Thursday, January 05, 2012

Little Christmas Stories (2012)

[The title has a year included because some of this prose is being recycled from a similarly-named piece in 2011. Not all of it is old, though, and the photos are new, so you can't just skip to the end and say, "I saw this last year, you slug!"]

[Well, you could, but then I'd know you were the shallow sort of person who doesn't actually read all of my carefully-chosen words, poring over them for hidden meanings and universal truths.]

[I'll let you know, however, that there aren't any hidden meanings in this piece. It's just my usual murdering of the language. There may be a universal truth or two, but they probably snuck in without paying.]

[And now that I've satisfied my compulsive need to preface the obvious with superfluous explanatory parentheticals, here we go!]

[The Very Lovely Silver Tree]

Yes, this is The Very Lovely Silver Tree I told you about, but did not have a photo of, way back when. As usual, my photography does not do my subject justice. I truly think it's the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen. MY WIFE bought it this Christmas as a present for me. She did exceedingly well in doing so.

She also bought a spinning color wheel that throws lights of varying shades onto The Very Lovely Silver Tree. Due to my ineptitude with a camera, you probably can't see much of that effect. That's OK. The Very Lovely Silver Tree is still damn nice. Here's the spinning color wheel, though.

As I’ve mentioned in years past, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment with relatives and friends during the traditional December holidays, we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.

Some of you may wonder why we do this. That’s certainly understandable, given that January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as those people are concerned, the Christmas holiday is over at midnight on December 25th and it then becomes time to push Valentine’s Day candy out onto the shelves. January 6th, however, is The Feast of the Epiphany on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. It is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi (the "Three Kings" of Christmas carol fame) or, by some, as Little Christmas. It is the date when, according to tradition, the wise men visited Jesus and bestowed upon Him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in the song "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th. This being the case, it can reasonably be argued that the 6th of January is a more correct time to exchange presents in honor of The Lord’s nativity.

MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own gift giving until that 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more secularly-traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 12 days following.

(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off when Christmas advertising and holiday music begin in late October or very early November. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American celebration of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November]; it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of festivity that occur at the end of December and beginning of January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75-day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)

Before our "Little Christmas", though, there is time with family on the 25th. Here are the only photos I took worth publishing.

(I actually shot about 35 of them. That there are only six [including The Very Lovely Silver Tree already seen] that I feel are worthy of publication should tell you all you need to know about my mad photographic skillz. Remember, these are the good ones.)

That's My Mom on the left, and my stepfather, Bill, on the right. Notice the somewhat doubtful expression on My Mom's face? That's the general look of trepidation that everybody in my family gets when I drag out the camera. They know that, more often than not, their reputations will not be done any favors by my photography.

The shot was taken at my Uncle Rick's house. All shots, except for The Very Lovely Silver Tree, are from there. Not only am I a crummy photographer, but I am also a forgetful one. I didn't take a single photo of any of the festivities which took place with MY WIFE's side of the family at our home. I exclaimed "D'Oh!" about four hours after everybody had gone home. Truly a shame, too, as it was a fun time with wonderful people, and even if the photos would have been as ridiculously inept as most of mine eventually end up being, I still would have liked to have had some for my personal recollection of the events.

My Mom and Uncle Rick.

This was the first Christmas since My Grandma (aged 105) passed away. She lived in that house for quite a bit more than sixty years, I believe. Uncle Rick did a magnificent job of decorating the place and making it a warm and wonderful home to be in for the holiday. I truly wish I could have captured that on film. Unfortunately, most of the shots I took are similar to this one...

... in which we see Uncle Rick's lovely tree destroyed by my tendency to not focus before clicking.

Honestly, I do try. I think I'm doing it correctly at the time. It's only when I see the shots, after the fact, that I realize a chimp on meth could have done better.

Speaking of chimps on meth...

This photo is decent because I'm in it. Not that I'm stunningly adorable or anything, but me being in the picture guarantees that I'm not the one taking the picture.

