My hire car came early on Monday afternoon, and my flight to Edinburgh from Stansted on Tuesday was looking dicey due to the winter travel disruption around London.
Only one thing for it. I finished my jobs in the shipyard and signed myself off the ship early. A quick eight-hour drive through the freezing fog and yellow weather warning, and I was home before midnight. It was minus -7°C (19°F) when I arrived home, and the fog was impenetrable. At one point I was doing 20 mph on the motorway (for the yanks, that’s normally a 70 mph highway). The steering would occasionally lock when I hit icy patches. This meant I enjoyed hyper-focus and saved lots of money on Red Bull or coffee to keep me awake. The only good thing was that the roads were deserted, and the Norfolk and Lincolnshire countryside is beautiful, somehow, even when you can barely perceive it. Holst’s Jupiter playing on the radio did help, conjuring the finest sentiment of I vow to thee, that somehow is the music of the garden that is the English countryside.
Passing the old English place names, Spalding, Boston, Lincoln, and York, did remind me warmly of the United States. I phoned my New Yorker wife from a roadside service stop in (Old) York.
I’ve been home for a week, enjoying the pleasures of winter. Indoor projects mainly, given the icy conditions outside. I’ve been greatly appreciative of being able to crank up my gas central heating and burn that good old dependable dinosaur juice, freely and luxuriously. Getting my fill before the climate communists insist on a carbon tax before 2030, on top of all the other taxes that they have no moral right to take from us.
Middle age and middle income have their own set of pleasures. I broke the back on the work of starting a new nautical book I’ve been brewing in my mind for a couple of years now. Although I did have to go to my rented office in Edinburgh for that, as the 8-year-old has decided she’s a teenager already, and the 1-year-old has decided the ‘Terrible Twos’ would arrive a few weeks early.
I knocked down a plasterboard wall (drywall) at the back of our hall cupboard and found several cubic metres of additional storage space that were previously inaccessible. I cannot tell you how excited I am about some extra storage space! My plan is to waterproof it all, like a wet room, and tile it, so that wet muddy boots can be thrown in there without a care. Also, this is good practice for my hobby business. You can charge a pretty penny if you can tank, plumb and tile a wet room.
Some proper loose-leaf tea, a Russian Caravan from Fortnum’s or some loose Dilma, cannot be beaten as a winter warmer. Throw in some loose-leaf Darjeeling to refresh old leaves for World War Two era blend that’s good for three uses. Gingerbread house making with the kids (disaster). And mince pies.
I love a mince pie. Best accompanied with Port wine, for sure.
Only a few things from the outside world disturbed my peace this week. One was the superb documentary recommended to me on Twitter by a new online friend and reader of this blog, John. It’s called Planet Lockdown Film. It reminded me to renew my outrage at the injustices of the past few years, where the already predatory relationship between corporations, media and the state reached new levels of callousness. The film is available for free at https://planetlockdownfilm.com/
I highly recommend you watch it. It features interviews with previously obscure (to most of us), but now huge names from the scientific community, who illustrate for us the truth about how they were raising the alarm bells over inappropriate government action from the very beginning of the totalitarian Covid response measures.
Needless to say, ‘The Science’ was never on the side of the tyrants.
The moment that chilled me to the bone, afresh, came about one hour into the film. There is a cinema veritas moment, where Terrorist Tedros, the Ethiopian - CCP sponsored - head of the WHO, said the quiet part out loud at a WHO briefing. ‘…some countries are using [mRna] boosters to kill children. That is not right’.
He said that, out loud, on television, in December 2021.
And yet, what happened to the rollout of the vaccine, that our own regulatory agency advised the government against giving to children? And what did the journalists present at that briefing do to raise the alarm?
I knew intuitively from a lifetime of being adjacent to people in academia, government, the civil service and the military – but healthily enough on the outside – that none of them were capable of doing the right thing. That when they said ‘we believe the benefits outweigh the risks’, what they meant was that they were comfortable with the number of lives that would be sacrificed.
