St. Bernard of Montjoux

I’m not one for Christmas, or Chanukah, or winter seasonal holidays in general.  I’m not religious, but it seems to me that whatever the meaning people purport to be celebrating is generally not actually celebrated.  I don’t think it’s outlandish to suggest that the real meaning of the seasonal holiday is brought to you by Amazon.  The Tammany Hall political Maxim “Vote early, vote often”, with slight modification has become the underlying Christmas Carol of the modern era.  Buy early, buy often!  I don’t like the Christmas lie that some overweight voyeur with magical powers is compiling lists of toys for his workers to make year-round.  I can’t imagine these lists arriving until late October at the earliest, are the workers just guessing what to make for the first nine months of the year?  It doesn’t make any sense.  This lie covers up the actual cost of gifts as well as the hidden environmental costs.  The packaging, the shipping, the products, the production, all this leaves a carbon footprint that will not go away during any of our lifetimes, but it’s okay because there’s something magical about lying to ourselves regarding how self-interested humans actually are.  Let’s cut down more trees and use more electricity as we raise our middle finger to the planet each and every December.  I’m not one for Christmas, or Chanukah, or winter seasonal holidays in general.  

Okay my rant is over.  My goal here is not to shit on the holiday season, that is just a fortuitous bonus.  My goal is to write about an alternative to the current holiday trend.  I like to think of this as a Christmas Remix!  Let’s reshuffle the deck and see if we can come up with something better.

So, what are we keeping?  Not much.  Let’s keep the time off of work and school, let’s keep spending time with family and friends.  Mariah Carey can stay, maybe something by Bing Crosby, and a few other classics, but new lyrics for sure.  That’s it, that’s all we’re keeping.

St. Nick – gone.  Tree lights – gone. Bublé – gone. Fruit cake – gone.  Stocking – Hmm?  Stockings are under consideration.

I have the perfect replacement for Saint Nicholas, someone who I think can appease both the secular and the non-secular alike.  Have you ever heard of Saint Bernard of Montjoux?

The guy is the patron saint of rock climbing.  Dating back to ancient times there has been a path across the Pennine Alps leading from the Aosta Valley to Switzerland.  The path is eight thousand feet above sea level and covered in seven to eight feet of snow at all times with occasional drifts that measure over forty feet.  The pass is incredibly dangerous and was regularly used by French and German pilgrims trying to make their way to Rome. Often the journey wound end in death due to exposure or getting wiped out by an avalanche. In 1050 Bernie founded a monastery and hostel to serve and protect travelers in need of escaping the deadly conditions of the voyage at the most susceptible and exposed point. A few years later he opened a second refuge in the same area at about seven thousand feet above sea level.

The monks who accommodated these hostels along what are now known as St. Bernard’s Pass and Little St. Bernard’s Pass dedicated themselves to searching for and rescuing lost travelers or providing a proper burial for the climbers who lost their lives along the way.  For those who found themselves in the service of St. Bernard and his associates they were treated as royal guests independent of their beliefs.  The Canons of the hostels trained and bred large herding dogs to assist in the search and rescue of lost travelers, these dogs would come to be known as St. Bernards.

“You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” – St. Bernard

I can absolutely get behind this guy for the Christmas remix. 

The claymation stories with St. Bernards saving mountain climbers in the alps could easily replace Rudolph and friends.  If you want to keep Yukon Cornelius, Hermy the Misfit, and Bumble as a compromise, then let’s do it.  I’m reasonable, and most requests are well-intended.

Look St. Bernards are already part of the scene!

Chopping down Christmas trees has to go.  I offer in place of that antiquated oxygen killer the prospect of planting new trees annually.  You can visit your section of a “family forest” each year as you go to plant a new tree.  You want to throw some biodegradable garland on the branches? Have at it. I’m sure the birds would love adding some new flare to their nests. 

Gift giving/receiving will be hard for most people to do away with, so let’s figure out a compromise.  Ebooks, handmade items, and even secondhand toys would all be acceptable in the remix.  If you are going to buy new, stick with eco-friendly companies, or donate an equal amount to offset the unseen costs of single use materials.  But ultimately giving your time would be my highest recommendation.  Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, animal shelters, food banks, these are the places where giving goes beyond just buying gifts for people who already have everything.  You don’t need to be a Saint from the Aosta Valley to save people, you don’t need to be an imaginary rosy cheeked asshole in a red suit to make an impact on someone else’s life.

In the remix there should be intention in the notion of giving which coalesces with the custodianship endowed upon us all! 

Merry Bernardmas!

  • Anything you’d like to see added or subtracted from the holidays? Feel free to chime in!
  • For more from Carrot and theDIHEDRAL, check out theDIHEDRAL Podcast – new episodes monthly.

