Tuesday, 23 December 2008

SUS'S SOUNDBITE: Let's make Christmas more commercial!

Another sound bite from Susan Ryder.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from shopping to decorating to singing carols. It’s my favourite time of the year, as it is for millions around the world.

There’s something about putting your tree up. I put mine up earlier than anybody I know, with the exception of my sister who occasionally pips me to the post. I usually aim for the last Sunday in November, complete with my favourite festive music. My youngest sister, a mother of three, somewhat violently swears the two of us to secrecy, lest my nephews and niece pester her to get their tree up ridiculously early, too.

The music is important, because it simply wouldn’t be Christmas for us without it. The first is from Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters, originally recorded in the 1940s. My late grandfather was a huge Crosby fan and he and Nana had the record. We played it every Christmas until it quite literally warped – and even then we still played it. Several years ago we discovered it on CD, thereby preserving the tradition for the next generation, who I’m delighted to report know all the words of Mele Kalikimaka.

The second is a relative newcomer, “Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas”, introduced by one of my brothers-in-law, a musician. Aaron might look like a criminal – and he does - but he has the
voice of an angel. I defy the hardest heart to not be moved by his rendition of “O Holy Night” in particular. Occasionally we will permit an interloper on Christmas Day itself, but generally it’s just Aaron and Bing. Perfect.

Anyway, back to the tree where my decorations are like old friends who visit once a year. Some were picked up in my travels in the days when the offerings in New Zealand were severely
limited, but now, thanks to globalisation, we are spoilt for choice.

No matter the size of the tree, though, or the quality and quantity of the decorations, they come alive with Christmas lights. The lights provide the magic.

Retailers love the Christmas season and for good reason. For many, it’s the busiest time of the year with December sales representing a healthy portion of their turnover. The big annual
spend-up on Christmas gifts is an example of the market at work. Stores are stocked to the brim with goods to sell, employing thousands of staff in the process. Students are gainfully employed
as much-needed additional staff to help offset the costs of their next educational year, or to just get through the summer.

Manufacturers work hard to complete orders on time and freight companies are flat out with seasonal deliveries. The livelihoods of many depend upon the Christmas season, and yet every year we hear the same cries that Christmas has become commercialised, as if it is a bad thing.

But why is that so?

To answer that question, it is worthwhile to explore its origins. Here’s a quick look. Christmas is a Christian holiday and like other Christian holidays, it has its origin in paganism.

Saturnalia was a Roman festival in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It began on 15 December and lasted for seven days of feasting and revelry, just prior to the winter solstice that
fell around 25 December on the Julian calendar. The solstice included glorification of Mithra, the god of light who several centuries later became known as the god of the sun. The Roman
Catholic Church had the habit of absorbing pagan traditions into Christendom, converting the holiday commemorating the birth of the sun god into “Christ Mass”, a ceremony honouring the birth of the Son of God.

However, Christmas-time celebrations prior to the 1800s still featured much pagan revelry among the British commoners, at times little more than wild carousals. It is believed that this
drunken revelry had much to do with Oliver Cromwell – never much of a partygoer – going so far as to outlaw Christmas in the 17th century, forcing it underground for a time. This ban was
extended to many of the early North American colonies where “violators” were fined five shillings. After its reinstatement, Christmas still bore much of its earlier debauchery, but some of
our current traditions started to appear. For example, caroling began with groups of individuals visiting houses in the community singing songs in exchange for eggnog. Gift-giving, however, was still extremely limited, and virtually unknown within families.

The traditions of several countries are involved. The Yule log came from Scandinavian mythology, “Yule” being the Anglo- Saxon term for the months of December and January. After
most Scandinavians had converted to Christianity, “Yule” became synonymous with Christmas.