But the real problem, the wider one that haunts me and inspires much of this blog, is not the instigators of evil. I mean, it is a given that there are people in this world for whom, no life matters except their own. One world government, totalitarian control and ‘population reduction’ are explicitly stated goals of several government agencies, NGOs and the UN. Tell me which government wouldn’t like to expand its tax base to 8 billion souls, and keep them under the modern feudalism of debt bondage and central bank stealth taxes?
Much of the internet outcry on this subject fails to pass the ‘So What?’ test.
There will always be a percentage of the population who are psychopaths and sociopaths, and they will always seek to monopolise power and exempt themselves from the rule of law.
That doesn’t answer the question, why would the mass majority of people go along with them?
It is the general failure of society to stand up to tyranny, that needs to be addressed.
Until we solve that general question with a durable solution, we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Our culture already contains the answer to solving that class of problem. That’s why the BBC and other agents of Satan spend so much time and effort trying to dismantle and explain away the phenomena that bind us together in a way that negates the need for totalitarian interference in our lives.
Christmas is not exempt from this assault.
I have been reading on the life of Saint Maximus the Confessor, as a way of thinking about the heroes like Mike Yeadon and company, from the Planet Lockdown Film. A man who lived as a fugitive for six years, and spent two years in a Byzantine prison for refusing to compromise the teachings of the gospels to suit the political correctness of his day. When ordered to recant his testimony he refused and continued to speak the truth to the emperor.
As punishment, his right hand was severed so that he could no longer write his teachings, and his tongue was cut out so that he could no longer preach in a way that displeased the emperor. He spent the rest of his years in exile, where he died in the desert.
Cancel culture has been with us for a long time.
Modern journalism has its roots in the French Revolution, as the events that transpired were so volatile that day-by-day (journée) chronicles had to be kept in order to keep track of the bloodbath of a revolution that sought to eradicate Christian culture and impose the cult of reason by force. People had to check daily who held power over them at this time of continuous upheaval and political executions, until the final collapse into Napoleon’s dictatorship.
We can therefore see how modern journalists have always been fascinated by power. Our latest batch has no monopoly on thinking that they can sell their influence to the highest bidder, or win favour with the violent thugs at the top by use of the power of narrative.
Real journalism, investigative truth-telling, has always had a high body count. We cannot expect the occupiers of plush corner offices at the antisemitic and communist New York Times to embody the ideals of journalistic martyrs like St Maximus would.
As such, we cannot expect the truth from them. Their ranks are populated entirely by people who believe they will be on the inside circle when the revolution comes because they are ideologues, not historians.
When the materialist argumentarians of the New Atheist crew, Dawkins, Harris, Murray (a bit) and the late Christopher Hitchens were at their zenith when our culture was stronger. Society back then was able to take a punch to the gut and carry on unflinching. Although I think we’ve had enough of that now.
Pointing out the paradoxes in religion was what all the cool kids were doing to disrupt the power hierarchy and stick it to the man. They channelled the anti-traditionalist sentiments of the 1960s, summed up by JFK in his quote ‘Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth’.
‘So, there’s only one God, yeah? But he’s actually three guys? Plus, thousands of saints? And you don’t do human sacrifice, but you drink his blood-wine and eat his bread-flesh? OK, boomer’.
This spirit is best understood as the rejection of tradition resulting from the post traumatic stress disorder of two catastrophic world wars and a culture suffering from militarisation in every aspect of human life.
The trouble with this approach is that we have tolerated a spirit of criticism with too much confidence. We couldn’t detect the potentially uncontrollable, unusual, and strangely immediate risk that came with this cultural critique. What is worse, is that the culture war has for some time been waged asymmetrically, not in the halls of debate or the voluntary exchanges over a pint in the pub, but using public money and the power of public institutions to corrupt art, literature and policy. There was no consultation, and we have no recourse. Our will to resist is undermined by propaganda that we are forced to fund whether we agree with it or not.
For most of my lifetime, my generation has reduced the image of Jesus Christ to a cartoon character level and mocked the culture that we took for granted.
I’m used to hearing the trite arguments trotted out every year, like the one I heard this week on BBC Radio 3 (or 4. Who can tell these days, with them never skipping an opportunity to get some totemic political message squeezed in between Christmas carols, hymns and symphonies, for the sake of ‘balance’)?
They had some marketing ‘expert’ on, providing a glib and shallow explanation of how modern Christmas is all a marketing trick. How Coca Cola made Santa Clause red, and how the ‘Catholic Church’ is the advertising man’s best example of brand management, with the best location in every city on earth, a recognisable logo in the cross, and a diversified range of business services, spanning hatches, matches and dispatches.’
Add to this idea the casual Marxist dismissal of Christianity as an attempt by a power-hungry authoritarian church organisation to seize Pagan practices, and adopt them as their own in a cynical effort to convert unruly barbarians into fee-paying members of a materialistic lying cult. Christmas trees were, after all a Pagan tradition, weren’t they?
What the Mad Men fail to realise, in their shallow reductionistic worldview, is that it doesn’t matter if Coca-Cola advertisers were the first to do something. The reason their chosen colour was accepted by customers and has persisted as an appropriate representation of Santa Clause ever since, is because they illustrated something true. Something that clicked and resonated with the people who embody the culture of Christmas.
If they had made Santa blue or white, it wouldn’t have worked because it would be a meaningless representation that doesn’t fit with the culture. And why their plans to make Santa a man of African descent next year will have no bearing whatsoever, except to prove to people that their executives are part of the virtue-signalling wokerati.
The real Santa Clause probably did have the darker-toned skin we associate with the people of the Levant today, as he lived on the South Coast of modern-day Turkey, in the Roman Empire. Saint Nicholas of Myra, like Jesus Christ himself, is not remembered because of his skin colour, but because of his famed deeds, and the example he set.
Nicholas The Wonderworker, it just so happens, is the patron saint of Merchants and Sailors. And at the risk of committing CANOE (The Campaign to Attribute a Naval Origin to Everything), it is no coincidence that this saint who lived in port cities became associated with travellers, fishermen (like Saint Andrew), coopers, brewers and trade. He is also the patron saint of Archers and Children.
A pilgrim and traveller himself in early life, he was reported to have healed a sailor who fell from the mast of a tall ship, which is normally a fatal event. He calmed the seas, like Christ. He protected innocent young girls from being sold into prostitution, by anonymously gifting bags of gold to their desperate and penniless father. He dropped three bags of gold coins through the window of their house, for three nights in a row, so their father could afford to pay a dowry for each of his daughters. Some traditions have him placing gold coins or golden orbs of great value at the bottom of socks, or in shoes, to help needy children anonymously. This symbolic gesture of anonymity and humility lives in on the tradition of placing chocolate gold coins, or an orange, at the bottom of Christmas stockings.
You can’t get more ‘down to earth’ than that. Even the supposedly negative gift for naughty children, a lump of coal in your stocking, has a humble utility to it.
He was no coward either. Saint Nick is said to have attended the first council of Nicaea. While there, he challenged, and slapped the heretic Arius in the face, for his support of Arianism - a similar theological challenge to that faced down by St Maximus.
This came at the personal cost of being defrocked and imprisoned, although he was later vindicated and restored. His moral courage was further demonstrated when he chopped down a tree that the locals believed to be possessed by the devil himself. He repeatedly went into Roman Pagan temples, took down their idols, and personally converted many people away from the murderous religions that pre-dated Christianity.
The bones of Saint Nicholas were kept entombed in Myra for centuries, sealed away from relic hunters and fakers, as his legend spread from the port of Myra through the waterways of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the waterways of Europe and Africa. His patronage of Archers surely represents the true aim of proper being.
The traditional Saint Nicholas of Myra is a warrior for peace and a heroic defender of children. Robust, strong and humble.
That is why when advertisers put him in a Red Coat, it makes sense. We accept it.
