The Puny Wars

Watch out! Batten down the hatches! The holidays are coming!
The shopping wars are about to erupt again!
The summer truce will end on Halloween, and the first shots of the new conflict will likely be fired shortly after Sunday, November 3, when Daylight Savings Time ends.

The Holiday Season (or as I call it the “the Puny Wars”) runs from late November to early January, but commercial skirmishes are likely to start in early November.
That’s when we will start being inundated by urgent messages urging us to get off the couch and head for a store. Any store, real or virtual.
The gist of these messages is simple: during the Holiday Season it is un-American to be a miser.

But first of all, what are we really celebrating?
Thanksgiving of course, and Christmas, two Christian holidays.
I almost forgot Hanukkah, a famed Jewish holiday having something to do with an oil shortage (undoubtedly generated by the oil cartel), if I recall.

Thanksgiving is a national American holiday commemorating the Plymouth Feast first celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Puritans in 1621.
It was originally meant to give thanks to God for a good harvest and a lot has been written about it.

But Thanksgiving has a long convoluted history that most Americans ignore (and which I will not bother to explain). For most people it is simply Turkey Day. The day when you absolutely, unreservedly MUST chomp on turkey!
Never mind the Pilgrims and their cockamamie stories!
On Thanksgiving you must go the store and buy that bird or FEAR EXCOMMUNICATION (shudder) from the American economy!

Thanksgiving by the way is gaining worldwide acceptance, and regardless where you live, it is now cool to observe this American holiday.

IMG_0594And then there is Christmas, one of the most celebrated (and most fabricated) Christian holidays.
Christmas marks supposedly the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but the exact month and day of his birth are really unknown.
Scholars believe that December 25 may have been chosen by the Catholic Church to correspond with the winter solstice and ancient polytheistic festivals that traditionally occurred at that time.

The Winter Solstice has always been an important event, observed by many people and cultures

It was notorious among the Greeks and Romans alike.
In ancient Rome the winter solstice was celebrated with a festival honoring Bacchus. It was held for a month and ended December 25.
During that period there was a lot of drinking and rather lewd behavior that the nascent Catholic Church didn’t appreciate.

Instead of rocking the boat and depriving its followers from having fun, the Church neatly appropriated the festival and rechristened it.
Stop venerating Bacchus, that drunken old lecher, and adore innocent Baby Jesus instead people were told.
Why not?

One of the greatest sleight of hand in history.

But regardless of their origins, these holidays have been sanitized (scrubbed from most religious connotations) to appeal to a maximum of potential customers.
We don’t care who you are or what you believe… Come and celebrate with us… and incidentally, don’t forget to bring your wallet with you.

I don’t want to be a party-pooper, but at Christmas don’t feel obligated to spend a fortune to buy the affection of neighbors or relatives.
True love cannot be bought, and no amount of money will ever change that.

So, during the Puny Wars, be merry and party hearty but don’t let money be the overriding factor of that temporary insanity known as the Holiday Season.

Alain La Foudre

Le coup du Père Noel

I originally wrote this story a few years ago. I still like it and I decided to republish it. So here you are.


For Santa Claus, December and January have always been busy months. From the North Pole he routinely treks to Europe, Asia, Africa and even to Russia where he is affectionately known as Grandpa Frost.

Being politically correct, Santa has to be careful of avoiding diplomatic “faux-pas”. Wherever he goes, he has to dress the part, and because of this he carries in his trunk more outfits than Cher in her farewell tour.
It is only natural that after that busy period of the year Santa seeks a little peace far away from the hue and cry of big cities.

Usually, when the holiday season is over, Santa Claus takes refuge in the South of France, in a little village of the Provence area.
It just happens that in his spare time Santa likes to play Pétanque and there is no better place for this than the little village of C. where Pétanque have been practiced for a least a century.
Santa had been going there incognito for years and he had become a fixture of the local Pétanque court.

