Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Around November, stores across the world start putting out tinsel and cute little bulbs and emphasize snow and sleighs and candy canes.* At the same time, Christmas music is played from most loudspeakers and many radio stations, one of those songs being “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams (yeah, I didn’t know who sang that until today, either). And many people would agree. The two months leading up to Christmas, especially December, is the most wonderful time of the year.

However, there is a segment of the population who disagrees with that sentiment. Among that segment are people, and whatever I am, who say Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year. And since I don’t have a singing voice to advocate our views, I’ll do what I do best and write out why the Halloween season, starting anywhere from late August to early September and ending when October becomes November, should be considered the most wonderful time of the year.**

1. Halloween isn’t as cold. Okay, that’s probably not true south of the equator, but at least October isn’t as freezing in most places as it is in November. In fact, in Central Ohio, it can range from the 40’s to the 60’s (we have weird-ass weather). Whereas in December, it’s usually between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s in a good year.

2. A stalker isn’t part of the central theme of Halloween. No, I’m not talking about Michael Myers. I’m talking about Santa Claus. I mean, think about it. You have an old guy in a red tracksuit watching you 24/7, but especially right before Christmas, and is judging your behavior. If you “behave,” you get gifts, but if you don’t, you get fossil fuels. Also, he can break into anyone’s home and we have no idea how well his workforce is treated. If this was any other person, they would be hit with investigations and possible criminal charges.

At least with Halloween, a little naughtiness is okay. It’s even encouraged. “Trick or treat,” after all.

3. There’s no need to be “perfect,” “well off,” or “good.” For a lot of people, Christmas is a time to show just how perfect your family is, or how pretty you can make your house look, or how deserving of gifts you are. A lot of people spend more money than they should just to show people they can have the “perfect” Christmas, or suck up their dislike of a disagreeable family member so as not to “ruin” Christmas, or give more to charity because “tis the season.” Shouldn’t the season to help the needy be all year? Not just when gifts are on the horizon?

Though if you are giving to charity during the Christmas season, good on you. Thanks for helping out the less fortunate.

At least with Halloween, you don’t have to go all out. A simple bedsheet with eye holes is a wonderful costume. A bag of penny candy is just fine. And if you gather donations to UNICEF, it’s not because “tis the season,” but just a nice thing to do.

Speaking of costumes…

4. Be whoever you want to be. Halloween is about changing who you are into who you want to be for a day. A princess, a vampire, a soldier, a superhero, it’s all up to you and what costume you buy or create. Or don’t. That’s valid as well. There’s no pressure, just as long as you’re having fun. Want to be a little macabre? Go right ahead. Want to just emphasize the pagan roots of the holiday? Perfectly fine. Just want to have a wild costume party to celebrate fun and monsters and changing your identity for one day? Go get ’em, cowboy! It’s your holiday, and as long as nobody’s getting hurt, you’re answerable to no one.

Again, during Christmas, a lot of people feel like they need to project a certain image of “perfection” or “being good.” Otherwise, your or others might believe you’ve done something wrong, or the season is ruined. I think of the mother from the movie Krampus a lot with this point. She’s dead-set on everything being “perfect” to the point she invites relatives over whom she and her own family don’t really like and comes up with all these complicated foods that nobody really asked for, just to maintain this image of a “perfect” Christmas in her mind.

Has that ever happened with Halloween? As long as you have fun, that’s all that matters.

Jack Skellington had one thing right: Santa Claus is scarier than at first glance.

5. So many reasons to get scared! Of course, for those like me, this is one of the biggest reasons. Horror movies, horror novels, haunted houses, music, costumes, parties and games. At Halloween, there’s so many reasons to get scared and have fun with it. The number of scary things to do at this time of year is endless. Whereas at Christmas, beyond either Black Christmas film, Gremlins and Krampus, there aren’t that many horror-related things associated with the holiday. Maybe a Christmas episode for a horror show, but beyond that, it’ not a holiday to indulge in anything scarier than fossil fuels from everyone’s tracksuit-wearing stalker. And to me, that’s a damn shame.

 

Now, this is just a small fraction of reasons why I prefer the Halloween season to the Christmas season. There’s probably a part two or three that could be written. But tell me, which season do you prefer? Why? Are there are any reasons I missed? Let’s discuss.

