...and, as promised,
The Story of Oscar the Mouse...
Our homes and neighborhood were classic ~ we lived in two, during my childhood, and this one, in 1959, was part of my Mother's inheritance from her Father, and when things were lean during the big depression, one of the upstairs bedrooms was used for a hatchery for the baby chicks that would provide 'eggs for sale' for extra money, and food for the family of many children. When my Mother inherited it, later, in happy and prosperous times, she and my Father remodeled it completely, and he carved her name in a heart on one of the foundation supports ... and it was a showplace: with respectable property attached and gardens of mountain laurel, iris, forsythia, azalea, pussywillow, dill, chinese lanterns, roses, and trees of crabapple, macintosh apples, green pears, purple plums and huge maples with a swing always there, and evergreens to
tantalize us with promise of Christmas, all year long!
This year, however, we had a problem: construction of new homes, begun that summer, just across the street, was going quietly and beautifully and our real estate value expected to improve from the neighborhood upgrade; if only the clearing of the field hadn't created many homeless field mice, the project would have been flawless.
We were happy and loving people, but our aging, faithful spaniel could not take a cat in the house just then, so, suddenly being "overrun by the little critters" created a lot of work, and as much laughter as frustration ... and it was a mighty challenge for a bit ... they were everywhere !
My Libra father did not even like a mousetrap, but here we were, forced to learn, at his instruction, how to properly bait one, and set it effectively and "disinfect like crazy" before and after success with it, since such animals can carry serious disease.
My Mother, aghast, recruiting my Sister and I to sweep and scrub, to clean after the odd-smelling leavings found everywhere ... including the drawer that held our eating utensils ! Seated at the table, the acoustic ceiling above us echoed a "tick-a-ta-tick-a-tuh-tick-tick-tick" , as the mice ran across ... stopping dinner and dinner conversation and discouraging appetite for continuation of the normally jolly time. After bedtime, the quiet in the house created more of the same, as our marauders scampered about the attic, and spaces between floors and walls, and basement.
The traps were set in earnest when the harmless nibbling cut the wire on one of the burners of our kitchen range, causing dangerous sparks, blown fuse and dysfunctioning range burner; and one night at dinner, we teamed up, again, as a survival group, when a glance at the scritchity noise overhead was met by the glance returned from one of the mice, whose industry had bored a hole right through the munchy acoustic tile ...
we looked at one another with big eyes, unable to swallow our food, but always social, we remembered, "Well, how do you do ?!" , to this unexpected guest... More traps, and success, and one more demonstration from our Father: acoustic tile patch repair 101.
The New England summer had peaked, and many rodents hibernate, so, thanks to our responsible activism, and the season, we experienced relief ... "wow! no more mice!" ... and we did not realize how much bedlam the mice caused,
till the relief and fatigue we shared afterward made it very clear ... my goodness! For a family-bonding experience, we would have been happy to "skip it", though the chase had often made us a laughing team, in this tv-sitcom misadventure.
Time passed, as did Summer, and Autumn, and the uproar in our home calmed and then shifted into Winter Holiday preparations. It had been some time since our ' Battle of River Street Field Mice '. But now, we were the "scurry-ers", with so much to do! Cooking, at least, was again safe and hygienic, without the mice, and decorations and shopping and choir and
Christmas-caroling group and the sacred re-enactment of the birth of Jesus, and midnight mass, and Santa, restoring all the warm and generous feelings, perhaps, dented by the in-house assault of a few months before.
Relaxing with television after another busy Holiday Preparation day, my brother, wide-eyed, silently tugged at the sleeve next to him, and so on, till he had our attention ... he pointed to the very center of the livingroom carpet, just behind the TV area: Aaaaaa...
mouse ! ... sitting up and politely alert, as though he had been invited to join our circle! He was theater, in his cheery innocence; solitary, self-contained and thoughtfully sharing the television program, he kept to his spot, as though it truly was his
spot. We simply stared in disbelief, and
determined not to lose our Christmas Spirit, warily welcomed him to the circle and enjoyed the Television Program with our unexpected and unlikely guest. Sometime during the show, he must have left,
since he was gone when we next glanced in his direction. Off and on, but ongoing, throughout that holiday, the mouse reappeared ... and an imaginary, smiling, rapport developed among us, and our "Secret Sharer" of-another-sort, as he carefully took the same spot on the carpet, and seemed to fit right in. After the first few visits, my Brother named him "Oscar" - he was
quite the "ham" - and after all the "mouse-in-the-house" troubles, this Christmas Mouse brought warmth and smiles and a secret among us, since most of our neighbors would not understand this "about-face" rapport with a rodent.
