Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

nypbi7re7ai6vkwtccicsdsbri

Photo: Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe
Dana Mendes held his niece, Izariel Brown, 5, as he walked around Boston’s annual Christmas in the City, a happy event for homeless children.

The other day, I was talking to a woman about her idyllic-sounding childhood on the island of Dominica in the West Indies. One thing that she mentioned really struck me. No one was homeless. People looked after each other, she said.

That is how it should be, I thought. In a country like the US, where there is enough wealth to house and care for everyone if we have the will, I’m naturally grateful that homeless children get a joyful day in December but can’t help wishing that their happiness didn’t get rolled up and put away afterward.

In this update on the giant Boston Christmas party that started small in 1989, we learn about the illness of event founder and lead organizer Jack Kennedy, who wouldn’t miss this party for the world.

Naomi Martin writes at the Boston Globe, “The children and parents awoke Sunday in homeless shelters around Greater Boston and boarded school buses, some with no idea where they were going other than to a Christmas event.

“As they entered the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, solemn faces broke into wide smiles and dropped jaws as they stepped onto a red carpet toward people waving and applauding them, along with extravagantly costumed characters — Disney princesses and Superman, Star Wars storm troopers and the Incredibles — all there to welcome them. Snowflake confetti fluttered. Lights sparkled. Parents dance-walked to the upbeat Christmas tunes, filming their children’s faces on phones, some with tears in their eyes.

“ ‘Wow, it’s beautiful!’ said Aylajoy Dufresne, 5, who wore a pink tutu, as she ran to princess Elena of Avalor and hugged her. ‘Elena!’ …

“Thousands of volunteers rallied this year to serve more than 6,000 people from dozens of shelters at the 31st annual Christmas in the City, which has grown from a small gathering at City Hall in 1989 to a massive party thrown for families struggling with homelessness.

“The event featured performances by the Blue Man Group, a gospel choir, and an Afro-Caribbean band, as well as a petting zoo, amusement rides, Santa Claus photo booths, face paint, manicures, haircuts, dental screenings, flu shots, and white-clothed tables holding pizza, chicken tenders, and gingerbread cookies.

“This year took on particular poignancy because the founder and lead organizer, Jake Kennedy, 64, has been diagnosed with ALS, which took the lives of his father and brother. Kennedy’s son, Zack, a neuroscientist at University of Massachusetts Medical School, has dedicated himself to researching a cure for the lethal disease. …

“Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston stood onstage beside Kennedy and his wife, Sparky, and expressed his gratitude and admiration of Jake Kennedy.

“ ‘Many of you in this room might not know him personally, but he does this because he loves you,’ Walsh said. ,,,

“Offstage, Kennedy struggled to speak, though he made a point to say one thing.

“ ‘When you ask people what they like best — the winter wonderland, Santa, the food, the Blue Man Group — they all reply,

‘ “This is the first time in our lives we’ve been treated with dignity and compassion,” ‘ Kennedy said. ‘That’s because of the volunteers.’ …

“Many parents said they were thrilled to see their children laughing and having fun with activities they can rarely access.

“ ‘I don’t want to miss anything; this is beautiful,’ said Anthony Raye, as he and his son, Antonio, 10, plotted their next moves: face-painting and visiting animals. …

“By a ‘salon’ sign, hairstylists buzzed, cut, and blow-dried the hair of parents and kids. Aaron Lauderdale, 7, received a mohawk, his face painted like a green Grinch.

“ ‘This is the one and only time I’ll let him have a mohawk,’ said his mother, Natashia Lauderdale. ‘This is his day. I’m just along for the ride. I feel like a big little kid all over again.’

“A parade led by men playing bagpipes filed through the room, followed by Santa Claus on a raised platform. The Kennedys led a countdown, prompting a red curtain to rise on one wall, leading to a winter wonderland of amusement rides and a petting zoo. Children clamored for a carousel, flying chair swings, bouncy castles, super slides, trampolines, and a rock-climbing wall. …

“Amelia McCauley pushed her 2-year-old, Lauryal, in a stroller. ‘I feel special,’ she said. ‘I don’t know when something like this is going to come by again, so I just want to enjoy it.’ ” More here.

