Happy New Year Blog!

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By M. F. Erler

Happy New Year.  Of course, this only applies if you are on the Gregorian (more commonly known as the Christian) Calendar.  Most of the western world is.  However, not everyone celebrates the new year on what we call January 1.  Before the Sixteenth Century, most of Europe was following the Julian Calendar, started originally by Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor.  In the Julian Calendar, March was the first month of the year.  Which explains why September, October, November, and December literally mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th month, respectively.  (By the way, the reason July and August both have 31 days is that Caesar Augustus, successor of Julius Caesar wanted his month to have as many days as his predecessor’s.  Couldn’t let him look more important, after all.)

When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in the 1500s, January became the first month.  Therefore September (septem=7 in Latin) became the 9th month instead of the 7th.  And so on.  The reason for this was the Julian Calendar’s year was not 365 days long, so there was need for a leap month every so many years.  And you thought Leap Year was complicated!

Here’s some more calendar trivia.  The New Year of the Church Calendar actually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the First Sunday in the Ecclesiastical season of Advent.  In a sense, our commercial new year coincides with the opening of school in August or September.  School used to start the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, but that has fallen by the wayside in many places.

And then, of course there’s the Lunar Calendars, whose dates vary from our solar calendar from year to year.  Chinese New Year usually falls sometime in February, on 2/5 in 2019.  Then Hindus, Arabs and others also have their own calendars.  The Jewish calendar has two new year’s, similar to some Christian churches.  The Sacred Jewish New Year falls around Passover in the Spring.  While the Secular New Year is in the Fall.

Okay, now that I’ve further complicated your life, let me just wish you a peaceful and hopeful new year.  That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, though it may be a pipe dream. 

 

“Feliz Navidad!”

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Well, around here “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” The “O Christmas Tree” is lighted, packages are wrapped in “Pretty Paper,” and I admit there’s been some “Kissing by the Mistletoe.”

At every store, you’ll find a Salvation Army Santa ringing those “Silver Bells.” Strangers greet each other with “Happy Holidays,” while the kiddos sing “Jingle Bells” for the 248th time and build “Frosty the Snowman” in their front yard. It truly is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

I hope your loved ones will be “Home for the Holidays.” I phoned my daughter to say “Please Come Home for Christmas” so it won’t be a “Blue Christmas” at the Epperson’s house. 

I’m wishing for a “White Christmas.” Our hike to the mailbox last evening was more “Ice Skating at Night,” than walking in a “Winter Wonderland.” I know the skiers in my family (of which I am not one) are chanting “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.” I’d rather stay in with a cup of cocoa and enjoy “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

And although we’re all excited because “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” we can’t forget the reason for the season. On that “Silent Night,” and “The First Noel,” the “Star of the East” shone over the stable while “The Friendly Beasts” passed the word that “There’s a New Kid in Town” and his name is “Emmanuel.” I’d like to ask the Virgin Mother, “Mary Did You Know” “What Child Is This” sleeping “Away in the Manger” on this “O Holy Night?” 

How will you and your friends and family celebrate the season? Going for a “Sleigh Ride” or going “Caroling Caroling?” Are perhaps you have plans to be “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Whatever you do, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

But please remember “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” So, stay safe and warm. I heard that last year “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” 

From our family to yours, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

 

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Deborah Epperson

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Worthy to be Remembered

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By Karen Wills

For many years, when our extended family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, I elicited groans, especially from the younger crowd, by insisting no one eat until I read a section of William Bradford’s account of the Pilgrims’ first winter in what he called, “the desert wilderness.” I did so because I felt, and still do, that we should acknowledge not just the Puritans’ capacity to give thanks, but their character and endurance. 

     William Bradford, who sailed on the Mayflower and became the second governor of Plymouth Plantation, began a journal in 1620. He did much more than merely document events; he showed the fiber of his companions. Here, in part, is his account of the misery of their first winter in America.

     “So as there died sometimes two or three a day in the foresaid time, that of one hundred and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in times of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard to their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them…all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, a rare example and worthy to be remembered. Two of these were Mister William Brewster…and Miles Standish, their captain and military commander… And what I have said of these I may say of many others who died in this general visitation, and others yet living, that whilst they had health, yea, or any strength continuing, they were not wanting to any that had need of them. And I doubt not but their recompense is with the Lord.”

