Christmas Markets in Europe

While those who are trying to survive the cold weather would appreciate an escape to tropical beaches and swaying palm trees, Christmas just doesn’t seem real with a barefoot Santa on a surfboard.

I found the snow, gingerbread, mulled wine, and Old Saint Nick in Germany this year.

Required reading was Rick Steves’ German Phrase Book and Dictionary, but I found it was easier to point to the cookie I wanted instead of trying to pronounce lebkuchen.

The sparkling white lights marked the Christmas Markets in Germany and the Alsace region of France.

Santa still had the same markings, but his costumes were a little different, and in Basel, Switzerland, he gave me a tangerine instead of a candy cane.

        

And the sweets tasted as good as they looked.

Happy Holidays

– wherever you are!

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

 

In addition to Clement Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” my favorite Christmas poem is “The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus” by Ogden Nash.    Enjoy –  and “you better watch out”  this Christmas Eve – “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

In Baltimore there lived a boy.

He wasn’t anybody’s joy.

Although his name was Jabez Dawes,

His character was full of flaws.

In school he never led his classes,

He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,

His mouth was open when he chewed,

And elbows to the table glued.

He stole the milk of hungry kittens,

And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.

He said he acted thus because

There wasn’t any Santa Claus.

Another trick that tickled Jabez

Was crying ‘Boo’ at little babies.

He brushed his teeth, they said in town,

Sideways instead of up and down.

Yet people pardoned every sin,

And viewed his antics with a grin,

Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
’

There isn’t any Santa Claus!’

Deploring how he did behave,

His parents swiftly sought their grave.

They hurried through the portals pearly,

And Jabez left the funeral early.

Like whooping cough, from child to child,

He sped to spread the rumor wild:

‘Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes

There isn’t any Santa Claus!

‘
Slunk like a weasel of a marten

Through nursery and kindergarten,

Whispering low to every tot,

‘There isn’t any, no there’s not!’

The children wept all Christmas eve

And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.

No infant dared hang up his stocking

For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.

He sprawled on his untidy bed,

Fresh malice dancing in his head,

When presently with scalp-a-tingling,

Jabez heard a distant jingling;

He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof

Crisply alighting on the roof.

What good to rise and bar the door?

A shower of soot was on the floor.

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?

The fireplace full of Santa Claus!

Then Jabez fell upon his knees

With cries of ‘Don’t,’ and ‘Pretty Please.

‘
He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,

But anyhow, I never said it!

‘
’Jabez’ replied the angry saint,

‘It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.

 

Although there is a Santa Claus,

There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!’

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,

‘Oh, yes there is, and I am him!

Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t’

And suddenly he found he wasn’t!

From grimy feet to grimy locks,

Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,

An ugly toy with springs unsprung,

Forever sticking out his tongue.

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;

They searched for him, but not with zeal.

No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,

Which led to thunderous applause,

And people drank a loving cup

And went and hung their stockings up.

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,

Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,

The saucy boy who mocked the saint.

    Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.


Spontaneous Happiness – this is the season

How are you?  Are you Happy?  Would you like to be?  Looking like a modern Santa Claus with a full white beard and perpetually smiling face on the cover of his latest book – Spontaneous Happiness –  Andrew Weil, the prolific Harvard educated medical doctor, offers his recommendations for overcoming depression –  a common ailment during the holiday season.

Known for his involvement in integrative medicine and his healthy lifestyle regimen – good eating, exercise, change of lifestyle, etc. – Weil’s caution that pills are not the path to happiness is no surprise.  In the book’s first section, Weil offers evidence that the “biomedical model now dominant” neither cures nor prevents depression and just offers easy access to medication with a promise for treatment.

If you are already convinced that your life would be better if you could follow a naturally healthy path, you might skip directly to section two with his specific recommendations…

“…designed to increase your emotional resilience, alow you to move your emotional set point toward more positive moods, …that come from within… always available…{and} does not depend on external circumstances or the vagaries of fortune.”

No surprises here: take vitamins, especially Vitamin D; add fish oil to your diet; exercise; sleep well.  Weil adds a few that have made recent health news:  find ways to satisfy the need for physical touch; meditate and practice mindfulness; stop dwelling on your problems (negative thoughts) by using positive psychology (write down three things that are going well each day; do volunteer work).  By using his own struggle with dysthymia – “a chronic type of depression in which a person’s moods are regularly low or sad, with symptoms not as severe as with major depression” – Weil focuses on how his “anti-inflammatory” diet and lifestyle can cure depression and anxiety disorders, and  he includes extensive case studies and medical research to support his recommendations.

His description of the “mantra” surprised me.  I had heard of the practice of silently repeating in the mind’s ear, certain Eastern religious sounds, but Weil adds Western religious phrases to the mix – using the Roman Catholic rosary as an example.  I  remember the nuns’ suggestion in elementary school to revert to repeating “Holy Spirit, enlighten me” whenever experiencing test anxiety – and it usually worked;  maybe Weil would consider that a successful application.  In his “secular spiritual approaches to emotional well-being,” he also adds non-religious avenues for connecting with nature, including pet therapy, laughter, forgiveness, and avoiding all those people who bring you down with their pessimism – “emotions are contagious.”

In his last section Weil offers a plan with questionnaires and specific action to address the answers – taking into account each of the subtopics he previously addressed in the book.  The plan is simply stated – with bulleted lists – and includes progress report self-evaluations as well as his famous anti-inflammatory diet in the appendix.  Weil tacks on suggested readings, websites, and other useful resources at the end – a complete encyclopedia of advice for improving your well-being.

The book is organized like a well-written text, with clear subheadings and a summary of important points at the end of each chapter.  You could read the summary first and then go back to fill in the information you want.  If you are an advocate of Weil’s healthy lifestyle, the book offers a quick reminder of all that you are supposed to be doing; if you are new to the plan of giving up junk food, smoking, and blind allegiance to the television tube, you might find some useful pointers for starting.  Despite his tendency to be preachy, Weil’s Spontaneous Happiness combines all his experience from years of trying to be good, and welcomes you to join him.

Related Posts: