Tag Archives: Christmas

Coming Home for Christmas After the Boston Tea Party

destruction-of-tea

The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, by Nathaniel Currier, 1846, Hand-Colored Lithograph

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty checked their phones for messages about the plan. Some Tweeted about it as they crept on board the British ship; others posted Instagram pictures of the tea crates they dumped into the Boston Harbor, one after another. #coffeefromnowon. #revolution. #dumptea. Throughout the night, several Sons posted updates on the SoL Forum. Meanwhile, crate after crate of imported tea splashed into the salty, frigid water.

John Adams live-tweeted the affair with considerable criticism, but a new hashtag surfaced: #sitdownjohn. Frustrated, he stayed inside while the protest unfolded. Several Native American pages posted their own frustration that the Sons of Liberty were dressing up as Mohawks, pointing out the inaccuracies and retribution the British might take against them, but the protest continued unabated. Some tagged King George in their posts.

The next morning, King George deleted his Twitter account, then reopened it again to post “Not cool” several times. The Sons of Liberty felt like they had accomplished a good shaming.

A week later, Sons and Patriots returned home for Christmas. The media expressed a disorganized uproar about the protest, with Loyalist blogs calling the Sons of Liberty terrorists and the Sons of Liberty tagging everything #donttreadonme and #goteabagyourself. Some Sons returned to divided families: a Loyalist cousin here, a Quaker moderate in-law there.

It was particularly awkward at the Adams Christmas Party. Refusing to yield his position, John spent the entire time standing up, while his cousin Sam spent his time in a corner liking and retweeting every post of a tarred-and-feathered British tradesman. John called it grotesque of him to like so much shaming; Sam told him to stop shaming him for his views. Sam pointed out that John defended the Red Coats after the Boston Massacre three years earlier, calling him out for defending people who killed Americans; John called out Sam for passively defending a whiny group of protestors. Meanwhile, Abigail Adams drank whiskey in the billiard room and thought very seriously about tarring and feathering both John and Sam. She was, after all, ashamed of both of them. They liked the shock and awe of sharing listicles reinforcing their stances, like preaching to two different choirs. “Ten Horrible Things King George Has Done in Ireland,” “Nine Ways the Revolution Fails at Intersectionality,” “You Won’t Believe the Feathers on This Loyalist Cuck.”

Abigail had visited a Boston general hospital weeks earlier after a tax collector she had befriended was tarred and feathered at the docks. She remembered the way the hot tar stuck to his skin, the difficulty of pulling it off, the way it stuck to doctors who tried to remove it, making him untouchable, unapproachable. He refused to speak to Abigail for her husband’s politics, and instead stared at the ceiling while doctors treated his burn wounds.

Sam called John a feisty little tea drinker, and John called Sam a caffeinated warmonger. They were on the verge of tarring each other right there at the party, and if they did, Abigail knew that she would pull the dried tar from both morons while they lay side by side, listening to each other’s crying. Even that, she posted on Tumblr passive aggressively, wouldn’t get them to meet one another halfway.

-jk

60 Things to Do Instead of Shopping on Black Friday

Birds

 

