I am well aware of the feelings among many American Indians about Columbus Day. One Lakota woman who worked for me used to ask if she could come in and work on Columbus Day, a federal holiday.
My feeling though is that we can’t have enough holidays and so I choose to think of Columbus Day as the Italian-American holiday. Nothing wrong with that. We have an African-American holiday on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We have the Irish-American celebration that is St. Patrick’s Day. And Cinco de Mayo is surely the Mexican-American holiday, a much larger celebration here than in most of Mexico.
So, instead of protesting Columbus Day, perhaps American Indians should organize and bring about a holiday of their very own. Given the great diversity among Indian nations (and, lets face it, a proclivity for endless debate), the tribes might never reach agreement, though, so I will suggest a date.
The day before Columbus Day.
This is a Christmas season tradition here at NewMexiKen. Go ahead, read it again. It makes everything about the season seem simpler yet more precious.
The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), 1906.
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And
sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two
at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and
the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent
imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.
Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven
cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
. . . the Grinch was too softhearted.
On iTunes I have 469 tracks identified as Christmas music. I’ve created a playlist with them that automatically drops a track off after it’s been played. At this writing I have 369 left to hear this year. 🎅
The types of music vary widely from Classical to Country, Jazz and New Age, but include of course the usual standards of which I suppose Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the archetype. (Of the 469 tracks, 12 are in fact versions of “White Christmas” including two copies of Bing.)
I have a lot of favorites. I grew up in Catholic schools, so am nostalgic when I hear the carols, and have several albums of guitar versions by artists like John Fahey and Eric Williams. I particularly like Christmas in Santa Fe by Ruben Romero & Robert Notkoff, Winter Dreams by R. Carlos Nakai & William Eaton and Navidad Cubana by Cuba L.A. — it gets you dancing around the old árbol de Navidad.
And no collection is complete without Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.
But when it comes down to it, this may be my favorite. It’s an OK video but the point is to enjoy Clyde McPhatter and Bill Pinkney’s bass.
Those bags with sand and candles that are a New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition; the correct name for them is farolitos.
Often farolitos are called luminarias. Lumanarias traditionally were actually small bonfires.
Farolitos (literally “little lanterns”) replaced lumanarias (“altar lamps”) as towns became more densely populated. The purpose of both was to light the path to midnight mass.
Farolitos are the coolest Christmas decoration ever, especially when whole neighborhoods line their sidewalks, driveways and even roof-lines with them. (Electric versions are common and can be found throughout the season. The real deal are candles and displayed only on Christmas Eve.)
Buy some sand (for ballast), some votive candles and some lunch bags and bring a beautiful New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition to your neighborhood this year. Get your neighbors to join you. You could become famous if it’s never been done in your area. And the kids love it.
The great Lou Rawls.
According to Billboard, “the most popular seasonal songs, according to all-format audience impressions measured by Nielsen BDS, sales data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan and streaming activity data from online music sources tracked by BDS” —
Mariah Carey’s 1994 classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You” tops the inaugural chart this season.
. . .
Given their many years of serving as soundtracks to holiday cheer, several decades-old favorites populate the latest Holiday Songs top 10. Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” decorates the list at No. 2, followed by Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” (No. 3), Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” (No. 4) and Burl Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” (No. 5). Ives’ chestnut tops Holiday Airplay with 23 million in listenership.
Where you can get anything you want.
Thanksgiving Day brings us a rare moment of coming together. A tradition that crosses boundaries. No, it’s not eating supper with family or even watching football. For radio fans and programmers alike, today’s holiday is best celebrated by the playing of one song, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” That song, which was originally released as the 18-minute “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” will be heard today ….
The song, which is usually broadcast in either the original album track form or the even longer 30th anniversary live version, relates a Thanksgiving story. In it, Guthrie talks about enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with friends in Stockbridge at the title restaurant. After that, things get weird. The singer relates taking out the trash and, having no place to legally drop it because of the holiday, dumping it illegally. This leads to a long, shaggy-dog tale of being arrested for littering that turns into both an anti-Vietnam War protest and a statement of human rights. Somehow, by the end, he has turned the song into a statement that in union there is strength. And the best way to demonstrate that communal strength? Everyone, as listeners know, must sing along with the familiar refrain: “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.” As the singer points out, if we can pull ourselves together to do that, we can change the world.
