Judy Andreas

archive 4: December, 2004

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Eulogy (December 28, 2004)

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We have taken God's Green Earth and turned it into a cesspool. We have poisoned our air and our water and our food in the name of greed. We have killed one another in the name of power. And, at the end of the day, we are indeed a failed experiment.

We are an acquisitive culture and enough is never enough. We steal one another’s land and one another's resources. We create religions that divide and weaken and then we murder in the name of the Almighty. We allow hatred to replace love and competition to destroy cooperation. Stealing rather than sharing is the rule of law

Mother Nature has grown impatient. She will no longer tolerate her body being violated for our personal gain. She will no longer remain silent while she is raped and mutilated.

And now…….as the Great Spirit shakes us off, like a case of the fleas, what are you thinking? Are you compiling your list of grievances? Are you thinking about the debts you never collected……both emotional and financial? Or….are you thinking about your children and your children's children……innocent recipients of this filthy legacy.

What about the judgments that you cling to? Perhaps now is the time to let them go. What about the forgiveness that you keep walled from your heart. Perhaps now is the time to let it penetrate.

"How much time do we have left?" is a question without an answer. Why do you ask? Do you hope to delay the inevitable while accumulating more power, more wealth, more toys?

All we really have is NOW . All we've ever had was NOW and NOW may be too late.

And Days of Auld Lang Syne (December 25, 2004)

It's almost December 31st, a perfect time for me to contemplate the arrival of baby number 2005. Please don't misunderstand, I am referring to the New Year, not an addition to my family.

People are poised on the edge of 2004 awaiting the fall of the ball into the beginning of 2005. "Happy New Year" will be shouted from gatherings all over the United States as people hug and kiss friends and strangers. The strains of the curious song Auld Lang Syne will echo across the country. Nobody has ever given me a reasonable explanation as to why "old acquaintances" should be "forgot" as December 31st turns into January 1st. Personally, I think it sounds rather ageist........ especially as I grow closer to becoming one of those "old" acquaintances.

Restaurants will raise their already elevated prices in honor of the New Year. It's a good time to fleece the sheeple. Perhaps everyday is a good time for that, but people are more agreeable to being robbed blind as they ring out the old.

Some cynics say that the holiday was started by the liquor industry as an excuse for one major year end toot. Hats and horns and scotch and soda .......as the train of holiday festivities races towards its destination....the New Year. The paper trail, absent during the election, will now be strewn over the streets.

I don't mean to sound sacrilegious, however I can't help but question what all this noise is about. What's the history of the tradition? I turn to my computer for the answer.

Interestingly enough, the first New Year seems to have made its appearance in ancient Babylon and not on January 1st. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring). Celebrating the new year at springtime seems logical to me. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. Can you envision Times Square filled with drunken celebrants on a nice balmy spring night? I know...it's not a pretty picture at any time of year, however, some traditions just should not be tampered with. The choice of January 1st was purely arbitrary ...having no astronomical nor agricultural significance.

Baby New Year as a symbol, was born in Greece around 600 BC. To celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, the Greeks paraded a baby in a basket. It represented the annual rebirth of the god as the spirit of fertility.

The early Catholic Church condemned the holiday as paganism and remained in opposition through the Middle Ages. Ultimately, the popularity of the "bundle of joy" forced the Church to re-evaluate its position and, once again, it succumbed to the pagan influence as Baby New Year was born.

We can thank Robert Burns for the song "Auld Lang Syne:" Though early variations were sung prior to 1700, it was Burns who produced the modern rendition. And so today......people sip their Scotch to the old Scotch tune, which literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."

What does the New Year mean to us? Is it merely a time to turn the calendar, have one too many and party hearty? Is it a time to "ring in the new" with our faces in the toilet bowl? Or....can we find a deeper significance in this ancient ritual. Some would say that this is a time to reflect back upon the past year and make resolutions for the coming one. Interestingly, this tradition too dates back to the early Babylonians. However, their most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

"Sorry about the tractor. I meant to return it sooner."

Now...there's a resolution I could keep. It sure sounds a lot easier than losing weight or quitting smoking. As I've said, some things just shouldn't be tampered with.

So....as 2005 looms on the horizon, and "what are you doing new years?" plays on your radio........what are your plans? Are you going to eat, drink and be merry with most of the populace or are you going to have a more introspective relationship with the new birth ?

For me, the choice is obvious. I cannot look at the current world situation apart from myself. I cannot resolve merely to hope for a better tomorrow for myself and my loved ones.

