Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

>Christmas 2011

December 27, 2010

>With Christmas 2010 already a memory* I have my sights set on Christmas 2011.

An idea has sprung up in my mind for a different type of Christmas decor by a visit yesterday from my young niece, up visiting from Florida. She has a memory of a “ghostly experience” from the last time she was here. I can’t say anything more, but look forward to something different next December. (Now I just have to figure out a way to remember to do it!)

*Christmas 2010 is not really just a memory, it is still with us. Paper and ribbons still litter the floor. Candies and remnants of cakes are still on the table. Turkey and dressing is still in the refrigerator. And gift cards are still waiting to be redeemed.

Many people experienced their first white Christmas. The National Weather Service said Birmingham did not have a white Christmas, but tell that to all the people who made snowmen and had snowball fights on Christmas day. In Bessemer, we had pretty snowfall on Christmas day, but it didn’t stick (or “lay” as they say in east Tennessee where I used to live).

But north of here there is no doubt they had a white Christmas. This picture was taken standing in the road between the house and garden on the farm in Morgan County, on Christmas morning.

“Frost on the pumpkin” is supposed to be heard in October or November when we have our first frost. These pumpkins are left over from Halloween.

Here in Bessemer we had more snow on the day after Christmas than we did on Christmas day.

My niece had never seen snow so this was a treat for her.

>Christmas eve eve

December 23, 2010

>As Christmas approaches a lot of good stuff appears on the internet.

Well, a lot of crappy stuff does too.

Some of you are on Facebook. Here’s a graphic where you might find yourself.

Here are a couple of videos that I wouldn’t have seen if not for the internet. The first one is “A Social Network Christmas,” produced by Igniter Media and portrays how the Christmas story might have played out on Facebook, had it been around back then. Very creative.

Many of us have suffered loss during the past few months. The holiday season is known for being difficult for people who have lost a loved one. My family is dealing with this right now.

Remember the news reports of gay teens taking their own lives after being bullied or harassed that were so prevalent earlier this year? Such deaths are still going on, but the media has tired of that story I guess. But each of those kids represents a family that was shocked to find that their love one was so distraught that they saw no way out. Those families are dealing with the memories and the guilt, and the absence of their loved one right now. Let’s not forget that Christmas can be a horrible time for some who previously thought it was the best day of the year.

LeAnn Rimes joined the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles last week, and honored those young people who are no longer with us with this song.

Be nice this Christmas. And be strong.



December 15, 2010

>Right wing radio talk show host Heidi Harris has posted her version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Nativity scenes belong in the home, not in schools. There are also live Nativity scenes in front of churches in the Birmingham area.

Most Nativity scenes are sort of off a bit anyway. The wise men didn’t arrive when Jesus was an infant, and certainly not at the same time the shepherd was there with his sheep.

Anyway, we have a collection of Nativity scenes. I started collecting these years ago, and am mainly interested in old traditional types or in artistic interpretations of the “event.” Here are
some of our Nativities.

This was the first Nativity scene I owned. I received it as a gift from my brother and sister in law.

That was the brother who often hid baby Jesus from the Nativity that we had in the living room each year when we were growing up, until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day when the baby would appear! When this set arrived back in the 1980’s prior to Christmas, Jesus was in the box.

This one we bought at the Mikasa store at Watermark, a store that is no longer there.

Like many of our Nativities, this one came from an estate sale. Why is Mary so often portrayed wearing blue, and Joseph wearing purple and brown?

This piece was created by a local artist (whose name I don’t know) from clay.

This is an unusual and modernistic crafted piece. I have no idea who made it.

Very traditional, except this piece is only about 5 inches square and 3 inches tall. The figures are an inch to an inch and a half tall. Mary in blue, Joseph in purple.

This folk art type piece came from Peru (via Ebay).

This is traditional and has the stable created out of bark and moss. We have a couple of these. Mary in blue, Joseph in purple.

A much simpler bark and moss scene. Mary in blue, Joseph in purple and brown.

This tiny Nativity is about 2 inches tall and came from a dollar store. Glitter in biblical times?

