THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Posted: December 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

It is Christmas and the time for gift giving has arrived. The holiday tradition today depicts a Christmas tree with a multitude of Christmas gifts under the tree ready to be opened by residents or visitors to the house. Of course, this is immune from the other gifts left by the jolly ole man on Christmas morning. The retail world around the globe has embraced gift giving and many businesses need a “good Christmas season” to remain financially solvent for the next year. So where did this tradition of gift giving come from?
Christmas is a Christian holiday but is not exclusively Christian in its’ celebration. Everyone of all faiths, denominations or for that matter no faith at all, are included in the Holiday. The biggest gift of all is the celebration of what the Holiday is intended to be; the gift of Jesus Christ to the world. The tradition of giving gifts and the thrill this giving provides is presented as a representation of the gifts given by the three Wise Men to Jesus. These three Wise Men presented to Jesus the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Gold is the universally accepted symbol of wealth. Frankincense is a sweet perfume used in Jewish worship. Myrrh is a perfume that was used to coat the body of a dead person prior to burial. All were considered to be special gifts at that period of time.
Today gifts are given around the world. For that unique jolly ole man that comes in the quiet of the night the name is different for different countries. In America it is Santa Claus or Chris Kringle or Father Christmas. In Germany it is Christkind while in Spain it is the Three Wise Men bringing gifts. The excitement for the child is still the same.
After the death of Jesus, religious leaders wanted to transition away from the festive Roman celebration known as Saturnalia. The Roman celebration lasted a week and gifts of pottery figurines, sweets and nuts were exchanged and the Romans hailed each other with a greeting that is reminiscent of our “Merry Christmas” today.
In the 4th Century A.D., the religious leaders began fazing the pagan celebration out. Fearing repercussions from the pagan worshippers, the Religious Holiday took place at the same time as the pagan holiday plus adopted several of the pagan celebration rituals which included the giving of gifts. This allowed the pagan celebration to be quietly and slowly removed from Roman life.
In the early days of Christianity in North America, the practice of celebrating Christmas was banned. The Pilgrims and early Puritans felt that Christmas was a pagan holiday and refused to have it celebrated. Gifts were not exchanged and anyone celebrating the holiday would be reproached quit harshly. Finally in 1640 Christmas was legalized and the gift boom began. Originally small hand carved toys and hand sewed gifts were made during the year to give at Christmas. Eventually the Industrial Revolution took place in the States and Europe and mass manufacturing of small items led to the commercialization of Christmas. In 1876 Christmas presents became so popular that Macy’s Department Store in New York kept its’ doors open till mid-night on Christmas Eve.
Christmas gift giving was in full swing by 1900. While the retailers loved it, some holiday purist tried to slow down the nation’s gift giving frenzy. Many referred to the increased gift giving as a craze that wearied the soul, fatigued the body and filled trash cans. Theodore Roosevelt and Anne Morgan, daughter of J.P. Morgan, were members of the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. Needless to say, they failed.
As we age and mature many of us slowly transition away from the materialistic gifts that had earlier brightened our lives. Bows and tensile give way to smiles and greetings. It is at this point in life that we truly begin to understand “Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward Man”.
Merry Christmas everyone!

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Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of man. It’s hard to understand just why there is such a warm feeling that envelops us like a fog moving into a high-country snow-covered meadow. A feeling of goodwill and a feeling of peace fills our being. It is during this time that we believe that as tragic as our circumstances are, there is a future, bright and friendly, waiting for us. It is during this period that we take time to reflect and greet neighbors that we would otherwise not even acknowledge. Yes, Christmas is a special magical time that brings out the best, even in the middle of a war.
In 1914 the world was at war. America had not entered the conflict at that time but England and France were locked together in a bloody fighting against Germany. It was not a quick moving war but had deteriorated to a series of static geographical areas where troops lived in muddy trenches, shivered in bitter cold and lived under constant artillery attacks. It is said that France lost an entire generation of males as suicide attacks into German machine guns often took place.
Christmas of 1914 found the two great armies facing each other. France and England were both Christian based countries and Christmas held a special place in the hearts of the soldiers. Much of the Christmas traditions that we follow today originated in Germany. The Christian doctrine had begun in Germany via Martin Luther so all warring factions had a special place for Christmas. Even Christmas trees with candles hanging from the branches were a part of ancient Germany. Christmas held a special place in the hearts of the combatants of World War I on both sides.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, German troops began decorating their trench lines. They placed candles along the trenches and on Christmas trees which they displayed to the enemy. The Germans then began singing Christmas carols. The English and the French returned the gesture with carols of their own. What a surreal world this must have been on a cold December night where two opposing forces had made every effort to destroy each other and then peace settled over the artillery pocked landscape and Christmas carols filled the night air. This was not local as it is estimated that eventually 100,000 soldiers fell under the spell.
The celebration of the greatest holiday continued and opposing troops walked into no-mans land, shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars. A portion of our world where no man is supposed to remain alive was now a place of Christmas celebration. There were reports that soccer games also took place between opposing armies. What an amazing time of the year where peace is possible.
Captain Robert Patrick Mile was attached to the Royal Irish Rifles and wrote home about this special Christmas day. “Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course, our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”
Unfortunately, the cease fire did not last past Christmas and very soon both sides were doing the best they could to kill the men they had just befriended and celebrated with. On December 30th, just five days after the Christmas celebration, Captain Robert Patrick Mile of the Royal Irish Rifles was killed in action.
Merry Christmas to everyone and take a moment to reflect on how special this time of the year is. It is not the presents we receive that really matters; instead it is the Christmas cheer that we give that really makes this time of the year so special.

