By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

People may not agree on much these days, but I think everyone believes that life as we know it has become more stressful.  Over the past couple of weeks I noticed a strange manifestation of that – lots of people put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Almost seems sacrilegious to me, but then I’m a big devotee of pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes so I don’t like anyone messing around with a holiday devoted to eating.  Still, I get it.  If an Elf on the Shelf or Hanukah menorah brings some joy to the world then I say go for it.  That said, I read the other day that the latest trend in decorations is the upside down Christmas tree.  I got to wondering … why?  Why mess with a perfectly good tradition that has held us in good stead lo these many years?  So I did some research, only to discover that upside down trees are believed to have been a “thing” dating back to ancient times.  History on this is a little sketchy since there was no official paper of record back in the Middle Ages but I’ll try my best to capture the genesis of this rather odd custom.

The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St Boniface journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God.   He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town believed to be the birthplace of the Christmas decoration industry.  So we can infer that Hallmark’s original corporate headquarters was, in fact, in Germany.  I think Thuringia is also known for beer but that’s a subject better covered by my brother.  It is believed that while St. Boniface was in Thuringia he used the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity as he tried to convert the pagan population.  One can only imagine what the native peoples thought of a guy trying to tell them that the local conifer had something to do with the Creation.  But apparently he was the Steve Jobs of his time because the converted people started to worship the Fir tree as God’s Tree.  By the 12th century it became a custom, especially in Europe, to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees also signified that the household was one that practiced Christianity. That’s the best history has to offer us on the upside down tree.  The real history behind the hanging of Christmas Trees upside down still remains vague. Nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt.  Hmmmmm, given the current social climate, maybe that’s why the upside down tree has become popular.

In any event, my very limited search for upside down Christmas trees resulted in a very surprising discovery.  Walmart is selling a large variety of them this year online.  That wasn’t the surprising part since Walmart seems to sell everything.  The shock came when I looked at the price.  The most expensive one sells for an astounding $910.00!!  Apparently wanting to say “up yours” with your Christmas tree is not an inexpensive proposition.  The cheapest one was $150.00, which still seems like a lot of money for a fake tree.  The larger conundrum is WHO at Walmart is buying these trees?  If photos on the internet are to be believed, most Walmart shoppers wear holey sweat pants and muscle shirts with stains on them.  Definitely underwear is optional, and if worn, is usually peeking out of baggy pants or spandex tops three sizes too small for the wearer.  But who am I to question the marketing geniuses at Walmart? I’m just not sure that the typical Walmart shopper wants to fork over a week’s paycheck on a tree when they can furnish their entire house if they hit the blue light special just right.  Then again, I may be underestimating just how stupidly people can spend their money.  As for me, I’m on my out to buy “A Christmas Story” leg lamp.  Now that’s a smart investment.



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.


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”.