Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Reason for the New Year's Celebration

At the stroke of Midnight on January 1st, the great twinkling globe drops in New York City. The iconic symbol in Times Square is seen around the world as that moment when yesterday is truly past and the brightness of the future is just a moment away.

New York's Time Square at the big moment each year!

Fireworks which started in China thousands of years ago were the product of the attempt to scare away the evil spirits which had inhabited the previous year. To this day hundreds of countries shoot those starry eruptions into the night sky as a celebration for a new year in the hopes of having a better future for the next 365 days. Bad spirits blasted away and the desire for a clean slate a must. Sounds pretty good.

Beijing celebrates
This special day - this January 1st is also attempt at reconciling hurt feelings among friends and family. It's a time to start over. A date when the past should be forgotten and a new day dawning with promises of nothing but happiness and success.

Various cultures have very different rituals which they conduct on this first day of the new year to make sure the coming year is a happy and successful one.

The ancient Babylonians would return borrowed items on this day to ensure they were not considered thieves. The Scots went "first footing," going from neighbor to neighbor wishing them well and praying for a prosperous new year. The Dutch believed the circle represents a symbol of success so they would eat donuts on New Years Day. The Greeks would bake a special cake called a Vassilopitta with a coin inside giving whoever got that slice the idea the new year would be prosperous if not one filled with a broken molar. The Japanese hold the Bonenkai, or 'forget-the-year-parties,' to say goodbye to the problems and negative issues which may have caused grief to individuals. Certain cultures clean their houses on the first day of the new year as a way to cleanse themselves and their surroundings indicating the year will be free of clutter and waste. Left overs in the fridge are tossed in the trash to make sure only good healthy food is present at the beginning of the new year.

Traditions are as varied as the people who stick to them each and every year and for good reason, according Psychology Today. In an article entitled 'Why We Really Celebrate New Year's Day' the ideas are expressed as a way for humans to look forward to the new year as an opportunity to cleanse themselves from possible digressions of the past.

The new year is a time to look into our very souls and understand that a new time is upon us and perhaps we should do a better job in the next twelve months than we may have done in the previous twelve. Be forgiving family members, be better friends, be nicer to strangers and those in need. To treat each person as a brother or sister instead of as an enemy. It is survival that most humans want and that means to tolerate if not openly accept each other as an individual and to put aside the differences we see in each other and just accept that we are unique.

In the New Testament perhaps there is a verse that everyone on this planet should take to heart - Christian or not:

Luke 6:31 'Do to others as you would have them do to you.'

In this coming New Year - toast as the glittery ball falls in New York City and make resolutions but remember the Golden Rule - then and maybe then the wonders of a new beginning may actually take place.

From J and L - to all our friends and family

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Season Greetings from J and L

At this time of year - as always - we want to wish all our friends from around this wonderful globe a Merry Christmas - Happy Holidays and a fruitful New Year! Perhaps it is clearer illustrated - 

                            Yes - we believe that is better!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Better Be Good!

Okay - a weird emo-gee of Santa Claus

'Tis the Season for all good boys and girls to get ready for the visit from the slightly overweight man with the shiny white beard - yes, Santa is coming and all children on this spinning ball better be good.

Good children get presents and we all know what naughty children get - yep, lumps of coal.

Well, perhaps they get worse than coal - an IRS audit? Nope even that would be too lenient compared to what may be waiting if they go 364 as naughty boys and girls.

Let's examine other tales of the Santa Claus phenomenon - a phenomenon? How else could this be explained - a man being pulled in a sled by reindeer in the dead of night delivering treats and goodies to the entire world's population of good boys and girls? He's world famous and famously loved - that is a phenomenon in any language.

Good old St. Nick
Saint Nicholas - aka Santa Claus - is based (and of course J and L still believe in Santa Claus as does NASA) on the 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra. It was an area of the ancient Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) and the Bishop was known for handing out gifts to the poor. due to the time period he probably had a beard and a long robe as worn by many clergy of the era. Paintings, since photography was eons in the future - even depict his beard as white and flowing.

Wow, that sounds like the Santa Claus of today - bearded and robed.

Today's Santa Claus - much like his namesake 

So, this story has come through the ages as a kindly gentleman traveling the night skies carrying gifts to all the good children of the world.

What again about those who are not so good?

A little research can answer that question and at J and L we just love research.

The legend of Krampus is about the opposite of Santa Claus as there could be - wait, no - worse are to come later in this writing.

Krampus is a half-demon and half-goat creature who stirs around December 6th each year looking for children who have not behaved themselves. For most of these little darlings, he beats then into being good. If that doesn't work, drags them into his filthy and smelly lair for eternity.

This charming monster comes from the 'Krampen', German for claw (thus the demon stuff). He is supposed to be the son of Hel, the Norse myth who likes to terrify children worldwide - in many cultures he actually is the side-kick to the more kindly Santa Claus who, while busy handing out gifts to children ignores the beatings going down with claw man - upon the bad children.

Krampus loves children - naughty ones

So much for restorative justice.

How about this for Holiday Cheer?

Frau Perchta from Germany and Austria is a pretty ugly (not PC but the truth nonetheless) witch who hangs out in December handing out rewards as well as punishment for children. She seems to really relish the 12 days before Christmas in dealing with humans and truly enjoys ripping out internal organs of bad children and replacing the organs with garbage.

Perchta is all about being ugly - inside and outside


But there is her counterpart, the Italian witch La Befana who leaves presents and peoples entails in place - she's also ugly but must be pretty inside we think.

A nice Christmas witch - if there is such a thing
Then there's the Icelandic answer to cruelty - Gryla. A woman who had been married 3 times and had 72 children - a very busy cruel woman obviously - who showed up around the 17th century. She's there to deal with children who do not obey their parents by kidnapping, cooking and eating the bad children.

