Archive for December, 2018


12.29.18 … “God bless all of you on the good Earth” …

Christmas Traditions

I started my Christmas Traditions series on Facebook and WordPress in response to a prompt by a dear friend and writer Elizabeth Musser.

Shortly after starting, I attended an event called Creative Mornings CLT. It is held the first Friday of every month and features a guest speaker. December’s speaker was Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, and she talked broadly about “traditions.” She defined “traditions” as “Beliefs, actions. behaviors or stories handed down from one generation to another. How we do things, shaped by our families, cultures and the places we live.” She noted that some traditions are “healing traditions.” They are, “Ones that empower, celebrate, share humanity and build community.”

So I pondered that as I wrote about MY traditions. Are they just mine or are they also my family’s, my faith community’s, my community’s, my state’s, my South’s , my countries, my culture’s … or something more …

And are they healing traditions? Do they empower, celebrate, share humanity and build community?

For the second time recently I have focused on a quote by Thích Nhất Hạnh . The quote this time is, time, “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors … You are the continuation of each of these people.”

One of Dr. Cooper-Lewter’s last quotes was by Mother Teresa: “If we have no peace, it’s because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

During the next 12 months, I will look at my Christmas traditions and make an honest evaluation of them in light of empowerment and peace. I want to be both a continuation of those that came before me and a part of something bigger.

I don’t want to forget that we belong to each other … and I want peace …

And I loved looking back on Apollo 8 this Christmas.

Apollo 8 — its astronauts at 55 hours, 39 minutes, and 55 seconds into their mission crossing a barrier no human had even approached before, the line between the gravitational realm of the Earth and that of the moon — was an achievement of technology tinged with a strain of theology. It was an important turning point for national security and national identity, a fresh symbol of the surpassing power of television and a welcome tonic to the travails of everyday life on Earth.

And 50 years ago Monday, as the inhabitants of a weary nation wrapped their presents on Christmas Eve, trod through snowy streets to Mass, set their holiday tables, and reflected on the meaning of the season, the crew of Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Lovell, the first humans to orbit another heavenly body, marked the lunar sunset by reciting the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis — a dramatic rebuff to the (likely apocryphal but still powerful) remark of Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first man to ride a space capsule into Earth orbit, that there was no God in space.

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Source: ‘God bless all of you on the good Earth’: Remembering the daring Apollo 8 mission – The Boston Globe,

God bless all of you on the good Earth



12.26.18 … “When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Solvitur Ambulando” – It is solved by walking, 2018 Labyrinth Walks, Wayt Private Labyrinth – Cumming GA:

I had a great visit with my childhood friend and her mom, one of my favorite labyrinth buddies.

As Marty and I walked and talked, I realized how wonderful a gift the labyrinth has been to me. It has reconnected me to old friends, has established new connections with people I have known forever, has introduced me to new people, provided me with a deep connection to people who I would never have known before, gave me a new interest in medieval history, enriched my religious and spiritual life, introduced me to spiritual practices: walking meditation and contemplative prayer, improved my mental and physical health … the list goes on.

There is joy in sharing time and space with such people!

I love Mrs. W’s silhouettes. I never fail to discover a new one hidden in plain sight in the house or the garden. The one included is of Mrs. W and her husband gardening.

And I found this a while back:

“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.”

– Thích Nhất Hạnh, How to Walk (Mindfulness Essentials, #4)



12.25.18 … “What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” This

Christmas Tradition #17: The Gatherings (Pre Christmas Gatherings, Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas Morning Breakfast, Christmas Dinner and Gift Exchange in Atlanta, Festival of Greed Gift Exchange):

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Christmas is a little bit more …

On a cultural level, it’s about celebrating family and friends … gathering.

I have several traditional gatherings.

The pre-Christmas events include the office parties and coffees and open houses and kith friend dinners and the intimate meals with the inner circle. We are blessed to have several groups that get together every year. For many years I hosted my Charlotte kith family, and someday I will do it again. It was my favorite party, but with the immediate and extended kith/kin family far and wide, it just doesn’t work. But this year, we celebrated the gathering of all three of our children with a family favorite, shrimp and grits. I use a Paula Deen recipe that contains bacon, too.

