A FRIGID DAY FOR SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World on a Snowy Day – 12-3-19

It started snowing yesterday afternoon and hasn’t stopped yet. Sometimes, the snow has been mixed with rain and other times, it has been the “two inches per hour” blinding snow. It’s supposed to snow all night tonight with a heavy burst in the morning. I so badly wanted a nice cool snow-free winter. Oh well.

What’s your remedy for the Holiday blues?

North end of the commons – Photo Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t have that problem anymore. Not since I stopped spending half my annual salary on gifts for people who didn’t appreciate them!

Your favorite beverage (if it differs) during the holiday season?  If it doesn’t differ, just answer the ‘what’s your favorite beverage” part. 

I used to love eggnog. Homemade. But Garry and I don’t drink anymore and it’s so fattening. And the stuff they sell in the grocery just doesn’t do it for me.

This one has been asked before, but what’s your take on pumpkin spice?

I like some. I don’t think it belongs in absolutely EVERYTHING. I love the smell of it better than the way it tastes.

Is there is a person or god connected with your holiday? 

No. As far as how I feel about other peoples’ holidays, I absolutely do NOT care what you celebrate as long as you aren’t forcing it down my throat. Enjoy your celebration. I might be happy to enjoy it with you. I have nothing against Chrismas, Easter, or Ramadan. Or, for that matter, Hanukah. I love the food and the decorations. I even like church services and hymns.

I say “Happy Holiday” because I don’t always know what holiday someone is celebrating or not celebrating. We don’t wear patches that state our religious beliefs. When we do, we will all be damned.

Cee’s Flower of the Day


Share a song that you enjoy during this Winter season (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and so forth.


SYWeyesonworld

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY. PLEASE! — Marilyn Armstrong

Not only do I not feel well, but it has been pouring all week. Well, technically, it’s only “raining lightly” right now, but when I look out the window, it doesn’t look like “light” anything. It’s not only raining heavily, but it has been so dark it looks like the hour after sunset from morning until night.

I realized it’s after four so it really is getting dark, but it wasn’t much lighter two hours ago. And I just realized Thanksgiving is next week and no one has any plans … and with Christmas right behind it …

I’m not lacking in holiday sentiment. Just physically not feeling good and I don’t have money to spend, which always takes the “buzz” off the holidays. It’s going to be joyful, but mostly gift-free this year. I’m pretty sure that ALL of us are out of money and anyone who doesn’t have this virus, seems to have bronchitis.

It was so dark in my dining room, I really couldn’t take pictures. Too dark, even with a 1.8 mm lens. Supposedly it’s going to brighten up tomorrow, but it wasn’t supposed to rain today, either. Forecasts are becoming more like educated guesses.

Snow for the holidays is romantic. Pouring rain doesn’t capture the right spirit. Maybe the sun will shine next week!

CHICAGO CHRISTMAS – Rich Paschall

aka Chicago XXXVII, Rich Paschall

By now you have probably heard a lot of familiar Christmas music. It might be adding to the background noise at the mall. You may be hearing it in your auto on your Christmas radio station. You could be streaming that station on your computer or mobile device. You may even have a few old albums to put on the turn table or CDs to drop into your “boom box.” Whatever the case, the tunes may have been recycled for many years, even decades as Nat, Bing, Dean, and Burl; Frank, Perry, Gene and Andy, even Judy and Elvis bring you their “classics.” If you know at least 8 last names of the ten just mentioned, you may have heard their tunes a little too often. We have listed our favorites of these in our top ten tunes of Christmas Past, Dead Artists Edition.

More Christmas shopping, same Christmas songs?

It seems like there are about 20 songs in heavy rotation on the Christmas stations with another 20 sprinkled in from time to time. A newer artist might break into the play list this year, but will he or she stay there for long? The pop hit by the millenial artist is likely to fade away as quickly as the current release of the iphone. We always seem to go back to the same handful of tunes. Don’t you wish we could get some new holiday music?

“Christmas Rock with horns”

Well, someone has brought along some new Christmas music. In fact they have seven new tunes, eight if you count the R&B and ballad versions of the same song. Chicago the band (not the city) has a new Christmas album. It is the third Christmas album released by the group. Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album was released in 1998 and had 14 tunes. It is one of my favorite holiday albums. Tha arrangements are unmistakably Chicago. It was re-edited and re-released by Rhino records in 2003 as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa, containing a total of 20 songs.

The next holiday album was Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three in 2011. Why O Christmas THREE? Perhaps because it is the 33rd album? Maybe because they considered the two previous releases of XXV as two Christmas albums? This time out they don’t just pass aroung the vocals to various band members, as usual. They also have some guest artists, Dolly  Parton, Bebe Winans, and America (the band) to join them. Steve Cropper makes a guest appearance on guitar on the only origianl song, Rockin and Rollin on Christmas Day.

When producer and original band member Lee Loughnane (trumpet, vocals) asked band members earlier in the year if they had any original Christmas songs, he expected a contribution or two. Instead, he received more than they could use this time out. If you thought picking the songs was going to be difficult, arranging and recording was going to be more of a challenge. The band was on tour most of the year.

The group decided to use the same method to record this “studio” album as they did for the previous album, Chicago Now.  They employed a mobile recording system they referered to as “The Rig.” This allowed them to rehearse and record on the go, utilizing hotel rooms, the tour bus and other stops along the way. Not all band members needed to be present at once, as various tracks could be sent by web portal and mixed later. It worked before and the band proved again that they can use the latest technology to achieve what older bands are reluctant to try; that is, record new albums.

Arranging and recording while continuing to perform means the guys are always working. If you think that “rock with horns” sounds just happens, then we will share a short “making of” video from the band’s You Tube channel. Notice at one point they are rehearsing and recording on the tour bus.

If you want to get the full dose of how it was done, you can watch Chicago Christmas (Making Of) here. This gives a much better insight into the collaborative effort. You see the guys together in a hotel room working out the harmonies and the parts for each. For a “band on the run,” it is the modern way to work.

Along with the seven new songs this time out, there is Sleigh Ride 2019, Here We Come A Caroling  and Robert Lamm on a non-Christmas but very timely song, “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” You can add this new one to your play list:

You can find the CD on Amazon, or the band website, or you can download the album.  Perhaps you do not want to pay for an album of songs you have not heard. It is not likely the Christmas stations will play them, so the band has a good idea for you. Just as they did for O Christmas Three, Chicago has posted all of the songs on their You Tube channel. You can listen to the entire album here.

The band is making some appearances to promote the new music. You can catch them in the Macy’s Thanksiving Day Parade playing tunes along the parade route.

Sources: “Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three,” Wikipedia.
Chicago,” chicagotheband.com
Chicago Band, You Tube Channel

SKULKING IN THE SHADOWS — Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Skulk

This is one of those words that sounds like what it means. Skulking in the shadows in the darkened alleys of Gotham. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! The man in the black coat and fedora gum-shoeing after him. And somewhere, a cop, an FBI agent, and private-eye are lurking, waiting for the moment of truth if there is any such thing.

Reindeer, sleigh, snow guy, and a path.

It’s a great, cold day here on the Atlantic coast. A good day for skulking. Even the birds seem rather sinister. I think I’m too tired to feel sinister. And we have an evening event. At least the hearings are over and I can go back to having a permanent nervous breakdown.

All the buds … and notice in front the one red segment. That too will flower.

Does anyone believe we are already supposedly “in the holiday spirit?” I’m not sure what that means anymore. I think it’s mostly about taking my tree from last year, plugging it in and making it ready to do its annual job as “tree of the holidays.”


Personally, before the subject comes up (again), I don’t care whether you say Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Good Chanuka, Felice Navidad, or Happy Kwanza. Or just “Hi, how are you?”

I do not care! It’s the thought that counts … and a fat envelope full of greenbacks wouldn’t hurt either.

CHRISTMAS EVE 2018 – Garry Armstrong

It was a very enjoyable Christmas Eve. A drama free (dee-lish) dinner.

Everyone enjoyed their gifts including the furry kids who hadn’t destroyed their toys as of Christmas morning.