 

Read Full Post »

img-1251_orig

Photo: Thomas Jones
Hafod Hardware in Rhayader, Powys, Wales, has a story to tell about generations working in a family business. Its low-budget, Christmas advertising video has gone viral.

The Holy Grail of many small businesses is a video ad that touches people in such a meaningful way that it goes viral. I am not sure if going viral necessarily generates a lot of business, but it definitely generates attention.

Consider, for example, this hardware store in Wales. Unless you lived nearby, you would not actually be able to shop there regularly. But I think that after seeing this video, you might go out of your way to buy something one day and take a selfie.

Copied more or less from the style of a department store giant with a huge ad budget, the ad has managed, on a shoestring, to draw a large following. According to the Guardian, that’s because the small family business has a real story to tell.

Stuart Heritage’s report starts with the department store. “This year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, in which a dragon tries to kill several people then holds up a pudding, reportedly cost £7m [$9,190,300] to make. And that’s fine. It’s a good advert, and John Lewis has a reputation to uphold, and you can’t really put a price on the half a morning of vaguely duty-bound Twitter buzz it generated.

“However, by no means is it the best Christmas ad this year. That plaudit now goes to Hafod Hardware, a tiny independent family-run hardware store in Rhayader, Powys, whose ad cost just £100 [$131.35] to make. …

“A little boy wakes up. He brushes his teeth, eats his breakfast and goes to work. He opens the shop, fixes a broom; he cleans the counter and restocks the shelves. He serves a customer, does a bit of accounting, serves another customer. At the end of the day he switches off the light, bends down to pick up a Christmas tree and – PLOT TWIST! – he’s actually a 30-year-old man. The strapline comes up: ‘Be a kid this Christmas’. …

“The advert is being hailed as a celebration of traditional Christmas spirit, the strength of the independent, and the importance of community. … [But] while it’s impressive that the shop has only spent £100 on the ad – and that was to pay for an engineer to record the song on the soundtrack – it still manages to crib pretty heavily from the John Lewis playbook. There’s a kid. There’s a tree. There’s a slowed-down cover version of a well-loved song. …

“But let’s not be too mean-spirited. The fact is that the Hafod Hardware advert packs an almighty punch, because of the history of the shop itself. It has been open since 1895, fending off competition from bigger companies with every step; and it’s a true family shop, passed down through the generations.

“The grandfather in the advert is the nephew of the founder, the man at the end (his son) runs the shop with him and the little boy could feasibly grow up to run the shop after him. Any old idiot can get a kid to sweep up a shop, but the magic of the ad is that it shows the real flesh and blood lineage of Hafod Hardware. It’s the beating heart of the community, and has been for years. No amount of money can buy that.”

If you were making a video for your business that you hoped would click with a large audience, what would you put in it?

More at the Guardian, here.

Read Full Post »

No Christmas Snow

122318-Ukrainian-erector-set

A handful of snowflakes came down on Christmas Eve Day, but not enough for me to shoot a snowy picture. Although I was mighty tired of snow last March, I would have liked to see some this week.

A fresh snowfall is pretty, but I guess I’m glad the roads are dry. Our plan for Christmas is to watch John’s children open presents early, then come home and get ready for our Christmas dinner, which shouldn’t be hard as two of the world’s best cooks are bringing more than half the meal.

Suzanne, meanwhile, is in the Caribbean with the Swedish side of the family. Note the photo of her kids learning a traditional song from their Swedish-Danish cousins while dancing around the tree (actually, it’s a lamp this year) on an island that probably never sees snow.

In other December photos: John’s children getting creative with an erector set (who needs to know what the Ukrainian directions say?), an Amaryllis on Erik’s piano as well as his Santa Lucia and Swedish creche, early Christmas gift-opening before the trip to the Caribbean, and family members enjoying 80-degree weather. Finally, the Swedish tomtens that my husband and I received in time for Christmas.

