged each year. It is two cd discs glued together with a red bow. On one side is Merry Christmas in glitter paint, and on the other side is her picture from that year. Don't know what to do with those scratched discs that cannot be salvaged? Turn them into priceless family keepsakes.

Another project that I grew up making alongside my mother was egg carton ornaments. Simply cut out Styrofoam egg cartons so that you have just the cup remaining. Spray the inside of the cup with spray glue, or you can simply use clear drying Elmer glue and sprinkle with gold or silver glitter. Once dry sew decorative light weight fringe to the edge. Once that is done glue in a miniature of your choice. You can find small enough miniatures at any Michael's or JoAnne's craft store. You simply want a piece that is small enough to glue inside the egg cup. You can then sew a hanging string into the top of the ornament. These fragile but precious ornaments make fun family projects and precious gifts.

A slightly more challenging project but one that is fun is beaded ornaments. There are many patterns out there for various types but one that I like involves simply using plastic beads (found in any store in the craft department)and threading them on wire to form a cross. You can create the cross by tying the string in the center (two pieces of string tied in the center) or if using wire you can simply wrap the wire in the middle. You can do any color design, and bend or tie the wire or string off at the end of the cross. Simply put the hanger on one end of the cross and hang.

Stain glass ornaments are also very pretty. An easy way to accomplish this is to use wax paper and shaved crayons (everyone seems to always have a handful of old crayons hiding out in odd places around the house). This project requires adult supervision because it uses an iron. Simply cut out the shapes you want your sections of stain glass to be (you want two pieces), then place the colored shavings into each piece. The adult should then use an iron on low to rub over the wax paper to melt the crayon in between. Once dry you can then hole punch the top and hang to the tree. If you want to create a Yule picture you can use construction paper to frame around each section.

Decoupage is another wonderfully creative way to make a classy home made ornament and you can do this with virtually anything! I find that anything from glass ornaments to spaghetti tops work well. Simply select the pictures you wish to create the piece, glue them down, and when dry shellac them.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scrooge Need Not Apply

It's a scam. They are just lazy. They will just use the money for drugs/liquor. Sound familiar? This time of year it seems to scream louder but it is a sentiment that seems to be there year round. The moment someone is approached by someone needing help there is a great deal of skepticism and sometimes false accusations that occur quite unfairly.

Oh, I'm in agreement that there are those who do have quite the tall tale, but I'm human enough to know that most people in need are genuinely in need. So during this time of year when we see more families in need of food, shelter, clothing, and a Yule experience let us all think about our own journey first before we pass judgment. Was there a time we needed help? A time we struggled?

Keep this thought throughout the year, and perhaps we will change the world. Anora

Thursday, December 1, 2011

99% Support-Not just for the holidays

We've all been following the local occupy groups in various cities and it is my hopes that we are all supporting the changes that need to occur. It is my hopes that we as citizens would understand that this is a life time change, and that includes our own shopping needs. It is the time of year that most of us are hustling and bustling to the stores and malls to get the latest cool toy, clothing, jewelry, and so forth for our children, significant other, or family. It is time to turn that shopping habit around and start buying from local vendors and artisans. There are many websites that host local artisans, and it is quite easy to start shopping local stores for the next the gift. This turns the revenue away from large corporations and sweat shops towards local residents and communities. I know from personal experience that it is easy to sit back and say "Well, it's cheaper", but is the decision to buy from large corporations really all together less expensive? Not really. Though in price it very well may be cheaper to by that $2.00 waffle maker but in order to have a price that low it means that people such as yourself in another country spent hours making them at low wages, and living in cramped apartments to do so. It just doesn't make the gift that nice when one begins to think about just how that item came into existence. Some of the most memorable gifts I received as a child were home-made. A home made wooden barbie doll set which included a dresser, closet, bed, and rocking chair. A hand-made baby doll complete with a dozen hand-made outfits. Do not think that children do not appreciate the home made gifts! Most of the special memories are about the experience, not how many of the latest gadgets they received. This is also a change that has to occur for a life time. It is not just limited to the holiday season. The more we as consumers support our local artisans and vendors the more we empower our communities and discourage the larger corporations. So make your life style change this holiday season, but keep it for a life time. Anora