Tag: Christmas

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Advent and Christmas Greetings, Ricochet! Outside life has been – and continues to be – leavened and enriched with family, prayer life, volunteer involvements of several kinds, and a periodic convivial connection. Thought I’d stop by for some cookies and punch – and opine a bit in my own way about a seasonal pet-peeve: The […]

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Are you sick of Mueller Reports, Impeachment “hearings”, knowing full well this will go on until Trump leaves office? He’s a good president and a good man. Can we get on with some holiday cheer? I’m listening to a vintage CD called “Christmas Cocktails“, that I found on Amazon. It’s the ultimate holiday fun jazz […]

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Build a Better Mouse House …

 

… and maybe you can get more people to take the stairs. At least, my working theory is that the following series of events was cooked up as an HR wellness initative to get our company’s employees to move more. It all started on November 22 when I was hiking back to the sixth floor from my daily treadmill break in the main floor gym. I noticed that next to a small hole in the wall of the stairwell, someone had amusingly placed a rubber mouse.

The Sound of the Season

 

While watching the 876th remake of the first Hallmark “original” Christmas film, I got to thinking about the two men responsible for the modern sound of the holiday season. The first one is obvious. When Irving Berlin sat down and penned White Christmas (somewhere between 1938 and 1941, nobody is really quite sure) he ushered in the flood of the secular Christmas song. While Santa Claus is Coming to Town was released years earlier in 1934, it was Berlin’s wartime ballad of longing, combined with the baritone of Bing Crosby, that propelled the genre to stratospheric heights.

The other would toil away in relative obscurity as a pianist in jazz clubs around his native San Francisco until he penned a modest hit called Cast Your Fate to the Wind which won the 1963 Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. Lee Mendelson, an independent television producer who was putting together a documentary on “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, heard Cast playing on a taxi cab radio. He liked what he heard and tracked the composer down through the jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle and asked him to score his film.

Welcome back from Thanksgiving break! Grab a stool as Jim and Greg dissect good, bad, and crazy martinis today. First, while Greg laments another Ohio State win over Michigan, they love the powerful pro-life story involving OSU’s star running back. They also slam Michael Bloomberg for saying taxes on poor people are good because then poor people won’t make as many bad choices for themselves. And they roll their eyes as LGBT activists complain about the absence of same-sex romances in Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. You’ll also enjoy their unvarnished analysis of the Hallmark movies as they currently exist.

It’s Better to Give than Receive but Tough to Ask for More

 

This is the worst time of year. Not the feasting of Thanksgiving or the celebrations of December, but when I’m asked every November to fill out an Amazon Wish List for my birthday (Nov. 21) and Christmas.

I bug my wife and kids to fill out their wish lists, so I better reciprocate. This year, like usual, I wasted a couple of hours on gift guides for guys, for dads, for writers, for podcasters, for malcontents, you name it. And I came up with bupkis. I can’t think of anything I want. Is this a guy thing? A getting-older thing? It can’t be just me, so I turn to the experience and wisdom of the Ricochetti.

Please note, I’m not some evolved spiritual being who’s transcended material concerns. It’s just that I have pretty much everything I want or need. Got a roof over my head, a decent car, food on the table, and coffee in the mug. I’m a minimalist at heart, so much more than that seems like clutter.

What Happened to Holiday Catalogs?

 

I check the mailbox. Nothing. OK … bills. It used to be filled with holiday catalogs. There was Vermont Country Store, with old-time candies, colognes like “Evening in Paris,” flannel pajamas, ornaments and decorations from yesteryear, like those bubble lights and waxed angel candles. They still sell board games for families like Life and Candy Land, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Bavarian wooden weather houses, where the man would come out if rain was coming and the woman if a sunny day was predicted. Then there’s LL Bean with warm scarfs and cozy slippers! I loved the Trappist Monks who remind you about their delicious jams, coffee, and fudge, along with a CD of Gregorian chants or holiday choruses. There’s Harry & David, with the delectable pears, fruitcakes, Moose Munch, chocolate popcorn and chutneys.

I used to be bombarded with these catalogs every year, like Lands End who sent coupons, which always equaled a purchase from me. I’m easy, but I like to see the merchandise. There’s nothing in the mailbox this year. I asked my sister if she’s gotten any catalogs this year? Zero. What happened?

I did get a postcard from Fossil announcing Black Friday specials. It’s tucked behind the phone and I will pop in, thanks to advertising. They tell you to shop local. It boosts the economy — forget online, Amazon, the easy sitting at home at your computer shopping. Get out and mingle, have an early breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel and see what the local shops have created to inspire you. Getting in the holiday spirit requires getting up from a chair!

QotD 20181225: Born in Me

 

Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.—Angelus Silesius

Merry Christmas, y’all. May the Christ be born in you this day and every day.

Icon, Part 5: The Nativity of Christ

 

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath given rise to the light of knowledge in the world; for they that worshipped the stars did learn therefrom to worship Thee, O Sun of Justice, and to know that from the east of the Highest Thou didst come. O Lord, glory to Thee. Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ 

The Orthodox icon of the Nativity is jarring to our western eyes. We are accustomed to seeing Joseph and Mary in a warm-looking and very clean wooden barn, each about the same age, kneeling before a wooden manger that has a glowing Christ-child within, while angels shout triumphant above, shepherds approach, and the Magi, newly arrived, kneel with their gifts while the star that guided them shines brightly above the entire scene. Look closely at this scene, though, and things seem off. There is no warm and clean wooden barn, but a jagged mountain with a dark yawning cave. The Christ-Child is within, but He’s wrapped up in bandages? And is the manger really a stone box that looks more like a coffin? Mary is laying out on a blanket, dominating the scene, while Joseph (an older Joseph) is down the mountain looking forlorn while a very strange and sinister figure talks at him. What is happening here? This is not the quiet and happy Nativity we know and cherish in our candle-light caroling, nor is it the Stille Nacht we envisage while the snow quietly falls.

For us, Christmas comes not only just past the darkest night of the year, as winter bears down ever more upon us, but also at the end of the year, at a time when we are busy making resolutions, travel plans, loading up on presents, and gathering with family. It is a time where many of us are granted rests from work, a vacation in the midst of everything. We can kick up our feet in front of the fire, pour some egg nog, watch Christmas TV specials, and relax through the New Year, which we’re going to cap off with another party. But look closely at this icon instead. Mary looks exhausted, Joseph is worried, and the layered scenes have an underlying urgency to them.  Clearly, the Nativity of Christ is here depicted not as an end goal, but (to borrow from Winston Churchill) the end of the beginning, a portentous marking of things yet to come.

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As far as Christmas Carols go I’m mostly a fan of the old hymns. The older poetry had to conform to a stricter set of rules. You have to spend a lot more effort on your word choices when you’re constrained like that, and the effort shows in the quality of your writing. They also […]

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas 1947

 

Down on the corner of Antoinette and Peter Streets in Peoria, Illinois, a young man named Jim Jordan was singing in the choir at St. John’s Catholic Church. He had his eye on a Irish lass by the name of Marian Driscoll, the twelfth of thirteen children of coal miner Daniel and his wife Anna. Her parents weren’t keen on him because he seemed to have ambitions for show business. Still, they fell in love and in August of 1918 they were married. 

After a stint in the Army and a battle with flu during the great pandemic, Jim gave up his dreams and became a mailman while Marian taught voice and piano. Children quickly followed. But Jim remained restless. They tried their hand at vaudeville and failed miserably. Then, one day while visiting his brother in Chicago, Jim heard a radio show he thought was awful and believed he and Marian could do better. After an audition they were signed for a weekly show.

Ave Maria: Venerating the Brave Virgin, and her Consent

 

Warning: Including some crass humor in the description of a Great Christian Mystery is intended to drive home just how extraordinary a woman Mary must have been, as well as the extraordinary — indeed quite odd — nature of the mystery involved.

Ave Maria, gratia plena… Hail Mary, full of grace… These words, whether set to the sumptuous music of Biebl’s much-beloved one-hit wonder, sung to another tune, or simply spoken, will ring out through many a church today, the last Sunday of Advent, the last caravanserai parishioners pause at before reaching Bethlehem itself, and the Word Made Flesh.

I Created a New Cookie. Don’t Try It.

 

My baking skills aren’t what they used to be. I have no excuse. With food allergies, my baking has curtailed. It doesn’t help that I’m married to the third biggest cookie monster, Cookie the Original being first, @kentforrester being second….

I started trying to make Polish/Ukrainian Rugalah. I didn’t remember this much work. This delicious holiday pastry from Eastern Europe was a given at our Christmas celebrations. It can be filled with apricots, raspberry preserves, cinnamon and nuts, or chocolate chips. I dumped the cream cheese, tons of fattening butter and flour together, but lacked a mixing bowl. The whirling beaters didn’t make it far enough into my deep Tupperware tub – stay with me here….

I had to get another plastic tub. I whipped it up, and read further. Divide dough into 4 sections, layer between plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Then roll out and cut into squares. If the dough softens, refrigerate again, and keep going. I work for a living. Being self-employed, I get no paid holidays – this is taking too damn long. My old Betty Crocker cookbook was open to Russian Tea Cookies page – yea! All I need to do was add powdered sugar!

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I’m always amazed at the different ways people decorate their Christmas trees. Each family has their unique traditions and their preferred styles. Some take on an air of professional interior décor, like something out of a magazine, while others are quite crafty and quaint, and still others are downright eclectic. But altogether, it reflects their […]

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A Calico Christmas

 

Spending my teenage years growing up in Laredo, TX, was not a particularly easy or pleasant experience. Amongst the many annoyances one had to deal with in a culturally isolated South Texas border town was a lack of quality English-language programming on the radio. If you weren’t into silly bubble-gum pop or a multitude of Spanish-language musical genres, you were out of luck. Thus, I had to rely heavily on AM radio stations broadcasting from San Antonio, some 150 miles up I-35.

Among the ones I listened to most were KTSA 550-AM, a talk radio station (on which I would discover a dynamic young conservative talk show host named Rush Limbaugh in June 1991) and KKYX 680-AM, a country music station that every Friday featured a college football program hosted by then-Texas Tech head coach William “Spike” Dykes.

While listening to the latter in December 1990, a beautiful, sentimental song was played over and over again. The name of the song was “Calico Christmas.” It had wonderful lyrics, telling the story of a soldier stationed overseas who was missing Christmas in his Texas hometown, dreaming of his bride in her favorite calico dress. It received a lot of airplay likely because hundreds of thousands of American troops had been recently deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. War was imminent, and no doubt the song helped sooth the angst of many on the home front.