Trains and First Christmas – 12 days of xmas #1

 

The first Christmas I really remember was when I was about 3 years old (maybe even 2). I have no real recollection of what I got – probably dolls or stuffed animals or something girlie. But oh how I remember that my brother Alan got a geniune Lionel train set. It mesmerized me.

Dad had set it up under the tree and it just went around and around and around, all day long. I lusted after those trains. I wanted those trains. I wanted to sit on the floor and play with the boys and get my chubby little hands on those controls. This may be the first signs of my growing up to be an adventurous free spirit or a control freak. (Take your pick).

Whenever no one was looking, I’d sidle over to the tree. Inch by inch I’d creep, wanting, lusting. Never quite making it to the tree much less the controls. Dad would bark out – “Stay away from that! That’s for your brothers. It’s a boy’s toy!”

I’d make a pouty face and cross my arms over my chest and sulk.

Mom would try to offer me toys or candy but I wasn’t interested.

My cousin Tommy taunted me. “It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls! Nanananananana!”  If I’d have been bigger he would have experienced some slap down. No kidding.

So, I sat on the stairs and watched the boys play with the train forever and ever and ever. Never once getting the chance to touch the controls. Wishing I could be a boy for just one day so I could run that darn train. I think I actually fell asleep on the stairs watching that train. At least that’s how my memory remembers it.

For many years after that the train set became a tradition for many Christmases – somehow it went from a gift to an extension of our Christmas decorations. And I don’t specifically recall when, but at some point it went to the trainyard in the sky – because suddenly it just wasn’t there.

It was probably around the time we stopped having live Christmas trees because Mom started lusting after fake ones in hues of pink and turquoise.

And though there have been oh so many Christmases since then, I never forgot the gleaming, shiney, coolest of cool trains roaring along its track under my first Christmas tree.

WC

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I’ve always loved the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas and I thought it would be fun to use it as a theme for the 2nd half of my month of Christmas posts. We all have fond and not so fond Christmas memories and sometimes they make good stories (even the miserable ones), especially if you’re drinking really good and heavily spiked eggnog.

But my twelve days of Christmas aren’t about pear trees, milking maids or golden rings – mine are my twelve most memorable Christmases. Some are sweet, some a little sad and some are pretty funny.

Many of my memories are snatches of this or that. Like my sister’s habit of opening my presents after she got bored with hers and then running into my room to tell me what I got. Of course I made her go back and rewrap them but for sure, the surprise was gone once I saw the packages.

Or my mother’s habit of getting into a snit with my dad just as we were sitting down to Christmas dinner.

Or the fact that for years Mom hid the presents in the cubby hole in her room and we would check it out daily for weeks before Christmas. The only mystery was who was getting what. You’d think she would have chosen a different hiding place once in a while.

Or the forced photos standing before the tree showing off your presents.

The smell of turkey and the taste of perfect gravy oozing on home made mashed potatoes, my aunt’s Christmas aspic made of lime jello, walnuts, carrots and raisens oh and her pumpkin bread.

Falling asleep at the window trying to stay awake to see if there really was a Santa Claus. And the joy I felt when it snowed on Christmas Eve because I knew that meant that it was really going to be a perfect White Christmas.

Christmas trees and Christmas lights. School Christmas concerts – countless favorite Christmas songs and movies. These are all the things that I think of when I think of Christmas.

So prepare yourselves folks, I’m walking down memory lane for the next few days and I hope you don’t mind strolling along with me.

WC

Myths, Links and Stuff

Okay, so here are some interesting things:

There’s a pretty popular myth that Santa’s style of clothing and the colors or said clothing have to do with coca cola. According to Snopes it’s not true. Read below:

Claim: The modern image of Santa Claus — a jolly figure in a red-and-white suit — was created by Coca-Cola.

Status: False.

Example: [Twitchell, 2000]

The jolly old St. Nick that we know from countless images did not come from folklore, nor did he originate in the imaginations of Moore and Nast. He comes from the yearly advertisements of the Coca-Cola Company. He wears the corporate colors — the famous red and white — for a reason: he is working out of Atlanta, not out of the North Pole.

Origins: Santa

Claus is perhaps the most remarkable of all the figures associated with Christmas. To us, Santa has always been an essential part of the Christmas celebration, but the modern image of Santa didn’t develop until well into the 19th century. Moreover, he didn’t spring to life fully-formed as a literary creation or a commercial invention (as did his famous reindeer, Rudolph). Santa Claus was an evolutionary creation, brought about by the fusion of two religious personages (St. Nicholas and Christkindlein, the Christ child) to become a fixed image which is now the paramount symbol of the secular Christmas celebration.

In 1804, the New York Historical Society was founded with Nicholas as its patron saint, its members reviving the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas as a gift-bringer. In 1809, Washington Irving published his satirical A History of New York, by one “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” a work that poked fun at New York’s Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). When Irving became a member of the Society the following year, the annual St. Nicholas Day dinner festivities included a woodcut of the traditional Nicholas figure (tall, with long robes) accompanied by a Dutch rhyme about “Sancte Claus” (in Dutch, “Sinterklaas”). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas’ “riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.” In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a “Santeclaus” who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer. Gilley’s “Sante,” however, was very short.