By the 17th century, the Germans had converted the Christmas tree, originally a sign of fertility, into a Christian symbol of rebirth. The Dutch called Saint Nicholas, an altruistic bishop from the
4th century, ‘Sinterklaas’, who was to become ‘Santa Claus’ in the USA. In 1823 the American professor Clement Clarke Moore wrote the delightful poem entitled A Visit from Saint Nicholas,
better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

But perhaps the greatest change occurred after the publication in 1843 of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, providing lessons on charity and the importance of caring for family and
friends. As a result, Christmas became a joyful, domestic holiday focusing on children in particular. It was an illustrator with “Harper’s” magazine, who first depicted Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole in the latter half of the 19th century, while Coca-Cola ran commercials in 1931 showing Santa as the children’s gift-giver, as we know him today. Rudolf, the much-loved ninth reindeer appeared in 1939 via an advertising agent on behalf of his retailing client, all of which paved the way for the commercialism seen annually for decades.

The festive colour and sparkle brightened the dark days of the long northern winters, with the seasonal sales providing welcome respite during the slower trading months.

But what of Christmas down under, occurring as it does in early summer. Is it not odd to see traditional winter celebrations imposed by early settlers upon warm, sunny days? Christmas
cards depicting robins on snow-covered mailboxes? Rugged-up Carolers sipping hot toddies?
Not at all … if that’s what you like. Whether you prefer a traditional roast meal or a barbecue outside, a formal dinner or informal brunch, a church service to celebrate the birth of Christ
or a walk along the beach, a large, rowdy family affair or a quiet day indulging your favourite pastimes, is entirely up to you.

And rather than decrying its commercialism, I prefer to embrace it for the wealth it provides and the jobs it creates. It would be a mean-spirited Scrooge who begrudged another his
income during the Season of Goodwill. Do some people overstretch themselves fi nancially? Sadly, yes. But the truth is that nobody forces them to do so. Beautiful doesn’t have to be big and bold. It never did. Yes, the Santa sleepwear is tacky. Yes, the reindeer antlers are tragic on anyone old enough to pay full price at the pictures and Michael Jackson’s 'I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus' (I really did!) drives me nuts, too. But it all vanishes in comparison with the beauty of a Christmas tree lit up in the darkness, or the enrapturing melodies of some of the most beautiful music ever written.

Not to mention the face of the little one who gazes upon the simplicity of the nativity scene in the stable where the celebration of Christmas, as we know it today, all began.

May Father Christmas be good to you all.

This articloe originally appeared in the Franklin E-News. Get more of Sus' Soundbites here. And have a Salacious Saturnalia!


  1. The Banned One23 Dec 2008, 10:27:00

    Starr Parker on Townhall


    According to the report, there may be now 130 million Chinese Christians - some 10 percent of the population. It is estimated that maybe one percent of the Chinese population was Christian when communist China was founded in 1949.

    It's particularly compelling to consider that this explosive growth of Chinese Christianity is occurring in a country that is still officially atheist and where the government remains hostile and opposed to religion. And that, according to this estimate, the number of Chinese Christians is now almost double the number of Chinese members of the Communist Party.

    So why, when the Chinese are discovering both freedom and faith, is America abandoning both?

    Why do we now think we need to turn to commissars in Washington to plan our economy and our lives to save our country? Is this really where we should be turning to be saved?

    Let's remember, particularly now, that freedom is what made America great and that for that freedom, in the words of our first president George Washington, "religion and morality are indispensable."

    This Christmas, let's remember who we really are and that the formula for American success is freedom, faith, family, and friends. Merry Christmas to all.


  2. Susan Ryder said ...
    I defy the hardest heart to not be moved by his rendition of “O Holy Night” in particular.

    Oh, you missed that tune last Saturday night Sus. We (the christmas carol singers) sang that twice on different times of the night with Olivia The Libertarian (a contributor to Solopassion website) playing the Piano. She was awesome, Olivia took over the piano at around 11pm and we simply sang along to all the christmas songs/tunes she played.

    BTW, I got your message on Saturday and even though you didn't make it, I am sure that you will make it to the 2009 christmas carols singalong.