I'm a huge fan of Fred Rogers, as many of you are aware. I love the shirt. However, can you imagine my mug coming at you, wearing a shirt that says "Won't You Be my Neighbor?" Property values would dive as quickly as have Rick Perry's hope of becoming our next president.

This shot, of Bill opening a present, probably gives the best overall sense of how nice a place Uncle Rick's was that day. It looks comfy and friendly, doesn't it? Well, it was. Uncle Rick is sitting next to Bill, while my Cousin Scott and his lovely wife, Andrea (two of my favorite people, and that would be even if they weren't related to me) are in the background.

Finally, we have this...

MY WIFE despises having her picture taken. Surprisingly, it is not just when I'm the one behind the camera. In her lifetime, she has acknowledged, I believe, one good photo of herself (and, personally, I think she looks like she was just released from Dachau in that one, but I digress.) Anyway, in deference to her desire not to be shown on this blog, I have cleverly disguised her here. You probably can't even tell which one is her, and I hope she appreciates my hard work.

Merry Little Christmas, my friends. See you (relatively) soon with more better stuff.


Ruby said...

The silver tree looks beautiful! The tradition of Little Christmas is awesome. Reminded me of the "Twelfth Night". Great pictures and the house looks beautifully decorated and cozy.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting article. I think many people wonder about the true meaning of "the twelve days of Christmas" and I'm quite sure, many children have no idea about the true meaning of Christmas anymore, which I find particularly sad. You have some quality time with your wife to look forward to - may you have a lovely day on the 6th January.

Best wishes for 2012.
CJ x

Jeni said...

Have yourself a "Merry Little Christmas" tomorrow, Jim. One question here -do you use a digital camera? If not, you should invest in one as you can delete any photos right off the bat that aren't to your liking and immediately try again. Just a thought about that there. By the looks of the shots you posted though it is evident that you all had a very good time and I'm sure your wife will never notice that she's in that last photo, all cleverly disguised. (BTW, I have the same type of aversion to having my picture taken and wish people would extend the same disguise courtesy to me.) Peace!

Craig said...

". . . then [we] devote our efforts to each other during the 12 days following."

I like it. Let's hear it for, uh, 'devotion of effort' (or is it 'effort of devotion'?) (something to do with exertions on behalf of one's life-mate, at any rate. . .)

(And listen, while I'm at it. . . what I'm doing here is parenthetical commenting) [what you did at the top of your post was bracketed commenting]

Just sayin'. . .


And let's hear it for Epiphany, and the Twelve Days! Fat lot of good it would've done us, if the Word went to all the trouble of being made flesh, and all that, but we never knew about it. . .

(see, 'cuz 'Epiphany' means 'revelation', and celebrates the 'making known' of the Incarnation, and. . . well, you get the idea. . .)


So, YOUR WIFE was feeling a little blue on Christmas?


Suldog said...

Jeni - Yeah, I already have a digital camera. Problem is, I don't notice, on the teeny display screen, that some of the photos are hideously out of focus until I download them. I think that I've gotten a lovely shot, but it turns out to be crap!

Anonymous said...

Suldog, only you can start a blog post with 4 parentheses and get away with it.

stephen Hayes said...

You are a great photographic technician. I've held a magnifying glass to my screen but I can't identify the altered picture of your wife. Such skill! You're wasting your talents and should be creating swimsuit covers for "Sports Illustrated."

Michelle H. said...

I haven't seen a silver tree since visiting my one aunt (who recently passed) She didn't have the spinning color wheel -it must have broke-- but she did decorate the tree with those type of fabric ball ornaments.

You looked as if your Christmas was wonderful. I hope you have a very merry Little Christmas!

Anonymous said...

"MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own gift giving until that 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress..."

This is PURE genius. Why? After Christmas sales!

heh heh

Kidding. It's truly thought worthy and you made me chuckle about pushing the Valentine's merchandise...

Tis true!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

The best thing about your tree is you can leave it up as long as you want without worrying about the green stuff coming off, then worrying if the Hoover will pick it up.

Your tree is still up, right?

messymimi said...

Merry Little Christmas.

Your mother is beautiful.

The Broad said...