Redcoats are traditional and archetypal warriors. Particularly in the American consciousness. The apocryphal tale of the brown-trousered captain, who wore a red shirt to hide the blood from his wounds in battle comes from a true historical practice. The red coat is therefore associated with bloody self-sacrifice in the face of danger, valour and honour. A mighty foe who demonstrates boldness by his lack of camouflage.
Even in that classic Christmas movie, Home Alone, Kevin puts on a red sweater before going into battle with the would-be burglars who threaten to steal Christmas from a young boy.
The colour red is rich with meaning, and it helps remind us of the dark side of winter, and of Christmas.
Like Moses before him, the birth of Jesus was threatened by the King’s decree that every young boy near Bethlehem be slaughtered, to prevent the prophecy that a new King would be born and threaten Herod’s primacy over the Israelites. Early and orthodox Christians place his birth in a manger, not in a stable, but a cave (Go try to find the Inn, its keeper or stables in the gospels).
The C2nd/C3rd tradition that Jesus was born in a manger, in a cave, foreshadows his death. He will be devoured by the world of men, in the way that food is devoured by animals from the trough/manger. The cave reminds us that he is fated to die, as he will later be entombed and resurrected from a similar cave.
The dark side of the nativity is the massacre of the innocents by King Herod, and the agony of Mary, who must bring a life into the world, for the eventual purpose of martyrdom.
Of course, the celestial element is not denied by Christianity but integrated as one of its truths. The astrologers who follow stars and angels to identify the newborn king are represented by the star or angel at the top of our Christmas trees. Acknowledging the true pattern of invisible principles of reality represented by the precession of celestial bodies but displacing the pagan instinct to worship the stars themselves.
The pyramidal pinnacle of a Christmas tree is topped by a Star or Angel, to illustrate the way that unity is achieved by placing an eternal light at the highest point. The guiding light of invisible principles, as the focal point for our culture.
The colours of Christmas are green, red, gold and silver. Always golden, crowns, horns and bells all share a single Hebrew root word with the word for ‘King’.
Silver represents stars, angels and value.
Green and Red also represent the celestial pattern that comes to us through seasons. The red berry, stands out clearly against the robust evergreen, reminding us that even in the depths of a frozen winter, life will go on. Christ was born after the darkest days of the winter solstice, acknowledging resurrection not only as Jesus’ fate but as the true pattern of life and creation.
The tree itself is a universal symbol of the bridge between earth and heaven, intuited by Pagan and shamanic traditions worldwide. It speaks of Jacob’s ladder, and the four trees in Genesis.
Celebrating the virgin birth of our saviour, a future martyr, acknowledges the bittersweet joy of creation itself. The creation of life, from ‘nothing’, is a miracle. It is precisely the same observation made by the advocates of ‘Big Bang Theory’ creationism, that our reality came into being, and we have no capacity to know what came before it or caused it.
We can never know the spirit of creation, that we call God. However, in Christianity, God chose to show us the miracle of creation through the incarnation, in a visceral and human way.
Yes, it’s impossible. For us. That’s the point.
The red tinsel on my tree snakes upwards like the serpent on the tree of life, or the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.
The red baubles represent the treasures of life, the blood sacrifice of animals for food. The warmth of the fire. The renewing glow of sunrise, and sunset.
The Christmas tree cannot be a Baobab, or an Oak tree, however. It must be an evergreen to show eternal life through darkness. Its shape must be conical, to represent a pyramid, linking our roots on earth with the kingdom of heaven and divine principles. And it must come indoors, to sever the ties with the pagan world of the devil and enter our homes.
Nature is subject to our will, as participators in creation, made in the image of God. We are not pagan oak-tree worshippers, serving Gaia with animal and human sacrifices in the woods of northern Europe, anymore.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is the solution to the evils of the Pagan desires that can occupy us, we fallen human beings. For if we have already sacrificed the perfect man, God incarnate, our King, then what additional possible sacrifice can be made that would bring about any good?