The Boston Globe [subscription required]
Alice Brock — the actual Alice.
This is Mack’s first Thanksgiving in school, so of course he’s hearing the public school version of the First Thanksgiving story. Some teachers don’t use the correct name for the indigenous people near Plymouth — Wampanoags — or even the preferred generic term — American Indians. They use the presumed politically correct term — Native Americans.
That’s what the teacher says, but what do the children hear?
Mack’s mother Jill reports:
“At school, Mack is learning about the first Thanksgiving. He came home today with a short story about it, which I asked him to read to me. It went well until he got to the first reference to what he called the ‘Made-Up’ Americans.”
First posted in 2006.
Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after have a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
From the only contemporary account of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, a letter by Edward Winslow dated December 11, 1621.
And this from the conclusion to a thoughtful and thorough article in The Christian Science Monitor (November 27, 2002).
There are many myths surrounding Thanksgiving. Here are nine things we do know are true about the holiday.
1. The first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration in 1621 that lasted for three days.
2. The feast most likely occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11.
3. Approximately 90 Wampanoag Indians and 52 colonists – the latter mostly women and children – participated.
4. The Wampanoag, led by Chief Massasoit, contributed at least five deer to the feast.
5. Cranberry sauce, potatoes – white or sweet – and pies were not on the menu.
6. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag communicated through Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, who knew English because he had associated with earlier explorers. [In fact, Squanto (or Tisquantum), had spent several years in Europe and England.]
7. Besides meals, the event included recreation and entertainment.
8. There are only two surviving descriptions of the first Thanksgiving. One is in a letter by colonist Edward Winslow. He mentions some of the food and activities. The second description was in a book written by William Bradford 20 years afterward. His account was lost for almost 100 years.
9. Abraham Lincoln named Thanksgiving an annual holiday in 1863.
For some reason earlier today NewMexiKen got to thinking about his very first day of work. It was Thanksgiving 1960. The place was the Cliff House restaurant in Tucson. At the time, the Cliff House was considered one of the best restaurants in town — great menu plus a wonderful view of the city from its foothill location on Oracle Road. The chef was known simply by his first name, Otto.
Thanksgiving was a very busy day at the Cliff House. I started at noon and got off sometime around 10:30. I was the dishwasher’s second assistant. The dishwasher, who on a regular shift worked just by himself, needed all the help he could get on Thanksgiving. He sprayed the loose residue off the plates and out of the cups and glasses and loaded the racks to go into the machine. The first assistant took the clean dishes out of the machine and got them back into circulation. My job was to clear the trays as the busboys brought them in, scraping the uneaten turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes off the plates into the garbage pail. For more than 10 hours. For $1 an hour.
I did well for my first day of work, being reprimanded only once — by Otto himself, no less. I was throwing out the uneaten dinner rolls instead of returning them to the bread warmer. In chefly like fashion he blew his top, but calmed down when he realized no one had told me differently (and I was a nice deferential kid whose mom was a waitress).
As the day went on into evening, however, this fine restaurant developed a mini-crisis. The Cliff House ran out of cranberries. Now there is one thing a restaurant must have on Thanksgiving and that is turkey. And there is one thing a restaurant must serve with turkey and that is cranberries (or cranberry sauce). And someone had miscalculated and none was left.
It was the dishwasher’s second assistant who saved the day. As the dirty dishes came in from the dining room I not only rescued the dinner rolls, I now also recycled the cranberries. From each plate I corralled the dark red glob and scraped it into a bowl. Periodically Otto would come over and switch out my trove with an empty new bowl. He’d take the cranberries I had reclaimed and scoop them (not so generously as earlier) onto some eager gourmand’s plate.
Amazingly I still love cranberries (especially cranberry relish).
First published seven years ago.