I have thought that Christmas Day was the first day of Christmas -- thus the 12th day of Christmas is the 5th. Epiphany is Epiphany and is the 6th. But then you say 12 days following Christmas which is slightly different.

Craig said...

Oh, and the photo of YOUR WIFE reminds me of a recording I once heard - a Porky Pig rendition of 'Blue Christmas', that had me on the floor. . .

Shrinky said...

Hahaha, I want one of those t-shirts! Um, your "MY WIFE" has already proved herself a saint countless times over, but this time I definitely think she may have to murder you.

Shame, she bought you such a lovely tree, too..

Ha, my big sis' was born on the 6th December (and as you know, I was born on the 25th) - my Ma was sooo religious!

Happy New Year hon!

Anonymous said...

"That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup." Phrases like that keep me coming back. Perfect description! Glad you had such wonderful celebrations - your little silver tree looks much lovelier (and actually, less silver, on my computer screen, at least) than my childhood tree! Merry Little Christmas to you and YOUR WIFE tomorrow!

Suldog said...

Broad - It's actually the other way around. There's Christmas, then the twelve days. You may recall Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". The action takes place on January 6th, thus the name of the play!

Daryl said...

Some notes:

1. I was just telling someone about Little Christmas so imagine my pleasure when I read (I knew this but being reminded is always good)you celebrate Little Christmas. I believe Little Christmas is Andrew Johns (Slim) birthday.

2. In the photo of YOUR MOM and Uncle Rick off on the left in the shadows is a shot of YOUR WIFE .. just sayin'

3. I embiggened the shot of YOUR MOM and Bill to see the sweet collection of mini clocks, my late father would have loved that, he was a collector of clocks!

4. I was tickled to see my holiday card on your door!!!!

5. You are not a bad photographer, I believe you are in such a hurry to get the shot you SLAM the shutter vs pressing the shutter .. this makes what would otherwise be a fine shot very shaky/blurry... its not due to focus, its due to manhandling the shutter

That is all .. xo

Suldog said...

Daryl - Some selected answers to your remarks...

2 - Shhhhhhhhh. Don't tell her and maybe she won't notice.

3 - Those were My Grandma's. She was an avid collector of many things. Aside from the clocks, she liked Asian art and artifacts, dolls, cats, and things having to do with cats. Her house, which Rick shared and is now his alone, is a semi-cluttered museum of oddments. I love it.

4 - We put up all of them we receive. If anyone sent one, and they don't see it, I either took this shot before it arrived or it is out of frame.

5 - Nope. I always depress the shutter before actually clicking it, which is why it mystifies me when shots come out blurry. I don't know. Maybe I'm somehow releasing it slightly before making the final click? Or maybe my camera just hates me. Any or all could be possible!

Chris said...

Okay, I'm not trying to be an asshole here -- well, maybe just a little -- but celebrating Christmas on January 6th? This after all the hullabaloo about "Thanksgiving Comes First" and making sure Turkey Day gets its proper respect? And NOW you just arbitrarily kick the Yuletide ass two weeks into the future?

Seems a bit contradictory, no?

What's your new slogan? "Christmas Comes Eventually?"

And as long as I'm here, and since you asked, if rooting for the Boston Red Sox would guarantee no more Will Ferrell movies, I still couldn't do it. It's just too easy to not go to see the shitty films.

I mean, PERHAPS if I could draw up a specific set of circumstances such as the Yankees needing Boston to beat, say, Tampa so the Bombers get into the playoffs or something.

But nah, I think in that case I'd just lay low and wait for the outcome of the game. I couldn't actively "root."

I'm sure you understand.

Buck said...

That IS a Very Lovely Silver Tree. Takes me back, it does.

The Second Mrs. Pennington and I celebrated Little Christmas, as well. I always get a lil wistful on January 6th as a result.

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

I like the idea of the little Christmas you share with your wife.

I, too, had one of those silver trees back in the day. Everything old is new again.

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - Listen, you Yanker, it's not "arbitrarily" kicking the Yuletide ass into the future. That day (January 6th) was designated for activity at least since Shakespeare's time. Ever heard of Twelfth Night?