    Some of the singers were surprised to find out that Olivia is an atheist because they thought that a person who's knowledgeable about christian music as her must be surely a christian. She told them that it is the occasion/tradition that she enjoyed and much less about the meaning of the definition of what christmas is about.

    We partied till about 4am and everyone had a good time. Anyway, I ended up with more alcohol in the the following day than I provided (8 doz of beers of different sorts, a few wine/champagne unopened bottles). I guess that drinkers were enjoying singing so much and forgetting to drink the alcohol that they brought, and this means that I don't have to stock up my alcohol for the drinking season.

    Merry Xmas to all.

  3. In the southern hemisphere we are blessed: we use winter as an excuse for an employer paid-for "christmas" party in June/July.

  4. Oh you fool, Banned One. Communism is a religion. For Communists faith is vested in the Party and the State rather than Church and a supernatural after-life. Substitution of one blind faith for another won't solve problems. It'll lead to new ones.

    BTW what made the USA great was not religion. Further the promotion of individual freedom has nothing to do with religion either. Such things were hindered by religion.


  5. "BTW what made the USA great was not religion. Further the promotion of individual freedom has nothing to do with religion either. Such things were hindered by religion."

    That's absloutely right. America was NOT created a Christian nation. The Founders were very clear on that.

    In fact,if anything, religion is America's bete noire.

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  7. The Banned One24 Dec 2008, 01:45:00

    The Founders were very clear on that.

    Really? So how many of them were secularists?

  8. Banned One

    Instead of continuing on with your usual inanities, how about you go and read what the founders of the US actually thought about the topic? That information is available for your speedy enlightenment. You'll learn that the founders arranged for separation of church and state. You'll find out why they did not want religious belief to rule the lives and affairs of men by force, fraud or coercion- certainly not in politics, certainly not in private. The material you require to educate yourself away from your present state of ignorance and stupidity is readily available. You should look it up and start reading. Start with the Constitution of the United States. Read the Federalist Papers (the Anti-Federalist papers are worth reading also). You'll also find much of the discussion/debates/analysis of the issues considered by the founders at the time is well recorded (including correspondence, speeches and reports)- easily available for your reseach. So get to work. Look it up and start learning. Now is a good time.


  9. The Banned One.24 Dec 2008, 11:32:00

    "Instead of continuing on with your usual inanities"

    Spare me the patronising sermons you half educated slow witted commie. Only an arrogant narcissistic low IQ dumbfuck would think that they're the only one who understands the separation of church and state.

    Rather than preaching screeds of mindless off topic waffle, how about just answering the question? How many of the framers were secularists?

  10. Too right Banned one,

    If LGM spent more time addressing arguments than just forking condescending, patronising and getting an ego trip off reciting Rand to strangers, he might be worth listening to. I mean don't get me wrong, I don't agree with you on this issue, banned one, but LGM seriously needs a lesson in arguing without belittling. No-one wants to listen to that smack!

    "your present state of ignorance and stupidity"(?!!)

    Seriously LGM? I mean calm down man. It's just embarrassing to read!!

  11. Tim

    You've been somewhat economical with the truth, but we can get to that shortly.

    Firstly, you may not be aware that Banned One a.k.a. Red Bait has quite a history of visiting this site and posting inanities. He was asked to leave and not post on NPC as his "contributions" (it's very charitable to call them that) were not constructive, nor were they instructive (unless you regard learning of his repressed sexual inclinations instructive). He's vermin and deserves to be treated as that which he is.

    Regarding the exchange you object to, let's addresss the substantive.

    PC posts, "America was NOT created a Christian nation. The Founders were very clear on that."

    It's a statement of fact to which Banned/Red Bait reponds, "Really?" and introduces this red herring, "So how many of them were secularists?"

    Notice he did not know that the US was created as a non-religious (non-Christian) nation and so tried to wriggle away from the point by swapping the substantive with a non-substantive. That critter is dishonest (but we already knew that).

    The point PC made was that America was NOT created as a Christian state and the Founders were very clear on that issue. The point IS NOT not how many were or were not secular or religious.

