The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
December 6, 2009

Christmas

It’s around this time every year that the Fish starts to get nervous. updated – scroll down for video.
The day of the jolly red Santa draws closer. Pagan rituals from ancient Nordic / Celtic times get rejuvenated into a Judeo / Christian mawkish theme park of false bonhomie and pretentious piety, while the whole thing gets overtaken by the corporate marketing budgets of NZ Inc, US Inc, and most of all nowadays, China Inc. We run around, buying presents for relatives we rarely see and really don’t like, eat food that is wrong for the season and hang decorations that mean nothing to no one, in windows that never get seen.
christmas_lights-01
Let’s face it, in foreign lands it may make some sense. In the northern hemisphere, this time of year, it gets dark by 3 or 4 pm, the temperature is cold, and there’s need for hearty roasts and giant legs of ham. As you walk home from work in Copenhagen, Nordheim, or Glasgow, there is a crisp edge to the air, snow flurries settle, and the joys of colourful lights in windows and on evergreen larch trees has a joyful, midwinter, pagan logic to it. Hundreds of thousands of people get together to watch the lights come on in Oxford St, and then after a Christmas break, they get back to work.

(update: ultimate nausea inducing christmas light show added: do you get my point?)
During the northern summer, when they’re all hot and bothered, there are no Christmas parties to attend, no relatives to buy socks for.
regent_street_christmas_lights
But down here in NZ, it has to be confessed, it is a silly time to have Christmas. The summer days are growing longer, so there is less and less darkness to see the lights in the trees, and apart from that awful big sign thing at NZ Post, there is really very little in the way of public Christmas celebrations. And why should we? No one appears to believe in Jesus, let alone Briscoes or Harvey Norman who continue to shout inanities into our living rooms. Honestly, down here, the summer holiday is just not the best time. Bugger it. Let’s Boycott Christmas. No one believes in it anyway.
christmas-lights-paris
We’ve taken on Halloween, replete with obligatory orange pumpkins (again, so out of season), and trounced it up with children mincing round dressed as Spiderman and Angels. Mixed messages for someone there. Luckily, we have no excuse to have Thanksgiving – although of all the American fests, that one seems the nicest one to have had. There is no real reason why we shouldn’t let the last remaining few Christians celebrate their God in December, but for the rest of NZ, the apathetic, agnostic, atheist and secular majority, we should move the rest of the festival to the middle of winter, in the depths of June. Let’s just have an antipodean yuletide felicitation during our midwinter solstice, and forget the need for pressies and family stress over the summer break.
ugly-christmas-lights
In the mean time, we have such anomalies as the tall Telecom Christmas tree, that circles the country despite a lack of all normal tree-like features such as leaves, branches, or roots. The Telecom Tree as it is known does have a fantastic colour scheme, but you have to stay up late to see it. What they tell you is that:
• The Telecom Tree’s height is equivalent to a seven storey building.
• The lights have over 16 million colour combinations.
• The Telecom Tree lights are linked with 156 wires and 20,000 cable ties.
• The anchors at the base of the tree weigh two tonne each.
• The Telecom Tree took seven days to build and required two 80 metre cranes and a team of 15 people.
• The Telecom Tree was designed by Joe Bleakley, the Art Director from King Kong and Lord of the Rings.
telecomtree
What they don’t explain is why they have a few old fashioned red telephone boxes around the base, that went out of service about 20 years ago, rather than the more modern hideous yellow and blue, steel framed telephone boxes that litter the streets today, but nonetheless, kids are encouraged to call Santa on the phones and probably have a nice healthy Coke as well. There’s nothing quite like Christmas to get the corporate habits in swing at an early age. Buy stuff now, and save your country from harm.
christmas-lights

m-d
7 - 12 - 09

Bah humbug from the fish…

It’s all snow covered rooftops from my balcony… : )

m-d
7 - 12 - 09

It’s all snow covered rooftops from my balcony… : )
See (shot just moments ago): http://22.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ku8ghjUGvr1qz5gamo1_500.jpg

Maximus
7 - 12 - 09

You see? It all makes so much more sense over there, in whatever non-descript American cow town you are shooting from. Even Chernobyl probably looks pretty in the snow. And not the stuff you have to paint on in your windows either… Go out into the urban forest m-d, watch the foxes steal the last of the bacon rind off the barby, huddle up beside your one bar heater and look out at the cheery christmas lights of tinsel town…

Maximus
7 - 12 - 09

Got any more pics? I quite like that one.

You could do us a remote posting, if there is daylight enough.