35 Replies to “St. Bernard of Montjoux”

  1. Agreed. I want materialism which marketing takes advantage of at holidays to be extracted entirely from economy. I hate Walmart’s dedication to having toys and teasing kids. And I agree lies need to be removed too–even religious ones. But I do like garden reaths and hot chocolate and lights. I think people are visual so they should decorate. Decorations also provide some (though metaphorical) warmth in winter.

    And if life allows me to have a family I will advocate family greetings though not just on holidays. And I will want to have a St. Bernard too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your suggestions are excellent. I don’t celebrate – but I watch the stress on my children who do,
    and want to cry. I see people who have lost work and can’t pay their rent and they are worried about gifts.
    May your ideas catch good minds and travel.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get that frustration so well, I hope somehow changes will happen. I hope your children make it through without too much stress. Thank you so much for the thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You say you don’t want to shit on Christmas, then do exactly that. Oh look everyone, he’s so edgy & pithy. You sound very superior in your condescending tone.
    While I can get behind a couple things in your post, if what you are bitching about Christmas is what you are getting out of Christmas, then you’re doing it wrong. Oh, BTW, if you don’t believe in Christmas or the birth of Jesus, you probably should volunteer to work that day (at regular pay) to allow someone who does, the day off. I mean I don’t want you compromising your principles or anything.
    I’ll tell you what I tell all the other Ebeneezer Scrooges. Try being deployed in some far away land away from your family for Christmas, and tell me how much Christmas sucks. Cuz that DOES suck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points Billdawg! I kind of like the Ebeneezer Scrooge reference, in the end he came around. I appreciate what you’re saying, and I am very thankful for your thoughts!


  4. I appreciate your rant, especially in these times when I have to shut off the radio and TV because of all the superficial holiday ads convincing us to buy stuff we have to go into debt to afford. Thanks for the St. Bernard story; I never knew the full story until now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am a Christian who loves Christmas, but I totally agree with what you are saying. It has turned into “the most stressful” time of year instead of the most wonderful. The excess is just disgusting and people getting into debt further just to please others is ridiculous. This year I said (and continue to say) no to so many Christmas get togethers and it feels damn good! A dinner and fellowship with close family is all I want for Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this Marissa, I remember being little and could feel the stress that Christmas put my parents under. I love the fellowship aspect, and helping out. I hope things like that remain central to most people’s idea of Christmas! Thanks for the comment!


  6. Great tale about St. Bernard! I agree with doing away with unnecessary consumption and all the commercialization of the holiday. I’m not at all enamoured with religious fantasy, but do like the spirit of giving – things people need and will use. A St. Bernard with a shot of whiskey on his collar would work for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. From the Catholic Herald – “Achille Ratti, who became Pius XI in 1922, was a lifelong aficionado of mountain climbing. After his election to the papacy, Cardinal Ratti had to give up his favorite sport, but as pope he was able to do something to promote it. In 1923, Pius XI named St. Bernard of Menthon patron of mountaineers. By extension, St. Bernard has also become the patron of the popular contemporary sport of rock climbing.” I think St. Bernie is big enough to embrace mountaineers and rock climbers and maybe even ice climbers. He could certainly cover SAR people – some of whom, somewhere, are likely to be out on Christmas Day saving someone’s sorry ass!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Great Saint Bernard Pass is on the Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, about half-way. I intended to walk that route this year, now am hoping to walk it in 2021. The monastery takes in pilgrims and is reputed to be a great experience. The pass opens to walkers about the first of June, the alternative being a bus through the tunnel where most traffic goes. Regarding your view on Christmas, you are not the only one to come to that conclusion, and you are on the right track.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like such an great adventure Robert. I hope it comes to pass (Sorry about that horrible pun, I couldn’t help myself).


    1. Haha, if you want to keep the fruitcake, then the fruitcake stays! My grandma used to make it, but people always told me it tasted terrible, so I never tried it. You have me wanting to try it now!


  9. Would be great if the edge of every town has a venue for ‘family forest’ turned decorated ‘ Christmas trees’ with outdoor camping… Instead of chopping down trees! A new paradigm shift to dream of…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m behind St. Bernardmas 100%.

    As for cutting down trees…out here it is very carefully done and part of fire prevention. Certain trees in particular areas are marked for cutting. Personally, I just try to get through this season. I learned as a kid that all the build up and hype doesn’t ultimately change anything. It doesn’t transform the world or people or anything.

    “Accolades and happy days
    They don’t ever last” (Avett Bros. “Victory” beautiful song)

    Oh well, here it is.

    Happy St. Bernardmas! I will be celebrating with Bear out at the wildlife refuge.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Glad I read this before I purchased some unnecessary items off of Amazon. Love how grounded you are! Excited for more content from you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As a Christian who likes to keep it simple, I agree a lot of things could and should go. But, I’m on the fence on the no fruitcake thing. I have a really good recipe. Seriously. Candied orange slices. Spices.

    Liked by 1 person

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