Christmas creeps up on us gradually, gains momentum, and ends with the most glorious message of all.
It begins very subtly. You may see a clerk unpacking angels in August. By Labor Day a few candles and wreaths might be spotted in the back of the store. Before Halloween some of the Christmas displays are already vying for your attention next to the pumpkins and screeching ghosts in the big box discount stores. Thanksgiving is almost nonexistent with the brilliantly lit trees and ho-ho-hoing Santas pushing Tom Turkey out of the picture.
The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday as the merchants are now calling it, opens the Christmas season with a bang. The race is on! Retailers are fighting to see who can get the first shopping dollars by opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers begin a marathon of shopping that will last for the next four weeks. In between mad dashes to the mall, people are sandwiching in holiday parties, cleaning and decorating the house, baking traditional cookies and candies, attending concerts, and wrapping packages. In addition, many are preparing for trips to be with family.
The whole month of December is a huge whirlwind. That is why Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year. It is the moment we stop and remember what all the hectic activity is all about. All the work is done (if not, then just leave it and try better next year). The decorations are completed, the baking done, the gifts wrapped and under the tree. I enjoy the stillness of the night. The world feels at peace waiting in anticipation for the joyful gatherings of the next day. It is also a time to stop the madness and remember what the season is all about.
It is the birth of a pure and innocent child who would one day bring hope and light to a weary world. It is the time to sing Joy to the World for the Lord is come with joyful hearts. It is a time of lights and enlightenment. It is a time of family, friends, and love. It is a time to reflect in prayerful meditation the birth of our Lord.
The power of this night even stopped a war. In 1914, during World War I, the German troops put out a few Christmas trees decorated with candles and began singing Christmas carols. The British echoed the carols in their own language. Then the two sides began putting out signs saying they would stop shooting if the other side would. Word spread up and down the front lines and gradually the two sides ventured out from their trenches. They met in the middle and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, and alcohol. The first order of business was to bury the dead then they got together and passed Christmas day playing football.
When the commanding officers heard of the impromptu truce they ordered the troops to begin shooting. Although the truce was short lived it all began because of the birth of a small child one Silent and Holy Night. A child who was sent by God with the power to perform miracles—even the miracle to end wars.
Christmas Eve is the night of mystery and magic, love and laughter, peace and prayer. My wish for you, my friend, is that you may feel the majesty of the night and carry that with you throughout the coming year.
As communities prepare for the big celebration of America’s independence, many people are voicing doubts over everything from whether or not candy should be thrown into the crowds lining parade routes to how many politicians can march in the parade or whether or not we should even celebrate our independence with parades and fireworks. I say Bah Humbug to all of the Scrooges!
I love everything about the 4th of July. I love the parades with the bands, countless American flags, endless number of politicians, civic organizations, boy scouts and girl scouts, swim teams, little league teams, neighborhood kids riding decorated bicycles, military units and honor guards, screaming fire engines, and miles of red, white, and blue crape paper. I love it all! This is true Americana—a microcosm of our nation passing before our eyes.
My heart swells with pride when the flag flutters in the breeze and I have a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat as military units and aging veterans go by. I can never hear the national anthem without choking back tears thinking of the many sacrifices made so I can stand proudly and proclaim I am an American. The business of politics can get pretty nasty but I am thankful I live where we can openly voice our disagreements without fear of imprisonment or death.
I admire the immigrants who left everything behind to come to a new land. I wonder what my ancestors endured coming to this country. I think of my original ancestor who was brought to these shores to fight for King George in 1774 but became a turncoat and fought for the colonists under Col. Washington. What motivated him to make such a bold move? I find a hint in the family history that was recorded the 14th Day of January 1933. It reads:
Great Grandfather Moore, whose name was James Moore was born near Dublin, Ireland, and came to this country with a regiment of Irish soldiers, attached to the British Army during the Revolutionary War. In fact, his name was not Moore, but Fitzpatrick, but being Irish, and not at all in sympathy with the British, but knowing the methods of the British in his homeland, he lost no time in leaving the British cause and enlisting in the Continental Army under Washington, and took the maiden name of his Mother, which was Moore. Since that time the name of Moore has been borne by all of his descendents.
This country has always been the land of immigrants, the melting pot of nations, and I am puzzled at the animosity toward certain groups. Each ethnic wave that came here endured a certain amount of prejudice but still people came. I am happy to say I have friends from many different nations and I call it my smorgasbord of friends. We have joyfully celebrated as each one has taken the big step to become a citizen. Over the years I have known people from Cuba, Mexico, Germany, and China who took the oath to become naturalized citizens. One of our country’s newest citizens is our neighbor, Shaheena Arthur from Pakistan, who became a citizen on June 21. She was so excited to become a citizen and our small group of neighbors who helped her celebrate was happy for her.
So bring on the parades, the bands, the flags, and the politicians. Bring on the beer, brats, and burgers and cap off the night with a grand display of fireworks. This is our nation’s birthday, its celebration of independence, and this is how we celebrate. We cannot let this momentous occasion be lost to history for if we don’t celebrate then it will be forgotten. It is a way of bringing everyone together to celebrate something we all believe in—the greatness of our nation.
Somehow we have all learned to live together and combine our many experiences to forge one great nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This is New Year ’s Eve and around the world people will stand together at the stroke of midnight and sing a melancholy song that, on the surface, makes absolutely no sense—Auld Lang Syne.
The title, Auld Lang Syne, literally means “old long since” or, “long, long ago”. Therefore, the first line of the song which says “for auld lang syne” is loosely translated as “for the sake of old times.
Auld Lang Syne is an old Scottish poem attributed to Robert Burns who copied down the ancient poem and probably elaborated upon it and then set it to the tune of an old Scottish folksong. It is a tribute to old friends and good times should they never be forgotten.
As 2010 fades away and we go into the unknown future of 2011, I now take a moment to remember all my friends and family and hope we never forget the good times we have had. I offer you a toast and we will drink a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.
Here is hoping all of you reading this will have a happy and healthy new year.