Lifelong atheists, the Mr. and I have had an increasingly ambivalent relationship with Christmas. On the one hand, x-mas is undoubtedly *the* biggest holiday of the year – and yet, it’s also a very *religious* holiday, crass consumerism and Santa hats aside. July 4th, President’s Day, Flag Day, St. Patrick’s Day…no secular holiday can compare. Even Thanksgiving and Halloween carry religious connotations. Besides protesting the holiday by spelling it with an “x” instead of a “Christ” (the weakest of protestations, I might add), what’s a godless blasphemer to do, hmmm?
In ’06, we tried celebrating Festivus in conjunction with x-mas. Given that Festivus – having only appeared in one episode of Seinfeld – is a pretty sketchy holiday, our Festivus was “Festivus” in name only: we still decorated the house with a Christmas tree, red-green-gold-silver tinsel, stockings, Santas, etc., dressed the dogs in holiday apparel, and opened presents and devoured vegan eats on December 25th. What were we gonna do – display an aluminum pole and yell at one another over dinner? We weren’t kidding anyone: it was CHRISTmas, more or less.
Last year, I had an epiphany – why not celebrate FSMas instead? We could decorate the house with pasta and pirates, and perhaps even celebrate on a day other than the 25th. And that’s what we did – I made macaroni ‘garland’ by stringing pieces of penne together, hung maroon satin bulbs (soy balls) and red lights on the tree, framed photos of His/Her/Its Noodliness, made a pirate alter in the front window, and created festive mini Flying Spaghetti Monsters using tinseled pipe cleaners, pom poms and googly eyes. We ‘officially’ recognized the holiday on December 24, so we could lounge around and relax on the 25th. (In between phone calls home, of course.) The dogs dressed as pirates, and Kaylee posed for our FSMas card surrounded by gold doubloons and Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum.
We had so much fun that we’re doing the same this year, only bigger and better. I’m reusing many of the decorations I created last year, and hopefully I’ll find time to follow up on some other ideas (especially that Noodle House – like a Gingerbread House, but with lasagna and the like). While the general theme is pasta and pirates, I’ve kind of relaxed the rules a bit from last year. As a for instance, I stuck to red (red sauce) and gold (gold booty) tinsel last year, but am also including green (pesto sauce) and silver (silver booty) tinsel this year…because I’ve got a ton of the stuff. X-mas themed stuffed animals are also allowed out of the closet this year, but only if they agree to wear pirate hats, eye patches, and gold hooks. Pirates are again all the rage, but whereas “pirates” meant eye-patched, sea-faring thieves in ’07, the definition of pirates has expanded in ’08, to include much beloved space pirates as the crew of Serenity. (Where do y’all think we got the names Kaylee and Jayne, hmmm?)
Anyway, I’ll be blogging it all on Smite Me!, so if you’re interested, keep an eye out.
Also last year, we began a tradition of starting the FSMas decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving. Which got me thinking about Thanksgiving, and whether I want to recognize a holiday that commemorates the genocide of millions of Native Americans with the
genocide slaughter of millions of birds at all. (Update, 11/30/10: Genocide is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a” [group]. Clearly, the farming of animals including turkeys does not fit this definition. The attempted extermination of wolves in the U.S. by ranchers, though, is another story…)
I’ve never been a big fan of Thanksgiving; doubly so since I went vegetarian roughly 12 years ago. Those early years, spent at my father’s mother’s house, I was lucky if there was a dish or two I could eat. I was both allergic to milk and ethically repulsed by meat, so there were precious few foods suitable for my diet. Later on, the Tofurky worked its way into pop culture consciousness and onto our table. But even then, my options mostly consisted of the Tofurky, olives (which my grandmother, having lived through the Depression, rationed out as though they were caviar) and salad. Not exactly the stuff of a feast.
Of course, as I got older and more politically aware, the racist roots of the holiday became increasingly obvious to me. And with my terra-ist animal liberationist awakening, I further recognized Thanksgiving as an unadulterated orgy of animal cruelty and abuse. Not really something I want to be a part of, you know?
So lately I’ve been considering how I might alter or even abandon the holiday altogether. This year, I consciously referred to Thanksgiving as Thanksliving; in years past, I alternated between Tofurky Day (which seems quaint now, what with the newfangled Celebration Roasts and such) and Save-a-Turkey Day, but neither seems like the perfect counterpart to Thanksgiving. Tofurky Day kind of reinforces the reverential importance placed on the centerpiece of the meal, the turkey; and while it redirects that adulation to a vegan alternative, it fails to challenge the other problematic aspects of the holiday, such as whether we should be celebrating it at all. Save-a-Turkey Day is better, because it could refer to the meal (save a turkey by eating another dish, preferably not an animal) or a holiday practice (such as sponsoring a rescued turkey). But again, it doesn’t address the human cost of the holiday – its celebration of colonialism and genocide.
Thanksliving, because it doesn’t specify a species, is my favorite of the three. But how to “celebrate” Thanksliving? – That’s the question.
Do we spend the day volunteering? If so, where? A soup kitchen? But a soup kitchen will most likely serve meat dishes (bad!), and engage in a Thanksgiving Day feast which unquestioningly celebrates a genocidal holiday (bad again, since that’s what we’re trying to avoid, no?).
We might instead volunteer at an animal sanctuary. However, as we live in the so-called “heart”land, there are precious few large animal / farmed animal sanctuaries to be found. The closest that I know of is located on the other side of the state, in St. Louis (we live just north of Kansas City) – so that’s a no-go, for us anyway.
Another alternative is to donate money instead of time, for example, by sponsoring a turkey. That’s something we’ve done the past few years, but it still doesn’t seem like enough to offset the “guilty” feasting we’ve engaged in afterwards.
Maybe we celebrate the holiday on a day other than Thanksgiving proper? Perhaps bump Thanksliving up to the first or second weekend of the month, and even get a early start on all that FSMas decorating? This is an idea I’ve been toying with (especially as I’m feeling rushed to finish the holiday decorating), but the obvious problem is that the Mr. gets the Thanksgiving weekend off, whether he wants it or not.
I’ve also considered ditching Thanksgiving altogether (well, save for sponsoring a turkey), and instead using Halloween (which I much prefer) as a kind of kick off for the FSMas holiday season. I’m too lazy and indifferent to decorate the house for any holiday other than FSMas/Festivus/x-mas, but rolling FSMas into Halloween might change that. I could put up the pirates for Halloween and then add the pasta some time in November. This would also give me plenty of extra time for holiday shopping, making new holiday ornaments (you can never have too many Flying Spaghetti Monsters, dontchaknow), putting my FSMas cards together (as the card always features a least one of the dogs, you can imagine what a pleasant pain it is), and blogging it all. But two+ months of holiday decorations to clean around…I worry that it might be a little too much holiday cheer.
An obvious problem with celebrating either of the two (or three) holidays is the consumerism, as is exemplified by the mob mentality of Black Friday: buy, buy, buy! I alluded to “holiday shopping” in that last paragraph, but allow me to explain. As of last year, most of our “holiday shopping” involves donations made in the recipient’s name, primarily via the internets, natch. No driving, no consuming, no useless junk. Of course, we try to choose non-profits that jive with the recipients’ interests, rather than our own. But we also studiously avoid groups which violate our own values; you won’t see a charge from Heifer International on our credit cards, no ma’am.
Also wrapped into gluttonous consumption is the issue of overly indulgent holiday feasts. Because we’re big pasta eaters, FSMas thus far has consisted of harder-to-make versions of dishes we already eat: instead of pasghetti and red sauce, for example, we made lasagna with red sauce last year. If you’re going with a vegan/pasta theme this winter holiday (no matter the day you choose to celebrate), you’re already ahead of the curve in regards to overconsumption. Ditto vegan meals on Thanksgiving.
Like all holidays, it is riddled with horrors. Smallpox blankets. The spurious Squanto mythology. Genocide. The expectation that one manifest a hearty, convivial mood in the bosom of the fam despite the fact that the whole binge is (a) quasi-godbagious, (b) a shitload of extra work for the womenfolk, and (c) poultry-based.
Regale me not with sanctimonious tales of your tofurkey, by the way. It’s not like the soybean industrial complex isn’t a major player in the megatheocorporatocracy.
And you know? All the vegan Thanksgiving feasts the details of which many of you will not be able to resist posting in the comments section? Still no good. That’s right. Because feasting of any kind, while fun-filled on the surface of it, cannot, in this culture, be accomplished without guilt.
There’s the rub. You can offset it with volunteerism and gift donations, but there’s just no getting around it.
For me, Thanksgiving is the one holiday most emblematic of this gluttonous “guilt.” But Christmas/x-mas/Festivus/FSMas has it, too.
Even if I choose to forgo a lifetime of holidays, there’s still the guilt (i.e., complicity) that privilege brings. Since I can’t ditch it, I may as well embrace (i.e., recognize) it – and structure my holidays in such a way as to not encourage or accept it. What such a holiday might look like probably varies from blamer to blamer, I guess. For me, it’s a FSMas filled with spoof religious symbols, as many eco-friendly decorations as possible and donations to do-gooder groups; possibly a nixing of Thanksgiving, or perhaps a Thanksliving Day celebration which focuses the rights of human- and non-human animals.
Though just how this might be accomplished, I don’t know.
Any ideas? Anyone? Bueller?
Bah, humbug, methinks I’ve rambled enough for today. I’ll revisit the issue of what a Thanksliving Day celebration might look like later, in January maybe. For now, I’ve got some FSMas donating to do.
In the meantime, enjoy the Guinea Pirate. He may look cute, but he’s super-startling, dontchaknow.
Tagged: animals animal rights animal welfare human rights racism sexism genocide holidays christmas xmas x-mas festivus fsmas fsm flying spaghetti monster pasta pirates thanksgiving thanksliving save-a-turkey day tofurky day guinea pirate south park flickr photos consumption religion atheism secularism war on christmas