Hey, Merry Christmas!

I do tell people, “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Hanukkah!” depending on to whom I am speaking.  No point in saying, “Have a great Yule!” because that means nowt to most people and who am I, anyway?  The holiday police?

Naw, I greet people this time of year in whatever way keeps them the most, well, merry.

I celebrate Christmas, always have.  I don’t always celebrate Yule in the manner I would like, because most of the places I have lived do not have anywhere to burn a Yule log (yep, y’all stole that from pagan folk).

Here is a brief explanation of Yule, by the BBC:

“The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.” (“Winter Solstice”, BBC website, 6/7/2006)

And thus concludes this installment of ‘alternative religion and holidays’.

What I want to write about, this week, is something a lot of you probably don’t want to think about – how poor folk might deal with this time of year.

This is my annual plea to those of you who donate to the food bank.

First of all, thank you.  It’s really good-hearted of you to donate, and I hope you keep on doing it.  But I have some suggestions…

You’ve heard of BPA?  It’s not good for you and it’s in most canned foods, especially canned pastas and meats. Apparently it has been linked to cancer.   It’s also in vegetables and beans – the highest amount found in canned vegetables is in green beans.  And green beans, along with corn, seem to be the 2 things most people donate.

Please don’t.  Oh, you could go all “organic aisle” and get canned stuff without BPA,  but no one expects you to do that – that stuff is expensive.  I was just at the store today, and a can of
“BPA-free organic beans” is $2.39!!  That’s ridiculous.

So please, get dried beans and lentils instead.  They take longer to make than, say, popping open a can, but especially this time of year when people are cooking and baking a lot anyway…oh yeah, we po’ folk bake cookies and cook holiday meals too.

Dried milk instead of evaporated milk (I know, dried milk is pricey, but it’s much needed). Tomatoes, soups, vegetables in those box things instead of cans.  Stuff in glass jars is a little trickier, so you may want to ask your food bank if that’s ok.  Think of what you like to eat during the holidays, and maybe toss in a bag of cookies or something.

In Hollidaysburg, it will go to the people for whom it was intended.  Wherever you live, I don’t know – use your discretion.  I have seen people in Memphis and Altoona rip off the poor that way.  One director of a charity thrift shop in Altoona keeps all the “good stuff” in the back (pastries and so on) that the local grocery store donates to them, then sets out mostly bread for people in need to take.

“Well gosh, poor people don’t need pastries!  The nerve!  They’re all too fat anyway!”

Oh, this is turning into a rant.  Sorry.

Yes, I agree that giving is an act of kindness, and “beggars can’t be choosers”, nor should they “look a gift horse in the mouth”…but, come on, it’s the holidays!  Everywhere you look, people are buying things, visiting relatives, getting involved in holiday things, and of course TV has all the heartwarming shows anyone could ever watch.

A percentage of the population hasn’t money to buy presents, may have no family with which to spend the holidays, and/or is isolated and not involved in holiday activities.  Maybe they are ill, physically or mentally.   Most of them wouldn’t dream of asking for anything from anyone…

…which is why I am going to do it on their behalf.  Because I am one of them, and I choose not to use the food bank because I would rather have very little or no food at the end of the month than to eat the canned stuff they give out.

Side note: Hate to belabor the fact, but just in case y’all think people on disability are not poor, the poverty level for a ‘family of 1’ is $11,670.  That’s per year, folks.  The usual disability check is $735/month (that’s the basic check amount), or $8,820/year.  That means a lot of people subsist at a level that is almost 25% lower than the federal poverty line.

I want to drive home the point because I don’t know how else to get it across – think about how much you make, because you are able to work.  Hell, I don’t begrudge you a million dollars, if you can get it –  that’s not the point.  I want you to imagine how you could live on $11,000/year or less.

If you suddenly become poor, does that mean you have no right to at least eat a somewhat healthy diet?  Compare prices in the store sometime, healthy vs non-healthy, and then you can understand why that food stamp person in the line in front of you is buying canned punch instead of real juice, white bread and pasta instead of the whole wheat versions, even soda instead of something more healthy.

Ever try to bring 2 cases of water home on public transportation?  They get really angry if you try it and they threaten to ban you if you do it again.

Don’t you even dare say we can drink “free” tap water.  If you lived in SuperFund Pennsylvania like I do, you won’t even give your pets tap water, it is that nasty, unhealthy, and sometimes you can set fire to it thanks to fracking.  A water pitcher with filter?  Yeah, I have one.  It sits empty because I can’t afford the refill filter.  That, I have to save up for.  Oh, and in PA most renters have to pay their own water bill…and it’s $60/month.  There is no federal or state program to assist you with your water bill. So, tap water isn’t really free.

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