On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly known today by its opening line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . .”). Moore gave St. Nick eight reindeer (and named them all), and he devised the now-familiar entrance by chimney. Moore’s Nicholas was still a small figure, however — the poem describes a “miniature sleigh” with a “little old driver.”

Meanwhile, in parts of Europe such as Germany, Nicholas the gift-giver had been superseded by a representation of the infant Jesus (the Christ child, or “Christkindlein”). The Christkindlein accompanied Nicholas-like figures with other names (such as “Père Noël” in France), or he travelled with a dwarf-like helper (known in some places as “Pelznickel,” or Nicholas with furs). Belsnickle (as Pelznickel was known in the German-American dialect of Pennsylvania) was represented by adults who dressed in furry disguises (including false whiskers), visited while children were still awake, and put on a scary performance. Gifts found by children the next morning were credited to Christkindlein, who had come while everyone was asleep. Over time, the non-visible Christkindlein (whose name mutated into “Kriss Kringle”) was overshadowed by the visible Belsnickle, and both of them became confused with St. Nicholas and the emerging figure of Santa Claus.

The modern Santa Claus derived from these two images: St. Nicholas the elf-like gift bringer described by Moore, and a friendlier “Kriss Kringle” amalgam of the Christkindlein and Pelznickel figures. The man-sized version of Santa became the dominant image around 1841, when a Philadelphia merchant named J.W. Parkinson hired a man to dress in “Criscringle” clothing and climb the chimney outside his shop.

In 1863, a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly named Thomas Nast began developing his own image of Santa. Nast gave his figure a “flowing set of whiskers” and dressed him “all in fur, from his head to his foot.” Nast’s 1866 montage entitled “Santa Claus and His Works” established Santa as a maker of toys; an 1869 book of the same name collected new Nast drawings with a poem by George P. Webster that identified the North Pole as Santa’s home. Although Nast never settled on one size for his Santa figures (they ranged from elf-like to man-sized), his 1881 “Merry Old Santa Claus” drawing is quite close to the modern-day image.

The Santa Claus figure, although not yet standardized, was ubiquitous by the late 19th century. Santa was portrayed as both large and small; he was usually round but sometimes of normal or slight build; and he dressed in furs (like Belsnickle) or cloth suits of red, blue, green, or purple. A Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an “overweight superhero”) began to replace the fur-dressed Belsnickle image and the multicolored Santas.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the burgeoning Coca-Cola company was still looking for ways to increase sales of their product during winter, then a slow time of year for the soft drink market. They turned to a talented commercial illustrator named Haddon Sundblom, who created a series of memorable drawings that associated the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus with Coca-Cola. Coke’s annual advertisements — featuring Sundblom-drawn Santas holding bottles of Coca-Cola, drinking Coca-Cola, receiving Coca-Cola as gifts, and especially enjoying Coca-Cola — became a perennial Christmastime feature which helped spur Coca-Cola sales throughout the winter (and produced the bonus effect of appealing quite strongly to children, an important segment of the soft drink market). The success of this advertising campaign has helped fuel the legend that Coca-Cola actually invented the image of the modern Santa Claus, decking him out in a red-and-white suit to promote the company colors — or that at the very least, Coca-Cola chose to promote the red-and-white version of Santa Claus over a variety of competing Santa figures in order to establish it as the accepted image of Santa Claus.

This legend is not true. Although some versions of the Santa Claus figure still had him attired in various colors of outfits past the beginning of the 20th century, the jolly, ruddy, sack-carrying Santa with a red suit and flowing white whiskers had become the standard image of Santa Claus by the 1920s, several years before Sundlom drew his first Santa illustration for Coca-Cola. As The New York Times reported on 27 November 1927:

A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.

It’s simply mind-boggling that at the beginning the 21st century, historians are still egregiously perpetuating inaccurate information like the following:

So complete was the colonization of Christmas that Coke’s Santa had elbowed aside all comers by the 1940s. He was the Santa of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street just as he is the Santa of the recent film The Santa Clause. He is the Santa on Hallmark cards, he is the Santa riding the Norelco shaver each Christmas season, he is the department-store Santa, and he is even the Salvation Army Santa!1

As we just pointed out above, the modern Santa had “elbowed aside all comers” long before the 1940s, and well before Coca-Cola co-opted him as their wintertime advertising symbol. And we’re at a loss to understand how anyone could have recognized the Santa of Miracle on 34th Street, a BLACK-AND-WHITE film, as the red-and-white Coca-Cola Santa.

All this isn’t to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America at a time when the holiday was still making the transition from a religious observance to a largely secular and highly commercial celebration. In an era before color television (or commercial television of any kind), color films, and the widespread use of color in newspapers, it was Coca-Cola’s magazine advertisements, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image. Coca-Cola certainly helped make Santa Claus one of the most popular men in America, but they didn’t invent him.

