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Showing content with the highest reputation since 06/13/2020 in Articles

  1. Being country boys, my two younger brothers and I found ourselves outside 365 days a year. Each morning during the school year, before we would head off to school, we had to water and feed the animals before a quick breakfast and then departure on the school bus. When we returned home it was another trip out to the animals, dinner, and then that country landscape opened to us for adventure. On the weekends and summer vacation that landscape was open for business all day long and we took full advantage of it. Some days we would be fighting Soviets and other days we would be reliving WWII, either fighting in the Pacific or Europe. Sometimes we would be traveling through the area on our way to the Rockies to search for beaver pelts that would make us rich. Quite often we would construct ramps that would rival those jumped by the great Evil Knievel and we would patch each other up with words of confidence and lots of band-aids. The field across the gravel road that ran by our house was our baseball and football field, competing with the majestic beauty of Wrigley Field or Lambeau Field. To my youngest brother, though, that land became Texas and our home was the Alamo. Jeremy lived, loved, dreamed, ate, and slept all things to do with Davy Crockett. It didn’t matter he was a Tennessean and we were Kentuckians. Oh, no. Jeremy could feel in his very fibers that he was Davy Crockett and Buddy Ebsen’s character George Russel was right alongside of him. When Jeremy would go feed and water the chickens he could see Santa Ana wondering why Davey was sent to feed the chickens. Occasionally he would wave at old Santa Ana, just to let him know he knew he was watching him. Beginning in the fall of 1986, Jeremy, a wiry six years old, began to hound my folks about what he wanted for Christmas. Our father had been out of work from the coal mines for almost two years, but he and Mom would do their best to see that Santa Claus came to visit their three boys. Jeremy produced a short simple list: a buckskin jacket, buckskin pants, a coonskin cap, and a rifle: just like Davy Crockett’s. It was a short list for sure, but not an easy one to come up with. Deer season didn’t start until late in November and to kill a deer then cure the skin, then to sew the outfit before Christmas? That was almost impossible. During the fall my brothers and I would tramp through the woods that bordered our home and as possible we began to stock the freezer with rabbits. The were plentiful and we boys could scare them out in the open in a heartbeat. My dad had told me after Jeremy produced his list that I needed to keep my eyes open and if, during the evening while I was out roaming the grounds, if I happened to see a raccoon, I needed to shoot it. When I found out why, raccoon hunting became my newest and most sought-after adventure. About two weeks later I was looking into the woods from our front porch and thought I saw a rather big squirrel mosey down a tree and land on the ground. He looked like the fattest squirrel I had ever seen and upon closer inspection I saw his black mask horizontally crossing his face. I went inside the house and grabbed my .22 rifle and my brother was no where around. Dad looked up for his newspaper and asked, “What’s going on?” “Coon”, I replied. Dad’s curiosity got him, and he was on my tail as we progressed through the yard. The coon was walking around the outer edges of the woods and had stopped by our walnut tree to have a small meal on the leftover walnuts laying around. I carefully pulled up the .22 to my eye and went down to one knee. I breathed gently and placed my finger on the trigger, ready to bag my quarry. Crack! One flip-flop, a stutter, and a slump were all the coon had in him. “Ya got ‘em”, Dad exclaimed, happy as a lark. Now, my old man could skin a rabbit in about 1-minute flat, and I’ll be danged if that coon’s skin wasn’t nailed to a board and drying in about 5 minutes flat. There would be at least a coonskin cap under the tree in 1986 for my little brother. My mother, the female version of Columbo, who could sniff out a lie faster than a speeding bullet and who could track down a need item better than any scavenger in Kentucky, was on a mission. She kept out rotary pone burning hot from morning to night, asking everyone in a tri-county radius if they had any buckskin they weren’t using. Now the chances of her being successful were about as remote as the chance of a polar bear and a grizzly bear teaming up to have high tea at our house on a Thursday afternoon, but Mom was persistent. Finally, about three weeks before Christmas, tensions high that the buckskin outfit was not to be under the tree, Mom struck gold. An old man who ran a store catering to hunters in our area, that had closed shop in the 1970s had a complete deer hide that had been tanned and he would part with it…for free. Now, my mother is 5’ tall. Her legs are short, and I only remember her running twice: once playing a baseball game with us kids for fun and when she grabbed her