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.

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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!

IN THE STATE OF “POMA”

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The Poma remnants

The Poma remnants

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Which means that I’m spending today cleaning out the refrigerator and wondering why I bought so much food.  There is something about Thanksgiving that must make my “starvation gene” kick in.  I buy groceries like we have had nothing to eat for months and end up with enough food to feed an army.  Unfortunately, with only six of us in the house, we end up being a very well-fed army.  Or, as our daughter said this weekend, we are in a “poma”.  That is a hybrid word she coined on Thanksgiving night as we sat watching football in a  stupor – a combination of pie and coma.  It aptly described our mental and physical states.  And that was before the 49ers played so badly that the owner apologized to the fans. Maybe the players were in a poma too.  But no matter how bad we felt, we were still better off than the people who ventured out to shop in the newly formed “Thanksgiving Day Sales”.  I want to go on record that I am totally against the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Can’t we still have a holiday that celebrates food, family and football without Target and Walmart getting involved?  The stores all claimed that the early opening times would avoid some of the mayhem from past Black Friday sales when so much pushing and shoving took place.   Hmmmmm…let’s just re-cap how that little experiment worked.  For your reading pleasure, here are some of the highlights from the “new” Black Thursday:

 

  • In Romeoville, Illinois a policeman was dragged from his car in the parking lot at Kohl’s by a shoplifter he was trying to apprehend,

    At least there are no knives in sight

    At least there are no knives in sight

  • In Las Vegas, a man was shot in a Target parking lot when two men accosted him and tried to steal the HDTV he had just purchased,
  • In Virginia a man was stabbed in the knee with a knife after two men got into an altercation over a parking spot,
  • In Carlsbad, California a man was stabbed in the stomach at the entrance to a mall, ostensibly jockeying for position to be the first to get his hands on a brand new TV.
  • At a Houston Walmart people were trampled and fights broke out when shoppers laid down on Samsung TV boxes to “reserve” them.  (I actually had to laugh thinking about the genesis of that shopping strategy:  “Okay, I’ll go get the Game Boy and Barbie Doll, you go heave your body over the Samsung box until I come around to pick you up.”)

The most telling of the “Black Friday” incidents occurred in Nanuet, New York, where two Costco employees began fighting in the men’s room before the store opened and one of them stabbed the other with a box cutter.  You can only imagine the conversation that preceded their tiff.  They were most likely fighting over which one of them had to go out and face all of the fruitcakes that were lined up at the store entrance, waiting to get their hands on a bargain-priced electric potato peeler or a jumbo container of gouda cheese.

Clearly, the goal of the new opening hours on Thursday did nothing to stem the violence – or stupidity – of the shopping public.   But I suspect that the big stores will open again on Thanksgiving next year because I just read that the extra hours translated to record profits for them.  It seems hard to believe that we might become nostalgic for the “good old days” when people were just pushing and shoving.

As for me, I’ll stick with Cyber Monday, where traditionally people shop from their employer’s computers so they can take advantage of the fast T-1 lines.  Not to mention the added benefit of looking like they’re working furiously on their computer when in reality they’re perusing the latest Best Buy ad.  Even though I am now retired, I still like looking at the deals available today.  And I have the extra added benefit of safety – I am fairly confident that neither my husband or Dash the Wonder Dog will stab me while I’m shopping.

GRATITUDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

GratitudeIt’s getting to be that time of year … when we blow right past Thanksgiving and start hanging the Christmas or Hanukkah lights. Traditionally, of course, before Target and Walmart took over the holidays, Fall was a time for people to take stock of their lives and give thanks for their blessings.  A friend recently told me about a holiday tradition that I thought it was quite ingenious:  at every holiday dinner each person must say what they are grateful for, using the first letter to spell out the holiday.  So in other words, their dinner gets a lot colder at Thanksgiving than Easter.  I never was a faithful viewer of the “Oprah” show but watched it enough to know that she encourages people to keep a daily journal listing everything that they are grateful for that day. Heck, I can’t do anything every day except brush my teeth and eat, so keeping a Grateful Diary is out of the question.  The concept, however, is intriguing. So this week I decided to combine the two ideas and in that spirit create a GRATITUDE list for the season.

 

G – Girlfriends.  Where would I be without them?  Together we laugh, we cry, we hack our way around a golf course, and we create.  They are, in short, my sanity.

R – Relatives.  I have a wonderful family and I know I’m very lucky that we like and love each other.  NOT ONCE  have  we had to have police intervention at a family gathering.

One of my more subdued friends

One of my more subdued girlfriends

A – Alan, my husband.  He gets me through good times and bad … and loves me even when I don’t have any make-up on.

T – Tea.  Sometimes there is just nothing like a good “cuppa” to get me through the day.  And since I discovered FOAM at Whole Foods, it’s even better with that piled on top.

I – Inspiration.  I am surrounded by very imaginative women who are artistic and talented in ways I never will be.  But they inspire me to improve whatever I am doing.

T – Time.  Somehow it seems I never have enough of it.  How did I ever work? Now I love it when an appointment gets cancelled.  There is nothing like the gift of TIME !

U – Unburdened.  As I’ve gotten older I no longer feel like I “have” to do stuff.  I now say “no” when I feel like it.  This is probably why older people are deemed “cranky”.

D – Dash the Wonder Dog.  Duh.

Dash, The Wonder Dog

Dash, The Wonder Dog

E – Elusiveness.  I am a literal thinker (I’ve taken the test on Facebook to confirm this) but I love that big parts of my life are elusive.  When you think you no longer need to try new things – and fail – life becomes too predictable.  It’s always good to have something beyond your grasp – like losing 10 pounds.

That’s my list for this year.  Next year it could be something entirely different although I suspect that, with good behavior,  Alan and Dash will be on it. Although Dash really is the only “shoe-in”.    As word games go, I thought this was a good exercise to go through.  I may even try the holiday version for Thanksgiving (family members, be warned!).  I still don’t think I’ll ever be disciplined enough to do a daily Gratitude Diary, but it sure feels good to stop once in a while to take stock in all of the things, and especially the friends, that make life good.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.  As for me?  I’m off to think of a word that starts with “T”.

The Mutation of Thanksgiving

by Bob Sparrow

1st Thanksgiving      The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, a feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians. They ate duck and venison and played games together.  The cause of the celebration was the Pilgrims first harvest in their new land (the Indian’s old land), but unlike those who followed, rather than kill, capture or constrain the Indians, they invited them to dinner.  The invitation was probably a bit vague regarding dress, as the Pilgrims wore their formal black garments, white collars and funny hats while the Indians dressed a bit more casually; fortunately the ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ admonition hadn’t been created yet.  Thanksgiving remained pretty much the same for several hundred years except for the fact that Indians came to be regarded as second-class citizen and relegated to reservations . . . not for dinner.

     Thanksgivings for our generation meant getting together with family and having turkey, which had thankfully replaced theNR duck and venison.   In the early 1950s another American tradition was added to this day of feasting and thanking – football.  Actually, football was added back in 1934 when the first game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears was played on Thanksgiving Day, but that traditional game didn’t come into our living rooms until the early 1950s when television sets became a fixture in most homes.  From then on until recently, most Thanksgivings were about Family, Food and Football.

     Then another ‘F’ word started pushing itself into our Thanksgiving holiday psyche . . . Finance. Today, news at Thanksgiving hardly ever includes stories about how people celebrated or what we are thankful for, but rather how this year’s ‘Black Friday’ revenue will stack up against previous year’s – consumer spending-wise.  Before I give you the actual numbers for this year, you have to understand that ‘Black Friday’ statistics actually include retail sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the following Sunday.  No, wait a minute, recently that’s been amended to include Thanksgiving Day as well, as many retailers are telling their employees not to be so thankful and spend time with family, but rather to get into work – we’re open!

 black friday    This year shoppers spent an estimated $57.4 billion during the four-day ‘knock-your-neighbor-down-to-get-to-that-last-iPad’ event.  Sounds like a lot of money, but it was actually down 2.9% from last year.  Worse yet, God forbid, there was a 4% drop in that all important ‘spending-per-shopper’ category.

     In more ‘F’ news, Cyber Monday (another commercially aggrandized day to hype sales via the Internet) sales amounted to $2.29 billion – just for the day; that’s up 108% from last year.  And between 18-20% of that were purchases over a mobile device – Christmas shopping from your phone!  So while we still eat turkey and watch football, the media bombards us with Black Friday and Cyber Monday predictions and encourages us to spend, spend, spend.

