FPQ #108: Do We Need a Special Day to Celebrate Love?

FPQ

Fandango’s intro to this week’s Provocative Question: Valentine’s Day is just four days from today. This coming Sunday is a day that people in love all around the globe — well, okay, in the United States, for sure — celebrate love and romance. So my perhaps not so provocative question this week is all about Valentine’s Day, how you feel about it and how you plan to celebrate the day.

Here’s my question….

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Do you consider it to be a special day, one where you express your deep love and appreciation for your significant other? Or is it just a commercialized “Hallmark Holiday” where you feel pressured to spend money on cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and/or expensive dinners in order to stay on the good side of the one you love? Either way, what, if anything, are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?

I do believe in Valentine’s Day as a way to celebrate our love for others. Some people need to be reminded to remember loved ones or to say “I love you.” Those who don’t express themselves well verbally can get a card and a small gift. My husband, Dale, used to get me flowers every year.

Actually, Valentine’s Day isn’t like other “Hallmark holidays” – it has a long history, although the facts are a little uncertain. One story says that Valentine was a priest during the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II forbade young men from getting married because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers. The priest thought this was unjust and continued to marry young lovers in secret. He became a martyr (either this priest or another religious figure, the Bishop of Terni) when he was imprisoned for performing these secret marriages. He was held in the home of a noble, and there he healed the noble’s daughter of blindness, which caused him to be considered a saint. Before he was tortured and put to death on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine – downloaded from Google Images

Whatever the story or legend, Valentine’s Day began to be associated with love during the Middle Ages, and St. Valentine became one of the most popular saints in Europe. When selecting a date to celebrate this saint, some believe Feb. 14 (originally Feb. 15) was deliberately chosen to correspond to the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, celebrating the Roman fertility god, Lupercus. Unlike Valentine’s Day, however, Lupercalia was a bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration of animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling to ward off evil spirits and appease the god of fertility. To learn more about St. Valentine and Lupercalia, go to the History Channel’s website page about the history of Valentine’s Day.

There are what I would call Hallmark holidays (like “Sweethearts’ Day” and “Grandparents’ Day”), but Valentine’s Day is not one of them.

However, I have a special reason to “believe in” Valentine’s Day as a special day – it’s Dale’s birthday! So I have a special valentine all of my own!!

Dale and me in Amsterdam, January 2018

It’s not necessarily fun to have a spouse with a birthday on a special day like Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to get restaurant reservations for that special birthday dinner, and some places have special menus and the cost is higher! If you’re like me, who tends to forget to do things until the last minute, you’re out of luck calling around to get reservations on the actual day of Valentine’s Day. I look for that special combo Valentine’s Day birthday card, and I can usually find one or two. But generally, I give him two different cards and a gift more appropriate for his birthday than the token gift I would give for Valentine’s Day.

Image result for valentine's day images

A popular Valentine’s Day gift is candy. Especially if you are a woman looking for something to give your spouse or boyfriend, candy is usually the default. But neither Dale nor I need to have such temptations in the house! I could get flowers for him – after all, why shouldn’t a woman get flowers for a man? Men like flowers, too, at least most of them seem to. But if I got him flowers and he decided to surprise me in the same way (since candy is a no-no), we’d have too many flowers and it would seem more like an even exchange than something special. I think this is why neither of us bothers to buy the other one Valentine’s Day gifts anymore. I have to find a gift for him anyway.

It used to be a double whammy when I was teaching, because invariably there would be a Valentine’s Day party for the kids, and parents would bring in all kinds of goodies that I generally found irresistible. That would be after hustling the night before to sign a Valentine’s Day card for each student from the packs of 10 or 12 that I’d bought at a store. I didn’t usually worry about providing treats, because parents usually did that, but I generally would get at least a bag of candy so I could give one or two pieces to each child along with the card.

Then after the festivities at school, I’d go home and…there’d be candy or possibly a birthday cake. Fortunately, I am not teaching anymore, and being retired, it’s our job to sit back and let the kids do special things for us! In fact, our daughter has already warned us that she plans to make her dad a cake this year, which she hasn’t done the last few years. (But she’s all domesticated now that she’s married – she or her husband often cook special dishes for us.) That said, instead of being able to get together and share it, she’ll probably have to drop it off over the fence of our complex and we’ll be stuck eating the whole thing! I shouldn’t complain – everything she cooks is great and often quite innovative, but I seem to be in a perpetual struggle to lose weight!

My brother-in-law celebrates Valentine’s Day every year by performing “Singing Valentines” with his barbershop quartet. I don’t know if they will do it this year, but I will miss seeing it in our community dining room (which is closed due to Covid). Anyway, it’s a great surprise gift for someone’s special sweetheart and the group earns quite a bit of money that day!

Whatever the case, although we should celebrate love every day, I think it is a wonderful thing in these always challenging times to have at least one day called Valentine’s Day.

Image result for valentine's day images

The Final Days

It is Christmas Day and I am finishing up Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas!

Day 23: Gathering
We have been warned by Dr. Fauci and the CEO’s of our senior community, to STAY HOME and not go to gatherings! But we are sort of obligated to go to a gathering of seven people on Christmas Day. Our daughter and son-in-law are cooking and our son-in-law’s brother and niece have come from Florida for the holidays. (Probably not a wise thing to do this year, but there was nothing we could do about it!) Also our son will be there; otherwise he’d be alone for Christmas which would worsen his depression. So we are going to sneak out and employ mitigation methods while there – masking wearing, social distancing, etc. We had a COVID test last week and it came out negative. I may go and have another one done after this Christmas Day gathering!

At The Family Reunion Who We Introducing Jokes - FamilyScopes

Day 24: Presents
Some people have the tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve. My family’s tradition was to open just one gift on Christmas Eve, so I tried to choose wisely. In my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually, there is a scene in which a family is gathered around on Christmas Eve to select one gift to open. We see the mother (who has already accidentally seen her husband buy a gold necklace at a department store) reaching for a small square box under the tree that she believes to be the necklace. Although she had just recently had a conversation with her husband about how much she loved Joni Mitchell, she tries hard to hide her disappointment when the gift turns out to be a Joni Mitchell double CD. Her husband, unaware of her knowledge of the necklace he bought for his secretary, smiles and says, “for your emotional education.” Holding back tears, she excuses herself and goes upstairs to her bedroom to cry.

emma thompson love actually scene
Here the mother, played by Emma Thompson, is smiling as she looks at the rest of her family on Christmas Eve.

Emma Thompson reveals real heartbreak behind her iconic Love Actually scene
Here she is wiping her tears in her bedroom.

Day 25: CHRISTMAS DAY! Food
Traditional Christmas dinner food is a lot like Thanksgiving food. At this moment, I can hear Dale rattling around in the kitchen as he prepares his green bean casserole. We are sneaking out to go to our daughter’s house for Christmas dinner, because she and her husband are cooking and there will only be seven of us there. The main dishes they are serving are beef Wellington and ham. Meanwhile, my mouth waters just looking at the wonderful cookies my niece baked for us! This is her gift to us every year and I always look forward to it! There are standard holiday shaped sugar cookies, wreaths made with corn flakes and marshmallows (dyed green), and my favorite: chocolate brownies with peppermint frosting, which I have already talked about in a previous post for this challenge. Don’t they look scrumptious?!

31 best Christmas jokes for kids: the funniest festive children's one-liners

And now the Countdown to Christmas is done!
Thank you, Tourmaline, it was a lot of fun!
I’d like to end with some holiday cheer:

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Countdown 2 Xmas: Mail Toys Snow Night

I’m back at Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas. Let’s see, where was I?

Day 19: Mail
I almost always send holiday cards through the mail. Usually they are late, but this year I’ve mailed them all before Christmas! I order my cards from Shutterfly and couldn’t imagine what to send in this coronavirus year! The one I chose was amusing & appropriate, I thought – it just said “Well, That was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)”. It included four photos, one a selfie of me and Dale in masks, one of Hazel, our cat, and two scenic. (I am unable to copy and paste it here and I used up all the cards!) I had Shutterfly print our return address on the back of the envelope, so sending them was easy! I only had to add my half-page letter, address, stamp, seal, and mail!

Day 20: Toys

Day 21: Snow
We haven’t had any (yet)! But here are some photos from last winter.

Day 22: Night
Last night, for the first time in 800 years, Saturn and Jupiter were to line up in the night sky, and we would see them as one brightish light near the horizon. We were going to go to a park after dark to look at this phenomenon, but alas! It was cloudy!

What I like about night at Christmas time is all the holiday lights that brighten up the darkness when the days are short and the sun sets before 4:30 p.m.!

SYW: Holiday Cookies, Drinks, and Magic

SantaSYW

Melanie has a new set of holiday-related questions for her weekly Share Your World.

  • What is your favorite type of cookie (they’re called biscuits in Europe I believe)?
    If you mean Christmas cookies, it would be a tie between the sugar cookies in different shapes with frosting and a brownie with peppermint candy frosting (not technically a cookie, but my niece makes these every year as part of her gift of cookies).

    Outside of holiday season, it’s homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven!
    I don’t bake cookies in general, so we buy Tates – their chocolate chip cookie is thin and crispy.
We buy boxes of Tates like this at Costco. At other places, they come in smaller bags, but there are more varieties.
  • If you could choose one age and remain that forever, what would it be and why?
    65 – young enough to still have the energy and drive to travel and explore new things, and also be eligible for retirement and Medicare.
  • Do you have a traditional drink during the holiday season?
    Not this year, because we are not gathering as usual with our family, but normally it is Jolly Jolt. Jolly Jolt is basically warm apple cider with cinnamon cloves. My sister prepares it in a large coffee pot and everyone helps themselves! This year, I suspect it will be Cooper’s Hawk’s Winter Red wine, which we have a bottle of in our garage – also best heated.
    NV Cooper's Hawk Winter Red, USA, Illinois - CellarTracker
  • Are you able to still believe in holiday magic as you did when you were a child?
    No, not really. Warmth, maybe, magic, no. When I was a kid, holidays like Christmas were always extremely exciting. We kids got to do the fun stuff, like picking out and decorating the tree, helping put up the creche, and singing Christmas carols. As an adult, there’s the work side of it – things don’t magically happen! I do very little decorating, except to put up my collection of creches and hang a Santa Claus on the door. Usually I have a Christmas tree but haven’t had one for the last three years. I do more decorating if we’re having guests.

    The most magical and exciting moments during my childhood were early Christmas mornings. My dad put up a portable screen so we couldn’t see into the living room until my parents got up. So we kids would climb partway up the stairway to peek over the screen to find our stockings and all the presents my parents had added during the night. This is what I think about when I’m asked about holiday magic!

    Now I look forward to simple gatherings of families and friends, noshing, drinking Jolly Jolt and playing games. It gives me warm feeling, but not the magic of childhood.

Gratitude section: I’m grateful to be alive and reasonably healthy! And I’m grateful that 2020 is almost over!

Thursday Doors: Holiday Doors

Dan at No Facilities is now hosting Thursday Doors. Yesterday and today, Dale and I walked the halls of the apartment building here, working on a scavenger hunt of Christmas decorations that residents have put up. There’s also a door decorating contest!

Here are some of the doors we saw yesterday.

The most amazing thing is that very few of these are the same decorations these residents put up last year! Such creativity! Perhaps it’s because of the door decorating contest. But I think the contest will be won by this woman, a former teacher who lives on the 3rd floor:

Countdown to Christmas: Lights, Love, Colors, Candy, Candles, Creature, Desserts

Due to pressing tasks related to the holidays that have taken up much of my time, I really got behind in Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas!

Days 12 & 14: Lights and Colors
Holiday decorations in many colors

Our former house in Des Plaines is decked out for Christmas far better than we ever even attempted to do! I’m proud of our daughter & son-in-law (who live there now) for putting so much effort in it! Notice the moving colored lights projected onto the second floor dormer!
Christmas tree elegantly decorated in blue & gold, in the lobby of our senior community’s main building. I like the way the lights on the tree reflect onto the dark blue of the sky outside!
Close-up of one of those decorations

Day 13: Love
Who doesn’t love Christmas? Here’s a bouquet of mostly roses (symbol of love) in our house earlier this week.

Day 15: Candy
Today we walked the halls of the apartment building in our community, for several purposes: exercise (too cold to walk outside!), taking photos, and working on a scavenger hunt. Residents not only decorate their doors, but also the ledges outside their apartments. Sometimes there is candy set out for anyone to partake of!

FRANGO MINTS!! How could I resist this traditional Chicago treat?

Day 16: Candles
Candles make me think of Hanukkah, which we celebrate every year because my husband in Jewish. Since I have no photos of the menorah we use every year at Hanukkah (which ended last night), here is another of those ledge decorations outside someone’s apartment.

Day 17: Creature
Creature?? What does this have to do with Christmas? Oh yeah – elves!

Day 18: Dessert!
Dessert for me means some concoction involving ice cream. But right now, it’s Christmas cookies! Having a box of them in the house makes it hard to resist them! So each night, I have one or two cookies with a cup of tea and a piece of fruit. Christmas isn’t Christmas without cookies!

Back in the days when we could have parties and take cookies from a common plate, a friend of mine gave a holiday party in her apartment, including this delicious variety of cookies!

Countdown 2 Xmas

I’m struggling to keep up with Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas! I got as far as Day 3, so today I’ll have to get four more days done!

Day 4: Movie
There are lots of holiday movies but only two of them have ever been an annual tradition. When I was a kid, every year we’d watch Menotti’s operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors. My siblings and I knew it so well that even today we can quote (singing, of course!) from it.

Several years ago, I acquired the DVD of Love Actually, which is sort of a holiday movie. I really enjoy this movie and we watch it almost every year. There were a few things that made it special:
1. Colin Firth
2. Colin Firth attempting to speak Portuguese
3. the soundtrack
4. Sam, the 12-year-old character
5. the scene where the prime minister (played by Hugh Grant) “tells off” the American president
6. the fact that my mother loved it until she thought about it and decided it was “soft porn.”
7. Colin Firth proposing to the love of his life in Portuguese at a restaurant in Portugal

Day 5: Music

I love carols and Christmas songs, but my favorites are the classical pieces associated with Christmas: Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and others. That said, I love a few Christmas songs that I can’t get enough of.

Oddly, although I don’t believe that it is a fact that Jesus was actually the product of a virgin Mary and God, nor that Jesus literally walked on water, etc., my favorite three Christmas songs that give me goosebumps are:
Mary Did You Know


The Cherry Tree Carol

The Prayer (not specifically for Christmas, but it’s on Celine Dion’s Christmas album)

Day 6: Plants
A poinsettia, what else?? The poinsettia is native to Mexico where some of its leaves turn red (or white) around Christmas time. This happens because of the shorter days of December. I was told that if I wanted my poinsettia to rebloom, I should put it in a dark place, to coax the leaves to turn red again. Instead, I killed the poinsettia because I forgot about it and it was totally neglected! Here’s a photo I took in January of a poinsettia with red & white leaves (obviously it didn’t live in my house!)

Day 7: Fireplace
My son and I never lived in a place with a fireplace when he was young enough to believe in Santa Claus! I would hang his stocking on a nail! By the time we moved into our house with a fireplace, he was 10 and no longer believed in Santa. So then I just hung decorative stockings over the fireplace! Alas, I have not a single photo!


SYW: Winter & Holiday Traditions

Every week I look forward to Melanie’s Share Your World!

Yuletide SYW

QUESTIONS:

Do you enjoy skiing or ice skating or if it’s warm where you are, hiking or enjoying outdoor sports? I have never been good at sports of any kind, really. However, as a kid I did go with my siblings or friends to local skating ponds. We all had ice skates. I would get cold pretty quickly, sooner than the others. The best part was going home and warming up our frozen feet in front of the fireplace, while drinking homemade hot chocolate!

One of my sisters and my brother used to downhill ski, and my sister got pretty good at it. I was always confined to the “bunny hill.” I wasn’t very good at stopping which of course was a problem since I sometimes stopped by running into someone or something! Good thing I wasn’t going very fast. However, every time I went, I did experience momentary exhilaration during my descent down the hill. More fun for me was sledding – that was a popular pastime among my friends in the neighborhood. Also making snowmen or snow forts. For a short time, I enjoyed cross country skiing, but I didn’t pursue it enough to get very good. But at least stopping was a lot easier! Again, I always looked forward to warming up back inside afterward with hot chocolate.

That said, I really have never been a fan of winter. I don’t tolerate the cold well. As an adult, it’s nothing but inconvenience and drudgery – cleaning off the car to go to work or before going home. And then shoveling. My husband would get on his snow blower, but my job was to clear the porches and steps. Sometimes we had to use the shovels to chop a layer of ice under the snow.

Admittedly, there are many opportunities for beautiful photography in winter. I have a great collection of photos of icicles and scenes of freshly fallen snow.

Do you give to charities or homeless that you might encounter, during this time of year, more than you do otherwise?
I get more solicitations at this time of year but I have to pick & choose. I have a few charities that I give to consistently. As for homeless people, I don’t usually give homeless people money on city streets, but here in the suburbs, there are certain intersections where individuals go between the cars waiting at a red light to try to get money from motorists. Sometimes I give, sometimes I don’t. More recently, I did. How generous I am depends on how secure I feel in terms of money. Right now I have some to spare.

In normal times, I get volunteers from my church to either provide food or work at a homeless shelter site. Different churches take turns every week manning these sites and serving food that is donated. But of course, right now these shelters are closed, so I feel sorry for those people who depended on them.

What is the most enjoyable activity you engage in during December?  Is it a tradition for you and your family?
I used to love decorating the Christmas tree. I have a lot of ornaments that I have acquired over the years, souvenirs of different places and different times. After I persuade Dale to put on the lights, I play Christmas music while decorating the tree.

We haven’t had a tree the last couple of years – last year we had just moved and we needed a smaller tree which we didn’t get; and the year before that we were overseas at Christmas. So this year I really want to find a tree – real or fake – that’s about 4-5 ft. tall for a good price so I can enjoy those ornaments again.

Our Christmas tree in years past

I also love getting together with family for dinner, gift exchanges, Christmas cookies, and carol singing! Here’s a collage from Christmas 2016:

What changes will C-19 bring to your festive celebrations this year?  
Thanksgiving was a preview of holidays to come – the two of us sat at our little table alone and ate the Thanksgiving dinner we ordered for dinner here at our senior community. Afterward, we connected with several family households on Zoom, to chat and play games. I think Hanukkah and Christmas will be the same. The weird thing is that this year I’ve bought more “real” gifts than I have in the past – usually I give gift cards because I have no imagination, lol! So now I have to mail those gifts to people I would normally see. For our kids, we will probably go to their houses and leave gifts on their porches, and they will most likely exchange gifts with us then. (Besides, we usually give them cash.) But we probably will get together with my sister and brother-in-law, who live in this community too, at least on New Year’s Eve, which is our traditional wine and game night. We usually play Scrabble. If we do Zoom, we’ll have to do a game like Categories that doesn’t require any shared equipment.

GRATITUDE SECTION (Optional of course):

Please share a good will wish for the world!

There is good news on the horizon: vaccines for Covid-19, and for Americans, a new administration with actual leadership will be taking office in January. In light of that, my message is:

There is light at the end of the tunnel.
May it arrive in 2021!
Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, listen to scientists, and count your blessings during these dark times.

Countdown to Christmas

Tourmaline is hosting her first Countdown to Christmas challenge this year! Here are the themes:

I am admittedly lousy at keeping up with a daily challenge, so I am going to take this one by chunks, this time at least!

Dec. 1: Decorations
Many people here at our senior community put wreaths and other decorations on the doors and shelves outside their apartments. Last year when it was too cold to walk outside, I instead walked the halls of the apartment building and took lots of photos of decorations. I will probably do the same thing this year. Because of COVID-19, to get us into the holiday spirit, there is a door decorating contest, so there ought to be even more doors decorated this year!
Here are a few from last year. I especially like the ones that reflect different ethnic traditions.

I made this collage of some of the door wreaths.

Dec. 2: Family
I have a large family so we don’t all gather together. Mostly we get together with the kids and grandkids of my sister and brother-in-law, who live in this same community. Last Christmas, our daughter & son-in-law hosted the celebration at our old house (where they currently live).

Dec. 3: Traditions
We have several holiday traditions, such as putting up my collection of creches (Nativity scenes – I have quite a few), a Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments, and games – we always play some games! We also sing carols around a piano (if there is one). My sister has two Christmas carol games and we also love to play Charades and Categories. Last year our daughter and son-in-law had a new game for us, where everyone at the table takes turns unwrapping a large ball of cellophane full of little prizes. One person unwraps while another throws dice. When the dice come up as doubles, the person unwrapping has to stop and pass on the cellophane ball. It was frustrating and fun!

My brother-in-law unwraps while my friend Marcia rolls the dice. My sister Mary is closest to the camera.

I think we will have to forego the games this year, because we can’t get together – but maybe we can play Categories via Zoom!!

Last Photo of November

Bushboy has a Last Photo challenge where he invites us to post the last photo we took that month. I took my last photograph in November at our most unusual Thanksgiving dinner! It was just the two of us, with the Thanksgiving meal delivered to us, just like every dinner is delivered to us since COVID-19 arrived on the scene. In the evening, though, we were able to talk and play games with part of our family via Zoom.

Dale at our forlorn Thanksgiving dinner. At least I tried to make it look nice with a fresh table cloth!

I sort of cheated…the actual last photo was of me sitting at this small table, but I didn’t actually take it – Dale did!