purse, cigarettes, and keys to jump into our land yacht: a 1976 Chrysler Cordoba. With Bel-Airs in hand, my mother shot down our gravel road like the Devil himself was chasing her and about forty-five minutes later she returned with a dark buckskin and a smile from ear to ear. For two weeks Mom wore her fingers to the bones. She used a pair of my brother’s jeans and one of his shirts as a pattern and finally, just a few days before Christmas, sewed the last piece of fringe onto the jacket. It was complete. My father had sewed the coonskin cap, complete with a plaid lining taken from one of his old shirts. Jeremy’s gifts were ready, yet there was no rifle, a gift my dad had already tended to. I wondered how the old man was going to pay for such a thing, but he said, “Don’t worry about it”, so I tried not to. Unbeknownst to me my Dad's brother had taken a 1”x2” board and had carefully cut, sanded, and molded it into an official long rifle, just like the one Davy Crockett used. On Christmas morning my brother was beside himself with joy and glee. I can still see his face, his eyes wide and mouth agape as he held up his buckskin shirt and pants. It was the greatest Christmas gift my brother had ever or would ever receive. For the next four years my brother gave Santa Ana the toughest fight he had ever had. On some days my brother died as one of the last men defending the Alamo and other days he and the Texans managed to whip Santa Ana. Some days, though, the battle just kept going for hours and hours and hours. The cries of “We've got ‘em on the run, boys” and Pew! Pew! Pew! echoed throughout our home and yard from sunup to sundown. Today my mother’s cedar chest sits in the bedroom she and Dad have shared for over 40 years. No one opens the chest or would dare to do so without the presence of my mother. That chest holds items worth very little on the open market and most items hold no real-world value. However, if you were to crack it open and disperse the contents upon the floor, there, neatly folded with love and care, would be a buckskin outfit with patched elbows and knees and a coonskin cap with worn-out plain lining, the dreams of a young boy, Davey Crockett, and Christmas 1986.
    8 points
  2. Reindeer - Rangifer Taranadus Taranadus (R.T. Taranadus) They are cervids from the root group Rangifer Taranadus that included ten species of Reindeer and Caribou. Two of these species are extinct and several of the Caribou such as the North American Woodland Caribou are currently on the watch list for species at risk. REINDEER ARE NOT CARIBOU! although they are cousins. Of the ten species of Rangifer Taranadus, generally three types inhabit continental North America. Two of these are native being the Woodland Caribou and the Barren Ground Caribou. The third is the Eurasian Tundra Reindeer that was introduced by the government to the North American continent in the late 1800's to replace lifestyle losses to the Inuit people of the North. The original influx of Reindeer were brought into North America across the Land Bridge from the USSR. Slightly more than 400 head made up the original group of animals that were walked into the North as part of this project. Reindeer in North America can be DNA matched to the original herd thereby confirming that they are in fact reindeer. While there are many reindeer in the North that live under feral conditions, there are no wild reindeer. Reindeer are acknowledged to be one of, if not the oldest, domesticated animals in the world with history of domestication tracing back between 5000 and 8000 years (depending on the source) They are listed in the Lesser Nine of the fifteen domesticated animals along with camels, llamas, alpacas and elephants. They were once referred to as the "First Meat of Man" and the animals is unique in that both in life and death, the animal is completely useful. As a live animals they provide transportation, haulage, velvet antler for medicines, and milk to name a few. In death, they provide meat, hides for clothing along with products that can be made from the bone and antler. Adult Male reindeer will weigh in at approximately 500 lbs while females top out around 400 lbs. On average they will stand between 8 and 10 hands high (1 Hand = 4 Inches) Both the male and Female produce antlers and they along with the caribou are the only cervid that does this. Antlers regrow each year with the previous years antler being shed from Late November through early May depending on a variety of factors. Male reindeer that are intact breeders will drop the antler anytime after breeding season once their need to establish dominance and attract females has passed. Once the antler has been shed the dominant male will usually become the most subservient member of the herd until the breeding cycle begins again the following year. Steers will usually keep their antlers longer into the New Year but not as long as the females. Bred females usually retain their antlers until the babies are born ensuring them preference to the best feed and leaving them with a level of defense. Antlers will begin to regenerate almost immediately but generally show a