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1982-2022

280 Dog Years

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The Holy Grail Press is dedicated to promoting work that standard publishers... you know, those with standards, might be reluctant to publish, which pretty much leaves poetry.  And let's face it:  No one publishes poetry.  So in the end, we’re left with a lot of free time.

 

 

Word of the Every So Often  

May 27, 2022

wonk:  (noun)  often used derogatorily, a person who takes a particularly specialized interest in the minute details of a field of study, especially with politics.  You want to know about the influence of Russian immigrants on the passage of the infrastructure bill?  Then just ask Bill, he's our resident wonk.

 

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Toys in the Attic

When I was young, there was this kid who everybody made fun of, but he had some really nice toys, and he was really a nice kid, so I played with him.  But I never admitted to my other friends that I did, because they all thought he was a dork, and I didn't want them thinking I was a dork, too, for playing with him.

 

But it always bothered me.  It bothered me at the time when I was playing with that kid, and the memory haunted me ever since.  Because it was just wrong to pretend to like somebody when you're with him, but to laugh at him behind his back.   

 

It bothered me so much that I decided to make things right, even after all those years.  So I decided to find that guy.  And I did.  He was still living in the same neighborhood, in the same house, where he grew up.  So I bought the tickets and I went back home.  I pretended it was just to visit my folks, but the real reason was to find that guy after all those years and apologize to him.  The old house wasn't hard to find, and when I knocked, it was him.  He was older, sure, but I still recognized him.  And he recognized me.

 

Standing there, on his porch, I told him how sorry I was to have done that, how sorry I was that I had been such a jerk all those years ago.  I didn't expect his forgiveness.  I just wanted him to know that I was sorry.

 

Standing there, on his porch, is when I found out that's why he had been playing with me all those years ago, because he liked my toys.  Because he felt sorry for me.  And just like me, he hadn't told his other friends he was hanging out with me because he thought I was the dork.  I was somebody they made fun of when I wasn't around.  The only difference was that he had no intention ever of apologizing to me.  In fact, he hadn't thought about me once since the fifth grade.  Standing there on the porch.  There's an awkward moment.

 

10:10 am pst 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

An Old Fashioned Christmas

The next time you get invited to an Old Fashioned Christmas, be sure they specify how old.

 

The biggest problem with trying to be exact about Christmas is that nobody really knows when Jesus was born.  The strongest biblical clue is that it was in the Spring, maybe, during the lambing season, when the shepherds “...were out in the fields, keeping watch through the night over their flock....” (Luke 2:8)  If it had been in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, like most sensible people and their sheep, they would’ve been inside where it was warm.  But, really, that’s not strong evidence.  (McGowan)

 

As well, there are no records of Christmas celebrations from early Christian writers.  There was even one Christian writer, Origen of Alexander, who, around 250, wrote that celebrating anybody’s birth was a pagan practice to be avoided.  (McGowan)  I bet he never got any Christmas presents.  It was less than 100 years after Origen of Alexander, however, in 336AD, that we have the earliest record of Christmas being celebrated.  And it was only 14 years after that, in 350 AD, that Pope Julius I  “officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December.”  (Why is Christmas Day on the 25th of December?)  Changes came quickly in the Roman Empire after Constantine I signed the Edict of Milan in 313, “which finally ensured religious tolerance for Christians.”  (Constantine the Great Rules)

 

One of the theories as to why Christmas is on the 25th is that, supposedly, Mary was told by an angel on March 25th that she was going to have Jesus, which is still celebrated as the Annunciation.  You simply go nine months forward from there, and that’s December 25th.  (Luke 1:26-38:  The Message)  Once again, though, there is no specific reference to that date in the Bible, even if you squint.

 

The most logical reason is probably because the Catholic church was trying to horn in on everybody else’s fun.  The 25th of December falls really close to the Winter Solstice, and nearly everybody on the planet recognizes the darkest day of the year.  The Romans, Jews, Mesopotamians, Persians, Greek, Norse, Celts, and assorted Pagans, as well as certainly many others living in the Northern Hemisphere, all whooped it up on or around the Winter Solstice.  And many of these celebrations were... well... let’s just say that drunken orgies didn’t resonate too well with the Pope.  But those Popes weren’t stupid.  As Gregory the Great wrote, in 597, “...the pagan rituals [should] not be removed ‘upon the sudden,’ but rather be adapted ‘to the praise of God.’”  (The Celebration of Christmas)

 

Of course, with over 38,000 different Christian sects, not all of them, even today, recognize December 25 as Christmas.  Some, like the Coptics, who never got the word that the calendar had been changed, celebrate Christmas on January 7,  (Why is Christmas Day on the 25th of December?) and some, like the Armenian church, thumbed their noses at Pope Julius I and went on doing things as they had always done, and still do.  (The Celebration of Christmas)  And then there are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who, aside from the whole Pagan thing, believe that in Luke 22:19-20 Jesus commanded us to celebrate his death, not his birth.  (Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Celebrate Christmas?)

