May Day, May Day

According to the internet, May Day (celebrated and observed on May 1) is “…an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures” I’m not sure about all that but I do seem to vaguely remember May Day – like Arbor Day and Flag Day – as holidays I celebrated in elementary school.

I like “obscure” holidays – holidays without “shopping events” attached. They make me nostalgic for the “Good Olde Days.”

May Day 4My memories of May Day do involve a maypole. A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of May Day folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. Since these are childhood memories, they are a little fuzzy but I do seem to recall boys went clockwise and girls went counterclockwise, weaving in and out to create a bright braid on a pole on the playground. I really don’t remember the significance of it all and do remember we had some recess time left after the “special” May Day assembly on the playground.

May Day 1When I searched for “vintage” black and white May Day maypole images, I found these. While I don’t remember my childhood May Day celebrations looking exactly like these (how come some of these look like a virgin will be sacrificed at the end?), they did make me smile when I viewed them.

may day 3

May Day 2I also remember the ribbons for the maypole being brightly colored, which I think is hard to see in these images. Maybe the black-and-whiteness of the images help add to the pagan ritual feeling of the pics?  Anyway, I hope you have/had a great May Day! Happy Spring!

May Day Celebration

What the Elf?

Christmas is only five days away. Five days. So, I think (suspect?) most people have been inundated with all kinds of traditional, iconic holiday images: snowmen, reindeer, Santa’s, stockings, snowflakes, sleighs – well, you get it. Everybody has a Christmas symbol they like the most. For me, it’s elves. I love them…

I am fascinated by/almost obsessed with elves. I’m not sure why, but I am crazy for them. My first remembrance of elves were these “old skool” guys – elves like these held a place of honor on my grandparents’ mantles, and on the sideboard at my parents’ house:

Old skool elvesAs I got older, these guys had kids that grew up to become “The Elf on the Shelf.”

It makes sense to me that elves would be featured in a children’s book – I have loved them since I was a child. I like all elves – European elves:

Stockholm elvesAs well as these super sweet elves made from clothes pins:

clothespin elves

And plush elves are also kinda’ nice – they have a certain sweet “softness” that I find especially appealing:

many elves

pair of elvesBut the elf I think I love the MOST is my own little Christmas elf, my beloved husband. He has been running around like crazy for weeks, putting out decorations, trimming the tree, cleaning our house, planning our Christmas Eve dinner/Christmas Day activities – all of it. I am excited to be spending this Christmas with him, and look forward to a lifetime more.

This is how I hope we will always spend Christmas:

two elf friends

The Evolution of Angels

As a child, I enjoyed seeing this type of angel appear every December:

snow angelBut now, as an adult gay man, I LIVE for this type of angel appearance every December:

behati-prinsloo-131438_w1000The divine being pictured above is super model Behati Prinsloo. In addition to being obscenely beautiful – and having a super cool name – she is also a Victoria’s Secret angel AND is engaged to Adam Levine of Maroon 5.

Not too bad, eh?

The yearly Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has become as much a part of our annual holiday traditions as A Charlie Brown Christmas, or the movie Holiday Inn. We watch the angels every year and, to be honest, they are so unbelievably beautiful – their figures, those outfits, the wings, OMG, the WINGS! – that I frequently mist up and almost cry. These ladies are unworldly in their beauty (that’s coming from a guy that has been “a gay” his entire life).

I don’t want to sleep with any of them; I do, however, want to be their best friend.

I had another extremely long day today. Between overwhelming work and some personal matters (all good things), every day is about five hours too short. In fact, I wasn’t even aware tonight was the show and, to be honest, I still haven’t seen it. All of it. The day was too short.

I did, however, cheat and watch the final “walk” with Taylor Swift performing. Like a child on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t wait. The finale took my breath away. The angels did NOT disappoint; I cannot WAIT to see the entire show…

“In my dreams they come to me, Angels of Light with broad white wings…”

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Cards

I think I mentioned yesterday that one of my projects today was tackling our Christmas cards, or using the more “PC” terminology, our holiday cards. Between the two of us, my Sweetie and I mail out over 160 cards each year. Yeah, I know, I know – so “old school,” but I love sending and receiving cards at Christmas. I can remember my Mom working for what seemed like WEEKS preparing and then sending out her cards – sorted by state, zip code and size, she bundled them off to the post office each year about ten days before Christmas. And my Mom was serious – she had a “Christmas Card Log” – an address book with a Sent/Rec’d column you would date by year.

