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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why Not Celebrate the SUMMER SOLSTICE Instead of the Winter One? Let’s replace Dickens with Shakespeare.

Charles Dickens has a lot to answer for. With the publication of his Christmas Carol in 1843, he single-handedly made Christmas our biggest cultural holiday. Before the debut of his (self-published) little novella, celebration of the holiday had all but died out in Anglo-Saxon Christendom. The pen is powerful indeed.

A Christmas Carol revived the custom of taking the day off work, gathering for big family feasts and getting generous with gifts—remnants of an ancient pagan Solstice celebration which had been meshed with the Nativity story by some very clever Early Christian Marketers.

It was a great idea in Dickens day. People were stuck in their houses and villages and it gave everybody a chance to gather for some convivial cheer at the darkest time of year.

But I think Mr. Dickens and those early Christians would be appalled to see what the holiday has become. Every year it gets worse: travelers stranded at airports for days...buried in snowdrifts while trying to buy last minute gifts or that extra can of Ocean Spray… imprisoned in grounded airplanes with nothing to eat but rationed packets of Cheez-Its.

All in the middle of flu season. (…she writes after taking another swig of DayQuill.)

OK, Aussies, Kiwis and other inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere: you can ignore this rant or read on and chortle.

But seriously, Northern Hemispherians, what’s up with setting our biggest travel-holiday at the time of year when we can count on the worst travel conditions?

It’s not really about Jesus, is it? There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus making his fleshly debut in December. And we know for sure this event did not happen in a place with a lot of snow. Or holly, mistletoe, reindeer, or bearded white guys in furry outfits.

The bearded white guy who was first reputed to reward good children and admonish the bad ones at the winter solstice was a Norse deity called Odin (or Woden or Wotan—whatever you want to call the Wednesday god-guy.) And the rituals involving holly and mistletoe and pointy evergreen trees? Kind of more Druidish than Judeo-Christian.

So do we really need to go through all this suffering to honor a Teutonic war god who slithered down chimneys to put anthracite in the footwear of bad little Vikings?

Not that the Christmas/Druid holiday hasn’t had a good run. But now we’ve got wildly scattered families. And climate change. And sadistically dysfunctional air travel.

So I’m going to suggest a change of authors. Boot Charles Dickens in favor of William Shakespeare. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have our big yearly celebration at the SUMMER SOLSTICE—Midsummer’s Night?

OK, A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t as heartwarming as the Scrooge tale, but who needs warming in the middle of June?

Wouldn’t it be more fun to go home and visit Mom and Dad in the summertime? To barbeque that turkey on a backyard grill? Inspired by the Bard, you could decorate the front yard with inflatable Bottoms, Rude Mechanicals, and any number of sparkly fairies.

Maybe Puck could pop down our chimneys and leave gifts under the potted palm, which could be adorned with little surfboards and beach balls and those lights shaped like chili peppers.

We could still conduct the same kind of retail frenzy, since that seems to be necessary to the well-being of our economic system, but we could shop on safe, sunshiny streets, with evening light to choose them by.

Or maybe we need another story altogether. What about it, writers? Anybody up for writing some Summer Solstice tales and carols? About Rudolf the Red-Nosed Surfer, maybe? Or Frosty the Slushy Man? Hark the Herald Fairies Sing?

If Dickens could write a novel that created our biggest holiday, maybe one of you can write the book that will give us a new celebration that will fit better with our times.

An awful lot of cranky travelers and flu-sufferers would be very, very grateful.


For those of you who still haven’t made your New Year’s resolutions—or even if you have—I recommend reading a great piece by Catherine Ryan Hyde at AOLNews Closing the Happiness Gap  I’m going to follow her suggestions myself and resolve to be happier this year.

And if your own resolutions include a final edit to your manuscript so you can start sending that puppy out, Catherine is offering manuscript evaluations for a limited time—a little bit of her own Paying it Forward. For a very reasonable fee, she will evaluate your first 30-50 pages and give suggestions for further self-editing. Contact her for details at ryanhyde@sbcglobal.net .   

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Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Monster Baby's birthday is at the beginning of December. Every weekend, starting at Thanksgiving she begins to receive gifts which somehow, magically, appear every weekend until Christmas. My poor little monster thinks the whole MONTH is her birthday.

