"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas, Banned In Boston?

Christmas? Banned? Say it isn't so.

Well, it isn't so today but it once was. The Puritans who settled in Massachusetts in the Boston area didn't consider Christmas a true religious day. To begin with, December 25 had been chosen as the date of Christ's birth several centuries after his death and resurrection. The celebration had traditionally included drinking, feasting, and playing games. All of that, of course, was frowned upon by the Puritans.

One of the traditions of Christmas back in the 1600s also included wassailing which on occasion turned violent. The custom often involved those of poorer neighborhoods going into wealthier areas and demanding food and drink in return for the group drinking to the host's health and good luck. If the host refused, it could get ugly, especially if the group had filled their cups often at previous homes. Wassail was a hot ale based drink with spices, roasted crab apples, sugar and cream.

As more and more British who were not Puritans settled in Boston, the problem of Christmas celebration led to the governing Puritan leaders establishing a law against celebrating Christmas. In 1659, the ban became law and a celebrant could be fined five shillings if caught. The ban only lasted 22 years until a British appointed governor repealed it.

Still many did not celebrate the holiday. As Reverend Increase Mather said in 1687 "The generality of Christmas-keepers observe that festival after such a manner as is highly dishonourable to the name of Christ. How few are there comparatively that spend those holidays (as they are called) after an holy manner. But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in mad Mirth ..."

Today Boston celebrates much the same way the rest of the nation does with a tree lighting, concerts, shows, shopping, decorations and church services.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Celebrating Christmas in Japan

Having a Japanese daughter-in-law has given us the wonderful privilege of glimpsing another culture. It has been fascinating. This year we will get to travel to Japan to spend some time with our son and his family who are living there for a few years. I've learned that you cannot generalize about the traditions of the Japanese culture. What may happen in one corner of the country does not necessarily happen all over the country. With that in mind, it will be an interesting trip seeing what Tokyo is like at Christmas time.

One of the things that we are told to expect is the traditional KFC chicken dinner. It seems that KFC has really taken off as the go-to for Christmas dinner. So much so that KFC  even has special packaging and advertising with the advice to order early. Our son's wife tells us that the lines for deep fried chicken extend around the block a lot like our Honey Baked Ham lines in the States at the holidays.

While only one percent of the population of Japan is said to be Christian, the holiday has still become a fun time as Western ways have influenced Japanese culture. According to one article I read, Christmas is mostly a commercial event. It is not recognized as a national holiday and schools and businesses will still be open. Our grandkids will be on a break from school however, because they go to an international school that follows the school calendar as we do in the States.

Another article writes that Christmas cake is traditional. It is sponge cake, strawberries, and whipped cream. There are trees, Santas (Colonel Sanders statures will be sporting Santa suits I read) and seasonal illuminations. My son said to be prepared for a lot of Merry Xmas signs.

Our Christmas stopped being truly traditional many years ago as the kids grew and left home to establish their own traditions. I won't miss a white Christmas although if it gets cold enough it could snow in Tokyo. And I think KFC chicken will be a unique alternative to the pork roast we used to have. Sharing Christmas with family is the only tradition I still love to keep and that will happen albeit spread out between now and the middle of January in order to see all of them.

So lookout Tokyo! I'm ready for a new Christmas adventure.


Monday, December 15, 2014

All That Glitters Here Is Gold!

Lists of interesting places are always--well, interesting. A while ago one caught my attention, 10 Incredible Indoor Pools. Now I rarely pick a place to visit because of their pool but if we are ever in the remote western peaks of China, I may be tempted to stay at the St. Regis Lhasa Resort

All of the pools on the list were remarkable and pictured quite beautifully but the one at the St. Regis was quite unusual as well. I've been in pools that have looked like exotic lagoons, large pools with the infinity edge that makes it appear to be a part of the ocean and go on for ever (careful you don't swim over the edge), pools where you can swim from the warm inside to the arctic outside while still staying warm but I've never been in a pool made of gold.

The St. Regis pool is made of real gold plated tiles and is said to be the only one in the world that is. It is salt water, heated, and is called the "Golden Energy Pool." If you like bling, this is the place to swim.

The resort features butlers, plasma TVS, high speed internet, Bose sound systems and marble bathrooms. A bit pricey, the room rates start at $300. So if you happen to be visiting Tibet or want to explore the Himalayas, you might want to stop in, stay the night, and take a dip in a pool lined with gold. Last one in. . . 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Park And Fly Or Take A Cab?

It's a math problem never seen on one of those tests that asks about the trains leaving in opposite directions, etc., etc. How many days will my parking at the airport cost vs. how much will the cab fare be round trip? For a while, a trip of more than 10 days made it more economical to take a cab than to park but then cab fares went up and now, provided we have a coupon, that extends to about 14-16 days being cheaper than a cab.

Alas, we have heard that several of the out lots have been purchased by our airport (CLE) so we are guessing that prices will go up even more to park since there is almost a monopoly. So we are back to more mathematical calculations to try to save some travel dollars. There are a few creative ideas.

Some hotels near an airport will offer free parking if you stay with them the night before you fly. Ten, fourteen, even thirty days may be in the stay and park package. We've done that twice in the past--once when we drove to Detroit to fly somewhere because the airfare was cheaper
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Of course all of this leads to more calculations. All airport parking lots are not created equal. I was surprised to hear that Charlotte's only charges $5/day. Most in our area are around $7 to $8 a day. Then there are some I've heard are as much as $15/day.

A cab looks pretty economical in many instances. Ask around to find the most reliable. You don't want them showing up late or not at all. Of course if you have a friend who doesn't mind some of the crazy flight times, you might just get a ride back and forth for the price of a nice souvenir.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Fairy Tale Castle

As I've been shopping for the Christmas season, I've noticed all the Disney princess items available in the stores. Everyone loves the fairy tale castles and the make believe lives of their inhabitants. There is a castle said to be the inspiration for the trademark Cinderella castle at Disney World that has quite a tale surrounding it. I'm not so sure it can be labeled as a happily-ever-after story.

Neuschwanstein Castle was a dream of King Ludwig II who hoped to build an even more beautiful castle than the one he grew up in, Hohenschwangau, just below where Neuschwanstein would be built. The area is absolutely beautiful and the legend of a swan knight, Lohengrin, immortalized in a Wagner opera, gives it a romantic flavor.

Unfortunately Ludwig began to live in a fantasy world. His monarchy was more in name only. The castle plans were changed often according to his whim and eventually with his unusual behavior, he was declared insane. He died under unusual circumstances shortly after moving into the castle.

I remember some of the legends and myths and tales that surround the area and the castle were quite interesting and entertaining. It's a great tour if you are traveling and can stop there
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