Miss my Mom for two years running? You’d be OFF the list…

Cards have always been fun for me. One year, I stumbled across like six boxes of vintage cards at a thrift store (when cards came twenty to a box!), so I sent out cards that looked like this; in fact, I actually REMEMBER sending out this very card!

Christmas bellsThat was a fun year – all my friends thought I had lost my mind and spent too much time hanging out in thrift stores and resale shops (Apparently, none of my friends appreciated the history or sentiment of those fabulous vintage cards)…

For many years, I lusted for Christmas cards from MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art in NYC). They are chic and “fancy” and not too common; they are also expensive! I mean, at six or eight cards to the box, I almost went bankrupt mailing out a card very similar to this 3-D, foil-embossed, die-cut beauty:

MOMA card

Yeah, it looks fantastic here but not only was it hard to “write a message” anywhere on those reindeer bodies, stuffing them into the envelopes was a nightmare as well. Sigh…

This year, Martin and I are sending a few different cards, to match the different personalities of the recipients. Also – being PC – we have to send “holiday cards” to our Jewish and Muslim friends. So I spent the day surrounded by a few stacks of different cards, my pre-printed address labels (I LOVE LOVE LOVE my hubbub for doing that for me!) and the obligatory, torturous bowl of card “sprinkles” that Martin and I have become known for:

holiday confettiOh yeah, that’s us – the guys that “glitter bomb” your kitchen floor when you open the card. Sorry. We love that stuff. It makes us smile…

I made it about halfway through our list, although our “foreign cards” are leaving tomorrow. I crab and complain about cards every year but, honestly? I love the tradition – it reminds me of my Mom and takes me back in time to when Christmas was less “Black Friday/Save 50%”-ish and more about friends, family, faith and joy. Christmas cards bring me joy.

So much joy, in fact, that we traditionally send out “Christmas in July” cards mid-summer. Now THAT is real holiday spirit!

Ho, Ho, Ho – Away They Go!

My husband is from Europe, so we have family there – a parent, a grandparent, siblings, a sister-in-law, a serious boyfriend, dear family friends and a precious new niece. Each year, we scramble to assemble gifts, lovingly and carefully wrap them and then race to get them in the mail in time to arrive under the tree before 24th December. We look forward to it every year and many years, a portion of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is spent Skype-ing, opening gifts together. It is a beautiful tradition, one we enjoy and look forward to each year.

In my head, this is how those packages travel to Europe:

Vintage Santa and Sleigh…when, in reality, they go via the United States Postal Service. The package left today.

I should be ready for this every year, but it is always the same when we go to mail “The Box” – the intrusive and invasive customs form (why bother wrapping anything when the packing list includes each item, its value and weight), the surly USPS counter help, the litany of questions (no, no cadmium batteries, cologne or anything fragile, liquid or perishable) and finally, the painful total (including additional insurance) at the end. Yeah. It is a bit crushing to one’s holiday spirit. And, once the credit card has been run through, we watch as our carton of beautifully-wrapped holiday packages gets “tossed” onto a mound of other boxes, destined to be scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Instead of traveling as pictured above, the gifts for our loved ones instead move like this:

Packages on Conveyor Belt…then they get scanned and sent to a distribution center where they get scanned again, then funneled thru to get screened by customs, at which point they “fall off the grid,” hopefully to resurface 6-10 business days later at their final destination. My Beloved and I wait every year for the text or email that says “THEY’RE HERE!” – then breathe a sigh of relief.

In the five-plus years I/we have been sending packages to Europe, only one ever got “lost” in the Bermuda Triangle that is the USPS system. It was a small envelope with some Halloween decorations and surprises inside. Every year, I wait to be contacted by some European media group, wanting to interview me now that my package arrived three years later. I’m still waiting…

I have no doubt this package will arrive safely and, once it does, new worries begin – will they like “it,” will “it” fit (an 8000 mile round trip return is pretty much out of the question), did “it” arrive in one piece – or did the bubble and peanuts let us down? Sigh… Such anxiety at holiday time.

Thing is, they always love everything, 99% of the gifts come thru unscathed and the excitement and joy the recipients show/share is MORE than worth the hassle.

So, now – “The Box” is en route. Next up? Holiday cards. Ugh…

garland

Thank You, Charlie Brown and Vince Guaraldi

I know I have posted many times in the past about my love of music, and how certain music can instantly transport me to special places and moments from my life. That is especially true this time of year – no other music connects with me like “holiday music” does. And if there ever were a soundtrack to a holiday, it is certainly this one:

Charlie Brown Christmas albumclick image above to hear “Christmastime is Here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio  

As children, my little brother, little sister and I eagerly awaited this annual holiday special on TV – I can still see us all in a row, sprawled on the floor in front of the TV, waiting for Charlie Brown to uncover the true meaning of Christmas. This animated special is as much a part of MY Christmas traditions as the baby Jesus in a manger (no disrespect intended). It is music that defines a holiday, and the season, for me. Whenever I hear this music, I feel happy and excited and loved. That’s how Christmas “feels” to me – joyful, full of happiness and love.

I’m not totally sure, but I seem to remember reading/hearing that this was the top-selling Christmas album of all time. I can believe it – I myself have it on two CD’s and cassette (I know!)

This TV special soundtrack introduced me to one of my all-time, FAVORITE holiday songs – “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi…

Charlie Brown skating scene click image above to hear “Skating” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio  

So yeah, while there are no angels on high or shepherds jubilee-ing, no trio of ships sailing in or even a drummer boy rum-pum-pum-pumming, these are the songs that are Christmas to me. I cannot imagine anyone not having seen this special but, if you haven’t, PLEASE watch it and listen… You will be happy you did!

charlie brown linus christmasTo enjoy the ENTIRE “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, please click image above 

Here It Comes!!!

Today is the last day of November. Sigh. Goodbye Fall. You know what’s next, right? That’s right – Christmas. This is the general feeling of anticipation at my house today…

Waiting-for-Santa-ClausMy Sweetie loves – and I mean LOVES, L-O-V-E-S – Christmas. I do too, actually, but not to the extent he does. It is actually one of the reasons I love him so much – he is totally invested in holidays, and makes every one special for me/us. Plus – the good news about marrying someone from another culture? You get to celebrate the holidays observed by BOTH. So, while I have always enjoyed Christmas, now I also get to enjoy St. Nikolai Day, too. St. Nikolai Day on 06 December is observed with a small gift and delicious cookies:

cookiesCookies? A gift? Then Christmas two and half weeks later? How could it get any better?!?

I’m a lucky guy in so many ways – I have a great spouse, a loving family and friends, a job I enjoy (I guess I could be richer and thinner, but…) and my health is pretty sound. So, going into Christmas, I really don’t have “much on my list.” I pretty much have everything I need/want already. Like I said, I am a lucky guy!

My Thanksgiving Friend

One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving is seeing old friends – friends you may not have seen or really even thought about since LAST Thanksgiving. I got together again with a long-time friend like that tonight:

Vintage Crock PotYeah, that’s right – my old friend, the legendary Rival Crock-Pot Slow Cooker. I get to “visit” with mine usually twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes we even get together for New Year’s. See, my “requested covered dish” at every family holiday gathering is grape jelly meatballs. Uh huh, grape jelly meatballs – you know the ones: three ingredients, throw ’em in the oven, serve them in a Crock-Pot. My family loves them (I do, too!) and, for whatever reason, my family seems to think they are an elegant appetizer.

Works for me…  

So the meatballs are already out of the oven. I have pulled my old friend down from that weird, useless cabinet above the fridge, the one that stores everything you use once or twice a year – candlesticks, a table runner and the Crock-Pot. I have had my Crock-Pot for probably 25 years (no lie!) and, if I had been as successful at investing in stocks as I have been in investing in a “reliable slow-cooker,” well, I’d be rich.