Just keep it civil in the comments, folks. Or I will delete your comment and then write you into a story.

*I think. I have no idea what Christmas looks like below the equator beyond the fact that it’s summer down there in December.

**That being said, I’m not trying to put down anyone who thinks Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m not trying to wage war on Christmas or anything like that. I’m just representing an opposing opinion. That’s not the sign of moral decay or an anti-American or anti-Christian persecution. Having a spirited but civil disagreement where both parties respect each other’s views is the sign of a healthy and thriving society. If you feel Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, that’s okay with me. Just let me continue feeling that the Halloween season is the most wonderful time of the year in the meantime.

You know, I’ve written a lot about my identity on this blog. Or rather, because every person is highly multifaceted and puts themselves under several labels (even when they eschew all labels), my identities: writer; horror fan; bisexual man; autistic individual and disability advocate; total nerd; Ohio State Buckeye; feminist; liberal; possible entity from another dimension; and many more. But there’s one identity I’m only realizing now that, while I’ve mentioned it more than a few times on this blog, I’ve never really gone into detail about it in relation to my life and my writing. Not in six-plus years of blogging (believe me, I checked).

Considering that I was not only raised Jewish, but raised Jewish by two rabbi parents, went to synagogue nearly every weekend for years, went to Jewish day school from fourth grade through high school, attended youth groups and summer camps, was a frequent attendee at the Ohio State Hillel, and a whole bunch of other things than is listed in this run-on sentence, that is weird. And I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t really ever gone into detail about it. Maybe I thought I’d covered it in one of my 1300+ blog posts at some point, or maybe I just thought it wasn’t important enough to cover at any point. I have no idea.

Well, I guess better now than never (especially since this is my blog and you’re all hostages to whatever I feel like writing each day). How does Judaism affect my life and my writing?

Well for my life, it affects a lot. I’m more spiritual than religious, like many millennials, but I still practice certain rituals. I keep kosher and eat vegetarian when I’m out. I bring in Shabbat every week, and light candles on Hanukkah (you like the picture of my menorah? I’ve had it since I was a kid). I have a mezuzah on my door frame that marks my apartment as Jewish, and the only jewelry I wear is Jewish in theme (Jew-elry, if you will). I don’t attend services at my synagogue that much (I tend to sleep in on Saturdays because the week drains me. Sue me), but I pray often and keep in touch with friends through social media and hanging out. I’ve been to and support Israel, though at times the words and actions of its government concerns me. I pay attention to how my people are portrayed in the news and popular culture (I get seriously annoyed by how most Jews on TV and movies are like, “We’re like the rest of you, we just say some funny words and talk about our health issues a lot.” Seriously, we’re more diverse than that!), and get really psyched when I find stuff on it that educate people about our beliefs:

No need to post that video. I just like spreading it around. Especially since so many people know what Christmas is but so few outside the Tribe know what Hanukkah is.

So Judaism does affect my life. Does it affect my writing?

Well, yes and no. I don’t write what’s known as typical “Jewish literature,” which in my experience is usually about Jewish characters dealing with persecution from non-Jews or dealing with their Jewish faith and identities. I know my dad wished I would write those sorts of stories when I was younger, probably because he was afraid I’d be the next Ted Bundy if I kept reading and writing Stephen King-style horror, but that sort of story never interested me (thankfully, he’s come to like my fiction as is). I do feature Jewish characters in my work on occasion (my Lovecraftian short story “The Red Bursts,” which I’m trying to get published, features a gay Jewish couple who are active in their synagogue), but their religious background isn’t usually a big part of the story. Their are stories I’ve written or plan to write where Jewish characters are featured prominently, and where their background can be emphasized, but like I said, they’re not a huge focus in my fiction as a whole. I like telling a scary story first and foremost.

But my Jewish identity does feature throughout my fiction in a different way. Like every author, I insert my worldview, my morals and beliefs into my stories, and a good lot of that is shaped by Judaism, especially this phrase by one of Judaism’s greatest scholars: “Love thy neighbor. All the rest is commentary.” It’s why I like to use diverse casts in my stories, not just Jewish characters. People unlike me are my neighbors as well as those like me, so I give them all a fair shot in my stories. And this is just one of many ways I emphasize my faith in my writing (I’d go into it a bit deeper, but this article is getting long).