The New Year whispers promises of new beginnings. I resolve to extend my boundaries beyond personal comfort into a world that is suffering; a world that is in dire need of rebirth. I invite you to join me. Perhaps we can make a real difference in the year 2005.

Happy New Year.

Abused (December 24, 2004)

When I met her, she was living in a small, dark apartment with her two children. I came to her as a Caseworker but I left as her friend.

Marie's children had recently been returned to her after spending two years in Foster Care. The darkness of those days still hung over her head. There was never enough money, though she was a good worker. Denzil was a sickly child who needed constant medical attention. His father gracefully bowed out of the family portrait leaving Marie to make lengthy, expensive trips to a hospital in New York City with a screaming, frightened boy. Her boss, though stating he understood, assured her that he felt terrible about having to "let her go. "

Childhood ghosts conspired to turn Marie's frustration into anger. Denzil's little face resembled his abusive, cold-hearted father. Her anger found an outlet.

The charge was "neglect" ...the consequence was "removal." Social Services put the children in Foster Care while the mother endeavored to put her life together. I did not know Marie then. I wish I had. I met her shortly after her children were returned. Being reunited with her children was a joy that lit up her face.

She told me "See how fat I am getting. That's because I am so happy to have them back"

The children welcomed me into their home. My white skin was no obstacle for them. They had not as yet learned the consequences of color Sendy would sit on my lap and tell me how much she loved me. She didn't touch my heart.she exploded it.

As part of the Social Service intervention, Marie was in counseling and taking a class in parenting. Despite the poor public transportation, she always found ways to navigate the county maze. She loved the parent groups and, with their help, developed ways to cope with frustration.

It was almost Christmas and Marie was certain that this would be the best holiday ever. After the two year separation, she was back with her children and had found a job. The apartment was small and dark, but to Marie, it was paradise.

One evening, while Marie was bathing her 6 year old son, he began to share what had happened in Foster Care. He told his mother what the foster mother's son had done to him, how he had hurt him. Marie reached onto the sink to keep from fainting. The words were like knives slicing her flesh. Denzil's wounds had now become his mother's; the pain that did not go away. Both Denzil and Sendy had been sexually abused over and over again, by a fourteen year old boy.
"Sendy was only two years old at the time," Marie cried to me. "Where was the foster mother? Why had Social Services snatched the children from my loving arms to put them in harms way?" Her head was reeling. There were no answers to the questions.

The Detective bought Marie a Christmas tree and I got her ornaments for it. A volunteer donated seven bags of food for her holiday dinner. Marie uttered words of thanks yet the words were empty. Her heart had been broken.

It's nearly 2005, and soon everyone will be yelling "Happy New Year." Streamers will be strewn over the streets. Staggering drunk party goers will crowd into Times Square with hats and horns of merry hysteria and days of Auld Lang Syne.

In a small dark apartment, a woman sits with her two small children.

Tell Me There's A Heaven
by Chris Rea

The little girl she said to me
What are these things that I can see
Each night when I come home from school
And mama calls me in for tea
Oh every night a baby dies
And every night a mama cries
What makes those men do what they do
To make that person black and blue
Grandpa says they're happy now
They sit with God in paradise
With angels' wings and still somehow
It makes me feel like ice
Tell me there's a heaven
Tell me that it's true
Tell me there's a reason
Why I'm seeing what I do
Tell me there's a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they're all happy now
Papa tell me that it's so
So do I tell her that it's true
That there's a place for me and you
Where hungry children smile and say
We wouldn't have no other way
That every painful crack of bones
Is a step along the way
Every wrong done is a game plan
To that great and joyful day
And I'm looking at the father and the son
And I'm looking at the mother and the daughter
And I'm watching them in tears of pain
And I'm watching them suffer
Don't tell that little girl
Tell me.......................

Relationship (December 19, 2004)

For some time now, I have had a strong desire to write an essay about relationships. What was stopping me was that I knew nothing about them. Sure...I've had relationships ...more than I care to mention, and two marriages as well. (I guess they too classify as relationships) In other words, I had thoroughly researched the topic. But what did I learn?

As part of my research, I occasionally listened to what "they" say. I haven't a clue who "they" are...but "they" seem to have a lot to say about things ...and people must respect them because "they" are always being quoted. "They" say that you teach what you need to learn. I guess that makes sense....but I am only guessing. In all honesty, why would you teach what you have not yourself mastered ? But, obviously, everyone is doing it. The bookstore shelves are overflowing with people who know nothing about relationships and are still writing about them.