    So we have two topics, the substantive at issue and the non-substantive distraction.

    1/. The founding of the USA as a non-religious, secular state.

    2/. How many of the Founders were secular.

    The banned red pervert wants people to confuse the two so he can substitute his ideology for fact. In reality he hasn't got a clue what he's on about. His mind has the content of an over-full blocked public lavatory (which it appears is where he spends much of his recreational time). He does not understand WHY the Founders created the US government as they did. He does not understand WHY it was that they arranged for a separation of religion and state or what that entails. He's heard of it (or, rather, asserts he's heard of it) but lacks the wit or background research to UNDERSTAND the concept, its derivation and importance. So, in order to help the poor weenie escape his present state of ignorance the suggestion was made that he actually go and read the actual documentation available.

    Look, whether you are concerned with WHY the Founders removed the church from political authority (and their reasons and recognitions for so doing) or how many were secularists (you may well be surprised about that), the answers are available on the historical record. One can read the Constitution, the Articles, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, the public and private correspondance of those involved, reports and speeches made at the time and so on. Much of this material can even be found on the web for NO CHARGE WHATSOEVER. All one needs to start is a Google search or a visit to the library...

    Now, if you are REALLY interested in this subject and HONESTLY wanted to KNOW about it, why wouldn't you go look this material up BEFORE commenting?

    Seriously. Why not?


    Moving on to you.

    Tim, show where I was reciting Rand to strangers. Show where I quoted Rand to Banned/Red.

    Or, have you been telling fibs?


  12. The Banned One26 Dec 2008, 08:34:00

    Watermelons is a great name for the Greens. It encapsulates so well the hypocrisy of a movement that professes to care for the environment but attacks and attempts to deconstruct the very systems by which the environment can be cared for. Libertarianism is a similar Trojan horse for the left, in that it is another movement that professes to care for a certain outcome, but attacks the very social systems that will bring about those outcomes.

    The American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are two of the greatest documents on freedom ever produced. They came from the minds of men who held God and religion in some reverence.

    Traditional ideas on personal liberty and small government came from religious and correspondingly moral people. That is partly the point of the article I referenced at the beginning of this thread. That is the point of my question concerning the religious allegiance of the framers.

    LGM's dull witted rant here in just the usual shallow narcissism, in that he/she believes they are the only person who understands the separation of church and state, when my whole point was designed to highlight that the historical ideas on liberty that underpin the American government have undeniable foundations in the Christian religion.

    Just as the Greens have become recognised as frauds and charlatans, so do the Libertarians risk being seen as like fakes, when their professed concerns for freedom are framed in such shallow concepts as drugs for queers while religious thinkers, part of the true and solid foundation of individual liberty, are due nothing but disdain and contempt.

    Just as the Greens attacks on capitalism ensure the environment will not be cared for, so do the Libertarians attacks on religion ensure that the ideas on freedom they profess to care for are ever further away from being realized.

    Watermelons and Liberqueerians. Both groups attack the right when the outcomes they seek are only going to be realized by means of right wing ideology. Both just Trojan horses for the commies. Both just bunches of sad shallow thinking fuckwits.

  13. the historical ideas on liberty that underpin the American government have undeniable foundations in the Christian religion.

    I would argue that the historical ideas on liberty that underpin the American government actually originated in ancient Greece. For it was the ancient Greeks that invented the tradition of rationalism and it is in this tradition that can be found our most important ideas about liberty.

    Christian tradition has over time incorporated more and more elements of the rationalist tradition and by doing so it has served as a vehicle for the propagation and continuation of rationalism. Rather like Christmas has served as a vehicle for the propagation and continuation of Pagan tradition. Also, thanks to rationalism, Christian tradition has evolved so that it now contains lots of truth-like knowledge (and knowledge that is not in the bible).

    So Christianity would not be the religion it is today without the rationalist tradition. That tradition - the rationalist tradition - is the most important of our traditions and the one on which America was in fact founded.

