Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the joys of buying in bulk, part I

this is our toilet paper holiday tree. joy to the world of bulk!

i love the look of dry beans on a shelf.

sorry y'all that it's been over a week since i last posted. i was struck by the deadly winter head cold and it knocked me out good for a few days there. i think i'm on the upswing now though...

i just added two blogs to the links i like section to the right --check them out - ACLU of PA's blog and men can stop rape (a DC org.)'s blog.

i'll be back after christmas...
happy holidays all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

the 411 on santa claus

who is this santa claus character who invades our culture every year at this time?

our modern day santa claus is derived from saint nicholas, bishop of myra in the fourth century.
st. nicholas was known for saving his people from famine and sparing the lives of those falsely accused. he was said to have given away his inheritance to those in need. st. nicholas is knows as the patron of many different groups of people --children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, and even thieves and murderers. sounds like a good guy, right?

st. nicholas inspired the mythical figure of sinterklaas, the subject of a major celebration in the
netherlands, belgium and germany. the dutch brought this tradition to the settlers of new amsterdam (later renamed new york), who misprounced "sinterklaas" and that's how we got our american "santa claus".

unfortunately, sinterklaas is not as likeable a guy as st. nicholas seemed to be. sinterklaas has a servant (or sometimes multiple servants) called "zwarte piet," or black pete. one explanation is that during the middle ages, zwarte piet was a name for the devil. having triumphed over evil, it was said that on st. nicholas' eve, the devil was shackled and made sinterklaas's slave. sinterklaas is said to have come from spain and his helper eventually became seen as a dark-skinned Moor. wikipedia tells us: "Until the second half of the 20th century, [sinterklaas's] helper was not too bright, in line with the old colonial traditions." so we've got a devil turned into a black slave and/or a stupid black-skinned helper who the legend goes will stuff bad children into a bag and bring them to spain. racism anyone?

in the modern day celebration in Netherlands, white people dress up in black face, wear afro wigs, and wear bright red lipstick and march around throwing candy to children. some of these "zwarte piet" act dumb and speak garbled Dutch. there is a thriving market for zwarte piet products, many incredibly offensive in their depiction of black people. (see picture in this post and more to come in the comments.)

i think it's good to know where the traditions we are celebrating come from. i hope that if we are going to continue to celebrate the myth of santa claus (and feed the myth to our children),
we can find a way to celebrate the *original* inspiration for santa claus, st. nicholas -- who gave away his wealth to the poor, defended the rights of those falsely accused, and generally threw his lot with those most despised by society.

for more info on sinterklaas and the debate about zwarte piet, see this christian science monitor article, or this wikipedia entry.

Monday, December 4, 2006

holiday gift-giving

first off, i was told that in order to leave a comment you had to be a registered user -i changed that so now anyone can leave a comment, so please comment away!

i have been struggling for a few years with the consumerism of the christmas season and trying to figure out how to do gift-giving in a way that was consistent with my values. i think i got a little closer this year, and wanted to share some of the results.

a friend (thanks jess!) picked up some really affordable blank cards for me. then i used one of my old stamps on some leftover paper i found in my collage box. i cut those out and pasted the stamped piece of paper and some other paper i had lying around on the blank cards for what, if i do say so myself, is a pretty nice looking card. look for yours in the mail soon. :)

with the help of the fabulous internet, i figured out how to make blank books. you can do it too! click here for the link. for the cover of the book, i found some leaves flying around outside, painted them, and used them as a stamp on some paper that was also in my collage box (yay for the collage box!). results are below.

last but not least, i wanted to find a knitting project that was quick and easy. i had already decided i wanted to purchase some daisy soap from the body shop to support their campaign to stop domestic violence (and the soap is made in ghana - two of my great loves - domestic violence prevention and supporting the ghanaian economy - in one gift!) so i figured washcloths would be a nice companion. even the most beginner knitter can knit a couple of these up in a few hours. here's the pattern.