By the way, that is so much the attitude I expected from someone of your ilk, regarding Will Ferrell and the Red Sox. All it would take, to save ALL of us from Will Ferrell, would be you putting aside your petty Yankees fetish, but, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Selfish to the core, just as all other Yankers are, you say, "Well, I can just not go to his movies, and screw the rest of humanity." I should have expected no better, but I guess the spirit of the season (which doesn't end until tomorrow at midnight) had me in its thrall.

Suldog said...

Great info from "The Broad". It turns out that Twelfth Night is the 5th, but the holiday, as such, continues on into the day of the 6th, until sundown of that day!

For further info...

Chris said...

Okay, Sully, you make a good point about taking one for humanity. How about we meet in the middle. I'll root for Boston to win one meaningless interleague game, but I get to root for Josh Beckett to blow out his elbow in the process.


silly rabbit said...

There it is! I think its a wonderful tree. No worries about the camera skills... I see a lot of not in focus ones on everyone's cameras. You can hardly exhale without making them fuzzy. Try not breathing when you shoot.
It looks like a very happy celebration at your Uncle Rick's. I wish you and YOUR WIFE a wonderful little Christmas tomorrow! And a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Expat From Hell said...

Living in Latvia a few years ago, the Orthodox also celebrated a "late" Christmas, according to the Eastern calendar, that is. I appreciate your white-knuckle hold on orthodoxy, my friend. Also just read Nathaniel Philbrick's account of the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. You would appreciate how the little buggers fleeced the locals for that first meal. But, I digress. Our Texas Rangers (and Yu Darvish) are about to make your dialogue with dear Knucklehead irrelevant yet again. Cheers. EFH

Anonymous said...

It is a great tradition you have. Enjoy!
When I see afgnans, I know it would be a comfy place to be. :)

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant afghans.

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - Only if I can kick A-Rod in the balls during the season opener. I suspect you'll be OK with that, so I'm game.

Maggie May said...

Merry Little Christmas, Suldog. What a perfectly good idea!
Love the photos of the real one though.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Craig said...

Who the hell cares about the damn Yankees, anyway? I seem to recall that they lost in the first round. . . oh, yeah. . . to my TIGERS! Again. . .

(And we won't even talk about the Sawx. . .) (until Suldog does. . .)

And I'm wondering what the Knucklehead has against Wes Ferrell? Great-hitting pitcher, as I recall. . . His brother was pretty good, too. . .

Shammickite said...

Jan 6 may be "Little Christmas" to you, but where I came from it's known as Twelfth Night. It's the day that all the Christmas decorations have come down or Bad Luck will follow.... well, as you have already noticed, mine were packed away a couple of days ago.

I had a silver christmas tree like that, it was in the basement of the house when we moved in, we used it till all the silvery bits fell off so then we started going out into the bush to cut our own real tree.

Shammickite said...

what's that on top of the TV... a jar of butter?

Jackie said...

You DO have a silver tree!
For some reason, I doubted that you did....but I shouldn't doubt you, Jim.
I love the family photos....and especially love seeing your Mom in the photos. She's pretty. I love her earrings...and her liptstick. (It's a girl thing.... please, tell her for me.)
I haven't been able to find candied pineapple. (You know why I need it....) I have the other fruit and the pecans....but can't find the pineapple. Don't give up on me, please. I'm still looking...)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Photography skills aside (and truthfully only one was even remotely wonky) it looks like you had a ton of fun over the end of 2011 with your family. Hope you & YOUR WIFE have the most awesome Little Christmas celebration together but tell her to cheer up, she looks a little blue this year.

Hilary said...

I love your photos .. seeing the world through your eyes is always a smile-evoker. You have mad editing skills too. ;)

Try keeping your elbows close to your side when depressing the shutter and press slowly. That helps keep the camera steady.

Mariann Simms said...

I love the silver tree...which I call "festive tree". I have a festive tree and I always want to put it up - but my kids always say it's too...silver. Dammit, I'm going to put it up next year...even if we all die on the 21st!