Our Father sent us to our Compton's Encyclopedia and the library helped: Like Cricket on the Hearth
Christmas Mouse stories are very old in literature, since it is normal for them to scurry into a warm spot from the strong, cold, weather. In days before good household disinfecting cleaners, they probably caused a health problems, and worse, and sometimes still can and do. I know we
boiled the place, stem to stern, at home, till the mice stopped invading.
And yet, Oscar's visit was a "different story, altogether"! And my Father, being always the Libra philosopher, captured our eyes and attention with that look that says, ' there is an important life lesson to be learned here.'
"And now," he said, we have a "Christmas Mouse" story of our own. Silent, but, in happy warm agreement, my Mother smiled: don't touch him, but, ok, for now ... the extra disinfecting from him this winter will probably save us from colds, too !
Sometime thru that holiday, Oscar ended his visits,
but more than forty years later, the memory is still a delight!
I hope you think so , too!
May we celebrate the special winter holiday renewal of the fundamental spirit of Hospitality throughout the Season, especially for unexpected and unusual Guests ! ~ elleimage credit: Animation Factory
I like to share stories of "Life Before the Age of Aquarius", both to enrich the understanding of our grownup children, and to
praise our parents....
our life force did not come from nowhere...
it came from them...
from their achievements and their frustrations...
we are, to the best of our own limited ability, their justification...
and this is the time of year to bring it all up and feed ourselves through cold months and difficult moments...
on the love, the courage and the fun and the beauty of their gifts to us!
My own Mother was double-orphaned, but with a lucky genome, and property, and lots of siblings...
through the years, as different from one another they may have become,
they would bond to learn, to work, and make and share a loving home and be loving parents, because of the parents they barely knew...
I just want to praise them! After having parented, and reached midlife, I am so impressed with them, all they did and felt and shared and gifted to us...
All of them were greatly influenced by their spouses' family values, and so it is simple logic that I write here, since my Father's people were hometown Irish-American, loved work, arts, and family loyalties, and sometimes, America, most of all!
Thank you !
In the Fities and early sixties, The Magi were Mother, Father and God!
All year long we celebrate our diversity in work and play, but at the Winter Holidays, we honor
our ethnicity specially. So much of the beauty of my holiday memories shines from the special
"lost art" feeling from the childhood ethnic observances. So I hope to share these stories well.
find it helps their understanding of their elders, and since it is so foreign to them, they seem
to be truly interested! My generation did the corporate relocations, and so had little awareness of their roots except for visits with a few of them, and too few of them. Grown, they celebrate their
previously-hidden soul - the many, many relatives astound and delight them, and I suspect that it helps them maintain balance in their futuristic psyches.
This page, then, is a bit more than a simple sharing of the luminous things at the Winter Holidays, but I hope my visitors enjoy at least that much !
Santa & Mrs.
My house was too quiet, with Christmastime near!
My feelings too lonely! My eyes shed a tear!
I locked up for the night and so, off to bed,
But sat up again, averting my head
To the space between shelves that divided the rooms,
With one little lamp to break up the gloom.
Right there on my chairs, just taking a rest,
Were "Santa & Mrs." My house was so blessed!
They saw I was shocked and said not to fear:
"Your place is so quiet, we thought we'd stop here!
And just take a break from Holiday noise!
There's so much to do for good girls and boys!"
Well! I was pleased, and feeling much better!
They rested and napped, then back out in the Weather...
I guess is what happened, since I, too, got sleepy.
Soon, I was napping and no longer weepy!
And when I awoke, they seemed to be gone...
Me, alone, but not lonely, enjoying a yawn!
This yarn for the season I hope you'll recall,
When enjoying its picture, among one and all!
The True Meaning of Christmas
~ and Some of its Symbols.
Symbols ! A Part the True Meaning of Christmas
Sometimes such questions are not really a question, but an opportunity.
