Holiday Rant

by Bob Sparrow

I was just coming down from my three Three Musketeers high the day after Halloween, OK four, when my Sirius radio started playing Christmas music, my wife started telling me about our Thanksgiving Day plans and our friends were asking me what we’re doing for New Years Eve. I’m thinking to myself, why have ‘they’ crammed these four holidays into the last 62 days of the year?

It’s 62 days of eating candy, then eating leftover candy, then eating excessively large turkey dinners, then eating calorie-rich Christmas meals accompanied by eggnog, wassail or the latest ‘holiday beverage’, and then we’re expected to have the ‘party of the year’ to celebrate the coming of a new year. If I had lost any weight on the variety of diets I’ve been on throughout the year, that ship set sail with the Three Musketeers. Which is how New Year’s resolutions get created I guess.  You know, historians aren’t really certain about the actual birth of Jesus anyway and the Gregorian calendar, which we follow, is only one of many available calendars so I say move Christmas and New Years to the summer, where at least we can get out and walk off a few calories.

Thank you, Columbus!

And as long as we’re moving holidays around, there’s probably some we could get rid of altogether. Columbus Day immediately comes to mind – a holiday that hangs just outside of that 62 day window, on October 14. This is a strange one to me since Christopher Columbus never set foot on U.S. soil, yet for years we’ve celebrated this Italian’s ‘discovery of America’ along with his other bogus discovery – proving the world wasn’t flat!   Columbus Day’s status as a holiday has been sketchy at best.  Some states don’t recognize it, but rather eschewed this holiday for ‘Indigenous People’s Day’, which was started in 1992 by, who else, the city of Berkeley.  It does make me wonder why we don’t have a national holiday to celebrate Native Americans.  I guess we just don’t want to be reminded of what we’ve done to them.  But Columbus is vigorously celebrated in many Italian communities, just as the Irish observe St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, which was the day St. Patrick died in AD 461 – not sure how that became a holiday. To most of us it’s just another time to hoist a drink – preferably Irish whiskey or beer.

So we have the Italians and Irish taken care of and the Afro-Americans with the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is the ‘third Monday in January’ – I wonder if that’s how it read on his driver’s license. This federal holiday was first celebrated in 1986, but Arizona didn’t recognize the holiday until 1992 when the NFL boycotted the state’s Super Bowl. New Hampshire was the last state to adopt the holiday in 1999. Three states, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, today, celebrate both MLK’s and Robert E. Lee’s birthday on that third Monday in January – apparently hoping that the ‘south will rise again’.  But the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., at 18%, the Latinos, have no national holiday. Yes, there’s Cinco de Mayo, which is celebrated where there are heavy Hispanic populations, but that commemorates a short-lived victory of Mexico over France. I guess Taco Tuesday is going to have to do until we celebrate a birthday of someone like Cesar Chavez – his birthday was March 31, but it can easily be changed to ‘the last Monday in March’.

It used to be that we’d celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on Feb 12th and Washington’s birthday on Feb 18th and if I’m not mistaken, back in the day we got both of those days off school if they fell during the week. Now they’ve combined them so that we have President’s Day on the third Monday in February. But it is not just to celebrate Lincoln and Washington birthdays, it is to celebrate ALL presidents. So next February don’t forget to wish Rutherford B. Hayes a happy birthday.

I hate to pick on another religious holiday, but have you ever wondered why the date for Easter keeps moving around? Well, exactly when we celebrate this highly religious holiday is based on the position of the sun along with the phases of the moon.  For the record, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (approximately March 20-21 in the northern hemisphere), when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator – seems rather voodoo-like to me for such an august occasion.

Then there’s the ‘BBQ Holidays’, Memorial Day, when we break out the BBQ, Independence Day, when the BBQ works its hardest and Labor Day, after which we put the BBQ away. I think the meaning of these holidays gets diluted in all the BBQ sauce and the attendant adult beverages, so I’m suggesting that these holidays be moved away from summer.

Oh yeah, there is another holiday in these last 62 days of the year, Veterans Day; yep, that’s this week, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t remember it, most people don’t. This is only a holiday that celebrates the men and women who have defended the freedoms that give us the right to be such a diverse and dysfunctional country.