When he first arrived, he gave his first name as Noel, and ever since, because of his portly and debonair appearance, the locals took to calling him “Père Noel” (old man Noel). Little did they know…
Noel, never betrayed his identity. Upon arriving in C. he would slip into a pair of shorts, an old Hawaiian shirt and sandals.  He would also don an old straw hat and a pair of dark sunglasses.
The locals did not know much about him except that he was some kind of a businessman and that he was a Northerner. For most of the “Provençaux”, anybody hailing from north of Valence is a Northerner.
But Noël proved to be a jovial and congenial fellow and everybody adopted him.
Everybody, except a certain Léandre who was unanimously disliked by the rest of the players.

Leandre was a skinny and quarrelsome fellow who resented the popularity of this “Northerner” while he, a native son, was routinely disparaged by his own people.
Noel played mainly as a “pointeur” and everybody praised his uncanny ability to “deliver the goods”. In a pinch you could always rely on Le Père Noel to place a winning or defensive shot.

Léandre was known as a “tireur” (shooter) and he was a fairly good one.
So it was not unusual for Noel and Léandre to cross swords in the arena.
When Noel would place a great ball hugging the cochonnet, Léandre would shoot it and blow it out of the way. He was a good shooter, but not a gracious one. He would always accompany his shots with disparaging comments about his opponent.

After a while, despite his sunny disposition, Le Père Noel grew tired of Leandre’s remarks and demeanor.
He challenged him to a “friendly little game” and to sweeten the deal he stipulated that the loser would reward the winner with “un cochon de lait” (suckling pig) and a case of Chateauneuf du Pape.
Léandre, sure of his skills and enticed by the tempting prize, accepted the challenge without any hesitation.
The game was to be played in 15 points with 5 balls for each player.

Alerted by the local gossips, the entire village gathered to watch the historic match between skinny Léandre and rotund Noel.
Heavy bets were placed on each contender.
The “cochon de lait” and the case of wine were there for the winner to take home.

Le Père Noel started very well, placing superb balls near the cochonnet, only to be shot and dispersed all over the field by the murderous accuracy of Léandre.
But Le Père Noel persisted and Léandre started to get a little tired of shooting and started to miss.
The lead went back and forth between Léandre and le Père Noel, until Léandre mistakenly hit the cochonnet and pushed it a good 20 meters away from the starting circle.

Le Père Noel had 2 balls left and Léandre 3.

The score was now 14 to 12 in favor of Léandre. He needed only one more point to take the cochon de lait, the wine and the everlasting glory home.
Le Père Noel crouched, aimed carefully and placed a great ball about three inches in front of le “petit”.
Léandre, almost without aiming, shot his first ball and missed by a few inches. He threw his second ball and missed again. He cursed loudly in Provençal. Summoning all his skills he shot his last ball and hit a stunning “carreau”. His ball hit and took the place of his opponent.

That ball was now about 2 inches in front of the cochonnet and Le Père Noel had only one ball left. He was not known as a shooter, and at this distance (about 20 yards) with a wall of balls in front of him, the situation looked pretty hopeless.

Le Père Noel walked slowly to the cochonnet to appraise the situation. Léandre watched him with an ironic smirk on his face.

Le Père Noel walked back to the starting circle, cleaned his sunglasses, stroke his beard and after a few seconds he let his last ball fly. It flew  slow-motion-like in a perfect orb  and hit Leandre’s ball squarely on its head.
With a strange, almost plaintive sound, Leandre’s ball disintegrated and scattered in a multitude of small pieces.

The crowd stood still for a few seconds and suddenly erupted in wild cheers. Vive le Père Noel, they cried, vive le Père Noel.
Léandre totally stunned, stood paralyzed, incapable of making any move or any sound.

The crowd started to rush toward the Père Noel when an odd swishing sound was heard. A sleigh drawn by nine snorting reindeers swooshed down from the sky, and Le Père Noel carrying the piglet and the case of wine under each arm jumped aboard and disappeared, never to be seen again.

To this day, the villagers are still talking about this strange turn of events and the mythic “coup du Père Noel”.
Léandre left the village never to return.

There are some rumors that le Père Noel has been seen playing Pétanque in Copacabana.