Year End Blues : Let’s Swish Them Away

 

YearGo over your past year. Remember all the fun times you had, and all the times you smiled, and did something nice…Anything that made you feel good. Remember them and remember you year by these things.

Now, remember all the things that weren’t so good. Let’s not go into specifics…but remember all the mistakes you made, all the bad luck you had, and how sometimes you just felt like giving up.

Then think about what you’ve learnt from these mistakes and trying times, from those fun times and smiles. If it helps, write it down.

Now you’ve got that out of the way, look forward to next year.

New Year’s Eve is a time of partying, of celebrating accomplishments made in the soon-to-be-gone year, and for making toasts and resolutions for the upcoming three hundred sixty five days. However, New Year’s Eve can also be a sad time – some people may not have achieved their resolutions from the previous New Year’s Eve, the year might not have been a good one for a variety of reasons, or even the day of New Year’s Eve might not be the best it could have been.

Isolate the problem that is wearing you down. Think about why you’re feeling down on such a fine day of general celebration. Are you feeling down because you are pondering a year of disappointments? Are there resolutions you feel that you have failed to complete, perhaps year after year even? Or was the day simply a bad one and you’re not feeling up to celebrating this evening?

Solve the problem that you’ve identified. Once you’re aware of the problem at hand, you’re better placed to make a positive change. Write a brief list of the things that you think you can do in the coming year to remedy the problems identified.

Find a quiet space for a New Year’s Eve ritual. It’s a good idea to ritualize your New Year’s resolutions as part of the process of “sealing the deal” with yourself. It creates a moment to think back on over the coming year and it presents a turning point at which you choose to move forward. It doesn’t matter where you hold your ritual, or the type of ritual you choose, provided it has meaning for you and involves actively acknowledging your resolutions.

Take your mind off it. Relax. Celebrate. Have fun! It’s important to allow yourself to be distracted from your negative thoughts and to revel in the spirit of New Year’s Eve instead.

Start off on the right foot. Smile. Nothing is better than starting a new year with something that makes you happy. Whip up your favorite meal, listen to your favorite song, watch a great movie, and things of that nature. Avoid the melancholy music and avoid the alcohol if you’re feeling down; neither will improve your mood. Look to what makes you feel happier and indulge yourself. The first day of a new year is a chance to strive again.

Remember: Keep a positive mental attitude, don’t let the little things get to you, and make a new year something worth remembering. Life is too short for regrets–make the most of it!

 

Christmas Customs : The Origins

CustomsA. The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

B. The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim. The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.

C. The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).

D. The Origin of Santa Claus

a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “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 the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

Why Celebrate Christmas On December 25th : Think

XmasA. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.

D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.

G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”

H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

When Was Jesus Born : The Real Truth

Baby Jesus

A. Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.

B. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.

C. The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:

a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.

b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.

c. Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.

d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).

e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.

f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.

D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament, writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”

E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.

Happy Holidays & Jingling Bells

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious /secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our world great. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

Holidays Yeah, But What A Stress!! – Part II

Merry Christmas - II

Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol is often relied upon to ease stress during the holidays. One or two drinks a few times a week might be ideal for this purpose. More than this can increase your stress, cause you to put on weight and can cloud your judgment, making things seem more negative and overwhelming than they actually are.

For events such as New Year’s Eve, let yourself have a glass or two of the very best wine or sparkling drinks instead of drinking to get drunk. You deserve the far better experience.

At the same time, let yourself unwind after a busy day. Have a glass of wine with dinner, or a hot toddy an hour or two before bed. If it helps you unwind, go for it.

Stop imagining that the holiday season is about being “perfect”. A lot of stress you put yourself through comes from trying to match the perfect standard shown in magazines, TV, and other fanciful media. Perfection in images is an art form aimed at marketing, not a reality.

Don’t pin your happiness on the success of your holidays. Your happiness should be bigger than just the holidays. Be thankful for the family that you do have, the opportunities you’ve been given, and the future you can look forward to. Put things into perspective.

By all means, strive to perfect some duties and expectations, but don’t expect perfection. Your polar bear cookies might be misshapen, and your chicken overcooked, but it’s the thought that count. And thoughts, you’ve given plenty.

This is where delegation is vital (see below); delegation means shared responsibility for how everything turns out. Seek out help where necessary. This means letting go of some of your control. (It’s a good thing.)

Acknowledge feelings you have about the season. Not everyone enjoys the holiday season but it’s rare for anyone to say it. For most, the truth is that there are the ideals behind the holiday season, and there are the realities, and rarely do the twain meet. If you can acknowledge your worries, concerns and feelings about the season, you are better placed to deal with them in advance and to set limits on what you will and won’t tolerate.

