I hope you basked in the warmth of loved ones’ company, ate well, and were pleasantly surprised. I have seasonal photographs, with thoughts on Joseph Ratzinger, McKinley Morganfield, and turkey stuffing.

Christmas tree

I’m losing patience with the carefully-multicultural “Happy Holidays” and “Best of the Season”. This particular feast day’s context is religious, and there’s nothing wrong with that even if you’re not, either as a matter of faith or heritage. The multiflavored citizens of Vancouver pitch in gleefully and I’m not sure the proportion of unbelievers is any higher, really, than it was back in the Old Days in the Old Country.

Children love Christmas for its own sake and it’s a fine thing for them, having something to anticipate. I’m pretty sure, looking back, that my own childhood feelings had a decent amount of enjoying-the-family mixed in with the gift-lust. On that note, our extended family didn’t have much travel energy this year; and Grand-Dad, who was supposed to join us from Saskatchewan, is snowbound on his farm. So it’s our first time doing this just as a nuclear family, and the first time I’ve taken on the turkey myself.

There’s that religious context. When I can, I try to watch the Christmas-eve Papal mass from St. Peter’s; simply for the sense of occasion. And I remember some decades ago, the very old Pope Paul, unable to walk but seeming to radiate serenity.

Last night, I ended up shaking my head at the current occupant of St. Peter’s throne, and I couldn’t help thinking of Muddy Waters. Benedict is supposed to be the spiritual leader of a billion or more souls; his deadpan mumble offered nothing for the spirit, and the leadership on offer was in the style of an Associate Deputy Chief of Staff chairing a quarterly review. And no-one seems to have felt that the watchers, numbering possibly in the hundreds of millions, were owed inspiration.

I saw Muddy Waters live a few times, the last not long before his death. He was old and seemed older; was helped onto the stage and performed sitting down. The music was fine as always. And at the end of the show, of course they played Mannish Boy; suddenly Muddy lurched up out of his chair and found the strength to bust a few moves and his hollering of “I’m a MAN!” moved into frightening territory, could his body take it? Then he stood with a vast serene grin, waving at the audience. He was a man, and sent the people home happy; something the Pope apparently feels is beneath his pay grade.

Right at the moment the Church of Blues looks to me like a better long-term bet than the Church of Rome.

Sunshine on Christmas day

The turkey came out just fine, the stuffing (bread, onions, butter, sage, nutmeg) maybe a little better than that, and Lauren’s pudding was a triumph. Just one dinner guest standing in for the extended family, that was OK too. And the chilly air outside full of slanting sun. Worship a moment of winter light on a small green plant, or worship everything. In between it’s just distractions.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Tkil (Dec 26 2009, at 00:49)

There are compelling arguments that the "Christ" in Christmas is a relatively recent phenomenon. A good rundown is here:


Honestly, I wouldn't care, if it weren't for twits in power whom believe that a 2000- to 6000- year old mistranslated and edited work is the one true way, and want to bludgeon everyone who disagrees with them.

Having said that, I was pretty happy when an atheist plaque was defended properly:


(All taken from a USAian perspective, in case it wasn't obvious.)

Best wishes to you and yours!


From: BWJones (Dec 26 2009, at 14:39)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family Tim.


From: Derek K. Miller (Dec 26 2009, at 17:34)

I've seen both John Lee Hooker and (especially) Buddy Guy play live, and I'd agree with you on their greater inspiration. I bet if Pope Benedict broke a shoelace, he wouldn't smile the wonderful happy smile that Buddy Guy does when he breaks a guitar string, filling the whole room with happiness.

Merry Christmas!


From: Ryan Cousineau (Dec 27 2009, at 01:18)

Well, I can perhaps give a Papist perspective here.

First, John Paul II was not only a remarkable, long-lived, and (at the start of his tenure) relatively young Pope, he may be unique among popes in having trained as an actor!

In other words, if any pope was ever going to be a tremendously charismatic (not to mention international, thanks to his aggressively polyglot talents and the existence of easy commercial air travel) figure of personal inspiration, it was going to be the man who just occupied that office before Benedict.

Benedict was surely (as many old popes before him) elected as something of a caretaker for the office, and to the extent that he has embarked on a special mission with his papacy, it's not international evangelism, and there's not much Communism left to fight.

Benedict has made a big deal of ecumenism: not just his public overtures to the Anglicans, but also in more subtle and less public gestures towards the Orthodox churches. A lot of this is inside-baseball stuff if you're not Catholic (or at least a Christian), but it's the kind of thing that makes sense in terms of the Catholic church's long-term goal to reunify as much of Christendom as possible.

Even if you're not a papal historian, surely political history within your lifetime has taught you that not all charismatic leaders are good leaders, and not all boring speakers are bad leaders.


From: John C (Dec 27 2009, at 08:10)

"Happy Holidays" is, to me, more polite than politically correct, and less nails-on-chalkboard to my atheist sensibilities. Besides, I think how odd it would seem for someone to tell me "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Ramadan". Perhaps I should move to "Happy Solstice"? But still, all the warmth and joy of the season to you and your family, Tim - I enjoy and look forward to your thoughts, opinions, news, and pictures.


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