Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Memories and Traditions

I was waiting to see what Randy Seaver posted for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but it wasn't a topic that inspired me, so I'm wandering off on my own tonight.  I'm thinking about my memories of Christmas, which, like me, are a little eclectic.

One of my earliest memories of Christmas isn't about something expected like Santa Claus.  No, it's how when my mother's best friend, Sam, used to come over for Christmas, we would have not only the traditional turkey but also ham, because Sam loved ham.  (When Sam was over we also had ham with the turkey for Thanksgiving.)  I suspect not many people associate ham with Christmas, but I do.  And we usually had sweet potatoes, which my mother tried to convince me once were candy (as in candied yams).  It's really hard to trust a parent again when she pulls that on you.  By the way, no, I don't like sweet potatoes.

We didn't have a Christmas tree for Christmas; we had a Chanukah bush.  Yes, it's the same thing, just with a different name.  I don't know why my mother called it a Chanukah bush, since she didn't do anything else Chanukah-ish other than put out a menorah.  She didn't light the candles, mind you, just put the menorah out on display.   But we had our Chanukah bush to go with the menorah.

One tradition we had whether Sam was visiting us or not was to open one present on Christmas Eve.  We had different ways of trying to pick the present:  What looked the coolest?  Which was the largest?  Which had the prettiest wrapping paper?  Did one make a certain noise when it was shaken?  And my mother was pretty strict that it was only one present, so if you picked a boring one, oh, well!  Have to wait until Christma smorning to open the rest!  I don't remember any really boring ones, so maybe it always worked out okay.

During the time my family lived in Australia, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas (i.e., December 26), became part of our Christmas routine.  I remember that we used to receive an extra gift on Boxing Day, but I don't remember that we gave gifts to any of the people who did work for us during the year.  That doesn't mean we didn't, just that I don't remember it.

After moving from home to start college, I flew back and spent the next four Christmases with my parents.  What I remember most from those trips is that my mother had gotten hooked on daytime soap operas, and my sister used to watch them with her.  I would come, not having seen anything of the shows during the intervening year (because I didn't and still don't watch soap opears), and yet somehow I was able to follow the plots with no problem.  That reminds me of an old joke about soap operas:  They're the only place where it takes a woman eleven nmonths to have a premature baby.

After I graduated college I didn't have the money to fly back east for Christmas.  I started celebrating Christmas locally with friends for the most part, the specifics of which might change from one year to the next depending on where I was living and other factors.

When I was with my ex, I regularly traveled to Portland for the Christmas holidays, because that's where his world was centered.  That's when I really started spending Christmas with my "family of choice" (and also had my first white Christmas).  And then after we had grandchildren, I went to Portland as much as possible, espcially during Christmas, because the grandchidlren were mostly in that area.

Now that I live in the Portland area myself, I don't have to go as far to see my grandchildren, which is good, because they're now the most important part of my Christmas.  This year I visited the three youngest in person on Christmas Eve and had a video chat with the two older ones on Christmas Day and was able to watch them open their presents.  And those are great memories to add to the others.

All five grandchildren, Christmas 2017

 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Blog Caroling!

How do you carol on a blog?  Let's see how Randy Seaver explains it for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet?  I love this time of year — and hearing and singing Christmas carols and songs is my favorite holiday pastime.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

(1) Identify your absolute favorite Christmas carol or holiday song.  

(2) Share your favorite Christmas carol or holiday song in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment and link here to your post.

(3) For extra credit, post an audio or video of the carol or song (almost all are on YouTube.com) and the words to the song.  Add the background of the song and the artists if you can find them.

(4) Enjoy the memories and feelings that the carol or song brings to your heart and mind, and share them too!

I'm going to double-dip toinght.

First, my absolute favorite Christmas carol is "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  I don't remember the first time I heard it, but I might have actually sung it in junior-high chorus.  My teacher was Miss Foster.

You can find Robert Goulet singing the song here, on YouTube, as Randy predicted.  There's another recording of him singing it that includes this description of the song:

"Do You Hear What I Hear?", the beloved Christmas song was written by Noel Regney, in 1962 with Gloria Shayne, his wife at that time. It was recorded by Bing Crosby and Perry Como, among others, in more than 120 versions, in musical styles ranging from jazz and New Age to funk and reggae. Mr. Regney said in an 1985 interview in The New York, "I wrote it as a clear and plaintive plea for peace at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, in October 1962." His favorite version was Robert Goulet's. "When Mr. Goulet came to the line, ''Pray for peace, people, everywhere,'' he almost shouted the words. I am amazed that people can think they know the song -- and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings.''

And the lyrics:

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
 
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
(Do you hear what I hear?)
Ringing through the sky. shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
(Do you hear what I hear?)
A song, a song
High above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
 
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know?
(Do you know what I know?)
In your palace warm, mighty king

Do you know what I know?
(Do you know what I know?)
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold
 
Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say!
(Listen to what I say!)
Pray for peace, people everywhere
Listen to what I say!
(Listen to what I say!)
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
 
[Lyrics source:  Musicmatch.  Songwriters:  Noel Regney, Gloria Shayne.  "Do You Hear What I Hear?" lyrics © Jewel Music Publiching Company, Inc.]
 