I had a long and delightful phone chat with my family. Two younger Brothers, cousins, and cousin-in-law. I was able to hear everyone clearly (first time!) with my cochlear implant. I think I was a bit giddy because I rambled all over the place, chatting about how the cochlear implant has changed my life.

We shared memories about Christmases past. Lots of laughter as I said goodbye.

Owen brought over a bunch of old ’78’s (Those of a certain age know what I’m talking about).

We listened to vintage performances of Christmas music performed by Bing Crosby, Mahalia Jackson, Gene Autry and Red Foley. Yes, Red Foley. “White Christmas” is still a signature song of the season and it belongs to Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.

One of the 78’s contained soundtrack music from the 1942 film, “Holiday Inn” in which Bing Crosby introduced Irving Berlin’s beloved “White Christmas.” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” brought back a rush of childhood memories as did a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I found myself singing along — softly — because I sing off-key.

What a blast! Thanks, Owen.

I, too, wonder about the mince-pie mystery.

What happened to mince-pie? Marilyn and I have been searching in recent weeks for mince-pie, fresh or frozen.  No luck.  No answers.  I just read an online piece about a cache of mince pies discovered in England, stashed in a basement — from World War Two. A Mom’s gift to her Son in the army. The pies are over 70 years old. No mention of how they taste.

This still doesn’t answer our mince-pie mystery. Russian collusion?

Christmas Day is upon us. The house is quiet. The furry kids are searching for their toys. Santa Claus has been very kind to us. Yes, Donzo, there is a Santa Claus.

I suppose he forgot about you.

RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS – Rich Paschall

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-movie-1998b

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song, which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, and eventually to television and movie specials. Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

The animated Christmas special is now over 50 years old and children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the hot summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best known Christmas songs of all time, finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with a storyline about two performers in love with the same girl. Crosby loses out to Astaire and leaves the musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner (yes, that same girl) leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary songwriter, Irving Berlin.

In the movie, White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over an estimated 50 million copies of the single and holds the top spot by far. If you consider all of the compilation albums on which it appears it is likely over 100 million.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Merry World 12-10-18

What’s the worst topping you could put on popcorn?   (credit to Teresa for this one)

Anything other than salt and maybe butter. But I can’t eat it anymore. Too slivery for aging gums.

In what country did Silent Night originate?

I was sure it was Germany, but am now told Austria. Go figure, right?


WARNING! The following question is NOT meant to start a fuss.  It’s merely a good discussion question in my opinion.  Most everyone knows where I stand on this. If you feel like arguing about it, please give it a pass.) We’re all adults and sensible ones at that.  We can be mature about such things, right?


How would you react if there was irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist? How about if there was irrefutable proof that God does exist?

I wouldn’t believe it regardless. You can’t prove (or un-prove) faith. It’s an opinion, yay or nay. Unless God personally drops by and shows me his a photo ID, it’s faith.

What is the scariest non-banned item you could take on to a plane?

I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m not even sure what IS banned and I have no intention of traveling by plane.

Which version of the holiday celebration do you and your family enjoy?  By this I mean do you follow Jewish traditions with Hanukkah; Christian celebrations with Christmas and (for those over the pond) Boxing Day; or some other festivities that I’ve overlooked?   Please do share with everyone!  I truly feel that this sort of question lets us know a little more about our fellow bloggers without getting too personal (i.e. revealing too much of private lives, which some folks prefer to keep private.)

We just have a little tree. We watch old holiday movies. Garry loves Christmas Eve church, but it always gets held right at dinner time, so we never get there. Which is a pity, because regardless of religion, I love Christmas Carols and know a ton of them. I learned them for Glee Club in elementary school. That was before we weren’t allowed to learn anything with religious content. I didn’t even know the songs were Christian. I just thought they were pretty.

Actually, thinking about it, I know more religious music than most people because, as a music major, I spent years learning Gregorian chant and other early Western music. I’m sure I had my mother very worried.

If you study music, an awful lot of it is religious. Western music started as chanting and “grew up” in churches. When you study music, it’s a long time before you emerge from religious music to “modern” music … and a lot of our modern music is based on old church music too.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to follow anyone else’s religion, but I also think trying to remove all traces of religion from the world is silly. You can’t do it. Religion and religious thought are woven into the way we think. It’s organic. Nor do I think there’s any reason why you can’t believe in god or gods — and yet be a scientist or mathematician. I have never understood why one thing negates the other.

