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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

This holiday season has been a bit “meh” for me. Perhaps it’s because we’re missing a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it all seems too rushed, perhaps it’s due to recent events in my personal life, perhaps it’s because earning only a living stipend makes buying Christmas gifts and goodies difficult, perhaps it’s due to the increased amount of driving I’ve done on icy and snowy roads with road ragey fellow drivers (true story, my car slipped on some ice right as a lady whipped around a corner. She yelled and flipped me off, looked like she was going to let me go since I was in the middle of the road due to the ice slip, then continued to pull forward; yell, curse and flip me off some more. I had my first big ugly cry in several weeks. Think snot, gasping tears and hiccups, which are not conducive to good driving so I got lost and then managed to make my GPS speak Dutch, which is ironic, because I know someone who can speak Dutch, but I can’t ask him to fix it for me*).

However, despite these not so cheery holiday feelings, I’ve spent a lot more time with my family, and I have thought a lot about the meaning of the holiday season. I will not restate the “true story of Christmas” because I think we are all familiar with the birth of Baby Jesus. I’m talking about enjoying the company of family and friends, being thankful for those who love and support us.

This holiday season actually reminds me a lot of one of my favorite books– Little WomenThe book opens with “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” That pretty much sums up my feelings on that aspect of Christmas. Just about everybody in my family (immediate and extended) is strapped for cash. There are about 5 of us participating in the annual Christmas draw (we all draw names and buy presents for the person whose name we drew) and I’m already worried about finding a good present for my aunt. I’d love to buy my friends and family a trinket or two, but as it is, I’m not sure that is possible. I’m also hosting a holiday party (not sure why I thought that was a good idea), so a lot of my funds are going towards food and drink for that extravaganza.

However, Beth, sweet and innocent Beth, reminds us of what is important. “‘We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other’, said Beth contentedly from her corner.” Of course, the March family patriarch is actually serving in the Civil War, so they don’t technically have him (which Jo is quick to point out). But despite their lack of money, their lack of a father and lack of general holiday spirit, the March girls pull themselves together and celebrate Christmas the right way. They pool their money to buy Marmee gifts, they donate much of the food they do have to the poor German family down the street and they put aside their differences and celebrate the holiday and enjoy each other’s company.

While I’ve spent far more time in my car, stuck in traffic, than I’d like, at least those car rides are taking me to family. This past weekend my mom and I were supposed to make cookies and then go see White Christmas at a refurbished 1920s theater. However, her oven chose this weekend to die. So I went off to volunteer with my University’s local alumni group and my mom went to her sister’s to bake. After realizing that I  a) had the wrong date or b) not enough people were interested in volunteering so it was cancelled, I joined my mom and my aunt. When I arrived two of my first cousin’s once removed were already there, helping my mom cut out cookies, i.e. sneaking lots of “little tastes.”  A few hours later, my cousin, her step daughter and her youngest son arrived. I enjoyed playing with the kids and visiting with my cousin before they left. A few hours after that, another cousin and his wife arrived with their two boys. We played, drank some wine and then went out for dinner.

Additionally, I shouldn’t be stressing about the money for my holiday party. I should just enjoy the fact that my friends are coming into town from far corners of the United States and want to gather together and celebrate the season.

We should take Beth’s message to heart, at least we have ______ (insert name of friend, family member, coworker, pet etc). We, or I suppose I should say I, need to take comfort in the small things. And for me, that is what this holiday season is about–appreciating what I have.

So, while my musical tastes now lean more towards Eminem (seriously his song with Rihanna is my jam right now) instead of Bing Crosby, I’m celebrating this holiday season right.

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* I managed to fix my GPS, thank goodness! It speaks English again now. Yay.

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Memorial Day

Although now known mostly as a three-day weekend to Bar-b-que and chance to buy big-ticket items on sale, Memorial Day originally had much more serious origins.

After the start of the American Civil War, commuities would set aside one day a year to decorate their fallen soldiers’ graves. On this day, which could be randon, townspeopl would gather to remember and honor those who fought for their country; which at the time, of course, could have been either the Union or Confederate States of America since both the North and the South engaged in this practice.
Confederate  Memorial Day parade on Main Street: Wauchula, Florida
On May 30, 1868, Decoration Day (precurser to Memorial Day) was officially observed. It was proclaimed by General Jophn Logan to be a day to decorate the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. May 30 was chosen because it was not an anniversary of a particular battle. While the day was meant to commemorate both sides of the conflict, many Southern states honored their dead on other days.

It was not until World War I that Decoration Day morphed into a day of rememberance for all fallen US servicemen (and later women.)

Memorial day was still celebrated on May 30th until 1971 when it was declared to be held on the last Monday in May in order to provide a better holiday for Federal employees.

