Tag Archives: holidays

A bit of work in the a.m./early afternoon …

… then it’s time to get ready for a Christmas Eve gathering! … 20 friends, folks I’ve known for years … a holiday buffet – a spread sprinkled with Italian goodies! … shiny Christmas tree ornaments … passionate political pontificating!!!! (GO, HILLARY!!) … presents (the least important part these days!) … music … silly jokes, smiles and hugs … old people, young people, babies with their skin that always smells so NEW …

Have yourself a wonderful Christmas Eve day!
-R.T.

Joy to us all!

By Edith Morgan

In the midst of the mad race to the end of 2015, I want to take a few minutes to wish everyone  a  joyous holiday season: it seems that from Halloween on, it is a mad rush to get to the end of the year. We barely get the spooks and goblins and  costumes put away for another year, when already Thanksgiving is upon us and then there is no real let-up until we sink exhausted into winter in January.
 
Thanksgiving is followed by the eight days of Hanukah, then Christmas, and then the New Year, with “First Night,“ and then the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year, and the Cambodian New Year in April. And somewhere in between Christmas and the New Year, Kwanzaa takes its seven (I think) days. And it is hard to remember what year each group is celebrating – the Jewish year is 5776, the Chinese around  4712, the Cambodian year is 2559. I have not yet researched the numbers for the Hindu, Moslem, or other years yet. 

Also, different groups celebrate according to a different calendar – some follow the lunar calendar, while others have their holidays determined by historical or other criteria while most Christians follow the calendar mostly in use in America and Europe … the Eastern Orthodox Churches have their Christmas about two weeks after December 24th.
 
But whenever the celebration is, we all seem to have some sort of celebration and end-of-year festival, and we have some time for getting together with family and friends.

It is a time when we exchange greetings and notes with people whom we may only remember at this time, but whom we may have known for years. In this very mobile society, and in this very large country, so many of us are so far apart. And travel is expensive and time-consuming, so we traverse the miles using media. Of course, since the advent of Facebook and cell phones, and Skype, we are able to communicate almost daily (sometimes several times a day, for kids), so it is almost like being there.
 
For me, real, face-to-face interaction is still the best. The phone and computer rely so heavily on words, that we miss all the subtle messages that emanate from a living person in our presence. And sometimes I fear we are losing the ability  to “read” the signals coming from others – that takes years of practice to achieve!
 
So, for this holiday season, let’s spend more, real time really together – talking, listening, exchanging ideas and stories instead of spending ourselves into debt buying a lot of things we do not really need. This might be a good time to get to know our neighbors better – maybe carry a dish of cookies or home-made fudge to them, and personally wish them a great new year. 
 
And of course this is the time to reflect on the past year, and to resolve to do some things better – to learn something new, to make new friends, and to come closer to being the person we should be.

Joy and, above all, PEACE to all this holiday season!

Cool toys at UNIQUE FINDS ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE gift shop …

… located at 1329 Main St., Worcester.

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK

Until 7 p.m.

UNIQUE toys for kids of all ages at UNIQUE FINDS ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE GIFT STORE!!!

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Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree: Pine or Plastic?

By Derek Lirange, Worcester Tree Initiative

Do you feel that chill in the air? Tis the season to deck the halls, listen to holly jolly jingles, and sip cocoa. Ask 10 people what their favorite holiday of the year is and most of them will tell you it’s Christmas! Even though we stress out at malls trying to find the perfect gifts, completely derail our dietary goals, and have to adjust to the cooling temperatures there’s still something magical about this time of year that can’t be overwhelmed.

One of the favorite traditions this time of year is decorating a Christmas tree. It’s a tradition that has a long history with its roots in pagan tradition rather than Christian. Evergreens are a mark of life in a landscape of leafless trees and many religions would celebrate that life by bringing evergreen branches and trees into their homes. According to The History Channel’s History of Christmas Trees the practice became popularized for Christians when Queen Victoria of England encouraged her husband, a German who had been raised decorating a tree each winter with his family, to bring the tradition to into their home. The masses caught on and the rest is history!

