I have been thinking about this for awhile now, since Halloween actually, but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to say about it.

While shopping for my daughter’s Halloween costume (ran out of things in the house to use as a costume), a week before Halloween, I was shocked when I had to walk past the Christmas trees and baubles to get to the Halloween costumes. In a Jerry Seinfeld voice I couldn’t help myself, I said “what’s up with that?”.

The stores have had their product ordered more than a year ago and the stuff couldn’t wait just three more weeks to be displayed? Why is it that we complain about stuff like this but how many do anything about it? You could call, email or even hand-write a letter and I’m sorry to say it wouldn’t do much good. Really the only way to get retailers to allow one holiday to pass or even get close, before getting ready to “sell” the next one is to effect their “bottom line”.

Can you just imagine what would happen if the stock sat on the floor unsold for three weeks? Do you think there would be massive price reductions? Each year that we as consumers allow the season to start earlier is more incentive for retailers to begin “selling” it to us earlier.

I, myself REFUSE to buy a single Christmas present or listen to a single Christmas jingle UNTIL Thanksgiving. I do enjoy listening to Christmas music ON Thanksgiving.

We are now a 24/7/365 society. This can’t be good for us. Have you ever really missed out on anything really important because you didn’t get it early or first? I have found some of the best gifts shopping on Christmas Eve. Actually when you think about it you can shop for next Christmas, the day after Christmas this year which could cause retailers to consider display “Christmas” year round? I know, I know, there’s the Christmas Tree Shoppe. I thought on-line shopping was going to be the solution to this? You can shop on Black Friday in your pajamas so why go out at 5am.

I know this sounds all bah-hum-bug but really it’s not. I would love everybody to stop, relax and enjoy each and every holiday that we have each year. I just don’t see anyone relaxing much anymore. I just want to shout “Stop I want to get off” this crazy train.

Don’t you remember the wisdom of “stop and smell the roses”? It’s important that we not pass-by the opportunities we have to spend time with loved ones, share stories, laugh and sometimes even cry because we didn’t have the time.

My Thanksgiving wish is that this very special holiday for our nation will bring comfort, peace and a true feeling of thanksgiving to all.

God Bless,

George Washington’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving 1789

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Interactive Map of Footsteps of Jesus describes itself as “an ecumenical guide to more than 1,250 sacred sites, holy places, pilgrimage destinations, religious architecture and sacred art in over 60 countries around the world.”

The website also contains extensive photo galleries containing over 24,000 images.

They also have interactive features, like this awesome map that gives a comprehensive look of all the major places Jesus visited in his life.

It’s informative, interesting, and just plain cool.

“What To Do About Embarrassingly Bad Christian Music”

MyCatholicBlog came across this amusing article on Christ and Pop Culture from a couple years back.  In it, author Alan Noble gives us some helpful hints about how to react to, and improve, “embarrassingly bad Christian music.”  One of the hints Mr. Noble gives that MyCatholicBlog loves in particular is: Consider whether or not the music you buy is really worth the praise.

Noble warns that just like its secular counter-part, Christian music is often praised simply on its consumer merits alone; that is to say, one assumes that if it’s sold in a specific place (let’s say, a Christian bookstore for example), then that music must be good automatically.  Not necessarily the case of course, and thus Noble urges for us to use caution when listening or recommending Christian music, in order to not perpetuate music that, although it may have a good message, is ultimately just bad.

The entire article is filled with wit and insight, and was a pleasure to read.

The Positives of Gaming

MyCatholicBlog came across this interesting article on Christ and Pop Culture which discusses the subtle benefits of the new gaming system, Xbox 360’s Kinect.  It claims:

Should Christians be excited about Kinect?  I think they should. In my short experience with Dance Central, I have found it to be the most immediately accessible game I have ever experienced in groups.  The Kinect has tons of potential to provide memorable shared experiences for all kinds of people.  Additionally, it is certainly the most physically demanding gaming peripheral I have ever used and I think the care of our physical bodies is all too often neglected Christian discipline.  So the short answer is yes–Christians should be excited about Kinect.  Kinect certainly has its own unique value already, however, I am drawn to video games that not only raise my heart rate but stir my soul.