And, I believe, if I'm not wrong...that my mother used to celebrate something on the 6th of January in Belgium. It was called something else...and when I think of it (or end up Googling)-- I'll get back to you. I make it a point to always leave the tree up until then - because of that reason.

And I am extremely envious of your tri-light. I have the the original box...but no the spinny tri-light.

Thimbelle said...

Merry Little Christmas, to you and your delightful WIFE as well! :)

And please take good care of Roddy! Any car that waits to break down until it is safely in it's own garage at home is a winner in anyone's book!

Mariann Simms said...

I Googled - I found it...for those who read and wanted to know:

My mother would do the thing where they left their shoes at the fireplace and there would be chocolates and oranges (which back then - she was born in 1918 - oranges in winter were a rarity).

lime said...

merry little christmas to you and YOUR (blue faced) WIFE. what an excellent disguise. will she be the first female member of blue man group? pheheehe. your tree is sweet and your shirt makes me smile. i do hope these 12 days have been lovely for you both.

Clare Dunn said...


Photography is not so much about the quality of the shot, but about the memories the picture evokes. Many photos that would be considered "Great artistry" are meaningless to those of us who weren't there when the pic was taken.
So embrace your skilz! You will love all your pictures no matter the blur!
xoxoxo, cd

BTW...go to
for a surprise!!!

Anonymous said...

Hope you are enjoying a Merry Little Christmas today!

When I was about 10 yrs old, we were driving around town looking at Christmas lights, and my dad pointed out his boss's house. His boss had a big silver aluminum tree, with the colored spinning wheel, prominently placed before a large picture window. My parents refused to consider an artificial silver tree, so I conclude in my young mind that such displays of wealth and grandeur must be reserved for kingly personages like a boss. Ha!

Your mother is an angel in her angel apron; precious picture. On the other hand, your mug over that "Won't you be my Neighbor" t-shirt made me laugh out loud.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Remembering your "Little Christmas" post from last year, I delayed opening most of the gifts I received for Christmas until today. It's a lovely way to celebrate the end of the Christmas season, and I heartily approve. My (natal) family always observed the twelve days of Christmas, even though we opened gifts on Christmas Day.
I am glad your silver tree brought you joy.

The Good Cook said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - your family looks lovely as does the silver tree.

Blessings to you and yours in 2012.


SarcasticTestGuy said...

MY WIFE and I have historically observed Little Chrstmas with an additional gift and the taking down of the decorations (in a bit of a leisurely manner).

Merry Little Christmas!

Babs said...

Personally, what you did take in photos wasn't as bad as I had expected. I've seen and taken worse.
If you really have that many bad photos maybe you should post them anyway and have a contest for us to guess what is in them? Just a thought.
What a nice tradition after the scheduled DAY. I'm looking to revamp mine for another reason, I just may consider the 6th.
(here's a suggestion for your photography challenged side, designate a photographer in your family, pay him/her with presents , joila!! photos in phocus. :)
Merry Ephipany to you...I'm so sorry I don't get to your blog more often, I love it every time.

sandyshares said...

so in love with the shirt.. I notice your wife has such smooth skin - sandy

My new year is so many strange sad problems- it's overwhelming and i think I'm in an alternate universe..

Carolina said...

That Christmas tree is stunning. The light effects will no doubt make it look even more... uhm... stunning ;-)

It's great that you've had such a wonderful time. Personally, I'm just glad I managed not to kill my mother-in-law during the festivities. Quite an achievement. Someone suggested I could have tried poisoning her, since I was cooking, but that was after Christmas, so that was a missed opportunity. Ah well, there's always next year ;-)

You're not only a skilled photographer (blurred = art), but also a very accomplished artist. Nice drawing ;-) I sympathize with your wife in that I hate being photographed.

May we have a fun blogging year ahead of us ;-)

Suldog said...

Shammickite - On top of the TV is a homemade candle, I think.

Absolut Ruiness said...

"There may be a universal truth or two, but they probably snuck in without paying". Thanks for this!!!