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Happy Holidays!

When I was in high school and newly immigrated to America, I hated Christmas. It was a time when I would be reminded of being an immigrant, an outsider watching from afar while natives carry on their traditions inside the closed nuclei of their families. This is probably why I’m still great friends today with a few Jewish high school classmates.

Christmas 2003: Trekking the Jungle in Honduras

As I got older, I came to like the idea of Christmas. It is a time when most people show an extra measure of kindness toward others, and that has to be a good thing. I also liked the idea of giving to others, although I was turned off, like many people, by the reality of buying a lot of stuff not for their usefulness but because they fall in the appropriate price ranges. I didn’t celebrate Christmas. Even after Kristin and I met, we choose to travel to remote places during Christmas and New Year.

Christmas 2006: Now We're Three

Since our first child was born in 2005, we started to do Christmas with all the traditional trappings in our home in Boston. With children, Christmas takes on a whole new dimension. Children are so excited about all things Christmas; it’d be worth it to do it just for them. Over the years, even this die-hard atheist has grown fond of the tree, candles, red, stars, advent calendar…

Christmas 2008

And I love our own Christmas feast. The main course is Ribbe, a traditional Norwegian Christmas dish. It’s a slab of pork belly with skin on, roasted slowly and then broiled to get crispy, popped skin. It’s wonderfully fatty and yummy. We also made a habit of inviting friends to our Christmas dinner. There’re always people we care about who don’t have an extended family nearby, or, who understandably prefer to be with friends rather than family.

Rudolf in a Sami Shop in Mosjøen

This year, far from home in the darkness of the north, where reindeer are raised for meat and fur rather than for aerial transportation, my thoughts go to my friends and family in the US. This is the price of adventure. Also, here in the land of ice and snow, I’m more acutely aware than ever that the holiday season is in December for a very good reason: the gathering and celebration soften the harsh front edge of winter.

Best wishes to all, and as they say here, God Jul!

  1. Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday celebration, Winston!

    December 25, 2011
  2. Todd Brown #

    Merry Cristmas!

    December 25, 2011
  3. Lovan #

    Merry Christmas guys. I’m sure that you will eagerly looking forward to the longer days.

    December 25, 2011
  4. Tor Andersen #

    Merry Christmas 🙂

    Hilsen oss i Sandnes

    December 25, 2011
  5. Linda Bagby #

    Merry Christmas to the Botnen-Chen clan from another traveller dwelling in the cold north! What can I say – it’s snowing and the trees are all white and beautiful. We miss you guys too but love living your adventures with you!. Take care. Linda. 🙂

    December 25, 2011
  6. My mouth is watering over that description of Ribbe! Merry Christmas!

    December 28, 2011
  7. Marjolein #

    Merry Christmas!

    December 28, 2011
  8. Jul versus Christmas

    Few days ago, I saw a poster by a local church saying that because the birthday of Jesus was December 25th, celebration of his birthday brings us joy in the coldest and darkest winter time of a year. Therefore, Jesus is joy. Please join our church! Nevertheless, history indicates just the opposite. See, for example, books of John Dominic Crossan, a Catholic priest turned to historian.

    In 325 A.D., Emperor Constantine of Roman Empire created Christianity based on folklores propagating within a minor community of the Jewish population in 3rd century A.D. about a hearsay person Jesus. Emperor Constantine also wanted to assign a day in the year as the focal point of the newly created religion. In the Bronze Age, grain and livestock farming was the main human activity. The days just after Winter Solstice in the temperate and frigid zones of the Northern hemisphere were the idlest days for the Bronze-age people. In almost all the Bronze Age cultures, the days or weeks after winter solstice were the time for annual celebration. Jul in Norway is a good example. On the other hand, none of the existing folklores about Jesus even mentioned the month of his birth. The only description in the Gospels was that Jesus was not born in a warm house, but in a barn, almost in open air. The temperature in that area in late December is around 10 degree C. If the folklore about Jesus were correct, his birth day could not be near the coldest time of a year. Nevertheless, Emperor Constantine defined December 25 as the birthday of Jesus just because it was already a day of annual celebration of most of his people for centuries.

    The custom of Christmas, such as family gathering, Santa Claus, gift buying and sending, can be practiced without reference to the birthday of a hypothetical figure like Jesus. Norway is a good example. Jul is a calendar concept, completely scientific and secular. The word corresponding to Santa Claus in Norway, julenisse, is also completely secular, and can be fully accepted by, for example, humanists. In the entire world, Norway has the largest percentage of population declared themselves as humanists, who only believe in science and reject all kinds of superstitions. The number of humanists in the world is growing steadily. Therefore, Christianity comes and goes, but Jul is forever. Christianly is only for a small percentage of worldwide population, but Jul, as a calendar concept originated from the motion of Earth around the Sun, is universal for all human beings in the temperate and frigid zones of the Northern hemisphere.

    God Jul!

    December 31, 2011
    • I do wish there is a secular word for “Christmas”. “Happy Holidays” is very light-weight.

      But it doesn’t bother me that much to say it. For most people Christmas is no longer associated with the birth of Christ. Most holidays are divorced from their origins: Labor Day got push through in most countries by Communists, for example.

      January 4, 2012
  9. Thanks so much to everyone for your holiday wishes! I hope you all had a great holiday season.

    January 4, 2012

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