"It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas"
December 24, 2014 7:59 AM   Subscribe

David Wong, Cracked: The True Meaning of Christmas (That Everyone Forgets)
Let's say we find out an asteroid is going to hit the earth at some point over the next three months. It may kill all of us, it may kill some of us, it may splash harmlessly into the ocean -- but there is no stopping it. All we can do is hunker down and see what happens. How would you react? How would humanity as a whole react? Well, I know how: we would prepare as best we could, and then we would surround ourselves with the people we love most and party our asses off. We would do it, because we would realize it might be our last chance. I know this, because we have Christmas.
title from H.P. Lovecraft's The Festival
posted by the man of twists and turns (47 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dan Harmon's Drunk High Christmas Greetings, DEC 26th, 2008.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:00 AM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Slightly off topic but a massive asteroid hitting the ocean is one of the worst case scenarios. I'm talking about megatsunamis with waves reaching as high as a few kilometers. Hitting land would still be catastrophic but, as far as I know, the damage would be more "localized".
posted by enamon at 8:19 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


My wife and I were talking about that while doing a "Christmas music we like" fill-in on the local community station a week ago.

Christmas isn't a holiday, it's a rescue mission. C

It's a sanity-preserving, depression-busting Hail Mary pass at getting through the darkest, shittiest time of the year.

Even as an atheist I don't really have an issue with the word, either. I call the first month of the year January and the middle day of the week Wednesday, and am not at all religiously compelled towards either Roman or Norse deities.
posted by Shepherd at 8:28 AM on December 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


As a 3rd gen atheist, I have no problem with the religious aspects of this, but would like to point out that for 10% of humanity Christmas actually is close to the longest day of the year, not the shortest, and is celebrated in shorts and t-shirts. Down with nothernhemisphereism!
posted by signal at 8:46 AM on December 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


im 29. my family is getting older. there's people that I have not seen in years. That maybe i will never see again. Maybe this will be the last time I see some of them.

time sucks. i wish i had not read this article.
posted by rebent at 9:10 AM on December 24, 2014


I like this article and I would not have run across it if it hadn't been posted here, so thank you.

It has always seemed cruel to put a stressful, high-demand holiday at the shortest day of the year.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:16 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not to mention having the fiscal year end at the same time is extra cruel.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2014


The days are only short in terms of daylight hours, not hours in the day. That matters if you're outside this time of the year, but in colder climates, people generally spend more time inside.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:21 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I've just been commiserating this week with my dear dearest fellow agnostic sister who has finally taken steps just this year to "come out" to our fundamentalist parents, a step I myself took long ago.
This was a terrific read and I posted it to her immediately as it follows so directly with the agonizing conversation we had not three days ago.
Who'd have thought I'd be getting emotional support from Cracked of all places? I have always been and will remain a Neumanist, but this article has opened my heart to a new reality!
posted by bird internet at 9:25 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


if you are in the office on 12/24 i assure you it is the longest fucking day of the year
posted by poffin boffin at 9:25 AM on December 24, 2014 [28 favorites]


a massive asteroid hitting the ocean is one of the worst case scenarios

We're pretty much screwed either way.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:27 AM on December 24, 2014


Do you mean US tax year?

Because California's State Fiscal Year is July 1-June 30, and the Federal Fiscal Year is October 1-September 30.

Businesses can generally choose their own fiscal year for accounting/tax purposes. As can individuals, with prior IRS approval.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:31 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aww, this was genuinely lovely and I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

Though it reminds me, I love movies and other media where we know the end of the world is going to happen soon and the response is indeed to "surround ourselves with the people we love most and party our asses off," and there just aren't enough of those. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was great for that.
posted by yasaman at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The people who choose to be alone at Christmas (Spoiler: They're perfectly fine with it.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, we celebrate because now we see that the sun is coming up earlier again and it is not going to go away completely and forever, which means that at least some of us will get to live instead of all of us die.
posted by tommyD at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean all your gifting, locking in your capital gains/losses, your Required Minimum Distributions, your 401k set ups, etc need to be done. What's more, it's usually when companies have to start contemplating their inventories and other horrible activities.

Even people in very cold climates notice the lack of light outside. Indoor light is not the same.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


But let's say the massive asteroid is going to hit the North Pole, extinguishing life on earth and killing Santa. And then the only one who can save us is that elf who wants to be a dentist and maybe Steve Buscemi. Then will we understand the true meaning of Christmas? Will we?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:47 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's a sanity-preserving, depression-busting Hail Mary pass at getting through the darkest, shittiest time of the year.

And it's not nearly enough!

One thing that always irks me about Christmas is that it's preceded by almost two solid months of anticipation that abruptly comes to a crashing halt on Boxing Day. All that holiday cheer and magic suddenly disappears leaving winter to go on being even more cold, isolating, and miserable for another few months.

To rectify this, I think we should either start celebrating multiple Christmases each each year or have one "meteorological Christmas" that is better aligned with the local climate. For New England, I think that would be somewhere between the end of January and the middle of February.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:59 AM on December 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


My Christmas wish: that the whole world would somehow come to grasp the difference between "X is the reason for the season" and "X is the reason the season is/was meaningful to me, or to my family, or to my church, or to this particular group 30/50/100/500/1500 years ago, or to this other particular group who were also living 30/50/100/500/1500 years ago."
posted by straight at 10:00 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


And it's not nearly enough!

Thus, The Twelve Days Of Christmas
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:02 AM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Augh that Harmon essay makes me cry every time. This essay is great too. Fuck you death.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:05 AM on December 24, 2014


Thus, The Twelve Days Of Christmas

But that just extends things out to January 5. If I'm supposed to have half my wood and half my hay on Candlemas Day, that still seems kind of lopsided.