If you get the chance, decorate the grave of a fallen soldier, hug a person in military service, or at least take a minute to remember those who gave their lives.


I found this information on the two following sites.

http://www.history.com/topics/memorial-day-history

http://www.usmemorialday.org/

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Mardi Gras, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, whatever you want to call it, it’s a big event here in Louisiana. Growing up Catholic I knew Mardi Gras was the day before Lent officially begins. In other words, it’s a day to go hog-wild before the 47 days of denial and soberness of Lent. I had no idea Mardi Gras season officially starts the day after Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) and culminates in Fat Tuesday.

 

In the United States, historians believe that the first Mardi Gras occurred on March 3, 1699 when French explorers landed in what is now Louisiana1. In years to come settlers celebrated the holiday with parties and balls, which Spanish control abolished when it took over New Orleans. Americans reinstated the revelries in 1812, when Louisiana became a U.S. State1.

a modern day parade

 

In 1857, the Mistick Krewe of Comus (a secret society of New Orleans business men) organized the first recorded parade1. Elements of this parade are still seen today—torches, marching bands and floats. Today, there are dozens of Krewes, each hosting a parade that rolls anytime in the season. This year, parades started February 4 and ended on February 21. In each parade, those on the floats wear masks covering their hair and faces, yet another old tradition. Back in the beginnings of the parades the wealthy wanted to keep their involvement a secret and wore masks to remain anonymous.

 

Another old Mardi Gras tradition is the King Cake3. I’d heard of King Cake before—in context of the 12 Days of Christmas—but never understood why King Cake was also associated with Mardi Gras. Until, of course, I realized that Mardi Gras officially begins on January 6, or the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The King Cake is baked in honor of the three kings. Inside each cake is a little baby, and who ever finds the baby gets good luck for the next year. Today’s bakers top their King Cakes with sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.

Click on the picture for a recipe

 

Unlike the rest of the Mardi Gras traditions, beads are relatively new2, although they are now synonymous with Mardi Gras. The throwing of beads did not come about until sometime in the 1920s when the Krewe of Rex parade threw inexpensive necklaces to the crowds2. Today’s krewes spend anywhere between $800 and $2,000 on beads and must have orders in by September2! The other Mardi Gras bead “tradition,” or flashing for beads, is also relatively new and only occurs in the French Quarter. The rest of the parades are relatively family friendly (if you ignore the rampant alcohol consumption).

 

While most Americans think associate New Orleans with Mardi Gras, other southern cities host their own celebrations. Brazil and Venice also host famous Carnival (Brazil) or Carnevale (Venice). Each celebration has its own distinctive, and historic flair, but each centers on the Roman Catholic tradition.

*TIME has some really cool pictures of Mardi Gras from the 1930s on their website. I wanted to include them, but I couldn’t insert them into this post. But check them out!

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1. http://www.history.com/topics/mardi-gras

2. http://mardigrasday.com/mardigrasinfo.php?article_id=4

3. http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/kingcakes.html

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Groundhog Day

I come from a very strange family. For example: we have watched the movie Groundhog’s Day each year on Groundhog’s day until I moved out. (Technically my parents still do, but I no longer do.) If you’ve not seen the movie, Bill Murray’s character is stuck reliving the same day, Groundhog’s Day, over and over again. He can’t die; he can’t leave the town he’s stuck in; he cannot do anything but live out Groundhog’s Day until he gets it right. The fact that we watch this film every year without fail adds some special irony to the occasion.

However, I started to wonder, how did Groundhog Day begin? It is a rather odd superstition when you think about it. So, I did a little research.

Groundhog

Cute, yes?

There is a lot of adorable information about the Groundhog’s Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on the official site. There is information such as how long Punxsutawney Phil has been making his predictions: this is his 126th year officiating officially; in what language Phil makes his prediction: Groundhogese; and when the first official trek to Gobbler’s Knob was made: February 2nd, 1886. “The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day.” Apparently there are several poems associated with Candlemas Day and the weather. All of them are a tiny bit different, but they all go something like this Scottish couplet:

“If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,

There’ll be twa (two) winters in a year.”

The celebration of Candlemas Day, and therefore Groundhog Day, is quite possiblly also aligned with the pagan holiday Imbolc, a celebration of the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring equinox.

If you’re interested: Candlemas Day is a Catholic festival of sorts. There’s a lot of interesting religious jazz involved, but let me distill the whole thing a bit: Candlemas Day celebrates the day when Mary would have been cleansed from birthing a boy, and would have brought little baby Jesus into the Temple in Jerusalem to offer an animal sacrifice. There’s also a blessing of candles which takes place during the ceremony and a procession, too.