Not all of the things we believe are Judaic or Christian, either. There’s a lot of much older stuff woven into modern thought. There are many reminders of more ancient religions which are part of “modern” thinking.

Sorry for going on so long. This was what I studied in school. It began with music but moved into religious philosophy. I wrote papers about it. I still dream about it.

The near decade I spent in Israel was no coincidence. Despite what I may have said, my travels had nothing to do with how many times I read “Exodus” (the novel by Leon Uris, not the second book of the Torah).

I needed to be there. Because I needed to understand. Things.

THE POST-EVENT CRASH – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday – CRASH


I noticed in the definition that my favorite slang definition of a “crash” is missing. It’s the exhausted collapse after a busy week, weekend, vacation, or period of travel. Or really, any major festivity. When you get back from whatever you were doing and you fall in a useless heap on the nearest soft surface. Be it bed or sofa, it is officially “a crash.”

“I called but you didn’t answer!”

“Hey man, I was totally crashed out. That was some weekend.”

I think we’ve been permanently crashed out since Garry began his march to hearing from non-hearing.

Sometimes crashing isn’t a physical thing, either. It’s emotional. You got all worked up about something — and not necessarily a bad thing. A big party or a series of big parties … or the winter holidays. Then, suddenly, New Year’s comes and goes and that deflation leaves you completely crashed.

Somewhere, in your mind’s ear you hear someone singing “The Party’s Over,” and you realize it’s another year. We don’t get that excited about the holidays anymore, but we do get excited about vacations — when finally they come around. It’s good I take a lot of pictures. That helps keep the mood for a while longer. Sort of stretches the even for as long as you are still processing the photographs.

Festive on the commons!

And it’s that time of year again. If you are getting all lathered up about the holidays, try to remember that it’s a month of festivities, but it ends. Please! Don’t crash!

TWO CAROLS FOR OUR HOLIDAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

As the weird, right-wing Christians endlessly complain about how they can’t say “Merry Christmas,” while the rest of us try to keep our heads low and avoid getting bombarded by Christmas? For us, there is Tom Lehrer and a few songs to make us smile.

Let us not forget that “other” seasonal holiday, Hanukkah. Although it is not one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar, it’s relative (depending on the Jewish Lunar calendar which moves the holidays around in a thoroughly un-Christian way) proximity to Christmas has given it an undeserved prominence. And for that, there’s still Tom Lehrer.

May your season be joyful if you celebrate and sane, regardless. It’s a holiday. Enjoy it, ignore it, or sing your heart out.

SHARING THE WORLD, THANKSGIVING EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Thankful World


Are you an Early to bed, early-to-rise person, a night owl, and daytime sleeper-dozer, or an ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ person?   

Age has made me reconsider the idea of sleep. I need to get some or I just can’t function.

Now, if only I could give up on reading at night … I go to bed early enough, but then, there’s that book.

What are some misconceptions about your hobby, should you have a hobby?

People think I’m a lot better a photographer than I am. I do take pretty pictures, but I don’t process them nearly as well as others do. I’m not even in the same class.

No matter what anyone tells you, a good eye does not overcome quality issues.

A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?    

He has come bearing cruise tickets. He is our lottery vacation Penguin.

Aliens have landed. Do they come in peace?

I doubt it. They landed? They have an agenda. Maybe it’s benign, but until I know what they want, I’m being really careful.

I play with robots! Especially Robbie.

Really really careful.

What are you really, incredibly thankful for this week?

Garry’s ears are good and my son is doing Thanksgiving. Hallelujah!

 

SNOW AND THE HOLIDAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

Today and tomorrow are doctor visit days for Garry. His three-month surgical checkup for his ear and a stress test for his heart … so I’m writing ahead because I’m just not going to be around. Hope you don’t mind.

This is turning out to be a crazy busy month. I feel like Alice, running as fast as she can just to stay in the same place!