I'm not really interested in sports, but I've always assumed that is why the Super Bowl is such a Big Deal, even for those who wouldn't otherwise be interested in football. The game provides the necessary excuse for people to get together and be merry in late January.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:21 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


On his best days, David Wong is like a foul-mouthed, pop culture obsessed Mark Twain. He's a frigging treasure and people take him for granted because he writes for a comedy site on the internet. But with articles like this and 6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying, he's rocking a plainspoken bully pulpit we really need.

Also, John Dies at the End was freaking great.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:28 AM on December 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


The days are only short in terms of daylight hours, not hours in the day. That matters if you're outside this time of the year, but in colder climates, people generally spend more time inside.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:21 on December 24 


It sounds like you're trying to save face here.
posted by hypersloth at 10:35 AM on December 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


Well written. It's the sort of realization that slowly grows on you as you approach middle age (YMMV). We had a last-minute change of plans this Christmas. The only reason my wife and I are with family right now is because of a funeral 4 days ago.
posted by Horselover Fat at 10:52 AM on December 24, 2014


David Wong (Jason Pargin) is a treasure. If you liked this, definitely follow up with some more of his writing on Cracked.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:01 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


(On non-preview, ditto DirtyOldTown.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:07 AM on December 24, 2014


You could say that David Wong is to Cracked what Mallory Ortberg is to The Toast. YOU could, but I'm not THAT crazy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:18 AM on December 24, 2014


that the whole world would somehow come to grasp the difference between "X is the reason for the season"...

But there is, factually, only one reason for the season, no matter what your beliefs and opinions:

Axial tilt.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:33 AM on December 24, 2014 [24 favorites]


title from H.P. Lovecraft's The Festival

"I'll be home for Christmas -- if only in my dreams...." Happy holidays to you, the man of twists and turns!
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:38 PM on December 24, 2014


The real Christmas miracle is that this is a Cracked article on one page.

I really enjoyed this. I like this interpretation of this sometimes awful holiday.
posted by hot_monster at 1:18 PM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


It was the Yuletide

Not Yule Tides?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:23 PM on December 24, 2014


I've said it here before but it was really helpful to realize that my ancestors have been celebrating at/around the winter solstice for ages, decorated by a variety of different beliefs. A few days ago I got to be at Newgrange; not for the sunrise but it was still an amazing, connecting experience to see such an ancient monument.

I had really started to feel distant from my religious family but what this Cracked essay is on about really put things into perspective and I'm much less sensitive.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:35 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


A few days ago I got to be at Newgrange; not for the sunrise but it was still an amazing, connecting experience to see such an ancient monument.

Awesome!

Previous post about Solstice at Newgrange.
posted by homunculus at 2:20 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Who the fuck put Xmas when all the bills are due?
posted by Renoroc at 3:13 PM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's a sanity-preserving, depression-busting Hail Mary pass at getting through the darkest, shittiest time of the year.

No it's a major PITA to deal with at a time when property taxes are due, the weather is crap, it's dark forever, and everyone is grouchy and trying to hide it.

I'm all in favor of celebrating the solstice and moving Christmas to March.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:19 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why Do Santa's Reindeer Fly?
posted by homunculus at 5:17 PM on December 24, 2014


No, we celebrate because now we see that the sun is coming up earlier again

Not just yet.
posted by maudlin at 5:39 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


that the whole world would somehow come to grasp the difference between "X is the reason for the season"...

But there is, factually, only one reason for the season, no matter what your beliefs and opinions:
Axial Tilt


That needs to go on a T-shirt.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:02 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


That needs to go on a T-shirt.

That's awesome, but it's kind of an old saw. It's easily found on t-shirts. Here's one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:20 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Australians really do get completely screwed, don't they? (Tony Abbott is just the creamy icing on the brown cake here.) Christmas in the summer sounds great until you realize that means no holidays when it's dark and cold and depressing in mid-June. With our Hanukkristmanzaa festivities, we Americans receive treacly sentimental songs and cultural messages of warmth and support just when we need them most. Some antipodean emo teenager needs to start a "This Is Northern Hemisphere Privilege" Tumblr.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:41 PM on December 24, 2014


On the other hand, here in Australia Christmas feels like a kind of natural resignation to summer laziness. The days are long and sunny, the beach calls, and we don't want to be at the office anyway, so fuck it we are going to stay home and lie around the house and eat a lot of cheese until sometime around Australia Day when the booze runs out.

Australians get to celebrate the shortest day of the year's passing, and the realisation that we aren't going to die this winter, by doing our tax returns. It's a traditional evolutionary mechanism evolved over generations in worship of the ancient gods of money and government.
posted by lollusc at 12:38 AM on December 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


Axial tilt

Oh sweet latitude, that is so going to be my next year's t-shirt :)
posted by BlueHorse at 1:36 PM on December 25, 2014


And you get Tim Minchin songs about it, so… not such a bad trade-off.
posted by Lexica at 1:48 PM on December 25, 2014


Thanks for posting, I really liked this article.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:25 PM on December 25, 2014


Still, Christmas in Australia might have some advantages.
posted by sneebler at 8:56 AM on December 26, 2014


Nice piece, much that I have long felt about this holiday. There are a multitude of reasons why we celebrate at the turn of the solar year - it's a completely overdetermined set of holidays. This is also when we have the most bounty - harvest being in and slaughtering being done and the 'starving months' of March and April well off still - and when agrarian people had the most time, since with little light and frozen fields there wasn't much that could be done outdoors anyway. All in all, it makes for the ideal time (at least in this hemisphere) for everyone to stop and drop what they're doing for a bit and celebrate.
posted by Miko at 3:35 PM on December 27, 2014


« Older Never Mind the Baubles   |   A Brand New World In Which Men Ruled Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments