The screen begins to undulate in a moire pattern of yellow, green, and orange. Purple drips start to appear, and just as your eyes start to scream No more!, jaunty waves of violins, punctuated with trumpets and cymbal crashes, chime in to assault your ears. Words appear. In Russian. The screen dissolves to a man wandering behind a curved iron gate in front of a honey-colored wall … crooning. What is he singing? Why is he so cheerful? Is that his real hair? And why is he singing like that?
The turning of the year is always a time we treat ourselves to a new round of self-reflection and self-flagellation for what we have done and what we have not done. It’s a good time to take stock and make plans. But resolutions are flighty beasts. If you create them, do so with an eye towards success rather than suffering.
All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, or moments…of revelation. This has the feeling of both.
—G’Kar, Babylon 5
Blame the Romans for emphasizing this act of two-faced reflection, this looking forward and looking back. Along with roads, sanitation, and language, they also gave Europe and the New World a workable calendar. Some tweaking was required; the original “Romulus” calendar was ten months long and began in March. Legend credits King Numa Pompilius — the dude in charge sometime after Rome’s foundation but way before the Republic and Julius Caesar — with adding two more months to help bring the lunar and solar year into synchronization. The new year was moved to start a week or so after the winter solstice on January 1st in a new month dedicated to Janus, the god of doorways, the god of looking forward and looking back. Continue reading “Facing forward, facing back”
We have been making rather merry and I have family visiting. I could, perhaps, have planned something ahead of time as I have been known to plan, but I confess I did not feel up to it. I thought perhaps I should cheat and just post pictures of the food we made and have been eating. But that doesn’t seem like an adequate confession.
I confess to guilt that I am not generous enough, that I do not reach out enough, and that I think of comfort before action. I am not Catholic, so I don’t know how to classify that sin. Continue reading “Full Confession”
A few weeks ago, I highlighted a recent sentiment that Christmas lights make everything better. This is no accident. Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Our body clocks can’t wait for that turning of the tide and, over centuries, our cultures have created one tradition after another to add lights which stave off that darkness. That desire for more light is built into us at the core, even at the cellular levels, within our circadian rhythms.
Hall, Rosbash, and Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for studying the phenomenon of circadian rhythms. The basic notion of a circadian cycle is one tied to a 24-hour biological clock, a circuit fundamentally tied to the length of a day, split between sun and darkness. Life cycles, for everything from plants to fruit flies to human beings, have adapted to that 24-hour pattern. Scientists have known for years that key processes that regulate sleep, hormone production, metabolism, and behavior are linked to these patterns. The Nobel scientists figured out why.
One of my biggest gripes about Christmas is people griping about Christmas.
This is a time of year when hearts are opened, and festivities are unloosed. We’re allowed to be in a good mood just because, and there are a lot of becauses. Because family is coming to visit that we haven’t seen in a long time. Because we’re going to make our favorite Christmas pie/cake/cookies/divinity/souffle/crab dip. Because we thought of a good gift for a Certain Someone. Because the office workers put those decorations up in the lobby that we could never afford in our own house but look so-o-o-o good. As I deliver a couple of guidelines for the holidays, one guideline I would start with is the “be merry” part of Eat, Drink & Be Merry. The first rule of Christmas is let’s chill out about rules around Christmas.
The Real War on Christmas
It has been custom for the last several years for those who deem themselves more saintly than others to declare that there is a war on Christmas. This is, in part, because there are more people in the world, particularly in America and, over time, they celebrate a broader range of traditions. Not everybody celebrates Christmas in the same way; not everybody celebrates Christmas; but everybody likes holidays, don’t they? Continue reading “Christmas Rules…(Ebenezer Drools!)”