Go wild and crazy this week and celebrate by thanking a veteran for his/her service.

Happy New Year to All and to All a Pop Quiz

So the new year is finally here and if you’re having trouble reading this, you’re getting no sympathy from me as I’m having trouble writing it!  I drank everything I could get my hands on to help me forget the past year filled with  political rancor, ‘fake news’, tweets and sciatica!  The good news about this first week of the new year is that your resolutions are mostly still in tact – ok, some of them.  I know how you all looked forward to pop quizzes when you were in school, so here’s one to clear that head of yours and start the new year off with an educational experience.  Answers below, but don’t start off the new year by cheating!

  1. When was the first New Year’s celebrated?

– 2000 B.C.

– 1 A.D.

– 150 AC/DC

– I don’t remember I was too drunk

  1. What percentage of Americans make New Year’s resolutions?

– Only the top 1%

– All the Millennials

– As many as break them by February

– 45%

  1. Tradition says that the more ____ a person has on New Year’s Eve, the more prosperity he or she will experience the following year.

– Alcohol

– People to kiss

– Leafy greens

– Bologna sandwiches

  1. How many glasses of Champagne will America drink this New Years?

– 3,600

– 36,000

– 36,000,00

– too many

  1. In the last scene of When Harry Met Sally, after they kissed, what song played?

– I’ve Been Cheated

– Auld Lang Syne

– Sally Go Round the Roses

– Make An Ugly Woman You Wife

  1. What is the most common symbol associated with New Years?

– The Grim Reaper

– A baby

– Playboy’s Miss January

– Foster Brooks

  1. What happens if a couple celebrating New Years together do not kiss?

–  He’s not getting lucky

–  They buy more breath mints

–  He’s not only not getting to 1st base, he’s not even getting into the batter’s box

–  They’ll be seeing a divorce attorney in the morning

  1. Typically _____ gather in Time Square on New Year’s to watch the ball drop

– Millennials looking for loose change on the street

– Broadway ticket scalpers

– Muggers and pick pockets

– One million people

  1. What do the words Auld Lang Syne mean?

– Up yours

– Times gone by

– There’s better days ahead

– Good riddance

  1. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, what is the most common object stolen on New Years Eve

– virginity

– wallet

– car

– your soul

  1. 22% of New Year’s frolickers admit to

– Grand theft auto

– Not knowing where they are much less what time it is

– Having their first drink

– Falling asleep before midnight

Answers: 1. 2,000 B.C.; 2. 45%; 3. leafy greens; 4. 36,000,000; 5. Auld Lang Syne; 6. baby; 7. Seeing an attorney in the morning; 8. 1,000,000 people;   9. times gone by; 10. car; 11. falling asleep before midnight

The entire staff here at ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’, wish you a happy and healthy 2018. OK, there is no ‘staff’ here, but Suzanne and I are hoping that this year will be your very best – make it so!

THE CHRISTMAS CARD DILEMMA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

christmas-cardI love everything about Christmas – the decorations, the tree, the festive spirit that seems to permeate the air.  Of course, all that egg nog and hot buttered rum helps.  The only Grinch to my Christmas spirit is the dreaded Christmas cards.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive them, I just hate sending them.  So while our house is now ready for Christmas (my husband has opined that it looks like an elf vomited in here), I have put off my decision on cards until this week – do I send some out or just forget the whole thing?  Christmas cards just seem so 80’s to me – the 1880’s, which is when Christmas cards became popular in America.  The sending of cards is reminiscent of a time before the internet, when you didn’t hear from people except for the annual Christmas card.  Social media and email have completely changed that; today I can tell you what my friend down in Texas had for breakfast because she posted it on Facebook.   I know of every birth, death, marriage, divorce and trip to the mall.  So I don’t really need to get a Christmas card or worse yet, a Christmas letter, to know what my friends have been up to.  I know what my friends are doing right down to their scrambled eggs.

My Christmas cards seems to fall into four major categories.  First are the corporate cards.  You know, the ones from the banker or  insurance agent.  The first card we received this year was from our attorney, which seems only fitting since we bared our souls to him a few months ago while drawing up new life and death documents.  I don’t know whether he’s sending genuine greetings or he’s just checking to see whether the card gets returned and he needs to start filing paperwork.  The second category are from distant friends – people that we don’t see all year long but somehow the need arises to wish each other the very best for the holiday season.  Mostly they are old neighbors or workmates I couldn’t pick out in a crowd.  Am I morally obligated to continue this exchange of well-wishes?  The third group are the true friends – some of whom we see or keep in touch with all year long.  Heck, some of us are golf partners or good friends with whom we socialize every week.  We will be wishing holiday greetings in person, some of them several times.  Do we really need to send cards too?

christmas-letter

The last category is the Christmas letter.  There are some that are really well done.  Some.  But most seem to have turned the Christmas tradition of wishing others a happy season to one giant “let’s talk about me” exercise. Generally, people just don’t know where to stop.  Johnny got into Harvard?  Great.  Snookie was elected president of her third grade class?  Good for her!  But too often it goes into such minutia that it borders on the ridiculous.  My parents used to receive one that was so full of trivia and self-aggrandizement that our mom used to wait until we were all gathered on Christmas Eve so that one of us kids (by this time adults and full of “cheer”) could read it in dramatic fashion, everyone breaking into gales of laughter.  Each year my husband and I receive one from one of his former co-workers that last year had me going from the start.  In addition to a litany of the various trips taken, there was a review of golf handicaps (they went down, of course), a tabulation of their granddaughter’s Girl Scout cookie sales and the net worth of the company that their son-in-law went to work for, along with its employee count and various office locations.  Seriously.  As they’re writing this tome do they really think anyone cares about the headcount in Poughkeepsie?

christmas-ornamentPerhaps the best take on Christmas cards was from a friend of our parents back in the 60’s.  They kept every card they received the previous year.  Then they re-addressed it to the sender inserting a note that read “We liked your Christmas card so much last year that we have decided to give you the pleasure of seeing it again this year.  So, we’re sending it back to you.”  Now that is clever.  And it beats using old cards to make ornaments.  As for all the Christmas letters?  They could be shredded into bird cage liner and the circle would be closed.

So, here I sit in mid-December still trying to weigh the pros and cons of sending cards.  Mailing cards has become exponentially easier with the advent of computer-generated mailing labels so I don’t have that arthritic wrist to provide an excuse anymore.  And since I do like to see photos of people’s kids, grandkids and dogs I feel like I need to somehow reciprocate.  After all, who am I to deny the world of one more cute picture of Dash the Wonder Dog at Christmas?

 

 

 

The Holiday ‘Season’ Schedule

by Bob Sparrow

onions2

Creamed Onions – YUCK!

When I was growing up, back when the earth was still cooling, there was no such thing as a ‘Holiday Season’ – there was Christmas. Thanksgiving was when Jack, Suz and I, had to get ‘slicked up’ and go to our aunt and uncle’s house and eat creamed onions and turkey that was cut so thin that it only had one side. New Year’s was a non-event that meant Christmas vacation was nearly over and we’d soon be headed back to school.

Things have changed a bit since then; with the coming of television, the ‘Christmas Season’ was created and subsequently commercialized.  More recently, with the advent of political correctness, the ‘Holiday Season’ was born, to make sure we weren’t excluding anyone from the season’s buying bonanza.

holiday2

Unoffensive holiday symbols

  The way I see it, it’s a five-game ‘season’ where first, everyone gets on their game uniform for the ‘kick off’ at Halloween, followed by Veteran’s Day (which apparently is a non-league game), then into the meat of the schedule with Thanksgiving and Christmas and concluding with the ‘finals’ on New Year’s Eve.

So let’s look at the ‘season’, game-by-game.

mask2

Cheery Halloween mask

Halloween

How it started: It was originally an ancient Celtic religious celebration where they would bless and convert Pagans.

What happened? We took the religion out of it and now we just try to scare the bejesus out of kids with ugly masks and scary movies, while we bless and convert non-diabetics to diabetics with a sugar over-load. The American Dental Association also thanks you!

