Eric, your "Nackles" post, particularly the part about turning the darkness around for the Holiday season really resonated with me and my family. Friday, my family and I went to NYC to see the sights at Christmas. I didn't get to go last year and it's one of my favorite things to do (particularly visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral and praying for a bit), so we made a point of going this year. Of course, we went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and I heard alot of people voicing the same sentiments you wrote about; how it just didn't feel like Christmas this year, and I thought about how that tradition was started. It was 1931 and Rockefeller center was being built under the black cloud of the great depression. Christmas came; another Christmas where people felt lost and had little to be thankful for, but the workers at the center found the biggest tree they could and put it up, thankful for their job and what little else they had. They turned their Christmas around and brought hope, happiness, and cheer to thousands of people in desperate need of it. This was a time far worse, economically, than our current situation, but people were still able to find Christmas cheer and be thankful for the little things: a loving family, a home, or tonight's meal. This, I think, is the spirit missing nowadays. My generation, especially, seems unwilling and unable to do without. My Dad has sacrificed alot the last few years to give my family a decent Christmas, selling guitars from his collection to buy gifts. Last year, our house was broken into and all of his jewelry was stolen (luckily, mine was in Chicago with me and my Mother's was in a safety deposit box), so I decided this year to try and give back. I sold some jewelry I don't wear much to get him a ring to try to start replacing what was taken. I'm coming to a point in life where I'm becoming more and more aware of the declining state of things and, rather than wanting to postpone the holidays, I feel we need them more than ever to inspire us to buck up and push forward. Christmas is not about commercialism and spending (contrary to what many seem to believe), but about gift giving from the heart and being thankful for your family and friends. As I said, I like to sit a bit in St. Patrick's Cathedral and pray silently. Something about that big old church gets me choked up, I think it's the architecture; not the grandeur of it or anything, but the fact that the people who built it and spent all that time on the intricate stonework must have really believed in something. I figure if a stone-worker spent most of his life to carve that ceiling, I can take a minute or two to pray and be thankful. Anyway, this is being written at 2 AM so I apologize if it's a bit rambly. To quote probably my favorite rendition of A Christmas Carol "It is the season of the spirit. The message, if we hear it, is make it last all year."
Also, as pertains to Nackles, look up Krampus. Pretty much the same myth, only this was widely taught to children around Christmas time.