Holiday Traditions Don’t Come Out of a Book

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My aunt Viola warbled like a cat in the rain. Uncle Casmir’s voice was raspy from fifty years of cigars. My grandmother’s voice was reedy and full of thick Polish sighs. My dad had a booming basso profundo that wasn’t exactly on key but nearer to the notes than his mother and sister. My mom was a wayward soprano but what she lacked in pitch, she made up for in enthusiasm, and she conducted us as only a former high school drama teacher turned speech professor could do.

In 1967 at Grandma Chmaj’s house, the Christmas Eve tradition was to sing Christmas carols. She had little books that were handed round with all the words, even to verses three and four which had to be sung. Everyone was allowed to pick their favorite, even us little kids. All religious carols, of course, none of your Holly Jolly or Rudolph. My mom’s pick was O Little Town, my dad’s was God Rest Ye Merry. My pick was We Three Kings. To this day, as soon as I think of it, I always hear:

We three kings of Orient arrrre…
Tried to smoke a great big cigar
It was loaded
It exploded….
God rest ye merry gentlemen…

Such was the humor of 1967. We didn’t sing the words that way — you would “get in trouble” such as that was. We sang the right words and without accompaniment. My cousins Pat and Barbara, ten years older than my brother and I, had choir-trained voices. One of them would bring an accordion and after the regular singing, they would do two special duets that sounded truly angelic, especially in contrast: The Little Drummer Boy and O Holy Night. Truthfully, O Holy Night is still a favorite because I can hear their harmony every time the song plays.

Continue reading “Holiday Traditions Don’t Come Out of a Book”

Against the Notion of Takers

In fact, most people give to others on Christmas merely because they expect to receive gifts themselves!—realtruth.org

 I protest. I dispute the notion that we as a society are a tsunami of greedy grabbers. At this time of year, it is customary to focus a lot around giving and it is also customary to characterize all of us as taking. But are we really all Takers?

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–Danny Thomas

Givers, Takers, and Matchers
Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, did a study published back in 2013 about Givers, Takers and Matchers in industry. He found an interesting phenomenon – Givers were on the bottom of the success ladder across most disciplines. Givers were “over-represented at the bottom” because they were more focused on other people and risked getting exploited. However, Givers were also over-represented at the top. The most successful leaders were the ones who were focused on helping other people up the ladder and on building a strong team to support their structure and cement their legacy. Continue reading “Against the Notion of Takers”

Spatchcock! Gesundheit…

The turkey is a truly noble bird. Native american, a source of sustenance to our original settlers, and an incredibly brave fellow who wouldn’t flinch from attacking a whole regiment of Englishmen single-handedly! Therefore, the national bird of America is going to be…
–Ben Franklin from the musical, 1776

Are turkeys noble? Or are they silly, vain and colossally stupid? Is their meat sleep-inducing?  Do they come from Turkey? And did the pilgrims really eat them on the First Thanksgiving?

Let’s sort myth from facts as we look forward with Great Anticipation to the big Eats and Dysfunctional Family Show, the Slidin’ into the Holidays, the Day before Black Friday, known in these United States as Thanksgiving.

First of all, Ben Franklin’s line from the musical 1776 is a mishmosh of truth and exaggeration. Franklin did write that the new nation might be better represented by a turkey than an eagle, which he did describe as a thief and a coward, a bird of mischief rather than nobility. In looking at early artwork of the national seal, he said the drawing looked more like a turkey than an eagle. He went on to laud the bravery of our native birds in facing down the British, though he called them “silly and vain” rather than noble. Whether they were brave, near-sighted, kamikaze, or just plain stupid is something history will never know. Continue reading “Spatchcock! Gesundheit…”

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