Veteran’s Day

vets

AMEN!

How it started: In 1919 Armistice Day was created marking the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour. In 1938 Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday and in 1945 it was changed to Veteran’s Day to recognize and celebrate all veterans.

What happened? Years ago Veteran’s Day was just a scrimmage, but fortunately, it’s become a little more celebrated in recent years, possibly due to the numerous conflicts we’ve put our brave men and women in armed forces through, but it’s still no Halloween! Personally, I’d eliminate Halloween and put greater emphasis on this holiday by having kids dress up like veterans and seek out service families and veterans to ask if they can help them in any way. Schools could ask their students to write a letter to someone in the armed forces to thank them for their service, but don’t count on it replacing the sanctity of Halloween anytime soon.

Thanksgiving

Tday

“Sorry about taking your land”

How it started: The Pilgrims wanted to celebrate a bumper crop year as well as show their benevolence toward the Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag tribe, by inviting them to a feast and tossing them a drumstick after they vanquished them and took their land. OK, maybe they didn’t just take it; they did give them $24 worth of beads and trinkets for Manhattan. Subsequently the Wampanoag tribe suffered an epidemic, thought to be smallpox brought over by the English, which helped them establish their settlements. Years later, the King Philip’s War resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies, while many women and children were enslaved in New England.

What happened? Well, wouldn’t you continue to celebrate such a joyous occasion? We do, with a feast of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pies of various fruits and nuts on Thursday and when the ladies realized that the men were spending the rest of the weekend watching football, they said, “Ladies let’s go shopping!” and thus ‘Black Friday’ was created. But even with its calorie-busting meals, football overload and guerilla combat shopping, Thanksgiving still has the redeeming quality of bringing families together – and that’s a good thing!

Christmas

Xmas

Remember Christmas?

How it started: The first recorded date of Christmas was in 336 AD (No, I wasn’t there!); a few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the December 25th.  Although with shepherds in their fields at the time of the birth, it probably wasn’t in the winter at all.

What happened? Because this is the big cash cow of the season, the decorations and carols start in late October and continues through New Year’s Eve and beyond; it’s the ‘Big Game’. Yes, it’s been commercialized almost beyond recognition, but if you work at it, you can still find or better yet, create the ‘spirit of Christmas’, by helping those less fortunate or just experiencing a young child’s unbridled enthusiasm when they see that Santa hasn’t forgotten them. So work at finding the ‘spirit’ this year, as Vince Lombardi once said, “Giving isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”  OK, maybe I made that up.

vernal

When do you want the new year to start?


New Year’s Eve

How it started: The year had to end sometime!

What happened? When the year really ends is a long story involving various calendars, but suffice it to say that historically a bunch of politicians and church folks have moved the start of the year around since the beginning of time, mostly just to suit their purposes. So don’t get too fixated on December 31st as the end of the year, it was originally the vernal equinox (around the end of March) and it could go back there if it will make someone some money or get someone elected.  No matter what the date, it’s always the time of year when we lie to ourselves about improving our lives ‘next year’ with some unrealistic resolutions.

This Thursday will mark the halfway point in the season, so relax and enjoy the ‘halftime show’ – it’s usually at the ‘kid’s table’.

Happy Thanksgiving!

GETTING THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT – A DEBATE

By Bob Sparrow and Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week we tried a new style of blog – “the interview”.  This week we are publishing another format that we hope to continue periodically in 2015 – “point-counterpoint”, or better known as when Bob gets to say, “Suz, you ignorant slut!”.

PointSuzanne (SW) Well, it’s that time of year again, when we are supposed to get in the “Christmas Spirit”.

Bob (BS): So far we’re in agreement; I’ve got a nice rum-spiced eggnog here, proceed.

SW: No, the other kind of Christmas spirit.

BS: Whiskey spiked cider?

SW: Moving right along, I’ve had a hard time finding the spirit this year, what with one thing or another; I think one of the reasons that “the spirit” is so hard to find is the advent of the Gift Card.

BS: Maybe Al is hiding ‘the spirits’ from you; sounds like you need a gift card for a hot-buttered rum

SW: (I’m ignoring him) It used to be so fun shopping for the perfect gift, wrapping it up and filling the space under the Christmas tree with beautiful and shiny packages. When the grandchildren were younger we would wrap up everything in cute paper with big bows and the fun of Christmas was watching them tear open the packages with wild abandon and shrieks of delight.  Heck, when they were really little, the box could provide them with an hour of fun.

BS: OK, I see what’s really going on here – you do realize that today’s little kids still get presents that are wrapped in shiny packages and put under the tree, they don’t get gift cards. Aren’t you really saying that unless you have young children around, who may still believe in Santa Claus, that Christmas morning isn’t quite the same? (Do we need a ‘Santa Spoiler Alert’ on this blog in the event that there are still some believers out there?). I don’t think the gift card is the Grinch that Stole Christmas, they have their place in today’s Christmas celebration – they are practical, easy to wrap, easy to hide, they travel well and ‘one size fits all’.

SW: I admit, they are very practical.  The recipient gets exactly what they want.  You don’t have to guess about size and color.  They can takegift advantage of the after-Christmas sales.

BS: I think you’re beginning to see the light.

SW: But still…buying gift cards elicits all the excitement of getting your oil changed.  You go into the grocery store, peruse the gift card rack, and BOOM! you’re done.

BS: That’s what I’m talking about!

SW: (I’m still ignoring him) I have a friend that refuses to give in to the gift card age and continues to buy gifts for her grown grandchildren.  Last year I asked her how that worked out and she said, “Oh, they return everything the next day.”  But she doesn’t care.  She loves the process of finding the gift, wrapping it up and watching as they open the package on Christmas morning.  I wish I had her fortitude.  I have to say:  I hate giving gift cards.

BS: The last time I wrapped a gift, it looked like a wet bow tie on a stack of old newspapers. On behalf of the male gender, who typically don’t like shopping to begin with, much less fighting the crowds this time of year, we love gift cards.   The gift card allows guys to do all their Christmas shopping in the grocery store from that gift card rack right next to the beer. Another advantage of the gift card is that you know exactly how much the giver values your relationship.

SW: You wouldn’t want to see the value of the gift card I’d get for you!

bob & suz

Your authors – Christmas 1972

BS: OK, there is no question that the gift card will never replace the wonder and excitement of a child unwrapping ‘that special gift’ on Christmas morning. I admit the gift card is indeed ‘less personal’, but like it or not, we live in a world that’s very different from the one we grew up in. I know it sounds trite, but I think the true ‘spirit’ of Christmas lies in the giving, no matter what; be it the perfect gift perfectly wrapped, a picture or another reminder of a wonderfully shared moment, a gift of your time to the less fortunate, or a gift card.  Giving is really the only thing that gets me in ‘the spirit’.

SW: I couldn’t agree more; my shared moment came the other night when I sat down with Dash the Wonder Dog to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  I hadn’t seen it in several years and, of course, Dash had never seen it.  When Snoopy came on the screen Dash lifted up and tilted his head to one side so I explained the story to him (and yes, I really have gone around the bend).  And in that moment the Christmas spirit finally hit me – there I was on a rainy night, curled up with my sweet dog, listening to Linus simplify the whole season in his beautiful soliloquy:  “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men”.  It gets me every time.

BS/SW: We sincerely wish you and yours a very happy holiday season and may 2015 be filled with many blessings for you, including reading our blog and refereeing our “fights”!

The Top 10 Reasons Why Thanksgiving vs Christmas Is My Favorite Holiday

by Bob Sparrow

10.  Only holiday that features eating

9. Don’t have to figure out what to get my 92 year old mother

8. Not as scary as Halloween, not as expensive as Christmas

7. Don’t have to find that one Thanksgiving Day light that keeps the whole string from not lighting

6. Better Post holiday: Eating leftover turkey sandwiches beats taking down the tree, lights and putting away Aunt Mildred’s fruit cake

5. Turkeys are worshiped by all religions

4. Credit card still has room on it

3. Tryptophan puts me to sleep, figuring out what to get my wife keeps me awake

2. No insipid Thanksgiving Day commercials on TV

1. Three days to sober up