 

For those of us wanting to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, even with Pope Julius I’s proclamation, it still took 400 years for Christmas to “...become common throughout the European continent.”  (Conversation Starters)  The Feast of the Nativity, as it was originally called, spread first to Egypt by 432. It reached England by the end of the 6th Century, and finally to Scandinavia by the 8th Century. (History of Christmas)  And even then, it wouldn’t be anything we’d recognize today.  The problem was, Christians were told to celebrate Christmas, but they were never told how.  So, almost predictably, it often turned into “a drunken street party,” (Conversation Starters) but now after Church, of course. (History of Christmas)

 

Then came the Puritans, bless them, who came into power in England in 1645.  Recognizing Christmas for what it had become, they canceled the debauchery altogether.  The Puritans, in turn, brought their version of religious intolerance to America when England finally had enough and booted them out.  (Conversation Starters)

 

Increase Mathers, one of the Mathers Boys, stated in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  Still, there were many who celebrated Christmas in one way or another, though it was illegal to do so in Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681.  (Keleman)  Even after the Puritans were marginalized in America, Christmas didn’t catch on because it was essentially seen as a British holiday.  In fact, December 25th, 1789, was a regular work day for Congress,  (Conversation Starters) which seems really crazy, not because Congress was working on Christmas, but because they were working at all.

 

Slowly, what we now recognize as Christmas came into being in the early 1800s.  The traditions we most closely associate with Christmas, namely that it is a holiday that emphasizes peace on earth and good will to all more than a drunken orgy, can be attributed to two authors, Washington Irving and Charles Dickens.  Irving, in particular, doesn’t appear to have created his version of Christmas from any actual customs.  In short, he made it all up, in particular, how everybody suddenly gets along, regardless of social class, just because it’s Christmas.  (History of Christmas)  It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas because a Federal holiday.  And by the mid-1920s, pieced together from the various customs of its immigrants, Christmas in America pretty much looked like what we’ve come to think it’s always been – the tree, lights, gifts, and Santa Claus. (Conversation Starters) 

 

 

Work Cited

 

“The Celebration of Christmas.”  2000.  MotherBedford.com.  11 June 2014.  http://www.motherbedford.com/Christmas.htm

 

“Constantine the Great Rules.”  1996.  National Geographic.  11 June 2014.  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_10.html

 

“Conversation Starters:  When did Christian begin to celebrate Christmas?”  2005.  The Rock Christian Church.  11 June 2014.  http://www.hcna.us/columns/history-of-christmas.htm

“History of Christmas.”  2014.  History.  11 June 2014.  http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

 

Keleman, Lawrence. “The Origins of Christmas.”  SimpleToRemember.com:  Judaism Online.  11 June 2014.  http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

 

“Luke 1:26-38:  The Message.”  2002.  Bible Gateway.  11 June 2014.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1&version=NIV

 

McGowan, Andrew.  “How December 25th became Christmas.”  07 Dec. 2012.  Bible History Daily.  11 June 2014.  http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas/

 

“Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Celebrate Christmas?”  2014.  JW.org.  12 June 2014.  http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/why-not-celebrate-christmas/

 

“Why is Christmas Day on the 25th of December?”  2013.  WhyChristmas.com.  11 June 2014.  http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/25th.shtml

8:27 am pst 

Monday, December 20, 2021

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May All Your Christmases be the Apropriate Weather for the Season 

 

 

9:16 am pst 

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Christmas Parade

The cold wind snapped across the littered parking lot, pushing sleet that lightly covered the windshield on the high school principal's truck.  After a few moments the wipers slid across the glass and revealed three men walking slowly across the gravel toward the truck.  One of the men was Santa Claus; he would've looked better with a beard.  Within seconds the windshield was misted over again.  When the wipers once more sequenced, the men were waiting at the truck for Mr. Anderson to remove the key and step out into the December morning.

"When do you want to start?" Santa Claus asked.

"I'm not in charge of the parade," Mr. Anderson answered.

"We know," said one of the other men  who had his ball cap firmly screwed on his head to keep it from blowing away, "but do you want the four-wheelers to go before or after the horses?"