A chance, once more, for all mankind to think about it for a minute, and share their insights -
to celebrate the diversity of understanding, and its source in a unity of Truth.
To Christians, for whom Christmas is named, The True Meaning of Christmas is very simply, the Celebration of the Birth of Christ -
"Christ's Mass" is the source of the word.
However, most of its symbols were there long before.
The Christian religion is said to be eclectic - that is, evolved from that which came before.
The goal was outreach to existing beliefs - using old symbols to help explain new concepts worked.
In time, legend, lore and thought enhanced the value of the symbols, and gave richer meaning.
That symbols relate to us and grow with us, reassures us that it is a good thing.
And that is why cultures and belief systems that seeming have little in common share similar symbols -
they grew from one another, sourcing in the same source of life and aiming there, as well.
Winter Holiday? It's about light and warmth and the life things in the months when nature challenges, with cold, dark, and minimum growing things to eat.
It's about life ! The Winter Holidays began as gatherings of folk to share life-saving observances. Things that were found to vastly improve the winter months.
And soon man realized that if these gatherings were made attractive, desirable and even fun, their lessons were more likely to be learned.
People would come to hear things they should hear; to learn the way of it all; to practice the ways and well! And so is sourced so much of ritual and tradition. Someone tried it and it worked!
One of the reasons elders howl as traditions change or are dropped is because the observaces were taken up by people because they serve a LIFE purpose - and in a very subtle way. If we drop old traditions we may forget the survival message in them - survival of the spirit, as well as of the body and culture.
The rest of the symbols we associate with the Winter Holidays are varied - I have listed a few of them here, and placed links to pages with more complete data, and you may enjoy finding more on your own - share them with me if you like!
The Christmas emphasis on Fellowship and Brotherhood and Community we show in many gatherings and special closeness in the family circle - this, too, is about giving a good vitamin pill to the part of us that experiences life as a power and motive and goal, all at once.
The weather may discourage it all, but with this little bit of encouragment, called 'holiday jollity' as they say in one old song, we win over it easily!
On the life level, it reminds us to group up and help one another should the bad day befall us. With so much fun in these observances, it tells us that the outcome of a bad day, confronted as a group, is quite likely to be very good, too. We relish it.
It's about LIFE!
We like symbols of things at this time of year, too! They speak in all languages, and without a word.
And end with this message, now and always!
"Peace On Earth ~ Goodwill Toward Man ! "
Here are a few notes concerning other Winter Holiday Symbols - if you email me with more, I will add them here:
SCROOGE ~ The Winter Holiday and Christmas messages are so important to our "basics" - physically, spiritually, historically and personally - that we seldom wonder at the message of the stories and film versions of the "Scrooge" tale.
"Scrooge" takes the idea further: it is not merely important to participate in the grand ideas of the Winter Holidays - To disdain the message is a danger. And the book was written at another time in our history when it was feared that folk might forget and later, suffer bitter regret.
CHILDREN - Why the special emphasis on children at the Winter Holidays?
Not all that long ago, the child mortality rate was pretty high. Some bore large families with the idea that half of them might not reach adulthood. Even in the most primitive times, to charm the children extra in the dark cold days was much better than huddling in a corner,in homes where heat was an option, waiting to fall ill, till Spring.
Our children are our bid on immortality. We know we cannot live forever, but through our children, it feels better - life will go on.
So, it is only logical that some extra to enthuse the children should be practiced at this time of year. Only logical that we should honor Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, so specially and his message of delighting the Children, as a reward for good behavior. Only logical that we wish to fill their minds and hearts with delight that often wins over even the illnesses of the cold winter days.
And only logical, the emphasis on the "Holiday Bustle" and the importance of toys and other items to keep us busy and happy, especially in indoor activities, till Spring.
FIR TREE - the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind. All the needles point heavenward,making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven.
We bring the fir tree and other fragrant evergreens indoors for fun, these days, and they still smell wonderful! But in olden times, housekeeping was not easy to do - and sanitation even worse. The boughs brought indoors were not an option, but the only thing for some folks to improve conditions indoors, with everthing shut up for the warmth till Spring.