Author Drew Dixon admits that any significant life experiences are yet to emerge from playing Kinect, but in an atmosphere where games are often criticized for violence, poor morals, etc, it’s nice to see the positive that can come from the ever-progressing technology.

Beyond intertwining Christian morals, this article makes interesting point about current gaming systems in general, looking at technology and (as Dixon labels it) an art form through a sociological view.

Christianity: A 100 Year Retrospective

As the New Year approaches and we look to the future, I found this interesting article which takes a 100 year retrospective on Christianity.  The article, which can be found in its entirety here, contains facts and statistics concerning Christianity’s changing role and prevalence in the world. 

For example, it claims that in 1910, nearly 35% of the world’s population was Catholic, comparable to today’s statistic of 33%.  However, the demographics of this population has shifted dramatically.  Whereas in 1910 most Catholics were contained in the West (Europe and North America), today most are found in Asia, South America, and Africa.  In fact, almost half of Africa’s population is now Christian.  In contrast, the past century has seen (and continues to see) a drastic decline in European and North American Catholics.

Additionally, Pentecostal Christians (commonly referred to as “Renewalists”) have grown at five times the rate of global Christianity.  The largest Pentecostal group is the Latin Rite Catholics, who number at 133 million.

Evidently, the past 100 years has been fairly drastic.  Of course, mycatholicblog cannot predict the next hundred years, but in this imminent upcoming year we do at least promise to keep bringing our readers the lasted Catholic news and information (it’s one of our New Year’s Resolutions!).  Happy New Year, everyone!

East London Churches Offer Continuous Help to Homeless

According to an article found on Christian Today:

Twelve churches in Tower Hamlets have clubbed together to open a rolling night shelter for homeless people in the East London borough.

The GrowTH project is offering homeless people a safe and warm place to sleep seven days a week until the end of February.

Participating churches are taking it in turns to open their doors to guests from 7.30pm and provide a hot dinner in the evening and breakfast the following morning.

Tower Hamlets, a borough of London, boasts famous sites such as Brick Lane, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the up-and-coming Canary Wharf.  However, it is also plagued by poverty, higher crime rates, and homelessness.  The British band Pulp (famous for their mid-90’s hit “Common People”) once wrote a song about a section of Tower Hamlets, in which they sing “It smelled as if someone had died/The living room was full of flies/just like Heaven/If it didn’t look like Hell…”

Pulp wasn’t far off.  I actually lived in Tower Hamlets briefly, as a student abroad, and while it has its own distinct charm, the borough is definitely in need of some serious help.

For information on how to help, click here.

“God-Clause” — A Parallel Between God and Santa?

Mycatholicblog loves the blog Christ and Pop Culture.  The recently re-posted an article they wrote which analyzes the role Santa plays in Christian faith.  The article, entitled “God-Clause: Reflections on Santa and Theology Proper”  can be found here, and is unfortunately too long to be re-posted in its entirety.  The excerpt below is the article’s opening sparagraphs:

He is the all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipresent being, who rewards the good and punishes the bad. He is mysterious and beyond our comprehension. He is both transcendent and immanent, and we feel His presence in special ways around this time of year. Wait…I’ve lost myself in my own introduction. Are we talking about God or Santa?

The two seem not so dissimilar if you pause and reflect for a moment. And for the most part Christians don’t often pause and reflect on this Santa figure. Is his similarity to the Almighty an acceptable myth or does it have implications for Christian theology and life?

The article stresses two main points: first, Santa is not the enemy and secondly, the tension between secular and religious perspectives of Christmas will lessen if people simply remember the distinction.  In other words, if one can achieve a higher awareness of Jesus than the perceived threat of Santa nullifying the Christian aspect of the holiday will automatically dissipate.

Mycatholicblog agrees with the article’s sentiment; we understand the importance of “keeping Christ in Christmas,”  but don’t see the harm in small children believing in Santa.  After all, Santa teaches faith and goodwill, two very important aspects of Christianity.  And in all fairness, it’s much easier for kids to grasp the concept of Santa, the jolly old man whose lap they can physically sit on at the local mall, than an all-knowing, pervasive and highly undefined God.  So we say yes, keep Christ in Christmas…but keep Santa in there too.

It’s About the Story, Not the Celebrity Voice!

Remember Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer,” in which she stood apologetically in front of burning crosses?  Or more recently, when Leonardo DiCaprio went on his own “green living”  crusade?  Or how about when Kanye West declared, “George Bush does not care about black people”  during a live benefit for Hurricane Katrina relief?

Celebrities have forever been making controversial remarks about politics, religion, and other matters considered socially improper to discuss in public.

The newest celebrity to cause uproar over his off-the-cuff comments is Liam Neeson, who voices the lion character Aslan in the newest Narnia film.  According to an article found on the National Catholic Register:

C. S. Lewis was clear that the character of Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia is based on Christ.

But actor Liam Neeson, who voices the lion in the latest Narnia film, has prompted a row after claiming his character is also based on other religious leaders such as Mohammed and Buddha.

Don’t worry though– the article’s author, Mark Shea, assuages our concerns.  He writes, “Actors are people who have a knack for a) memorizing things and b) presenting a simulacrum of human emotion so that you believe them when they say the things other people prepare for them to recite.  Sometimes they are able to do other things as well.  But when they go off script, do remember that you are listening to the reflections of somebody who has spent most of their waking life chasing after chances to do a and b, not somebody who has spent a lot of time learning about Christ, Mohammed or Buddha.

A bit condescending towards actors, sure, but mycatholicblog tends to agree with Shea’s sentiment.  Celebrities of course have the right to freedom of speech just like the rest of us, but also just like the rest of us, they should need to make coherent, valid points to earn public support or respect.   Their fame alone does not give their words merit.  Liam Neeson was hired for his voice and notoriety, not for his own personal opinions.

The origin of the Advent Calendar

As per tradition, every year my mom buys me an advent calendar.  They’re always different, yet contain equally ridiculous themes: “Christmas Around the World,”  “Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Santa’s Workshop,”  etc.  When I was younger I only cared for advent calendars because it meant a guaranteed chocolate each day.  As I got older I more or less dismissed the calendar, and it came to be just another silly way mom showed her love.

But this year, as I prepare for yet another random calendar, I find myself pondering over the origin of the calendar.  Where and when was the advent calendar invented, and why do we need a paper calendar with perforated lines around each day; why can’t we just remember the date in our heads?

Well, according to an article on that mycatholicblog found here, the tradition of the Advent calendar is explained as such:

The term Advent comes from the Latin “adventur”, meaning arrival.The tradition of marking the Advent dates back to the early 19th century, when when religious Protestant families made a chalk line on their front door for every day in December until Christmas Eve. According to Sellmer-Verlag, the Dutch on-line museum of Advent Calendar history, the first Advent Calendar was handmade in 1851. Early Advent styles also included the Advent Candle, in which a ring or wreath of 24 candles would be used to illuminate each day until Christmas.

Sellmer-Verlag, the Dutch on-line museum of Advent Calendar history, cites the German-born Gerhard Lang as the inventor of the first mass-produced Advent Calendar. Lang was inspired by the calendars he remembered his mother making for him as a child. She would attach a candy to a hand-drawn cardboard calendar. Instead of candies, Lang’s printed version featured tiny pictures that could be affixed to each day of the Advent. Lang later produced several different versions of the calendar, including ones with little doors to open, revealing a picture for each day.

The German printing company Sankt Johannis capitalized on Lang’s idea, producing calendars with Bible verses instead of pictures behind each window. The Advent Calendar became increasingly popular in Germany and throughout Central Europe until World War II, when manufacturers were forced to shut down production due to the war rationing on cardboard.

By the 1940s, the tradition of the Advent Calendar had jumped the Atlantic Ocean and taken root in American culture. Here, the first chocolate-filled calendars were sold in the late 1950s.

Still, I’ve come to realize that despite the theme of the particular advent calendar, the most important factor is that all advent calendars put just a bit more emphasis the upcoming day of December 25th.  Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to remember the true meaning of the holiday, and why Christmas is celebrated.  But hey, if we can do that and eat some chocolate, why not!