Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
"We hear the beating of wings over Bethlehem and a light that is not of the sun or of the stars shines in the midnight sky. Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names. Time and space and language lay no limitations upon human brotherhood." ~New York Times, 25 December 1937
Thursday, December 22, 2011
"Dad, I'd like to have a little talk...As the wage earner here, its your responsibility to show some consumer confidence and start buying things that will get the economy going and create profits and employment. Here's a list of some big-ticket items I'd like for Christmas. I hope I can trust you to do whats right for our country."
[and since it's Calvin, we can do one more]
Hobbes: "This article says that many people find christmas the most stressful time of year."
Calvin: "I believe it. This season sure fills *me* with stress."
Hobbes: "Really? How come?"
Calvin: " I hate being good..."
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Recently a reader wrote in and asked,
I have lost touch with that exhilarating zing I used to feel with each approaching holiday, each change of seasons.
Now I experience life as a never-ending but sometimes-changing to-do list, and that's sad.
I need to change that.
For many of us that is all too true. For a myriad of reasons, we find ourselves not “into” the Christmas spirit. It is not where we want to be. We want to enjoy the season, the music, the treats, and yes even the shopping. More importantly, we know how blessed we are, and how grateful we should feel and being alive, living in a free country, and with so much bounty around us. But for whatever reason we cannot seem to connect.
Hyperion understands, and he is here to help. Below I have some ideas to help bring you into the Christmas spirit. They are guaranteed to put a twinkle in your eye and a ho-ho in your heart. (Or something like that.)
Things you can do to get into the Holiday Spirit
Make a Christmas Mix CD
I know this sounds hokey, but you would be surprised how much fun it can be. Spending the time finding the songs from your past you used to love and then burning the CD will already put you in the Christmas spirit, and then listening to your mix CD on the way to work or even at work will clinch the deal. In fact, I bet your co-workers will all want you to make them a Christmas Mix CD too!
Give Gifts Unexpectedly
Buy a few inexpensive gifts—we’re talking very cheap here, just little things—and wrap them up and keep them in your trunk. Then, over the next 10 days, look for opportunities to give the presents to people who might really need them. Maybe it’s a favorite teller at the bank or clerk at the grocery store whom you always go to, or someone at the library or post office. It can be for no reason at all other than to make that person’s day. Give these small gifts away to people who would never normally be on your gift list, and see how you give them a boost, and how much it helps you. Sometimes gift giving can seem like an obligation, but these gifts are bought not knowing who they will go to, only that you have faith that the opportunity will arise to make someone’s day.
One time my dad was in a warehouse store looking for something and he accidentally dropped twenty dollars in one of the boxes. He called up the store that night and gave the clerk specific instructions where to go look. The man took the phone with him (it was a huge warehouse), and was unable to hide his annoyance at having to perform this task when he wanted to go home. Finally, my dad managed to direct the man to the right box. “Look inside.” My dad said. The clerk replied there was a twenty-dollar bill. “Merry Christmas.” My dad said.
Suddenly the entire exchange was completely different for the clerk. What had been the capper to a bad day became a great way to start his holiday. You just know that he told that story to everyone, and even better: the next time a customer needed extra help I bet he was more attentive.
You don’t need to drop twenty dollar bills into boxes. Even dollar store figurines (Hyperion’s favorite little gift to give) wrapped up in little boxes can totally make someone’s day, even their Christmas. Remember: they are getting a gift from someone they never expected to, and it truly is the thought that counts.
I hope these ideas help. If you have any of your own please feel free to share them in the comments, as we all try to get into the Christmas spirit.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Advent - Day 8
"Merry Non-Denominational End-of-the-Year Gala (not that we're into that sort of thing) to You and Yours, or not Yours (both choices are equally valid)"
"Merry Non-Denominational End-of-the-Year Gala (not that we're into that sort of thing) to You and Yours, or not Yours (both choices are equally valid)"
One trend that has come up recently is the push to take "Christmas" out of the holiday greetings, and the backlash from people who don't like it. We hear at International Day have looked into the matter and are comfortable declaring both sides ninnies.
First, to the people who are trying to take every last vestige of Christmas out of culture, get a life. People will always "decorate" their world with what's important to them, whether that means rock and roll bumper stickers, tean-beat posters, or, yes, Christmas decorations. Do they go too far? Sometimes, but only because of the tacky-factor. I concede you don't want government promoting religion, but a Nativity is hardly proselytizing at sword point. Rather, it is a reflection of that community, and as long as equal time was made for other traditions of community members (like Jews and Muslims), well, it seems like that would be a happy compromise.