STAR - the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of that promise. This is the most popular of the meanings, but there is so much more. The star is hope - light and direction in the darkness. Direction for the mariner, and land voyager alike, it symbolizes the fact that there are insights, directions, clues and inspiration in the darkest moments, through the toughest issues, and this message is so grand it impresses us, in ways that are out of reach to our consciousness and yet most profound. And of course, it's another simple symbol of light in the darker months.
CANDLE - for Christians the candle reminds us that Christ is the light of the
and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who
displaces the darkness.
The neat thing about even the simplest interpretation of the candle is that is Man-Made.
The candle says that light wins and we can make light and so we have power to do something about the dark, the cold, the difficult issues.
Not only do we benefit from light, we can generate it!
WREATH - a circle - a line that never ends, but continues, round and round - symbolizes the eternal nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one
continuous round of affection. Love is rich and enriched - so we warm to ones with greenery, and fruit and candies and sparkling ornamentation of every sort!
Or maybe one so elegantly simple that it breathes the miracle of love as one simple statement. Delight!
SANTA - when we think of all the things we like, things we desire, just as we came from the womb, source in our parents, we feel instinctively that all good things come from an entity - SomeONE - and so the Santa symbol helps and improves feelings of benevolence and generosity in response, when we need something - a feeling that is echoed within us, and subtly helps even our inner workings.
Believers see Santa as a God symbol - and a fine one he is!
HOLLY LEAF - is an old symbol of immortality. Green and bright red berries, when nothing else is doing much at all! To Christians, long ago it was said to represent the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent blood shed by Him. More about Holly
GIFTS - God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
Jesus, the Ultimate Gift to Mankind!
We also commemorate the Gifts from the Magi, the wise men, who bowed before the holy babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We should give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men."
WE are profoundly reminded that all life is a gift. That each of us is, in turn a gift to life, and that in work and play, we exchange a bit of life as a gift to one another, and not just germs! - in our interactions we inspire one another and empower one another. Like a social gift in a box with ribbons or simply given, we take it home with us, and make good use of it, to enhance with beauty on a shelf or wall, or put to work in some way that helps, or we might save it or pass it on, as a gift, in turn, to another.
CANDY CANE - represents the
shepherd's crook. The crook on the shepherd's staff helps bring back
strayed sheep from the flock. We are part of the Human flock, of the Family of Man. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper. That in community we all help to maintain the group.
ANGEL - the angels heralded the glorious news of the Savior's
birth. The angels sang 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace
and good will.'
The Angel is a very powerful symbol. One we need in days so dark. Just as we learn all good things, in hope that we will be given the right insights to do our work, and our lives as we should, we still depend on the right insight to reach us at the moment it is needed. And this is the angel within us - the Angel who brings us the word and the inspiration, and the insight that wins the day. A symbol of all that is specially good in many spiritual ways.
BELL. The bell
symbolizes guidance and return. As the lost sheep are found by
the sound of a bell, the bell brings people to the fold. And the bell sings our the triumph of Christmas and all that it holds for us! It expresses, more than any one voice, the Exultation!
As the ox and lamb, as the Angels, Shepherds and Magi,
We bow down and worship Him, Jesus, our Lord, our God."
TV's EWTN website Advent page for Christmas lists more of the Christmas symbols explanations.
Multi-cultural Winter Holiday Links
I hope to learn, myself, more about the observances of those outside my education and experience, since we are all Citizens of the Universe. These links have been helping me, and I will develop them as I can and hope you will wish to gain appreciation for the many wonderful ways we mark the Winter Holidays!
A Start here:
In my childhood memory, Catholic and Congregational and few other Protestant religions were part of the devotions and fun, and the Judaic was an exciting mystery, hinted at, but not taught.
It was Post WW2 and we idolized Jewish people for their sufferings and valiant spirit, and studied the Holocaust, but had little knowledge of their devotions and traditions, other than our Bible study reported from ancient days. I think I saw a yarmulka one time in all my childhood. So I am happy to share these now, and learn more each year, with gratitude for the kindness of Jewish friends and internet study sites.
Everything Jewish for those, like me, who know too little!
The Story of Hanukka
From Judaism 101:
Chanukka, to some, is the holiday that is a contradiction in terms. In America, since it falls near the Christian Christmas Holiday, it has come to be celebrated in similar style. But the Feast of Chanukka commemorates the miracle surrounding the re-consecration of the Temple, after a successful rebellion against pressures to squelch Judaism and assimilate the Jewish religion and practices to conform the other dominant peoples and practices of the times: these were unscrupulous descendants of the tolerant Alexander the Great, who, unlike him, persecuted and massacred Jews and defiled the Temple.
