History of the Holidays: Mistletoe

Ah, the holidays, a time when we do things we don’t quite understand because we’ve decided they just have to be done. Hanging stockings over a fireplace? Sure, why not. Leaving cookies out for an invisible fat man? Hey, we’ve done stranger. Kissing under a poisonous plant because someone decided to hang it?

Why the hell do we do that?

The truth is, no one really knows the true origin of the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. It’s one of those ancient traditions where it’s been around so long that it didn’t really get written down. However, what is known is that mistletoe was an important figure to the older Celtic cultures such as the Druids and the Norse. As many traditions around Christmas are derived from those celebrated during the Norse Yule, it would be safe to assume that there would be a link. And when you know Mistletoe’s place in Norse mythology, you realize the reason we’re supposed to kiss under it is simple…

It’s guilty of murder.

Continue reading History of the Holidays: Mistletoe

Alterpedia: Christmas Elves

In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:

Christmas Elves

Elf 1

Diminutive helpers to Santa Claus, constant aids in maintaining his workshop, building toys, and tending to his reindeer – the Christmas Elves are undeniably a vital part of Santa’s operation. First introduced in their modern form in the mid 19th century, Christmas Elves are a relatively new addition to the mythology of Christmas but are the most famous of them in many parts of the world today. Few Christmas stories neglect to include their rosy little faces and their home in the North Pole today. They’ve even had movies devoted to oddball members of their society.

Elf Will

Unlike the darker figures such as Krampus or the Zwarte Piet, the Christmas Elves are innocent and friendly figures with no sinister motives or punitive duty. Many of Santa’s former helpers were either responsible for the punishment of children or even the outright kidnapping of the misbehaving children in homes. This sort of cruelty by the partner or assistant of Santa became unsavory in some corners of the world and before long they were replaced by the more benign figures we know today. Though certain traditions such as leaving coal for children remained part of the lore, the act itself was no longer being carried out by Santa’s little companions. No, the Christmas Elves maintained their bright, cheerful demeanor and continued about their diligent work with a song in their heart and a sense of joy in their work.

But the question is: are things as innocent as they appear? Continue reading Alterpedia: Christmas Elves

Finishing What You Started

Finishing things – it’s kind of a pain in the ass and most of us have a hard time sealing the deal. Sure, sometimes, we get motivated and we make a lot of progress in the right direction. But finishing things? That’s harder than we like to admit more often than not. Follow-through is both a challenge and burden and no one really wants any part of those if they have the option out. Ironically, when it happens, we’re generally harder on ourselves than others. So today I find myself looking at last month’s (as of this writing) NaNoWriMo and thinking “I wonder how many people hit 50k and need to do more.”

The answer is that it really depends on what people were hoping to get out of it. Most people don’t really go into NaNo with the intention of actually being an author. They go in with the intention of proving they can do something of that scale but have no aspirations for greater. Others, as I’ve pointed out in the past, have far different goals in mind. Everyone’s come to the task with a different endgame. If you were just aiming to hit 50k and don’t have much care for a follow through, then congrats on hitting the goal and hope you give it another go next time. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who were using that event as a starting point, I know from experience that the months after NaNo can be harder than the challenge itself.

Honestly, being a writer itself – especially a beginning writer – is harder than the NaNoWriMo challenge. If it were the leisurely task that people think it is from time to time, it wouldn’t require a month dedicated to it. After all, who needs a challenge to do something you work on all the time? If it were something easy, there wouldn’t be a need. Even the writers I know look at the challenge as something of an excuse to get motivated again. So… the question that’s been posed to me once is, “how do you keep going?”

And, besides being stubborn (and even angry at times), the answer is… Continue reading Finishing What You Started

History Of The Holidays: Hanukkah

The Holiday Season, a time when multiple religions and cultures come together to say “it’s too damn cold, we need to distract ourselves.” From the most ancient times to the modern day, everyone finds a reason to feast, celebrate, and sit close to fires of one form or another in the dead of winter. Since civilization itself was formed, we’ve found reasons to be happy at a time when the world tends to be pretty bleak. And don’t let the angry people on TV fool you, that’s the reason we say “Happy Holidays” instead of just Merry Christmas – this time of year is full of them.

But we often don’t know too much about the Holidays that are happening around us besides Christmas. Even there, as I’ve discussed in the past, we aren’t too clear on all the details. Why do we care about mistletoe? What exactly is Kwanzaa? Why are the Jewish people lighting a Menorah for 8 nights? Honestly, most of us only have passing understanding of any of these.

So today (and the next couple weeks), I intend to tackle one of these as a bit of a Mythology Monday, Alternative Mythologies, and general history mashup. ‘Tis the season, after all, and I intend to at least give it the nod. As of this writing those Menorahs are about to get lit, so it’s only fitting that I start with the ancient (but only recently important) festival of lights… Continue reading History Of The Holidays: Hanukkah