So yeah, my faith is still very important to me. And it even shows up a little in my stories. It may not show up overtly in my stories, but it does show up in the subtext. And for my particular style, that works pretty well. It might even get me somewhere as a writer someday. One can only hope.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday! And since today is Christmas, I wonder if I should a Christmas edition #FirstLineFriday or be a typical Jew and say, “Bah, humbug.” Hmm…okay, I’ll do a Christmas edition. Just as long as I still get visited by three ghosts.

Alright, for those of you who don’t know the rules of #FirstLineFriday, here they are:

  • You write a post on your own blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • You explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  • You post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published story.
  • You ask your readers for feedback.

Like I said, I’m doing a Christmas edition. Speaking of which, can you imagine a Christmas story from me? A Jewish horror writer? God, that story would probably not just be scary, it would probably make you rethink the holiday a little.

Well, I do have an idea for a Christmas-themed novelette written down somewhere, and here’s what the opening would probably be like. Enjoy:

Rob swore that if Chrissy didn’t calm down and shut up, he was going to smack her hard enough to knock her into the New Year. And he didn’t give a damn who saw him do it.

Thoughts? Errors? Let’s discuss.

Well, that’s all for now. For all my Christian readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas. For the rest of us…at least we get a really awesome Christmas Special from Doctor Who every year, right? And the movie theaters and Chinese restaurants are open (yeah, that’s a Jewish stereotype that’s actually true), so at least we’re not stuck in the house. Oh, and it’s still very pretty around this time of year, so that’s a plus. See? There’s always a silver lining.

Anyway, have a good weekend my Followers of Fear. I hope to have some good news out this Sunday, so be on the lookout for that. Also be on the lookout for Krampus, I hear he’s punishing bad kids this year.

Until next time!

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for months, and this evening I got the chance. Let me tell you, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Krampus story, let me do some background: Krampus is a being whose origin dates back to ancient pagan beliefs, and he’s particularly well-known in central and northern Europe. While St. Nicholas is supposed to reward good children, Krampus would punish the bad children. Normally portrayed as a big, hairy demon with horns, he would leave coal, hit the bad kids with birch twigs, and/or drag the kids to wherever Krampus hangs out the rest of the year, depending on who you ask. On December 6th each year, plenty of cities and towns have Krampus Night, where people dress up as Krampus and have a parade chasing people around the town (sounds like fun).

In this movie, Krampus is summoned when a family loses the Christmas spirit, and proceeds to abduct each one of them to take them to the underworld. And let me tell you, from the very beginning, when you see an entire superstore torn apart by shoppers desperate for Christmas gifts, to the twist ending, Krampus is just excellent. It’s so well-written, with the writers (one of whom is the director and also directed the Halloween cult classic Trick ‘r Treat) taking us through a comedy film that manages to do all the horror tropes but remain funny throughout without being too obvious or self-referential. There’s never a dull moment, keeping your attention glued to the screen no matter what’s happening. The actors are also great, with most of them seeming like they’re either being themselves or playing around rather than doing any real acting, and just adds to the fun of the movie.

My favorite part of the film is the visuals, Krampus goes all out to make this the most visually interesting film ever. Except for the CGI gingerbread monsters (yes, there’s that in this movie), the monsters are all done with make-up and animatronics and actors. To say the least, they are terrifying, but what’s really interesting is that so many of them look like they’re pretending to be people in costumes instead of actual monsters. I’m not sure if that’s part of the humor or if that’s some sort of commentary on the Christmas season, but I like it. And I still would probably hide from these monsters if they showed up at my door on Christmas (thank God I’m Jewish).

Another thing I loved about Krampus is how it finds so many ways to make fun of the Christmas season. From the opening sequence’s critique of the commercialization of the holiday to the family’s interaction’s with each other to showcase how little time we actually devote to being nice and generous around these holidays, this movie finds all sorts of way to point out what’s wrong with the Christmas season. And maybe it’s because as a Jew I find the Christmas hype a little annoying at times, but I just love every second of it. And if you’ve ever been annoyed with how people treat Christmas or act around this time of year, you will love it too.