growth phase that lasts approximately 4 months. Antlers will grow at a rate of anywhere from 1/2" per day to 1 1/2" per day. Remember that the growth the you see on an animal ALL grew this year. Antlers, while in the growth phase are live tissue and are soft (think Fingernails). They look much like a padded coat hanger and are susceptible to injury. Significant injury to growing antler can result in death from hemorrhage if not attended to. Antlers are never the same but may have a general consistency of style from animal to animal they are rarely symmetrical. The antler grows from pedicules in the skull that firmly anchor the antler until its time to shed. Antlers can be broken or fall off prematurely but there is no real way to determine when and antler will fall. In feral conditions the reindeer along with other animals will normally eat the antler to recapture lost mineral. What is the difference between Antlers and Horns? Generally Antlers are annual ornaments while horns are permanent. Antlers grow from the tip and an injury to the antler at the tip, or involving the tip, may stop all growth for that season. Horns are permanent and not shed each year. They also grow from the base therefore an injury to the end of the horn, or removal such as blunting as used on rodeo bulls, does not affect growth. While there is often a visual difference between the structure and weight of antlers between male and female, that doesn't always prove to be true. Some sources say that only the males will grow a shovel which is a significant protrusion of flat antler off one branch pointing forward. The animals use this to break into heavy crusted snow when foraging for food.
    7 points
  3. 10 Fun Facts About Sleigh Bells The ringing sound of sleigh bells is all too familiar around this time of the year. It’s the official siren signaling in the winter season. While a well-known signature staple on sleighs, Santa suits and reindeer, jingle bells haven’t always been associated with Christmas. They do much more than just ring in holiday cheer. 1. Sleigh bells or jingles bells are a type of bell that produces a distinctive jingle sound. They are in the percussion family of instruments. 2. The bells are made from sheet metal bent into a spherical shape with a small ball bearing or short metal rod placed inside to create the jingle sound. 3. Small bells were known in ancient times. In Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt they were commonly suspended from the trappings of horses, mules, and camels. 4. Centuries ago, sleigh bells were fastened to horses to signal the approach of someone important or to warn pedestrians of an approaching vehicle. Sleighs were unable to stop quickly enough so they needed a warning sound. 5. William Barton opened the first US sleigh bell company in East Hampton, Connecticut in 1810. East Hampton eventually became known as “Belltown” because it produced so many bells. 6. Sleigh bells, or jingles, are rarely used to produce specific pitches. Mozart, however, prescribed this in the third of his Three German Dances K605. 7. The song Jingle Bells, also known as “One Horse Open Sleigh,” is one of the most popular and most recorded songs on Earth. It was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont and was originally meant for Thanksgiving. 8. Sleigh bells were one of the first instruments played in space. In 1965, Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, smuggled bells and a harmonica onto their spacecraft and played Jingle Bells for mission control as a light-hearted holiday joke. 9. The affluent ornamentally wore bells as a symbol of wealth and status. 10. In old Pagan beliefs, jingle bells are used to ward off bad luck, diseases, and evil spirits. Today, some motorcyclists strap small bells to their handlebars to ward off road demons. Source: Miki Onwudinjo - Oxford University Press.
    4 points
  4. Old Santeclaus by Clement Clark Moore, 1821 Old Santeclaus with much delight His reindeer drives this frosty night, O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow, To bring his yearly gifts to you. The steady friend of virtuous youth, The friend of duty, and of truth, Each Christmas eve he joys to come Where love and peace have made their home. Through many houses he has been, And various beds and stockings seen; Some, white as snow, and neatly mended, Others, that seemed for pigs intended. Where e’er I found good girls or boys, That hated quarrels, strife and noise, I left an apple, or a tart, Or wooden gun, or painted cart. To some I gave a pretty doll, To some a peg-top, or a ball; No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets, To blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother’s ear, Nor swords to make their sisters fear; But pretty books to store their mind With knowledge of each various kind. But where I found the children naughty, In manners rude, in temper haughty, Thankless to parents, liars, swearers, Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers, I left a long, black, birchen rod, Such as the dread command of God Directs a Parent’s hand to use When virtue’s path his sons refuse.