And second, my favorite Chanukah song is "Light One Candle", the hippie social-protest Chanukah folksong.  (You didn't know there was such a thing?)  It was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and sung by them many times before Mary passed away.  One of my favorite versions (yes, available on YouTube) is this one from a PBS concert.  And I love it even more than "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

The song has a Wikipedia page with some background information, and here are the lyrics:

Don't Let the Light Go Out
 
Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand
 
Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears. (2)
 
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
The pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our hearts 
 
Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears. (2) 
 
What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
And this is why we will not fail! 
 
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
 
[Lyrics source:  LyricFind.  Songwriter:  Peter Yarrow.  "Light One Candle" lyrics © Warner Chappell, Inc.]

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Many Children Did Your Ancestors Have?

I'm playing catch-up to an older Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post that I intended to comment on at the time, so no, you are not in a time warp.  That's why my topic doesn't match what's on Randy's blog today.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Thinking about your ancestors back through 2nd-great-grandparents — in other words, ancestors #2 to #31 on your pedigree chart — how many children did they have?  How many lived long enough to marry?  How many died before age 10?

(2) Tell us all about it in a blog post of your own, in comments on this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.  Be sure to link to them in a comment on this blog post.

So I took my cue from Randy and am only recording children born to my ancestral couples, not to other marriages or relationships those ancestors might have had.

#2–3:  Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. (1935–2019) and Myra Roslyn Meckler (1940–1995), 3 children, all lived long enough to marry.

#4–5:  Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr. (1903–1995) and Anna Gauntt (1893–1986), 1 child, who lived long enough to marry.

#6–7:  Abraham Meckler (1912–1989) and Lillyan E. Gordon (1919–2006), 3 children, all lived long enough to marry.

#8–9:  Unknown, possibly Mundy (?–?) and Laura May Armstrong (1882–1970), 1 known child, who lived long enough to marry; small possibility of a second child, who died before the age of 10.

#10–11:  Thomas Kirkland Gauntt (1870–1951) and Jane Dunstan (1871–1954), 10 children, 6 lived long enough to marry, 3 died before the age of 10.

#12–13:  Morris Meckler (~1882–1953) and Minnie Zelda Nowicki (~1880–1936), 7 children, 6 lived long enough to marry, 1 died before the age of 10.

#14–15:  Joe Gordon (~1890–1955) and Sarah Libby Brainin (~1885–1963), 4 children, 3 lived long enough to marry, 1 died before the age of 10.

#16–17:  Unknown, possibly Mundy (?–?) and Unknown (?–?), 1 known child, who lived long enough to marry.

#18–19:  Joel Armstrong (1849–~1921) and Sarah Ann Deacon Lippincott (1860–after 1904), 3 known children, all lived long enough to marry.

#20–21:  James Gauntt (1831–1899) and Amelia Gibson (1831–1908), 9 known children, 7 (that I know of) lived long enough to marry

#22–23:  Frederick Cleworth Dunstan (1840–1873) and Martha Winn (1837–1884), 6 children, 4 lived long enough to marry, 2 died before the age of 10.

#24–25:  Simcha Dovid Mekler (?–before 1905) and Bela (?–before 1924), 2 known children, both lived long enough to marry.

#26–27:  Gershon Itzhak Novitsky (~1858–1948) and Dora Yelsky (~1858–1936), 7 known children, all lived long enough to marry.

#28–29:  Victor Gordon (~1866–1925) and Esther Leah Schneiderman (~1871–1908), 9 known children, 8 lived long enough to marry, one died before the age of 10.

#30–31:  Morris Brainin (~1861–1930) and Rose Dorothy Jaffe (~1868–1934), 8 known children, 7 lived long enough to marry, one died before the age of 10.

I didn't break down the children by sex, but the total number of children is 74.  Of those, 62 lived long enough to marry (the original question Randy posed, not whether they actually did marry) and 9 died before the age of 10, but I don't have death dates for everyone, so the both numbers might actually be higher.  In addition, there is one child whose father is unknown, but that man might be the same as someone else's, which would bring total number of children to 75 and 10 children who died before the age of 10.

I had 15 families, the same number as Randy, but my average was 4.93 children per family and 4.13 children who lived long enough to marry.

One family had only 1 child and two other families had only 1 known child.  One family had 2 known children, but there were almost definitely more.  Three families had 3 children; one of them might have had more.  One family had 4 children, one had 6, two had 7, one had 8, two had 9, and one had 10.  Several of those might have had more children.

My parents had 3 children and no deaths before the age of 10.  My grandparents' generation averaged 2 children and no deaths before the age of 10 per family.  My great-grandparents' generation averaged 5.5 children and 1.25 deaths before the age of 10 per family; and my great-great-grandparents' generation averaged 5.625 children and 0.5 deaths before the age of 10 per family.

My numbers differed from Randy's in some ways, but as he said, it's hard to tell what exactly that signifies.