It’s a two-century tradition. Pretty much all famous people, celebrities, politicians and artists have their own little squatting clay statues known as the “caganer” in Spain. Christmas, since it’s a high season for well, everything, is one of the biggest selling times for this very twisty and humorous local creation.
President Obama has one. Michael Jackson had one. The Pope and Superman have theirs, which may or may not explain some recent derogatory “feet of clay” claims against one, and serious bone breaking associated with the other. Justin Bieber should have one too. Hey, even the Queen of England and her family each has their own. No comment.
The caganer, which one blushed American tourist euphemistically described as “a person doing the #2 outdoors,” right before cursing like a sailor for not being able to pronounce the word properly, is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, a guarantee for a plentiful vegetable crop for those who keep them at home. And make sure to include them in their nativity scene at this time of the year.
For Spanish children, Christmas day has an added attraction, besides the excitement of opening up gifts: finding the caganer, discreetly placed behind Jesus, Mary and Joseph manger. Or on the side, watching, like the one above, still the most popular, a traditional peasant figure in his floppy red Catalan cap.
But isn’t placing a caganer in the crib disrespectful – however far he squats? “Not at all,” said another tourist, offering her own twisty theory about it: “It was the only thing the little shepherd boy had to give the Baby Jesus. So it’s a great gift.”
A Fish Called Santa
The holiday cheers, which had an earlier start this year at a household in Montabaur near Koblenz, Germany, are already over. And the place’s main resident, an “old 68er,” which is how Germans call former activists of the long ago peace protests of 1968, is under arrest for drug possession.
It all started when the police got to the house and found about 150g of marijuana, which in most nights, would be enough to cheer up any peace activist, let alone law enforcers with a mandate to book you.
But before they left, they noticed an odd-looking tree in the living room. Under closer scrutiny, the centerpiece of the holiday decoration turned out to be a six-feet tall pot plant on a tree stand, with cute twinkling string lights.
As the now not-so-cheery fellow explained while being led away by the buzzkill squad, the tree was not quite ready for “Silent Night” just yet, and the plan was to add gifts under it. Just like it’s done everywhere else.
And you thought the business of holiday folly is alive and well in Germany. Or buzzkill squads were a thing of the past.
‘Tis the season and all that, so it’s time to put together a couple of one-of-a-kind items that are sure to make you the most popular member of your clan, this side of the $900 tree (on sale in SoHo, while supplies last).
Today, we chose the oldest single and the newest bachelor of your family: ultra solitary Uncle Bob and über discriminative Howie, your ex-brother-in-law. We’re sure our picks will wow them silly and drive your guests to carolling afterwards.
Take these awfully decorative Bloody Puddle Pillows pictured above. Now, uncle Bob won’t complain anymore about his sleepless nights, spent working on those exquisite scrap books of first graders from the school around the corner he enjoys putting together.
Oh, he’s such an eccentric old fool. Rest in peace, uncle Bob.
And what to give to that superhero-inclined ex-brother-in-law who has everything? Poor guy, his hedge-fund bonus check never comes in time, so he’s always broke during Christmas. Light up his heart with this Replica of the Batmobile, version 1960s TV series. For a little over $180 thousand, it’s a steal, guaranteed to ride the entire family to joy. Or crime fighting.
There, happy holidays. Now, what did you do with those spiked eggnogs?
JUST IN: The Fort Worth Transportation Authority banned religious or atheist advertisements on city buses, which means the latter group won this battle. While the atheists will have to take down their ads from the buses, the religious van will go on.
It may be the season. It may be the times. It may be that those who don’t care far outnumber those who do. It may be a number of things but one thing it is not: a meaningful fight.
It used to be a factor only for lands laying beyond the Hudson River. Armies of increasingly belligerent believers fighting growing hordes of dismissive rationalists over who should own a stake on that trivial but potentially explosive question: what’s your religion? A quiz that has been fading from pretty much any contemporary social contract, from marriage to employment, since at least the founding of this nation.
They, the Fathers, knew a thing or two about it, when making sure church should be kept apart from state. But their memo is still to reach these battling soldiers. And the Pilgrims lesson hasn’t helped them much either: despite having fled religious intolerance, their own sense of professed faith was far from an open-minded concept.
We should be so lucky not to have to reinvent the wheel by pointing to the mindless of fighting over who’s the best god. Since the demoralizing question (how many more will need to die on this quest?) was already anticipated and cleverly disarmed of any meaning (it’s either, what’s this life comparing to the real one, or that children’s tale of the 72 virgins), we’re forced to do it over and over again.
As for the atheists, who had kept a prudent restrain in the face of the organized religious hierarchy (or simply for fear of dismemberment and bonfires), they seem to have decided for a more upfront approach. Not so much in the business of recruiting, theirs seems to be a strategy of gentle persuasion, which nevertheless, remains effective to instill a least the seeds of a doubt or two in the heart of the meek.
Thus, while religion lost the monopoly of proselytism, openly exercised by both sides now, to rationality was entrusted the burden of proof. It’s all a natural consequence of the human favorite pastime, of course, that of preaching on each one the upside of not being the other. But reason is what’s bound to be severely shortchanged in the process.
For those of us who don’t have a hound in this run, it’s all about bells and whistles and whoever dons the brighter armor generally takes the holiday cake.
Since this is shopping season, and a big one at that, everything is up for grabs, including whether yours is a play or a prayer book. No way of knowing who’s winning this game this time around.
In New York, there’s exactly one billboard about a godless season, against at least one Christmas ad in every block. In Fort Worth, after atheists plastered their message on urban buses, a religious organization hired a van to follow them around. Fine, let vehicles argue and go to battle, for all we care.
Because, really, we don’t.