I hope that those who celebrate this holiday have a merry one, and I send warm wishes to everyone. See you tomorrow.

121718-amaryllis

122018-Swedish-creche-and-Lucia

122018-ripping-thru-the-presents

122018-ripping-thru-the-presents-at-breakneck-speed

122418-Christmas-in-Guadalupe

20181224-cousins-teach-Swedish-tradition

121118-tomtens-and-Christmas-tree

Read Full Post »

b3779f65b0e54b7b26f7acf8d3118b5b4e29c20a078b0d2750321b2c9105ddce

Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT
The history of the Christmas market at Gamla Stan in Stockholm is described in a newspaper’s Swedish Advent calendar series.

This year I started following on twitter a newspaper called The Local. It covers Sweden, which is nice for me because my son-in-law is Swedish. Today’s post is on a series the paper has featured this month.

“Every day until Christmas Eve, The Local explains the unique history behind Swedish Christmas traditions in our own Advent calendar. …

“For centuries, Swedish Christmas markets have brought warmth and light to the darkest time of the year. Visiting a Swedish Christmas market (julmarknad) isn’t just a great way of becoming truly immersed in Sweden’s Christmas traditions, it may also be one of the best ways, short of a time machine, to experience what life was like in the past.

“The history of the festive markets goes back to 14th century Germany, and Sweden appears to have adopted the Christmas market not long afterward. Much like today, the earliest Christmas markets were typically held in town squares throughout the month of December, and featured small stalls where merchants and craftspeople could sell their wares.

“At Stortorget, Stockholm’s oldest square located in what is now known as Gamla Stan, markets were held at different times throughout the year as early as the 1300s, and there is evidence that one of these was held in connection with the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle on December 21st.

“In 1523, during the first year of his reign, King Gustav Vasa established a permanent Christmas market at Stortorget. Though there have been periods over the centuries when the Stortorget julmarknad has not operated, it is still the oldest such market in Sweden and one of the oldest in Europe.

“When the Stortorget julmarknad was established, the king took care to stipulate that only Swedish goods were sold, a tradition carried on today by Stockholms-Gillet, which has organized the market since 1915. …

“Scents from traditional Swedish favourites like warm glögg, brända mandlar (candied almonds), and julgodis like knäck permeate the air just as they have in the past.

“The traditional foods and handicrafts offered for sale give a glimpse of life in the past, as well as the opportunity to incorporate them into modern life. The sense of stepping back in time is enhanced when attending a julmarknad at a historic location, or at one of Sweden’s fantastic open-air museums, such as Skansen in Stockholm. …

“Each day until Christmas Eve, we’re looking at the story behind one Swedish festive tradition. Find the rest of our #SwedishChristmas series here.”

Other topics covered: How one Swedish woman influenced the candy cane, Sweden’s favourite Christmas film, how a folklore tomte became Sweden’s Santa, and how glögg sends Swedish wine consumption through the roof.

Erik has been known to warm our insides with glögg at Christmas. But not this year: the Swedish side of the family is celebrating in Guadalupe and keeping warm by the swimming pool.

Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
The gingersnap: A humble cookie’s journey from holy medicine to Swedish Christmas favourite.

2afb2a65c3df73b3babaaffb57881a69d1631dc96739114f7b99015167cd940f

Read Full Post »

121118-gingerbread-house-plus-garage

Today I’m posting recent photos, including a few gingerbread pictures that really get me into the spirit of the season.

The first is of a gingerbread house that two of my grandchildren decorated. You can see that they also made a garage from some extra pieces of gingerbread.

Next there’s one of my shadow pictures, followed by the random donkey that graces the yard at Boston’s old city hall.

Background for the photo after that: About a week ago all four grandchildren were at a Christmas crafts workshop where grownups in elf hats made everything run smoothly. The next day I found elf hats on parking meters around town.