Make no mistake about it, Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. The feeling of love warms the inner body as we greet our friends, neighbors and even strangers with a smile as we utter a Merry Christmas. Food is plentiful for most and for those in need there is usually a good meal available complements of the more fortunate or as a religious gift of unconditional love. We find solace and give thanks in the season and in many quarters give thanks for our many blessings. While Christmas is a wonderful time of the year there was one Christmas in America that was not so merry yet it truly epitomizes the patriotic virtues of our great Nation.
On December 19th, 1777 General George Washington arrived with his tattered army at a location that was to be the winter encampment for the Continental Army. It had been a rough year for the new army and the Christmas season was one of despair for the young military. The temperature plunged to six degrees Fahrenheit above zero. George Washington knew his men could not survive in their tents so he had the men build log buildings with fireplaces. Washington remained in his tent until the last soldier was no longer living in their tents. He then moved into a nearby farmhouse.
Food was almost non-existent. By December 21st the soldiers were beginning to mutiny. Washington noted that his men were unable to sleep due to the cold and sat up all night by the fire to stay warm. Foreign offices from Europe that came to fight for the Americans were amazed that an army could take so much hardship and deprivation yet remain a fighting force.
The clothes and shoes were rotting. If a soldier was fortunate enough to have had a blanket, they would wear it while sanding guard. One soldier standing guard stood on his hat in the snow to protect his bare feet. Life was more than miserable at this Christmas period yet true American patriots persevered.
Desperate times require desperate measures and Washington knew he must make a bold move or all would be lost. His militia would soon be disbanded, his regular army was starving and freezing and the enemy was encamped across the Delaware River celebrating Christmas.
On December 25th Washington crossed the Delaware, flanked a slumbering British force and America got a wonderful Christmas present. The British soldiers were mostly Hessian (German) mercenaries. When the surprise attack was over 1,000 British army prisoners were taken while America lost 2 to 4 killed. This is an example of the intestinal fortitude that built our young country and continued on for over two hundred years as we have sustained our will to grow into a world leader. What a celebration for the birth of Jesus than to deliver the birth of a new country that is dedicated to provide all the virtues of a humanitarian nation.
Thomas Payne, one of our founding fathers, wrote of the sacrifices of the army under Washington at Valley Forge. “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put the proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right, not only to tax, but ‘to bind us in all cases whatsoever’, and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God….
While most have seen the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware, standing so regal on the bow of one of the lead boats, there is another picture of Washington that captures the enormity of the Christmas of 1777. It is evening and Washington is alone in the woods A beautiful white horse is standing behind an officer clad George Washington. The General is kneeling on one knee in the snow. His hands are clasped and his head his bowed as he prays for the strength to overcome unsurmountable odds to win an unwinnable war.

Last week the Patriots and the Raiders went to Mexico City to play an NFL game. With the exception of one NFL player, all players paid respect to the American flag and the National Anthem of the United States of America. Marshawn Lynch not only sat for the American National Anthem, but he also stood for the Mexican National Anthem. Some Lynch supporters said that he did so since Mexico did not have the record that the suppressive United States has. How ignorant and one only needs to look at the oppression of the Mayan’s, the extremely poor living conditions of millions plus the terror of the drug cartels. It would then be realized that the America of 2017 is not so bad.
I embrace the American given right to protest, in any way available to a protester. I also deplore anyone that desecrates the American flag and the Anthem of the United States of America. Does this sound like a contradiction? Perhaps, but my love for our country and the symbols of our great nation runs deep and I am afraid that regardless of the right to protest, if I see someone burning the flag and disrespecting our country I will wear the striped uniform as a badge of honor.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If true then there are two iconic pictures that display the American flag that are worth a half page editorial.
Second Lieutenant Jim Cathey was on deployment to Iraq. His wife was home and was looking forward to telling him that their first child would be a boy. She never had the opportunity. Instead a CAKO detail knocked on the door to inform her that her husband would not be returning from what he considered his dream job, to be a United States Marine. The force of the Improvised Explosive Device was so powerful that the body could only be wrapped in a shroud and placed in the casket. When the casket arrived at Reno, a marine contingent walked on board the aircraft, draped the coffin in an American Flag and respectfully carried the body off the plane. Passengers on the flight sat in reverent awe as they witnessed the somber moment.
The picture that captures the true patriotic nature of our nation was taken that night. After visitation, Katherine Cathy refused to leave the coffin. Instead she asked to spend the last night with her husband. The Marine Honor Guard, clad in immaculate Marine dress uniforms made a bed beside the casket and tucked in the sheets below the flag. Katherine opened her lap top and listened to music she and her husband enjoyed together. One Marine asked if she would like for them to stand watch. She informed the young man that this would be nice and the Marines stood reverently, guarding the couple through the night. The picture of Katherine laying beside the casket, American flag draped on the casket behind her with a U.S. Marine standing guard is the picture that captured the moment and won the photographer a Pulitzer Prize.
Another photo that captured the true gut of America was taken during the services for a fallen Navy SEAL. Two things that are truly American is patriotism for one’s country and the bond between a man and his dog. Both are symbols of our nation. Both were captured in a photo taken at the funeral of Petty Officer Jon Tumilson. He was one of 22 SEALS killed in Afghanistan when the Chinook Helicopter that he and the 29 other servicemen were flying in was shot down. All perished. At the funeral over 50 SEALS were present but there was no videoing of the services to conceal the identity of the young Navy warriors; but the pictures that disclosed the bond of a man and his best friend was taken. One photo shows Tumlison’s dog, Hawkeye, laying beside the flag draped casket during the services. Another photo has a flag-wrapped sad eyed Labrador Retriever peering from under his flag.
If these images of patriotic America don’t stir some pride in this great nation then there is something wrong with the person viewing them. The NFL has initiated a public relation campaign to make the league and players appear to be human. The televised ads are good and will help to heal the wounds between players and fans if it can be followed up to be genuine. It was also announced that the teams may remain in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. Then there will be no kneeling This is total hypocrisy and only serves to prove the lack of leadership that exists in the NFL. I would prefer for the players to stand up like men and kneel during the National Anthem than to cower in the dressing rooms and ignore the playing of the Anthem and the display of the colors.

 

HUEY LONG AND LOUISIANA

Huey Long was assassinated in 1935 while crossing the corridor of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge.  No single state politician has stirred the imagination of America as much as Huey Long.  Farmerville is a small rural town in North Louisiana and just celebrated its’ 175th birthday.  To commemorate this celebration a presentation was delivered at the Union Parish Museum of History and Art in Farmerville.  You can select the above link to see the presentation that shows Long’s association to Farmervil

If you would like to see a more detailed description of Long and his ally from Farmerville, go to Amazon and get a copy of “I Called Him Grand Dad, The Lost Political Papers of Harvey G. Fields”.

 

I arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1978 and began a sixteen-year work experience that was nothing short of wonderful; however, there were things that did cause a small amount of consternation. One of these was Christmas.
Before we ever left America for our new home the company was upfront with the Americans that were moving to the country. We would not be allowed to worship outwardly as we do in the United States. Freedom of religion is not an option in Saudi, it is a Moslem country and it is the official world center of the Moslem faith. We were also told that Christmas is to be celebrated within the privacy of the home and is not to be flaunted in the work space.
When we arrived in Kingdom we discovered that Christmas had previously been a big celebration within the ARAMCO confines. One cul-de-sac that held about 21 apartments was known as Christmas Tree Circle; named for the massive light display from the lights hung by the residents. My close friend Loren Schoenholtz was assigned to one of the apartments and discovered hundreds of lights that had been stored in his attic. Unfortunately, the company had banned all Christmas decorating.
As my first year moved into the Christmas season I would hear stories about how the Dhahran compound use to decorate for the holidays; how the gates were opened to let the local Arabian citizens into the compound to see the light show and how they wished it had not stopped. Ironically it was not Westerners that were talking about the holiday, it was the local Saudi workers that were working for the company for many years.
Political correctness is often launched by well-to-do leaders of governments and businesses in an effort to placate the world around them. Instead of doing what the gut feeling tells a person is right, we see people making decisions by overthinking, rationalizing and then trying to make everyone happy and not offend anyone. This can never come to fruition.
The one thing that I really looked forward to when returning to America was to be able to walk the streets of our great Nation during Christmas and soaking up the atmosphere. I held no hard feelings for Saudi Arabia, it is a legitimate sovereign country that should be respected for its’ laws and traditions. American is likewise a legitimate sovereign country and it should also be respected for its’ traditions and customs. This includes Christmas, the true meaning of the holiday, what the holiday means and how this is a part of our countries history heritage.
Unfortunately many in our great nation feel that they are being discriminated against and therefore Christmas must be changed to reflect a couple of days off from work and nothing more. Purge “Christmas” from the American vernacular. And for many that believe in Christmas, it is more important not to offend the few; therefore, these individuals are also promoting the concept of Christmas purging.
What is missed here is that America is not discriminating against a certain group or religion. Instead it is celebrating a tradition that is older than the country itself and has been a part of our Nation since our beginning. What should be explained to those not wishing to celebrate Christmas is that they do not have to participate in the celebration. No one should force Christmas on anyone and none should be forced to not celebrate the holiday for what it is. Also, if another person is of a religion that does not celebrate Christmas, they are welcome to celebrate their own religion and celebrate without fear of repercussions. That is what America is, that is who we are and that is how we roll.
Since I can now celebrate Christmas for what it is and since I am in a country that is given the freedom of religion as well as the right to speak without fear of retribution; I will continue to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas at every chance I have. Merry Christmas is spoken here and I plan to celebrate the holiday to the fullest.