Supposedly, it’s the Germans who attached an animal to Candlemas. If it is sunny outside on Candlemas Day, then the hedgehog would see his shadow and therefore another winter (or another six weeks) came. Germans were the predominant settlers of Pennsylvania, and they replaced the hedgehog with the Groundhog. Ta da! A bizarre tradition is born!

That’s all good and well, but I don’t much care for cold myself. In fact, I’m a self-proclaimed wimp when it comes to cold. (Seriously, just ask Sapphire or Indigo. It would take me almost 150% longer to bundle for cold weather than either of them.) I’d really prefer it if some old woodchuck isn’t in charge of my comfort.

This year, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter. I must say, I’m not sure if I believe the little marmot. It already feels like spring where I am, and has for a couple of weeks now. Oh well. It’s still a fun tradition.

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It’s the season of holiday parties—family parties, friend’s parties, co-worker’s parties, parties thrown by your significant other’s friends—no matter what kind of party, there is usually that awkward moment when you realize, “I don’t know anyone here.” This, my friends, is how I spent my Saturday night.

To say, “I don’t know anyone here” is actually an exaggeration. One of my good friends threw the party and two of my other friends came as well. Technically I knew other partygoers (I went to high school with my friend’s roommate) but I didn’t know them well. Despite only “knowing” the hostess I stuck around and followed the party to the bars (her building is full of old people and party poopers, i.e. noise violations) after my other two friends left.

Now, if you’d like to know how to totally freak a guy out, I can tell you, because that is what I proceeded to do, once we reached the bars. Without my friends to converse with, and not wanting to monopolize my hostess, I sought out a fellow guest that I recognized and was comfortable. Luckily for me, there was such a guest and I latched on to him. I have this tendency, which I’ve probably

Two Broke Girls

written about previously, to find one or two people at parties or large gatherings and stick with them. This has led to friends and acquaintances thinking we’re a couple (if my party partner is a boy) or that I have feelings for him (again if it’s a boy, apparently people don’t notice when it’s a girl). If I’m super comfortable with the crowd, then I don’t need that kind of party support, but as you can tell, this holiday party was not one of those occasions. In addition to an overload of strangers, the bar was filled with people dressed up as sexy elves, sexy lumps of coal, Santa Clauses, sexy Mrs. Clauses, and for some strange reason, a plethora of pimp style elves and Santas. I don’t know if there was a themed party that we crashed (super weird theme though) or if the weekend before Christmas is accepted as a second Halloween. Whatever the reason, my nervous habits were exacerbated and I clung even more to my party friend.

At one point I remember saying things, just to say something, so we weren’t standing there, silently awkward. I’m not sure my ramblings helped the situation though. Once we changed bars, he ran into some of his actual friends and I joined my hostess friend on the dance floor. When my new party friend and his friends joined us, I kept trying to tell him we had a coat pile, and he should add his, but whenever I tried to talk, or tell him that, he’d ignore me. Well not exactly ignore, he wasn’t that rude, but I could tell he didn’t want to enter into another inane conversation with me. I have to say, I can’t blame him! And that is how you freak out a boy—cling.

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American Girl Holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us. My itty bitty Christmas tree is decorated, snow is on the ground and black friday has come and gone. Back in the day, this is the time when I’d sit with my American Girl catalog and cup of hot chocolate and pour over each page, carefully dog-earing the pages with things I wanted and then circling each item, just to be sure my parents knew exactly which item I wanted. Yes, I was spoiled. I got Kirsten’s trunk and bed. I’m pretty sure I had all of her outfits too. And most of Josephina’s and some of Samantha’s… Yes, the American Girl doll’s were (and are) expensive, but, in today’s world of Bratz dolls and toys that make noise, I think the American Girl dolls were totally worth the money–a quality, non-slutty, doll that also comes with a series of books, encouraging girls of today to learn about our history and to read.

Mattel retired/archived Kirsten in 2010. I'm not sure if there is a difference or which is correct, but I saw both during my research.

Now, I can’t say that owning a Kirsten doll made me interested in history, or even that Kirsten spurred my interest in pioneer history, but she certainly helped! It didn’t hurt that we look the same and live in the same state, apparently a requirement for those who own Kirsten dolls, according to this little essay.  It’s pretty darn accurate (I’m hand making my Christmas presents), and had me laughing the whole time. Although, I’m not positive I’d survive in a post-apacolpytic world.

Oddly, my other doll, Josefina, was nothing like me. I do not live in New Mexico nor am I Hispanic.  I guess we’re both Catholic and she’s a fun heroine, but that’s where the similarities die. Perhaps it was a subconscious effort on my part (or a conscious effort on my parent’s part) to, in the words of Chiara Atik, “encourage broad world-views in a market saturated with white dolls.”

My last doll was an American Girl of Today, and she had brown hair and I bought glasses for her. This way I could pretend she was Samantha, Molly or a modern girl (smart thinking, eh). According to the comments on The Reese’s Runner’s blog, I’m in the minority here by having a Kirsten and Josefina doll. Apparently everybody else had a Molly doll but wanted Samantha or some such combination. I liked Molly’s stories, probably because I also had a mild obsession with World War II and Holocaust stories in late elementary school, but Samantha always had such pretty clothes! Really I liked Nelly more than I liked Samantha, but that’s beside the point. Yet, I didn’t like either one enough to make a commitment to one or the other, and by that I mean to pester my mom for Samantha or Molly.

Even though I’m 24 years old, I still get a little sad that I no longer get American Girl doll stuff for Christmas. It was such a big part of the holidays for me, for so long. I was the weirdo who dressed up as Santa Lucia (along with my Kirsten doll) on Santa Lucia day, and Kirsten and I wore our matching flannel nightgowns during the winter. Every time I go to Mall of America I have to stop by the American Girl Store, and ooh and ahh over the new stuff, while also slightly cringing because the quality seriously dropped once Mattel purchased Pleasant Co.

Did you have an American Girl doll? Does the essay accurately describe you and your doll? Also, fun fact: American Girl started when Pleasant Rowland found a doll in the Wisconsin Historical Society archives, and created a doll and books inspired by said doll. That doll was Samantha.

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Yesterday, I celebrated the Easter holiday by having a long lunch with my parents, grandma, cousins, and their nine month old son. It was nice being with family and spending time with the adorable baby that I haven’t seen since Christmas.

Holidays are usually the time when you reconnect with loved ones and share what has been going on in your life: new relationships, job promotions, plans to have children, and big purchases like homes and cars. So what do you do when there aren’t any of these developments in your life? Unemployment is an easily understood symptom of the current economy and relatives always have advice or empathy to share when I talk about job hunting. Subsequently, milestones involving spending large amounts of money to buy a house or vehicle and work related accomplishments can not exist without a good full time job. But, when it comes to relationships, there seems to be no excuse for not having one to share the details about with my relations.

When girls reach maturity, society starts to expect certain things of them. A steady boyfriend and plans for marriage and/or children have a new and growing urgency the older women get, despite our evolved and progressive times. At 21, after college, the countdown to spinsterhood begins as if committed relationships, wedlock, and babies have an expiration date that says “33 years old.” So what do we do when we don’t have those plans fulfilled or set in motion, or even want some of those things that we are supposed to?

I can say that I’ve never truly been harassed by my family to move faster when it comes to these plans, but the holidays are the time when interest is piqued, questions are asked, and I, myself, begin to wonder, where am I going with my life?

There have been the purposefully nonchalant inquires as to if I’ve been dating anyone and who I’ve been seeing. Last Christmas, my Uncle asked “when are you going to have yourself one of these?” as he held up said adorable baby cousin. While I know my family means well and a genuine interest in my life is the motivation for annual inquisitions, I tend to turn them into philosophical self-assessments that leave me questioning if I am where I want to be in my life. I am definitely too young to have regrets and I have the world ahead of me, but sitting at the table yesterday with my happy family moving out and up into life experiences, I feel a bit like the last horse out of the gate.

Starting Gate

While I love my “nephew” and unabashedly admit that my cousin had to practically pry him out of my arms when we said goodbye and went our separate ways, I know I don’t want children and that that lifestyle just isn’t for me. I love being an Auntie, but don’t think I will ever want to be “Mommy.” I enjoy being single at this point in my life, and while I am not in a serious relationship, think I could one day consider marriage. Without worrying about my reproductive years passing me by though, what’s the rush? I want to focus on creating a career for myself and initially find a job that will ease my financial strains and give me a platform to grow in my field. I want to go out with my friends on Friday, or Saturday, or maybe both nights, because I am social and haven’t reached my “settling down” period yet. I realize all of these “I wants” make me sound a bit egotistical, but they are also goals and choices I have set and made that help me better understand who I am and what I want out of life.

So, if I am so sure of myself, why do I tend to get the holiday blues and begin to reevaluate my current relationship status? Maybe it’s the antiquated expectations from society (that I partially aspire to, respect, and disagree with, simultaneously), the sight of my own extended family with those things already attained, or maybe it’s all in my head. Whatever it is, it makes me wonder if I am behind in the race for being single and loving it, or if I am smarter than everybody else for taking my time with life and knowing ahead that some traditional aspects of domesticity aren’t for me? I’m a long shot in life’s race that will either win with a big payout or fill my predicted position of last place, but only time will tell. I’ll get back to you in forty years.

I hope everyone had a fun and lovely Easter, Passover, or Earth Day this week and lets give a big shout out to Indigo, who had a birthday on Friday too! What a festive weekend it was!

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