All things surrounding the Temple , its use and rituals, were very strict and could not be changed or omitted. Chanukka is called the "Feast of Lights" because the Jewish political and religious (led by the family of Juda Maccabees)that overthrew its anti-semitic oppressors (led by Antiochus), wished to celebrate and re-consecrate the Temple, which required a Sacred Festival of many days, with the Menorah burning, without interruption, night and day, throughout the festival celebration. Alas! The desecrations of the Temple had destroyed or defiled much of the sacred oil for burning the Menorah lights - only one day's supply of acceptable oil was left, and it would be eight days before new sacred oil could be properly and acceptably prepared, to keep the Menorah burning bright!
Nevertheless, by some miracle, the one day's supply of oil burned steadily for eight days, till the new oil was ready! And so the special observance of the miracle associated with the re-consecration of the Temple was appointed, and called Chanukkah, a name that refers to the Menorah, or Candelabrum, the central icon of the feast.
The Menorah contains the symbolic eight candles, one for each day the oil burned so miraculously, and ninth candle, the shamus or working candle, used to light the others, one for each day of the feast.
The Dreidle game, so popular at Chanukkah is traditionally played at that feast because it is said that it was first played to fool the persecutors, disguising prayer and study groups for groups of idle gamers, spinning a top.
It is fun and easy and not too boring, especially for modern and open-minded non-Jews, like me,
hoping to take the opportunity at Hanukkah to learn something worthwhile and new.
Play the Dreidel Game online !
An easy overall scan of History and Merchandise and rituals surrounding Chanuka, good for those who know nothing about it, and I wanted more.
But visit it for the laser -cut art quality paper lace
dreidel by artists
Melanie and Harry Dankowicz, each one signed and numbered. A really beautiful thing, whatever your religious beliefs and observance.
2. Chanuka for Children
Fun childrens games of the season; links and learning and merchandise.
My site fun page contains a dreidel crafting project to print and assemble. Happy Chanuka
Ideas Shop - Made in Israel
...really beautiful top quality sales offerings of Dreidels and Menorahs
4. Ready for more studious interest? Judaism 101 offers a great place to start. Reliable information in general terms, with links for
First of Judaic/multicultural stories at this page, from one at "Beliefnet.com"
The Christmas Menorah
A small town supports a Jewish neighbor when her family faces prejudice during Hanukkah.
By Joan Wester Anderson
During the wee hours of Sunday morning, December 8, 1996, after the third night of Hanukkah, someone took a baseball bat and broke the front window of a house on the street with a lighted menorah in the window, and the criminals reached through the shattered glass and smashed the menorah.
The menorah is used to celebrate the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah, which occurs around the same time as Christmas. As a nativity scene reminds Christians of their heritage and faith, so does a menorah for Jews.
The woman who lived in the vandalized house was no stranger to prejudice. As a child, she had come with her mother, a Holocaust survivor, and her father, to the United States to escape persecution in the Soviet Union. Now, as she viewed the smashed menorah, the familiar fear returned.
Lisa Keeling, a young mother who lived down the street, heard about the incident on returning from mass with her family. She was appalled. Newtown has about fifteen hundred families, representing many cultures and religions. Lisa had never heard of anyone being singled out because of faith or ethnicity. How would she feel if someone desecrated a crèche on her lawn she wondered. Unless everyone were free to practice religious beliefs, no one could be free. Lisa had an idea. She said to her husband, "I'd like to put a menorah in our front window so that family will know they are not going through this alone. If the vandals come back, they'll have to target us, too. What do you think?
Lisa's husband didn't hesitate. "Go for it," he said.
Lisa soon ran into another neighbor, Margie Alexander, who had been as horrified as Lisa when she heard the news and was also eager to act.
Margie started driving from store to store, looking for menorahs, with Lisa calling all the likely sources and relaying the information to Margie on her car phone. Word got around, and several Christian neighbors dropped by, asking where to purchase a menorah. Margie and Lisa bought up all they could and distributed them just before sundown-time to light the next candle.
Then Lisa took down the Christmas lights in one of her windows and put the menorah there, all by itself. "I didn't want there to be any doubt about the statement we were making," she recalls.
That night, when the Jewish woman turned onto her street, she stopped in amazement. Greeting her was a sea of orange menorah lights, shining in silent solidarity from the windows of all eighteen Christian households on her block. Blinking back tears, she went home, replaced the broken bulbs in her own menorah and put it back in the window.
Margie and Lisa are hanging menorahs again this Christmas. "it's become the most cherished part of my Christmas," Margie says, "and it's taught me a wonderful lesson: Just one little step in the right direction can make life better for everyone."
and another, also from "Beliefnet.com" which, in turn found it at "Chicken Soup for the Soul" ~
'It Should Once Again See Light'
A menorah, hidden from the Nazis and miraculously unearthed after more than 50 years, finds its true home.
By Blair P. Grubb, M.D.
Several years ago, a physician from southern France contacted me. His granddaughter had taken ill with a disease that baffled the physicians there. He called after reading several of my articles on disorders of the autonomic nervous system. His granddaughter's symptoms seemed to match those I had described, and he asked me if I could help. I readily agreed, and for many months, I collaborated with the child's French physicians by telephone and by fax, directing their diagnostic testing. At last we came to a diagnosis, and I prescribed a course of therapy. During the next several weeks, the child made a seemingly miraculous recovery. Her grandparents expressed their heartfelt thanks and told me to let them know should I ever come to France.
In the summer of 1996, I was invited to speak at a large international scientific meeting that was held in Nice, France. I sent word to the physician I had helped years before. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I received a message to contact him. I called him, and we arranged a night to meet for dinner.
On the appointed day, we met and then drove north to his home in the beautiful southern French countryside. It was humbling to learn his home was older than the United States. During the drive he told me that his wife had metastatic breast cancer and was not well, but she insisted upon meeting me. When introduced to her, I saw that despite her severe illness, she was still a beautiful woman with a noble bearing.
I was thereafter treated to one of the most wonderful meals I have ever eaten, complemented by the most exquisite of wines. After dinner, we sat in a seventeenth-century salon, sipping cognac and chatting. Our conversation must have seemed odd to the young man and woman who served us because it came out in a free-flowing mixture of English, French and Spanish. After a time the woman asked, "My husband tells me you are Jewish, no?"
"Yes," I said, "I am a Jew."
They asked me to tell them about Judaism, especially the holidays.
I did my best to explain and was astounded by how little they knew of Judaism. She seemed to be particularly interested in Hanukkah.
Once I had finished answering her questions, she suddenly looked me in the eye and said, "I have something I want to give to you." She disappeared and returned several moments later with a package wrapped in cloth. She sat, her tired eyes looking into mine, and she began to speak slowly.
"When I was a little girl of eight years, during the Second World War, the authorities came to our village to round up all the Jews. My best friend at that time was a girl of my age named Jeanette. One morning when I came to play, I saw her family being forced at gunpoint into a truck. I ran home and told my mother what had happened and asked where Jeanette was going. 'Don't worry,' she said, 'Jeanette will be back soon.' I ran back to Jeanette's house only to find that she was gone and that the other villagers were looting her home of valuables, except for the Judaic items, which were thrown into the street.
"As I approached, I saw an item from her house lying in the dirt. I picked it up and recognized it as an object that Jeanette and her family would light around Christmas time. In my little girl's mind I said, 'I will take this home and keep it for Jeanette until she comes back,' but she and her family never returned."
She paused and took a slow sip of brandy. "Since that time I have kept it. I hid it from my parents and didn't tell a soul of its existence. Indeed, over the last fifty years the only person who knew of it was my husband. When I found out what really happened to the Jews, and how many of the people I knew had collaborated with the Nazis, I could not bear to look at it. Yet I kept it, hidden, waiting for something, although I wasn't sure what. Now I know what I was waiting for. It was you, a Jew, who helped cure our granddaughter, and it is to you I entrust this."