The one critique I would give this film is that when we finally get a good look at Krampus, he’s actually not that intimidating. He looks like someone took a Father Christmas costume, stuck on horns, lots of fur and chains, and added really bad teeth to the mask, looking more like that old rat Nicodemus from The Secret of NIMH than an actual demon. And maybe that’s because the other monsters are just so scary that the filmmakers decided to make Krampus look a little comical, but I would’ve preferred it they actually made him a bit more terrifying.

Overall though, this is a very fun movie. Is it something that’ll become a staple at Christmastime? Maybe not, but I think that the film has enough going for it that we’ll find good reason to revisit it every December. Especially if we want to remind ourselves how not to act around Christmas, or if we want to imagine certain politicians we dislike getting a visit from Krampus (I can think of about three or four right now).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Krampus a 4.6. It’s funny, memorable, and reminds you what this season is really all about. Go check it out and have a good laugh.

As a Jew, Christmas isn’t really my thing. In fact, I’ve been referring to it in a half-joking manner as my month-long headache. But sometimes Christmas surprises me, as it did last night.

After watching The Interview on Christmas Eve and sleeping in much later than I had meant to, I’d pretty much been a couch potato all day, catching up on the shows I’d missed out on this semester. Since I was planning on watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, I went out for a walk and stretch my legs. And what a walk it was! The air was actually much warmer than last year, there wasn’t any rain or snow, and there was hardly any traffic! Hardly any at all! You could walk right into the middle of what would normally be a very busy street and just dance! Which I did, by the way. Several times! And nobody gave me a weird look at all…not that there was anyone really around to look. And I probably wouldn’t care what anyone thought if there was someone there, anyway.

After stopping off at the local donut shop for an after-dinner snack (and for what became this morning’s breakfast), I decided to go for a walk on campus. And it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everything was so quiet, so empty, and there was a slight mist in the air. It gave everything a strange, magical air, and I kept expecting to see something magical pop out at me (more than usual anyway). With my earbuds popped in, I ended up dancing on the Oval to some of my favorite uplifting party songs, just because I could. I then stopped by Mirror Lake, which at this time of year is lit up with Christmas lights. I don’t normally care for all the lights, but tonight it was enchanting and I really enjoyed myself.

It was at that point that I decided to head home, especially if I wanted to take a shower before the Christmas special began. And it was also at that point that something that I’d been waiting for finally happened: if you recall back in May during my study abroad trip, I began a short story called The Murderer’s Legacy that was inspired by some of the things I’d seen and read about while in London. The story was about a nobleman living in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace. The nobleman is being sentenced to death (or at least a very horrific version of it) for the murder of his wife, whom he did not murder. At the end of the story it’s revealed who actually murdered her and why, but by then it’s too late for the nobleman.

Something like I saw last night. You can see how inspiring it is, can’t you?

 

I thought at the time that it was a pretty good story, and that it had a lot of potential. I still do. But I felt that the version I had in the first draft wasn’t sufficient, and I had to do some major editing and rewriting in order to make the story work. This became more apparent to me as time went on, especially as some of the lessons from all the creative writing I did this last semester began to sink in, namely don’t plunge the reader into a fantastic world with a million different parts and pieces to it if you have only ten-thousand words to do it and tell a story set in that world. My first draft felt like starting Harry Potter in Book 4 or 5 and being plunged into this great big established universe, rather than being slowly introduced to that world in Book 1.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to fix this story so that it was not only simpler, but flowed better and actually told a story rather than introducing the reader to a complicated world they couldn’t take in slowly. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to approach this story and edit it. Until last night, that is, when standing by Mirror Lake, something just clicked and inspiration flowed. I finally figured out how to make this story work, how to tell it in a creepy way while keeping the basic idea behind it alive. Not only that, but I had all the research materials I needed at home, so looking up what I needed for this story would be a cinch.

You can imagine the size of the smile on my face as I walked home that evening. I had all the inspiration I needed to rewrite The Murderer’s Legacy into a good story. Then I realized I have no time to work on it, with a thesis and classes to deal with. Oy vey, the life of a writer in college. It’s never easy.

Well, who knows? There may be a chance for me to still work on this story before May. I’ll have an easier workload this coming semester and that means more time for homework and writing. Maybe I’ll be able to finish Rose early and work on this and all my other projects. We can hope, right?

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me, so I’m going to try and get that done. Have a good weekend and (if I don’t post again before December 31st) Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear.