THE HOLIDAYS: SHAKEN & STIRRED
by John Herrington
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed November 25, 1997


A new meaning to "home for the holidays."

Or an ode to turkeys who survived.

Or whatever.

It begins this way:

The red flags were flying: warning signs.

Two of them.

It was time to get out of town!

Even a town as appealing as New Orleans.

Red Flag No. 1: the arrival of 525 more Ohioans (give or take a few) into the Crescent City, joined by 17,475 (give or take a few) other real estate professionals for the 90th anniversary convention of the National Association of Realtors. That's a lot of folks!

Red Flag No. 2: the $8.00 charge for a martini! That's a lot of bucks for a bit of vodka and ice and a twist of lemon!

The convention (its theme was "Jazz it up in N'Awlins) meant an estimated $22-million-boost to the N'Awlins economy.

They came to town with home sales near, at or above record levels, depending on their part of the country. In Ohio, average sale prices from January-September were up 5.6 percent from a year ago to $98,149. The increase was 5 percent in Cleveland to $109,389, and up 3.6 percent to $91,320 in Akron-Canton.

It is probably well that they had such a monetary cushion to rest on while in The Big Easy.

Which gets us back to Red Flag No. 2: that $8 martini.

Eight bucks for a before-dinner cocktail?

Yep!

It wasn't Antoine's or Arnaud's, not Emeril's or Commander's Palace. We're not talking about one of the really good restaurants in a city that has a lot of really good restaurants.

But there it was on the final bill: "Martini $8"

Even the server didn't say anything when questioned about the possible inaccuarcy of such a charge; he just shrugged one of those "I-guess-that's-the-way-it-is" shrugs.

Ah, well.

No matter how accommodating a city, when 18-thousand conventioners drop in, one knows that facilities (even those with an $8.00 martini) are going to fill up quickly and often.

It was time to bring a brief vacation to an end.

And get back home in time for the holiday season!

		"Heap high the board with plentous cheer,
			and gather to the feast,
		And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band, whose
			courage never ceased."
						Alice Williams Brotherton
						"The First Thanksgiving Day."
Well...

Yes, the Pilgrims did have a feast back in 1621. It was their first harvest, and it lasted for three days, and some 90 Indians did attend, and the food was plentiful ("...plentous cheer..."); all of that information is according to the folks who keep one of the website pages for Plymouth, MA. They go on to write that that feast was never repeated, so it was not the beginning of a tradition.

Heck, the Pilgrims would not even have called it a feast of thanksgiving; the experts say that the Pilgrims would have celebrated (if that is the proper word) a day of thanks with prayer and fasting.

(Just as an aside: it is likely, the authorities say, that besides all the "regular" foodstuffs for a Thanksgiving Feast, there also were eel, clams, even swans. But, never mind all that.)

Anyway, after 1630, the custom spread throughout New England and then through the rest of the country. Abe Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday in 1863 to be held on the last Thursday in November. Then, in 1941, it officially was changed to the fourth Thursday in November. (Our neighbors to the north do the Thanksgiving thing on the second Monday in October...and since we're doing chronological stuff, the Charlestown, Massachusetts, proclamation of Thanksgiving--it was filled with verbiage about the calling down of Godly powers on enemies--set June 29 as the first Thanksgiving in 1676....that according to research by Gerald Murphy of The Cleveland Free-Net; he distributed it through the Cybercasting Services Division of the National Public Telecomputing Network, and all that stuff is included here because they asked for such credit. Okay; that's fair).

There's so much more, of course, to this beginning of the holiday season that extends through the end of the year.

A lot of it is a bit sobering.

We are not that many days away from the killing of Ashtabula police officer William Glover.

Among family members and close friends, for what, and how, does one give thanks?

For the good memories of the person?

Perhaps, yes.

Even without such a loss, many still suffer from what is called "the holiday syndrome" or "the holiday blues."

One needn't search too deeply for reasons: gloomy weather, maybe; the fast pace of daily life that seems to preclude slowing down, perhaps; the commerciality of it all, indeed.

(Footnote: Nordstrom--that's the upscale store over which so much fuss was made when it opened not long ago--is not exactly a not-for-profit outfit, but in a full page ad, the company tells us that it does not put up holiday decorations until after Thanksgiving and that the store will be closed on Thanksgiving Day).

The folks who study and try to help in such cases of "down-in-the-dumps'itis-when-I-should-be-celebrating" advise not to try too much: not to concern oneself about the present the child wants that costs too much...not to get too anxious if what you can afford is sold out..not to try to do it all; in other words, get a handle on things and hold on to what we can manage.

These seem to be days when there is a lot and bad manners and thoughtlessness about (the latest touchstone of that might be all the stuff we are hearing and reading lately about "road rage" where even our love affair with the automobile turns to a snarling, and sometimes deadly, reaction to what many perceive as the bad driving habits of others).

Yep, holding on to what we can manage sometimes takes a bit of doing.

But, one can try.

And, maybe it won't be so hard after all.

Back in 1621, a chap by the name of Edward Winslow is believed to have written this as part of his account of that "First Thanksgiving":

		"Our harvest being gotten in...many of the 
		Indians coming amongst us, with some ninety
		men, whom for three days we entertained and
		feasted...and although it be not always so
		plentiful as it was this time with us, yet
		by the goodness of God, we are so far from
		want that we often wish (that) you (could be)
		partakers of our plenty."
		

May your "Thank You" day and all the days that go before and follow be good ones!


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