It's really too bad that the "planet thing" has already been used. I would like to write a book called "Women are from Nebiru and Men are from Uranus." Pardon me, I saw an opportunity for a pun and I carpe diemed it. Actually, I happen to like men and am certainly not faulting them for the course of true love not running smoothly.

Did you ever wonder why some couples can make a "go" of it, while other couples merely "go" from it?

Obviously, nobody knows what's going on behind closed doors, sometimes not even the members of the couple. When my daughter was 3 years old, her father and I belonged to a baby-sitting cooperative. It was a wonderful way to go out and avoid paying costly baby-sitting fees. The members of the pool would baby-sit for one another. When the couple returned from their night on the town, the husband walked the sitter home. On one occasion, after I finished sitting for Couple X. and as the husband prepared to leave, he and his wife passionately embraced. She said "Hurry home, darling" I tried not to giggle, since we were only walking to the next building. Less than two months later, couple X were two singles. Y? Don't ask me. Perhaps the "hurry home" was prompted by Mr. X's tendency to make other (ahem) stops. Things are not always as they appear.

When I was in my early 20's I was called a "raven haired beauty" In the deepest part of me, I was sure that people were talking about somebody else. My physical appearance was my asset and yet , even in the foolishness of youth, I knew that it was a fleeting one. Under the wrappings....the package was empty. Two marriages, three children, and assorted laugh lines later, I embarked on a very different mission; to develop my inners and forget whether or not I was having a "good hair day."

In my late teens I became interested in the "mind" and voraciously read the works of Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung . In my 30's I took the short trip from Carl Jung to metaphysics. Books became appendages and, as time would permit, my nose was well placed between the pages. Armed with some cursory knowledge and questions, I set out on a journey along the spiritual path. Somewhere in the distance, the promise of enlightenment dangled like the proverbial carrot.

Later on, however, I realized that the promise of "enlightenment" had been merely a drug to dull the pain of existential loneliness. I concluded that all drugs, including the drug of "relationship" were an attempt to break free of the illusion of the separate self. But...hold on a minute...... I am defying the law of physics and getting ahead of myself.

When we think of relationship....we create a picture of that "special someone"....the companion who is going to nurture us and soothe the eternal ache. We think of ecstatic sexual union in which the two become one. We fantasize an end to the sense of separation, alienation and isolation. In most cases, we set ourselves up for failure. Our gauge is on "empty" and another being cannot to fill the isolation tank. In an effort to feel complete, people often enter into relationships that are cruel both mentally and physically while making excuses that even they must find repugnant. Allowing oneself to be treated with anything less than reverence, cannot be dismissed with such cliches as:

"She had a tough childhood."

We hurt and hurt back and allow shallow motivation and unconscious desires to drive our vehicles into the abyss of codependency. Perhaps, if we could look beyond our own selfish needs.....we might find that, as Mulder said "the truth is out there." And ..the truth is more incredible than the most satisfying orgasm. Can you accept that we are in relationship with everyone and everything on this planet? (Yes....even George Bush) Not only are we in relationship, but, if you will allow me a mystical moment (or more) ...we are part of everything and everyone on this planet. That's not an easy concept for most. The initial leap is believing it. The harder part is living it.

Can you look at pictures of mutilated babies in Iraq and realize that they are the flesh of your flesh? Even more challenging, can you look at the ruling elite and apply the same rules?

David Icke, in Tales From the Time Loop, states "Infinite love is the only truth-everything else is illusion." It is easy for many to dismiss these words as new age drivel....but that would be sadly missing the mark. These words contain "the biggest secret." Once we come into that state of "infinite love" differences begin to burst like the proverbial bubble. The "many" becomes the "one." The particle becomes the wave.
Icke, through his ingestion of a plant called ayahuasca, had an experience of oneness.
"I had no body, I was only consciousness, and I was everything. There were no divisions and no polarities."
He concludes "If only people could experience the bliss of Oneness the world of the five-senses would be transformed in an instant."

Most people have a hard time understanding the real meaning of the word "love" no less experiencing it. They confuse a state of being with the fleeting euphoria of romantic love and, ultimately, scratch the head of confusion as romantic love becomes bickering and separation. The definition of "Romantic Love" too often contains a hidden agenda "what's in it for me?" rather than "what's in it for you?" Authentic love builds bridges rather than bombs them.

Mr. and Mrs.Right is a sitcom whose time has passed. We are at a critical point in history and the window of opportunity is about to close on our pointing, accusing finger of blame.