     OK, this is turning into a rant; sorry, but these numbers tell me that we are getting further and further away from person-to-person contact.  I get it that this is probably just ‘old people talk’, but sometimes with age, come wisdom.  OK, I’m still waiting, but that’s another story.  I just listened to the lyrics of that classic Christmas carol, ‘Silver Bells:

           Children laughing, People passing, Meeting smile after smile

                                             and

          As the shoppers rush home with their treasures

     As numbers for Cyber Monday continue to grow, as I’m certain they will, it puts us on a slippery slope that ultimately leadscyber to no longer hearing ‘children laughing’ – how could you with your phone in your ear constantly. No longer will there be ‘people passing’ – unless it’s gas as they sit on their computers shopping all day. And you’ll no longer be ‘meeting smile after smile’ – there will be no one to smile for, unless you are taking a ‘Selfie’ picture to pass along to your friends on Facebook who couldn’t care less.  And as far as ‘shoppers rushing home with their treasures’ go, Amazon will take care of that, it’s got plans in the works to drop-ship your gift via drone, so they can eliminate the deliveryman altogether.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phone; wouldn’t leave home without it, but I love family, food and football more; so before this new cyber world completely takes over, maybe we need to declare this year’s next family gathering a ‘Cell Free Zone’ – we won’t have many opportunities left, as I’m sure the next generation of mobile devices will be imbedded in our bodies somewhere.  I think I have a suggestion as to exactly where they should put it.

     But I could be wrong.

happy face

THE GREATEST GENERATION DIET

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

So good it has its own Facebook page

So good it has its own Facebook page

The other day I was slumped over the kitchen counter, fork in hand, eating a Costco pumpkin pie straight out of the container.  It started innocently enough – I bought the pie on my weekly trip to Costco for purely scientific reasons.  Thanksgiving is at our house this year so I wanted to make sure that Costco’s pumpkin pie was up to snuff.  A pinch too much nutmeg or a surplus of cinnamon can throw off the whole dinner.  So really, it was in everyone’s best interest that I officially test it out.  Of course, I’ve been buying the pumpkin pie at Costco for about ten years and it has remained amazingly consistent.  But still…you never know when some genius is going to mess with the recipe.  Think “new coke”.

When I brought it home my husband’s eyes lit up – pumpkin pie is his favorite.  We each had a piece that day and again the following day.  Then the paragon of virtue that I’m married to says, “Well, I’ve had enough.  You can throw the rest of it out.”.  THROW IT OUT?? I was stuck with a dilemma that would have tested Solomon.  Throw out more than half of a perfectly good pie or, on behalf of all the starving children in China that I heard so much about growing up, save it for another day – or two.  Being the good Samaritan that I am, I opted for the latter.  So that’s how I found myself at the kitchen counter eating pie.  At first I just cut the tiniest of slivers but then the pie was uneven, so I had to cut a bit more from the other side.  Which of course was not at all even so then I had to go back to the first side to even it up.  Before I knew it, I had eaten a quarter of the pie.  But at least it was symmetrical by the time I was finished.  Don’t judge  – I know you’ve all been there.

As I waddled away from the kitchen I began to feel guilty about my gluttony.  I calculated how many hours I was going to have to spend on the treadmill to make a dent in my caloric intake.  Apparently I would have to walk for three days.  And then it struck me – why are we the generation that feels so darn guilty about food?  I  thought about my parents and my in-laws – all four of them lived very long lives. I don’t think any of then ever worried about eating too much. In fact I think the only time they worried about food was when they didn’t have enough. To them, the worst sin was when a hostess served “skimpy” portions. They never heard of gluten-free, cleansing, cardio workouts, sat fat, vegan diets or a gym.  Truth be told, I’d venture that the  only “gym” they got near was Jim Beam.

A thing of the past - the dreaded Jello mold

A thing of the past – the dreaded Jello mold

I think my relatives were pretty reflective of that entire generation.  Maybe it was the deprivation of the Great Depression or the sacrifices they made during the war, but they didn’t seem to obsess about food and exercise the way we Boomers do.  They were the Greatest Generation not only because of all they accomplished, but because they also perfected the sour cream/onion dip and knew how to make a splendid Manhattan highball.  When I think about the Thanksgiving tables of my childhood there was no non-fat gravy or “skinny” mashed potatoes made with cauliflower.  No, we had creamed corn, jello molds, and stuffing loaded with sausage.  Our pies were topped with real whipped cream – and lots of it. In fact one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is brother Bob and I taking the bowl of whipped cream and embarking in a food fight at the table.  And no, we weren’t little kids.  We were both in our 30’s . It’s possible we had consumed a bit too much wine.  But back to my point – our parents lived long lives despite their love of fatty foods and arm chairs.

So what was their secret?  It’s probably not practical to come up with just one hypothesis for an entire generation so I’ll stick with my own family.  When I think about my dad and my mother-in-law in particular they both were just a little plump, they both loved a good party, they both loved to eat and they both enjoyed a daily cocktail.  Sometimes more than one.  More importantly, they were two of the most happy, fun, positive people I ever met.  They were too busy enjoying life to let a few calories get in their way.  And, no surprise, everyone enjoyed being around them too.  And why not?  They were either eating, drinking or laughing.  Not a bad way to go through life.

After giving this some thought I’ve decided that just having a positive attitude is the best recipe for growing old.  So this week on my trip to Costco I’m going to pick up the apple pie.  Purely for testing, of course.  And when my disciplined husband has had his fill, I will happily slump over the counter and eat the rest.  I’m calling it “The Greatest Generation Diet”.

WALKING IT OFF

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

As my brother so accurately wrote last year, Thanksgiving is our family’s favorite holiday.  After all, we are related to five of the 17 families that came over on the Mayflower.  After I discovered this bit of history I deluded myself into thinking that our DNA is hard-wired to love the holiday commemorating them.  But the cold, hard truth is that we love this holiday because we love to eat.

We are all big eaters in our family.  There is never an “old maid” left on the  hors d’oeuvre tray and “thirds” are for the light eaters.  We are the family that inspired expandable waistbands.  We do have standards – we do not eat jellied cranberry sauce and no one belches at the table.  So far.

And yet we are not so slovenly that we have no self-respect.  No sir, we are all pretty good about exercise and trying to stay in shape.  For years I wore a pedometer to ensure that I walked 10,000 steps every day.  So in anticipation of Thursday’s annual bacchanal, I went to walk.about.com which has a handy little feature that lets you check all the food you’ll eat on Thanksgiving and then covert it to calories.  I thought that could be an interesting exercise, forgetting that when it comes to food, ignorance is bliss.

A glass of wine?  Check.  A celery stalk stuffed with bleu cheese?  Why not?  Okay, I’ll opt for one cracker with a slice of Stilton.  How much could that add?  On I went, from the turkey to the mashed potatoes to the requisite green bean casserole .  My total calorie count? 3,365!!!!

Then the intrusive, vindictive, people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands snoops at walk.about.com felt the need to let me know with laser-like precision exactly how many miles and steps it would take me to burn off all those calories.  Turns out I need to walk 34 miles or 67,300 steps to wear off my dinner.  From a scheduling standpoint,  I need to cram 6 1/2 days of walking into Thursday.  If I start walking in downtown San Francisco I couldn’t stop until I reached Santa Clara. Fortunately Stanford Medical Center is on the way – perhaps I could drop in for a gastric bypass.

But here’s the worst part, I lied when I took the test.  One cracker with cheese?  I so frequently hog the snack table that my family nickname is “Hoover lips”.  I consider mashed potatoes to be health food and, frankly, I think it insulting to the cook if I pass on all the pies and whipped cream.  Even though the “cook” is Costco.  My real calorie count is probably north of  6,000.

So when everyone gathers on Thanksgiving to eat, watch football and talk about the nation’s pending financial crisis, I will sadly find no room for compromise.  Despite the obvious risks and danger, I will be jumping off the caloric cliff.

IT’S TIME TO SAY GOOD NIGHT

Headlines:  Hmmmm, what’s the old saying?  Deny, deny, deny. 

It’s been discovered Herman Cain had a sexual harassment charge,

A case that he now claims was settled and discharged.

All we know is when the press rakes a contender over the coals,

It must surely mean that candidate is leading in the polls.

Money:  Want to place money on how many fights there will be? 

Macy’s and Target have announced Black Friday plans,

They’ll be opening up at midnight for all their shopping fans.

We’re not sure that after a meal and drinking, most likely to excess,

Is the time to gather shoppers who are tipsy, crazed and stressed.

Sports:  He did not go to the Bobby Knight school of coaching.

Sadly, the coaching ranks are losing one of  baseball’s best,

Tony LaRussa has decided to fly the Cardinal’s nest.

He’s been a gentleman and classy, a mentor and a sage,

And he’s one of the rare guys that know when to leave the stage.

 

Life:  Who had the over/under at 72 days?

Well,  we’re SHOCKED that Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce,

From her husband of two months who rode in on a white horse.

We think he may have figured out that his quickie vows and mating,

Were done to ensure the season finale would have the highest rating.

We’ll help you through any difficult time with just the right thing to say. Visit us at www.redposey.com to see how.