These figures were purchased in New Orleans at a flea market type junk store in the Marigny district. I think they survived a fire.

This cast metal set is odd in that the animals are GIANTS.

This was sculpted by my artist friend Phyllis Gibson. Her works on canvas and in clay can be found at several galleries around town. Baby Jesus was missing for a few hours after Phyllis gave me this and I had it on display at the cat clinic. As it turns out, Jesus had been knocked off the shelf and had fallen into the mop bucket. Now we know how those sins got washed away, I guess. These pieces are tiny. The nickel gives you an idea.

These pieces were carved by local furniture maker Bobby Michelson.

We have others, but there just isn’t room to display all of them. If parents such as the talk show host (assuming she is a parent) would instruct their kids at home and not depend on the schools to teach them about the birth of Jesus, then we wouldn’t need this argument about where the scenes should be displayed.


December 7, 2010

>Some of you heard this voice at our house this week as the cd American Indian Christmas was part of the music lineup.

Jana is a Native American singer and she has recorded 10 Christmas favorites in 10 different Native American languages. This is O Holy Night sung in Navajo.

The cd can be ordered from Southwest Indian Foundation, and probably other sites as well.

Just in case you want to see some of her regular music, here’s a video from her cd, New Moon Born. You can find it at Southwest Indian Foundation also. This is a great song too, and nice video.

>Western Tribune column December 23 2009, Merry Xmas

December 23, 2009

>In Gardendale a business had written on their sign, “Not Xmas. Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Every year undereducated Christians rant about liberals trying to remove Christ from Christmas. Others defend the use of the word.

Even Martha Stewart got in on the act, as she attempted to educate her readers in an article titled “Traditional Xmas Breads” in the December issue of her magazine. In describing the recipe for Christopsomo, a Greek bread with strips of dough across the top that form a cross, or “X”, she writes, “The Greek letter X, or chi, is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ and was used as an early abbreviation. Hence the word Xmas.”

So, Xmas was not some term dreamed up by solstice worshipping heathens or bottom line worshipping retail moguls. It’s a valid, shortened word with the same meaning as Christmas.
Instead of arguing about words, we should all be thinking about the message of the season, “Peace on Earth. Good will to all.”

It’s really quite simple. Since Jesus was born on that cold morning, the world has had a path it could follow that would lead to peace.

But right now our country is involved in two wars and other skirmishes are occurring across the planet. Arguments can be made both for and against these conflicts.

And we are at war among ourselves as well. Racism, sexism, homophobia and class warfare keep us at odds with our family members and neighbors.

“Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me,” a popular Christian song begins.

We have a decorative piece sitting on a mantle, a faux stone with the words “Peace on Earth” inscribed. A metal turtle is crawling up the stone, as if to indicate that peace might be slow in coming, but will get here nevertheless.

As Christmas approaches, remember the lonely soldier in the deserts of Iraq or the cold mountains of Afghanistan. Think about the homeless person who because of unfortunate circumstances, poor judgment, or mental illness has little hope. And consider the young people in our community who may be surrounded by family but feel unloved and lost.

We can spread tidings of comfort and joy by reaching out to these people and in doing so we will bring peace on earth a little closer.

Peace on earth, and merry Xmas to all.

>Good things

October 22, 2009

>Today I am waiting on a call from the Jefferson County sheriff’s department, but that’s a good thing.

U. S. HUD announced that they will implement non-discrimination policies so that LGBT individuals and couples are treated fairly in housing and FHA loans, and that is a good thing. That means here in Bessemer, as well.

Tonight is the Jefferson Jackson dinner at which democrats eat well and meet and greet and listen to party stars, and that will be a good thing. West Virginia governor Joe Manchin will be the speaker.

Paving 18th, 19th and 20th streets in Bessemer will begin within 30 days, and that is a good thing. Except it costs $13 million for 27 blocks. That’s almost $50,000 a block. Are you in the wrong business? I am.

UAB is offering same-sex partner insurance benefits, reported today in the Birmingham News, but reported weeks ago on Now the University of Alabama is looking into offering benefits as well, and that would be a good thing. Auburn? (My call to Auburn’s Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual caucus have not been returned yet).