The holidays haven’t officially “hit” because of a calendar thing. It’s not because Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Nope, it’s that all of a sudden, it’s winter. We’ve got snow.

Snow falls and suddenly, everyone thinks Christmas, including those of us who aren’t Christian. Much of the snow that fell while we were away has melted. Not all of it, but more than half, anyway.

More is expected today and tomorrow. I suppose we might as well get on with holidays since, with the ground snowy, icy, and muddy, there isn’t much else to do.

The last time we got significant snow before or on Thanksgiving was 2014, a year during which we got 120 inches of snow out here in the country. That is, no matter how you look at it, a lot of snow. It’s the amount they normally get in northern Maine. It’s downright Siberian.

Christmas is so minimal in this house, there’s really isn’t much for us to do. I don’t put up wreaths any more.  We have so few visitors and live far off the main road that no one sees them.

Also, the nursery where I used to buy them closed and somehow, buying them at the grocery store may be cheaper, but it doesn’t have that “feeling” it had, picking the perfect one at the nursery.

We don’t give gifts because we don’t have money and anything we can afford is no more than a kindly thought. We give small things. Holiday reminders, maybe. Remembrance of days gone by when we ran up our credit cards because we got into some kind of bizarre Christmas frenzy.

These days, the tree gets plugged in. Our blue Christmas lights live in the living room drapes all year round, so when the holiday arrives, I just plug them in.

It doesn’t get simpler than that. We had fun with Tom and Ellin and that’s always a treat.

The weather isn’t as bad as it is going to be in a few days. Hopefully, we’ll have time to get some of the many errands, doctor appointments, vet appointments, and other stuff done.

And I have my fingers crossed that we’ll find someone to plow the driveway!

Boston’s big holiday tree

This is an El Niño year which can be bad. But, you never know. Sometimes winter starts out bad but eases up. Meanwhile, I’m keeping a close eye on weather maps and trying not to worry.

ROLL BACK THE CALENDAR! I’M NOT READY! – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – Not the Holidays again!


“Oh no,” I cried. “Not again!”

Bad enough that summer was nothing but a giant rainstorm … but it’s November and you know what that means! Holidays. I am even more unready for holidays as I am for finding someone to clear the millions of leaves off our property, much less having them mix with tons of snow. Arghh!

It will be a Christmas tree. At Christmas.

My son decided to not do Thanksgiving this year. It’s the first time we’ve ever lived near each other and not “done” Thanksgiving and he was a bit apologetic.

“Not to worry,” I said. He got an invitation to go to the Cape and enjoy someone else’s cooking. I congratulated him. I pointed out he might learn to enjoy not making a giant feast. We’ll do a get-together Christmas Eve and open our mini-gifts, which is what we give.

I have a tabletop fake (but it looks real) tree with decorations already on it.  It has lights, too. It lives in the guest room in a big black bag. Every year, I remove the bag, carry the tree to the living room, and plug it in.

Voila! Christmas.

I cook something on Christmas Eve for whoever is coming by. No one except Owen bothers to tell me they are coming. I think my granddaughter is hoping for a better offer.

We don’t buy “real” gifts. No big packages greatly reduce Christmas visits. I give better gifts for birthdays. One gift to one person — I can get something they may actually want. Garry and I give each other stuff all the time anyway. As for me, we’ve already got far too much stuff.

Christmas Day, Garry and I watch boring old movies during which they sing “White Christmas” and Garry always points out that it’s racist. Then we eat something, which this year, might be frozen pizza.

When I was a mere lass, the Thanksgiving through Christmas holiday season was a big deal. Mostly that grew out of being raised “atheistically Jewish.” That meant no celebration. No decorations. I always felt left out. When I married “out,” I was delighted to finally get a piece of the holiday.

November through a sunny window

But then, everyone, including my granddaughter, grew up. I realized we didn’t need a huge tree taking up half the living room nor did I need to go into five years of credit debt to buy stuff no one seemed to care about.

These years, the Holidays are stripped to the minimum. Enough so my little tree looks pretty — and takes less than 10 minutes to set up. Garry and I buy each other something small. This year, I think I’ll get him a Red Sox sweatshirt. He will buy me flowers because he figures if I wanted it, I’ve probably already bought it.

