Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Christmas

Winter Solstice is December 21.

A month of holidays

December is a month of holidays. For several years, I’ve labored to create blog posts about the holidays that fall during this month. When I realized I was focusing exclusively on December holidays but no others, I started my “Holidays Project” last summer.

At this point I’ve done feature posts on nearly every major religious holiday that usually falls in December, as well as several more minor ones and at least two that are secular in nature. Why so many holidays in one month?

Winter Solstice is December 21.

Blame it on the Solstice. 

The astronomical event of the Winter Solstice creates the shortest daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It falls on December 21, nearly every year. Combine that fact with the nature of humans, and a holiday of some sort is near-inevitable

We humans have a psychological and spiritual need seek out hope and a cosmic picture of the Universe that makes sense. And we probably need it most of all when food is short and we’re in danger of freezing to death. That’s why December is a month of holidays.

I explored Solstice traditions in some depth, in a blog post from 2016 that still gets many hits every yearGet drunk, eat dumplings or fruit, and party down. It’s traditional! 

Festivals of light

Not surprisingly for holidays that originated during a month of long nights, a lot of December holidays feature candles or fires. 

A Solstice festival of light/fire is YuletideIn a 2013 post, I focused on the Yuletide legend of Krampus, but the tradition of burning the Yule Log (originally a whole tree, or most of one) is probably more well-known to those of us whose ancestors hail from the British Isles, where the related custom of Wassailing also originated. Of course, many people prefer their “Yule Logs” to be made of cake, rather than wood!

Winter Solstice bonfires are a feature of a celebration in Maine, in this photo from Bangor.
Winter Solstice bonfires are a feature of a celebration in Maine. (Bangor Daily News/Eric Michael Tollefson)

Last year, the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of Hanukkah both fell on the same day, December 2. This year Advent started on December 1, but Hanukkah doesn’t begin till sunset on December 22.

Compared with Yom Kippur and several of the others, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday that has gained a greater following because of its proximity to the Christian holiday of Christmas, celebrated on December 25 each year.

Christmas originated as a religious holiday, and it still is one of the most important holidays of the Christian year, preceded by the Advent season and smaller holy or feast days such as St. Nicholas Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and St. Stephen’s Day.  If you think about it Christmas is a month of holidays, just by itself.

Secular observations

Especially in recent years, many individuals, cultures and traditions have embraced some of the more glamorous elements of Christmas, including Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holiday lights on buildings, and Christmas presentswithout much interest in the Christian religious aspects.

There will likely always be people who decry a “war on Christmas” (meaning a minimization of the religious aspects), it seems unlikely that these exuberant and sometimes garish secular holiday traditions will go away anytime soon. They’re too darn much fun.

The colorful lights outline each building and go on for blocks and blocks each year on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.
The granddaddy of municipal Christmas light displays is the annual display in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza (unattributed photographer/KC Kids Fun)

One, somewhat peculiar spin-off of Christmas is Festivus, inspired by a TV show and celebrated with greater or lesser levels of devotion by aficionados.

considerably more spiritual, but not religious, celebration is Kwanzaa. I explored the days of Kwanzaa in some detail, back in 2017. Although the first day had to share billing with Boxing Day, the secondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth days got their own posts. The seventh day of Kwanzaa is also New Year’s Day.

However you celebrate this month of holidays, I hope you find love, joy, and peace among the hectic pace and the welter of traditions!

IMAGES: I created the “Winter Solstice” composite with help from Ksenia Samorukova (Ukususha) and Rawpixel at 123RF. Many thanks to the Bangor Daily News and Eric Michael Tollefson, for the photo of the bonfires in Maine, and to KC Kids Fun (and their unsung photographer) for the photo of the Kansas City Country Club Plaza holiday lights.

It’s all about proportions

The Artdog Image of Interest

Yeah, that’s a pretty generous garnish. I’ve heard of lemon water, citrus water, cucumber water, and mint water, but who knew pine water was a thing?

IMAGE: Many thanks to Funny Pictures Christmas Cats, via Pinterest, for this image!

That funny-looking tree!

Seriously, people. 

You have pets and you also want one of those tree-thingys?

In researching this month’s Images of Interest, I found a BUNCH of funny pictures of pets tangling with Christmas trees.

I’m not going to glorify the ones where the animals appear to be in active danger (though the tree-topper cats are pushing it), but here’s a collection of assorted favorites. Happy holidays!

This was a much-re-posted favorite, all over the Internet.

Assorted critters

It’s not just dogs and cats who get in on the Christmas tree action.

Yes, it’s a rat. Don’t judge–rats make great pets. They are sweet natured and smart. Also take to trees pretty naturally.
Almost a “Hallmark moment,” if you’re a rat-lover.
Here’s another natural climber. Matches the pseudo-flocking pretty well, don’t you think?
Who knew Bearded Dragons made such good Christmas decorations? This one liked the warmth the lights created.
I thought this little guy was especially stunning. When better for a chameleon to show what it can do?

But the Cats rule

Dogs, lizards, rats, and ferrets may take the occasional stab at consorting with the Christmas tree, but the cats OWN this territory. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

This is my favorite Christmas Cat photo of all time.
What? You thought it needed something more?
it’s almost like the toy closet scene from ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, don’t you think?
Ruler of all s/he surveys . . . naturally.
Never doubt it.

So, then, are we who want Christmas trees defenseless?

Well, maybe. But we do still have a few options left.

We could take the “minimalist” approach . . . or is that simply how the tree looked after the cat got done with it?
I think this might qualify as “extreme cat-proofing.”
I actually did a variation on this “Fortress Christmas Tree” idea one year, when we had a puppy. Made it harder for the humans to mess with the packages, too!

Whatever pets you may have–and however they interact with your Christmas tree (if you have one), I hope you got a Christmas laugh from this post, and I wish you the best holiday season possible!

IMAGES: Many thanks to The German Shepherd Dog Community’s Facebook page for the “Oh Christmas Tree” German Shepherd; to Bonnie Cook’s Christmas Animals Pinterest Board for the Christmas tree Rat on a limb and the Christmas Ferret; to Michelle Nyree’s Pinterest Board for the red-package Christmas tree rat; to TikkiLink’s DeviantArt page for the ornamental Beardie, and to Harlingen Pets’ Facebook page for the Christmas Chameleon. As for the cat collection: a thousand thank-yous to: Emma Bruck’s “Emma’s Pics” Pinterest Page, via my own earlier post from Christmas 2015; to FunnyCatsGif’s “Christmas Cat” post, for the two mid-tree cat photos; and once again to Bonnie Cook’s Christmas Animals Pinterest Board for the tall “Tree-topper Cat” and “I’m the Star.” The three “cat-proofed” trees are all from i iz cat’s “6 Cat Proof Christmas Tree ideas to try out during the holidays” page. I appreciate you ALL!

Holiday charm-eleon

The Artdog Image of Interest

When caught in a jam, be creative! It also helps to be cute . . .

IMAGE: Many thanks to eBaum’s World for this image (check the linked page for more!)

Preparing: are you?

We all have our own way of confronting (or trying to hide from) the Holidays. 

It’s not ONLY Christmas, of course–although both secular and sacred Christmas imagery and messaging seem to be everywhere in my Kansas City environment. From Festivus to Kwanzaa, from Hanukkah to  Winter Solstice celebrations to Yule, there seems to be a holiday for everybody at this time of year.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, how’s it going? We’re at the mid-point of December. Are you ready?

Perhaps you’re one of those organized, super-prepared people, who’ve been buying a building stockpile of presents since last January. You already have you holiday greeting cards in the mail (or your e-cards pre-loaded to send at just the perfect moment).

Perhaps you’re in the thick of it now–still working on the gift list, still considering your plans. Partway there–getting there–but not done yet. That’s about where I am: working on it. If you’re still looking for creative gift-wrapping ideas, you may find some of my last-December Image-of-Interest posts helpful.

Or maybe you prefer to live dangerously, and save your shopping/decorating/cooking for the last possible second. Good luck, and may the Creative Force be with you, all you last-minute thrill-seekers!

No matter how you celebrate–and no matter which, if any, holidays you celebrate–I hope you find some merriment along the way!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Explore December Holidays Pinterest Board, for the “paper dolls” image, and the talented and creative Debbi Ridpath Ohi, via The Office, and John Atkinson, via Wrong Hands, for their humorous holiday images.

Christmas Blessings to all

IMAGE: Many thanks to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for this image.

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