Archive for the ‘fireworks’ Tag

Celebrating the Darkness   9 comments

Welcome to the Open Book Blog Hop, where we are looking at how we celebrate New Year’s. Please check out what the other authors wrote and while you’re at it, get to know the books of Tracy Krimmer.

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Last week, I declared that Christians can celebrate Christmas without running afoul of God because we have freedom in Christ and we may practice our universal faith within our local culture. Anyone following my blog also knows I believe the Christian faith must be Biblically based.

So, unsurprisingly, we don’t really celebrate New Year’s Eve, which in the United States is mostly a drunken party. There is no way I can redeem that part of my culture for Christ by joining into it. Unlike many evangelical Christians, I don’t object to drinking alcohol. Jesus turned water into wine and it was very good wine. I know Christians who have an occasional glas of wine or beer and they stop right there and that is not displeasing to God. My husband Brad is a recovering alcoholic, so New Year’s Eve doesn’t really work well for him. In our younger days, before we realized what was going on with him, I would act as designated driver while he got hammered. It wasn’t fun for me and New Year’s Day became the Great Hangover Recovery Day. In time, we came to realize that getting drunk is never pleasing to God and eventually Brad entered recovery. Walking right up to the edge of stupidity by attending parties where the goal is to get drunk is just not a good idea for him and not all that fun for me.

The Bible admonishes Christians to “walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts.”*(Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3) Since New Year’s festivities are often characterized by the very excesses that the Bible condemns, Christians should be careful in their participation. Make no mistake. I love to have a good time and the Bible does not require Christians to be killjoys. On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly tells worshipers of the true God to rejoice for a number of reasons. (Deuteronomy 26:10, 11; Psalm 32:11; Proverbs 5:15-19; Ecclesiastes 3:22;11:9) The Bible also acknowledges that food and drink often accompany rejoicing.—Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7a.

New Year’s celebrations are rooted in pagan customs. Christians reject practices that have such origins. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Ezekiel 22:3, 4) The apostle Paul wrote: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? For good reason, Paul added: “Quit touching the unclean thing.”—2 Corinthians 6:14-17a.

Christians also realize that taking part in superstitious rituals does not guarantee happiness and prosperity and can result in God’s disfavor. (Ecclesiastes 9:11; Isaiah 65:11, 12)  The Bible admonishes Christians to be moderate and self-controlled in our conduct. (1 Timothy 3:2, 11) it would be improper for one who professes to follow Christ’s teachings to be part of a celebration characterized by riotous excess.

As eye-catching and appealing to the senses as New Year’s festivities may be, the Bible tells us to “quit touching the unclean thing” and to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.”  It is not proper for those who profess to follow Christ’s teachings to participate in a drunken orgy.

That said, our family does do a couple of things to acknowledge the New Year, because — again — we believe Christians need to live of Christian lives in the context of our culture.

We used to celebrate Watch Night with our former church. We’d get together and play games, eat and have a prayer service. Our current church doesn’t do that.

Anytime there are fireworks in the dark … I’m there. Alaskan summers never get dark, so the traditional fireworks of the more patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) are mostly wasted on us. We can’t see them, so we don’t bother.

University of Alaska Fairbanks 'Sparktacular'An association of local businesses sponsors a fireworks display for winter solstice (usually the Saturday before December 21). Generally, it coincides with downtown shops staying open later for Christmas shoppers. They shoot the works off from the river that runs through downtown. There’s no risk of fire because of how cold it is. I’ve heard this display is accompanied by some unrelated bonfires and revelry, but we go for the fireworks and then go to a local coffee shop for live music and a spontaneous gathering of friends.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, there is a bigger fireworks display sponsored by the area Lions. This one jams roads with traffic because the works are shot off from the University campus, which is on a hill that stand quite a bit above the town. We have a special location that we try to claim each year. For safety reasons, the fireworks go off at 8:00 pm, which leaves plenty of time for the adults to head to a party afterward. Since we skip the drunken party, we go immediately to our friend Ray’s house, scorch steaks on the outside fire pit, eat lots of chocolate chip cookies and fruits of the forest (moose sausage, yummo) and shoot off much smaller scale fireworks for the kids to enjoy. Then at 12:30 (thereabouts), we head home before the drunks get on the road. There’s usually evidence that our neighbors have violated the ban on fireworks inside the city limits (there’s a reason why we go to Ray’s house) and last year the new neighbors continued to about 2 am, hooting and hollering and worrying us that we were going to have to extinguish someone who set themselves on fire.

Alcohol and explosive do not mix.

A point to know about this — it’s freaking cold here in December, so these outdoor activities are … uh, exhilerating … refreshing … dangerous …. You get the point. We’re playing with explosives at minus-30 degrees F.

We don’t do New Year’s resolutions. That comes from my very secular family who thought New Year’s Eve parties were for amateur drinkers looking to collect DWI points and that New Year’s resolutions were for people addicted to failure. We also recognize that resolutions are a superstitious ritual that should have no part in the lives of Christians. Still, we take a pause before bed and pray for all those who are risking their necks on the roads and for our own responses to the coming year.

The next day has grown pretty quiet. We have the last of our holiday treats and feast meals — usually finger foods. I make peanut butter cookies and we have lots of crackers and dip. Salmon is featured prominently as a dip and as the main dish — we usually oven-bake a double filet just for the 3-4 of us. We also have some American Korean friends who join us some years and bring kim chee. In times past, we went to a much more social and cosmopolitan church and we would have more friends over for New Year’s Day. Since there were a dozen ethnic groups represented in our church, we never knew who might be bringing what. Our friend Consuelo used to bring the fixings for tamales, but her children have had too many children, so she now spends the holiday making tamales at home. This year, our friend Christine, who is from Egypt, is joining us and she promises to bring something yummy from her culture. I have no idea how we came upon a mixture of cranberry juice and club soda, but that is our New Year’s Day beverage.

