Peter Cavanaugh

Shout Hallelujah

“Forget your troubles

Come on get happy.

You better chase all your cares away.

Shout Hallelujah!

Come on get happy.

Get ready for the judgment day.”-Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen (1930)

The Creature had a Mobile mob booing Michelle Obama at his final “Worship Me” rally, but let’s leave all such cleverly concise commentary aside as we await the pending arrival of 2017.

With the Winter Solstice, our sun returns even as it retreats, bringing ever-increasing brightness with each turn of the Earth - even as days begin to darken from Venezuela to Valparaiso. Perception thus finds itself dependent on geographic placement, just as allegiance. And laughter. And love.

It is the Holiday Season around the globe - a universal time for reunion, reflection and renewal.

In many ways, Christmas has become a more secular than religious celebration in the western world during recent decades, with “Santa Claus” referenced in the popular press tenfold more times than Christ. You can count it up yourself. This is purely observational.

Saint Nicholas was a Turkish Patriarch of the Fourth Century and Bishop of Myra, who became renowned for his legendary habit of secret gift giving. Theologians should note that he was a participant at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and was consequently one of those who composed and signed the Nicene Creed, to this day an early fundamental doctrine summarizing Christian belief.

It is written that when Arius, a priest of Alexandria and Council participant, insisted that Jesus was a lesser spiritual figure than God the Father, St. Nicholas punched him in the face, gifting Arius with a black eye and branding him a heretic. Tough love.

Through the centuries, the name of Saint Nicholas became interwoven with all sorts of year-end phenomena, many customs pagan in origin. The traditional Christmas tree springs from the Nordic tradition of decorating solstice homes with branches of evergreen fir as promisingly symbolic of the spring to come.

Ironically, the early Christian Church during the time of Nicholas vigorously condemned the practice, as did the Prophet Jeremiah much, much earlier in 620 B.C. - when “heathens” would chop down trees, carve or decorate them into the form of a god or goddess and overlay them with precious jewels and metals for veneration, much as Donald Trump has covered the floor of his towering New York penthouse with gold and diamonds. He actually did that. Whoops. I promised to leave him alone for now. Please ignore the preceding 21 words. Thanks.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th Century that Christmas trees became cool. This was all because of a story conveyed in what is generally regarded as the most important, impactful poem in the history of American literature.

The Night Before Christmas was published anonymously in 1823 and written with wild, festive imagination probably by Henry Livingston, Jr., although it was 1844 when Clement Clark Moore claimed he wrote it and that’s what stuck in terms of general attribution. How fickle is fleeting fame. And how rhythmic the language penned by Livingston possibly ripped off by Moore. All the reindeer have perfect two syllable names.

Dasher. Dancer. Prancer. Vixen. Comet. Cupid. Donner. Blitzen.

In 1939, Robert L. May added Rudolph.

A rap masterpiece.

Eat your heart out Kanye West.

With the Solstice now passed, if these have seemed like times of deep darkness of the soul, recall not only the Old Testament promises of a caring God, or the lessons of Jesus so brilliantly conveyed in His Sermon on the Mount, or the teachings of Muhammad that the most virtuous jihad is when one speaks the word of truth to an unjust ruler.

It is from the teachings of Gautama Buddha one might learn that the Beatles had it right. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing that you sing that can’t be sung.

Love is all you need.

Merry Christmas and love to all from Peter and Eileen Cavanaugh - and their little old kitty - Fiona Marie.

Catnip is waiting right under the tree.

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