Decorating trees remains a favorite tradition but now we have the choice, do you buy a real tree each year? Or should you invest in a plastic tree, which are becoming increasingly realistic looking, even up close? The issue can be polarizing with people taking strong stances for both sides. Those for real trees argue that there’s nothing that can replace the look and smell of the real deal, and there’s a certain sentimentality to going out and picking the perfect tree. Proponents of fake trees like the ease of setting the tree up, the fact that they don’t have to water the tree, or vacuum up needles, or find a way to dispose of the tree at the end of the season. Additionally, some might argue that cutting trees down is bad for the environment! We’re talking about millions of trees a year that get cut down.

As tree people you might thing that we here are Worcester Tree Initiative are proponents of fake trees however the issue isn’t so clear as it may seem. Consider that Christmas tree farms are a business, for every tree they cut down they have to plant another tree in order to have more to sell in the years to come. Furthermore, plastic trees do eventually need to be replaced, meaning more plastic in landfills that won’t degrade for thousands of years, and I personally take issue with that. Natural Christmas trees biodegrade. In Worcester they become part of the municipal compost which is free to Worcester residents and available at the yard waste facility on Millbury Street.

Personally, I like real trees, I grew up picking out a real tree with my family and I’d like to continue the tradition with a wife and kids of my own some day. But, admittedly, there are a lot of good reasons to go with a plastic tree. Whichever you choose I hope you love your tree and that it brings you joy each time you look at it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Worcester Tree Initiative!

Holiday thanks by Edith Morgan … and more …

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Two cuties at last year’s Friendly House Christmas party. This year WORCESTER’S FRIENDLY HOUSE NEEDS VOLUNTEERS AND TOYS FOR THEIR KIDS CHRISTMAS PARTY on Sunday, December 20! Starting at 2 p.m. They’re located at 36 Wall St. Please donate new, unwrapped gifts for 10-12 year old kids; please volunteer on party day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – shifts available!

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TODAY!

Come to the 28th Annual Kelley Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony!

TODAY! Friday, December 11

5:30 pm

At the Kelley Square Gulf Station on the corner of Madison and Harding streets!

Free refreshments!

Caroling!

Horse wagon rides!

Pictures with Santa Claus!

Be merry! Be there!

THANK YOU, LORRAINE LAURIE, FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN – EVERY YEAR!

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Holiday Thanks

By Edith Morgan

“Tis the season! We go breathlessly through these days, and many of us scarcely have the time to stop and think about the past year, and its gifts to us.

So, just maybe, this year, how about taking time out from feasts, ball games and marathon shopping trips, and giving a little thought to our blessings?

Most of us have so much that we take for granted: family, friends, a roof over our heads (“be it ever so humble, there is no place like home”), regular meals, warm clothing for the oncoming winter, and above all, the freedom to speak up, move about freely, make all sorts of choices that are not available in many places throughout our world. We have innumerable opportunities to learn, in our schools, our libraries, and from each other.
 
As we get older, and understand more about what enriches our lives, the things we give thanks for change. Reading the essays by grade school children, we gather that they are appreciative about those things with which they have experience: their families, their teachers, their pets, etc. As they get older, and their worlds expand, children begin to understand the intricate support networks that support their existence. And finally, as they go out in the world, they learn to appreciate the great web of interdependence available to them.
 
Here, we often take the blessings of liberty for granted. We forget how hard was the fight that ensured we could exercise them – and how piecemeal the achievement: our original founders recognized only white, male, property owners as having all the rights of citizenship. It took much longer to enfranchise former slaves, minorities, and lastly, women. So, let us give a shout of thanks for all the brave souls who fought tirelessly to take their rightful place at the holiday table.
 
On a personal note: I have been very fortunate in so many aspects of my life: being saved from the Nazi horror, coming to America at the last minute (we got here just 3 months before Pearl Harbor), parents who were there for me, and the opportunity to have a career doing what I loved: Teaching. I have good health, a lovely old home, and a husband who loves me. My best friends have been that for over 40 years, and I can pursue many goals.

The best way I know to show gratitude this holiday season is to “give back” – give  help in many ways, to as many as I can!

Happy holidays!
 

Top 12 Tips to Travel Better for the Holidays

Top 12 Tips to Travel Better for the Holidays for a happy, healthy and safe travel experience this holiday season:

1. Make a checklist and check it twice. Before any trip, it’s important to make a checklist of essential items like chargers for electronic devices or prescription medications. It’s easy to forget the items you use every day and you don’t want to spend your trip seeking replacements. Add to your list a portable battery charger with a USB connector as “back up” to your backup.
 
2. Bring digital and hard copies of identification cards and papers. It’s a good idea to have color photocopies and digital copies of all important identification documents, including your passport, boarding passes, front and back of credit cards and health insurance information. Also have extra ID photos cropped to passport size in case you have to order a replacement at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Be sure to pack all paper copies or flash drives in a separate location for extra safe-keeping.
 
3. Label prescription medication. In addition to packing enough prescriptions to last your entire trip, bring extra in case you come home later. Keep your medications in their original labeled containers, then place in a clear plastic bag. While you’re at it, pack a mini first-aid kit for minor medical emergencies.
 
4. Check-in online. Airlines generally allow passengers to check in online 24 hours in advance, with a cutoff a couple of hours before boarding time. So make sure you’ve checked in well before you’re set to head to the airport. Have your boarding pass, paper or digital version, within easy reach, along with your ID, to save time as you approach the security checkpoint.
 
5. Keep valid identification at hand. Children under 18 are not required to provide identification when traveling with a companion, but passengers age 18 and older must show valid ID at the airport security checkpoint. Since most ID, like a driver’s license, has an expiration date, double-check that your ID will not expire before your return trip home.
 
6. Double check your baggage. Overhead space will be at a premium during the holiday travel season, especially as people bring gifts for friends and family or return home with gifts they’ve received. So when preparing to pack your bags, it’s crucial to check in advance whether your luggage meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions for checked baggage and carry-ons.
 
7. Save gift wrapping for later. Speaking of gifts, wrapped packages are screened like any other item. So, to allow for an easy transition to the gate, carry your gifts unwrapped through security. Consider packing pre-cut paper and a small roll of tape so you can wrap them after you pass through security or when you reach your destination. Or, better yet, ship packages in advance.
 
8. Keep 3-1-1 in mind. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows each passenger one quart-size bag of liquids and gels, including toothpaste, gel deodorant, and lotions. Each item must be 3.4 ounces or less. Medication, infant formula and juices for infants or toddlers are exempt from the rule, but keep them separate from the items in your one-quart bag.
 
9. Be prepared to take laptops out and shoes off. Laptop computers must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for screening. (Small and portable items, including smartphones, tablets and portable games, don’t need to be removed from their cases.) At many airports, you’ll have to place your shoes and belt in the plastic bin that goes through the X-ray screening. The only exceptions are for passengers who are 75 and older, children 12 and under, and travelers approved for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
 
10. Leave early. From traffic that may be heavier than usual and hard-to-find parking spots, to longer lines for security screenings, you’ll ease your stress if you give yourself extra wiggle room in your schedule, whether traveling by train, plane or automobile.  Arrive at the airport 75 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
 
11. Know your emergency contacts. In addition to contact information for next of kin or a close friend when traveling internationally, bring the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your overseas destination.
 
12. Put your travel agent on speed dial. Bring the email and cell phone number of your travel agent with you, and provide your travel agent with your personal contact information, as well as pertinent health and travel insurance information. Your travel agent can rearrange your itinerary should you decide to extend your trip, or if there’s an emergency.

Is Teddy Bear bored? How about a jaunt to the Worcester Historical Museum for a fashionable high tea?!

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Rosalie’s Teddy baby bear!
pic: R.T.

This Saturday, December 5!

TEDDY BEAR TEA!

WORCESTER HISTORICAL MUSEUM

30 Elm Street, Worcester

11AM to 2 PM

•Face Painting • Balloon Animals • Arts & Crafts • Holiday Sing-a-long • Decorate your own dessert!

• Sandwiches, hot chocolate and juice!

WE ARE EXPECTING A VERY SPECIAL GUEST (BRING YOUR CAMERA!)

Tickets:

WHM Members: $10 adults, $8 children
Non-members: $12 adults, $10 children

Free Admission for Teddy Bears, monkeys, frogs or any other stuffed animal of your choosing!

Reservations required 508-753-8278

Space is limited so please call early.

Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets will be held at the door.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this annual event we cannot hold seats without prepayment.
 

Preservation Worcester Holiday Stroll

December 6

noon – 5 PM

Massachusetts Avenue Local Historic District
 
Visit 8 grand homes decorated for the holidays.  Also, Antiquarian Hall will be open from 2-5 PM. 
 
Advance Reservations
          Member – $25
          Non-member – $30
 
Day of – $35
 
Brochures are tickets for the event and are available at Preservation Worcester starting at noon on the day of the event.
 
To purchase in advance, call 508-754-8760 or visit www.preservationworcester.org.
 
Preservation Worcester is a private, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation of the buildings and sites that represent the culture, history and architecture of Worcester. 

The organization, comprised of concerned citizens, believes that promoting the cause of preservation and good urban design will encourage community pride in our cultural and architectural heritage as well as continued use of Worcester’s valuable resources.  Preservation Worcester works with neighborhood groups, developers, city departments, schools and state and local historical commissions to support revitalization of unique and irreplaceable buildings and their neighborhoods.
 

Christmas-time magic

By Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday I stopped into a jewelry store. I was looking for a necklace and knew what I wanted: something big and chunky, maybe with a cross dangling from the end. Definitely colorful. Maybe even clanky! Something FUN. I was at one of the stands sifting through just such an array of clunky, clanky, colorful junk encrusted with ersatz-stones, fake pearls the size of jaw breaker gum balls when it happened, as it always happens to me when I’m at a jewelry kiosk and faced with what feels like an infinite number of choices: a kind of mental inertia sets in as I look at, continue to look at, then gawk at, scores and scores of shiny, blinking, sparkly trinkets, doing nothing, WANTING THEM ALL, but doing absolutely nothing, not lifting a finger, to bring the baubles to Mama! It’s like I’m hypnotized – as if someone had placed a shiny, bright object in front of my eyes and twirled it! To make matters worse my tiny purse with its tightly drawn purse strings, precludes me from buying a bunch of baubles – I can only afford to buy one – maybe two, if I’m being extravagant – necklaces!

I’ve known this feeling (wanting but not getting) all my life – starting as a child growing up in Green Island and walking to White’s Five and Ten store on Millbury Street to “just look” at all the plastic dolls and plastic cookware and high tea sets that I would buy for my plastic dolls – if I could buy the plastic dolls. But we were poor. I knew my single mother, who worked 60 hours a week as a countergirl at the dry cleaners right down the street, couldn’t afford to buy me treats like these whenever I got the itch – they were meant for birthdays and Christmas. I, like my mom and two kid sisters, was used to living lean, but I still liked to pretend shop, look over the goods, enjoyed seeing their lively colors and interesting shapes. Pretty stuffed animals – big and small, bags of cats’ eyes marbles with their own vinyl pouches, Popeye and Mickey Mouse sticker games! Walking down the long toy aisle at White’s was like walking through the carnivals that would sometimes come to Kelley Square and set up for the weekend in St. Anthony’s church parking lot!

So I would “visit” with owners Mr. and Mrs. White, chatting politely with them about my school, Lamartine Street School, and my teachers there, and Yes!, my mom was fine, thank you! Mrs. White, all the while staring at, mesmerized by Mrs. White’s foot-high (no lie!) jet-black-dyed bouffant. Mrs. White was a tall women to begin with, but with her teased-out and poofed-up hairstyle and her no-nonsense high heel shoes that capped off her very business appropriate crepe dresses, she was a human sky scraper to me! No! A natural wonder! I spent these pretend shopping afternoons at Whites literally looking up at Mrs. White at all times, the Sequoia to my tit-mouse!

Now here it was, years later, and I was in the jewelry store feeling just like that little Green Island girl – wanting the goodies but not getting the goodies – with no pleasant sounding and spectacular looking Mrs. White to soften the blow!

Maybe because it’s Christmas time, but yesterday I was missing Mrs. White and all the 30 or so small biz owners and their shops that once lined Millbury Street from Kelley Square to Crompton Park. The folks who owned the fish market, the Polish grocery store where they made their own kielbasa that my sisters and I loved, the shoe store where the owner always had you stand on this giant metal footprint so he could measure your foot perfectly with a sliding ruler, the fruit store with the male manager whose butt was huge and SQUARE!, the dimly lit hardware store, the even more dimly lit (go figure!) tailor’s shop where the tailor kept 30 or so canaries in a huge bird cage by his sewing machine so he could enjoy their beauty while he worked, the diner, the hamburger joint where my sisters and I ate a snack after coming home from junior high, my sister slamming her skinny body onto the sides of the huge pinball machine there to make the balls roll the way she wanted them to – just like the boys did with whom she played…or my mom and her sweet, stalwart ways pulling out our sad little Christmas tree out of an old trunk, the one whose lights had stopped working years ago. It was with those feelings that I turned around in the jewelry store, looking for … I can’t exactly say what …

And there she was looking back at me: a saleswoman wearing a crisply ironed navy blue skirt and blazer, and white blouse – a saleswoman in her mid-70s. This saleslady was so nicely dressed that I immediately thought of the salesladies at the old Sylvia’s Dress Shop on Franklin Street or Barnard’s on Main Street – when downtown Worcester was in her heyday, throwing off her own flinty – never flirty! – white Christmas light.

The saleslady walked out from behind the jewelry counter and stood next to me as I rifled through the jewelry, this time giving the multitude of necklaces a careless swing or two because I was growing annoyed with my indecisiveness.

May I help you? she said.

YES! I said. Which one? (I had winnowed my treasures down to 10 big necklaces) This one? I asked her, showing her what looked to be a spray painted gold cross, with a kind of iridescent inlay. How about this one? I said, as I pulled off a black braided twine number with three plastic silver crosses at the end. Is this a key chain? I said. …then finally, exasperated and dizzy from the fluorescent lights overhead and the garish colors in some of the pieces, I said: I need some help!

The woman looked past my chosen chains and ran her fingers through the necklaces and pendants that hung from several pegs attached to the free-standing jewelry display case. In two seconds she had pulled out a necklace I had not even noticed as I rifled through the strands: a tiny, fine necklace with a little flat silver heart on which a sepia photo of the Eiffel Tower was pasted. It was sealed with lacquer and shone. The heart looked antique, but the chain, made of the flimsiest metal, and the several little white plastic pearls gave its cheapness away – it was almost appropriate for a First Communion gift you might give your seven-year neice, if you were poor. It was the kind of necklace my late mother would have picked out for me, if she had been standing by my side: dainty, delicate, very lady like.

Then I remembered! When I was seven my mom had indeed gone to one of the nicer shops in downtown Worcester and bought me the tiniest gold heart-shaped locket on a delicate gold chain for my First Holy Communion gift! So small! But real gold, she told me! I cut out her face from one of our family photographs and put it one side of the open locket and then I cut out my face from another photo – with my mom’s delicate manicure scissors that she let me, her favorite daughter, use for school projects that required intricate cutting – and placed it in the other side of the locket. If you closed the heart locket we were together in one heart! If you opened it, you saw our two smiling faces!

That gift, along with my childhood rosaries and fifth grade Lamartine Street School autograph book and my Polish grandfather’s harmonica that he used to play in our Lafayette Street apartment were confiscated 26 years ago by a Worcester landlord – he shall remain nameless because (poetic justice!) he went on to become a huge, nasty, all around low life cocaine addict and lost his big West Side house, wife and kids – because I owed him $100 back rent as I was moving out. I begged him for the cardboard box filled with my precious mementos, totally worthless to him. But he never relented, never gave me back objects – touchstones – from my childhood. The months flew by, work and distractions piled up and I forgot all about the box and its precious contents. Only to remember it all 15 or so years ago when I saw my ex-landlord on local tv news and thought: Asshole. And now, that missing, most likely dumped, box holding my little gold, heart-shaped locket and my painted ballerina shaped barret, also a gift from my late mom when I was 7, and all my Worcester Public School report cards gone … to resurface as memories, more concrete, more permanent than the objects themselves!

So the counter woman, standing next to me, looking only about 10 years younger than my late mom before she got sick with the Alzheimer’s – when Ma padded around her apartment cooking a huge pot of her homemade chicken soup for my bachelor Uncle Fred or writing out her grocery list in her sharp-edged, never round or girly cute cursive handwriting. Her golden years when she got me a subscription to The Boston Globe – 7 days a week! – because I had just started InCity Times and she wanted me to read a newspaper that mattered.

That is who the store lady reminded me of – my mom, in her prime senior years: sensitive, sharp, smart, funny, relaxed, at ease with herself. …If Ma were working the counter at the jewelry store she would be dressed just like this lady was dressed, and she would recommend that I buy just such a heart-shaped necklace!

Then, unusual for me because I don’t have much dough, I said: I’ll take it! And I’d like to buy a wristwatch, too!

I didn’t want to leave that jewelry store!

The saleswoman, I never asked her her name and don’t remember if she was wearing a name tag, stepped a few feet to the right and there she was at the wristwatch display case – men’s and women’s. I walked over, immediately attracted to the big pink Velcro girl watch – its big face would be easy to read when I walked my two frenetic dogs, Jett and Lilac, hanging on to their leads for dear life, or pushed it to my face to check – QUICK!- the time, as I’m always late and on the run. But the saleslady picked out something much more understated: a woman’s wristwatch with a small, dainty turquoise leather wrist band and a small round face almost elegant in its simplicity with its narrow minute and hour hands and a second hand as fine as the thread in my blouse. The turquoise wristband had tiny cross hatchings. If you had shown my late mom this wristwatch display case, this would have been the time piece she would have chosen for me! Smart! Feminine! Pretty!

I’ll take it! I said to the saleslady, and the woman, courteous and quiet, not at all gabby or pushy or, Heaven forbid, checking an ubiquitous smartphone – picked up the watch, still in its box, and lead me to the cash register. She mirrored my late mom’s decorum when SHE was a counter lady at the dry cleaners years ago – the transaction felt serious, special. I paid the bill, but instead of putting my watch in a bag for me, the saleslady took it out of its box so she could put it on me, so I got the feel and look if my new wristwatch, of which she seemed proud. I laid my hand out flat, palm up, on the counter. She put slipped the watch on my wrist and fastened it as my hand hovered over the counter top – I didn’t want to scratch its face on the counter while she put it on. It had one of those old fashioned bands – you could call it classic – with the five or six holes on one side of the band and, on the other side, a tiny needle to lock it into place. The saleslady did her job with such grace that I felt … serene.

You know, I told her, suddenly remembering the image, my late Mom used to do the exact same thing for me when I was a little girl and she was helping me put on my first wrist watch (it was a light pink Cinderella wrist watch). The saleslady smiled as she fastened the wristband. She worked carefully, gracefully. It had been years since I had been fussed over this way! The way your mom or your favorite sister or best gal pal carefully adjusts your prom gown strap on prom night, the way your aunt smooths out your Holy Communion dress your Mom just bought for you from Jack and Jill’s on Green Street and is having you model for your auntie.

Then I said: My mom passed away a few years ago, in a nursing home not far from here.

The saleslady had fastened my wristwatch. She looked up at me and smiled. I looked into her old eyes, noted all the lovely wrinkles in her face and said, Thank you! I walked out of the store.

I did not want to tell the jewelry store saleslady this at the counter when she was fastening my wristwatch: but she had put my wristwatch on too tight! Just like my mother used to do! And just like with my mom, so as not to hurt her feelings, I had waited until I was out of her sight to loosen the watchband – put the needle in the next hole in the leather band. I tried to do this once back in my car, seated behind the steering wheel, but I couldn’t see the holes in the watchband through my tears.