The historical truth is that when missionaries marched across Europe, chopping down the ancient oak trees that were the dehumanising focus of Pagan cults, and building churches from their wood, they really were saving us from the evil in our own hearts. Watch the History Channel’s amazing TV series ‘Vikings’, and tell me which society is less oppressive. The warrior cult of human sacrifice and blood eagles, or the tyrannical Christian one that made revenge killing illegal, and forced you to pay attention to good examples of human behaviour, with endless feasting on saints days and the abolition of chivalric revenge codes? (PS. Watch the original Vikings, not the Netflix-woke version, where they put a black lesbian single mother in charge of the C11th city of pagan warriors – I kid you not).
Marketers are keen to have us make up our own Christmas family ‘traditions’. Especially if they involve purchasing their specific products. And the postmodernists, Marxists, relativists and Nihilists are equally keen to dismiss all cultural phenomena as arbitrary.
But, what elevates a practice to the level of ‘tradition’, is an act or ritual performance that helps us embody and recognise something true. Only traditions that ring true can spread wide in the culture, and be retained through the generations. It isn’t just ‘Capitalism’ or the church exploiting the masses. Nobody forces a gun to our head to make us go out and buy Christmas presents for our loved ones. Christmas is voluntary and participatory. People would rather go into debt, than fail to celebrate Christmas properly. That’s real!
Like the tree, commerce has a deeper meaning at Christmas. Just because the marketeers can influence the culture, doesn’t mean they own it or understand it. Just as the Roman Catholic Church has no monopoly on Christianity.
While the bones of Saint Nicholas of Myra were rescued from the caliphate’s encroachment on the Mediterranean by Venetian seafarers, his legend and traditions had already spread far and wide along maritime trade routes. Churches dedicated to Saint Nicholas were usually established adjacent to the market square in market towns and trading ports, as a kind of beach-head foothold pioneered by Christian sailors. Like Saint Andrew, Nicholas was adopted as Patron of the Russian & Hellenic Naval forces, but he is more generally associated with the Merchant Sailor. He is patron of the port cities of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Liverpool, and Bari (where his remains are now kept). That subtle difference is something I know well from my own life and career choices. Being dedicated to trade, rather than warfare, means you are imbued with the spirit of the ‘win-win’ transaction, rather than the ‘win-lose’ transaction. Something that makes all the difference to the soul.
As a trader, or merchant, particularly in the old world, you would create value by finding goods that were abundant (& therefore cheap) in one location and trading them for something rare (but abundant and cheap at your point of origin). Scarcity is a fact of life, but it is not distributed evenly in terms of space, time or access. The role of the trader is to mediate between scarcity and abundance, and thereby add value to the world. Like the miracle of the loaves and fishes shows, the multiplication of resources, like a farmer’s crop from seed, or the merchant’s ability to trade, are miraculous elements of human life.
My mince pie is a microcosm that perfectly illustrates the mediation of the merchant.
No longer containing meat, mince pies have been a part of British Christmas celebrations since the crusades of the C12th. Shaped like a manger in the old times, recipes varied, but the quintessential mince pie is characterised by dried fruit like raisins, candied citrus, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Dried, non-native, exotic flavours immediately embody the virtues of mercantilism and the practicalities of seafaring prior to refrigeration.
Nutmeg, until the 1800s, was exclusively grown in the Banda islands of modern-day Indonesia. These coveted spice islands were occupied by the Dutch since the 1500s, and saw the genocide of the Banda people, as well as battles between the Dutch and the British over their lucrative indigenous crop. Outgunned and outmatched by the British, the Dutch surrendered their little colony of New Amsterdam, in return for the British relinquishing control of the Banda Islands and with them, the production of Nutmeg and Mace.
That is how the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, populated north of Wall Street by Dutch farmers, became the British colony of New York.
Dutch sailors had long been the most evangelical followers of the example of Saint Nicholas, with not one, but two Christmas festivals to act out his spirit of anonymous giving and compassion for children. As a race of seafarers and traders, the Dutch knew well that commerce is a noble calling and a multiplier of good fortune. Something that made finished goods and food more abundant could only be good for children, as their society grew wealthier and less hazardous for the young.