  1. Sleep in and eat a breakfast of turkey sandwiches from last night’s Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. Go for a walk around the block.
  3. Ruminate upon the life the turkey you ate for breakfast must have lived and decide the turkey was named Phyllis.
  4. Feel disappointed that the air is not as cool as you remembered in childhood in a quaint New England village and wonder if the consumption of turkey is involved in the warmer temperature; decide that it is not and keep walking.
  5. Read your favorite novel.
  6. Write your favorite novel.
  7. Write your friends’ favorite novel.
  8. Rake the leaves in the yard.
  9. Take a nap.
  10. Try yoga.
  11. For those already practicing yoga, try being a couch potato.
  12. Play a board game with your family.
  13. Donate to a charity.
  14. Write to your governor (about anything, guns, refugees, mashed potatoes)
  15. Volunteer at a refugee center.
  16. Make a really excellent quesadilla.
  17. Make a really horrible quesadilla and vow to do better next time.
  18. Try peyote.
  19. Put off your novel for next November.
  20. Pet your dog.
  21. Pet your neighbor’s dog.
  22. Have a philosophical conversation with your neighbor’s dog after the peyote kicks in.
  23. Adopt a dog.
  24. Adopt a highway.
  25. Clean up trash on somebody else’s adopted highway because Troop 1620 just isn’t pulling their weight.
  26. Plant a tree.
  27. Hug a tree.
  28. Apologize to a tree because the peyote is still doing its thing.
  29. Have a face-to-face conversation with your neighbor.
  30. Learn how to have a face-to-face conversation after spending several minutes staring at your neighbor’s face looking for the “like” button.
  31. Eat another sandwich made from Phyllis’s leftovers.
  32. Clean the kitchen.
  33. If you cooked Thanksgiving dinner last night, tell your in-laws to clean the kitchen but micromanage from the side.
  34. Find a special on the History Channel about Thanksgiving.
  35. Tally up every historical inaccuracy in the History Channel’s Thanksgiving special. Trust me, this is fun.
  36. Research the actual history of Thanksgiving. Trust me, this is depressing.
  37. Go for a hike in the country’s last remaining wilderness, but not after researching the history of Thanksgiving. Knowing whose land you’re traversing is also depressing.
  38. Have a conversation with your family.
  39. If the conversation does not last more than thirty seconds, have a conversation with your family about politics or religion.
  40. Go through your closet and look at where your clothes were made.
  41. Wonder how many children were involved in making your clothes. Cry.
  42. Take a selfie and put it on the Internet with forty-seven hashtags; when nobody likes it, passive aggressively like everything posted by all your online friends. Cry.
  43. Wrap yourself in the fear that digital isolation will engulf you forever. Drink.
  44. Throw your phone against the wall and break it, but don’t look at sales for a new phone.
  45. Delete all your social media accounts in a frenzied attempt to purge your soul of online superficiality, then regret it ten minutes later. Drink or cry; either one works here.
  46. In picking up the carcass of your phone, realize that it too was made by sweatshop labor.
  47. In a panic-induced rage, tally up the countries all your products were made in, pin them on a globe, then despondently spin the globe.
  48. Eat more turkey.
  49. Realize that global capitalism is a machine that chews up human dignity by forcing the participation of all members of society through its universal institutionalization over the past five hundred years into every aspect of culture, religion, and language, and has imprisoned millions in an inescapable superstructure that will devour all that is beautiful from the world in the last few remaining decades of human existence, leading you to the epiphany that the very holiday of Thanksgiving was just the beginning of consumer culture in America, pitting puritanical fundamentalists against innocent indigenous populations in survivalist competition and setting off a continual narrative of colonialism, imperialism, and consumerism.
  50. Burn down your house. Cry and drink.
  51. Wish you still had some peyote left.
  52. Accept the firefighters’ invitation to join them for dinner.
  53. Give your last remaining dollar bills to a veteran in need.
  54. Observe the camaraderie of firefighters convivially eating leftovers.
  55. Find that the only remaining products inside your house are a guitar and the last slice of pumpkin pie.
  56. Pick up the guitar and strum a few chords as the sun sets and your neighbors walk their dogs, who give you strange looks as they pass you on the street.
  57. Realize that reactionary property destruction is an insufficient coping mechanism. Crying and alcohol and peyote are also insufficient, though understandable.
  58. Walk down your street strumming your guitar late into the night beneath the stars. Proceed to be overcome by the beauty of the moment for ten to twelve sweet minutes of peace.
  59.  Recognize that you are still connected by art to the human spirit across time and space (despite the mechanical oppression of corporate power struggles played out upon your very body through the food you eat and clothes you wear).
  60. Be thankful that American history is not just a pattern of consumerist oppression but also of communal unity, from Native American resistance movements to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the unpublicized heroism of the decisions made by thousands of people on a daily basis to count their worth in friendship, creativity, and community, and not in cheap, unneeded products on sale for crazy-low prices. Crying is optional (but recommended) here.

-jk

The 1914 Christmas Truce

December 24, 1914

Memorial for the 1914 Christmas Truce in Flanders, Belgium, where soldiers may have played soccer.

Memorial for the Truce in Flanders, Belgium, where soldiers may have played soccer.

“About five o’clock on Christmas Eve the Germans started lighting up Christmas trees in their trenches. We took no notice of them until they began to sing. Then we began to cheer them and to talk to one another as we are only about 80 yards apart.” -Rifleman C. Ernest Furneaux, British Rifle Brigade, January 4, 1915.

Along the Western Front in France and Belgium, soldiers waited in their trenches on Christmas Eve. British troops enjoyed puddings and cigarettes from home. Across the fields, sometimes only yards apart, German troops decorated small Christmas trees with candles. Both sides had started singing carols, and could hear their sworn enemies singing familiar tunes. French and British soldiers peered out of their trenches and saw hundreds of lights across the fields when curiosity took hold of them. Despite the language barriers and the months-long war, soldiers crawled out of their trenches, walked into the open air, traded gifts, and sang together. Some even played soccer, with a reported German victory of 3-2. They drank, sang, and celebrated Christmas on the battlefield. Later, many soldiers wrote about these events in letters to their friends and families.

“At dawn the Germans displayed a placard over the trenches, on which was written Happy Christmas, and then leaving their trenches unarmed they advanced towards us singing and shouting ‘comrades!’ No one fired.” -Unknown Belgian soldier, January 4, 1915.

The Great War began in August, 1914, and was expected to end before Christmas. By December, it was clear the war would drag on. Soldiers found themselves in appalling conditions. Sanitation was poor, food was scarce, and enemy gunfire was frequent. So, far away from home, threatened with death and disease, cold, hungry, and probably confused, many German, French, and British soldiers decided to stop fighting.

“The British burst into a song with a carol, to which we replied with ‘Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.’ It was a very moving moment, hated and embittered enemies singing carols around the Christmas tree. All my life I will never forget that sight.” -Josef Wendl, German soldier, January 1915.

In some places, the Truce lasted until Christmas morning. In others, it lasted until New Year’s Day. Soldiers shared whatever food and drink they had, took the opportunity to bury their own dead, and befriended the men they were expected to kill. Some even joined together in a Christmas Mass on the battlefield. Suddenly, the Germans were no longer monsters trying to dismantle civilization; suddenly the French and British were not the greatest threat Europe had ever known.

“Friend and foe stood side by side, bare-headed, watching the tall, grave figure of the padre outlined against the frosty landscape as he blessed the poor broken bodies at his feet. Then with more formal salutes we turned and made our way back to our respective ruts.” -Unknown British soldier, January 15, 1915.

The ceasefire was spontaneous, informal, and technically illegal. Soldiers were forbidden from fraternizing with the enemy, which was relatively easy when trenches were so close, and such interactions sparked sympathy. Though common then, such fraternization is rare today.

In contemporary wars, it is easier to dehumanize the enemy because there are broader cultural differences. American troops during the Korean and Vietnam wars were told they alone prevented the spread of communism, and those Americans who celebrate Christmas now find it difficult to share that holiday with the mostly Sunni Muslim communities of Iraq and Afghanistan. Propaganda dehumanized communists as the negation of American values and contemporary media frequently call Muslim societies the antithesis of western culture.

“Further, they agreed that if by any mischance a single shot were fired, it was not to be taken as an act of war, and an apology would be accepted; also that firing would not be opened without due warning on both sides.” -Unknown Irish soldier, January 2, 1915.

But dehumanization is only a process of denial. No matter how well we deny it, everybody in the crosshairs is a human being. They all have families; they are all lost and confused and angry and shaken. It’s easy to deny the humanity of an Iraqi or a Korean whose language and culture we do not understand. But just like all Americans, they work like us; they make music like us; they bleed and yearn and gasp for one last breath like us.

The trenches were hell on Earth. Nevertheless, people chose to celebrate Christmas in hell. They chose to recognize their mutual humanity and stop their mechanized slaughter. We can learn from the Truce that peace is actually quite simple. All we have to do is realize that, no matter who we’re fighting, all we really want is good food, good music, and good company. If we all stopped listening to the propaganda and acknowledged how much we long for home, maybe we can stop the nonsensical industry of warfare. It may sound preposterous, but the letters prove that such an act, however brief, has a historical precedence. Who’s to say it can’t happen again?

Joyeux Noël.

Schöne Weihnachten.

Happy Christmas.