  14. Banned/ Red

    You've been caught telling silly lies again!

    A few facts for you to learn:-

    1/. Religion was NOT the source or foundation of the ideas that the USA was founded upon. Go read the link provided by PC. It's a brief summary but explains enough of the background for you to make a start in understanding the facts of the matter. Go read the material I mentioned as well.

    2/. Morality does not presuppose blind faith in super-natural imaginary friends, pixies, spirit-monster-ghost things, devils, imps, dragons, angels and so forth. Morality does not presuppose religion.

    3/. Religious people are not necessary moral. In fact, those who are consistently religious (taking religion seriously on a consistent basis) tend to be the most immoral and evil that one is likely to hear about or have the misfortune to meet.

    4/. Religion (which requires blind belief in things like a supernatural non-existant, a sacred collectivism, a perfected socialist state etc.) does not lead to freedom. It requires enslavement of the intellect to the dictates of the religion and it ultimately leads to tyranny.

    5/. Right wing ideology is merely another variant of collectivism. The difference between the right wing and the left wing is a matter of the excuses offerred as justification for their lusts for coercion and compulsion in human affairs. Both types should be treated with contempt and spurned.

    6/. You seem to have some sort of repressed fixation regarding matters sexual. It would probably advance your progress through life if you were to seek professional help.


    Your posts boil down to a litany of unbacked assertions- baseless and shallow. Where have I maintained that I'm the only person who understands separation of church (religion) and state? I've indicated no such thing. What I have maintained (and continue to maintain) is that YOU do not understand the topic and are not familiar woth the facts. Seriously, you need to go look some of that material up and seek an understanding BEFORE you comment. Without that specific knowledge you are simple making a fool of yourself (again and again).

    Banned/Red, you've been making yourself look very stupid for a while now. Surely it's time to sit down, take a deep breath, do some research and disover the truth- the facts.


  15. The Banned One31 Dec 2008, 20:49:00

    "Your posts boil down to a litany of unbacked assertions"

    Yeah really??

    Like these right??

    1) You've been caught telling silly lies again!

    2) Religion was NOT the source or foundation of the ideas that the USA was founded upon. ["source"..??? Whoever said "source"?? Only some non-comprehending slow witted fuckwit who can't wait to falsely label others as liars]

    3) Morality does not presuppose- blah blah blah

    4) Religious people are - blah blah blah

    5) Relgion "requires enslavement of the intellect" blah blah blah

    6) Right wing ideology is- blah blah blah

    7) The difference between the right wing and the left wing is- blah blah blah

    8) You seem to have- blah blah blah

    9 to 15) At least a half a dozen others I can't be fucked repeating...

    "It would probably advance your progress through life if you were to seek professional help"

    Yawn.. Fuck off you arrogant condescending lamer. Its brainless self important low IQ blowhards like you that continue to convince me that the NZ Libertarians are a completely lost cause.

  16. Banned/Red

    And you're fibbing yet again. You should stop now as you are not a very good liar.

    For example, fact for you to learn #1 reads "source or foundation" which is different from the spin you've tried to apply. Cheap fibbing like that fails to get you anywhere. Your entire position remains invalid.

    Free advice: Next time don't substitute for reality. It does not work. Be honest for a change and address the issue at debate directly. Do the background reading first.

    You've been presented with a list of verifiable fact, little man. Sure, that may be confronting and uncomfortable for you but a perusal of the material previously cited to you would provide the information you so clearly need to acquaint yourself with. Name calling, smearing and snarling about how you can't be bothered dealing with facts of reality does nothing to defend, let alone promote your position. Rather, your behaviour demonstrates your own intellectually shallow nature. You have nothing and you can't squirm your way out of that by emoting.

    Seriously, you do need to read the material recommended to you BEFORE posting. Those readings completely kill your stated position. Pretending otherwise just won't cut it.

    What are you so scared about? Just read, then think about what they are telling you. Now is a good time!


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