The Day After

December 26, 2017 – Few things puzzle me more than folks rushing to the mall the day after Christmas, whether it’s to return gifts or find the best bargains. It may be a popular thing to do on December 26, but shopping is the last thing on my mind, and my wallet appreciates that.

Perhaps shopping for some is a way to avoid the post holiday blues. It’s common to feel let down when Christmas is over. You put so much time and preparation into Christmas, and the day passes much too quickly. In fact, psychologist say the more you prepare and the more exciting the holiday is for you, the more you may feel letdown the day after. Our brains need to establish equilibrium, and the higher we are, the lower we must fall to settle back into that middle space.

The let down may also be why many countries around the world celebrate Boxing Day, a day after Christmas tradition that started in England during the Victorian era when the wealthy would box up gifts they didn’t need and bring them to the poor. It’s a nice thought. As a child, my mom and dad asked us to pick one of our gifts to give to baby Jesus. On Christmas night, we had to place that gift back under the tree and it was gone the next morning. I found out when I was older that those gifts actually went to less fortunate kids.

I enjoy the day after Christmas because it’s when my entire family gets together. With some of us living in different states and others with obligations elsewhere, it’s typically the only day of the year when all 18 immediate family members are in the same room.

Oddly, my post holiday blues start on January 1, the day I should embrace the new start that lies ahead. I’m usually a glass half full kind of person, but there’s something a little sad about New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The holidays are officially over and the long winter sets in. Thankfully the feeling is short-lived.

This year I am determined to focus on the positive and feel excited for what 2018 has in store. I will treat New Year’s Day with the respect it deserves. It’s won’t just be the day the decorations come down. I’ll wait for January 2 to do that.

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Christmas on the Block

December 18, 2017 – Nothing says it’s Christmastime like Alan Mann’s Christmas on the Block.

If you’re a Philadelphian who listened to WMMR in the 1980’s, you’re probably familiar with this song and love it as much as I do. If not, listen to it below and I dare you to not become enchanted.

Alan Mann was a local singer/songwriter who played clubs in Philly during era of The Hooters and Robert Hazard. Sadly he died in 1987 after jumping out of his South Street apartment window to escape a fire inside the building. His legacy, a touching tribute to a Philadelphia home for the blind in the Overbrook section that decorated their house with Christmas lights for their neighbors, thankfully lives on.

Legend has it that it was the first music video from an independent artist to be shown on MTV, and we have Yoko Ono to thank for that. She heard the song and loved it, believing it sounded like something John Lennon would’ve written.

Merry Christmas!

Crescent Moons, Magazines and Peppermint Tea

downloadDecember 2, 2016 – Anyone up for solving a mystery?

The song, My Favorite Things, from the musical The Sound of Music, is played at Christmas each year, and I’m not sure why. Aside from the lyrics “brown paper packages tied up with string, or snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes” – and are a both a stretch – there isn’t a reference to December 25 or any of its holiday traditions. Yet artists from Tony Bennett to Luther Vandross include it on their Christmas recordings.

And while we’re on the subject … the items Rogers and Hammerstein mention in their song are nice, they aren’t included on a list of my favorites. If I were to rewrite the song, I’d include the things below:

Curtains fluttering in the breeze
Early morning walks with my camera
Georgia O’Keeffe and Vincent Van Gogh paintings
Sunflowers and daisies
Crescent moons
Lighthouses
Sunsets at the beach
Crisp mornings in autumn
My brother-in-law’s margaritas
Long drives
Magazines and peppermint tea
Mack’s Pizza at the Jersey shore
Listening to Joni Mitchell on Sunday mornings
Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream
Warm towels straight from the dryer

Do we need a little Christmas?

we-need-a-little-christmasNovember 23, 2015 – Pope Francis shared an opinion last week that may make some of us want to cry into our figgy pudding.

“Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen war and hate,” he said. “Christmas is a charade this year because the whole world is at war.”

Of course, he’s not saying that Christmas is a charade in the religious sense, but rather because we celebrate the season and sing songs about joy and peace. That may seem a bit hypocritical considering the violence of the last few weeks and cries of hatred and racism around our country and the world. No doubt, it is a terrible time in history.

Pope Francis seems like a kind man who speaks from his heart. He earned the title the people’s Pope because he is filled with empathy for every citizen on this planet. Someone who is as sensitive and as caring as he seems could easily believe it is wrong to partake in the season’s festivities. It brings to mind something I think of often, that a mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child. I can relate to that.

Still, tragedy at Christmas isn’t anything new. As long as humans have existed there has been violence, war and tragedy both natural and man-made. Yet, we have always celebrated Christmas because it symbolizes hope. Without sounding too much like a Hallmark movie, we need all the hope we can get, and we need that special feeling only Christmas can bring.

There will always be tragedy and violence in the world because there has never been peace on earth. Call me shallow, but I for one need Christmas to help me believe that some day there will be.

The best things about Christmas…

Colorful-Christmas-TreeDecember 15, 2014 – The holidays are here and it’s time to celebrate. Here are 10 things I look forward to each year during the magical time between Thanksgiving and the New Year:

1. Spending time with family and friends
2. The music
3. The lights
4. Sipping on hot chocolate (and other spirits!)
5. Classic Christmas movies
6. Other people’s Christmas cookies since I am missing the baking gene
7. Charlie Brown and the gang
8. Watching our kids open gifts
9. The seemingly endless of versions of “A Christmas Carol”
10. Taking time off

I’m taking a proper holiday this year, from both work and this blog, to recharge my batteries and get those creative juices flowing again. I will continue posting on schedule with some of my favorite blog posts of the past four years, and will be back on January 2, 2015 with new material.