    4 points
  5. The Widow and the Mistletoe His shotgun back with the saddle and horse, young Mike tucked the mistletoe away. One shot, all it took, his aim was on course, on the ground 'neath the tree it did lay. Now onward through snow to the Harmon ranch, the widow's heart to win this Christmas Eve His whole plan hinged on that mistletoe branch, he wanted her burdens to relieve. The homestead was failing more and more each year, he helped keep her ranch while managing his own but the work was too great, the legacy's end was near. Helping her keep it, something more now had grown. From caring for widows as the Bible had told, Mike now found he loved her and wanted much more But would she be ready to embrace a new life? Soon he would know as he approached her front door, His heart was now racing, would she become his new wife? Above the door the mistletoe placed by hammer and nail, the tapping brought Sarah to the door as he planned. He pulled her to him, in surprise a small wail, then laughter through kisses, a feeling so grand. No hesitation, no fear, she accepted his embrace to his knee on her porch, he pulled out a ring “Yes, yes!” she exclaimed as her heart did race, let go of the past, see what the future would bring. To her humming of carols they snuggled for hours as their love blossomed more in the firelight's glow. Tradition to kiss under mistletoe flowers years later together their family would grow. Happiness surrounded them through great faith and love it was in Jesus they both had come to believe both the ranch and their family were gifts from above they celebrated especially each Christmas Eve. This Christmas years later, a tradition to keep it took old Mike three shots to get that mistletoe free. On horseback again, he started to weep by a place near the ranch he never wanted to see. Kneeling down at her grave the mistletoe was placed Bright memories of that first Christmas kiss, forever they'd be with him, never replaced, those mistletoe kisses forever he'd miss. Shared from Cowboys of the Cross http://www.cowboysofthecross.com/
    4 points
  6. The Mistletoe Bough "The Mistletoe Bough," lyrics by Thomas Haynes Bayly, music by Sir Henry Bishop, is a ballad composed around 1830 retelling a traditional tale about a newlywed bride who accidentally locks herself in an old oak trunk while playing hide-and-seek with members of her wedding party, who then spend a long night searching for her in vain. The Mistletoe Bough The mistletoe hung in the castle hall, The holly branch shone on the old oak wall; And the baron's retainers were blithe and gay, And keeping their Christmas holiday. The baron beheld with a father's pride His beautiful child, young Lovell's bride; While she with her bright eyes seemed to be The star of the goodly company. Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. "I'm weary of dancing now," she cried; "Here, tarry a moment — I'll hide, I'll hide! And, Lovell, be sure thou'rt first to trace The clew to my secret lurking-place." Away she ran — and her friends began Each tower to search, and each nook to scan; And young Lovell cried, "O, where dost thou hide? I'm lonesome without thee, my own dear bride." Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. They sought her that night, and they sought her next day, And they sought her in vain while a week passed away; In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot, Young Lovell sought wildly — but found her not. And years flew by, and their grief at last Was told as a sorrowful tale long past; And when Lovell appeared the children cried, "See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride." Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid, Was found in the castle — they raised the lid, And a skeleton form lay mouldering there In the bridal wreath of that lady fair! O, sad was her fate! — in sportive jest She hid from her lord in the old oak chest. It closed with a spring! — and, dreadful doom, The bride lay clasped in her living tomb! Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. A video of the poem was made in 1904 . . .
