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December 2001

Download the word version, perfect for printing and handing out on street corners!
In this issue:    Harry Potter, Prince of Darkness! Star Trek! TV Terrors! PLUS: Coca Cola Christ! Literature! and What Ash Really Wants for Christmas!.
 
 
THE SEASON OF GIVE-ME: BEHIND THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS
X-The Geoff With The X-Ray Eyes

 
I am not going to write about the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones trailer. It may clearly contain images of a young Darth Vader having a space picnic, but I will not comment on it in my wry, fanboy fashion. The scene speaks for itself. Space picnics, people. Holy Mary on toast...

No, instead I shift my focus on to that most enjoyable of holidays: Christmas. It's a time for getting presents and feeling grim betrayal because they aren't as good as the ones you gave. It's a time for getting presents and realizing your friends and family don't know you at all, because how could anyone who has even a slim grasp on who you are give you THAT?? It's a time for visits from that drunken uncle; you know the one, the one with the two ex-wives and pea soup-stained tie. How did it all begin? It's something many people know, or think they know. It's time now to go behind the magic and learn the truth.

The days around the winter solstice, that time when our fair blue orb, the Earth, is furthest from the Sun, have long been a time of celebration for humans. Like monkeys slapping the ground in a thunderstorm, there's something about those long, long winter nights that just made our highly advanced, tool using primate ancestors want to huddle up with some friends and pretend things weren't so bad. Sure, they thought, it's going to be months until we can find any food. Sure, half our population will die from exposure. But why not worship our pagan gods just a little bit harder and maybe spring will come sooner? It must have seemed a smashing idea, because it caught on like gangbusters.

Eventually some caveman somewhere, let's say in Siberia, decided that all these nice stone tools and foodstuffs were being wasted as sacrifices to the gods. Surely, he thought, why would the gods want all their faithful followers to die, when they could sure use those sacrificial items? So our enterprising caveman decided to begin giving the sacrifices to friends and relatives, instead of the gods. Other cavemen, even those as far away as France, began doing the same thing. It sure was a lot more fun giving and getting things than it was wasting them on the gods, who never seemed to shorten winter anyway. Soon, though, the giving and getting got out of hand. There weren't enough items to go around. Some mediating factor needed to be brought in to decide who got the gifts and who didn't. Enter Santa Claus.

He wasn't Santa back then of course. Our lovable, jolly elf didn't appear until the early 20th century. No, back in the white-trash trailer park of time, Santa was a wild man, a god of the woods, a Pan. He was a fierce creature that doled out the gifts, and if you weren't good all year, boy howdy, there was nothing for you except maybe a sound thrashing! And so it went in northern cultures. The Santa figure developed into several variations among cultures throughout the northern half of the globe. Nothing really changed for 10,000 years, give or take a millennium. What finally happened was that on or around the year 1, a small cult of unorthodox Jews decided that a baby born in a manger was their Messiah. He was named Jesus, and he would go on to become one of history's Real Bad Asses.

Wherever he went, Jesus was changing the world. He only lived 33 or so years, but enough nuts believed in his magic powers that his cult grew, and grew, and grew, until it usurped the much cooler Roman pantheon, becoming the one true religion of the world's superpower. These Romans would have none of this pagan nonsense! Everywhere they went they forced the people to change their no-good pagan rituals and ceremonies into no-good Christian ceremonies and rituals. This included Christmas. The big problem was that the pagans really liked their winter solstice celebrations, what with all the giving and getting. So the Christians performed what was to be the first Imperial takeover of the Season. It was no longer the 'Saturnalia', or the 'Yule'. It was now and forever Christmas. A committee of Bishops and Cardinals chose the name in a late night session in the heart of the Vatican. Pope Urban the First abstained from the proceedings, as he was sick with the syphilis.

The Wild Man became Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, and the holiday was modified so that there was a lot more glorifying of God, and a lot less drinking. Over the years these two important elements reached a homeostasis that remains to this day. Christmas entered another long period of relative stability, right up until the 1930s, when the Second Imperial takeover of the Season took place. This time it wasn't a religion that co-opted the heritage of a people. This time it was a corporation. In 1931 Coca-Cola stole Santa Claus.

The good people at Coca-Cola decided that having a symbol for the holidays as a mediating factor for gift giving wasn't enough. They decided that they needed to boost sales in the colder months, when a Coke just wasn't refreshing. In a series of paintings by artist Haddon Sundblom, running annually from 1931 to 1965, they did just that. So it was that Christmas became not a religious holiday for Christians, not a religious holiday for pagans, and not even a 'let's all keep warm together' holiday for cavemen. It became a gimme gimme holiday for capitalists everywhere.

Coca-Cola did not do this lightly. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which drove out all capitalist and religious holidays, was seen as a potentially overwhelming force against Cola the world over. If everyone was equal, and all goods shared reciprocally, where is the room for a refreshing carbonated beverage? Coke would have none of it. Only by mobilizing the world through Santa could they stave off the tides of dirty communism. It was with an ironic brush the Sundblom chose Red as Santa's primary colour.

Now that Christmas was a strictly commercial venture, the moderating factor of the Wild Man was gone. The gimme gimme factor kicked in to high gear, and soon the world was crushed under the weight of evil commercialism and market capitalism. Which is where we are now. You no longer have to be good to get your gifts. You no longer have to be pious. All you need is greed.

How long, though, can the oil of society be made up of Mass Consumption? How long until we cry out for a moderating factor, a new Wild Man to help us restrain our baser urges new things? I say that time is now!

It's time for the people of the world that celebrate Christmas to get together and invent a new, Coke-Free Santa. One who will really get on our asses if we aren't good. Maybe he could carry a jolly red Uzi. The Uzi is after all an Israeli weapon, and Israel is the home of Jesus, so it ties in to the whole theme of the season. If you aren't good, braaap! A full magazine clip to the chest! That'd show the little punks! Hey Billy, looks like you didn't get that GI Joe playset after all, ya creep! Sally can't come over because of the sucking chest wound? What a shame! I guess she shouldn't have teased me at school.

The point is, we need to reacquire our winter holiday before it gets taken any further from us. Reindeer with glowing noses? Give me a break. In Australia, a notoriously backwards country, they have kangaroos pulling the sleigh! I know, I know, atrocious, isn't it. The only thing that can truly save Christmas now is you, me, and an Uzi-toting Santa. That's all I want this year.





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