It’s funny how you associate food traditions with holidays. I mean, my Crock-Pot is not the one pictured here (mine has a cute circle of mod trees around the base) but, every time I see it, I am transported back to past holidays and enjoyable times with friends and family. It is a nice feeling…

So tomorrow, as my family sits down to enjoy our “classic” Thanksgiving meal together – a Butterball turkey, Stovetop Stuffing, potatoes (both mashed and sweet w/mini marshmallows), green bean casserole with those crunchy French’s Onion thingies on top, dinner rolls and, of course, some jellied cranberry sauce, sliced right out of the can – I will be thankful for good food, great friends and a family that loves and supports me. And I will certainly smile and wink at my old friend, the Crock-Pot, sitting in its usual place of honor on the folding table in my parents’ kitchen.

Hmmm – As faithful and steadfast as the Crock-Pot has been to me, and with it being such a good friend to my entire family, I might have to consider moving it out onto the counter top to a place of “higher honor” – maybe right beside the Keurig Coffeemaker!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Too Soon, Too Soon!

Today is November 9th – NOVEMBER – and Christmas is 46 days away, a little over six weeks. And yet, “Santa” has already arrived at one of our local shopping malls – at least one, maybe more. I mean, what the Hell?

Mall SantaNow, please understand, I LOVE Christmas. Love.It. And – I am ashamed to admit – as an owner of a small retail boutique – I will be setting up our Christmas tree and Christmas windows this week. But Santa Claus? In the flesh?

Santa ClausAgain – trust me – I LOVE Christmas and everything about the season, especially the “Jolly Old Elf” himself but really? To have Santa appearing here, now – well, it’s just too soon. Too soon. Beyond all the commercialization and exploitation of the holiday, I guess I really just believe that by Santa “appearing” so early, well, as dorky as it sounds, I fear the “magic” will be lost. Children will stop believing and, in a way, that lack of belief makes me stop believing, too. And that makes me sad…

As a child, I waited all year for Christmas. I was always excited to celebrate Thanksgiving because I knew what was coming just around the corner – gifts and cookies and candy and visits from/with loved ones. It was amazing and magical. Now, I fear, Thanksgiving is only the “…day before Black Friday” and Christmas is just an excuse to spend time – and money! – at the mall. By the time actual Christmas DOES roll around, kids will have been so overexposed to it that it will simply become another day they get gifts, like birthdays, or First Holy Communion, or graduation. And that sucks…

GiftsSo before Christmas loses ALL its meaning, maybe we could all SLOW IT DOWN a bit, you know? Maybe we could at least acknowledge Thanksgiving (sorry, Turkey Day!) and wait to start celebrating Christmas in conjunction with the arrival of December? I mean, maybe I am a purist (and a former Catholic – Advent calendar?) but, if we continue to exploit and commercialize Christmas, I worry that soon it will have an inherent value and significance akin to a Memorial Day Mattress Sale, or a Free-Financing Good Friday. It makes me sad to see Christmas being systematically stripped of any sort of meaning, other than a gift deadline…

So, friends, please – be kind to Santa but PLEASE “keep him under wraps” at LEAST till December first, less the entire Christmas holiday season becomes the same as a weekend clearance sale. I guess I am just not ready to see this yet:

Used Christmas tree

Feels Like Christmas Eve

I know – Martin and I are TOTAL Halloween dorks. Halloween is Martin’s second favorite holiday (Christmas is first – barely!) and I like it, too. So tonight, on a night that oddly parallels Christmas Eve, we “got ready for Halloween” tomorrow. We’re excited!!!

We carved our pumpkins:

pumpkins

We agreed that we would try and maybe catch some kids out trick or treating tomorrow night in our neighborhood:

kids-trick-or-treat-2

After dinner – and maybe trick-or-treat-er-watching, we will come home and watch, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:”

its-the-great-pumpkin-charlie-brown-slate

We’ll probably eat some junky food – candy, really:

halloween-candy

Followed by a viewing of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” (probably Martin’s FAVORITE movie of all time) – it is tradition:

Nightmare before Christmas

And then we will go to bed…

Gay_Couple_togetherness_in_bed_01

So, yeah, that is our Halloween night line-up, and the anticipation tonight feels a lot like Christmas Eve. It is nice to have “traditions” with your loved ones – especially your “special” loved one.

I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween tomorrow – we’ll check in after the movie!!! BOO!

Two ghosts