Happy Holidays

The Term ‘Holidaze’ is Intentional

‘Tis the season . . . or so they say. Things are not particularly merry at the moment. We’ve been working at getting The Parsonage ready for the Holidays, over the past few weeks, and I’ve managed to injure my back.

Actually, re-re-re-injure it is more the case. I’ve had trouble with my back since the 8th grade. A trampoline was involved.

Things are not as bad as the night I was carried out of the house on a rubber stretcher and shipped to Martha Jefferson Hospital, C.O.D. This time around, I made it to the doctor’s office before things got that bad. Getting in and out of the car was a real trip.

I was given a cocktail of pills to take every eight hours and my faithful wife, Judi, is off to the chemist’s to pick up the prescribed meds.

Happy Holidays to You

Enough of the downers. The main purpose of this rant is to nail my colours to the mast, concerning the use of the phrase, Happy Holidays. People with paranoid delusions claim there is a ‘war’ on Christmas and the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ is a prime example. The phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ excludes mention of Christmas and that, apparently, is an act of war upon the holiday. Codswallop.

There are eight or nine different religions celebrating a combined total of over twenty-five holidays, feasts, or festivals at this time of the year and Christmas is only one of them. And then there’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. There’s no two ways about it; this is a festive time of the year. Admittedly, Christmas has cornered the music market, though.

Political Correctness?

Some may decry ‘Happy Holidays’ as nothing more than political correctness even though the phrase was in use long before PC was invented. No one says much about ‘Season’s Greetings’ being politically correct, but it’s only a matter of time.

I use the term ‘Happy Holidays’ to include everyone – or at least, as many as possible – in my best wishes for the season. Otherwise, I would spend five minutes enumerating all the holidays – Secular or otherwise – taking place before, during, or after the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the original reason for the season.

If I know someone is a Christian, I will wish them a “Merry Christmas”. If I someone who is Jewish, I will wish them “Happy Chanukkah”. (The ‘C’ is optional, of course.) And if I know a person to be a Scroogian, I will wish them a heartfelt “Bah! Humbug!” Otherwise, ‘Happy Holidays’ covers all bases.

If that constitutes Political Correctness, then so be it. I will prepare the boiling oil and await the angry mob of peasants bearing torches and pitchforks.

Today marked what has become an annual holiday tradition for me: Shipping Day. This the day when I send the fruitcakes off to their – hopefully – eagerly waiting recipients. This year was complicated by the fact that I was shipping books as well.

Hopewell, VA Post Office

The first stop was the Hopewell post office where copies of Urban Mermaid were mailed to North Carolina, California, Bulgaria, and Australia. A far cry from the Good Olde Days©, The P.O. in Hopewell is only open for two hours on Saturday. Obviously, a small window for mailing.

The next stop was the UPS store for  shipping fruitcakes. This was an around-your-thumb sort of journey because the UPS store where I shipped my holiday goodies last year, had closed in the interim. Fortunately, my smart phone was able to tell me the location of another store.

I have one complaint about the UPS app for the iPhone. You need to know the Zip Code™ before you can search for locations. What if you don’t know the Zip Code? They must have done this app on the cheap as it seems to know nothing about geo-location.

Long story short, the fruitcakes were entrusted to the big brown truck and it was time for a hot dog at Five Guys. I know they have great burgers but it’s so darn hard to find a place that sells bow-wows nowadays.

The weather today set some kind of record as it topped out at 79 degrees. It was 80 degrees at Lake Gaston  and no telling what it was in Elizabeth City, NC but I’m sure that Cindy Trimm Henderson was on her back deck with a glass of vino. Somehow, shorts & flipflops just don’t put me in the holiday mood.
Urban Mermaid Logo

And so this is Christmas . . .

Almost two years ago,my mother passed away at the age of 96 1/2 and the following is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral. You’re probably wondering if I’ve gone barking mad to publish a eulogy during the holiday season but it is all about Christmas and memories of my mother.


A Poet . . . . A Nurse . . . . An Artist . . . . A Mother

Four facets of a highly intelligent and talented woman. We could spend all afternoon relating her many attributes and achievements. This morning, however, I will tell you about only one.

It is no great secret that Lucile Parsons loved Christmas. In fact, if it had been possible, our mother would have married Santa Claus. This means that my brother and I would have gone into the family business  . . . . as Elves.

Her love of Christmas began when she was little Lucile Tench.  She remembered that as the season approached, she would catch my grandmother sitting down to rest and would immediately beg: “Let’s talk about Christmas”. Grandmother Tench must have known what was coming every time as she would patiently explain – step by step – the process of baking,

shopping, and so on down to that exciting morning when Christmas finally arrived.

A perennial story told by our aunts and uncles – as well as Mother herself – relates how one year, Lucile refused to allow her mother to take the Christmas tree down after the holiday was over. Epiphany came and went and the tree remained standing in the parlour.

There was no such thing as central heating at the Tench house on Petersburg’s East Bank Street and in the winter, a fire was laid in the front parlour only when it was absolutely necessary. Those cool conditions kept the tree in a relatively fresh state for weeks, and Lucile would go into that room after school and gaze in wonder at the tree’s magnificence; so beautiful, so fragrant, so tall in its finery.

January was history, February came and went, and still the tree stood in the Tench parlour, and Lucile still paid a visit every day. It was not until mid-March that the tree finally came down and only then because the parlour was needed for a family funeral.

Webster’s dictionary defines Christmas as “a Christian feast on December 25”.  At 208 Oakwood Avenue, feast could be considered to be the operative word, as an avalanche of cookies, fruitcake, fudge – three kinds, mind you – and candies of all sorts poured forth from that tiny kitchen.

My brother and I were gainfully employed carrying plates of these tasty treats to teachers, neighbours, family friends–and I do not once remember anything but a big smile when they opened their front doors, and saw what we were delivering.

The feast was not limited to these goodies. Returning home from the service here at Saint John’s, we were treated to a Smithfield ham baked to perfection, turkey, fresh rolls, the obligatory vegetables, and fanciful concoctions such as Tipsy Squire and Syllabub for dessert.

The day was capped off – at least for the adults – with cups of Eggnog, sometimes made from scratch, and always spirited appropriately. And I should add that on Lucile’s last Christmas Day, she was offered a cup of eggnog and the first words out of her mouth were “Does it have anything in it?”

Lucile was a stalwart of the annual Christmas bazaar here at Saint John’s. Every year, along about March or April, our house was transformed into Santa’s Workshop as Mom began to turn out a variety of items to be sold in Eppes or Ribble Hall the following November. Our mother – as artisan – would try her hand at new painting and handicraft techniques to create holiday trimmings and other decorative items.

Even today, there are Christmas Trees – both here in Hopewell and elsewhere – that still boast Lucile’s hand-made ornaments.

My mother loved Christmas.

They say that spring is less than a month away and today’s weather would seem to bear that out. But for the next few minutes, I want you to pretend . . . and sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” just as if it were Christmas Eve here at Saint John’s and Santa Claus is on his way.


Mildred - Our Merry Mermaid Christmas Mascot

Happy Christmas!

This retro Christmas Mermaid was created by Rosie Scanlon. Click the image to learn how you can can buy a copy!

This retro Christmas Mermaid was created by Rosie Scanlon.

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