Merry Christmas to everyone! May this special day bring you happiness, peace, serenity, time with family and friends, a moment or two for reflection, and a visit from Santa Paws carrying the present of your dreams on his back.
When I was a kid, our standard Christmas decorations included Santa cups for every member of the family. Each of the kids had his or her own mini-cup, suited to small child hands and carefully labeled in festive red ink with our names, and Mom and Dad had cups that were larger, about the size of a coffee cup. The Santa cups went out in a line on the dining room credenza and then were put in front of our place settings at holiday meals. Mom loved to put out M&Ms for birthdays and holiday occasions, and I think she may have filled the cups with those little chocolate candies.
Amazingly, the cups survived years of excited Webner family Christmas celebrations without being broken, although my Santa cup has its paint rubbed off here and there. When Mom moved out of the family house years ago, she distributed the labeled cups to each of the kids, and now it is one of the Christmas decorations we put out in our house.
Of course, in those long-ago days I was called Bobby by everyone in our extended family. That was fine with me until I got to be 11 or 12, when I concluded that “Bobby” sounded childish and I asked everyone to start calling me “Bob” instead, which sounded a lot more grown up and adult. For some reason, it seemed very important to make that change at the time. Since then, I’ve gone by Bob, so there was a clear line of demarcation between the Bob and Bobby eras.
Now, looking at the Santa cup always makes me smile and reminds me of the long-lost Bobby days, when things were simpler and more innocent, and the appearance of a set of Santa cups on the dining room credenza was part of the build-up for the excitement and fun of a Christmas to come.
The cereal makers keep pushing the envelope and blurring the lines between cereal and dessert—as well as messing with our holiday traditions. I’m not sure that Kellogg’s Peeps cereal can ever be topped, but I saw two new strong entrants in the cereal advances category on a recent trip to the grocery store: Kellogg’s Elf On The Shelf Sugar Cookie Cereal With Marshmallows (really, that’s what it says on the box) right next to Post’s Dunkin’ Mocha Latte Cereal made with Dunkin’ coffee that the box discloses is both naturally and artificially favored. (No kidding!)
I can’t figure out what’s weirder—Christmas-themed cereal in April, or wanting to buy a cereal that tastes just like the sugary flavored coffee that you are drinking with your cereal. I guess as between the two I would have to pick the Elf On A Shelf cereal, both because it threatens complete sugar overload and because kids deserve a break from thinking that creepy bug-eyed elves are spying on them and monitoring their behavior all year ‘round.
The editorial pages of newspapers are often dull, uninspired affairs, but every once in a while genius strikes. So it was in the September 21, 1897 edition of the New York Sun, when a veteran newsman named Francis Pharcellus Church was asked to respond to a little girl’s innocent inquiry about whether Santa Claus really existed. He produced a classic that became one of the most reprinted editorials of all time — with a simple and timeless message that continues to resonate down through the years, and seems especially apt today, as we come to the end of a very difficult year:
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all!
Normally I hate the too-early anticipation of the Christmas season. When I walked past a Starbucks this week and saw that the outdoor sign was advertising all of the sugary Christmas concoctions, I groaned. When I walked past St. Mary Church and saw that they were setting up the Christmas tree holders for their annual Christmas tree sale, I groaned again. And when I saw that the Hausfrau Haven was selling egg nog, I groaned still more — and also felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought of the coating, cloying taste of egg nog, because I really don’t like egg nog.
In my book, Christmas shouldn’t be anticipated until Thanksgiving is over, period. I know that some people can’t resist jumping the gun, and have already started listening to Christmas music. wearing red sweaters with reindeer on them and watching the saccharine Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, but I’m not one of them.
I do make one exception to my no Christmas before Thanksgiving rule, however. If I see that Great Lakes Christmas Ale is for sale, I’ll always pick up a six pack, whether Thanksgiving has passed or not. The Great Lakes Brewing Company can be depended on to brew a high-quality, spicy, holiday ale that Old Fezziwig would have loved. I picked up some of this year’s batch yesterday, and it’s excellent — packed with flavor and a little holiday dash, besides. After savoring a bottle, I felt more in the Christmas mood already. Hey — when is the first showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, anyway?
If you like a seasonal brew, I highly recommend this year’s edition of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. But be forewarned: consistent with the generous spirit of the holidays, it comes in at 7.5% alcohol by volume. Pace yourself, or you might not be able to finish trimming the tree.
A brief tropical shower delivered an early Christmas present this morning — one of the most distinct rainbows I’ve ever seen in person. It was a beautiful start to a special day, and only we early birds got to see it.
May you find some red and green in your day today!
If you’ve got to be traveling around Christmas, and dealing with the overall airport madness, a surprise upgrade to first class sure is a nice present. Who cares if the TV screen is mysteriously missing? It’s the additional leg room and wide seats that make all the difference, anyway.
Merry Christmas, indeed!
Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.
There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!
Some people celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, with particular emphasis on that annoying partridge in a pear tree. On Saturday, we’ll be marking the holiday season by enjoying, instead, the 12 hours of the Beatles.
It’s called Sgt. Peppercorn’s Beatles Marathon. For the ninth year, musicians in “Sgt. Peppercorn’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” will perform all 215 officially released Beatles songs in one performance. It’s supposed to be the only place you can go to see all of the Beatles songs performed in one sitting, and it’s happening here in Columbus.
The songs will be played in chronological order based on the release of the Beatles’ original British albums and singles, starting with Please Please Me — the album the Beatles recorded in one legendary day — beginning at 12:30 p.m. and ending with Abbey Road, about 12 hours later. That means we’ll avoid the embarrassing mish-mash of the American records, where songs that were recorded years earlier could get released on later albums.
A 12-hour Beatles marathon poses certain logistical challenges. We’ll have to have a hearty lunch before the performance starts, of course, and then carefully time eating and bathroom breaks to coincide with some of our less favorite tracks. Basically, any song that you carefully positioned the tone arm on your turntable to pass over would be a good candidate. I’m suggesting, for example, that we try to fit dinner in during side 4 of The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album), and I’ll no doubt hit the men’s room when it’s time for Within You Without You on Sergeant Pepper’s.
Who needs five golden rings when you can listen to gold records instead?
I like Christmas. I really do. But when you’re at a conference, a little Christmas goes a long way.
Thursday night I found myself at a reception in the obligatory open atrium space at one of those colossal hotel-conference complexes. I was having a perfectly pleasant time, chatting with other attendees, when suddenly there was a blast of music, strobe lights, and fog machine effects, and some kind of Christmas-themed program starting playing, at bellowing volume, over the sound system. I think it may have been called “A Christmas Wish,” or something along those lines, and it seemed to involve a boy beseeching his Grinch-like grandfather to do something for the holidays. People who love The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies no doubt would have appreciated its saccharine sappiness. Me? I found the kid’s voice incredibly annoying as I was trying to carry on a conversation, and I sympathized with the beleaguered granddad who had to put up with the irritating rugrat.
Eventually the program ended, and everyone at the reception breathed a sigh of relief at the very welcome silence. Before we knew it, however, the program started again, and we realized with grim despair that it apparently was going to be broadcast every half hour. I wasn’t the only attendee who then decided that it was time to exit the reception and get as far away from the imploring kid’s voice as possible.
Lights, trees, other festive decorations, and a little Christmas music in the background are just fine. But forced exposure to some maudlin tale that is supposed to illustrate “the meaning of Christmas” is where I draw the line.
We’ve turned another page on the calendar. It’s November already, and that means . . . get ready to hear Christmas music everywhere you go. For all I know, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is already playing on heavy rotation at the local mall.
The British newspaper The Independent ran a story yesterday in which a clinical psychologist is quoted as saying that listening to too much Christmas music is bad for your health — your mental health, that is. In the story, written by a reporter with the delightfully British name of Olivia Petter, psychologist Linda Blair states: “People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else. You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”
The psychologist doesn’t cite any studies or clinical tests to support her conclusions, but this is one time where confirming evidence doesn’t seem to be needed. I happen to like Christmas music — with a handful of notable exceptions like the aforementioned Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Do You Hear What I Hear? — but I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in a store where, starting about now, you’re required to listen to an endless loop of the same Christmas songs, over and over again. Your first listen to the Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters version of Jingle Bells might put a holiday spring in your step, but by the 139th hearing on December 3 you’re going to be ready to hurl that appallingly fragrant holiday candle display through the store window and tackle the nearest Salvation Army Santa. No wonder Clark Griswold lost it in Christmas Vacation.
Christmas music isn’t immune to the general rule that too much of anything isn’t a good thing. So when you’re doing your holiday shopping this season, don’t be surprised if that person behind the counter seems a little bit edgy — and be sure not to whistle Frosty The Snowman when you make your purchase.
The Webner clan wishes a merry Christmas to one and all! May everyone receive their own version of the coveted Red Ryder single-shot BB gun this holiday season.
Every year, beer lovers in the Midwest wait impatiently for the delivery of the Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale, in the same way that credulous seven-year-olds wait for Santa Claus — with a mixture of fervent belief and outright greed. Every year, Great Lakes delivers a delicious, spicy concoction that is designed to make the holidays more merry.
This year’s version, which I happily quaffed at the Olde Mohawk this afternoon, does not disappoint. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would savor this brew!