Every 6th of December, the entire male population (all seafarers or ex-seafarers) would go to the harbour towns for a service to commemorate Saint Nicholas Day (19th Dec in the eastern church). After participating in a liturgical memorial service to the patron saint of merchant seamen, they would descend upon the Nicholas Fair – an early Christmas market, to buy rare and exotic goods for their loved ones. The main gifts would be kept for Christmas, but little presents were given immediately that night, from Saint Nicholas. Nuns would leave baskets of gifts anonymously on the doorsteps of the needy.
The Dutch Sinterklaas tradition survived on Manhattan Island, and I do believe this is where our modern traditions of Christmas gift-giving were incubated. And about twenty blocks north of where my wife and I lived, Saint Nicholas Park retains its Dutch heritage. How many Christmas movies are filmed in New York, the Dutch colony that loved Saint Nicholas?
Where the English and Dutch traditions merged might be a matter of insignificance to be studied in detail by historians, but I do like to think it was in that great maritime city of New York.
If it wasn’t for the heroic devotion to the protection of the innocent demonstrated by Nicholas of Myra, where would we be? Would the crusaders have had enough courage to try to recover the Holy Land? Would they have fallen in love with spiced mince pies, enough to fight in the Straits of Malacca or on the Banda islands? Would the United States have come into being, or eventually freed the slaves, if it were not dominated by the Magna-Carta-wielding English who came to settle it, instead of the Banda islands? Would I have met my New Yorker wife while working on a cruise ship, and now be phoning her on the road from York, if it had remained New Amsterdam?
Things happen for a reason, even if we may never know the reason. Just because we are ignorant, does not make the world arbitrary.
So, with one week to go until Christmas, don’t let the evils of the world or the doomsayers get you down. Have a mince pie, and reflect on the joy that is creation, and the pattern of resurrection that is the foundation of our culture, and the anchor of our society. And look forward to what will come after these dark times have passed.
Secular, atheist, muslim, protestant, catholic or orthodox, we can all come together and enjoy a nice mince pie and a pretty Christmas tree. Our first Chanukah candle was lit yesterday, similarly invoking the spirit of light that always burns through the darkest of times. The light of the star or the angel at the top of your tree wasn’t put there by a coca cola marketing executive. You put it there. And in doing so, you are participating in the ritual that still binds our semi-broken society together more than any other.
So bravo to you! And here’s to Christmas!
Wow, Captain! What a Christmas tour-de-force! Both informative and inspirational. Perhaps the best thing I have read showing that even modern Anglo-American hyper-commercialized Xmas customs still contain seeds of ancient Christian observance of the Nativity of Jesus. A former Texan, I have now immigrated for my retirement to the ancient Black Sea port city of Batumi, Georgia, a merchant-marine haven for over 6,000 years.
The Gospel of Christ was brought to Batumi in the First Century by three of His Twelve Apostles: Andrew, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias (who was martyred here). The Ottoman Empire bit off this southwestern corner of Georgia and imposed Islam by the sword, slaughtering or exiling all the Christians here for about three hundred years, and destroying all our ancient church buildings. Imperial Russia defeated Turkey and re-established Christianity here in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 20th century, the Bolshevik atheists from Russia destroyed all our churches again, save one, the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas (near the ship harbor). It was built by Greek seamen in the 19th century, as its cornerstone inscription in Greek bears witness. Even the godless Soviets did not dare to destroy it, so beloved is St. Nicholas by our seafarers and their families and friends. It is jam-packed with worshippers every Sunday now, plus two services every week day. I will make a point to worship with them on Dec. 19, their patronal feast day.
Now Batumi has many Orthodox churches, and every one has a large icon of St. Nicholas. His prayers to God for us are still working wonders, on land and sea. A small icon of him has accompanied me on many sea voyages, all safe. An exemplary Christian, in so many ways. Glory to Jesus Christ, his master!
Another great piece, thank you!
Happy Christmas to you and your lovely family.