Ah Christmas. How I hate thee so.
Yes. Call me Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Grinch or a stupid poo poo-head meanie. I don’t mind. Before the self-righteous avengers out there get their feathers all ruffled about someone bad-mouthing arguably the most popular holiday ever just days before it is celebrated let’s clarify exactly what I don’t like about Christmas. I don’t hate Christmas just to be an a douche nor does it stem from having a childhood wrought with personal letdowns. In fact my early years were fantastic. My parents, family and friends were awesome (and still are). I’m disgusted with the perversion that has adopted the name. I pride myself in not buying into the corporate merchandising gimmick that has cleverly masked itself as Christmas. We’ve been manipulated over the past century into believing in this twisted concept that giving is something that is measured by quantity and cost. This isn’t me channeling the power of the hippies. This is what’s going on. I’m not saying everyone has bought into the madness. There are still many people out there who still remember what Christmas is all about. Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen victim to this though. There are many of us out there with pure intentions but get caught up in the media fueled consumer frenzy. How many times have you been strapped for cash and felt bad over the Christmas holiday because you couldn’t get everyone you love something deliciously dazzling. How is that even remotely right? Why should a person feel guilt, remorse, pressure or even sorrow because they can’t afford to purchase something for someone? Is this really what the concept of Christmas has devolved into? Stampedes and trample injuries on Black Friday? Peer pressure spending? Depression over the holidays? 5 year olds getting iPhones and laptops?
I was reading the paper the other day and came across an article about some local Inuit children. The newspaper decided to get into the spirit of the holidays by printing their Christmas wish lists. One girl wanted a doll. One boy wanted skates. One after another there were simple and humble requests ranging from a puppy to a sled. Then along came the last little girl who literally turned my stomach when I read what she wanted…
“I would like an iPod or maybe an iPhone. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
She couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. I’m a 35 year old man and don’t even have an iPhone and yet, sure as shit stinks, someone will get this for her. Why? Because she needs it? Because it’ll make her happy? You’ll win her approval by doing so? I’m not too hip with my elementary school politics but I’m quite certain there’s nothing that pressing or important going on in a child’s life at that age that would facilitate the need for an iPhone other than the desire to be cool. I highly doubt she’ll be paying for the plan needed for such a gadget so guess who has to foot the bill for that as well? It’s getting really expensive to buy people’s love nowadays.
I was brought up with the understanding that you had to earn everything you get. I wasn’t underprivileged by any means but my parents also didn’t simply give me anything I wanted , even being an only child. Everything seems to be handed to people, especially children, on a silver platter nowadays. Gifts are meaningless. It ends up becoming a sick game of one-upping with the next “gift” exceeding the last. How can anyone learn to genuinely appreciate anything if the whole gift-giving process revolves around the predication of “who can get me the better item”? Let’s take it back a few centuries to the cat who this holiday is all about, Mr. Jesus himself. It’s his birthday. Why are people stressing over getting other people gifts or not getting what they want? Isn’t the birthday boy supposed to be the one getting the gifts? Heck, I’d be pissed if it were my birthday and people were giving each other gifts and not me.
Just kidding Big J. Don’t strike me down just yet. I got two ideas to save Christmas.
Blasphemy aside, I dig where you were going with the idea JC. You wanted selflessness and giving to one another from the heart to be your birthday gift. Although the Catholic faith and I are bitter enemies at this point in time, there are certain principles that we share. That is why The Way of Zen will actually keep the tradition of Christmas intact. However we’ll have rules about how to celebrate it. People seem to follow suit when given instructions kinda like how they do when it comes to recycling programs. If left to their own devices people think far too much for their own good and start marring even the simplest of notions. Therefore we at the Way of Zen will enforce one of the following two ideas:
- All Christmas gifts have to be created by the person giving the gift. Gone are the days of being lazy. You need to make gifts matter. Bake something. Stitch something. Craft something. Build something. Teach someone something. It doesn’t matter. Any parent in the world knows how precious it is to receive a gift from their child that the little bugger created with their own two hands. You’ll save it , cherish it , talk about it, show it to everyone, and use it thirty years down the road to embarrass them when they’re adults. That sense of pride should be universal. Don’t cop out and brainwash your loved ones into believing expensive, complicated or flashy is better. So what if it brings the economy crashing down. Which would you rather have, your values or your cash? It’s quite obvious we can’t have both.
- The older you are the more expensive the gift. For those of you who can’t seem to wrap your brains around the thought of not purchasing something, I have this brilliant idea. Gifts based on age. The longer you’ve been on this planet the more expensive and greater amount of gifts you receive. Talk about earning your way. If you’re like 90 years old you should be bathed in lavish gifts cuz dammit, you earned it for lasting this long. It’ll give you something to look forward to as you age. We’ll have no more of this getting babies and children tons of gifts. Why? They haven’t earned a thing yet. Besides their gift is that their bloody parents are taking care of them for 18 years. They shouldn’t even be asking for anything more than that.
As always, if you can’t take things lightly you really shouldn’t be floating around my blog. I poke fun at anything and everything. Nothing is off limits. I do that because people need to learn to lighten up. If your life revolves around being uptight about anything anyone says because it differs from what you think then I truly feel sorry for you. Loosen up, put a smile on your face and enjoy the holiday for what it’s supposed to be – not what it is.
This will probably be my last entry before the grand spectacle so I’ll leave you with this…
To my family and friends
Blikes and blends
Whether you agree with me
Or drown yourself in holiday glee
With everyone’s favorite holiday near
I wish you a very merry Christmas
And a safe New year
I know. My poetry rocks.
…if you can’t be good, be good at being bad. 😉
It’s funny hearing about all the myths and misinterpretations regarding Canadians. Being a former New Yorker I too am guilty of either cracking jokes or being misinformed about at least a couple of them. I have the unique perspective of having lived on both sides of the fence of ignorance and I feel compelled to clear up the fog of confusion regarding the World’s Most Friendly Country:
- It’s always cold in Canada and everyone lives in igloos – The latter is more playful ribbing than anything but one of the most popular misconceptions is that it’s always cold in Canada. The majority of the country is along the same latitude as the United Kingdom yet you never hear any cold jokes about the Brits. Some of the northern regions are of course in the Arctic circle and tend to have rather frigid conditions but for the most part Canadians experience the same weather one would receive in any northern state in the US. In fact I can recall quite a few days just this past summer where highs Toronto beat out those in New York and Boston. Winters may last a little longer but the temperatures are pretty consistent. Here’s the averages in January from various locales across Canada:
(Source: The Weather Network)
- Vancouver, BC: 32 / 43°Fahrenheit (0 / 6°Celsius)
- Edmonton, AB: -2 / 18°F, (-19 / -8°C)
- Yellowknife, NWT: -24 / -9°F, (-31 / -23°C)
- Inukjuak, NU: -17 / -4°F, (-27 / -20°C)
- Winnipeg, MB: -9 / 10°F, (-23 / -12°C)
- Ottawa, ON: 5 / 23°F, (-15 / -5°C)
- Toronto, ON: 14 / 28°F, (-10 / -2°C)
- Montréal, QC: 7 / 23°F, (-14 / -5°C)
- Halifax, NS: 16 / 30°F, (-9 / -1°C)
- St. John’s, NF: 19 / 32°F, (-7 / 0°C)
- Canada has better beer than the States – I’m not going to touch this one for fear of being hung from the gallows by overly-patriotic Americans. Everyone is proud of their nation’s beer. Germany is probably the world’s undisputed King of the Brew but as far as who follows after is dependent on each individual’s personal taste. I for one am not a huge beer drinker (heresy I know) so it doesn’t really matter to me. All I do know is that two of the American big guns, Budweiser and Coors, taste like someone spilled their crappy beer in some club soda. Labatte Blue (known locally as just a Blue) and Molson Canadian are far stronger beers and are way easier to down – that’s just a personal opinion though. While Canada may or may not rank in the top 5 worldwide I seriously doubt they fall below the US in that category. I invite anyone from abroad to come sample the ale before making rash judgments. You’d be quite surprised with the results.
- Canada only has poutine and maple syrup as their only contributions to fine cuisine – Canada has a very diverse range of dishes that spans from coast to coast. Canada, like most large nations, is a melting pot of cultures so you can see a lot of Eastern European, South American, African and Asian influences in the cooking. Some examples of regional foods are:
- From the East Coast – Irish Stew, Fish Chowders, Bangbellies (a pork/rice bun), Toutons (Pork Bread), and Duffs (like a dumpling), Molasses Tarts and Partridge Berry Coffee Cake, chocolate bread pudding, oat bread, Cape Breton scones, Creamed Potato Balls, Baked Stuffed Lobster
- Native – Posole Stew (uses hominy), corn casserole, Frypan Fork Bread, Cornmeal pudding, Maple Fudge, Wojape (a berry pudding)
- Quebec – Crème Caramel, French Onion Soup, Split Yellow Pea Soup, Garlic Pork Pot Roast, Cipate (Chicken, meat and vegetable casserole with biscuit topping), 3 crust blueberry pie, poutine
- Ontario – Pine Nut Stuffed Quail, pickled yellow beans, apple butter, headcheese, smoked ham, creamed potatoes, vanilla pie, ice wine, BBQ’s, hot sauces, doughnuts, perogies
- Prairies (I’m not too familiar with foods from this region of Canada) – Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Wild Mushroom Barley Ragout & Summer Vegetables, Grilled Asparagus, Saskatoon Pie
- B.C. – Goats Cheese Terrine, Raisin scones with clotted cream, sablefish, Nanaimo Bars, Poached Salmon, Maple Glazed Chicken Breasts, Oysters, Flatbreads, Vegan cuisine and anything disgustingly healthy (i.e. tofu, miso soup, etc.)
- Canadians always say “eh” and “aboot” – I can honestly say that I have never heard a Canadian utter the words “aboot” in the 10+ years I’ve been here. Course I’ve only been in the Ontario region for the most part so who knows what goes on in the rest of the country. I don’t know where it came from originally but I found it funny as hell when South Park would make fun of it (even if it was confounded). “Eh” on the other hand is something you hear quite frequently though. I’ve even mastered the dialect well enough to use it like a true Canadian as well. Oddly enough it’s not used any more frequently than New Yorkers use “yo” or “aye”. Basically all I had to do to fit in was replace my yo’s with eh’s and say cah-fee instead of cawfee when referring to coffee and all is well.
- Canada has no military – I’ve always made fun of the Canadian Armed Forces having to fight with sporks but the Canadian military is no joke indeed. This one institution consists of three main branches: Maritime Command (MARCOM), Land Force Command (LFC), and Air Command (AIRCOM), which are together overseen by the Armed Forces Council, chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff. Their annual funding comes to approximately $21.8 billion (ranked 13th), and are presently ranked 74th in size compared to the world’s other armed forces by number of total personnel, and 58th in terms of active personnel, standing at a strength of roughly 67,000, plus 26,000 reservists, 33 warships spread out amongst 2 fleets, 391 aircraft (which is the third largest in the Americas) and over 3600 currently deployed in the Middle East. The statistics are truly humbling and I tip my hat to all those men and women across the world who are serving for their respective countries. It’s a thankless task but your efforts are truly appreciated by many.
- Canadians are always nice – True to an extent. Every country has their fare share of assholes, douches and idiots. You tend to find them once you’ve lived there for a while. Canada just does a good job of not letting them be the face of the country.
- Canada has no contributions to science – Blasphemy. In fact Canada has burned a trail in many fields and is a world leader in regards to contributions to scientific advancement. From Canola Oil to the Blackberry Canada has had it’s hands in the development of many of the technologies and medical breakthroughs we take for granted. I could probably ramble on for days about all of the innovations but if you’re really interested have a peek here and see for yourself.
- Canada has no film industry – It’s hard to find a movie or TV show that isn’t shot in Vancouver or Toronto nowadays. Chances are if it’s shot in Canada, it has some Canadian actors in it as well. They’ve assimilated into Hollywood so well that many of you don’t even realize some of the best stars are in fact Canadian. From Playboy’s Pam Anderson to Star Trek’s William Shatner Canadians have infiltrated all facets of media. Okay so Keanu isn’t the greatest star ever, but you all ate the Matrix up with a fork and spoon so he did his job.The actual Canadian film industry is a budding one. It makes me laugh whenever I hear Canadians say “Yup, that’s definitely a Canadian film” having only seen a few minutes of whatever is on. It’s not from lack of effort. Despite many film and television projects being funded by the government, it nowhere near the same league as Hollywood in regards to financial backing. The Toronto International Film Festival, founded in 1976, l is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world now. In 1998, Variety magazine acknowledged that “the Festival is second only to Cannes in terms of high-profile pics, stars and market activity.” If you think Canadians haven’t got their fingers on the pulse of the movie industry, you’re sorely mistaken.
- Everyone speaks French in Canada – While that may be true to a degree in Quebec, the majority of the country does in fact speak English – well. In fact most Canadians are bi-lingual.
- Canada’s national sport is hockey – True. In 1994, the Federal Government introduced Bill C-212 that officially made hockey Canada’s National Winter sport and Lacrosse Canada’s National Summer sport. Canadians are definitely passionate about their hockey but don’t believe for an instant that is the only sport accepted up here. Baseball, Football (American and Soccer), Golf, Curling, Boxing and MMA as well as pretty much any winter sport you can imagine from skiing to snowboarding.
- Canadians have no guns or crime – Oh there’s crime here, believe me. And guns. Domestic violence and Robbery/burglary crimes seem to be the most prevalent. There are probably more guns in Canada than in the States based on the fact that this is a hunting nation with the vast majority of the country being wilderness. The big difference is that Canadians aren’t shooting one another. Their preferred methods tend to be fists and knives. It still strikes me as odd to read about small businesses being robbed at knife-point. You don’t hear about that much in New York.
- All Canadian cops are mounties – That’s probably as ignorant as it gets. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal, provincial and municipal policing body. The RCMP provides federal policing service to all of Canada and policing services under contract to the three territories, eight provinces (the RCMP does not serve as provincial or municipal police in Ontario and Quebec), more than 190 municipalities, 184 Aboriginal communities and three international airports. They’re like the Feds in the States. Every province has their own police service such as the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) which are the equivalent of state government agencies such as the NYPD or LAPD. The RCMP have jurisdiction over them all. Cool, eh?
- Toronto is the nation’s capitol – With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. I think the popular misconception is that Toronto is in fact the capitol of Ontario. Ottawa, the second largest city in Ontario, is the nation’s capitol.
My name is Ian and I am proud to call myself an AmeriCan. 😀