I keep saying I'm not celebrating either her b-day or Christmas anymore, we're going to travel. We'll find some nice warm beach somewhere and go crazy in the surf. I was all set to go this year when she cried, "But how will Santa find me?" And at 6, how could I disappoint her.

But I'm telling you now, as soon as her little fat-man-in-a-red-suit bubble has burst, we're heading out.

You are too right that Christmas and the holidays don't mean the same thing as they once did. Just even in the years since I've been a kid. I hate them now and keep my celebrating to a very low minimum.

Besides, Jesus was born in June, so the summer solstice idea has a lot of merit. Let's celebrate this year.

January 2, 2011 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Ruth Ann Angus said...

You always make me laugh Anne! But I'm not going to try and fly in airplanes during a summer celebration either. Imagine being stuck on the tarmac in a plane without the air conditioning running! AAAGH! Why don't we just stay home winter solstice or summer solstice?

Ruth Ann

January 2, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

I think you're on to something with this suggested switch from winter to summer. But don't think that we, the indefatigable consumers that we are, would turn summer into the same circus? It's worth a try though.

January 2, 2011 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Florence said...

I know two people who do Christmas in June. However, it's mostly a barbeque thing where everyone gets plastered.

I am working on whether you are fed up with Christmas, have problems with the conflicts between the Christian or the popular celebration or that cold has you in a bad temper. Whichever it is, you are even funny when your head is stuffed up. :)

I'd like to think of the old guy in the beard as more of a Hans Christian (spell) Anderson type. Jolly and benevolent and loves kids.

I missed you during the break. Good to see you have sharpened your comic edge. Thanks.

Oh, I don't believe in resolutions. I lie enough to myself, why do it in public?

January 2, 2011 at 6:27 PM  
OpenID modicumoftalent.com said...

Well, over here in the US, we sorta call that Indpendence Day...

Kidding. But July 4 is shortly after the solstice.

I love this idea. I love "Midsummer Night's Dream," and a day filled with green shows and revelry and some masks and mistaken identities would be a grand event. Much better than Halloween and little terrorists demanding candy... :)

I always think Jesus must have been born in spring, anyway. I mean, those shepherds were out in the fields, right? Wouldn't it have been too cold if they were out there in December?

Funny stuff. Made me smile. :)


January 2, 2011 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger February Grace said...

"The Wednesday god-guy"


Love this 'rant', but sadly, I think you'll have a hard time selling it. I think people must enjoy suffering too much...

January 2, 2011 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger PV Lundqvist said...

I vote May Pole. Let's weave dandelion chains and dance to flute music. :^)

January 3, 2011 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, I'm so with you on the bah humbuggery (sounds dirty, too, doesn't it? Does that mean extra points? lol) What gets me in particular is combat shopping around Xmas...even -- or especially -- if all you want to do is go to the supermarket for a %$!#^ quart of milk.

But summer? Heat? Humidity? Mosquitos? Bad Hair Days? *shakes head* Not so much.

How about we forget holidays altogether and just go zen & live in the Now?

Not that I can even manage that...;-)

January 3, 2011 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Solvang Sherrie said...

You are hilarious! In Santa Barbara we actually celebrate summer solstice with my favorite parade that is part Mardi Gras, part hometown crazy and completely fun. Add a bbq and a present or two, and you've got yourself a holiday :)

January 3, 2011 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--Lucky Monster Baby! But I'm with you--a quiet beach sounds so much more fun than all the holiday frenzy.

Ruth Ann--Traveling east in the summer isn't fun either, but at least humidity doesn't pile up on the roads and ground the planes.

Judith--I'm not saying we should give up the gift-buying and all that. Just do it in more comfortable surroundings.

Florence--I'm not fed up with Christmas; I'm fed up with stupid. Traveling in December seems pretty stupid to me.

Modicum--July 4th is good. So is Flag Day. Or Bastille Day. Any holiday where there is no snow. And fewer flu germs. No, this virus isn't going away. Sniffle.

Bru--I'm afraid you're right. People tend to fall in love with their own pain.

PV--that's the best suggestion yet. May Day. Dancing around the phallic symbol. Celebrate fertility and the magic of rebirth.

Ruth--holidays certainly lose their appeal as we age. Quiet, rather than crowds and noise have a stronger appeal for me most of the time.

