My father and I share a passion for fine food. For Christmas in 1991, I decided to strengthen this bond by giving him home-made lemon oil and raspberry vinegar. I infused the fruits into the condiments for two weeks. I attentively decanted and vigilantly funneled the vinaigrette components into decorative bottles from Goodwill.
However, when I began the infusion process, a few glasses of wine led to raspberries soaking in the oil and lemons swimming in the vinegar. The result was berry flavored sludge and noxiously tart vinegar.
Nevertheless, Dad liked the bottles. They sit on the windowsill to this day. He always said it’s the thought that counts.
There’s some controversy about home-made Christmas gifts. Is the giver thinking of the givee’s particular interests? Is the gift maker dotingly crafting a WOW! moment? Or is the giver just too cheap to drive to the mall, buy something for thirty percent off and wrap it? In the case of my salad dressing kit, yes to all questions.
Yet, the controversy surrounding Christmas goes beyond mere gifts. The bickering extends to the Christmas ideal.
Take the “War On Christmas.” A crusade to save Christmas in which the innocent Starbucks coffee cup became collateral damage.
The Starbucks controversy began in 2015. An evangelist named Joshua Feuerstein complained that Starbucks coffee cups lacked any reference to Christ or Christmas. The Starbucks cup indeed forsakes allusions to Jesus and religious imagery.
However, if you stare at the Starbucks cup just right, you’ll see Sammy the Slug, the University of California Santa Cruz mascot.
While the religious aspect of Christmas plays a critical role in Western culture, other parts of the world renounce the “Christ” in Christmas.
My friend Yongshuai Lai grew up in pre-reform China, where religion remains a contentious issue.
The Chinese government tolerates Christmas but prefers that citizens focus on Chinese culture.
After moving to the U.S., Yongshuai religiously took in the lights, decorations and ornaments every Christmas season.
The pageantry filled her with awe, joy and questions.
While we were having lunch during the Holiday season a few years ago, she asked, “Why is Christmas so important to Americans?” I gave the most straightfoward answer possible. “We want to celebrate Jesus’s birthday.” “Oh,” she said. “That’s great. Who is Jesus?”
Even though Christmas takes a cultural back seat in the Middle Kingdom, the joyful Noël is legal in China. Not always the case in United States history. In 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Puritan government decreed Christmas a pointless self-indulgence. Therefore, the leaders criminalized the Yuletide season. The law states, “whoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, either by forebearing of labor, feasting…shall pay of every such offense five shillings.”
In 1686, Sir Edmund Andros repealed the Christmas ban.
Andros stated that in a dream he saw “crepuscular juggernauts bringing forth prosperity Godspeed to the faithful.”
Despite Andros’s prophetic vision, Christmas failed to catch on until Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843.
The novella thrust Christmas into the spotlight as well as the iconic character Ebenezer Scrooge.
Scrooge’s “Bah humbug!” catchphrase has become the expression of Christmas mockery. Three meager syllables that, when strung together, express total disdain for anything Yule related. Mutter the phrase and those in earshot dispute your Christmas spirit. Only “F*^k Christmas!” expresses more contempt. However, you can say “Bah Humbug” on daytime television.
The ska band Madness has a song called “Believe Me.” In the last verse, the vocalist Suggsy croons, “Christmas comes but once a year/It’s a time of love and cheer.” Jaded Yuletide opinions and religious viewpoints aside, the Christmas spirit of good tidings and joy to the world should override any weighty controversy.
Then again, a little Christmas friction makes lively conversation. And, Dad said it’s the thought that counts.
So, this Christmas, I’m giving everybody a home-made Sammy the Slug.
If you love Christmas, home-made gifts or banana slugs, please like and share.