    3 points
  7. The German Nussknacker (Nutcracker) is a timeless symbol of the Christmas season. Originating near the Erzebirge regions of Germany, decorative Nutcrackers in the form soldiers, knights, and kings have existed since the late 17th century. A close cousin to the Nutcracker is the Räuchermänner. Commonly known as “Smokers” or “Smoking Men”, Räuchermänner are similar to Nutcrackers in that they are both colorful, carved wooden figures and both originate from Erzegebirge. However, instead of cracking nuts, Räuchermänner are used to burn incense known as Räucherkerzchen. Literally meaning "little smoking candle", a Räucherkerzchen is a small cone of incense burned at Christmas time. The emergence of Räucherkerzen goes back to the use of frankincense in Catholic liturgy. The Räucherkerzchen are made from the resin of the frankincense tree, mixed with charcoal, potato flour, sandalwood and beech paste. The substances are ground and mixed into a moist dough, then shaped into a cone and dried. Räucherkerzchen come in a wide variety of fragrances ranging from traditional Christmas scents like, frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and balsam to the more exotic like sandalwood, honey, and others. Unlike Nutcrackers, which tend to represent political, military, or religious figures, Räuchermänner traditionally resemble common folk such as: shepherds, farmers, bakers, carpenters, chimney sweeps, and other tradespeople. Over the years, these figures have evolved into a wide variety of styles. Today Räuchermänner can be found in all sorts of variations, especially Christmas themes such as Santa Claus, Elves, and Snowmen. The Räuchermänner is made up of two pieces that fit together to create one body. The upper part of the body is hollow so that an incense cone can be placed on top of the lower half of the body. When the incense is lit, smoke then billows out of a hole carved in the mouth to resemble a man smoking a pipe. Its nostalgic charm has made the Räuchermänner a Christmas tradition in Germany for hundreds of years. Unlike their Nutcracker cousins, who are often depicted as bearish and grim faced, Räuchermänner seem friendlier; almost jovial. But perhaps what has made the Räuchermänner so popular is that these little wooden figures represent the work of the common man.
    1 point
  8. Michael Rielly

    If

    English poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) is perhaps best known for the children's book The Jungle Book. In addition to The Jungle Book and other novels, Kipling's works include many short stories and poems. "If—" is a poem by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written circa 1895 as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism. The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies, ch. ‘Brother Square-Toes, ’ is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John. If by Rudyard Kipling, 1910 If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
    1 point
  9. Every New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, millions around the world traditionally gather together to sing the same song, “Auld Lang Syne”. As revilers mumble though the song’s versus, it often brings many of them to tears – regardless of the fact that most don’t know or even understand the lyrics. Confusion over the song’s lyrics is almost as much of a tradition as the song itself. Of course that rarely stops anyone from joining in. Despite its association with New Years, “Auld Lang Syne” was never intended to be a holiday song. First published in 1787 by Scottish Poet Robert Burns, the song is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten. The title, “Auld Lang Syne”, literally translates to “Old Long Since” – meaning “time gone by” or “old time’s sake”. The lyrics "We'll take a cup o' kindness yet" essentially means to raise a glass in a toast to good will, friendship, and kindness towards others. The custom of drinking to one’s health or prosperity at a special gathering dates back hundreds of years. Auld Lang Syne Robert Burns Original Scots Lyrics Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’lltak' a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! and surely I’ll be mine! And we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. We twa hae run about the braes, and pou’d the gowans fine; But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin' auld lang syne. CHORUS We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, frae morning sun till dine; But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin' auld lang syne. CHORUS And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie's a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak' a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne. CHORUS   Auld Lang Syne English Translation Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne. CHORUS We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne. CHORUS And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians Although the song was already popular in Canada and the United States by the early 19th Century, Canadian-born musician, Guy Lombardo (1912-1977) is often credited with the popularization of Auld Lang Syne. Lombardo first heard "Auld Lang Syne" growing up in London, Ontario, where it was often sung by Scottish immigrants. When he formed his orchestra, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. But it wasn’t until 1929 that “Auld Lang Syne” became a New Year’s Eve tradition. During a live radio broadcast on New Year’s Eve at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, Guy Lombardo chose the song as a transition between two radio shows. The first half of their New Year’s Eve performance was broadcasted on CBS. The second half of the performance, beginning at midnight, was broadcasted on NBC. At the stroke of midnight, the orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” as a segue from one show to the next – and a tradition was born. In a 1976 New York Times interview, Lombardo recalls the decision to play Auld Lang Syne at midnight: “We knew we were going to use ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as a theme, because Robert Burns wrote it.” “So we decided to use it on that New Year’s Eve program, too. It seemed appropriate, and we were familiar with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ from Canada, where we grew up. As kids, we lived in a big Scottish settlement — London, Ontario — and