Don’t force yourself to feel happy, buoyant and carefree when you don’t. It will only backfire and cause more stress. You’re entitled to dislike aspects of the holiday season without stressing over them. Just don’t be a Scrooge and ruin other people’s fun.

Acknowledging feelings doesn’t mean complaining or whining. These activities simply reinforce stressful feelings. Rather than complaining, acknowledge that some things are not enjoyable and set limits on being part of them, without beating yourself up over it.

Delegate. Delegation is an antidote to resentment and exhaustion, both of which add to the feelings of stress. Stock up on this antidote and make good use of it. The more you offload, the lighter the stress load and the more involved everyone else becomes. This includes work and home; work out tasks that you can delegate. Then, set about asking the relevant people to do their part.

Let go of your need to control everything. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and only trust yourself to get things done the way you want them. In a perfect world, you could control everything. But real life is sticky, and it involves trusting other people.

Things that can be delegated include: meal preparation, gift selection, gift-wrapping, transportation arrangements, work-fixes, and budgeting. Take up tasks you excel at and delegate tasks you don’t.

Stop doing trivial things that sap your time and make you feel more stressed. Stop sending out all those Christmas cards, reduce the list of gifts you’ll give this year, avoid playing Martha Stewart when decorating your house. If you feel like participating is about going through the motions or being seen to do the right thing, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

Substitute. Instead of making that gingerbread house from scratch, buy the pre-made kit so that all you have to do is have the fun of decorating with your kids. Instead of making gifts from scratch, visit a community aid store that sells handmade items from people in developing countries who need your financial assistance to lead better lives.

Accept that sometimes family isn’t going to get along. Sometimes, while trying hard to get along, things blow up and make for an awful day. Negotiating difficult family relationships over the holiday season can cause a lot of stress, especially if you’re trying to be the peacemaker who doesn’t allow yourself to let off steam. Here are some ways around this:

Don’t involve yourself in other people’s spats. (Yes, that also means not gossiping like a little schoolgirl again.)

Engage difficult people on neutral topics with accepting terms. Don’t give them reasons to argue; don’t join their arguments when they try to start them.

Understand that some of the more difficult people are possibly stressed, anxious and afraid themselves: their difficult behavior might be a manifestation of underlying stress.

Humoring difficult people without belittling them. Refusing to play their usual relationship games by remaining assertive and detached.

Don’t ask the family troublemaker to your seasonal event. Not everyone will have the courage to do this but for those who do, it speaks volumes. You can tell this person that if they can promise not to misbehave, as in previous years, they can count themselves re-invited but that if they do play up again, you won’t hesitate to ask them to leave immediately.

Concentrate on your achievements during the holiday season. There is a lot you could choose to be negative about. Why not flip this over to finding what there is worth feeling good about? Make the holidays about recognizing your achievements instead of shortcomings. Ask yourself:

What do you enjoy about your life this year? What can you learn from what you learned?

What things do you enjoy most about the holiday season? What gets you most excited?

What are the things that you’re doing this holiday season that you feel really good about? How are you giving to others less fortunate than you?

Holidays Yeah, But What A Stress!! – Part I

Merry Christmas - I

Although the holiday season is supposed to bring joy and harmony to all, the many expectations that lay behind the seasonal events can cause us to feel overwhelmed. And if you’re in charge of hosting, entertaining and preparing a range of holiday season events, the pressure soon mounts up. If the holiday season has you all tied up in knots, toss the guilt for not keeping up with all the expectations and start taking care of yourself so as to manage that stress and find ways to truly enjoy the holiday season.

Notice the physical signs that you’re suffering from stress. If you’re trying to soldier on in the face of all too much happening at this time of the year, it’s important to recognize the signs so that you’re able to heed them. Some of the physical signs to watch for include:

Exhaustion that can’t be fixed with a night’s proper sleep. This could be result of not enough sleep mounting up over several months and finally hitting you with a whammy. You know that the tasks upon tasks you volunteer for have consequences, but you aren’t able to stop!

Lack of energy. You can’t face the thought of having to make Christmas dinner or buy Hanukkah gifts; decorating for Kwanzaa makes you want to go into a tailspin. All you want is to rest.

Notice the mental signs that you’re suffering from stress. Apart from having absolutely no energy to do things you normally do without batting a lash, you may be feeling irritable, pessimistic, or depressive. These are mental signs you’re coping with too much stress.

Irritability. Everything irritates you, and you don’t know why. Unfortunately, this means you’ve forgotten to see the charm of your life, and you’ve started imagining that work’s getting harder and your kids more demanding, forgetting the joys and only seeing the hassles.

Lack of resilience. Your boss criticizes one small detail in the paper you’ve spent months getting ready in order to free up time for the holiday break. You fall apart, sobbing. She looks at you like you’re from outer space, and you begin to think she’s got a point.

