Updates for Friday, December 24th [2004]

Ossian's Christmas Quest


Dear friends,

One man taught me a lesson about time that I hadn't really thought of until just now, and that was Mr. James Macpherson. When I was far younger, I wanted to learn Gaelic and translate his original copies of the lost Ossianic poems, and it wasn't until I was an old man that I learned that he, and the poems, were a fraud. I never said much more on the subject after that discovery, but the poems of the fictional character adapted by Macpherson was of a man who, as moments in his life passed in the underworld with his mistress, hundreds of years passed in the overworld, in his homeland, Ireland. I feel like if I get off my horse, and interfere with the happenings of this world, the time will catch up with me and I'll die as Ossian did when he finally ventured back home and fell from his magical steed to help two Irishmen move a heavy stone. Perhaps I can avoid the fate of lost writers and lost warriors... but I digress...

As I write this, it's the late eve of Christmas. I am happy to report that Sir James Roosevelt the Fourth is going to be moving out of our household, perhaps my personal Christmas gift after so much stress & duress on my behalf, to another apartment across the way (unfortunately I cannot export my good friend out of the continent or greater west of the Americas, and will still no doubt suffer his occasional visits). Daniel is preparing for the eventful holiday by playing "Halo 2" at almost all hours of the day, I try not to disturb him. He does not much appreciate the festive mood, however he likes the gifts. He also has devised a plan to acquire "food stamps", however I fail to understand why one needs stamps for food.

I've spent most of my last two weeks with Natalie, planning a vacation. According to her calculations, she spends roughly six thousand dollars on Christmas, the total expenses in conjunction with the annual lights and decorative displays, as well as her festivities with the locals. She even contracts a boy scouts troop to install a large snowman to match the neighborhood's decor, as part of their fundraiser they help out in the more affluent neighborhoods with such Christmas tasks. So I brought forth a plan, as I had been looking into the possibility of partaking in some travel with modern transportation systems while I am still here, to see the distant sights, and discovered that for merely half the total expense of Christmas we could forgo the festivities, and take a private vacation together. The possibility of the destinations alone was enough for her to concur, although she seemed a bit aghast to the idea of skipping Christmas. So we planned, and indeed it took a few days for her to finish up her winter break lesson plans for the students, and wrap into her vacation period, while she did that I took a lengthy journey to make the travelling arrangements, which I might add is a very fascinating process these days.

Then the trouble began. Neighbors caught word of our failure to participate in this year's Christmas celebrations and they were most upset. Walking that neighborhood, with the scowls and air of discontent, I felt like Napoleon strutting the isles of Saint Helena. Me and Natalie were walking out of her home, and met upon the Christmas committee, who were ensuring the neighborhood participate in this year's "festival of lights" project. Well, abstaining from Christmas, we were going to have no part of decorating her small house, irregardless of how unbroken the Christmas committee wanted the display. We thought that was the last of them, until many members at the behest of some elderly folk showed up during our dinner singing at our doorstep. It was strange, a group of caroling hawks, waiting for vestiges of life within our home. We hid for a while, until they left.

Then the boy scouts started in. First they tried to get us to buy a Christmas tree, of which we had no need. I told them rather politely, but they seemed indignant that it was a matter of charity. Having no objection with charity, but not being in the care of the finances, I consulted with Natalie, who was likewise committed to abstain from the festivities. We asked them to leave politely, vowing ourselves to donate the better part of the $3,000 we might save from the trip to a charity after the holidays, but they just threw down the tree in disgust on our lawn. Later, a gang of children accosted me at the door, demanding we set up our Christmas snowman decoration, no doubt at the behest of their parents and the Christmas committee. Never have I seen people so disgusted at a humble holiday getaway. The yuletide carolers returned again that evening and one slipped on our slightly iced walkway outside (from a brief cold rain that day), and threatened a lawsuit... being the "no-good" people we supposedly were, she was having nothing with our apologies for not cleaning the walkway, having no nevermind that she was not an invited guest we were expecting to walk up. We simply stayed shut-in for several days, enjoying a warm fire and the thoughts of our vacation, trying to dodge the chaos. It was then I decided to visit the local church to seek guidance with the reverend, who seemed to be coordinating the Christmas committee and the local festivities this year.

Me: So good sir, as you can see, we wish to spend our Christmas in the Bahamas, a place I've never been to, and in this world I may not get to ever see again. I would love to go if not merely to chronicle the fauna and flora, and see how temperate the region is. What a great gift if we could be left to go in peace!

Rev. Vogh Meyer: I see, but what about observance of our holy holiday?

Me: Are we not free to observe holidays as we see fit? I worship, I worship the Jesus and Christianity I know. I don't play parlor to the charlatanism of consumership and insincerity, and the orthodoxy of the organized priesthood.