Bonnie and I returned from a camping trip last summer to be greeted by a stray dog that had apparently been dumped in the area. I quickly let the stray know that he needed to move on but he was totally oblivious and just sat there looking at me like I was stupid, he had adopted us and there was no debating the action. I had seen the same look previously from Bonnie and realized that for some reason this dog would be a part of the family. I looked at the dog and told myself that this is really one ugly dog and if he didn’t stay with us no one would adopt him. As Bonnie walked in the door she said under her breath that this ugly dog was probably going to stay.
We tried to find him a home but to no avail. When we had our security system installed the installer told us that this was one ugly dog. All this endured the dog to me and I was sure that we made the right decision to keep the dog; who else would want him.
Bonnie and I have decided that we would take the aging process and say shove it. We would get up each morning and ultimately walk about three miles through the country roads around us. The dog that adopted us, named Brown Dog for no better name, fell in with us and trotted along the road. It was like he would physically transform himself. The ears would perk up as if listening attentively. He stood erect instead of cowering down and the tail was erect as he viewed the terrain. Brown Dog was proud to be out with us. Then he spotted a squirrel and he was off like a bullet and then jumped onto the tree barking. I thought there is more to this dog and surely he will find his way home. Every morning as the sun broke the horizon we were awaken by Brown Dog’s bark telling us it was time to go for our walk.
We left for a six week RV trip to the West and had to leave Brown Dog, now named Jinx by our granddaughter. We set up feeding and water stations and ultimately our neighbors took pity on the dog and he stayed under their car port. Until that happened he would lay in our driveway and lift his head as cars drove by looking to see if we were returning. I had half hoped that he would find his way to his original home and half hoped he would be here when we returned. He was at our neighbor’s car port and when we approached his cries of joy insured that he was ours for good.
Since the dog was now officially at home with us we planned our trip to the vet. First trip was for shots and to get him comfortable with his next trip to remove those ugly dew claws and also make it certain that the ugly dog would not produce any future ugly dogs; Bonnie demanded. I felt differently about the ugly status and kept telling her that he changed when bouncing down the road looking for squirrel or keeping up with my truck for a mile when going to the dump and besides, this is the smartest dog I have ever been around.
We arrived at the Vets office and while I stayed outside getting the dog out of the truck and on a leash, Bonnie went in to check in. She told the receptionist that his name is Jinx. He is a Hines 98 not even a Hines 57 and he is the ugliest dog she had ever seen. I took Jinx in and the receptionist said that he was a pretty dog. That made me feel a little better. Then he got to meet the vet and was greeted with the statement that this was really a pretty dog. He was also not a Hines 98 nor a Hines 57, he was a Mountain Cur. We walked out and I stood a little prouder, the dog realized that he was now an official dog but Bonnie looked at me and said that he was still ugly. It didn’t bother the dog one bit. The breed is perfect as a guard dog and will be perfect to travel with us on camping trips plus makes a good dog for grandchildren.
The point is that regardless of what the outward appearance is, it is what is inside that really matters. Don’t be so quick to judge by physical appearance, there is much more to an animal or a person as physical beauty. In our world of instant gratification, immediate judgement via social media and admiration of beauty versus substance; we need to evaluate what is truly important in life. Who knows, we may just find a Jinx in our life.