Until then, have a wonderful season celebrating whatever you believe, or whatever makes you happy!

Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Christmas

ptree1December 1, 2014 — Now that Thanksgiving is over and December is here, ’tis the season to crank up the Christmas tunes.

It’s also time to wonder why certain songs are played at Christmas that have nothing to do with the holiday, like the ones below:

Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg weaves a touching story in a song that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, but rather the chance meeting that occurs on Christmas Eve. While home for the holidays, he runs into an old girlfriend at the grocery store. They talk about their unfulfilled dreams and mundane lives, and it turns sadder when they say goodbye as the snow turns into rain, a gut-wrenching last line that’s enough to make anyone cry. The song touches us because we can all relate to it in some way. However, it doesn’t make you want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

River – Joni Mitchell
In “River”, Joni Mitchell shares another love story gone wrong. Sad stuff, but why do many artists cover it on their Christmas albums? Sure, it’s a great song, and the first line indicates, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,” but that’s it. Mitchell wishes she had a river to skate away on in this song, to escape the sadness that has set in since she screwed things up with her lover. Sad situations occur year round unfortunately, but they are not typically the subject of the jolly Christmas tunes. I also read an interview where Joni recently stated she despises when folks sing the song with a smile on their face.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way – Jim Croce
“Snowy nights and Christmas lights, icy window panes, make me wish that we could be together again.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Jim Croce’s sad little ballad is the third love gone wrong song on this list. Believing this is a Christmas tune is like believing “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie because it takes place on Christmas Eve. I suppose the Christmas season at times magnifies what is missing in your life, but let’s wait until January to obsess about heart-break. Christmas songs should be about joy and peace.

My Favorite Things – Various Artists
This song, from “The Sound of Music” is nice enough, but doesn’t remotely relate to Christmas, or even occur during the season like those above. If Christmas is one of the songwriter’s favorite things, he doesn’t mention it. Warm woolen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string could be considered Christmassy if you stretch it, but it is not a holiday song, no matter how many artists record it on their Christmas albums. Julie Andrews, who is most associated with this song, didn’t include it on her Christmas recording. She knew better.

Any song about the cold weather  – Various Artists
“Frosty the Snowman”, “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and even “Jingle Bells” may be associated with  Christmas and played throughout the season, but they have more to do with cold weather and snow than the holiday. In the Northern Hemisphere it makes sense. We associate cold and snowy weather with Christmas because it is cold and snowy in December. What about the folks in the Southern Hemisphere? Many celebrate Christmas in these countries, where it’s summer in December. Makes you wonder if they include “Catch a Wave” or “Surfer Girl” in their Christmas song repertoire.

Songs played at Christmas that have nothing to do with Christmas

imagesDecember 18, 2013 – ‘Tis the season to crank up the Christmas tunes. It’s also time to wonder why certain songs are played at Christmas that have nothing to do with the holiday, like the ones below:

Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg weaves a touching story in a song that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, the chance meeting simply occurs on Christmas Eve. While home for the holidays, he runs into an old girlfriend at the grocery store. They talk about their unfulfilled dreams and mundane lives, and it turns sadder when they say goodbye as the snow turns into rain, a gut-wrenching last line that’s enough to make anyone cry. The song touches us because we can all relate to it in some way. However, it doesn’t make you want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

River – Joni Mitchell
In “River”, Joni Mitchell shares another love story gone wrong. Sad stuff, but why the play at Christmas, and why do many artists cover it on their Christmas albums? Sure, it’s a great song, and the first line indicates, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,” but that’s it. Mitchell wishes she had a river to skate away on in this song, to escape the sadness that has set in since she screwed things up with her lover. Sad situations occur year round unfortunately, but they are not typically the subject of the jolly Christmas tunes.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way – Jim Croce
“Snowy nights and Christmas lights, icy window panes, make me wish that we could be together again.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Jim Croce’s sad little ballad is the third love gone wrong song on this list. Believing this is a Christmas tune is like believing “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie because it takes place on Christmas Eve. I suppose the Christmas season at times magnifies what is missing in your life, but let’s wait until January to obsess about heart-break. Christmas songs should be about joy and peace.

My Favorite Things – Various Artists
This song, from “The Sound of Music” is nice enough, but doesn’t remotely relate to Christmas, or even occur during the season like those above. If Christmas is one of the songwriter’s favorite things, he doesn’t mention it. Warm woolen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string could be considered Christmassy if you stretch it, but it is not a holiday song, no matter how many artists record it on their Christmas albums. Julie Andrews, who is most associated with this song, didn’t include it on her Christmas recording. She knew better.

Any song about the cold weather  – Various Artists
“Frosty the Snowman”, “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and even “Jingle Bells” may be associated with  Christmas and played throughout the season, but they have more to do with cold weather and snow than the holiday. In the Northern Hemisphere it makes sense. We associate cold and snowy weather with Christmas because it is cold and snowy in December. What about the folks in the Southern Hemisphere? Many celebrate Christmas in these countries, where it’s summer in December. Makes you wonder if they include “Catch a Wave” or “Surfer Girl” in their Christmas song repertoire.