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Think however, of the children, who would love to see every house in your neighborhood lit up, who would enjoy your company alongside their smiling parents at the local Christmas party on Christmas eve.

Me: Well, we do not leave until Christmas morning, and we do not feel welcome at such a party...

Rev. Vogh Meyer: What I think you don't understand, Thomas, is that Christmas is always about the community, about loving thy neighbor as Jesus did. Now, please consider my invitation to our block party on Christmas eve, and perhaps consider even staying in town for Christmas. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go see fit to a fundraiser for the church. We need to install and decorate a 20 foot tree this year, and that's gonna take a bit of money! It'll be the grandest display this side of town!

Something didn't seem right to me. Why did it matter if the display is grand? Isn't a religious holiday about the worship, and not the aesthetics? Might the money be better spent feeding the poor or giving poor children gifts, instead of on some idolic, monolithic Christmas tree? I walked home, and the children and adults around the neighborhood scowled, none waved as they would prior to the holiday season, either depressed by seeing me who did not celebrate with them, or depressed at having to be participants in a "joyous" occasion when there was no occasion for sincere joy. The dilemma worsened, and before I knew it, it was today, Christmas eve, just an hour and a half before the neighborhood block party, so I decided to discuss the reverend's proposition to join with Natalie.

Me: So he recommends we stay, or at least stay long enough for the party. Maybe it would mean something to the neighbors if we showed up for an hour, we can always leave early and pack afterwards. However, I don't take kindly to the words of an orthodox priest, as this hardly seems very orthodox behavior for a honest community.

Natalie: Thomas, I've been hiding from my neighbors. I'm a schoolteacher for goodness sakes! I teach some of the kids on this block, little Timmy down the street is in my class, and yesterday his parents asked me why I'm setting a bad standard for their kid by not celebrating Christmas! He's going to fail the class if he doesn't study hard, and how can I get his parents to trust that I'm doing my job when they've made me the town pariah over this stupid Christmas thing? I can't face these people all because of some simple decorations! We're not continuing your silly boycott of Christmas Thomas, because you just can't skip Christmas! This whole idea was selfish and stupid to begin with, they're right! As you can see, I already started putting up lights outside around the windows and gutters. The trip is off, let's just stay here and go to the party.

Then we heard a knocking upon our door. I didn't know what to do so Natalie was the first to get the door. At our doorstep was Reverend Vogh Meyer and his wife.

Natalie: What can I do for you Reverend?

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Well we just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas. We were also wondering, where is your snowman decoration? All our houses have one, but yours.

Natalie: Well Reverend, we don't have one this year, I only had time to buy and put up a few lights.

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Oh no, this will not do. What will the papers think if we don't live up with the neighborhoods across the river in our Christmas displays? If we don't get into the papers how are we going to attract post-Christmas worshippers? It's a depressing season you know, and they love to come into our church to warm their spirit, and how can that happen if there is no neighborhood Christmas spirit to share? And this house, it's right on the corner, everyone can notice it's discrepancy. We have a spare snowman in our truck, why don't you have your fellow Thomas here hike it up for us? You can leave it up over the vacation, I doubt anyone will notice.

Natalie: Listen Reverend... we'll put it... no... let me tell you something. We put up with the Christmas committee's howling, their constant harassment, even a threatened lawsuit over the slippery god-damn sidewalk, and the boys on the block playing pranks while sitting at our porch screaming "Free Frosty!" over and over at all hours of the day. It's our Christmas Eve, and I don't want to do put up a stupid snowman, I don't to make Thomas do it either, and I don't think you're being very fair to force us into this!

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Well, that is truly a pity... yes, well... oh, we also wanted to ask, will you be donating to our church's Christmas fund?

Natalie: Uh, Christmas fund? What is that for?

Rev. Vogh Meyer: We're paying to put up some lively Christmas decorations this year, a 20 foot tall fully decorated tree! Bet that'll get our church in the paper if our Festival of Lights doesn't.

Mrs. Vogh Meyer: Yes darling, but we understand if your Atheist boyfriend doesn't want you to contribute...

Natalie: What the... ? What do you mean Atheist? Thomas isn't an Atheist. He's a Christian, one the likes you probably never seen before, that's for sure.

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Well, no offense girl, but a Christian doesn't put himself before his neighbors, that's just plain selfish.

Natalie: You know what? I think Thomas is right after all, and if anyone's selfish, it's you and everyone on that damn Christmas committee worrying about THEIR holiday too much. And to top it off, you're a major league asshole! Get off my porch!

Rev. Vogh Meyer: But, I... ?

Mrs. Vogh Meyer: Oh dear, what is something I... ?