Christmas Eve is the BIG meal at our home. There are years that it is just a small gathering. We usually do a variation on John’s mom’s Christmas Eve dinner: Roast beast (beef tenderloin or standing rib roast), salmon, corn pudding, green beans, mashed potatoes, and Waldorf salad with pears. This year we will share this meal with special family friends … on second thought, make that Chinese food on the way to church. We had to make a last minute change of plans. I’m amazed at how many people eat Chinese on Christmas Eve. I’ve always heard it was a Jewish thing on Christmas Day!

On the way to church, I shared a favorite picture from the Service’s closing many years’ ago with everyone holding a candle. It’s of one of my children, and I have only found this one picture:

Christmas Eve Worship with my family is my favorite family religious service of the year. But it’s my favorite cultural event to. It’s the melding of cultural and religious traditions. It is welcoming to all and always focuses on the universal hope of peace on earth. Who doesn’t want peace on earth, good will to all. The Service is always packed and the minister always welcomes all, while gently chiding us for being there just once or twice a year. But honestly if you are only going once a year or taking someone to introduce to your faith tradition, this is it.

In his Christmas Eve Sermon, Pen discussed fear and the angel’s calling us to, “Fear not!” As a humorous intro, Pen mentioned the fear that we sometimes cause in our children by introducing them too early to the scary cartoon characters. My mind immediately went to my oldest son’s obsessive fear of Mowgli in Jungle Book at age 2. So I heartily laughed when I saw this on social media. Check out “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” on Netflix

As always, the candlelit closing with “Silent Night” is my favorite. I love walking out, jovially saying,”Merry Christmas,” and sharing the beauty of that moment with everyone. And this year, I found myself laughing. I laughed because children now get battery operated candles. I’m not sure it would be the same! And I laughed when another friend, because I had mentioned this in an earlier post, shared with me a picture of her Coca-Cola Santa toy that she still gets out when she decorates. I love this tradition this silent night, candles, hugs, hope, peace on earth, good will to men tradition!

Christmas Breakfast is a favorite now that the family is without little ones. I’m trying a new recipe this year … baked eggs Benedict. We eat in the living room while we open presents.

And then we head to Atlanta where I turn it over to my extended Lindsey family. I do love seeing 4 generations of family in one place. It’s a real gathering. And Elizabeth and Edward can host the whole crew in their dining room. That’s a big table. But what matters is that all are welcome.

And on the 26th we gather again with extended Lindsey family and friends for what has been called The Festival of Greed. It’s our family’s variation of the White Elephant or Chinese Gift exchange and was begun in the early 70’s by my great aunt (Anne Scott Mauldin, Aunt T to me) and great uncle, Uncle Johnny. My sister took over the event at some point and I am so glad she did. So do you take something you want or a gag gift? I always take something I want. But the laughter and joy experienced when spending time with cousins, second cousins, cousins x removed, and their spouses, partners and children even briefly makes this tradition another favorite.

It’s not the gifts, but the gatherings.

“What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”



12.23.18 … And even though we’re adults…

Christmas Tradition #16: Shopping and Gift Giving

I have a love hate relationship with shopping and gift giving. I figured out who Santa was at age 3, told my brother who was 14 months older, and my sister put the fear of God in me that I would never receive a Christmas gift again. I wish Santa was real, that he’d figure out what to get everyone, make the gift (with or without elves), wrap it and deliver it on Christmas Eve.

I would say I put a lot of time and money in my gift giving, and my returns do not justify the time or money. I would say my mother is generally in the same boat. My sister has a generosity of spirit and is a creative gift giver. I always enjoy her gifts. My father played a great Santa but was never particularly good at gift giving, and there’s a story there. My husband has never been particularly good at gift giving, and there’s a story there. Two of my 3 children are pretty good, but the other never plans in advance.

Since I can’t conjure up Santa, but only his spirit, I try to be the thoughtful and creative one, but I fall flat, but maybe this year will be better. Anticipation of Christmas makes me feel like Scrooge and Grinch at the same time. I don’t want to be bothered and maybe I want to ruin it for everyone.

Over the years I have learned a few lessons. Never give a garbage disposal to your wife especially if I can’t be installed (my father). Never give clothes if you do not understand their style (again, my father). Dutch wooden shoes are a big no, even if you think they are interesting (my husband). Anything that is the last one, the display item, even if you get a big discount, should be left at the store (me). Instead, go for personal to the recipient … not personal to you. And finally, shop early, wrap early and then enjoy like my city grandmother did (whom we called Nancy Dear, another story). She had everything bought and creatively wrapped by Thanksgiving.

So what do I enjoy about shopping and giving? As for shopping for the gifts, I’m a miserable shopper. I hate the mall, but I procrastinate way to long even to get things on the internet. Amazon is not my friend. I think I can find it cheaper, but I often wait and can’t find it at all. And Amazon wrapping is not creative and they often forget the gift tag. But I do love to share time, events and adventures. An aside here…does anyone remember shopping and then the store would wrap it and deliver it the next day. Maybe that is what my grandmother did! She was a buyer at Davison’s.

As for gifts that I’m pleased with, I like giving something that encourages a passion or meets a real need if the recipient would be greatly and positively impacted by my gift.

So my next year’s resolutions will include learning to plan the gifts by asking for a list, finding a shopping partner and meeting for breakfast and making shopping fun, even if it is for catalog or internet shopping together, making the gifts personal and being creative with the suggestions and wrapping and delivering them personally, if at all possible. Be more like Santa, use less Amazon Prime.

I have lots to do today … opening my Amazon Prime boxes and tracking my missing boxes, wrapping what I have and finding gifts for the missing items. Sheesh, this definitely is not what Christmas is all about!

But every year I get that Grinchy/Scroogy feeling that my heart is growing two sizes and I am being transformed. But then I relapse and forget the lesson, and the cycle starts again.


And this WSJ article was timely:

“And even though we’re adults—we know to be grate­ful for the thought and ef­fort some­one puts into giv­ing us a gift—a bad one can still burn. We ex­pect our friends and loved ones to un­der­stand us best. A bad gift can feel like a lack of recog­ni­tion and con­nec­tion. “You feel mis­un­der­stood,” says Daniella Ku­por, an as­sistant pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Bos­ton Uni­ver­sity Que­strom School of Busi­ness, who stud­ies gift giv­ing.”

Source: You Got Them Exactly the Wrong Thing, Didn’t You?,


12.22.18 … The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza …

Christmas Tradition #15: Going to Ride (or a Walk) to See the Lights and Decorations:

My Atlanta family has always gone to ride. We went to ride in the country on Sunday afternoon when we visited my grandparents, we went to ride at the beach to see the sunset and find the deer, we went to ride in the fall to see the leaves in the north Georgia mountains, and I take mom to ride whenever I’m in Atlanta. But my favorite rides have been rides to see the lights and holiday decorations including and the department store windows

Growing up in Atlanta, most people did not put up outdoor lights. A wreath on the door and a tree in the window was about it. But in the 60s we always went to see the Governor’s Mansion in Ansley Park and later on West Paces Ferry. And we always drove downtown to see Rich’s Great Tree, see and hear the local chorales and choirs sing from the multistory overpass and drive by the windows at Rich’s and Davison’s. There was also one house near Chastain Park that was over the top.

As Atlanta got bigger and more folks from the north settled in Atlanta, the decorations and lights got grander. And today there is a Brookhaven house that has over a hundred blowups in their yard.

There are also the extravagant holiday light tours that you pay to drive through. I’ve been to see the lights at Callaway Gardens, Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agriculture Center in Perry GA, Lights Under Louisville in the Mega Cavern and McAdenville near Charlotte (actually McAdenville is free). The first time I went to McAdenville, an old mill town near Gastonia NC, I took John. It was the first year we were dating, 1979. It was a disaster because I missed the exit. I drove all the way to Gaffney SC, 40 miles farther … so we drove 80 extra miles on the interstate for a 20 minute driveby light extravaganza. And I have made day trips and overnights to see the decorations at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, both interior and exterior. Biltmore is beyond extravagant.

I also remember the first time I went to Louisville at Christmas. There were neighborhoods that were totally lit. I began to understand why people in Atlanta said it was a “northern thing.”

And then we moved to Wilmette near Chicago. It was magical at Christmas. Every neighborhood decorates. And the City decorates. And they still had stores that had decorated windows!! Marshall Fields had Harry Potter themed Christmas windows one year. The parks and museums were gorgeous. I still love the wreathed lions at The Art Institute. And on Christmas Eve , all the residents on Ashland Lane, our street in Wilmette, lined the street from our end to the Lake, almost a mile, with luminaries. And as soon as it was dark, we walked to the lake with our neighbors. One family that we knew well was so over the top that they were featured every year in the Pioneer Press, the local Wilmette paper. Molly was spending the night at their house and I still remember the joy when they took her on a holiday ride in a motorcycle sidecar to see the lights and experience the first snowfall. Did I mention it was magical?

Charlotte is getting into it more and more. There is one street, Hillside Drive in Myers Park, that hangs huge lighted balls. They ask for donations for a food bank. I usually drive down Hillside a few times.

And I still “Drive Mama Lindsey” to see the lights in Atlanta. I’m looking forward to the Brookhaven house with the 100+ blowups.

I must mention a holiday children’s book called “The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza” about a family that has out of control decorations. I wonder what it is like to live next to the Wilmette friends or Brookhaven family.

I do miss the department stores, but I am lucky to have visited both NYC and Chicago at Christmas in recent years.

I still love to drive the backroads and see the holiday decorations in small towns. They are often way out of proportion to the size of the town. Davidson NC is lovely.

And, of course, the best light show is a beautiful starry sky on a cold winter’s night in the country. I’ll never forget driving into Pineview GA on New Year’s Eve in the early 2000s.

I am enchanted by the lights.

Do you have a favorite adventure to see holiday lights and decorations?



12.21.18 …Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree …

Christmas Tradition #14: Christmas Tree, Getting the Tree, Decorating the Tree, Dual Angel Topper, Favorite Ornaments, Coca-Cola Christmas Polar Bear, Trobich Icicles and Poem, Joy Ornament:

This is one tradition that my husband actually has an opinion. He was a cedar tree guy. Do you know how hard it is to find a cedar tree? Soon after we married, but before children, we began the trek for a cedar tree. I did not have an opinion on the type of tree. My family usually went to the farmer’s market in Atlanta and picked out a tree. I have no idea what type of tree was typically bought. But my husband wanted a cedar. So we found Penland Farms in SC near Lake Wylie, and we usually made the trip there about 2 weeks before Christmas.

And it, the getting the tree, became an event, an annual adventure with kids and dogs, etc. The last few years, with no kids and old dogs we have nixed the tradition, but I feel quite certain it will resurrect itself when there is some new focus … new house , new generation … but for now it is a memory.

But the 2018 tree is here. I purchased it from Pike’s on a Monday. It is the scrawniest tree ever, barely 6 feet. We usually get a 8-9 foot tree. Did you know that there is a lack of tall trees because the tree farms cut back on planting during the Great Recession 8-10 years ago. Our tree is a real Charlie Brown Tree, crooked, short with a definite better side.

Today my oldest son helped me decorate the tree. After the getting of the tree, the next big question is lights. Multicolored or white? Twinkling or not? Since I’m driving this tree, I picked white lights, not twinkling.

And then the ornaments … We have way to many, but the ones that matter are the “special” ones, and those focus on the hand blown ones, and there are favorites among the handblown ones —- the Chicago landmark ones, the religious ones, the glass icicles, and yes, wait for it, the Coca-Cola ones. My kids used to fight over who put the Coca-Cola Polar Bear on the tree. And one of my favorites is the set of crystal icicles that the Trobich Family gave us years ago. They are kept in a felt bag with the poem that Joni wrote. I get the poem out of the red felt bag and read it every year.

Next is the topper. Angel or star? We are an angel topper family. Oddly, I have combined my mom’s angel with one I bought when we were newly married. It’s a messy tree topper.

Bu my favorite is the last ornament to go on … it’s a beautiful colorful beaded ornament. It’s the JOY ornament. It’s always the last to go on.

Wishing you JOY!



12.20.18 … “be still and know I am God” …

Christmas Tradition #13: Acknowledging the Longest Night

In an earlier post (see below), I noted the connection between the winter solstice and Advent/Christmas. I have always had a love for the Christmas holidays, but as I have reached the end of an era, middle age, I realize that not everyone has wonderful holiday memories, and even if one does, they have experienced sorrow from the loss of a loved one, one lost because of the death or separation, and this loss has darkened the experience. And the darkness of the season often worsens the suffering of people dealing with depression and addiction. In addition many people struggle with faith and religion in their lives, in the church, in their families, in their communities and even in civilization. Add in the long cold dark, it’s no wonder that the “happiest time of the year” for many is the “hardest time of the year” for others.

Many churches, including First Presbyterian Church, now hold A Service of Wholeness and Healing on this night, the longest night. I went a few years back. I’m not really certain why. And I attended again tonight. I want to honor those that need to be acknowledged, those that need remembering and those that I need to remember and to remind myself of the beauty in the community that celebrates joy and giving.

I found this today by Jan Richardson, a Methodist minister:

A blessing for you, for the Winter Solstice. If you are traveling through a season of shadows, or know someone who is, this is for you. (And a blessed Summer Solstice to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere!)


All throughout these months,

as the shadows

have lengthened,

this blessing has been

gathering itself,

making ready,

preparing for

this night.

It has practiced

walking in the dark,

traveling with

its eyes closed,

feeling its way

by memory,

by touch,

by the pull of the moon

even as it wanes.

So believe me

when I tell you

this blessing will

reach you,

even if you

have not light enough

to read it;

it will find you,

even though you cannot

see it coming.

You will know

the moment of its


by your release

of the breath

you have held

so long;

a loosening

of the clenching

in your hands,

of the clutch

around your heart;

a thinning

of the darkness

that had drawn itself

around you.

This blessing

does not mean

to take the night away,

but it knows

its hidden roads,

knows the resting spots

along the path,

knows what it means

to travel

in the company

of a friend.

So when

this blessing comes,

take its hand.

Get up.

Set out on the road

you cannot see.

This is the night

when you can trust

that any direction

you go,

you will be walking

toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson

from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Afterwards, I went and quickly walked the labyrinth at Myers Park Baptist. It was a dark and stormy night. And I just repeated the Psalm which we communally had said in the First Presbyterian Church’s Service of Wholeness and Healing: “Be still and know that I am God.”

And I am repeating this quoted material from my earlier post on the relation between Advent and pagan festivals celebrating Winter Solstice because I think it significant.

“But when I began to study the ancient Celtic tradition, and its keen awareness of humanity’s deep, inner connections with the rhythms of the natural world, I began to slowly realize how beautifully aligned the symbolism of the Advent season is to the imagery of the natural season leading to the Winter Solstice — the play of light and dark, the waiting, even a kind of deep and prophetic longing.

For the word “advent” literally means “the coming,” and, in this sense, these weeks in December are indeed a time of advent for all of us — whether we consider ourselves religious or not. The light is coming. All of Creation — and we — wait together for that coming.

What a not-to-be-missed treasure the natural season of Advent can be then, when the nascent light inside each of us can turn to, and answer, the promises of light surrounding us everywhere in the December dark: the whisper of candlelight from darkened windows, the blue-black light of dusk against the silhouetted trees of winter.

This is Advent — when as sleepers we awaken to our own light of love deep within us, waiting to be reborn again in the dark stables of our own souls.”

Source: Finding Ancient (Pagan) Meaning in the Darkness of Advent | The On Being Project,

Again, I repeat, “Be still and know that I am God.”


And here is another blog post I think worthy of your time:

Tomorrow marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Or the longest night. Many churches have “Longest Night” services during Advent, remembering those who grieve a loss during this season.

 It’s not a coincidence that Christmas falls so close to this longest night. We have no idea on which day Jesus was born. In the fourth century, when the calendar of the Roman empire was being Christianized, they picked December 25, which for pagans was the feast of Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun,” which began at this point to rise more forcefully day by day, not defeated by the darkness. Probably a bit of calendar confusion, as for them the 25th was that longest night. Christians linked this idea of ever-lengthening day to Christ.


12.20.18 … Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings …)

Christmas Tradition # 12: Christmas Cards

I never thought much about Christmas cards until I had children. Before that, I see in my mind the cards my grandmother would buy at the dime store and send to all her extended relatives. And they usually had poinsettias on the front (which may be why I’m not a huge fan of poinsettias, that and the fact that they are harmful to dogs). If my parents sent them, I don’t remember. I do remember opening them, and I do remember that there was one family that always included “the letter.” One year it was all about the tragic death of a grandmother. Very strange. It was so morbid that it was funny.

