I always swore I’d never send one of those Christmas letters — in fact I hate them so much that this year I sent one back with edits. “Please see my notes on unnecessary capitalization. Central New York should not be used with quotation marks. Try to tighten up the part about the death of your aunt; overall it would be good to keep this under 400 words…”
But despite my Christmas letter ban, I did enclose this little note with our card this year, which featured us standing by the Christmas tree we cut down:
For 27 years we’ve been cutting down our own Christmas tree.
The first time was in 1988, high up in the hills outside Albany. We followed some hand-drawn signs down a deserted road where a sketchy looking guy took our $10 and told us to cut down whatever tree we wanted. It wasn’t a tree farm. We’re not even sure it was his property.
These were not the beautifully groomed trees of Christmas cards, but big, bushy things that were as wide as they were tall. But hey, $10! After trudging through the snow we found the right one, cut it down and dragged it off to the car.
Since then we’ve gone out, usually the day after Thanksgiving, to start the Christmas season with the annual tree cutting. This year was no different, and we were blessed that both Alex and Zach were home to help.
By the way, we’ve learned many lessons about Christmas trees. The top five:
- Cut down a bigger tree than you need. You can make a tree shorter, but not taller.
- If it’s muddy, leave the dogs at home.
- Putting the tree on the car roof? Don’t open the windows and run your rope through the car. This will tie the doors shut.
- Invest in a good tree stand. Not saying our tree has ever fallen over, but…
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Pay close attention to that last tip. In fact, this Christmas, let’s all remember what really matters: our family and friends, the traditions we treasure and the miracle we celebrate.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.
At a work gathering, we played a game that involved discovering Christmas facts about your co-workers: their favorite movie, Christmas song, holiday tradition and so on. It was a fun way to get people interacting at the party as teams competed for prizes.
The question about me? My favorite Christmas character — and naturally, the answer was Krampus.
I had to explain Krampus to most people. “Oh, he’s St. Nick’s demon sidekick. He comes for the bad children and carries them away.”
“What does he do with them?”
“Well, he drowns them, or eats them — sometimes he just takes them off to Hell.”
And at that point, most holiday revelers slowly backed away.
So, as you can imagine, it brought me great Christmas joy when the New York Times ran a big story about the revival of Krampuslauf in Bavaria. It’s an annual festival that celebrates the hairy and horned scourge of misbehaving kids, and it sounds like a blast. Forget Oktoberfest, I want to go to Krampuslauf!
There are tons of videos of Krampuslauf events online; this is one of the crazier ones:
Yes, all the best things about Halloween and Christmas rolled into one. This is something we really need around here.
Liberty Public House, Rhinebeck NY
Are newspapers and other online publications discovering that they hate comments? Might be.
The latest to abandon comments is The Week, which issued a long explanation of their policy change. It included this passage:
There was a time — not so long ago! — when the comments sections of news and opinion sites were not only the best place to host these conversations, they were the only place. That is no longer the case. Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony.
Yeah, no kidding.
Quite coincidentally, on the same day I spotted this blog comment exchange in the Capital Region’s foremost purveyor of reader comments, the Times Union:
click to enlarge
That’s really telling: even Mike Huber, the guy who created the paper’s blog section and commenting community, now pines for the days when readers had to send a letter. Bravo, indeed.
A big chunk of Saturday was devoted to cleaning my garage. That may sound boring, but you have no idea how good it made me feel.
The space has been somewhat out of control for a long time — but now that I need a place to park my snow blower, enough was enough. Seven hours and two trips to the dump later, the garage was reclaimed. It’s still not perfect, there are some more things that should go in the trash, but the difference is startling.
Don’t get me wrong, a neat freak, I ain’t — but there’s something very satisfying about a clean and orderly space. My theory is that we may not be able to fix this complicated and cluttered world, so we seek to reduce chaos where we can.
Maybe for you it’s your car or the kitchen or your desk at work — a small corner of the world where you set the rules. Or you could be one of those people comfortable with disorder everywhere. That’s fine, I’m OK with that, but please put that shovel away. I will not have your anarchy in my garage.
While comforting a boy on the loss of his beloved dog, Pope Francis said “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”
Well, if the Pope says that dogs go to heaven, that’s pretty exciting news.
This has sparked a lively discussion, not just among theologians, but in the animal rights community, as well.
Belief in heaven is where faith is truly tested and it’s something I think about all the time. It’s hard for the rational mind have it all make sense, to completely accept that our souls will go on after death. The lack of proof is what makes it faith, not fact.
But what’s the harm in believing? There’s nothing wrong with that boy expecting to see his dog in heaven. And if after death there is nothing, he’ll never know the difference.
It would really be something to spend eternity with my dogs. The cats too, as long as I don’t have to change the litter boxes. That’s more like Hell.
We have a beautiful angel on top of our Christmas tree — but when the room is dim, she can be a little hard to see. In this world of plug-in and light up, she’s old school analog — and many nights I’ve sat in the living room and wondered how to cast a light in her direction. It’s a shame that the crown of our tree should not be illuminated.
The solution? One of those little gooseneck laptop lights you sometimes see that plug into a USB port. I was able to mount this one right on the tree, powered by a USB charging block. Plug in the light and we’re in business. Woohoo!
We do go crazy over Christmas trees, don’t we? But you know what? It makes me happy. Sometimes I just sit in the dark and look at it all lit up. Keep the gifts, the parties, the hustle and bustle — all the things that bring holiday stress. I would gladly give up all the trappings of the season as long as I could have the tree.
First, let me say this: I love the Grinch. The Dr. Seuss book is magical — a perfect Christmas story — and the 1966 cartoon version is one of the greatest and most successful adaptations of a literary work for TV or film ever. Seriously.
Because I love the Grinch, I hate Ron Howard’s revolting film version of the story. It’s a hideous mess and if there were a way I could destroy every copy of the movie I could find, I would do it. Yes, I know that sounds a tad… extreme, but what can I say?
And because I love the Grinch, seeing him mischaracterized in the media troubles me — and every December, writers trot out Grinch as their description for every holiday evildoer. I’ve explained before (ad nauseam) that this is inaccurate because the Grinch returned everything he stole back to Whoville.
Bear with me. When would you describe a thief as being like Robin Hood? Only if he turned over his booty to the poor — not if he kept the loot. Similarly, without giving back, one can not be like the Grinch.
Nevertheless, every December the Grinch gets a bad rap. A few examples:
Woman Stealing Wreaths Called “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”
Grinch Steals Salvation Army Kettle in Oak Lawn
The Grinch Who Stole Jesus
Real-Life ‘Grinch’ Committing Christmas-Related Crimes
‘Grinch’ Arrested for Stealing Readstown’s Christmas Tree
As you might suspect, I could go on all day.
So how can you help? The next time you see Grinch misused in a news story, leave a friendly comment pointing out the error. And be nice! It’s Christmas — and you wouldn’t want to be inappropriately compared to Scrooge.
Good news, everyone: it will not snow this winter!
I can guarantee it. This has nothing to do with long-range forecasts, the Farmer’s Almanac or climate change. I can guarantee it will not snow because I just bought a snow blower.
After years of struggling against winter — and the town plow — I decided it was time to turn to technology. There were two big reasons for taking the plunge. First, my sons no longer live at home, so the source of free labor I long relied on has dried up. The second reason? Chalk it up to this universal principle that governs much human behavior: I’m getting too old for this sh*t.
There was a time when I relished the vigorous workout of shovelling and took great pride in my ability to conquer the elements. Even though my driveway routinely gets two or three times the snow in front of it than my neighbors, I’d simply laugh in their general direction. “Ha, look at you people and your snow blowers! Suckers!”
Well, I’m starting to think that maybe I was the sucker.
So, later in the week I’ll pick up my gently used 8HP two-stage snow blower. It’s a bit more machine than I need, but this is one of those areas where you shouldn’t skimp. Are you going to go out and buy the cheapest parachute?
One note: the no snow guarantee doesn’t start until the machine is in my garage. Until then, all bets are off.