Gryla knows their faces will chance once the pot starts boiling
So much for the Holiday Feast.

Oh, and her children also like to cause mayhem from hiding gifts to murder. There's always something comforting with keeping up with a nice family tradition.

Okay - we could never turn down such a sweet face - here's a true story which leads into a myth - huh?

Quiet children and listen to the story of a Christmas Grinch who was not very kindly to youngsters either good or bad.

His name was Hans Trapp (not from the singing family troupe) who was from the Alsace and Lorraine regions in France. He was real and really evil - so much so that he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

Trapp was from the 15th century and was so evil that he was booted from the area for his debauchery and cruelty by his fellow citizens. He'd do anything to get richer and that included worshiping Satan - thus the reason for the excommunication.

One day Beelzebub ordered him to go in disguise as a scarecrow - hay hanging out of his sleeves so he could accomplish the act of luring a child into the woods in which he could eat. Disgusting but it almost worked, according to legend, when a ten year old Shepard boy wandered to close to the man disguised as a scare crow Trapp was able to stab him with a long sharpened stick.

Just as Hans Trapp was about ready to take a big old bite of the dying youth God shot Trapp with a bolt of lightening killing Trapp instantly and saving the boy. Since that time old Trapp can still be seen going from home to home scaring children into being good - he occasionally drools on the doorstep if the child looks overly tender.

Hans Trapp - he liked setting traps for children
So - we at J and L truly like the kinder gentler Santa Claus we know so well over those others who enjoy terrorizing children from around the world.

A lump of coal suddenly sounds good compared to a belly full of garbage - doesn't it?

Have a wonderfully fulfilling Holiday Season and remember to be good. You know what can happen now if you don't.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Day of Infamy

Not many had heard of these places in December of 1941

On  December 8th of 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt advised the world that the United States had been attacked by the Japanese. The prior day at 7:55 (HAST) a surprise assault had taken place at a far off island chain sending the U.S. Navy scrambling and suffering. Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu seemed an unlikely place to start a war but it was. This war was already raging in Europe but on this sleepy Sunday morning the tragic event would encircle the globe and awaken a slumbering giant.

World War II was on.

On the same day of the announcement President Roosevelt declared war on Japan and then on the 11th against Germany and Italy.

Millions upon millions of military personnel and civilians would die in the next four years - it was a horrible time for humanity.

Every year homage is paid to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor - with 2,403 service personnel dead, another 1,178 wounded and let's not forget the 68 civilians killed and 35 wounded. A strange encounter for death and mayhem in such a peaceful and beautiful setting.

Yearly gatherings of remembrance
Sometimes war is like that - changing landscapes horribly both physically and emotionally.

But what were some of the other tragic stories on that day which would go down as a day of infamy - per Roosevelt? What were the behind the scene actions that make the use of a box of tissues necessary.

For example: Just on the USS Arizona - the entire 22 member band, U.S. Navy Band Unit 22 lost their lives. The only time in American history such a tragedy had occurred - not a single member lived through the morning of the attack. They had been getting ready on the deck of the Pennsylvania-class battleship for the daily flag raising ceremony when the attack took place. There was no where to hide on the 608 foot long ship - in an instant they were dead running to their respective battle stations.

USS Arizona under attack - artist rendering
How about the fact that there were 37 pairs or trios of brothers assigned to the Arizona on that fateful morning? 77 brothers awoke on that sunny day and within hours 62 were killed - 23 sets of brothers were no longer. It hadn't been the practice of the Navy to not allow siblings to work with each other even on war machines - that came into question after Pearl Harbor and the final straw was when all 5 Sullivan brothers were killed in November of 1942 when their light cruiser - the USS Juneau was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Pearl Harbor hadn't been enough - it took another loss of an entire family of siblings before the Navy put a stop to it and would not allow siblings to be in harms way together.

Sullivan Brothers

A somber and gorgeous memorial is placed above the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor - where it was anchored with 1.5 million gallons of fuel freshly injected for the long awaited trip to the mainland within the month. The ship was battered by shell after shell with her and all the brave men doing their best to remain above the water line - to no avail unfortunately. The great ship who had served with distinction since her first day in service back in June of 1915 sunk along with 1,000 who had been trying to protect her on that early morning of December 7th, 1941.

She's still there - easily visible with her hull and two gun turrets in plain sight - though below water. It's an eerily surrealistic place to visit - a hush of the tourists is automatic and reverence is the call of the day. J and L have visited together - held hands in silent prayer for those still there - who never went home.

USS Arizona - 9 quarts of oil still seep out daily - as though she is crying

It's a place to visit and to remember those who sacrificed so much for those of us still breathing freedoms sweet smell.

In 1958, President Dwight d. Eisenhower allowed for the creation of a national memorial dedicated to those who had fought and died on the Arizona. The monument was opened on May 30th of 1962 and more than a million people visit it every year.

Elvis Presley in March of 1961 did a benefit concert for the construction at Pearl Harbor's Block Arena and raised over fifty thousand dollars - more than 10% of the total cost.

Presley had just finished a two year stint in the U.S. Army and felt the need to assist.

Gotta love a man in uniform!
We at J and L love to research and write about it - though sometimes it is painful to hit the keyboard but as this day - December 7th comes and goes each year we must never forget those who have gone before us.

Some of the names of the fallen

The 75th anniversary of that dark Sunday is no different - we take off our hats, place our hands over our hearts and say thanks.

Thanks to all those at Pearl Harbor that day but especially the USS Arizona. A Day of Infamy - for sure.

We won't - we promise!