After Jack was born in 1990, I entered the fray. And once you are in, you get tons. Some are beautiful and some are funny. And a few of you write really hilarious letters! Most show the current status of the family , including your dogs (and sometimes your cats), new babies, new houses, great vacations, graduations, weddings and now grand babies galore. I don’t care how you say Happy Holidays; be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings; I wish them back to you in my tradition’s words of greeting and goodwill.

I don’t care how you say Happy Holidays; be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings, I wish them back to you in my tradition’s words of greeting and goodwill.

And what fun it has been to reconnect, even if it was just once per year. But jump forward 28 years. Now the internet lets me glimpse at you and your family, I can send well wishes and condolences daily. And I can say Happy Holidays to you. But it is not the same, so today I ordered a limited amount to be sent to a few, especially those that still enjoy snail mail. I will admit that making the effort to create the card is cathartic. And I cherish everyone I receive. I still put them by my Advent Wreath, a tradition that began while I lived in Chicago, and open them after a daily candle lighting and reading.

So again, I send holiday blessings to all …

Of course I had to research their history after noting that the first Christmas card was sent in 1843, the same year Dickens published “A Christmas Carol”:

A prominent educator and patron of the arts, Henry Cole travelled in the elite, social circles of early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.

During the holiday season of 1843, those friends were causing Cole much anxiety.

The problem were their letters: An old custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.

Now, everybody was sending letters. Sir Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, but he was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.”Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that

Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

It was the first Christmas card

Source: The History of the Christmas Card | History | Smithsonian,


12.19.18 … “Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight.”

Christmas Tradition # 11: Santa Claus, his elves and his reindeer, the Grinch and The Whos Down in Whoville and the array of characters in the cultural Christmas stories

I’ve known who Santa Claus was since I was 3. So I never remember believing. But I BELIEVE.

My dad dressed up as Santa and visited with friends and family and hospitals and community centers, whoever asked him after Thanksgiving. And then on Christmas Eve we traveled Atlanta delivering presents and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He brought laughter and joy to many. And then the next day, on Christmas, he’d put the fat man suit on one more time and visit Mae. Mae had been his childhood nanny from age three, a second mom, and our beloved housekeeper and babysitter.

I loved it, my mom not so much. We used to tease him that we were going to bury him in the suit, but we did him one better, the epitaph on his grave reads “and to all a good night.”

And when it came time for me to create Santa for my children, I never worried if my children knew or believed. I just wanted them to BELIEVE in the spirit of Christmas. I didn’t trek them to the best Santa for their picture with Santa, although I made the effort. I tried to create my home as a place for wonder and awe. But the 90s was a time of great commercialism and I knew that another family would do Santa bigger. So I hoped to create a strong sense of family and sharing. So my mantle became my home’s shrine to cultural Christmas. I hung the stockings with care.

And my image for Santa? The Coca-Cola Santa, of course. It’s very appropriate that a commercial Santa controls my image. Along with cookies, my Santa needs a Coke.

What about the other cultural Christmas characters? I enjoy them all. I enjoy the elves, Rudolph and the other reindeer, the Grinch, Max and The Whos, Frosty, Rudolph, Nutcracker, etc., etc. And they all share a spot on my mantle and some on my tree.

“Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

And I give a lot of underwear at Christmas. 😉



12.18.18 … “That’s all, Father Christmas” …

Christmas Tradition # 10: Christmas Books and Book Tree

I’ve loved books as long as I can remember. And Christmas books are some of my favorites. I have fond memories of my mom, my dad and my Pineview grandparents reading Christmas stories to me. And I loved reading to my children. When my children were little, I bought a basket and tied it up with a red plaid ribbon and filled it with Christmas books, all the usuals, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Gift of the Magi, A Charlie Brown Christmas, etc. I liked this Christmas book basket so much, the next year, I prepared a similar basket for all my kith and kin families. And then for many years afterward, I gave my families a new book for their basket.

My kids have always loved Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas. It has pullout letters. One of my favorite books was one sold by The Metropolitan Museum retelling the traditional Biblical Christmas Story and illustrated with beautiful art.

Maybe 10 years ago, I saw online a Christmas book tree. I now use my books for a small tabletop tree. And I choose a topper. In recent years, it’s been Jane Austen, her birthday is December 16, and Pigpen. This year, I’ve chosen a Polar Express Snowglobe.

What are your favorite Christmas books?


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December 2018