"All I'm here to do is to make sure the queen candidate is here," said Mr. Anderson.

"You're going to announce her at the end of the parade, aren't you?" another man said from the comfort of his hooded hunting jacket.

"Only if necessary," replied Mr. Anderson.

"That's good," said the man in the ball cap.  "But what about the four-wheelers?"

Three four-wheelers were sitting in the near corner of the parking lot.  Two of the riders were taking turns popping their clutches and spinning gravel on the third rider, who was trying to get hers started, between cursing at the other two.  In deference to the occasion, they had wreaths attached with duct tape to their handlebars.

"I think the four-wheelers ought to go behind the horses," Santa Clause volunteered.

"Horse," the man in the hunting jacket corrected.  "We only got one horse, unless Larry shows up."

"Victor's got a horse," said the man in the hunting cap.

"He gots to go up front," Santa Claus reminded him.  "He's carrying the American flag.  The American flag always goes up front."

Out in the street near the intersection, Victor, who was dressed in his full VFW regalia, was trying to keep the American flag pointing upward with one had while hold the reigns to his jittery horse with the other.  Every time he seemed to have the horse calmed down, whoever was sitting in the firetruck would rev the engine and send him prancing around in circles.

"There's another horse," said the hunting cap.

"We can't count that horse," said Santa.  "It's pulling the Baptists."

Coming up the street was one slowly plodding horse, laboriously pulling a flatbed wagon.  Above the wagon a banner had been erected simply stating, "Jesus Saves."  Whoever had planned the banner hadn't planned well enough, for the letters became increasingly smaller and scrunched up the closer they got to the right side.  Several hay bales had been thrown on the wagon, upon which were seated members of the congregation.  It was hard to tell just how many might be there since they were all huddled tightly under a collection of quilts.  Muffled attempts at singing escaped from underneath the covers.

"So no one is really in charge of this parade?" asked Mr. Anderson.

Hunting Jacket replied, "Well, Larry usually runs these things, but I ain't seen him yet.  I figure if he ain't here by now he probably ain't gonna come."

"Larry's got the other horse," Ball Cap added.

From the back of a pickup truck parked in the middle of the street, several students whose banner announced that they were Cub Scouts had started throwing their candy to the half-a-dozen students who had gathered to watch.  Only they weren't gently throwing, and the students weren't collecting the candy to keep; they were throwing it back.

"OK," said Mr. Anderson, "we'll put Chester out front..."

"Who's Chester?" Santa wanted to know.

"The guy with the flag."

"No, that's Victor.  Victor's got the flag," said Ball Cap.

"Whoever.  The guy with the flag leads.  We'll put Santa in the rear, right behind the queen candidate, and everybody else can just fall in."

"Sounds good," said Santa.

"Then let's get going before we all freeze."

"We cain't go yet," said Hunting Jacket.  "The marching band ain't here yet."

"What marching band?" Mr. Anderson wondered.

"Why, the school marching band," said Ball Cap.

"I didn't know we had a school marching band," Mr. Anderson said more to himself than anyone else.  Santa replied just the same.

"Oh, we do, and it's a dandy!"

As if on cue, the marching band emerged from the walkway that ran between the high school and  the New Gym.  The music teacher was holding a banner that was really designed to be held by two people, which the wind kept trying to wrest from her hands.  On the banner, amidst various cleft signs and musical notes, were the words "NHS Marching Band."  It was actually a nice banner, or at least had been for the first thirty years of its life.  With luck, duct tape would see it through another thirty years.  The three members of the marching band followed behind.  There was a drum, a clarinet, and cymbals.  All the students had on the pants and jackets that made up the uniforms, complete with the fancy embroidery work that ran down the vest.  One of them was even wearing a hat.

"I'm sorry we were late," panted Mrs. Murgel, the music teacher.  "We were waiting for Ricky, but he never showed up."

"That's alright," Mr. Anderson replied.  "Just as long as you're here we're OK.  We'll put you behind Chester..."

"Victor," corrected Santa.

"Victor.  We'll put you behind Victor."

"You cain't put 'em behind Victor," said Hunting Jacket.  "The cymbals'll spook his horse."

"Hell, wind'd spook that old horse," Santa said to the appreciation of the other men.

"Alright, then, the firetruck follows Victor..."

Santa nodded his approval of Mr. Anderson finally getting the name right.

"And we'll put the marching band behind the firetruck."

"We can't march behind the firetruck," Mrs. Murgel protested.  "No one would hear us over the noise from the diesel."

Mr. Anderson was tempted to say that that was the general idea, but decided it wouldn't've been professional.

"OK, then, we'll put you after the Baptists."

"That's not a good idea," said Hunting Jacket.

"Why not?"

"Well, for one thing, they'll both be playing music, which is probably not a good idea."

"I'd agree," Mr. Anderson quickly added, although he wasn't considering the possibility that their songs would clash.

"And another thing," Ball Cap continued, "Les has been having trouble with his stomach lately.  I don't think you'll want to walk behind him."

"Who's Les?" Mr. Anderson wondered.

"He's the Baptists' horse," Ball Cap explained.

"Then we'll put the Baptists behind the flag, the firetruck will follow the Baptists, the four wheelers can follow the firetruck, and the Cub Scouts can follow them.  We'll put the marching band behind the Cub Scouts, the queen can follow the marching band, and Santa Claus can bring up the rear."

"What about the other horse?" asked Santa.

"We can put him behind the Baptists."

The three men thought about it for a few moments.

"By golly, I think that'll work," Santa finally concluded.

As the parade slowly started down Walnut, the townsfolk came out of the warmth of their homes to huddle near the street as it went by.  The parade made it to the second house down from the school when the firetruck died.  After a few attempts at turning it over, the fireman inside stuck his head out and announced, "It's froze up!"  The excuse was readily accepted.

Hunting Jacket walked up to Mr. Anderson, who was still standing in the parking lot.  "I reckon we'll just call it quits here.  The firetruck ain't goin' nowhere, and the band's already played all the songs it knows.  We can use the Baptists' wagon to announce the Christmas queen on."

The wagon was a good idea.  Les, the horse, had laid down in the middle of the street, and since he was going nowhere, neither was the wagon.

"Oh, I don't think we'll need the wagon," Mr. Anderson volunteered.  "The girl who was elected queen didn't show up.  We'll just give the tiara to her on Monday, if she shows up then."

"I reckon that'll work," said Hunting Jacket.

Down the street, the homeowners had already gone back inside.  The Baptists had all abandoned their wagon, leaving Les on his own.  Victor and his flag were no where in sight.  Once the parade had begun, Victor had never looked back to see if the rest were following.  The four-wheelers were all chasing each other around in the field that the students used for parking, and the Cub Scouts were now throwing gravel at each other, having run out of candy.  The Marching Band had headed back to the building, only to be stopped by Ricky, who had finally shown up and now wanted to play his trumpet.  Since Mr. Anderson could see no reason to hang around any longer on a Saturday morning, he headed to his truck, only to be stopped halfway there by the trio of Santa Claus, Hunting Jacket, and Ball Cap.

"That was a right fine parade," Hunting Cap volunteered.

"Yes, it was," Ball Cap agreed.  "A dandy!  Best one we ever had."

"We sure appreciate all your effort," said Santa Claus, patting Mr. Anderson on the back.  "We couldn't've done it without you."

8:21 am pst 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

I've Been a Naughty Boy

I thought he was a prowler...
How was I to know?
Creeping down my hallway
all covered up with snow...

Oh, he shouldn't've been a creepin'
through my house so late at night.
He should've known I'd exercise
my God given Constitutional right.

There'll be no Christmas morning,
so much for Christmas day,
‘cause I've been a naughty boy,
I blew Santa Claus away.

Oh, I've been a naughty boy,
and I know I'll have to pay.
There'll be coal in my stocking
‘cause I blew Santa Claus away.

There were eight tiny reindeer
out there on my lawn.
What was I to do with them
now that Santa was gone?

Don't be too darn critical
until you're in my shoes,
and don't tell me what's right or wrong
while you're eating my barbecue.

Oh, I've been a naughty boy
and I know I'll have to pay.
My Christmas tree will be bare,
‘cause I blew Santa Claus away.

I guess what's done is done,
and there's not much more to say,
but I can make you one helluva deal
if you need a second hand sleigh.

Oh, I've been a naughty boy
and I know I'll have to pay.
I'll only have switches for presents,
‘cause I blew Santa Claus away.

7:29 am pst 

Friday, December 10, 2021

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God with a haircut and a shave 

9:35 am pst 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

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Happy Birthday Milton!

John Milton, the blind Puritanical poet who wrote Paradise Lost, which is consider to be the greatest epic poem in the English language (though incredibly dull), was born on December 9, 1608.  He went to check out Paradise for himself on November 8, 1674.