Thank you, William Bradford.

     What historical figure or figures are you thankful for?

     

 

Happy Birthday, America!

eppersonBW  By Deborah Epperson

I have a large American flag mounted on the southern deck of my house.  I enjoy watching it wave in the wind, but sometimes the wind whips the flag up and it gets wrapped around the pole.
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COURTESY BREDT BREDTHAUER

In the past, I’d run outside, take down the flag, and unknot it so it could once more fly free in the wind. An hour later, the scene would repeat itself. Some days, I’d make five or six trips outside to untangle the flag.

A few years ago, I was in a car accident and ended up with a broken ankle. The first month I was home, I was in a wheelchair, and that’s when I noticed a funny thing about Old Glory. The flag got tangled up as usual, but because of my broken ankle, I couldn’t go untangle it. Later that day, I noticed the flag flying free again. I watched the flag closely over the next month. Some days, it would get so wrapped around the pole that I thought it would never get untangled by itself, but it did. Sometimes, the flag would stay tangled up for days at a time, but eventually, it would work its way free and fly high and proud once more.

The actions of the flag serve as a perfect metaphor for what historically goes on in a democratic republic like ours. At times, everything seems tangled up. Fear whips us into such a frenzied state that we’re willing to trade constitutional rights for an elusive promise of safety. We’re told that we are a country split in half. Blue against Red. Democrat verses Republican. Pro Choice verses Pro Life. Conservatives against the liberals. Hawks against Doves. The list goes on and on. Sometimes we wonder if such a snarled web can ever be untangled.

In the 50’s, we got twisted up in McCarthyism and the Cold War. In the 60’s, Americans were divided over segregation and civil rights. In the 70’s, we struggled with Vietnam, Watergate, and the resignation of a President. As a country, we were as tousled as that flag, and at the time there seemed no way to get beyond the forces that divided us.

Eventually, we have always discovered a way to untangle ourselves, to make peace with our neighbor, and to fly proud and free again just like Old Glory. Throughout our history, Americans have always pushed through the fear to come back to our roots and to the basic principles of individual freedoms and justice for all. After watching that flag and reviewing our nation’s history, I’m sure in time we’ll do it again. 

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Have a wonderful 4th of July and remember that while the day can be a festive holiday for us, it can be a frightening time for our pets. Please take precautions to keep your pets happy and safe.
Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah

Hope & Joy in a Classic Tale

By Janice McCaffrey      a christmas carol

While pondering the upcoming holidays my stream of consciousness meandered over past memories and future dreams. A few quiet moments of reflection led of course to Dickens’ ghosts.  My favorite version is The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine.

I love the little mice bookkeepers working dutifully and diligently in the cold office under the supervision of the kind-hearted Bob Cratchit performed by Kermit. Best of all though is the interplay between Rizzo the Rat acting as sidekick to Gonzo while he narrates the story as Charles Dickens himself.

My thoughts bumped over the moral of the story and what it means in today’s world. I got stuck on ‘don’t be stingy’ but wanted more. So what else is Dickens telling us?

On enotes.com’s website where they proclaim “We’re the Literature Experts” I found an article by Christian Themes (literary essentials: Christian fiction and nonfiction) titled     A Christmas Carol Themes. Let me paraphrase:

Scrooge’s initial penny-pinching reflects the values taking hold during the Industrial Revolution. Dickens illustrates what happens when individuals view relationships and other people through their financial worth. The author exposes the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor.

Then he illustrates a solution, individual redemption. The world becomes a better place almost immediately after Scrooge changes his outlook. The story implies that a renewed connection to humanity is, in fact, the very essence of redemption. His change is not introspective and personal; it is outward-looking and social.

While the results of Scrooge’s change didn’t alter the social structure itself, the compassion he showed to individual people did change the social relationships they shared. Despair turned to hope. isolation to belonging, and unhappiness to joy.

Wow! And I thought it was just fun to watch.

Yes, it’s a Christian based tale, but certainly can be applied to all of us no matter our beliefs. Let’s follow Scrooge’s example, enhance our relationships, and join Tiny Tim in his prayer.

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“God bless us, every one!”