Tag: Holidays

A Holiday Greeting

It’s that time of the year when I step back from my keyboard, post my usual, bilingual Happy Holidays message at my blog, and shuffle off for a week or so for an end-of-the-year break.

So this is a good time to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  Won’t it be great to have 2009 in our rear view mirror?

This is a time of year when I want particularly to remember all of those in the US who are imprisoned.  There are about 2 million people incarcerated.  My work in real life is being a criminal defense lawyer. I’ve done this work for more than thirty years, and I’m passionate about it (that is the subject of an upcoming essay in 2010 about Gideon v. Wainwright and me).  Sometimes I fail; sometimes my clients go to prison.  Some go for very, very long periods of time.  My clients who have been convicted and imprisoned, I have discovered, are not much different from me.  But their lives are far harder. The prison walls keep them in while they serve their time, but the walls also keep me and you out, isolating those who are locked up and making it likely, unless they are our immediate family or close friends, that we might forget that they are imprisoned.  Many who are locked up are estranged from their families, and if they’re not, they might be far away from them geographically.  So this time of year increases their suffering. There can, it turns out, be extreme loneliness even in the midst of complete, institutional lack of privacy.  And suffering can be increased even by monotony. Anyway, particularly at this time of year, I hope that we can pause for just a moment and remember those who are behind the walls.  And that they are just like us.  And wish for them happiness and a cessation of their suffering.

I’m thankful that every year there are stories like this one.  I wish there were more stories like this.

Kate’s Old-Fashioned American Christmas

What Elves Really Do at Christmas

I have mentioned that I am an elf. Mama Elf, in fact, and that’s Papa there in the photo. Our children are Dipsy Elf and Elfis (thank you very much, complete with blue suede elf shoes), we do “line maintenance” at the mall during the holiday season where there’s always a long line of parents and kids waiting patiently to sit on some Santa’s knee and inform him of their heart’s desire – and get their picture taken so Mom and Dad can make Christmas cards to send off to the relatives.

We don’t work for the photo ding, though. We work for the mall itself. Pays much better. For the first two years after we’d moved to these mountains Papa and I provided the entertainment at a Christmas theme park in Cherokee, the only steady work we could find in our field in a new state and fairly unpopulated region since we determined to leave the city life behind. Six shows a day, seven days a week, 26 weeks a year from Memorial Day through Halloween. It was grueling, but did get us the ‘in’ we needed to market our elves to malls closer to home, and that allowed us to keep our curly toes in the profession we’d pioneered in North Florida all those many years ago.

We didn’t start out as elves. We started as clowns. Hubby and son as juggling partners, daughter as set designer and fill-in for balloon sculpture and face painting, me as last resort. I refused to learn to juggle because they would have sold me in the birthday party lineup, and I had my hands full already. I made the costumes, built the puppets, maintained the props, wrote the skit scripts, stage managed the rehearsals, and kept the calendar schedule up to date. Which was quite tricky in a region of more than 2 million people. Birthday parties, resorts, country clubs, company picnics, civic events, stage shows at festivals and night clubs and so many other venues. During the summer there was such a demand for your basic birthday party clown that we hired up to a dozen of the kids’ college friends and paid them $20 an hour (out of the $100 an hour we charged) after training, which was our son SkyPup’s department.

On Gratitude

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

A ritual and a practice.

At our house, when we have Thanksgiving dinner, we like to stop eating and talking to go around the table clockwise so that each person present can say what s/he is thankful for.  When we first decided to do this, some of our guests felt this was awkward, perhaps embarrassing.  But we don’t start with the guests, so they can get an impression of what expressing gratitude feels like. Those in our immediate family understood this and were comfortable enough with it.  After all, at birthdays, we like to go around the table to tell the person celebrating the birthday our many appreciations of him/her.  So on Thanksgiving, it’s a natural enough question, “What are you thankful for this year?”  The answers aren’t always surprising.  We’re thankful for being here another year, for our health however it might then be, for family and friends, for the lives of those now departed, for whatever abundance we may have received, for creativity, for our pets, for our relationships, for our businesses, for our politics, for our dreams and aspirations and hopes, and so on.  You get it, you can probably feel it even reading about doing this.  It’s a Thanksgiving ritual we love.  Feel free to try it out.

I always loved Thanksgiving because, however it was intended or begun, it seemed to be about gratitude.  For years I’ve had a practice I’ve done.  Sometimes I do it every day.  Sometimes I do it once a month.  Sometimes I don’t do it for a long time.  It depends.  What do I do? I make a list of the things I am thankful for.  I number them as I write them down, and I feel my gratitude for each item as I write it before going on to the next.  So, I write, “1. my good health, 2. the life of Dr. King, 3. compassion for my seeming enemies, 4. the novels of Cesar Aira.”  And so on.  Until I reach 50.  I do this, writing and feeling, until I have a list of 50 items or more that I have enjoyed and felt my thanks for.  When I am feeling pinched, stressed, exhausted, depressed, or any other “negative” emotion, it seems to take me a very long time to find items, to write them down and really to feel them.  When I am feeling expansive, relaxed, rested, optimistic, or any other “positive” emotion, it takes me virtually no time to write and enjoy the list.  Why do this exercise?  Because it’s almost magical.  And it lights me up.  Feel free to try it out.

Was it Meister Eckhart who wrote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  I agree.

May all of you have a happy Thanksgiving.

El Dia De Los Muertos

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles


La Catrina in Mexico City

A brief, incomplete, somewhat opinionated guide to a wonderful holiday:    

The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which take place on those days. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Join me across El Rio.

Dr. King’s Greatest Speech


I don’t think it’s the “I have a dream”  speech, either in its Washington, DC, or earlier Detroit versions.  I think Dr. King’s greatest speech was given on April 4, 1967, to a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.  It’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”  Exactly, a year later, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered in Memphis.

Dr. King’s holiday is a day when I hope we can pause for a moment to remember Dr. King, to read this timeless speech of four decades ago, and to recommit ourselves to the struggle for peace and justice.  And most important, I hope we can find ways to re-dedicate ourselves to action for peace and justice.

It’s also important to remember on this holiday not the sanitized, uncontroversial, bland version of Dr. King that the traditional media now commemorate.  The version who gave the “I have a dream speech” and did nothing else of importance.  To the contrary, it’s extremely important to remember the Dr. King who was wiretapped and surveilled by the FBI and state governments, and who was constantly attacked in the media as a Communist and an outside agitator and a revolutionary.  And the Dr. King who was despite his courage in actual physical danger, along with his wife and children, for every waking minute of every one of his days.  And the Dr. King who was threatened quite publicly with lynching and bombing and shooting so regularly by racists, white supremacists and reactionaries of every stripe. And the Dr. King about whom so many Americans expressed their outspoken hatred and contempt even in polite company, at the dinner table, and in their houses of worship.

Join me at the Riverside Church.  

Remembering Dr. King’s True Legacy


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King recognized the importance and validity of direct action as a tactic in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

In honor of Dr. King and in light of the past 7 years and the horrendous list of illegal, unconstitutional acts by the Government, a list that I will not bother to recount here, I think it’s time for us to reconsider the role that direct action can now play in restoring America to its most Democratic, humane, and decent principles.

Creating of constructive, nonviolent tension even in the face of threats of extremist violence is Dr. King’s true legacy.  My hope is that in honor of his birth we will find the courage to do as he would have.

Feliz Dia de Reyes

cross posted in part at The Dream Antilles


Cuando Jesús nació en Belén de Judea en días del rey Herodes, vinieron del oriente a Jerusalén unos magos diciendo: ¿Dónde está el rey de los judíos, que ha nacido? Porque su estrella hemos visto en el oriente y venimos a adorarle. Oyendo esto, el rey Herodes se turbó, y toda Jerusalén con él. Y convocados todos los principales sacerdotes, y los escribas del pueblo, les preguntó dónde había de nacer el Cristo. Entonces Herodes, llamando en secreto a los magos, indagó de ellos diligentemente el tiempo de la aparición de la estrella; y enviándolos a Belén. Ellos, habiendo oído al rey, se fueron. Y al entrar en la casa, vieron al niño con su madre María, y postrándose lo adoraron; y abriendo sus tesoros, le ofrecieron presentes: oro, incienso y mirra. Pero siendo avisados por revelación en sueños que no volviesen a Herodes, regresaron a su tierra por otro camino.” (San Mateo 2, 1-12).

(This is easy to read, even if you have only the most basic Spanish or other Romance Language, it’s Matthew 2, 1-12.  It’s also great in English.)

January 6 is Three Kings Day (Tres Reyes Magos or Epiphany). The holiday commemorates the day the Three Kings from the East, after following the star for twelve days, arrived in Bethlehem to find the child in the manger and to give symbolic gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. Three Kings Day is the day on which gifts are traditionally given throughout Central and South America.

Only relatively recently has globalization and commercialization brought Santa Claus and Christmas trees and gift giving on Christmas Day. Before that, the Three Kings came with the gifts only on January 6, twelve days after Christmas. According to this Wiki:

In Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay, children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings’ presents before they go to bed on the 5th of January. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes on the eve of January 6 by the family nativity scene or by their beds. Also a letter with toy requests is left and sometimes the shoes are filled with hay for the camels, so that the Kings will be generous with their gifts. In Puerto Rico, it is traditional for children to fill a box with grass or hay and put it underneath their bed, for the same reasons. In some parts of northern Mexico the shoes are left under the Christmas tree with a letter to the Three Kings. This is analogous to children leaving mince pies or cookies and milk out for Father Christmas in Western Europe.

If you consider the Three Kings Story from a mythic, rather than a religious perspective, it’s a very important allegory about the wise, eastern Kings’ faithfully following their instinct and knowledge across the desert to the place it led them (did they know where they were going?) and when they reached the destination giving their gifts to those they found who should receive them.  I really like that.  I like to think about the kind of courage and understanding one would need to have to play the role of the kings (the wise men) in the story.  Would I follow my star?  Would I persist for 12 days?  Would frustration, despair, fear stop my journey?  Would I realize when I had arrived?  Would I know what gifts to give and to whom?

Feliz Dia de Reyes!

Happy Winter Solstice Everyone


Throughout history people have celebrated the time of the Winter Solstice.  The days are getting longer and the Sun has returned.  

Sums It Up, Merry? Christmas

As to the present, Remember who had Total Control of Washington and what they were passing and saying in the leadup to the ‘Shock and Awe’, leaving out the Most Important Legislation and Funding!!

Their excuse for Walter Reed, “Oh it’s closing in a couple of years!”, as they were rubber stamping a War of Choice knowing Reed would be where many would pass through, was/is a Total Disgrace, another Deja-Vu Vietnam Era!!

It’s simply, Powerfully, titled “The Disgraceful Treatment of our Veterans”

Happy Chanukah, Docudharma!

The Jewish festival of Chanukah begins this evening at sundown and lasts for 8 days.  It is not a major religious holiday.  But because it falls near Christmas, it’s often looked at as the “Jewish Christmas”, which it isn’t.  In fact, gift giving, traditionally, was not a part of the holiday, though it is now.

Join me across the border for the historical basis of the holiday, a holiday recipe and the “rules” for playing dreidel.

happy(ha!) day, folks (with Van Halen)

I’vew been busy… so exuce me for not posting for a while.

Well, today is a day for family. I found out what that means, precisely… at least on the red-headed stepchild side.

No food– NONE– for me, nor for my four year old. my wife got dessert…

so, the cold shoulder.

We should be used to it. We crave peace, we crave understanding.  

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