Tag Archives | Christmas

Malaysian Christmas and the Backdrop of Allah

John Stratford (CC BY 2.0)

John Stratford (CC BY 2.0)

Mohd Abdul Alam writes at Al Jazeera English:

Malaysian Christians, who account for less than 10 percent of the population, have always celebrated Christmas with great joy and enthusiasm.

Christians also enjoy Muslim-majority Malaysia’s friendly holiday-time culture with shopping malls extensively decorated with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and reindeers – as “Jingle Bells” plays in the background.

Malaysian Muslims have happily accepted Christmas get-together invitations from their friends, and the atmosphere during this holiday season has always been a pleasant one.

This year, however, Christmas celebrations may be held with mixed feelings against the backdrop of the bitter “Allah” case that concluded in June. 

That’s when an Islamic court ruled the word “Allah” could not be used in local Christian publications. Christians say “Allah” had been used for centuries in Malay-language Bibles and other literature to refer to “God” outside of Islam.

The case caught the attention of the public with large crowds of Malay Muslims gathering at the court entrance demanding the court ban local Christian publications from using “Allah”.

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Why ghosts haunt Britain at Christmas but steer clear of America

Disney’s 2009 animated version of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ with actor Jim Carrey voicing several of the characters including Scrooge and the three ghosts. WALT DISNEY PICTURE

Disney’s 2009 animated version of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ with actor Jim Carrey voicing several of the characters including Scrooge and the three ghosts.

via The State:

— A few years ago, the “Downton Abbey” Christmas special featured a ouija board that communicated a message from a dead character. American reviewers were extremely puzzled by this incursion of the supernatural, while British reviewers found it unexceptional. Indeed, few bothered even to mention it. Why?

The answer lies with the long tradition of Christmas ghost stories, the most famous of which is probably Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” (subtitled “Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”). Dickens was a strong supporter of the Christmas ghost story, reminiscing in his 1850 essay “A Christmas Tree” about childhood Christmases spent “telling Winter Stories – Ghost Stories, or more shame for us – round the Christmas fire.” Dickens also encouraged other writers to produce Christmas ghost stories for the annual festive editions of his magazines Household Words and All the Year Round.

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Officials order Ohio man to take down zombie Nativity scene

facebook.com via Buzzfeed.

facebook.com via Buzzfeed.

via Reuters:

(Reuters) – A suburban Cincinnati man’s zombie-themed Nativity scene has caused quite a stir in his neighborhood, with some considering it a holiday treat. But others see a nightmare before Christmas.

Responding to two anonymous complaints, officials in Ohio’s Sycamore Township said on Tuesday they have ordered Jasen Dixon to take down his display by Friday because it violates local property maintenance codes.

Dixon, who manages a haunted attraction in Indiana, faces a $1,000 fine if he does not remove the 10-foot by 10-foot structure he built three weeks ago.

He said he made the models for the zombie Mary and three wise men and borrowed props to make the Joseph and Jesus zombie figures. The baby Jesus is pale with totally white eyes, while the other life-sized figures are partly skeletal.

Dixon said many people approve of the display, which is lit by red and green lights.

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Krampus: He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, and Gives You Nightmares

Moderner Krampus Kärnten3.JPG

Photo: Horst A. Kandutsch (CC)

Krampus goes mainstream, making onto the front page of the New York Times:

MUNICH — Long before parents relied on the powers of Santa Claus to monitor their children’s behavior, their counterparts in Alpine villages called on a shaggy-furred, horned creature with a fistful of bound twigs to send the message that they had better watch out.

Tom Bierbaumer recalls the trepidation he felt every Dec. 6, when the clanging of oversize cowbells signaled the arrival of the Krampus, a devilish mountain goblin who serves as an evil counterpart to the good St. Nick. He would think back over his misdeeds of past months — the days he had refused to clear the supper table, left his homework unfinished or pulled a girl’s hair.

“When you are a child, you know what you have done wrong the whole year,” said Mr. Bierbaumer, who grew up in the Bavarian Alps and now heads a Munich-based club, the Sparifankerl Pass — Bavarian dialect for “Devil’s Group” — devoted to keeping the Krampus tradition alive.

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Atheists Unveil Anti-Christmas TV Specials

“Yes, Virginia, there is a ‘War on Christmas’,” declares the Washington Times, reporting on AtheistTV‘s holiday lineup:

Conservatives have been mocked for insisting there’s an ongoing war on Christmas, but now it looks like they may have simply been ahead of their time.

American Atheists unveiled Wednesday the “War on Christmas” line-up on its television channel, AtheistTV, featuring “original programs proclaiming the truth about Christmas on December 24 and December 25, featuring scholars and celebrities from the atheist community.”

Atheist TV

“Christmas is hard for many atheists, so we will provide programming free from superstition and fairy tales that allows families to watch together and not worry about being preached at,” American Atheists President Dave Silverman said in a statement.

Conservatives like Fox News talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have long warned of a “War on Christmas,” citing moves by retailers, public schools and local governments to remove references to Christmas from displays and celebrations.

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The Truth About Krampus

We know there’s more than a few Krampus fans in the disinfoverse, so no doubt you’ll enjoy reading “the truth” about the German Alt-Santa courtesy of Al Ridenour at Atlas Obscura:

Thanks to the internet, popular American understanding of European Christmas traditions has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decades. There’s also confusion too, some of it swirling around that wily old devil, Krampus.

Accompanying St. Nicholas on his gift-giving rounds to direct a little switch-swinging intimidation toward the naughtier kids, the Krampus has become the most well-known of other Central European characters playing a similar role. Originally appearing under that name in Austria and Southern Germany, his distinctive devilish appearance is not easily confused with Northern Germany’s hooded Knecht Ruprecht or Holland’s “Moorish” Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”).

It was in 2004, that collector Monte Beauchamp launched a series of books that did much to familiarize Americans with Krampus via reprinted collection of turn-of-the-century Krampus postcards.

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Yule Lads Rival Santa In Iceland

Yule lads in Dimmuborgir.JPG

“Yule lads in Dimmuborgir” by lusinemarg (CC)

Remember the infamous Necropants housed in Iceland’s Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft? Well just in time for Christmas comes this tale from the National Museum of Iceland of the Yule Lads, descended from trolls and a whole lot scarier than Santa Claus. They visit the museum on the 13 days before Christmas, starting today, December 12th:

The Icelandic Yule Lads bear little similarity to the world-famous Santa Claus, who is descended from St. Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors. In contrast, the Icelandic Yule Lads are descended from trolls and their original role was to strike fear in the hearts of children. As it happens, they are the sons of two of the most hideous ogres ever known in Iceland, Grýla and Leppalúði.

No doubt most children would have wanted to avoid the Icelandic Yule Lads in the old days, since they were used by parents to frighten their children into behaving – just as Grýla and Leppalúði are today.

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Harking back: the ancient pagan festivities in our Christmas rituals

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Marguerite Johnson, University of Newcastle

In the movie The Life of Brian (1979), Reg, played by John Cleese, asks fellow members of the People’s Front of Judea:

… apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health; what have the Romans ever done for us?

“Brought peace” is the answer he receives.

In hindsight, Christmas could be added to the list.

When we think of the Romans, gift-giving, carol-singing and celebrating the birth of Christ don’t immediately present themselves. Waging wars, general oppression and a never-ending desire to rule the world are more likely to spring to mind.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

But various Christmas traditions come from ancient pagan festivities, including the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia.

Historian and cultural investigator, Polydore Vergil (c.… Read the rest

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