 

 

Work Cited

 

“John Milton Biography.”  Bio.  A & E Television Networks, LLC (2016): n. pag.  Web.  11 Jan. 2016.  http://www.biography.com/people/john-milton-9409395#synopsis

9:02 am pst 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Let's Put the "X" Back in "Xmas"

 

There are many who fervently believe that the "X" in "Xmas" is crossing out Christ's name.  And, according to them, that makes it a really bad thing to do, much like shortening "God be with you" to "Good-bye."  But what do they know? 

 

First, understand that the Bible was not written in English... not originally.  Lots of things weren't.  English is not that old.  The origin of the English language traditionally dates back to 1066 with the Battle of Hastings, easily a thousand years after Christ.  (English Language)  Even at that, what they were speaking isn't even close to what we now call English.  If you went back in time and expected people to be able to understand you, first, go somewhere they actually spoke English.  Second, don't go before, say, 1500.  If you were to go back to the early days of when the New Testament was being written, around 50 AD, (History of the Bible) they were speaking Greek.  Indeed, the word "Bible" is of Greek origin. (Language of the New Testament)

 

The Greek word for Christ (in Greek) is

 

Χριστός

 

If you could find an original copy of the New Testament, that's the word you're going to see. (Ambrosino) 

 

Using "X" as an abbreviation for Christ goes back a long ways, too, all the way back to Constantine the Great (not to be confused with his son, Constantine the OK).  On October 28, 312 AD, Constantine defeated the superior forces of his nemesis Maxentius at the battle of Milivan Bridge.  (The Battle of Milvian Bridge)  The night before Constantine had a vision, and in that vision God himself told Constantine to create a war banner with the first two letters of Christ's name, which, in Greek, are chi and rho, "chi" being an X, and "rho" being a P... like this:

 

 

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If the above symbol doesn't look familiar to you, then you've probably never been in a Christian church.  By the way, Constantine won that battle, which is pretty much a forgone conclusion if you have God on your side. (Ambrosino)  Anybody who's seen the Indiana Jones movies knows that.

 

Another familiar symbol for many Christians is

 

ΙΧΘΥΣ

 

This is actually an acronym (in Greek), meaning "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour."  Yup.  The "X" is short for "Christ." (Ambrosino)

 

"Christmas" is a combination of the words "Christ" and "Mass."  Christ being... well... Jesus.  And Mass means... well... mass – a church service.  In this case, it's a church service for Christ.  At one time, especially in the Catholic church, every saint had a day, and on that day a special mass was said for that particular saint. (Clark)  For instance, Michaelmas, honoring the Angel Michael (one of my favourites), and all the other Angels as well (after all, there are over 10,000 saints recognized by the Catholic church), is celebrated by those who celebrate such things on September 29. (Johnson)

 

The first recorded instance of "Xmas" being used for "Christmas" is in 1021, when a thrifty scribe shortened it to "XPmas."  And who can blame him?  After all, parchment paper was expensive, and not to be wasted.  And he was probably copying the entire Bible by hand.  Anything that could be abbreviated was.  Soon after the abbreviation was shortened even more, to "Xmas." (Ambrosino)  And, as they say, the rest is history.

 

So if you're tired of the way Xmas has changed over the years, of how people have taken a once sacred holiday and made it into a farce... if you want to get back to the real meaning of Xmas, then it's time to put the "X" back in Xmas.

 

 

Work Cited

 

Ambrosino, Brandon.  "The X in Xmas Literally Means Christ.  Here's the History Behind It."  Vox.  Voxmedia (14 Dec. 2014):  n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  https://www.vox.com/2014/12/14/7374401/jesus-xmas-christmas

 

"The Battle of Milvian Bridge and the History of the Book."  Library News.  University of Missouri (2019): n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  http://library.missouri.edu/news/special-collections/the-battle-of-milvian-bridge-and-the-history-of-the-book

 

Clark, Wayne.  "What is the Meaning of 'Mas' in the Word Christmas?"  Quora.  Quora:  n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-meaning-of-mas-in-the-word-Christmas

 

"English Language."  Wikipedia.  Wikipedia Foundation (7 Dec. 2019):  n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language

 

"History of the Bible:  New Testament."  History World.  History World:  n. page.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=adb1

 

Johnson, Ben.  "Michaelmas."  Historic UK.  Historic UK Ltd.:  n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Michaelmas/

 

"Language of the New Testament."  Wikipedia.  Wikipedia Foundation (5 Nov. 2019):  n. pag.  Web.  11 Dec. 2019  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_New_Testament

8:10 am pst 


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