Christmas is 64 days away. That is a good thing. (Don’t think this display is complete. It will be fabulous when it is completed).

Here is the video that helped inform the UAB community about the need for fairness in benefits policies. The article says the video was not a factor in making the decision, but we know better.

>Birmingham News Christmas Pictures

December 26, 2008

>Here’s a link to the pictures of our Christmas decor to go along with the story below:

Christmas Trees and more.


December 26, 2008

>Merry Christmas.

I hope yours was a great as ours. Of course, what’s Christmas without a little drama. Minutes after arriving home from Christmas dinner at my brother’s house, my daughter called to tell me she and my son were minutes from the house,returning from Christmas in Tennessee. That was my clue to get their wrapped presents out and under the tree and all, and then we heard the crash. A wreck in front of the house. Again! The kids? We rushed outside calling 911 and were relieved to see it was not them. But a distraught young woman and her kids, 2 toddlers, were crying. She held one, used our phone to try to call her mom, and I knelt down and held the other, little girl, close as she pulled her jacket up over her head to avoid seeing her car, the police lights and to drown out the sirens. She had the green light, the mom said.

No serious injuries, but a ruined Christmas for sure. My son and daughter got home during the confusion, and after all was calm we went inside and celebrated Christmas… those ribbons and bows I wrote about yesterday. After all that, we heard another crash. A car had hit the damaged car, giving a matching torn up front quarter and broken headlight to the one on the opposite side. “I didn’t see the car. I didn’t have my lights on,” I heard him say as I was going out the door. The police were still there finishing up the first accident. I bet they had fun with that one.

The Birmingham News ran a story about our Christmas Trees on Christmas Day. It was the “Obama Tree” that got their attention. Part of the story is printed online.

In addition there is supposed to be a “gallery” of pictures online, but it’s not there. Maybe they will post it later, if so, I will paste a link.

Here is the entire story, as printed in the paper.

Every year, Joe Openshaw fills his home with themed Christmas trees, including a patriotic tree trimmed in silver ornaments; red, white and blue icicles; and soft blue lights.

But when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama cinched the presidential election in November, Openshaw, 54, decided to give this year’s patriotic tree a twist.

In addition to the regular trimmings, the tree also holds Obama campaign buttons; pictures of Obama and the Obama family that Openshaw’s daughter, Marlow, printed off of the computer, laminated and adorned with ribbons; and a ticket Openshaw and partner, Bobby Prince, received to stand on stage with supporters and Michelle Obama as she made a speech in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. Nearby, are newspapers touting Obama’s win, and small replicas of the Statute of Liberty and Santa Claus in American colors.

The “Tribute Tree to Our President-elect,” which stands in Openshaw’s 18-year-old son Daniel’s bedroom, won’t come down until after Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“It makes me think about what our country has said to the world and to ourselves. It represents a great change,” said Openshaw, a retired veterinarian.

Openshaw said he knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the Obama tree is just another way to further celebrate.

“Christmas is fun. I have an enjoyment of it, and it gives other people enjoyment ,too,” he said.

Celebrating Christmas with more than one tree has long been a family tradition. When Openshaw aw much younger, his mother had Christmas trees in the dining room, living room and den of their Vestavia home.

As he got older and started living on his own, he began putting a Christmas tree in different rooms of his own home.

Besides the patriotic tree, Openshaw has 10 other trees in his 1895 Bessemer home this year.

They are: a Victorian tree in the library, a pink tree with pink ornaments in a hallway; a 1950’s aluminum tree in the office; two Santa-themed trees with over 200 Santa ornaments positioned in front of two upstairs windows; a “skinny” tree with gold and burgundy ornaments in the dining room; a red miniature tree in the kitchen; an elf tree in the den; a three-foot tall Norfolk pine tree with multiple silk balls in a back upstairs area; and an 11-foot tall tree decked out with family and vintage ornaments in the parlor.

The family’s Christmas decor also includes wreaths, a collection of Santa salt and pepper shakers, reindeer and garland. In the library is a 1917 picture of Openshaw’s father’s first Christmas tree, and on display in the parlor is a Christmas Card that his father gave his mother before he was born.

“I love it. I love having my house full of Christmas in every room,” said Marlow Openshaw, 22. “If he stopped decorating, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas anymore.”

She especially liked the Obama tree, which she’s not shy about protecting.

“My best friend told me she was going to put a McCain ornament on there. I told her you go ahead and do that and we’ll see how long it stays.” she said.

>Getting Serious About Christmas

December 23, 2008

>Check out Lipscomb Bohemian, a new blog by a visitor to Bessemer Opinions that will feature art and relevant topics.

Speaking of Lipscomb, their Christmas parade was Saturday. Here are a couple of pics…

Fairfield was generous enough to allow Santa to ride on their truck.

Christmas and war just don’t go together, although, as it seems, there is always a war going on at Christmastime. I was listening to Reg’s Coffee House in the car Sunday and heard a song.

I’ve missed Reg for a year or two, and was happy to rediscover him on Live100.5, the best (only) “adult alternative” (whatever that means) station in the area. Listen here (after a couple of clicks and advertisements).

Anyway, Brett Dennen, wrote this song a few years ago, and Reg said he wishes a holiday season would pass without him being able to play this song, but…not this year.

The Holidays Are Here (and We’re Still At War)

Or, the “Shot live by YouTube” version (lyrics are easier to understand):

Why does it seem that a song written a few years ago is still so relevant today? The problems are all still here.

My favorite Southern Baptist preacher, James Evans, wrote this prayer several years ago. Like the song, the themes of this prayer are just as meaningful today as when it was written. It hangs in my house, and has appeared in at least one state newspaper already this year.

Yuletide Prayer
Lord, first of all, thank you for the careful and creative way in which you have designed this world. You have made this planet a marvelous place, filled with life and beauty. It is a privilege to recognize that we humans are a part of your amazing invention.
Having said that, it is necessary to also say we are sorry. We are sorry for our poor stewardship of the Earth. We have not been very careful with the air and the water. We have also not been very careful with certain forms of life. We have acted as if ours was the only existence that matters. Apparently we forgot what Jesus said about you and the sparrows.
We have also not been very good stewards of the resources which sustain life. Many of us living in the developed nations have become a highly acquisitive people. It’s almost as if we believe that the purpose of our humanity is to get our hands on as much stuff as possible. There are many who look to their earthly treasures as the true source of their security and meaning. You used the word idolatry to describe that kind of thinking.

Sadly, our pursuit of things has also created a dismal state of affairs in our relations with each other. We’ve got it all backwards from what you intended. Instead of loving people, as you taught, we use people to get what we want. Instead using things to make life better, we love things and cling to them as if they were life itself.
This tragic reversal has had dire consequences. Our greedy consumption has created a world of poverty for millions — as our wealth grows, so does their poverty. And we keep fighting one bloody war after another, taking the lives of your children, trying to protect our stuff.

In fact, that touches on one of our most difficult problems — our love of violence. We treat violence in our culture as if it were a sacred rite. We believe in violence. We cherish it, we celebrate it. We teach it to our children as if we were passing along a spiritual heritage. We have endowed violence with a trust and a hope that should be reserved for you.

We believe violence can conquer evil. We believe violence can make peace. We believe violence can end violence. You would think that 50,000 years of human experience would convince us otherwise, but not yet.

That is why Christmas is so important. The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on your part to reshape our flawed humanity back into your own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.

Somewhere along the way this Christmas we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child shall lead them.” We are drawn to the innocence of the nativity with a sense of wonder and longing. We believe that Jesus is that child.

But he cannot lead us if we do not follow. And he cannot change us so long as we insist on having things our own way.

Help us this year to finally admit that our way is not working and for once, just for once, try doing things his way.


>It’s Getting Close

December 21, 2008

>And I will start my shopping today.

Here are some Santa’s from around the house. All done by local (or local at the time) artists.

I drew the design for this one.
This Santa has that classic, “gotcha covered” look.

This is Santa with a rocking horse, by my friend Phyllis.