What a relief!

PLEASE DON’T PASS THE TURKEY – Marilyn Armstrong

For the past few years, there has been an increasing clamor to make everything shut down for Thanksgiving, supposedly so everyone can spend time with their family. Nice, well-meaning sentiment, on the face of it. Except for all the people who don’t have families with whom to celebrate. Or who are estranged from (or just plain don’t like) their family.

What about them? Are you making their lives better? Do they want the day off? Did you ask any of them?

Then, there are Native Americans who don’t want to celebrate the arrival of armed Europeans who would steal their land, infect them with diseases, and try to murder them. They don’t feel this is something to celebrate. Or the struggling families who count on extra money from working holidays to help them survive.

Everyone doesn’t celebrate the same way. Or want to. Some folks prefer to work on holidays. They would rather earn some money than sit around their empty rooms feeling left out of America’s favorite dinner party — and maybe they need the extra pay.

Or they don’t like Thanksgiving, for whatever reason. It is their right to feel that way.

I understand the sentiment. To me, it’s one more example of how we try to force everyone to march in lockstep as if we are all the same or at the very least, we all should be the same. Above all, we should want to be identical.

I would appreciate it if the righteous folks would shut up already.

This is a diverse country. That’s not just something we say during an election year. It’s a real thing.

As a nation, we supposedly treasure diversity as much as any other freedom. So let’s leave a little room for people to express their differences as well as their similarities, shall we?

We do not all need (or want) to eat turkey, with or without gravy. I bet if you ask the turkey, they definitely would like to skip the holiday.

JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

CHRISTMAS SONGS TO RETIRE – RICH PASCHALL

Are You Tired of Those Holiday Tunes Yet? – Rich Paschall


There are plenty of “Novelty” Christmas songs. As a matter of fact there are far too many. Some are amusing to the point of being endearing. Some are a bit weird or odd sounding. Some are just obnoxious and need to be removed from the Christmas playlist, permanently.

“Can you skip a few of those songs?”

Endearing novelty songs might include “The Chipmunks Song.” It certainly was a favorite when I was a kid. Alvin was my favorite chipmunk and it seemed perfectly OK to play the 45 (look it up) over and over, much to my mother’s chagrin. In later years, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” struck me as quite amusing. I guess it is funnier after a few spiked eggnog. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” may have many good versions, but the original recording from 1952 should remain locked in the vault. Also, radio stations will bring out the irritating “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas,” and the over-played “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” recorded originally by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, a novelty act if there ever was one.

The all-time most obnoxious novelty song, that ought to be put away forever by the way, is definitely “Dominick the Donkey.” What record executive thought that an Italian Christmas Donkey was amusing? To top it off the 1960 recording by Lou Monte sets new standards in displeasure. The song could have died a well deserved death, but the geniuses at Amazon decided in 2011 it should be rereleased, starting another round of annoyance:

Hey! Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
It’s Dominick the donkey.
Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
The Italian Christmas donkey.

Some songs are just long and repetitious. Chief among these is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” After a while the litany of gifts is just too much. All versions of this song should be put away except, perhaps, the version by The Muppets. At least the popular Sesame Street characters find a joke and can carry it out to its funniest. That is much better than the many serious versions of the song that hit the airwaves at this time of year. The Muppets might even teach young ones the exceptional skill of counting backwards from twelve, something that is sure to be useful in their chosen professions later in life.

A song that is a classic but has clearly received too many variations is White Christmas. “The Drifters” version has been heard once too often on my radio. The 1954 recording was big for the Rhythm and Blues group, and it was the first of their songs to crack the Billboard 100 singles chart on mainstream radio stations. It would have thankfully been retired had it not been resurrected by holiday movies, including Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin in his greatest role. I can pass this one up:

Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop
Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where those treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow, the snow

Then I, I, I am dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright
(Read more here: The Drifters – White Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

Actually, every version besides the Bing Crosby version should be put away. Admit it, whenever you hear “White Christmas” you think of Bing Crosby. Every version is automatically compared to the iconic version that has been washed into our brain cells from infancy, unless you were born before 1941. You can not help it, the sounds of Bing Crosby whistling his way to another season of white is all you can hear. Everyone will come up short by comparison, no matter how good they are.