We used to go to the hockey game that the local team plays on New Year’s Day until a couple of years ago when Brad admitted that he really doesn’t like hockey, and thinks that after 25 years of him going along with my suggestion, we spend the next 25 years going along with his. We still go to hockey on other days, but not on New Year’s — which is fine because hungover players don’t play that well anyway. We stay home and watch television. Sometimes we catch a parade. I grew up in a cold country where parades just don’t happen in the winter and our television programming was delayed by three weeks until I was well into my teens, so for me, parades on television the same day as the event is really cool. The novelty of Christmas programming at Christmas still hasn’t worn off yet, actually. I don’t care for football, but Brad watches it if the New England Patriots or one of the Texas teams is playing (he grew up in New England/New York and his dad lives in Texas, so it’s a family obligation — he doesn’t generally watch football just to watch football). I sometimes sit down with him to have him explain once again what exactly it means when they hide the ball.

This is why I like hockey. You can tell what’s going on without a play-by-play.

We have an annual tradition of a game of Risk. And we undecorate from Christmas. We take down all the evergreens, the tree, etc. and put back up our standard fall-winter decorations.

And, then the day is done and it’s time to return to non-holiday life. We have two birthdays, an anniversary, and Thanksgiving, solstice (which is a big deal around here even if it isn’t for us), Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day all in the space of a month, so when we turn the lights out on the evening of January 1, it is with a deep sigh of relief that life returns to normal.

Until next year.

Independence Day?   1 comment

So today is the day we set aside on our calendar to remember when our ancestors declared our country’s political independence from England. We holds parades, sand-castle building contests, fire works displays, concerts in the parks, and barbecues … lots and lots of barbecues.

But do we ever stop to think about what independence meant and whether we as a nation still exemplify that understanding?

Not really.

That’s obviously in the crap we take from our government. We all say we love freedom, but what freedom do we still have? I’m paying for health insurance regardless of whether in need it or not and paying extra so that people who have a lot of health conditions can pay less. Is that freedom? It doesn’t look like it to me. I’d rather spend that money on other things. If I could pay for catastrophic coverage (like I used to), I’d have a savings account again that I could use for medical expenses as needed or for buying a newer car before the one I have breaks down permanently. If that happens, I will have to incur several hundred dollars a month in payments because I haven’t got a savings account to use to buy a car with cash.

So, I lack basic freedom because in a town where you need to have a car to get around, I can’t afford to buy an affordable car because I’m forced to buy medical insurance I don’t need.

I have ZERO attachment to the Confederate flag. I grew up about as far from the south as you can grow and my great-grandfather was an abolitionist. Like many people I see it as a symbol of racism, but I’m willing to believe southerners I know (yes, Alaska has a lot of ex-pat southerners) who say they see it as a symbol of unbowed enthusiasm for states rights in the face of overwhelming tyranny. I know the acquaintance now driving around town with two of them streaming off the back of his truck is not a racist, so I’m assuming he’s doing it for another reason. Nostalgia, freedom of speech, a statement about states rights, a statement about liberty in general ….

But when I watched him drive by, two women behind me were talking in loud voices about how he ought to be arrested for his “racist” actions, as if they have forgotten that liberty means we all have a right to express opinions.

I stand with Fred Phelps in his refusal to be forced to participate in the pagan mating rituals of same-sex couples by sanctifying them through baking wedding cakes for them. We seem to have forgotten in this country that freedom of religion includes not forcing our neighbors to worship our god against their will. By forcing business owners like Mr. Phelps into catering to same-sex weddings, you are demanding that they kneel at a pagan altar. You may not see it that way, but that is the Biblical understanding of it. You are violating freedom of religion by insisting upon it.

I have very little use for the federal government. I can’t think of many things in this world that the federal government does that benefits me directly. Maybe the money it gives the State of Alaska for roads … but trust me, if the federal government quit doing that, the State of Alaska and the people who live here would figure out how to pay for them ourselves and we’d probably start building roads to the Scandanavian standards so they don’t fall apart every five years, which would reduce road costs in the long-run.

Right now, 25% of my income goes to the federal government for …???? That’s about 23% less liberty than our Founders had because they paid only excise taxes on the goods they purchased.

Like it or not, sooner or later, we will all of us have to pay a whole lot more in taxes because the federal government continues to spend like a drunken sailor. We’re $18 trillion in debt. We owe only a fraction of that to foreign entities, but if they ask for it back …. If we default on the debt owed to Americans, we bankrupt everybody’s retirement accounts. Yeah, so we lose freedom at one end by higher taxes to service the debt I didn’t ask the federal government to run up and then we lose freedom at the other end when they gut our retirement accounts. In the middle there is the increasing real inflation of food and fuel that is largely driven by our debt and the effects of quantitative easing (also known as printing fiat currency).

The freedom to spend the money you earn on what you want to spend it was well understood in the Founding generation. So how much liberty does the tax man take from you? Between the IRS, Social Security and medical insurance, I’m somewhere in the 40%, but people who make more money than me are up in the 60%.

So are we the land of the free anymore?

Perhaps we ought to look at the Declaration of Independence and ask ourselves:

Could we sign it today?

But of course, that’s the dirty little unspoken among us, right? We who celebrate that our ancestors seized their independence from the English know that the US government does not recognize our right to do the same from them.

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