Natalie: Get out of here! We're going to the Bahamas or bust! And we don't want your stinking band of intolerant snobs in our holidays anymore!

Mrs. Vogh Meyer: Well I never!

Rev. Vogh Meyer: You should pray on this Natalie. Honey, let's go. We'll bring over the Christmas committee a little later to discuss your decorations. Merry Christmas! (it was at this point the door slammed, and Natalie turned back to me, as I stood rather silent at the whole confrontation)

Natalie: Thomas, I can't believe I was ready to call the whole trip off because of those conformist pricks, they almost converted me into one of their pod people. We're taking down those Christmas lights, we're packing our bags, and we're hitting the beaches! You were right Thomas, I'm so sorry for doubting you.

Not less than an hour and we were outside, tearing down the decorations to prepare for our overdue vacation, when we met with the final confrontation, the Christmas committee led by none other than Rev. Vogh Meyer.

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Natalie! Thomas! What are you doing? You're taking down the decorations? We can't have that! Please, leave them up at least through tonight, we'll take them down later! Think of the newspapers surveying the local displays! It's on the corner, they'll see this house first!

Me: Let me tell you something about Christmas, Reverend. A day of worship isn't composed of lights and glamor, of newspapers and excess. Insincerity is not the Christmas spirit, and it's not shared through fake smiles and cheap gifts. The truest gift of all is respect, and you haven't given us this to us at all, while we would've been content sharing it with you nonetheless. We wanted to skip Christmas, a silly holiday that doesn't have anything to do with worship, which does not have anything even to do with Jesus. If it ever did once, it surely doesn't anymore, and I can see that now. I won't keep these lights up another second.

Rev. Vogh Meyer: But, but, you're ruining our... MY Christmas eve! What about loving thy neighbor Thomas? What about what Jesus said? Can't you do this, for me? For US?

Mrs. Vogh Meyer: Yes, you two Atheists are so selfish that you can't even think of putting others first! For shame!

Me: Reverend, Madame, I know Jesus very well, better than some I might even say, and you must learn to separate the gold from the dross. Jesus didn't want us to be subservient to a shallow society where we were not free to speak our minds and our hearts, and were not free to celebrate and worship how we each see fit. When he wanted us to love our neighbors, he meant the kind of empathy and care you simply haven't shown us tonight. If you had simply agreed to respect our wishes and leave us alone, and kept your Christmas committee out of our front yard, maybe we would've all had a happy Christmas Eve, newspapers and "festival of lights" and silly fat snowman decor or not. But instead you wanted us to wear your silly & giddy insincerity, and in return we'd only ever receive for it an unfaithful distrust of anyone who doesn't conform to your silly traditions! Can't you think of what it was like before people had these kinds of traditions? Can't you think of what it's like to give the gift of respect and overlook something so trivial?

Rev. Vogh Meyer: Well I... (I was quite astonished to see a young boy burst out of the small crowd of the Christmas committee, a son of the neighbor down the road and a student of Natalie's)

Little Timmy: Excuse me, sorry... Miss C.! Miss C.! I don't mean to interrupt, I just wanted to tell you, I got my Winter break essay done. Dad was kinda mad that I didn't help put up the Christmas lights or the tree but I know I'm going to pass it because I sat inside all day and studied hard. I just wanted to let you know about that and wish you and your friend here a merry Christmas. We all heard you are taking a vacation so I hope you have a fun time!

Natalie: Why thank you Timmy, thank you very much. I will see you after school lets back in, and merry Christmas. We're done here. Let's go back inside Thomas.

Bah humbug to the whole mess. Please accept my wishes of merry mirth and jollity during your holiday seasons, as I shall enjoy mine in the Bahamas for the next coming week. Your friend and humble servant,

- TH. Jefferson

Editor's Notes:

As you can see, this entry is a parody of the flop "Christmas with the Kranks", only with an ending more fitting the whole terrible Christmas conformist movement. I'm not against family or merriment or anything, but I am against the insincerity that is bred into the consumerist season. Christmas isn't secular and it is supposed to be a religious holiday, not a recruitment drive or a time to "show off". But people will make of it what they will. I also threw in a lot of particulars of Jefferson that I've touched on before, his feelings about the role of Jesus in the Christian faith and his disdain for the dictatorial organized priesthoods. He saw such a rigid, unflexible church system as degrading the free man's thoughts about religion, and leading the charge into ignorance. And really, isn't Christmas a holiday that represents how a simple religious holiday can be turned into a secular consumer orgy?

Ranting aside, the information about Ossian, which leads this entry for a reason (although I'll leave it for you to research the story of Ossian and how it relates to TeeJ), pertains to lost Ossianic poems by James Macpherson that were indeed fakes. Just another good illustration of Jefferson's culturing... and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing? Hmm...

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