they always closed an evening by playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ before the traditional ‘God Save the King.'” Auld Lang Syne - Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians (1947) Christmas Auld Lang Syne In 1960, pop singer Bobby Darin put his own spin on the classic tune. Officially titled, “Christmas Auld Lang Syne”, Darin’s version of the song was released as a single in October 1960. On December 13, 1960 Darin performed "Christmas Auld Lang Syne" on ABC’s American Bandstand. The next week, the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 Chart. Christmas Auld Lang Syne Lyrics When mistletoe and tinsel glow Paint a yuletide valentine Back home I go to those I know For a Christmas auld lang syne. And as we gather 'round the tree Our voices all combine In sweet accord to thank the Lord For a Christmas auld lang syne. When sleigh bells ring and choirs sing And the children's faces shine With each new toy we share their joy With a Christmas auld lang syne. We sing His praise this day of days And pray next year this time We'll all be near to share the cheer Of a Christmas auld lang syne. In sweet accord we thank the Lord For a Christmas auld lang syne. Christmas Auld Lang Syne - Bobby Darin (1960) Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time. And even though I have watched this film literally hundreds of times, it is the end scene that always gets me. When Harry Bailey toasts his brother George and the crowd breaks into "Auld Lang Syne", it always brings me to tears. What makes “Auld Lang Syne” so powerful is it has nothing to do with a new year and everything to do the importance of relationships. With its themes of friendship, reconciliation, and nostalgia, “Auld Lang Syne” reminds us that whatever changes life may bring, old friends should never be forgotten.
    1 point
  10. Thomas Nast at Maculloch Hall Historical Museum By Black River Santa Where can you find Santa Claus, the GOP Elephant, the Tammany Tiger, Uncle Sam, Ulysses S Grant, and a host of other historical and political icons all under one roof? The Thomas Nast Collection at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum. My wife and I were taken on a festive private tour of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, in Morristown, NJ, this past Christmas season. This gorgeous federal, Georgian style mansion was built by George Perrott Macculloch (1775-1858), the scion of a wealthy Scottish family and a prosperous businessman, who came to New Jersey with his wife, Louisa, in 1810. The historic home has three floors of period rooms meticulously appointed and adorned with a fabulous selection of European and American furniture, decorative art, porcelain (Including an incredible array of White House China), and a famous antique carpet collection from the Middle East and China dating from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Almost everything at Macculloch Hall, from the primitive kitchen utensils to the opulent chandeliers, were collected by the museum’s founder, W. Parsons Todd (1877-1976), a mining executive, philanthropist, collector, and former two-time Morristown mayor, who established the museum in 1950. Todd was also responsible for assembling the core of the Museum’s most well-known holding – the Thomas Nast Collection, the largest single collection of American political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s original works in the world. Dubbed “the father of American Political Cartoonists,” Nast was one of the country’s most influential and celebrated illustrators. A German immigrant, Nast came to America when he was five years old. Unable to speak English, he struggled in his classes and spent most of his time drawing with the waxy stubs of reject crayons that were given to him by a neighbor who manufactured crayons and candles. Largely uneducated and with limited artistic training, Nast was nonetheless determined to find a job doing the only thing he thought he was good at – drawing. At 15, he landed a job at Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, but it was his work at Harper’s Illustrated during the Civil War that made him a household name. Nast and his crusading pencil brought readers stirring, heart-felt, and patriotic sketches so persuasive, that Lincoln referred to Nast as his best recruiting sergeant. Nast also turned his wrath on political corruption in New York, taking on William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies. It was his feud with Tweed that led Nast to leave New York with his family and settle in Morristown, NJ, in his own stately manor directly across the street from Macculloch Hall, dubbed “Villa Fontana.” Capable of bringing down hard-nosed kingpins or turning public opinion against a political candidate with his venomous caricatures, Nast could also tug at the heartstrings of Harper’s readers with his melodramatic engravings of “Columbia” or tear-jerking visions of Emancipation, and none were more endearing than his “annual gift to the readers of Harper’s Weekly,” published each year at Christmas time. During his tenure at Harper’s Nast produced 76, signed published Christmas engravings including his famous images of Santa Claus. Inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Nast’s early engravings stayed true to Moore’s description and thrilled readers with their first look at Santa, his sleigh, and his “eight tiny reindeer.” Over the years, Nast introduced modern twists to Moore’s conception that have endured as part of the Santa Claus story, such as placing St. Nick’s home at the North Pole; giving him a workshop and elves; having children mail letters to Santa; and the dreaded “naughty or nice” list. Since 1870, many popular American illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, have sketched out their own visions of Santa Claus but they have all been based on Nast’s original depiction. Yuletide is a tough time for Santas to find the time to visit Macculloch Hall, but for anyone dedicated to the Santa Claus tradition, it’s definitely a pilgrimage worth taking any time of year. The museum is open year-round and Morristown offers a myriad of entertainment options and great dining, including museums, music, Revolutionary War sites like the Jockey Hollow encampment and Washington’s Headquarters, as well as great parks and recreation. If you’re interested, you can find more information at maccullochall.org and morristourism.org.
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  11. English poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) is perhaps best known for the children's book The Jungle Book. In addition to The Jungle Book and other novels, Kipling's works include many short stories and poems. Kipling often wrote about Christmas. His poem Christmas in India, published on Christmas Eve 1886, was written during a Christmas family reunion. The poem describes the feelings of homesick British officers; who yearn for a traditional English Christmas. Instead of snow, mistletoe, and holly, the homesick officers have to make do with white dusty roads, stench in the byway, and clammy fog. Kipling’s Christmas in India reminds us of the things we associate with Christmas; home, family, and the need to be with those we love. Christmas in India by Rudyard Kipling, 1886 Dim dawn behind the tamerisks -- the sky is saffron-yellow -- As the women in the village grind the corn, And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born. Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway! Oh the clammy fog that hovers And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry -- What part have India's exiles in their mirth? Full day begind the tamarisks -- the sky is blue and staring -- As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke, And they bear One o'er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring, To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke. Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly -- Call on Rama -- he may hear, perhaps, your voice! With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars, And to-day we bid "good Christian men rejoice!" High noon behind the tamarisks -- the sun is hot above us -- As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan. They will drink our healths at dinner -- those who tell us how they love us, And forget us till another year be gone! Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching! Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain! Youth was cheap -- wherefore we sold it. Gold was good -- we hoped to hold it, And to-day we know the fulness of our gain. Grey dusk behind the tamarisks -- the parrots fly together -- As the sun is sinking slowly over Home; And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether. That drags us back how'er so far we roam. Hard her service, poor her payment -- she is ancient, tattered raiment -- India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind. If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter, The door is hut -- we may not look behind. Black night behind the tamarisks -- the owls begin their chorus -- As the conches from the temple scream and bray. With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us, Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day! Call a truce, then, to our labors -- let us feast with friends and neighbors, And be merry as the custom of our caste; For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after, We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.
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  12. What Christmas is as We Grow Older by Charles Dickens, 1851 Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete. Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name. That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger! What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers—drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her? That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet? And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it? No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth! Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth. Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it—placider but smiling bright—a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays—no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all! Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him. On this day we shut out Nothing! “Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!” “On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.” “Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?” Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us! Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them—can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her—being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him. There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time! There was a dear girl—almost a woman—never to be one—who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!” We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing! The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.
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  13. On Christmas Eve by Stella Mead From the book The Land of Never-Grow-Old, 1935 When the night goes gray and the stars are gold, When the bells for Christmas ring. When the children close by the Yuletide log Their Christmas carols sing; In is sleigh he jumps, to the deer he calls, Away to earth he flies, Through the crystal stars of the Milky Way And down the silver skies. He is Santa Claus in a crimson gown, with a beard so white and long; We will sound his praise to the chimney-tops In a rousing Christmas song.
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  14. During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn't sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbors, the inimitable Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain's 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed. (Source: Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children.) Palace of St. Nicholas In the Moon Christmas Morning My Dear Susie Clemens: I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands--for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters--I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself--and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy. There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "a trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak--otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your car to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good-by and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good-by, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here--I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.' " Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall--if it is a trunk you want--because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know. People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all--so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag--else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart? Good-by for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen doorbell. Your loving Santa Claus Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"
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