Saturday, November 3, 2007

What tree?

What's under the tree this year? What tree?

This makes the second (third?) year we have not really done anything for Christmas, since we've started considering ourselves Buddhists and not really Christians. Therefore it seems a little illogical and ironic that we would participate in a ritual that is supposedly based on the Christian faith. In our culture, though, it is really a commercial holiday more than anything. It's a reason to run up your credit card debt. It's a reason to stress out about the decorations inside and outside of your house. It's a reason to bake copious amounts of decadent treats that raise your blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight to new heights. Yet we do it.

I sincerely doubt there will be a tree this year. First of all, there's the Buddhist thing. Every year the Buddhist temple advertises its events as being a shelter from the craziness of Christmas that is surrounding us all. Secondly, we have absolutely no room, and now it appears our son will be staying until August. He simply can't get everything together in time for a spring move to Embry-Riddle. That's fine, but it means that my house is going to continue to be crowded until August. Does this mean we won't exchange gifts, though? Absolutely not! :-) We have always had the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas, though we never did the church thing, so we will continue that. It's the one time of the year that we treat our kids (and each other) to something special. We don't give gifts outside the family with the exception of gift cards for our minor nieces and nephews and a little something for Mom. Anything more seems terribly extravagant and unnecessary.

I guess I just don't understand people who buy something for everyone - even the doorman (as if I had one). There are actually gift-giving guides that pop up at this time of year to guide you on how much to tip your mailman, your doorman, your hairdresser, etc. Personally, I think my hairdresser makes pretty good money off of me and is tipped $10-$15 about 10 times a year. That's enough. Why should I need a gift-giving guide to tell me how much of my hard-earned money to give away to people whose first name I don't know (okay - with the exception of Debbie, my hairdresser). That is simply commercialism at its worst.

And then there's the whole Thanksgiving holiday. We will be going off to Atlanta on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, dogs in tow, to visit my husband's family. We had originally planned something for our house, but we've missed the last few Thanksgiving's with his family, and so we're going.

I disagree with the Thanksgiving holiday in principle, though it is one of my favorite holidays. I like what they call it in Canada - "family dinner." I think that's what we should call it here, too, because that's what it amounts to - a reason to get together and eat, play touch football, and watch the Lions game. One of my biggest pet peeves about it is that we have always been taught some wrong information about Thanksgiving.

It was actually a celebration of not just the first meager harvest by the Pilgrims (interlopers) with their "Indian" (Native American) friends, it was also a celebration of the anniversary of the treaty signed by Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoag tribe whose territory the interlopers landed in. Massasoit signed away part of his land to the interlopers and agreed that if any of his people harmed a hair on an English head, Massasoit would hand over said "Indian" to the interlopers for due process and punishment. No reciprocity was given. The natives brought a number of freshly killed deer to the celebration, which was actually the meat served at the first Thanksgiving.

The natives didn't have any concept of property ownership. Everything belonged to everyone. Imagine the kind of world we'd live in if we just let go like that! What if I thought, "Well, if Joe took my monkey wrench, he must have really needed it. When I need it again, I'll go ask for it." Community property! The exception was territory. Tribes had the concept of territory so that they had adequate space for hunting, fishing, agriculture, and other human needs. However, this concept did not include surveying and dividing up land into parcels that could be fenced in and defended by law.

I could go on and on. This is a subject that has been dear to me since I first read two meager paragraphs in my humanities textbook about King Philip's War (1675-1676) in which the son of Massasoit was pitted against the English in an attempt to stem the tide of English taking over native lands and converting them all to Christianity by coercion. That was an important turning point in our history (and theirs). It's largely ignored, but if you want to know more, a wonderful book called, "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick really dives into the subject. It's one of the best I've read. As far as academia goes, read "The Name of War" by Jill LePore on the topic of the war. I have a whole shelf of books on the subject. It's fascinating.

And so, my friends, I go into the holiday season 60 lbs lighter than last year, and of a different mindset than most in this country. I am truly grateful for what I have, and I refuse to be swayed by the commercial slant in this country. I will not tip the mailman. Fair warning!

Peace - D

1 comment:

susan said...

I seem to remember a very special gift that you gave to me for Christmas one year. I still cherish it! My holiday is Yule on the 21st so by the 25th I am finished. Gift giving is a part of out Sabbat but NOT the reason we celebrate. It is just crazy!!