Poor memory. You’ve lost the list of Kris Kringle names somewhere, and you can’t find your Santa costume from last year. Loss of memory might be infuriating but it’s also protective. It’s a suggestion to slow down big time.

Negative feelings. You’re already planning to be disappointed by Christmas dinner or the New Year’s party. Every other year has been a washout, so this one will be too. Oh, why even try? you start to wonder. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Feeling down, feeling the blues or depressed. An inability to shake off the blues is a warning sign that stressors are getting to you. This is one step removed from negative feelings, which will also accompany feeling down but may also involved feeling like giving up or even suicidal thoughts. You need immediate help.

Give yourself a break. This time of year can fluster even the most unflappable. If you’re responsible for the majority of holiday season preparations, you’re under a lot of pressure. Despite the fun moments you sometimes share, it’s likely that you’re overloaded. If you’ve forgotten to take care of your own needs amid this, it’s not surprising that you’re feeling stressed. Some of the things you might benefit from include:

Blocking out several hours every few days for rest. This is you-time and it does not involve flipping through magazines planning Christmas lunch or New Year’s Eve cocktails. This is time to shut your eyes and put your feet up. Do anything other than what’s expected of you.

Treating yourself to a massage or a spa visit. Amid all the chaos, seek some serenity. (Men, you’re allowed to go to the spa, too, although mani/pedis are strictly optional.)

Taking time out to chat with a friend or two. Share your ideas for making it through the holiday season with greater ease. You might even help one another with babysitting arrangements or sharing tasks.

Visit your place of worship or spiritual spot more often than usual. Take time to pray, meditate or sit in a state of silence and peace. Allow the peacefulness to wash over you and remember the spirit of the season.

Restore your sleep. It may be the holiday season but that’s no reason for feeling like you’re a Grand Prix driver minus the fuel. It’s a vicious cycle: the less you sleep, the more sleep you need; the more sleep you need, the less time you have to do what you feel you need to do.

Start going to bed at a time that will ensure 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If things aren’t done, they can be done tomorrow or not at all. Trying to juggle too many responsibilities will eventually crush your optimism as well as your ability to get them done.

Ask your significant other for help. Tap your husband, wife, or partner to help you, so that you can catch more sleep. If you ask them in a kind, loving way, you’re more than likely to be met with eagerness.

Eat well. Don’t devastate your energy levels by starving yourself over the holiday season. Stay away from sugary, fatty and unhealthy snacks that can take the place of healthier food. While it’s fine to indulge on occasion, don’t use the holidays as an excuse to stop eating well.

Changing the way you eat as a reaction to the stress of the holiday season might seem like a way to make you feel better, but this can lead to weight gain. This can cause more stress and hurl you into another vicious cycle.

Eat three healthy meals a day and keep most of your snacks healthy. Focus especially on vegetables and proteins. Indulging occasionally is fine.

Eating less? Some people respond to stress by not eating altogether. This is hard on the body as well, depleting you of much-needed energy. Indeed, you might take in so few calories that you cannot maintain your energy during the day, which is not helpful to your health.

Get Yourself Into The Christmas Spirit

Christmas Spirit

Sometimes it’s hard when you grow older, because you lose the touch of the wondrous Christmas Spirit. Maybe you’re not too old–you felt it last year–but this year with money being tight, you can’t make your house feel the way it did, you feel a sense of loss, and you can’t feel that special feeling. I’ll tell you one thing, everyone deserves to feel that special Christmas feeling, nothing can compare to it.

Make a batch of Christmas cookies; make sugar cookies, and decorate it your own way with frosting, sprinkles, etc., to bring out the Christmas fun.

Hang up Christmas ornaments. When you focus on the ornaments, and just on getting it done, it’s not fun. But when you have fun, dance with the Christmas music, put a garland up, put little trinkets of Santa Claus, angels and whatnot. You will see that you will have fun.

Get out of the house. Go to special stores like Macy’s and Target and shop in the Christmas aisles, and have fun picking out what stuff you could possibly need. When you see other spirit around you, you’re more likely to have that special feeling once again.

Learn a Christmas song, one that you’ve never heard before, or one that is your favorite. Print it off the internet and sing the verses quietly to yourself at work, or at the store.

Put up your tree early. It doesn’t matter if you put it up after you read this article, or in a few days, just get it up early. That way, you can decorate the tree and have fun with it, expressing your creativity and feeling like you’re really into the spirit.

Give a gift, it doesn’t matter to whom. But take time with the gift, wrap it, and make your own card, add a special poem.

Spend time with family and friends. This probably is the most important way to feeling happy. Make some cookies, and invite a few over, and watch a Christmas movie such as “White Christmas”.

It’s not impossible to get into the Christmas spirit, no matter how hopeless it may seem.

Don’t focus on getting the spirit, just have fun. In time, you will see just these simple things will give you what you want.