Recently, we gave a bit of the history of the song here. The song was a hit from the time Crosby introduced it on his 1941 Christmas radio broadcast.  The movie Holiday Inn helped to make it even more popular. When Crosby entertained the troops during World War II, it became a bit of nostalgic relief when soldiers where thinking of their lives back home. Bing thought the song might be making the boys sad, and he felt he did not go to entertain the troops only to bring them down. He tried eliminating the song from his show, only to have the soldiers call out for it anyway.

The original master recording of “White Christmas” wore out from all the “pressings,” the process by which vinyl recordings were made. So in 1947 Crosby recorded the song again with the original orchestra, trying to duplicate the original sound. It is the 1947 version you hear today. The recordings of the songs for the movie “White Christmas” would likely have been remastered into a Christmas Album had they not been destroyed by fire. Crosby performed the iconic Christmas song in 3 movies and countless radio and television broadcasts. There just is not another version.


Bing sang this song right to the end, after actually. The above is from his 1977 Christmas television show. It was his last Christmas special. He died after it was taped and before it was aired.

UP THE CHRISTMAS TREE

This year, finally, I added lights to our tiny tree. I wanted them before, but they were always too expensive. This year, I bought 6 sets of tiny LED lights for about $4. I wrapped them around the tree … and now, the tree is just right. It needed some lights. I have only used 4 so far … two remaining in case the others punk out.

We put the two nutcrackers on top of the wood stove. If Duke got hold of one, it would be wood shards in minutes.

The blue lights are still up over the big window in the living room, same as last year and for the past 10 years. I will add the gifts when I wrap them. But with Duke, the Toothsome, I think I’ll put them out last, maybe on Christmas Eve.

How deliciously simple. The simplicity is a big improvement on my holiday spirits. When it’s too much like work, a lot of the fun disappears for me.

Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate! Even if you don’t celebrate any specific holiday? Enjoy the season. Be bright and cheerful and enjoy the bright nights and lights and happy greetings. After the holidays are over, it’s only winter.

It’s one of my goals in life to prove that it’s possible to have a lovely Christmas tree that is NOT 9-feet-tall, real, or weighing half a ton. I know the argument that “fake trees” are a hazard because they are plastic. I would believe that — except for a few details:

  1. No one buys a “fake tree” for a single year’s use. Each of mine has lasted five years or longer.
  2. They are much too expensive to buy annually and many of us leave the tree fully or partly decorated, then store it in a basement or attic for the following year. You cannot do that with a live tree.
  3. The ability of manufacturers to make a tree look very real has come a long, long way from when we were kids. A lot of people like to touch my tree to be sure if it’s real or not because it looks entirely real.

Given all this, buying a non-real tree is no more expensive or unfair to the environment than buying any other decorative object for your home. Nothing lasts forever. I’ve had to throw away burnt out ovens and lamps and carpets and who knows what else.

This little, fake, 4-foot tree has been with us — as of this year — for four years. I paid less than $30 including shipping. No, I didn’t get it on Amazon. These are specialized items and I wanted one that looked as much like a tree as possible … without the dry, falling needles and branches and the godawful mess a real tree makes. The falling needles alone can take a full year to finally get clear and I’m pretty sure I’ve still got some needles hiding in the wood and bricks from our only two trees “real” trees, 17 and 18 years ago.

Also note: we live on a street with a Christmas tree farm just up the road. We did the whole thing with the hayride and picking the tree and tying it to the car and then … figuring out where to put it because that was when we have five people living here and space was at a premium.

I do not believe that a dead, dry, real tree in some way screams “Birth of Our Lord” — well your lord, not mine but you get the idea — any more than no tree or a fake tree. The tree has nothing to do with religion. It predates modern religion by probably a thousand years and is more reminiscent of the ancient Norse and Celts than Christianity.

Decorate however it suits you. Do whatever makes you happy and enjoy it. It is a festive time of year and I think we need some festivities during this darkest part of our trip around the sun. At least when it is full dark by four o’clock, I can light up the tree. That helps. Truly, it does.