Sherrie--LOVE the SB solstice parade. Santa Barbara does it RIGHT!!

January 3, 2011 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Clarissa Draper said...

I'm with you. This holiday season I traveled North (yes, I went from warm Mexico to see my family in COLD nay, FREEZING Canada). What the hell was I thinking? And for what? Moody family, crabby kids, traffic jams, border crossings, icy roads... I could go on and on. I told my husband, this is the last time we travel in winter.

January 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Clarissa--you went from Mexico to Canada in the middle of winter? And I'll bet everybody made you feel it was your duty. Imagine trying to explain that to somebody from another planet.

January 3, 2011 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

I say, why not celebrate both? Men in red suits flying down a nonexistent chimney on Dec. 25th PLUS Bottoms and sparkly fairies on the lawn June 21st sounds wonderful to me!

As for the craziness of scattered families, bad weather, etc. we could always chose to separate local family/friends from faraway family/friends; i.e. Do a local Christmas when the rain and snow flies, then when the weather improves, do a faraway family gathering. Arbor Day, anyone?

January 4, 2011 at 6:06 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Churadogs--you've got the best idea of all. Let's celebrate the Winter Solstice with local friends, but save the travel for Midsummer celebrations! Arbor Day is perfect. It involves trees, so our Druid traditions will be satisfied, but it does not occur in flu/snow season.

January 4, 2011 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Michelle Miller said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and never commented before, and I'm sorry that my first one has to involve disaggreeing with you, but not all of us have lost the true meaning of Christmas, and some of us actually have families who have a great time when we get together.

Also, as a resident of Minnesota, I can assure you that we need things to help us get through the long, cold winter. First there's the Holidays, then the annual ski trip, then my son's birthday, etc... Who needs help to get through the Summer?

As for traveling in the summer, I was once stuck on the tarmac in Phoenix for three hours when it was 105 degrees. Of course, they wouldn't tell us how hot it got in the plane, but people were dropping like flies!

January 6, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michelle, I grew up in central Maine, so I know how welcome a festival of lights is at the darkest time of year, and still is...as long as you don't have to travel to it.

Yes, air travel is horrible these days at any time of year, but as I said to Ruth Ann above, heat and humidity don't pile up on the roadways and runways and keep us stuck for days.

I love to get together with family to feast and celebrate. I'd just like to do it once and not come home with the flu (snort, snuffle, sniff)

January 6, 2011 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Jan Markley said...

I'm all with you for moving christmas to the summer. Travelling at Christmas is the worst, lots of stressed out people, bad weather and planes that don't take off. Let's hear it for the summer solstice!

January 7, 2011 at 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Michelle Miller said...

Luckily (or regrettably), with kids living in my house we get all the colds and flus in September when school starts. By December we are usually done with everything. (Hope you get better soon!)

I guess for me it's just that our summers are so short here that I'd hate to lose gardening and lake cabin time to shopping, decorating, etc... Although then I suppose we could do the live Christmas tree thing. (You can't plant trees in Minnesota in January.)

January 7, 2011 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

This is so funny and so "right on". It's taken me this long to respond because...wait for it...I was out of town celebrating Christmas, again, with family we missed at Christmas! Actually, Christmas had very little to do with the celebrating. I guess we were celebrating family. Which we can all do any darn time we want to, really.

January 7, 2011 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Anne, Speaking as a resident of Las Vegas, the idea of "Christmas" in June fills me with over-heated horror. We're all inside in the air-conditioning hiding from the triple digit temperatures. You know I love my Bard (especially when set in California rancho days with a shrewish gauchette ) but Bottom would have a time out running the local wild burros, I'm afraid. I like the herald faieries tho. Great marketing idea for all the gay choruses. And isn't June a bit overrun with weddings to accommodate another family feud...er, festival? Richard, vox clamantis in deserto

January 8, 2011 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--Thanks for getting my point.

Michelle--Life with kids makes things different. Kids need holidays--the more the better.

Christine--At least celebrating on New Year's Day instead of Christmas gave you a little less traffic and travel-frenzy. And you're right. Family is family--any time of year.


January 8, 2011 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger TerryLynnJohnson said...

We tend to stay put for the holidays. Winter is when it's just getting nice here! No bugs!

January 8, 2011 at 1:02 PM  

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