Next are several gingerbread creations at annual displays in town. The tree house, hobbit house, Victorian advertisement for the Gentleman Handyman, and the Acton Dental house with Santa inside in the dentist chair are all at the Colonial Inn. The last gingerbread house is in the library and is created every year by a local physician who starts to work weeks in advance.

Finally, what’s this? Another shadow picture. A Christmas-y one this time.

113018-lamp-shadow

120518-donkey-at-old-city-hall

120318-elf-hat-on-meter

120318-Colonial-Inn-gingerbread-treehouse

 

120318-Hobbit-Home-in-gingerbread

120318-Gentleman-Handyman-gingerbread

120318-Santa-at-the-dentist

120918-gingerbread-at-the-library

120718-shadow-of-Xmas-wreath

Read Full Post »

otherwiseman4

Art: Robert T. Barrett
The “other” wise man, meeting the needs that cross his path, is too late to present gifts to the baby in the manger. But “Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I loved this story as a child. Just for you, I present a summary from Wikipedia, slightly edited.

“The Story of the Other Wise Man,” by Henry van Dyke, was initially published in 1895. The story is an expansion of the account of the Biblical Magi. It tells about a “fourth” wise man, a priest of the Magi named Artaban, one of the Medes from Persia. Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child — a sapphire, a ruby, and a “pearl of great price.”

However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet with the caravan of the other three wise men. Because he missed the caravan, and he can’t cross the desert with only a horse, he is forced to sell one of his treasures in order to buy the camels and supplies necessary for the trip. He then commences his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the child, whose parents have fled to Egypt. He saves the life of a child at the price of another of his treasures.

He then travels to Egypt and to many other countries, searching for Jesus for many years and performing acts of charity along the way. After 33 years, Artaban arrives in Jerusalem just as Jesus as been condemned to death. He spends his last treasure, the pearl, to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery. He is then badly injured in an accident and realizes he is dying. He has failed to meet Jesus because he has been busy meeting the needs that appear before him.

Then he hears a voice: “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”(Matthew 25:40) His treasures have been accepted.

Read Full Post »

singing

Photo: Teachingtimes.com
Could these faces lifted in song be any sweeter?

I was tired of “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” before I got through Thanksgiving this year. Maybe you felt the same. Why is it so rare to hear carols like “I Wonder as I Wander,” the haunting “Minuit, Chrétiens,” or authentic Gospel music at this season?

Today I decided to correct that loss a little with YouTube music that should not make anyone feel like running and hiding. I’d love it if you would share your favorite seasonal music with other readers in the Comments.

Above, the Choir of Kings College sings “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Next we have the Cambridge Singers with “I Wonder as I Wander.”

Finally, whatever one’s faith or feelings about religion, who can resist the voice of Harry Belafonte with his honeyed Jamaican diction? (Note where the person typing the lyrics wrote “the” instead of what he really said, which is so much more charming.)

 

Read Full Post »

Photo: SWNS
Annis Lindkvist, right, and her younger sister, Emma Åhlström, with Jimmy Fraser, a homeless Scot they invited for Christmas in Sweden. 

I have never been sure how to react to someone who is homeless, but I have learned smiling is better than walking past, head down.

Mother Teresa said to smile. A woman who runs an excellent Rhode Island homeless agency told me she doesn’t give anyone money but talks to people and tries to see if she can help with a referral or something to eat. A formerly homeless veteran told me he always talks to veterans and tells them where to find veterans services. Once he took in a stranger overnight. Some people will buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

Last week as I was talking to an employee of a refugee agency, I became curious about how he was led to his current work. He said, “One day I stopped walking past people.”

He didn’t initially look for refugee work, but he landed there after launching his personal outreach to homeless people and a subsequent stint in Americorps. He used to talk to people on the New York City streets, asked what they needed and delivered food, socks, and as many of their needs as he could.

So many good people out there showing kindness one person at a time!

This Guardian story about a Swedish tourist in Scotland who not only befriended a homeless man but invited him for Christmas with her family (and sent him airfare) is really over the top.

Libby Brooks writes, “A homeless man from Edinburgh has described the ‘incredible act of kindness’ of a tourist who invited him to spend Christmas at her family home in Sweden.

“Jimmy Fraser was begging on George Street in the city centre when Annis Lindkvist and her sister Emma, from Sagmyra in central Sweden, asked him for directions.

“They struck up a friendship and swapped numbers at the end of the trip, staying in touch by text before Lindkvist offered to pay for his flights so he could spend a week with her family over the festive period.

“Fraser, who became homeless following his divorce 13 years ago, said: ‘It’s weird, I know. I was begging on George Street and these two women came up to me and the next thing I knew I was in Sweden. People promise you things all the time on the street but they never materialise.

” ‘But I thought I’m going to go for it as it’s once in a lifetime. I couldn’t believe it anyway at first. People tell you “see you tomorrow, I’ll get you a drink” and then nothing happens. But this did happen, actually, so it was really weird.’

“The 54-year-old former security guard, who went to an ice hockey match, Christmas markets and midnight mass with his host’s family and friends, told the BBC News website: ‘It was a beautiful experience.’ …

“Lindkvist described her own doubts about issuing such an open invitation to a stranger. ‘We give money to charity every month but we have never done anything like this before,’ she said. ‘There were friends and family who thought I was really crazy, but I just opened my home to him and said everything that is ours was his too.’

“The 37-year-old, who works with dementia sufferers, said she had invited Fraser back to stay with the family again over the Easter break, and that he was ‘part of the family now.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

122315-Colonial-Inn-Concord

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wherein the grandmother is too tired to talk but will describe the photos. Wreaths on the Colonial Inn, grandson with new truck, church nativity scene early Christmas morning, Christmas tree at John’s house, grandfather with two granddaughters.

So much fun to be around little kids at Christmas. Also very good for sleeping soundly the following night.

Xmas2015-dump-tirck

122515-creche-in-shadow

 

 

 

 

122515-tree-in-Arlington

 

 

 

 

 

 

122515-girls-with-grandfather

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

outing-to-cut-a-tree

Here is Suzanne the one year we cut our own tree. I think she had the most fun of the four of us. The thermos had hot chocolate.

We set our sights on smaller trees nowadays, and my husband just put this year’s in the stand. I’ve been gearing up to decorate, first looking through the ornaments. It’s like greeting old friends after a year. Some of them are very familiar and beloved, but I can’t remember their stories. Here are a few whose stories I do remember.

The big red one on the lower step: from the Crafts for Christmas class I took the year we were married. Amazing what you can do cutting up egg cartons!

The sparkly tear-drop shape and the doorknob cover: from the church’s craft workshop when John and Suzanne were young. The angel with sequins: made by Aunt Mae in her 90s. She also made the smiling snowman backed by a green star and many other items — in secret, to surprise everyone. The round milk-bottle-cap ornament: don’t get me started now on highly educated women with no occupation spending their time on that. But I like to think of the woman who made it, with sympathy.

The soldier with John’s name on it: that was a gift from Aunt Peggy.

The Esperanto green star: from a friend in my Esperanto group. The two crocheted Chinese dolls: from a trip to the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake when Suzanne was about 1. My husband went to see a Shaw play while I babysat. I went to see hilarious concert comedienne Anna Russell while he babysat.

The bear: John was 3, and I was spending considerable time in graduate classes. John insisted my husband make a bear ornament just like that one out of cardboard. We have that too, somewhere. It doesn’t look just like that one, but we love it.

The Clymers brought the saddle from a trip to South America. John stitched the cross-stitch tree at a ridiculously young age (3? 4?).

The see-through snowball: a gift at DeAnna’s December wedding to Mairtin at the Peabody-Essex Museum.

121215-christmas-memories

 

Read Full Post »

Jordan Teicher at National Public Radio reports that Icelanders really love their books.

“Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world,” writes Teicher, “with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the ‘Christmas Book Flood.’ …

“Iceland has a long literary history dating to medieval times. Landmarks of world literature, including the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, are still widely read and translated there, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. …

” ‘Generally fiction and biographies would be the mainstays, although it varies a lot,’ [book researcher Baldur] Bjarnason says. Two years ago one of the surprise best-sellers was a pictorial overview of the history of tractors in Iceland.’ …

“The Book Flood tradition, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine‘s Hildur Knutsdottir, dates to World War II, when strict currency restrictions limited the amount of imported giftware in Iceland.

” ‘The restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, so the book emerged as the Christmas present of choice. And Icelanders have honored the tradition ever since,’ Knutsdottir writes. …

“The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don’t give e-books here,” [Bryndís Loftsdottir of the book chain Penninn-Eymundsson] says.”

More at NPR, here.

Turning briefly to the UK, here’s a columnist who believes in books. She aims to solve any personal problem you send her by recommending a book.

My own advice? Reread another Dickens.

Photo: Bryndís Loftsdottir
Browsing at an Icelandic book chain.

Read Full Post »

Do you know “The Story of the Other Wise Man,” by Henry Van Dyke? It’s about a fourth wise man who sets out with treasures to give the baby born in Bethlehem.

He never makes it, because along the way he has to spend the treasures one by one to help someone in need. At the end of his life, he feels he has failed. Then he hears a voice saying, “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

Background on the tale is at wikipedia, here. You can get the whole story at Amazon. Better yet, how about your local library?

Sleep tight, Everyone.

Art: Hans Memling
Adoration of the Magi.

Read Full Post »

After my older grandson (4-1/2) and older granddaughter (nearly 2) let me play too as they decorated their gingerbread cookies, I went home and pulled out the sugar-cookie recipe from the nursery school cookbook John made in 1975. It’s still the best.

Observation on cookie cutters: Swedes know their moose. I have several moose/reindeer cookie cutters, but the only one that works well is the one from Erik’s mother. It has plump legs and antlers. Why is that important? Because skinny legs and antlers invariably break off.

The grandson, granddaughter, and I have the same abstract aesthetic when it comes to decorating.

The Little Mermaid window ornament is from Erik’s sister, who lives in Denmark.

121414-abstract-Xmas-cookies

Read Full Post »

xmas-treeThis is the tree in my warm and cozy house. The tree in the picture below, a picture you may think is entirely black, is actually sitting all by itself on a river bank that floods in spring.

It makes me think of the carol about King Wenceslas, who “on the Feast of Stephen” (December 26) spied a poor man out in a blizzard and went with his page to take care of him. “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine; bring me pine logs hither: Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”

The story goes that “heat was in the very sod that the saint had printed.”

Not being able to heat the sod underneath our feet (or command a page, for that matter), many of us consider sending a check to a food bank at this time of year. Still too many hungry people.

tree-on-river-bank

Read Full Post »

In John’s house, I am Grandma. In Suzanne’s house, I am Mormor. Mormor means mother’s mother in Swedish. My husband is Morfar (mother’s father). Erik’s mother is Farmor (father’s mother), but when she is with her daughter’s children, she is Mormor. Got it? There will be a quiz.

Mormor and Morfar have been hanging out with the new baby’s big brother, who has his own life to live. Yesterday we picked him up at his morning-only school. Here he is offering his monkey a snack. The monkey’s name is Kompis. It means friend.

Back at the house, I cut cardboard pieces in the shape of Christmas ornaments and punched holes in the tops for hooks. We had fun gluing seasonal cutouts from magazines on the ornament shapes. (Well, to be honest, the purple glue stick was what was fun. We lost interest by the time it came to hanging our creations on the tree.)

Today we ran errands with Papa. Here you see Elder Brother checking out bathroom fixtures with the level of intensity he brings to serious activities.

120514-at-Cody-school

crafts-for-Xmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

investigating-plumbing-fixtures

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: