Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Merry Christmas & Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

December 22, 2010 1 comment

Just putting it out there. That’s right- I work for NPR and I love Christmas. I hate saying “Happy Holidays.” I even say Merry Christmas to my Jewish friends and not a one of them looks at me askance. They seem to understand the spirit in which it is intended and they cut me some slack.

Of course, no one actually knows what day Christ was born. Christmas was the Catholic Church’s successful attempt around 350, A.D. to win over pagans who seemed to be having a hell of a good time celebrating the coming of the Winter solstice. The Pope at the time, Julius I, a clever fellow with a brilliant sense of marketing, decided to blend religion with singing and present-exchanging and general happy frolicking and it all worked out quite well for both the soon-to-be converted pagans and for the church.

For me, Christmas is about memories and it’s about children. It’s Bing Crosby and window displays on 5th Avenue. It’s the hope for snow, the smell of evergreen and when I was a kid, a new GI Joe or a shiny-red toy fire truck with real, working, flashing red lights.

It’s Messiah sing-alongs, Jimmy Stewart, the occasional midnight mass, butter cookies, milk and Santa Claus. And I mean real butter cookies. Emphasis on butter.

Anyway, here it is—in your face—proud as can be—and I don’t even need Fox News to convince me:

Merrrrrrry Christmas everybody!!!!!!

And for you remaining unconverted heathens out there: Happy Dies Natalis Invicti Solis (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun).

The X-Mas Spirit—Uh, Not There Yet

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Eleven days to go before Christmas and I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’s this incredible arctic cold. I know my fingers have certainly not felt anything for several days. Maybe it’s the city. New York seems a more Christmas-like town. DC’s Chinatown Arch isn’t quite doing it for me.

Anyway, there are several others out there, besides the Grinch, who apparently are not in the Christmas spirit yet either.

Bus Driver; Snowman Hit & Run

At the University of Illinois, a city bus driver has quit after taking out a snowman; video here. What’s slightly disturbing is that if you look at the video carefully, you’ll notice the snowman was actually a prank; it was built in the middle of the road. You could argue the bus driver did local motorists a favor by annihilating the little snow sculpture. I nominate not the bus driver, but the bus company who apparently convinced the driver to resign, as this week’s honorable mention for the “Failure to Get into the Christmas Spirit” award.

Fired Santa

Then there’s the sad tale of John Toomey, out of a job after 20 years as the Santa Claus at the Union Square Macy’s in San Francisco. He upset an elderly couple with a couple of his jokes.

(Credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle)

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they’ve been good and they say, ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘Gee, that’s too bad.’ Then, if they ask why Santa is so jolly, I joke that it’s because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live.’ The kids who sit on his lap, he said, get only his trademark laugh and questions about what toys they want.

Setting aside Santa’s slightly perverted sense of humor, there really are a lot of San Franciscans who are very upset about this. Mr. Toomey, or “Santa John,” as they call him, has been a local favorite forever- the quintessential Fake Santa. Macy’s and the stodgy old couple share the runner-up “Failure to Get into the Christmas Spirit” award.

And the Winners Are….

The burglars in the Dallas/Forth Worth area who broke into the Rusaw family’ s house over the weekend and stole all their presents—-AND THEIR DOG:

(Not the actual stolen dog- but close to it)

Stealing presents? How low can you go? What are going to do with the little dog? Put antlers on its head and make it pull a great big sled of stolen presents all the way up to your nasty looking mansion at the top of the mountain?

Not only do you get the “Failure to Get into the Christmas Spirit” award, but you should be sued by Dr. Seuss’ estate because this wasn’t exactly an original idea.

Fear of Flying

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I suppose there’s a reason why clichés exist- there’s truth to them. Here are two that seem appropriate as we start this first week after Christmas: 1) Even when they fail, terrorists win and 2) We have to be successful every time, they just have to be successful once.

Yeah, I’ll admit it- I’m a little spooked. It struck a nerve; the near-disaster that was averted only when a faulty detonator prevented a bomb from taking out 278 passengers aboard a plane headed for Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day. I know 40 thousand people die every year in car accidents in the United States so, technically, the automobile is a bigger killer than terrorism.

But stuff like this becomes personal when your kid arrives from Atlanta for Christmas week and all is right with the world. Five days later he flies back from New York’s La Guardia airport and- just like that- we now have to get to the terminal an hour earlier with a freshly renewed specter of terrorism in the back of our minds.

And I’m frustrated at the workings of a seemingly incompetent bureaucracy. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s own father had warned U.S. officials of his son’s increasing radicalization and associations. That’s how he got on a terror list data base to begin with. Why wasn’t that also good enough to get him on a no-fly list? Why, exactly, was he issued a U.S. entry visa?

I heard Homeland security chief, Janet Napolitano tell ABC News’ Jake Tapper on Sunday: “The system has worked really very, very smoothly.” She lauded the passengers and crew for their actions. What? Passengers putting out a fire and subduing a man who just tried to set off a bomb, are an integral part of “the system?” I’m really glad the passengers did what they did, but I do believe their mission on that flight was to sleep, eat some pretzels and get home, not wrestle some maniac to the floor who wanted to kill them.

Napolitano also said on ABC’s This Week that there are no indications the screening in Amsterdam was not properly done. She has since pulled back from that statement. Clearly, somebody messed up. This fellow got on board an aircraft with pentaerythritol (PETN), the very same plastic explosive material al-Qaeda operative Richard C. Reid used in 2001 when he tried to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner by igniting a homemade bomb in his shoe.

As for terrorists failing and still winning- Richard Reid, of course, was an abysmally failed terrorist, but his legacy lives on with every shoe we’ve had to remove at airport security screening for the past eight years. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab apparently had these explosives sewn into his underwear. I can only imagine what his legacy will be on the traveling public. Is it too much to ask for airport screening that works and is effective- that’s minimally smart and profiles people and behavior instead of profiling their luggage? It seems to work for Israel’s El Al airlines just fine.

I hate that I’m even slightly spooked as I take my son to the airport. I’m frustrated that these deranged losers can affect our lives in so many ways, large and small. I’m not proud that in feeling these things, I’ve let these guys win even a miniscule victory by stoking my own, mostly irrational, fears for my family and friends.

But at least now I know how it works. Next time I put my kid on an airplane, or board one myself- turns out he and I and our fellow passengers are a primary line of defense in a system that works so “very, very smoothly.”

(Note: On NBC’s Today Show this morning, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, completely reversed her comments on ABC’ s This Week and specifically stated “Our system did not work in this instance. Nobody is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is underway.” The President has also decided to address the nation later today about the incident.)

Tidings of Joy from Suki, the Christmas Dog

December 24, 2009 1 comment

In this completely unretouched photograph, Suki the Christmas Dog is captured floating in space with life-like, pawprint-type snowflakes falling all around her as she wishes one and all the happiest of holidays and Peace on Earth.

Categories: Animal Life Tags: ,

Earth Rise & Genesis: Christmas Eve, 1968

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment


Apollo 11 may have been the mission that landed man on the moon, but the ultimate scouting mission of all time, Apollo 8, is the one that touched hearts. It succeeded in doing something I don’t think has ever been accomplished since; it melded science, religion, spirituality and mass communications into a single moment that for 23 minutes, united the world in awe and wonder.

It was supposed to have been a less than spectacular low earth orbit test of the lunar and command modules. But because of delays getting the lunar module ready, it shifted to an incredibly more ambitious mission- fly to the moon and back.

And so it was that at precisely 7:51 am, ET on the morning of December 21st, 1968 the first manned launch of the massive Saturn V rocket sent astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders into their accidental rendevous with destiny.

It was a hell of a way to start a mission; the first human beings strapped onto the top of the most powerful rocket that had been invented. It was more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, almost exactly two-thirds the size of the Washington monument and fully fueled, weighed nearly 6,700,000 pounds.

Borman, Lovell and Anders became the first humans to leave earth’s orbit. Sixty-nine hours and about 230,000 miles after launch, the crew commenced a nerve-racking 4 minute and 13 second burn that made them the first humans to enter into the orbit of another celestial body. If it had not been done exactly right, the astronauts could have been flung out into space never to return, or could have sent themselves into a collision course with the moon.

Over the next 20 hours they would become the first humans to see the dark side of the moon. But it was a 23-minute television broadcast on Christmas Eve that created that special moment that converged science and, depending on your point of view, either religion or mysticism. Having earlier failed to get a clear picture of the earth with their cameras, the crew went to considerable effort to make sure the broadcast would catch a clear picture of the planet that involved positioning the entire spacecraft around. An estimated half a billion people watched that broadcast from earth, then the most viewed television event in history.

And it seemed completely appropriate that as they showed the world their view of the blue planet we all ride through space, the crew would read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night: and the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament; and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven: and the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the collection of waters he called Seas: and God saw that it was good.

I was but a 12-year old boy at the time but remember memorializing the broadcast with a small reel-to-reel tape recorder I had been given by my parents. I still remember it 41 years later like it was yesterday. It was the most moving and inspiring Christmas I ever experienced.

The various stages of earth-rise, 12/24/68

Categories: Earth Tags: , , , , ,

So Many Santa’s- So Little Time

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Photo courtesy of

So I was riding the subway from Penn station to Columbus Circle Saturday night, when I noticed an inordinate number of Santa Clauses on the train.  The ratio was truly outrageous.  I mean one Santa for every two people in the car?  And there were Mrs. Santa’s too.  Rather attractive ones that would make the North Pole a more pleasant home address than you might ordinarily expect.   What the?

Silly me.  I had just run into Santacon 2009 in New York City; combination flash-mob, good-cheer, pub crawl that had started at 10am at five different points in the city.  I ran into my Santas at about 9pm and they didn’t look that bad having been 11 hours into the celebration.

NYCSantaConn can explain it much better than I.  If you’re at all prudish, don’t go there.  This Santa stuff is profane and serious business.

Santa’s Rules:  

 Santa looks like Santa. HOLIDAY APPAREL IS MANDATORY. A Santa hat is not enough. Get a Santa suit. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Steal a Santa suit. Get creative: be a Secret Santa, a Santasaurus, Candy-cane, a Reindeer, a Chanukah Chicken, a goddamn latke, Stewardess Santa, Knight Rider Santa, Crusty Peace Punk Santa, the occasional Legless Reindeer, Chanukah Squirrel, Emo-Elf, or the Santichrist.
Just don’t wear your f——g jeans.

Santa acts like Santa. Be jolly. Belly-laugh. Let people sit on your lap. Give out gifts.
Santa loves reindeer games, stripper poles and creatively concealed guzzle-ables.

Santa doesn’t seek media attention. “Ho-ho-ho” is good. “Publicity ho” is lame.

Santa doesn’t get arrested. 

Helpful guidelines include making sure to eat something, stay hydrated, exercise intelligent pacing, bring a metro card, pay the bar tab, tip the bartenders, stay with your group and don’t make children cry.  And my personal favorite:

 Don’t be “that” Santa.  

 Your friends want to have fun, not scrape the puke outta your beard or prevent your wasted ass from wandering into traffic.

The origins trace back to 1994 in San Francisco.  The Santa bender that was most crazily out of control occurred four years ago in Aukland, New Zealand.  Looting, bottle-throwing and several assaults ensued.

There were no such incidents in New York Saturday night.  In fact, organizers were encouraging folks to bring a couple of cans of food to donate to homeless shelters.  They got a thousand pounds worth of food last year and were shooting for an even ton this year.

Other than the ones hanging out at the Salvation Army kettles, I expect to see my next Santa around midnight, December 25th.   Just in case the old Santa is gone and has been replaced by the new Santa, along with the milk and cookies, I’m also leaving several shots of Grey Goose.

Categories: Culture Tags: , ,