Here in this surreal time, where people of goodwill are daily lied to and threatened by monsters who have usurped the reins of government, supported by deluded fools who believe that God winks at gross immorality in exchange for lip service, we need the peace and renewal of Christmas more than ever.
Yet somehow, it’s not enough to keep out the madness. Not even the gorgeous tree resplendent with lights, and ornaments. The Christmas tree represents the return of life in the midst of darkness and cold even as it slowly, inevitably dies before one’s eyes. That’s not very hope-nurturing, is it?
Then there’s all those lovingly wrapped gifts whose appreciation will last about along as the glittering paper, but the payments for which will remind one constantly all the way to next year’s binge. Speaking of which, there’s all those comforting sweet treats dripping with sugary fats, bound to blow out all one’s resolve and good sense, warming stomach and feet throughout the long nights with indigestion and gout, respectively.
There’s the ancient mistletoe of the Druids, which once upon a time, combined with enough eggnog and willing collaboration, could mean new babies in the fall. But with all the headlines about sexual harassment, one hangs it now at one’s own certain peril. Which brings up family, who may have been carefully avoided all year but are now totally in one’s face.
Don’t forget the joys of decorating! String enough blinking lights on the house to blind airline pilots, add some blaring carols, and one may draw visitors like moths, much to the delight of the neighbors or at least the power company. Garish, annoying, and an invitation to vandals, it’s still not surreal enough for this age of insanity.
Why not add a heart-warming, life-sized Nativity scene, with all the beloved characters, Mary, Joseph, the radioactive baby, the wise men and their camels, shepherds, and the rest of the gang. And this year, top all one’s neighbors, giving it that classic European touch by including a defecating man!
Yes! Believe it or not, in Catalonia, one of the traditional characters is called the caganer. It is the figure of a peasant squatting in the act of taking a dump. Nowadays, it’s gotten all commercialized, like everything else. So each year, they’ll come out with a politician, soccer player, or celebrity assuming the position. In 2010, they introduced one for Pope Benedict, this year who else but Trump? You can get one at Amazon.
Other er… excretory traditions, like the caganer, refer back to the Saturnalia and even older feasts. Yet even the squatter behind the crib pales before the ultimate combination of Christmas cheer and crap: Tió de Nadal, the pooping log. (Also from Catalonia, by the way… kinda makes one wonder.)
Yes, the festival of Christmas is not really about the birthday of Jesus (more likely born in the Spring) but the Sun. Thus, it’s full of hoary ancient traditions that hark back to solar myths and bloody paganism; Santa, the tree, elves and reindeer being just a tip of the proverbial iceberg. Some are fairly obvious though disturbing like the original forms of fairy tales, including the Yule Goat and Knight Rupert.
But the perfect symbol for these strange times is the Christmas demon Krampus. On December 5, the night before the feast of St. Nicholas, the original gift-giving time in the Alps, comes Krampusnacht, when the demon would visit. Boys and girls on the naughty list in the olden time didn’t get coal, at best they got bundles of sticks. They might get beaten with them by the demon, or stuffed in his sack and drowned in the nearest stream – or at least that’s what they were told.
Nowadays, Krampus Night is “celebrated” by impersonators in truly terrifying costumes rampaging through the streets. Here’s a short documentary.
It’s enough to make an American appreciate the wisdom of our migrant ancestors, who wisely and kindly left some things on the other side of the Atlantic. It is a sad sign of the darkening times that such grim and bizarre traditions are being revived.