A Cynic’s Outlook on Christmas, Plus a Late 1st Year of OWLS (12th Day of Anime 2019)

OWLS is fun, exactly as I thought it would be, but it was also pretty clear when I bent prompts to things I wanted to write about…

Here’s the drill – I’ll open with the more usual OWLS content and then cap it off with the first list of the 12 Days. Basically, all you need to know is that a lot of lists are incoming.

…oh wait. I forgot something even more important. That is, the “OWLS are the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, who promote diversity, regardless of gender, sexuality, religion or race” bit. (That religion bit is probably going to be important as we continue through the schedule, though.)


This is what Christmas is meant to look like…[Image source: Houkago no Pleiades ep 7]

We are at the end of the year! YAY! For this month’s topic, we will be discussing what the holidays mean to us. Some of us have a religious perspective on Christmas, while some of us see Christmas as a celebration of family. For this prompt, we will be exploring how the holidays are celebrated around the world using various pop culture media. We will also describe what the holidays mean to us. Happy holidays! – OWLS Team

To be honest, I’m not the most gung-ho about Christmas. I used to be, but somewhere along the line (after not being exposed to vaguely-religious Christmas concerts and carols by candlelight events at the park down the road for quite a few years), I just stopped caring. Being stuck in what amounts to an unpaid retail assistant position just serves to drive home the weirdness, in part because – as most retail assistants (including fellow OWLS member Megan) can tell you – you listen to Christmas songs on repeat in the lead up to the big day.

Now, I’m the crazy person who can memorise songs and sing them back to you exactly as they were in the recording – syncopations, idiosyncracies and all – after enough listens (assuming I don’t go beyond that point and permanently muddle up the lyrics instead), so the position really doesn’t do me any favours. In fact, Winter Wonderland has been mentally tormenting me the past few days as I type this, for this exact reason.

Without being too much of a Grinch (and betraying my sense of dark humour too much), let me run down some of my usual snarky thoughts I’ve had about the Christmas music I’ve been subjected to lately:

  • So, why exactly is it that in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, he’s depicted as a stalker? “He sees you when you’re sleeping” and “he knows when you’re awake”, after all. The particular version I’ve been subjected to calls Santa the “fat man”, which is not a good thing to call anyone in 2019…even if Santa is meant to be rotund because he’s been snacking on kids’ offerings.
  • Not to mention, Santa is both anticipated and has the ability to come down peoples’ chimneys…urk, I don’t even want to think about what could happen to children who see Santa. Remember kids, “stranger danger”!
  • It’s pretty cold in the North Pole, so Rudolph’s nose was probably glowing because he had a cold. So Santa is not only a stalker, he also works his reindeer through colds.
  • Ave Maria (which apparently translates to “Hail Mary”) is a bit dumb for a Christian holiday song – when Christmas is meant to (ostensibly) be about the birth of Christ, why are we hailing his mother instead…? Wasn’t Joseph more in on this stuff than Mary was?
  • I still think the amount of lavishness in the 12 Days of Christmas song is somewhat absurd. A lot of the gifts in the song are ladies or birds though, which is just another fly in the ointment of “tradition”. It also probably encouraged people to hunt birds for the holidays and considering Christmas and Thanksgiving are so close to each other in the calendar…I feel sorry for the world’s turkey population now.
  • Speaking of birds, what is the “new bird” in Winter Wonderland? The bluebird means spring, but the bird after that could be an owl for all I care. *cue Hedwig’s Theme*
  • Why is Jesus referred to as “the King of Israel” in The First Noel? He’s not the king of anything, as far as I know…but maybe the more devoted Christians can chip in on this point.

Incessant snarking about Christmas’s logical fallacies aside, there are some more positive things I can mention. For one, my family developed this tradition where we open gifts on Boxing Day and then hit the sales to spend the money we’ve saved over the year, assuming we’re not somewhere else first – it was pretty interesting to see all the relatives for Christmas years ago and miss the snow falling because we were stuck in a huge rental car, for instance.

Occasionally, we’d go out specifically to see who outdid who with the Christmas lights in the neighbourhood (hence the Houkago no Pleaides image), although it’s been years since the last time we did that and we never bothered with lights ourselves.

The Christmas period is one of the only times where you can guarantee sales on the normally pricey anime and manga (“up to 50% off all DVDs and Blu-Rays” is basically a recipe to make like the “Shut up and take my money!” meme) so it’s a good time to bolster the ol’ collection, too…if you’re not deliberating on exactly how shallow and consumerist the entire holiday has become in the first place.

Welp, I think that’s the most negative I’m ever going to be on this blog. Lita came before me on the 9th and Takuto will be next on the 19th.


So, my real OWLS anniversary was in October, but I’ve been saving up all these special celebration discussions for these 12 days.

Here’s a quick rundown of 5 of my favourite OWLS posts in no particular order. The square brackets denote that they weren’t posted as an official part of OWLS (more details on that in one of the entries).

February 2019 (Mob Psycho 100)

A big favourite of mine for the way that it broke out of the essay structure that’s become such a staple of mine. It’s also a series you wouldn’t expect to be talked about for such a romantic prompt like “adore”, which is always a big plus in my eyes.

June 2019 (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii)

This one tied itself to the theme of “vulnerability” really well in retrospect, even though I remember I struggled to write it a bit. It’s also got some really nice things to quote, such as the one that the promotion post had: “…defining “vulnerable” means defining what it means to be “strong”.”

[February 2018] (Prince of Stride: Alternative)

One of a few pseudo-OWLS posts (that is, OWLS posts that didn’t see the light of day until they were repurposed for something else) that…I do remember it not quite feeling as “right” as some of the other pseudo-OWLS posts (you can see that with how the Riku vs. Tomoe bit ends rather abruptly), but now that I look at it again, it’s actually pretty good.

I knew I wanted from the start to break Prince of Stride: Alternative into components the way it ended up being in the final post. I also wanted to address each of the boys of the Honan team, but the Riku vs. Takeru bit not working out meant I no longer did that (I’m missing Takeru in the final post, as you can see for yourself)…I’m pretty sure that was why it didn’t make the final cut in the first place. Takeru is pretty important to the anime, after all…

[January 2018] (Arata Kangatari)

Another pseudo-OWLS post and the first one I unveiled to the public. This post has a very roundabout nature to it that makes it feel complete – I tried to replicate that feeling in posts like Urashimasaka…wha?. It’s still my only OWLS post on a manga so far and it reminds me I should probably run another Manga March someday, but then I never seem to get around to it…

October 2018 (Phantom in the Twilight)

The one to officially start it all. As you may have noted when I go all nostalgic on my own content, I have a big thing for the “firsts” that I remember. This post with the deceptive title covers a lot of ground in a short span of words…well, short in comparison to, say, Takuto (who came after me that month), but fairly standard for myself.


Well, it’s always fun to dig into your archives, isn’t it? Except when it’s painful…okay, I probably shouldn’t have pointed that out.

Which of these posts was your favourite? Or perhaps you have a different favourite OWLS post, regardless of whether it’s from me or from some other blogger?

6 thoughts on “A Cynic’s Outlook on Christmas, Plus a Late 1st Year of OWLS (12th Day of Anime 2019)

Add yours

  1. Let me just start out by saying, I’m not a Xmas person either – and I hate Xmas music because it gets stuck in my head for days. I’ve been exposed at the hubby’s dialysis clinic lately, but I drown it out asap with earbuds and trusty white noise.

    But I can answer some of your questions about the songs, if you are interested.

    I do not know for sure, but I’m going to guess that Ave Maria is traditional for this reason. When the Catholics convert Pagans (this goes WAY BACK) one of their handy things to do was suck up pagan holidays and traditions and turn them into Xtian “traditions” so the peasants could go right on doing what they wanted to do and the priests could pretend it was Xtian. So – in Pagan tradition, as joyful as we are to have the Sun God reborn (on Winter Solstice) the night BEFORE the Solstice is Mothers Night, when the Mother Goddess is honored (as all mothers). As Catholicism scooped up Pagans, Mary became a sort of substitute Mother Goddess (there’s a ton of reasons and hints to prove this but I don’t think you want the whole Pagan encyclopedia version) so by and large all the various rituals, songs, and worship of Mary boil down to pablum for the converted Pagan women who just completely lost all claim to any sort of social status. Essentially, Ave Maria = Mother’s Night.

    The 12 days of Xmas also hearkens back to Pagan celebrations. The various gifts are actually symbols, although there are different opinions about which symbols are for what because no one still alive actually remembers. The lyrics have even changed over time so basically the bottom line is this song is so freaking old can’t nobody tell you what the heck it is about. Personally, I like the idea that it is a sort of test to see if you can remember them all. No really – that’s one theory.

    As for The First Noel – Jesus is the King of Israel. The historical man, Jesus, is descended in a direct line from the Kings of the Israelites. It’s this whole big debate in Judaism thought, but basically he is a descendant of that royal line, and he basically claimed to be the King of the Jews, and much of the rest of his story may have been arranged to make it appear that he also fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who was coming to save the Jews. Not all of us, the Jewish people. He was pretty much a revolutionary out to overthrow the Romans and re-establish the Jewish state. Not to say he wasn’t a great guy but.. Sorry Xtians.

    I’m not a devoted Xtian, of course, but a well read Pagan. Also caveat that these traditional songs are so old and have been tinkered with over the generations so that no one really, truly knows with absolute proof any of these “facts” either way.

    So, yeah, my 2 cents worth.

    Like

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