Last updated: 27 February 2001

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For those of you who would like to do something nice and Christmassy for our wounded troops you can send cards and letters to Walter Reed Hospital (202-782-2071) c/o American Red Cross, OIF/OEF Soldiers, 6900 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20307
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For a great article and suggestions and links of fun stuff to do for Christmas you can go here

For fun crafts and links, here

For classic stories, recipes and more, here

If you are interested in donating to charities and want to check out how effective and good they are, here

If your imagination and budget have no limits, check out this place – they make some awesome stuff and it’s all custom.

And finally just a cool really nice site, here

Have some fun, check out some of the sites depending on your interests and see what you think.

WC

Dear Santa…

 

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good girl this year. I have :

1. been paying down my credit card debt

2. not called in sick to work nearly as much as I wanted to.

3. only flipped off the most egregious idiots on the road

4. not killed roomie (despite any number of reasons I could have).

5. not killed either of my bosses (despite any number of reasons I could  have).

6. pretended to be happy to see people when I’m not.

7. been polite to Democrats (well sorta)

8. stopped discussing (arguing) politics with my sister.

9. made people laugh with my inane meanderings on my blog.

10. baked brownies for someone other than me.

11. not screamed at anyone at AT&T this week.

12. not slapped any stupid people lately, despite intense temptation.

13. only taunted 3 telemarketers this week.

14. bought a bunch of stupid shit for my friends which I have wrapped nicely for the holiday gift swap.

In exchange for all my goodness I would like (love):

1. job security (at least until mid-January).

2. two more years of my car running without major difficulties.

3. being discovered so I can get on the best seller’s list.

4. wealth and fame (or debt free with a small amount of disposable income).

5. the trick to teaching my dog how to talk (it would be a sure money maker).

6. the trick to getting roomie not to talk (it would be a sure sanity maker).

7. the secret to eliminating cellulite without taking pills or going under the knife.

8. my big fat ass, to be round and cute instead of what it is.

9.  7 calorie-free days per year so I can gorge on all the major holidays.

10. the secret to reversing gravity especially as regards my ass and my boobs.

11. you to manufacture the perfect bra and keep me in endless supply.

12. a maid (for obvious reasons)

13. the winning lotto numbers (just me and no one else, please).

14. Oh, and world peace.

Sincerely,

Writer Chick 😉

What do you want from Santa this year?

Naughty or Nice?

santa

You know that conventional wisdom says that if you’ve been nice you get rewarded for it (presents) and if you’ve been naughty you don’t (coal in the stocking).

So, I thought I’d give you a few tips on how you can score more Christmas bling or coal, depending on your desires:

Naughty: You pull your little sister’s hair and throw the handful of folicle evidence in the trash then line up three of your friends for alibis during the time of said crime.

Nice: You take said handful of hear (whilst swearing it was an accident) and superglu it back to sister’s head and offer her full access to your collection of baseball caps.

Naughty: You play chicken in the shopping mall parking lot with package-ladened shoppers.

Nice: You give package-ladened shoppers an escort to their cars and they thank you by giving them their parking spot.

Naughty: You cram as many cookies and other goodies from the office Christmas party buffet into your pockets and purse, so you can gorge on them later. And make snide remarks about how the company didn’t provide much of a spread.

Nice: You make sure everyone gets their fill of the goodies (even the geeks) by passing the tray and keeping a close watch for gorgers and stuffers.

Naughty: You tell the boss nasty things about your co-workers so you’ll get a bigger bonus and they will get sacked.

Nice: You talk up your co-workers (even the ones who don’t deserve it)  to the boss and tell him they are all deserving of raises.

Naughty: You bitch loud and long about the slow moving lines at the checkout and complain about the incompetence of the Christmas help.

Nice: You let the little old lady cut in line in front of you because she only has a few things compared to your overflowing cart.

Naughty: You re-gift the hideous sweater your Aunt Edna gave you to the loser you drew at the Secret Santa game at work.

Nice: You wear the hideous sweater and thank Aunt Edna profusely for the thoughtfulness of her gift at the family gathering.

Naughty: You heave the snow you’re shoveling from your walk over the fence to the neighbor’s freshly shoveled walk (late at night when no one can see you).

Nice: You send your kid to shovel the elderly neighbor’s walk so they won’t slip and fall.

Naughty: You mutter ‘bah, humbug’ to anyone who chances to wish you a Merry Christmas.

Nice: You wear a Santa hat and wish everyone you encounter a Merry Christmas.

Naughty: You stay up all night so you can prove there is no Santa Claus – then tell your sister that your dad bought her the bike.

Nice: You make sure the little kids don’t go downstairs while dad is putting the bike together and help eat the cookies your little sister left for Santa.

Naughty: You knock down the town Christmas Tree in the square and drag it home for firewood.

Nice: You buy extra ornaments and wrap toys to help decorate the tree and give to the more needy in the community.

Naughty: You ban all Christmas movies from the house and make your spouse go to her friends to watch them.

Nice: You watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the bagillionith time with your wife and agree it’s the best Christmas movie ever.

These a just a few of the things you can do to be naughty or nice. Feel free to add to the list.

WC