Tony Eyles
7 - 12 - 09

We boycotted Christmas for years for the same reasons you list. Then we had a child. Now we have a tree with decorations, we will have presents, and may even tell stories about Father Xmas (not sure we’ll go that far yet). We’ve gone with the flow on this because:
1) I have fond memories of special times at Xmas – and would like to make some for my son
2) He is excited seeing trees around malls and friends’s homes and I don’t want him thinking he is disadvantaged

But if you aren’t religious, aren’t unquestioningly traditional, don’t have a big family, and don’t have kids, why would you bother?

m-d
7 - 12 - 09

Pretty snow shots are not usually my thing (nor a pretty fairy light-lined boulevards/streets – of which there are also plenty of), so I haven’t actually taken many, but I did get even greater elevation for another shot today: http://3.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ku97y8N21k1qz5gamo1_500.jpg

Tip for anyone visiting Boston – the Skywalk on the 50th level of the Prudential tower costs US$12. A glass of Reisling at the restaurant/bar on the 52nd level (that’s roughly 2 BNZ Centres high), costs $8…

http://22.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ku988lXxdl1qz5gamo1_400.jpg

I have, however, taken a lot of images of concrete buildings, of which this town is blessed with many examples of… Perhaps I’ll do a wee post later over at http://www.architecture.org.nz

Robyn
7 - 12 - 09

Telecom have reinvented “tree” to mean “strings of lightbulbs forming a cone shape.”

This reminds me of a “midwinter Christmas party” at work a few years ago. We didn’t realise it had a Christmas theme until someone pointed out that the small gold cardboard cones on the tables were, in fact, “Christmas trees”.

John H
7 - 12 - 09

We held a mid-winter’s Christmas Party on or around the shortest day for several years and every one was a resounding success. It was a simple matter of digging out the plastic tree, stringing fairy lights around the place, light a few dozen cheap “tea candles” from the Warehouse, a dozen of so Christmas music CD’s from the central library, and a ham from Moore-Wilsons. Then we invited everyone we knew, requesting each to bring a wrapped “Secret Santa” present to the value of $5 or less.
It’s remarkable how for a single evening it is possible to capture the spirit of Christmas I recall from those I experienced while living in Europe and having it devoid of the commercialisation which blights the festival today is a real blessing. If you have never tried hosting a mid-winter’s Christmas party in NZ, it’s really worth giving it a go.
However, for all the crappiness that comes from transplanting Christmas to the Southern Hemisphere in December, the same doesn’t apply to New Year’s Eve which IMHO is much better celebrated in summer than winter.

60 MPa
7 - 12 - 09

Good idea John H

For Christmas I’m starting in on the long march to liver cirrhosis early.

The part when the festive season gets truly strange is wandering around town in those few days between Xmas and NYE – kind of like the year’s gloaming

m-d
8 - 12 - 09

60 MPa – you’re waiting for Christmas…?

John H
8 - 12 - 09

There’s another thing about the whole Christmas transplant thing which isn’t often discussed but it probably has something to do with the gloomy nature of NZ society which occasionally rears its head. Here we get a triple-whammy of Christmas, New Year and summer holidays over a brief intense period. The downside of this is that it makes our winters long, dark and depressing without the pleasure of having Christmas fall in the middle of it. OK there have been efforts to make Matariki a uniquely NZ mid-winter’s festival, but to this point the whole Matariki thing feels manufactured and “forced” (and as has been pointed out by some, culturally “flipped”).
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10577018

Teina
8 - 12 - 09

G i thought i was a real kill joy when it came to xmas but man you guys take the cake! What the hell – NZ xmas was about blobbing out in the sun, cutting your lawns, reading books , shopping – not working , no school and just hanging about with family, friends or by yourself in from of the telly.
You don’t have to be a conformist and but “gifts” for every Tom, Dick and Harry that you know – crap don’t buy any gifts !… that not the point anyway. Smile and say you’re a “Grinch” that should keep the annoying people at bay.

Maximus
9 - 12 - 09

Teina, your reaction is a common one – but I’m trying hard not to be a kill joy. Just trying to point out that really, our system of Christmas in mid summer makes little sense, and how much more fun we could have if we shifted the festivities to mid winter. If we remember, we’ll push for it next year in the middle of winter.

Think of it this way – New Zealand could be a world first – what a tourist attraction that could be in the middle of the NZ winter, attracting people from the northern hemisphere who want to celebrate Christmas twice in one year – and also in summer when we could attract people who just want to get away from the whole thing! Win Win !

Maximus
9 - 12 - 09

m-d – I’ve rescued your comment from the depths of the spam filter, saturated as it was in a heady stench of viagra and pornography. Nice photos – thank you.

I’m particularly interested in the remains of the Boston big dig sorry, the Big Dig. Have you checked that out? Or hired a cab and gone for a spin 5 stories underground? What remains of the motorway – what effect has it had on the ground? Is the “undergrounding” of the waterfront traffic a good thing? You can see where I’m leading to….

Eastrogen
9 - 12 - 09

By the same token as your post above, Easter is also similarly disadvantaged. Originally a spring time fertility driven orgy of rutting (hence bunnies) and ripeness (hence eggs), the Christians have monopolised it and turned it into this pretend Christian worship / mourning time.

Of course, down here in newZild it just comes across as an autumn festival, with leaves browning on the trees and the fertile sap of summer drying back on the branches: a lack of fertility in eggs all round. Is there a link between the words Easter and Oestrogen?

Easter: –noun 1. an annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, as calculated according to tables based in Western churches on the Gregorian calendar and in Orthodox churches on the Julian calendar.
Origin: bef. 900; ME ester, OE ?astre; c. G Ostern; orig. name of a goddess and her festival; akin to east

es·tro·gen also oes·tro·gen (?s’tr?-j?n)
Oestrogen: n. Any of several steroid hormones produced chiefly by the ovaries and responsible for promoting estrus and the development and maintenance of female secondary sex characteristics.

Maximus
9 - 12 - 09

Eastrogen – you’ve started me off on a wonderful wild goose chase for shaggy dogs. Or perhaps a wild shaggy dog chase for roast goose. Anyway, an amazing treasure trove of stuff on Wikipedia as always, including the origin of the name in German, Anglo-Saxon etc – of which, just a peek:

“The modern English term Easter is speculated to have developed from Old English word ?astre or ?ostre or Eoaster, which itself developed prior to 899. The name refers to Eostur-monath, a month of the Germanic calendar attested by Bede as named after the goddess ?ostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism. Bede notes that Eostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honor during ?ostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced with the Christian custom of Easter. Using comparative linguistic evidence from continental Germanic sources, the 19th century scholar Jacob Grimm proposed the existence of an equivalent form of Eostre among the pre-Christian beliefs of the continental Germanic peoples, whose name he reconstructed as Ostara.”

but even more interestingly, Semitic, Romance, Celtic and other Germanic languages:

“The Greek word ????? and hence the Latin form Pascha is derived from Hebrew Pesach (??????) meaning the festival of Passover. In Greek the word ????????, (upstanding) is used also as an alternative. Christians speaking Arabic or other Semitic languages generally use names cognate to Pesach. For instance, the second word of the Arabic name of the festival ??? ????? ??d al-Fi?? has the root F-?-?, which given the sound laws applicable to Arabic is cognate to Hebrew P-S-?, with “?” realized as /x/ in Modern Hebrew and /?/ in Arabic. Arabic also uses the term ??? ??????? ??d al-Qiy?mah, meaning “festival of the resurrection,” but this term is less common. In Maltese the word is L-G?id. In Ge’ez and the modern Ethiosemitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, two forms exist: ??? (“Fasika,” f?s?k?) from Greek Pascha, and ???? (“Tensae,” tin??’?), the latter from the Semitic root N-?-‘, meaning “to rise” (cf. Arabic nasha’a – ? merged with “sh” in Arabic and most non-South Semitic languages).

In all Romance languages the name of the Easter festival is derived from the Latin Pascha. In Spanish, Easter is Pascua, in Italian Pasqua, in Portuguese Páscoa and in Romanian Pa?ti. In French, the name of Easter Pâques also derives from the Latin word but the s following the a has been lost and the two letters have been transformed into a â with a circumflex accent by elision.

In all modern Celtic languages the term for Easter is derived from Latin. In Brythonic languages this has yielded Welsh Pasg, Cornish and Breton Pask. In Goidelic languages the word was borrowed before these languages had re-developed the /p/ sound and as a result the initial /p/ was replaced with /k/. This yielded Irish Cáisc, Gaelic Càisg and Manx Caisht. These terms are normally used with the definite article in Goidelic languages, causing lenition in all cases: An Cháisc, A’ Chàisg and Y Chaisht.

In Dutch, Easter is known as pasen and in the Scandinavian languages Easter is known as påske (Danish and Norwegian), påsk (Swedish), páskar (Icelandic) and páskir (Faeroese). The name is derived directly from Hebrew Pesach. ….. an alternate spelling is paaske or paask.”

And let’s not even get onto the Slavic languages….
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter#Slavic_languages

Grinch
10 - 12 - 09

yeah yeah yeah, whatever. Boring! Next topic please!

Maximus
4 - 01 - 10

You see? It all makes so much more sense over there, in whatever non-descript American cow town you are shooting from. Even Chernobyl probably looks pretty in the snow. And not the stuff you have to paint on in your windows either… Go out into the urban forest m-d, watch the foxes steal the last of the bacon rind off the barby, huddle up beside your one bar heater and look out at the cheery christmas lights of tinsel town…