That Certain Smile

scroop-santa-claus-fixed-our-christmas-lights.jpg

Merry Christmas? Pagans,

Romans & Countrymen:

Lend Me Your Smiles!

21 December 2006, Manila time. It’s 4 days before Christmas as I write these lines. I feel particularly glad. I’m very well, thank you! Apt image from Scroop who captions it ‘Santa Claus Fixed Our Christmas Lights’ (flickr.com/). I like the smile; it tells me, ‘I wish you love.’ That certain smile tells me of more smiles, as I will show you.

Surfing the Internet, I learn that with Christmas, we are celebrating a feast that began more than 2000 years before, not after the birth of Christ. Meaning, it’s not Christian, it’s not holy, it’s pagan. How do you like that? I love it! It’s worth many smiles.

No, he isn’t smiling when Studio Melizo (2006, holidays.net/) tells me Christmas is more than 2 times older than the birth of Christ, whose name it carries and for whom we celebrate the date. He says most of those Christmas things we observe can all be traced back to the people of ancient Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia! That region is now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran (Wikipedia). We borrowed from the Mesopotamians the ideas of the 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, parades with floats, carolers going from house to house, the feasts and the church processions. The Mesopotamians celebrated the 12 days for the New Year. (Years later, it was Julius I, Bishop of Rome, who declared December 25 as the day of observance of Christmas, the date of birth of Jesus.) In other words, it’s all very man-made, and crudely. Christmas is not a law handed to us from the heavens with a bolt of lightning.

I like that Christmas smile anyway. It tells me, ‘Look at the bright side of things!’

And, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, was where civilization was born and where writing began (The Detroit Institute of Arts, 2006, dia.org/). I’m a writer; that’s good enough for me. What would I do if I didn’t know how to write?! That’s worth another smile.

How did our Christmas start anyway? Lawrence Kelemen tells us (Judaism Online, 2006, simpletoremember.com/) that in 1809, the American novelist Washington Irving – remember The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle – wrote a satire of Dutch culture he titled Knickerbocker History, where several times he mentioned a white-bearded Santa Claus who rides a flying horse. In 1822, Clement Moore published a poem based on Irving’s Santa Claus, which reads in part:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The flying horse is gone, and the red-nosed flying reindeer is here. And Santa Claus is here with a present and a smile. His Christmas smile says, ‘Have a nice day.’ I can use a nice day.

On with the story: St Nicholas; soon the name transformed itself into Santa Claus. Nice. It was Thomas Nast, an illustrator from Bavaria, who gave the modern image of Santa Claus, drawing 2,200 cartoon images of Santa on the pages of Harper’s Weekly from 1862 to 1886. Nast drew Santa’s home at the North Pole, with his workshop of elves, and his list of good and bad children of the world. Children will always be children.

In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation engaged the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a Coke-drinking Santa, complete with a cheerful, chubby face and a Coca Cola-red outfit. His smile tells me, ‘It’s all right.’

I quote Lawrence Kelemen:

Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.

‘Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly.’ I don’t think so. Christmas has always been celebrated carefully – in the United States, in Europe, in the Philippines, with or without Santa Claus, with or without the gifts. In the Philippines, we celebrate Christmas with at least 10 dawn masses (Misa de Gallo, Mass of the Rooster). We know for whom we are celebrating the day; the Church bells tell us; the priest tells us. Our stars (parols) tell us; our Nativity scenes (Belens) tell us Filipinos. Their Christmas smiles tell me, ‘It’s a great story, isn’t it? And it’s all true! And we’re part of it all!’

Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

Lawrence, Christmas trees aren’t so bad, are they? Unless of course we worship the Christmas tree itself, a dead tree or half a tree, or an artificial tree. We adore it, but we don’t worship it; in the Philippines, we don’t offer a chicken’s liver or prayers to its spirit. The American mistletoe isn’t so bad either – you get to kiss the girl of your dreams, or the boy. And Christmas presents – why, in fact, we should be always giving Christmas presents everyday. A Christmas present says ‘I love you,’ and love is a welcome present anytime of the year, everyday of the year. Or didn’t you know?

Do you realize that everything that we do today has a pagan origin? Of course. Our common ancestors were pagan, weren’t they? They couldn’t help it. Everything they did were barbaric, brutish, uncivilized, Neanderthal, wild, savage – including making love. Unless of course you don’t believe in the theory of evolution – scientists call man Homo sapiens because we can think; they call one ancestor Homo erectus because he moved about erect – or in the theory of creation (God created Adam first, and Eve from out of the rib of Adam). On one hand, ancient man was naked, and so was ancient woman; on the other hand, Adam was naked, and so was Eve – at least they were not ashamed. They had the innocence of nakedness, of being natural, an art which we have lost. Today, we decorate our bodies and call it clothing or accessories or make-up. Well, that’s not so bad, but we should remember where we came from – the wilds.

And Santa Claus? I have no complaints. I’m 66 but not too old to receive a gift from him, that is, whether I hang my stocking or not, whether I can afford a stocking or not. He’s a jolly good fellow. What would this world come to if we didn’t have a jolly good fellow in the midst of gloom? His smile will tell us, ‘It doesn’t matter how it looks. It could have been worse. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in God.’

Yes, Scroop has it just right, an electrician making a house call, a Santa Claus wearing a red hat and a bright smile. Give me a Santa Claus smile everyday. That’s the right Christmas spirit. You pay the electrician some money; he gives you good service – with a bonus of a smile. Isn’t that great!

My Christmas wish is simple. Don’t give me a Christmas gift; give me a Christmas smile. I can make that smile last 24 hours a day 30 days a month 365 days a year.

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Explore posts in the same categories: 12 days of Christmas, barbarians, caroling, Catholics, Christians, Christmas 2006, Christmas tree, December 25, giving of gifts, Julius I, Mesopotamians, mistletoe, pagans, savages, That Certain Smile

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