More important that inane court fights, when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, they are virtually never trying to
A) make you be a Christian
B) Put down your religion
Christmas in America rarely has much to do with God anyway. Yes, they share a name, but it has become a hybrid affair, full of a melange of traditions. Ask any 1st grader what Christmas celebrates and they're likely to tell you it's the birth of Santa. When someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas," they are usually only trying to be nice. Try to take it in that spirit.
And now, to the other side: to you who celebrate Christmas....
Pull your heads out of your....stockings, and try to realize that the world is bigger than your tiny limited experience. Some people don't celebrate Christmas. Why would they do that? Well, they could be Jewish or Muslim or any of a host of other religions. They could have had bad experiences growing up, or nor tradition whatsoever, and just aren't into it. They could have had a family member die close to Christmas, and for them the time is now a painful experience.
The point: there are a thousand valid reasons why someone would not celebrate Christmas. Don't let that stop you, but try to realize that not everyone is into it like you are, and your own exuberance can come across as obnoxious. Try to be respectful of other cultures, maybe even learn something about their traditions. If someone doesn't celebrate Christmas because of bad experiences, count yourself lucky you didn't go through that and try to be extra loving to the person. Let me tell you something, and if you learn nothing else in your life, learn this: a little extra compassion and understanding promotes your "Christmas Spirit" far more than forcing someone to wear a Santa hat, accept a gift or eat your kids' awful cookies.
Good one, Hyperion. Good one.
We here at International Day celebrate all forms of Winter Holidays, both out of compassion and as a opportunity for you to give me presents! (Giving helps you!!)
We celebrate the following (and would love to add more if you know of any)....
Dinosaur Present Day (Featuring T-Rex)
Ramadan (I know it's already happened, but if you want to send me presents....)
May whatever holiday you subscribe to be all the awesome you can handle
Monday, December 19, 2011
It seems like a good time to honor Carson Williams, the dude who first did that Winter Wizards thing, setting up the lights at his house in sync to the Trans Siberian Orchestra, backin 2004. You had to have seen the video, but chances are you have not seen it in awhile.
I saw that Miller Lite had a commercial based on this. I sure hope they paid Carson royalties. Anyway, the original, and one of the coolest things ever: Winter Wizards!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
I have had you furrowing your brow now for five days straight. It is time to relax and enjoy the lighter side of Christmas, with these Christmas jokes! (Ahem: some of these jokes are for when the kids go to bed! I have Asterisks next to those jokes so you can skip them if you are trying to stay pure.)
What does Father Christmas suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney ?
Santa Claustrophobia !
Who delievers cat's Christmas presents ?
Santa Paws !
Why does Father Christmas go down the chimney ?
Because it soots him !
Who delievers elephants' Christmas presents?
Elephanta Claus !
***Why are women's breasts like a train set a kid gets at Christmas time ?
Because they were originally made for children but the father wants to play with them.
***What do the female reindeer do when Santa takes the male reindeer out on Christmas Eve ?
They go into town, and blow a few bucks.
Once upon a time, there was a fellow who was down on his luck, and as he was looking through the classifieds, he saw an intriguing ad offering a ten million dollar reward to the person who could find and retrieve, intact, something called a "tis bottle."
Having nothing to lose, he calls the man who placed the ad. "I absolutely must have this bottle, and there are only three surviving in the world," the wealthy man tells him, "one is in the heart of the deepest jungle, one is at the bottom of the coldest, darkest sea, and one is at the top of the highest mountain. I will pay your expenses for however long it takes to bring me one of these bottles, as well as giving you the ten million."
Being an adventurous fellow, he decides to accept the offer.
First, he gathers a retinue of guides and hunters to go with him into the jungle. He studies for months to prepare, and when he is ready to survive, he sets out to get the bottle. Into the jungle he goes, and after many close calls, and much loss of life, he finds the bottle.
As he is on his way out of the jungle with the bottle well packed and padded, he is attacked by wild animals, and not only is he badly mauled, but the box with the tis bottle goes flying, and box and bottle shatter.
It takes some time for him to recover from his injuries, but when he's well enough, he begins preparations to retrieve the bottle at the bottom of the sea. He takes diving lessons, hires the newest and best deep-sea diving equipment and crew, and takes to the sea. With little trouble, they managed to get the bottle, but on the way up, they are attacked by sharks, and have to rush to the surface. In the hurry, the fellow not only gets the bends, but the bottle falls and breaks on the deck. More time in the hospital later, recovering slowly, he's more determined than ever to get the third and final bottle.
He spends over a year learning mountain climbing and survival, becoming accustomed to low oxygen and heights, and planning the ultimate shatter-proof container for the bottle. He hires a crew of experienced guides and begins his climb. By the time they reach the top, they're low on supplies, weak, and frostbitten, but he will not give up. The bottle is packed and secured, and the group begins the descent. When they reach the bottom of the mountain, the fellow again has to spend time in the hospital recovering from his injuries, but he keeps the bottle with him and in sight at all times.
Finally, he's ready to present it to the wealthy man and collect his reward.
He goes to the wealthy man's house, and carefully unpacks the "tis bottle" and hands it over. The wealthy man inspects it joyfully, and hands the fellow a check for ten million dollars.
"Thank you and good day, sir," he says, dismissing the fellow.
"Wait!" The fellow cries, “I was attacked by wild animals, suffered the bends, and lost fingers and toes for this bottle.
I've spent years looking for it, and almost as long in the hospital from trying to get it. Aren't you going to tell me why it's so precious and what it's for?"
"Um, it's a little embarrassing, actually. Why don't you just take the money and go?"
"I'm not leaving here until you tell me what this bottle is for!" Shouts the fellow.
With a sigh, the wealthy man motions for the fellow to follow him. They go into the back of the house, and the wealthy man presses a hidden button to reveal a secret door.
Behind the door is a small room with another door, behind a strong gate. The wealthy man unlocks the gate, unlocks the door, and opens the heavy vault door behind it with a combination. Inside the vault are thousands of bottles lined up neatly, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with one vacant spot labeled "tis". Gently the man places the bottle in its spot, and declares "There you go."
"Oh, come on," the fellow replies. "There has to be more to it than that."
With a sigh, the man picks up a delicate, padded mallet that hangs nearby and gently begins striking the bottles, and a tune emerges.
"'Tis the season to be jolly..."
Saturday, December 17, 2011
[In 2007, when this Advent originally ran, Day 5 fell on December 7th. Don't Hate on Hawaii: PRETEND!]
Today is Pearl Harbor Day. What does this have to do with Advent? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.
The original Advent meant preparing for the return of the Lord. As in the Second Coming. The people preparing were supposed to be readying themselves for a time when they were not going to be there anymore. They didn't know when this day would be (and still don't); they were only to be ready.
No matter what your end-times beliefs, imagine those people in Hawaii, now 66 years ago. Though snow did not cover the ground, and people were more accustomed to surfboards (not sleds), they were still preparing for Christmas. The Civilians were waking up that Sunday morning, perhaps preparing for an Advent Sunday, maybe to do Christmas decorating afterward. Soldiers on duty were perhaps daydreaming of a furlough back home to Kansas for mom's Christmas dinner.
And then in a heartbeat, everything changed.
I'm not trying to make you all doomy and gloomy. But make no mistake: we should not, we dare not ever forget those people. Not only are they our honored dead; sacrificed in the opening salvo of a horrific war to come, but they illustrate so perfectly why you should be living in the moment and enjoying this holiday season.
Maybe you're sure (whether you should be or not) that you there in Palookaville, USA are safe from all enemies foreign and domestic. But honestly: you can't be sure you'll make it to Christmas. There are car accidents, bad tickers, and Full House Marathons.
So, please, enjoy every minute that you can, especially this season. Don't miss an opportunity to just sit and talk with your family, no matter what needs to be done. Take the time to look at your tree you put up: else why put it up?
I know you're busy, everyone is. But do you think the people of Honolulu might wish they'd spent their last week a little differently? Take a lesson, and eat some cookies now.
And just so we don't end on a downer, here are snowmen dancing to Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian for "Merry Christmas.")
Friday, December 16, 2011
Advent - Day 4
"That First Tingle"
"That First Tingle"
In yesterday's Advent, I talked about the Christmas Season coming earlier and earlier, and admonished those who would carp about such things rather than take advantage. I wanted to approach the idea from a different angle. When I read my family the Advent, I asked them what are the first signs of Christmas that give you a tingle down your spine, that little extra rush.
Here are a few that I came up with:
Holiday M&Ms - I know it's hokey (especially now, as they do it for EVERYTHING, but it used to be we'd get a special green/red only holiday M&M package in December, and somehow seeing that in the stores always sort of made Christmas real.
Holiday Specials - I'm specifically thinking the classics, like Charlie Brown, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. They are always an extra reminder that it's Christmas soon.
Ceramic Decorations - My mom lives for snowmen; there are always hundreds around the house. However, most Christmas decorations only come out in December, like the little ceramic tree with all the small colored lights that go in the holes, or the ceramic nativity set. Whenever I see those around the house, I finally know it's Christmas.
How about you? What are the triggers out there to let you know it's getting close to Christmas?
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Advent – Day 3One of the things people complain about the most is how earlier and earlier the Christmas Season comes. Traditionally radio stations started playing their Christmas music the second week in December, but more recently this has rolled back, to where some stations had reportedly gone to the all Christmas format as early as the end of Halloween. (And let us not even get started on the stores….)
Assault of the Santa
Assault of the Santa
We could make an entertaining case for the obvious Conspiracy Triumvirate of Big Retail, Big Greeting Card and Big Candy, but in a Big-Picture sense, it is understandable this push to “extend” the Christmas season beyond the borders of December. There is a natural inclination to be in the “Christmas Spirit” as long as possible. Say what we will about holiday stress, for many, the Christmas Season is a time to go shopping for loved ones, attend parties, bake cookies, and pull out our favorite decorations and all that other fun stuff. Strangers tend to be nicer to each other around Christmas, and it is no great sin that some would look to make that feeling last as long as possible.
What I do not get is the vitriol heard in opposition. People act as if they are physically assaulted because radio stations go Santa a few weeks early. As if red and green banners at the mall are somehow causing seizures. Yeah, I get it: they want us to buy more to help their bottom lines. I got news for you: you are in a freaking mall! You have already lost any argument you could make about pleas for your dignity and attempts to snatch at your pocketbook.
In case you still are confused, I developed a little formula to help you out:
You inside a retail store = you not poor = shut your whiny yapOr, put another way, if this is what you are complaining about, you really do have it made. So they put up Christmas a few weeks early. Is it really so awful to hear familiar carols a few more times? Is it going to kill you if Main Street puts up their big candy canes on Veteran’s Day instead of a fortnight later?
And maybe, just maybe, will the Christmas trappings remind you to be a little bit kinder to the people around you? After all, you may have to put up with the horror that is hearing Silent Night one more time, but they have to put up with you.
Lesson #3: Choose to focus on the positive aspects of Christmas that make you feel good rather than complain about something that really isn’t that big of a deal.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'"'
~Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide
I was so proud of myself. I had my Day 2 Advent all written, and was ready to put it up. I took a break to watch a movie, only to find the Internet connection down when I returned to computer.
I was disappointed, but it reaffirms one of the central themes I'm going for this month: if you are alive, you're doing okay.
Whatever happens to you today, tomorrow, the rest of the month: as long as it doesn't kill you, you'll survive. In fact, if your attitude is right, you can even make it work for you.
Here I was set to write about Christmas Music, but Life (in one of its vagary disguises) got in the way. So, I'm turning it into an object lesson, and by doing so, making one less Advent I have to write! (That's a double-dub AND an okie-doke!)
Lesson #2: you can't always control what happens to you, but you can choose how you react.
Enjoy the Season!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Hyperion’s (and Friends) Celebrate Advent
Day #1 – Thoughts on Advent
I thought I would start with the word Advent itself, since many people (myself included) do not know what it means. If you have grown up in church you know about the four Sundays of Advent, and maybe you had one of those little calendars growing up, where each day you peel back a little square of cardboard to see the picture or words inside and get a treat. (Usually the treats somehow disappeared by Day 5, but you used the same calendar for years.)
The word Advent comes from the Latin Advenio or Adventus, itself a translation of the Greek word Parousia. They all mean, “to come,” and back when originally coined referred to the second coming of Christ.
Put aside any religious beliefs (or disbeliefs) you have for a second and think about the sheer scale of what early humanity waited for. There was no email, no Internet, no post office, no telephone, fax or wire. One did not travel by airplane or car. You went somewhere by walking, or, if lucky, by donkey and then later horse.
In other words, for the most part, humanity has spent their time waiting for literally everything. This is even more magnified when viewed through the prophetic lens of waiting a Messiah, a savior. Time for that was not measured in minutes, hours, days or even years, but in lifetimes, many of them.
Now think about your own life. Think about how angry you get with an extra ten minutes added because of traffic, a drive-thru line that seems to take forever, or the time you spend on hold trying to get through to your bank. Yes, we are all busy, and we want the express line full of people using the Visa Scan and go cards, our dentist to be ready when the appointment time says, and the meeting to get over now, because we’re hungry.
I am not trying to minimize that. But maybe just for a day, think of what people who came before you waited on to come, and how long they did so. Is it really going to kill you to gain a fresh perspective, and realize whatever you are waiting on, others have waited longer, and for more important?
If nothing else, be glad you’re not them.
Lesson #1 - We all have to wait for something