Her trembling hands set the package on my lap. I slowly unwrapped the cloth from around it. Inside was a menorah, but one unlike any I had seen before. Made of solid brass, it had eight cups for holding oil and wicks and a ninth cup centered above the others. It had a ring attached to the top, and the woman mentioned that she remembered that Jeanette's family would hang it in the hallway of their home. It looked quite old to me; later, several people told me that it is probably at least one hundred years old. As I held it and thought about what it represented, I began to cry. All I could manage to say was a garbled "merci." As I left, her last words to me were "Il faudra voir la lumière encore une fois"--it should once again see light.
I later learned that she died less than one month after our meeting. This Hanukkah, the menorah will once again see light. And as I and my family light it, we will say a special prayer in honor of those whose memories it represents. We will not let its lights go out again.
Copyright - 2006 Beliefnet, Inc.
People of India, Hindu, and Jaine and others celebrate this Festival of lights. In fact the word means "Row of Lights".
Depending on the era and the area of celebration, it marks the the last Harvest, provision for winter months, nirvana of heroes and celebrates Light in the darker months, like most of the Winter Holidays cross-culturally.
Wikipedia's comprehensive description of Diwali is a very nice one,
and includes images from olden days and modern times that celebrate the six-day feast.
Legends of Diwali
Enjoying even some from these links will enlighten you as the lights brighten the dark, about this fitting Winter Holiday !
As man has evolved through the millennia, so have the observances. At one time there was Man and Nature. And some insist it was better that way. The seasons rule our lives even today but in early days the the Seasons were both a sign from God, and the being of God.
The Natural phenomenon WERE God.
And so worshipped in love and fear.
From Wikipedia, some helpful and accurate Solstice information - the root of most winter holidays and still celebrated by some cultures!
And here is a fine collection of information from Ireland where the Ancient mounds were constructed to illuminate at the Solstice and only then, revealing the messages carved so long ago! This from Knowth, and Michael Fox, Gaelic Knowth expert ~ 2010
Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement...in normal sociological response, as were most major holidays celebrated in the world today. To non -africans, it sounds a little bit like Thankgiving and Christmas combined, and has grown in delight and acceptance each year! Less than forty years later, most people know and respond to Happy Kwanzaa in America...overdue, and nice to see!
1.The official Kwanzaa site
listed here, is comprehensive and fun!
another black experience site offers Kwanzaa data and links, as well.
Kwanzaa on the Net
also informative and fun...colorful homepage!
A Classic Poem of God, Peace & Brotherhood for Christmas:
The Little Black Boy
by William Blake.
My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh my soul is white!
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black, as if bereaved of light.
My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And, pointed to the east, began to say:
"Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.
"And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.
"For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear,
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
Saying, 'Come out from the grove, my love and care
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice',"
Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
And thus I say to little English boy.
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy
I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our Father's knee;
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.
This poem is so famous, it's required reading in school, and there are oceans of literary comment about it.
I am white, and the only inter-racial people I knew had money and property, and did not suffer, but there were sensitive places we respected, lovingly, and did not understand. This poem, taught school one day, gave me my first glimpse of understanding of the sensitivities of inter-racial issues...the realization that our daily courage cares for quite a bit, protecting the best soul in all of us - our hope of salvation.
May we all continue to grow in good work and love, in every way, in the coming new year and always! ~ elle
MEMORIES OF A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS STAR
Written in 2002, this little true story recalls earlier days:
Christmas at our childhood home, in the 50's and 60's was luminous ! In good times or bad, always filled with love and energy, church and community, and special family experience. Mother's eleven siblings, Father's seven...family visits took all twelve days!
parents were young, bright, beautiful and creative, and each year, we got busy, happily sharing everything that pleased, to make Christmas special.
I especially loved outings to the family homestead, the "Little Whitehouse" for some of
Grandpa's Running Pine for garlands, but the running pine was placed on the endangered list, that far back, and so we stopped the 'Currier & Ives'- type expeditions. We missed the event: such fun, to gather up the long vines, entwine them, till they created the evergreen
fullness in a garland, and hang them over the mantles and anywhere else that felt grand to find some on Christmas morning!
Fortunately fun begats fun! We were soon diverted with equal delight, to Developing the Art of The Purchase of
the Perfect Christmas Tree and cultivating the mystified devotion to its decoration, care and feeding.
Electric light shows on the outside of the home were an innovation, in those days, and thrilled us, as they do now! With the house outlined in lights and two lighted candlesticks of molded plastic, by the front door, Winter lost its power to freeze, entirely! And that is a thing to say: our New England winters could be discouraging, at times, with cold, ice, snow and storms.
