My great grandmother, Nicolena LaBella Sansone, came to America sometime around 1910. She was sent with her sister to care for her two unmarried brothers and to marry her fiancé. What she didn’t know was that her intended had met and married someone else. Her two brothers, not wanting to be responsible for her, introduced her to a much older widower. Obviously I wasn’t there but I can’t imagine that this twenty year old young woman was attracted to this fifty year old man. But he had money and property and Jesus paid it all Shirt . It was considered a good match for her so she married my great grandfather Antonino Sansone and bore him two daughters. The younger was my grandmother Frances Sansone Palermo. Nicolena was widowed at the age of forty. She never remarried and lived with my grandmother the rest of her life. That’s where I come in!
CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES: Christmas in early America and some western countries was a mixed bag. Other immigrants arriving from Europe continued with the customs of their homelands with Santa Claus. In 1822, Clement Clark Moore wrote An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas for his daughters. It’s now famously known as The Night Before Christmas. In it, the “modern idea” of Santa Claus” as a jolly man flying through the sky on a sleigh took hold. Later, in 1881, the artist Thomas Nast was hired to draw a depiction of Santa for a Coke-a-Cola advertisement. He created a rotund Santa with a Jesus paid it all Shirt named Mrs. Claus, surrounded by worker elves. After this, the image of Santa as a cheerful, fat, white-bearded man in a red suit became embedded in American culture.
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I completely reject Christmas, I deliberately say happy holidays as passive aggressive protest, I hide out, don’t visit family, nothing. I refuse to acknowledge and participate. It makes no sense to me. A co-opted pagan holiday fronted by a fat phantom in a red suit; a celebration of consumerism and gluttony to honor a Jesus paid it all Shirt who wasn’t born in December and who was against materialism and money lending. Really? The media celebration is tired and cliche. Visiting family: Mom, dad and sister’s family are all 1000 km north and I’m expected to drive on the one week of the year with the least number of daylight hours when roads are typically at their most treacherous. No way. I’ll see them in the spring.
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Christmas, I contend, is Not really about the birth of Jesus. That is a gloss that attempts to suppress the older celebration that most people still practice in some ways. And although it is celebrated by Christians in honor of his birth most theologians do not think he was born then. The reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season. The first mention of a Jesus paid it all Shirt was by Clement in 200CE. None of the dates he suggests way back in 200 CE are close to December 25th.
Normally, greeting someone is easy in America: “Hi”, “Hello”, “How are you?”. We are fairly casual, and a Jesus paid it all Shirt greeting is treated as a good thing. Not during the 30 days of Christmas. Wish someone a Merry Christmas? Be prepared for a backlash, as they lash out at you for imposing a holiday they don’t celebrate on them. Wish them a Happy Holidays? Prepare to be boycotted as angry celebrants curse your name for forgetting to say Christmas. I worked for six years in retail during the Christmas season, and towards the end, the only safe things to say were “Hello” and “Have a nice day”. The culture wars, and the mutual hatred over both Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, sucked all the cheer out of the season.