Are we a doomed species or is there still hope? Is it possible for us to extend the boundaries of consciousness? Can we look at one another, despite differences in color, size, shape and age, and see only the sacred and the reverential. Is it possible for us to open our minds and hearts and souls to all sentient beings and accept our true relationship with everything and everyone on this planet? The choice is ours.

Too MuchTo Swallow (December 13, 2004)

The daily "news" should be renamed the daily "bad news." Did you ever wonder exactly who is determining what is "fit to print" and what is "fit for audio?"
On one hand, the mainstream media is not reporting what the people need to know about the horrors of the current wars. I could have sworn that there were at least two wars being fought in the Middle East, and yet, the nightly mass media of mass distortion, aside from reporting an occasional fatality, cheers that we are busily building democracies and teaching people how to hold democratic elections. I hope that someday, if anybody is alive, they will be grateful to us.

On the other hand, the news assures us that there are plenty of other things for us to worry our pretty little heads over.

Recently there was a huge scare about a flu vaccine shortage. People were fed a daily diet of fear.....further compromising their already compromised immune systems. My colleagues at work voiced their concern, unconsciously demonstrating that the news had acheived its desired result. Thankfully, I managed to remain immune to the continual scare tactics. (except for an occasional bout of irritation, and an outbreak of anger)

I had read and heard too much about the evils of the vaccine to swallow this nonsense. According to some, the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease. I know people who have had dire consequences as a result of being vaccinated.

My readings revealed that vaccines were allegedly contaminated with formaldehyde, thimerosal, which is a derivative of mercury, and aluminum which has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease. Each year, many of the vaccinated people, at work, still got the flu.

"But ...it would have been worse," employees insisted, upon returning to the office after their five days of sick leave.

One morning I sat placidly in my kitchen enjoying a bowl of oatmeal and a few tranquil moments before heading to the office. Quite suddenly, the classical music on the radio morphed into the morning news.

"And...out of Thailand, the World Health Organization has issued a dramatic warning that the bird flu will trigger an international pandemic that could kill up to seven million people."

I dropped my spoon as my throat grabbed a lump.

It could occur anywhere from next week to the coming years, according to the Global Influenza Program. There is no doubt that this will be a pandemic. Even with the most optimistic scenario, it will probably cause a public health emergency with estimates of deaths in the range of 2 to 7 million people."

I tried to digest the information. Two to seven million people are going to die from a bird flu? I wondered if mandatory vaccinations might not be far behind.

Despite my tasteless punning, my feathers had been sufficiently ruffled. Was I supposed to set the worry level on "red" for the coming years?

In the sanctity of my kitchen, my oatmeal had been replaced with a bowl of fear. I had already been offered a menu including asteroids, meteorites and X Planets knocking us out of our orbit, histrionics from an angry mother nature manifesting in a coming global superstorm, nuclear accidents as well as nuclear "on purposes," engineered food and contaminated water and, of course, everyone's favorite.....the inevitable terrorist attack.

Since the people appear to have grown complacent, an occasional reminder is necessary lest one forgets that new terrorists are being created everyday in terrorist schools where they are graduating with a BS in "Freedom Hatred."

BS indeed.

As I travel on the Internet, and in three dimensional reality, I have become keenly aware that there is an awakening taking place. With no insult to the Ostrich, more and more heads are coming out of the sand. More and more people are beginning to ask questions. Fewer and fewer people are mindlessly accepting the official explanation for events that just do not compute.

Perhaps the voice of the alternate media has grown loud enough to stir the snoozing populace. And, though it may be a slow awakening, it is steady and the numbers are growing daily. The collective eye is no longer content to stay shut, the collective mind is scratching its head in disbelief and the collective stomach is upset from the constant servings of distortion sauteed on a frying pan of fear. A healthy skepticism has found its way into the collective immune system.

My truth is that I am fed up with fear...and the tactics of fear. As I reflect upon my life, I am keenly aware of the role fear has played. I have watched myself and others take the falsely labeled "easy way out." I have heard voices grow silent as fear shut their mouths and erased their thoughts. I have known people who have sacrificed their talents on the alter of fear and lived lives of quiet desperation in their stead. I have known people whose dying breath was the breath of regret. This is the legacy of fear.

Of all the fears, our greatest fear is the fear of death. It strips away our conscience and tricks us into making deals with the devil. It freezes our lives and our relationships. Ultimately, the fear of death robs us of the adventure of life.

Fear is a mighty weapon for the ruling elite. They use it to keep us paralyzed, to keep us easily manipulated, and to keep us in line.

And so, another fear was being served to me as I sat in my kitchen and my response was a reverberating "No thank you." You can keep your red alerts and your flesh eating bacteria and your enemy du jour. You can keep your duct tape and your year's supply of bottled water. By the way, do you still have your Y2K stash?

I have no illusions. One day I am going to die and until that day comes, I am not going to waste one precious moment of my life playing "Fear Factor."

Les jeux sont fait.

Homeless (December 9, 2004)

The day was a gift. It was December in New York, the time of year when snow and cold typically chase thoughts of Spring into nostalgia. However, on this day, the weather was reminiscing. It was fifty-five degrees and I was strolling leisurely up Sixth Avenue, looking in shop windows and smiling at the passersby.

It was then that I saw her. She was sitting on the sidewalk behind a sign. A little cup was placed next to her. The cup contained a few paltry coins. The sign said "Please help me. I am homeless." Her head was down as if she were hiding her face. However, she could not hide her hopelessness.

I put a few dollars in her cup and sat down beside her. We began talking. I asked her if drugs was one of the reasons that she was on the street. She replied "No, my mother and stepfather are the reasons I am on the street." Her eyes were clear and I knew she was telling the truth. My mind filled in the blanks of the story. I sat on the street with her and we talked. She said "I am 22 years old." The words cut deep into my soul. My son is 22 years old and his world overflows with love. I wanted to give her a meal, a bed, a home, a family.....some hope. Instead, I discussed her options with Social Services. She seemed grateful for the money and the words. I left..feeling a tremendous sadness and inadequacy.

Homelessness is common in New York City. I do not know the statistics and I almost do not care. Statistics are cold and unfeeling. Statistics do not describe the lost, lonely and confused. Statistics do not describe the look on this young woman's face. One homeless person is one homeless person too many.

As a child, I lived in a beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn, NY. Several of the rooms had bay windows, and crystal chandeliers adorned the lower level. It was a beautiful house and yet, for me, it was never a home. I looked at my friends in small apartments and envied the real or imagined "coziness." Was it merely a projection of my longing?

When I graduated from College, my first act was to pack and leave my family of origin. I moved in with a couple of friends in the East Village. On the visual level, the apartment left much to be desired. On the emotional level, it was a palace. The word "home" had found a definition.

My mother came to visit me "How could you move from such beautiful surroundings to this squalor?" She would have said worse, but my mother did not curse. She once tried to say the "s" word and it got stuck before exiting her mouth. My mother could not have understood what I was experiencing. My words would have been useless, and what's worse, hurtful.

That apartment on East 7th Street was my first home. Eventually, when I married and had children, I tried to create an environment in which my children would feel loved and validated. There were many lean years of single parenting but they were always filled with love for my children. I used to say "you can't love them enough."

I have worked in Social Services for 11 years and have intimately interacted with the disenfranchised. I have developed close and caring relationships with people who society regards as nuisances and freeloaders. I have learned the reasons for their pain and heartache and, what might be labeled, "poor choices" My life has been enriched by these relationships, and when the day came to close each case, a piece of each person lingered behind and I was made greater and richer for having known them. They gave me as much as I gave to them, maybe more, though they would have had a difficult time owning that reality.

And there she was sitting on Sixth Avenue, in a cold and uninvolved city; a rejected 22 year old whose horrors I could barely imagine. That moment became a religious experience.....an experience of a sentence I have parroted emptily in my past. "We are all One."

I left myself sitting on Sixth Avenue on that beautiful spring like December day.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Saturnalia (December 4, 2004)

Thanksgiving is nearly forgotten, Sponge Bob Square Pants has floated off into oblivion and the Santa Maria has been replaced by the Santa Claus. The stores are a symphony of Christmas spirit orchestrated by the shopping elf. The presence of Christmas is, indeed, presents. Everyone goes "buy buy." Tis the season to run up credit card debt.

On Black Friday, the Malls became mauls as the word SALE turned the counters into grab bags. Scraggly Santas coaxed children onto laps while cameras clicked a remembrance of this special occasion.

Every year, brains are racked with the annual Christmas quandary........"who" will receive "what." How much can we afford to spend and how much will we wind up spending. Nobody wants to appear cheap. Don't give cash...it's tacky. Gift certificates are a suitable subtle replacement. And, more importantly, they can be charged.

The children, having been groomed by televisions ads, are no longer merely requesting their "two front teeth, " but rather, they have donated their lengthy Christmas "wish lists" to Santa's surrogates.....Mom and Dad. Visions of X-Boxes, rather than sugar plums, dance in their heads. Billions of dollars will be spent on gifts, wrappings, candy, decorations, and greeting cards in the frenzied spending spree that appears to begin earlier every year.

Christmas trees ride on hoods of cars en route to rooms where they will be adorned, ornamented and lit. Christmas stockings enjoy their yearly hangout by the fireplace waiting to be stuffed.

In the midst of this manic merriment and joy to the world, the more contemplative ponder "What is the reason for this season?" Is it the birth of Jesus the Christ, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem on December 25th? How did Christmas devolve into little more than a mandatory ritual of gift exchanging done under the guise of family togetherness and pleasing the kiddiepoos?

Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of the disciples singing "Happy Birthday Dear Jesus." Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to honor this day. The Bible is strangely silent. And yet, The American Book of Days, George W. Douglas, p. 658, speaks loudly on the topic. "The observance of birthdays was condemned as a heathen custom repugnant to Christians,"

Some well placed googling reveals that the origins of this holiday date back over 4000 years, centuries before the Christ child was born. The twelve days of celebrating, the Yule log, the giving of gifts and carolers going from house to house can be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.

The Mesopotamians were polytheistic. Their chief god was Marduk. Each year, as winter arrived, it was believed that Marduk would do battle with the monsters of chaos. (I cannot help but wonder if Marduk frequented the Palisades Mall in West Nyack) To assist Marduk in his struggle, the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year which lasted 12 days.

The ancient Persians and the Babylonians also had a similar celebration which they called Sacaea.

As daylight grew short and the Winter Solstice approached, the early Europeans feared that the sun would not return. Rituals were held to lure back the "Prodigal Sun." In Scandinavia, the return of that warm hearted orb was celebrated with a festival called Yuletide. A feast would be served around a fire burning with a Yule log.

According to some legends, "Christmas" was invented to compete with the pagan celebrations in December. The 25th of December was a sacred day for both the Romans and the Persians, whose religion was Mithraism, one of Christianity's main rivals. The Church adopted many of the Pagan rituals in their attempt to make the religion more attractive to converts.

Google as one may, there is no record of the date of Christ's birth. However, the computer of logic reveals that it is improbable if not impossible that it would have been on December 25th. Since the Biblical account states that the child was born when shepherds were "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night" ( Luke 2:8 ), it is unlikely that shepherds in Israel would have been sleeping outside with their flocks during the month of December.

It was not until 350 AD that the Bishop of Rome, Julius 1, chose December 25th as the observance of Christmas. This was obviously influenced by the ancient Romans year end festivities to honor Saturn, their harvest god and Mithras, the god of light. The Roman feast of Saturnalia was a seven-day festival in honor of the deity Saturn. It began on December 17. Saturnalia was considered a fun and festive time for the Romans. As Christianity spread, the Church became alarmed by the continuing practice among its flock of indulging in customs such as this Saturnalian feast. If you can't beat 'em ...join 'em. Slowly but surely, the pagan ritual of using greenery to decorate homes, moved from being prohibited as idolatry to becoming an accepted custom of the festivities. Another tradition at the Saturnalia, involved exchanging candles, clay dolls, and other small gifts.

Did someone say "small?" There's an endangered word and an endangered tradition. "Small" these days describes the size of ones bank account as the calendar flips into January of the new year and people line up at the return counters of their favorite stores.

"Here she goes again, Grinch Andreas"

Not at all. Whether the reason for the season is secular or spiritual, "giving" is a separate issue. With all due respect, however, let's not confuse runaway materialism, avarice and gluttony with the spirit of generosity. Gifts come in all shapes, sizes and elements and are not necessarily located in the material. Gifts need not break the family bank nor the family's back.

Is it difficult to imagine how the gift of time must feel to the lonely?

One year I worked in a soup kitchen in New York City. Watching the endless lines of hungry people coming for their small brown bags broke my heart over and over again. And the only thing I was giving was my time.

Websites such as Giving @ Home suggest a variety of services that provide help for people whose cries would otherwise go unheard. A gift can be something as simple and economical as "listening."

Holidays are Holy Days. There are many ways that we can honor them and one another. Perhaps a little thought might be given to how these occasions can best be spent. A trip to Walmart need not be part of the ritual.

Copyright Judy Andreas 2004

  Judy Andreas 2009