But not with our
parents! Holiday-glowing, until we knew we should and could do something special - and so "The Star"!
Commemorating The Star of Bethlehem, this would be a special star...if we could do it right, only the Original Star of Bethlehem could be better!
And so began the talk and planning sessions at the kitchen table and sketches and plans for the project, so that our Star might dazzle and yet be strong enough to endure, outdoors, through wind and cold.
With all of us
contributing, and encouraged to contribute, our ideas and wishes and thoughts, planning was soon followed by some shopping for supplies, and then some serious evenings' work.
The entire family, and a very special "Angel", a devoted friend of many gifts, gathered in the kitchen to assist and kibitz, as the work began...singing the holiday songs in three languages throughout! I think the only thing I hated from those days, was the cold glare from that flourescent kitchen ceiling fixture, but dark comes early in the winter, and I remember tuning out the insult of such light, and my Father giving me "the look" that said, sympathetically : "I know it's awful, but they'll get there with it, and we can rise above it, for this, easily!" He was, of course, right!
And so, "to it"!
In Connecticut's cold and windy winters, this Star would do just fine
with a sturdy wood backbone, so Angel and our Father went to work at that! We might help measure and mark the wood, with the funny, flat pencil.
Then a faceted, three-dimensional skeleton for the contours of the star, created with
Wooden lath and dowelling, and supports for endurance at every angle, and weak space.
Then Mother entered, and we three children, with boxes of aluminum foil, unrolling and crimping sheets of the shiny stuff, to create
"billions and billions" of facets in them, when partly smoothed out. Such fun to wiggle the faceted sheets, this way and that, and pick up their sparkly fun! There were not yet many things that did so. We were in no hurry to be done!
Such fun to mash the foil into balls,
but not too hard, now! A perfect task for children our age!
The crimped, smoothed foil was then stapled to the frame to fill out the contours created by the skeleton.
We jumped back and forth, between hushed devotion to the task, and just plain old-fashioned glee! Our star was already looking amazing!
Finally, the bulbless strings of lights were fashioned along each edge, height, width and depth of each point, and, varying the colors each year, a four-inch, heavy-duty outdoor bulb was fastened
in each socket. The mood getting serious now....
Then, with us keeping watch for safety and steady footing, Angel and our Father climbed to the porch roof, via the upstairs hall window, fastening our Star to the top front of our home, with "guy wires"
of a sort, so that even the strongest winds would not disturb it.
Then back indoors through the window, our Father making sure we gathered around him attentively. He would demonstrate the safe and strong method for creating the electrical connections. Our parents had a way of making things seem effortless in their youth, but it was a lot of work, and the concepts brave for the times. It would be our job to light the star each sundown and extinguish it in the morning, so the extra instruction with the wiring was important.
... the 'power-on' , as the rest of us flew to the front yard ....
Let there be Light!!!!
Completed, the star was more than three feet high, not including its supports, and thirty feet up on our rooftop and lit, it dazzled the entire neighborhood!
Word spread, even then, about neat lightshows, and People came from miles around to see the spectacle, and, of course we were gleeful over both the star and the excitement it created at Wintertime!
A real Christmas Star!
And each year, for many years after, the Star was brought out from careful storage, the foil refreshed as needed, variations in the color scheme of the lightbulbs worked out and, one year, we even gave it the amazing new snowspray stuff!
We loved it, and never lost interest in it, even when we were no longer "little ones" and mostly into things that were "cool"...
We loved it so much none of us will remember how and when it disappeared from our lives!
And remembering our Very Special Christmas Star still creates the glow that comes from within, and the desire to share its message of warmth and light in cold, dark places, just as far and as well as it will go!
Author's note: year's later, I wondered if the Foil covered Star was precognitive... a precursor.....soon after the Star disappeared, my Father's hands were fashioning the gold foil that wrapped the Lunar Landing Module...crinkled foil on a much fancier star!...neat coincidence, no?
Happy Holiday! Whoever you are, wherever you are, you surely do have a special light to share, as well...especially when you think otherwise! May it glow for you, forever!
If you enjoyed the story, please tell me! Elle Fagan