During the month of December, there are many celebrations from various cultures, faiths, and events to remember.
Many of these are linked to the winter solstice, which has been celebrated throughout history as the “rebirth of the sun.” The natural rotation of the earth was not known in earlier times, so the shortest day of the year (December 21) and the gradual lengthening of days afterward took on a meaning that has largely been forgotten.
We don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus, but over time, his birth was also associated with this “birth of the sun,” or many say “birth of the Son.” Early Christian celebrations were generally observed on days that were already holy days, such as the solstice, to help make the transition to Christianity.
…Shab-e yalda, the rebirth of the sun, was an ancient Iranian ceremony that reflected the basics of goodness and light against evil and darkness. (from Suite 101 – see link)
There are many other interesting days of celebration listed on that last link, including The Festival of the Wild Women!
Because I spent many years in Arizona, and Tucson in particular, one of my favorite December traditions is Las Posadas. This procession is a reenactment of the trip Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A group dressed as angels, shepherds, and the holy couple go from house to house seeking shelter. The word posadas means “lodging” in Spanish. At each home, these “pilgrims” are served various foods, including tamales.
There are many other dates to honor during December, but three stand out for me as a special way of honoring this season of lights. They are World AIDS Day on December 1, Pearl Harbor Day on December 7, and Human Rights Day on December 10.
I posted this two years ago, and it is still the way I feel about our country! Enjoy this RE-post and Happy Fourth of July, 2011!
Who among us doesn’t remember singing along and feeling proud of our countryside? It was an era of protesting the educational system, the government, the war, the “establishment” in general, and anything else we could protest, but we loved our land – the unique geography that makes up these United States.
In fact, there is a movement to change our National Anthem to something more sing-able. I cast my vote for “This Land Is Your Land.”
During the past few weeks while I was in California, I re-visited the coastal range where I’d spent so much time during the 70s and 80s. Some of those years were spent in the San Francisco Bay Area and some were along the Central Coast of San Luis Obispo County, but it’s all fairly similar.
Winding through the streets from Palo Alto toward the Pacific Ocean, I felt the same sense of freedom that I had so many decades ago. Much has changed, but the terrain will remain the same forever, I think.
Because I was at the wheel, I couldn’t take as many pictures as I wanted to, so mostly they exist only in my mind’s eye. I was able to stop and get a few shots, however.
One of the stopping points along the crest was the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. This sign warns visitors what to do in case they encounter a mountain lion.
Beyond the sign, a path led into the preserve area. The sky was just as beautiful as I remember it. We used to call the hills “golden,” even though they were basically just “brown.” I still love those golden rolling slopes.
Another stop along the drive was by a restaurant that was closed for the day. It was explained to me about the “second-growth” redwoods. As you can see here, there is a cluster of trees around a bare piece of ground. The original old redwood was either logged out over 150 years ago or could have been hit by lightning. These new “baby trees” sprouted up around where the mother tree had been.
The opening photo gives another perspective on a grove of second-growth trees. These magnificent trees may be relatively young, but they still take my breath away – and make me proud that they are a part of my country.
When I stopped for gas at a crossroads, I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a shot of Alice’s Restaurant! This is not the restaurant that inspired Arlo Guthrie’s song of protest against war. In fact, it is the other way around – this restaurant took its name from the song. The original “Alice’s Restaurant” was in Massachusetts. It seemed appropriate somehow, to include this bit of nostalgia here.
We had lunch at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero – a busy spot where some of the very finest food can be found. I started with a bowl of Cream of Green Chili Soup, a dish I’m going to experiment with making at home. It was heavenly, but there was no way they were going to give me the recipe! I followed the soup with a fried oyster roll. It’s hard to say which was better! A dessert of warm Ollieberry pie with ice cream was shared with my friend.
Even though I live in “Paradise,” there is a lot about California I miss. What I do not miss is the traffic, which has gotten worse since I left. I’ve become too accustomed to a more casual lifestyle. Still, I intend to keep visiting whenever I get the chance.
Today, we could write more verses to add to our song that would include our island state of Hawai`i, or our northernmost state of Alaska. All fifty states are worth going to see! If you have never been to California, it’s worth braving the crowds and traffic to see a special part of our incredible country. “This land was made for you and me.”
You might enjoy watching a video of a this modern-day song that reminds us of what our country is and what it stands for on this Fourth of July Weekend.
There are thousands of lights decorating homes, yards, and businesses at this time of year. There is one light that doesn’t get unplugged or taken down after the holidays and that is the light that shines from inside each of us.
December 8 is Bodhi Day, celebrated in Japan as the day when Siddhartha Gautauma, the historical Buddha, experienced enlightenment. “Buddha” means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.”
In the strictest sense, I suppose, we are all striving toward enlightenment as our ultimate goal. I like to think of enlightenment more as the path itself, the journey or quest, simply living with light shining from within, rather than an end point we might never reach.
In Nicaragua, there is a combination of festivals that start on the night of December 7 called “la gritería.” People run through the streets shouting in Spanish, “Who causes so much happiness?”
This boisterous evening leads up to the following day, December 8, to “La Purísima” or the “purest conception of Virgin Mary.”
But I like to think the notion of “la gritería” is pushing us to recognize our inner light as the source of our happiness. May we all celebrate our own enlightenment!
Here are some famous (and infamous) people who celebrate their birthday today!
1630 – Charles II, King of England was born.
1736 – Patrick Henry, American hero
1903 – Bob Hope, Comedian
1917 – John F. Kennedy, US President
1935 – Gordon Taylor, British anesthesiologist (retired)
1989 – Danielle Keough, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter
I send them all my very best wishes, dead or alive!
This is the largest graduating class I’ve seen since I started teaching at the West Campus of the Hawai`i Community College. When the economy is down, and people are losing jobs, or wanting to improve their chances of being hired, the return to college is inevitable. All the classes seem to be flooded with new students. What a joy it is to be their instructor!
The lineup above shows all the dignitaries in full regalia, waiting for the graduates to come down the aisle. Here is a behind the scenes look at a few of them getting ready.
Leis are all laid out in preparation. The purple ones on the left were given to each graduate as they walked off the stage in addition to a purple orchid lei. The other leis spread out on the table were given to the school officials and speakers.
I got there early enough to watch the rehearsal.
Everyone was robed at last and ready for the ceremonies to begin. So many of my own students were either graduating or helping out in some way.
For many of these students, they were the first ones in their family to go to college. It was a struggle for them to be there. The gold stoles, cords and tassels signified that these people were honor students.
At last, everyone was lined up and the processional began. The stage group went in first, then the faculty. Since I was part of the faculty group, I was able to get a couple shots of them processing in. It was standing room only, with everyone trying to get the best shots of their family member.
One student in particular had been in quite a few of my classes. She was the student speaker for the event. Here she is in her various roles. First, as she finished rehearsing, then dressed ready to process in, giving the speech, getting her diploma and walking off the stage. Her array of leis was an example of how all the students looked at the end of the evening. Some had on so many leis they couldn’t breathe or see where they were going.
I tried to get all the graduates who had been in my classes, but my battery gave out too quickly. It’s almost as emotional for those of us who teach as for those who graduate.
The graduates of 2010 accepted more leis as they greeted family and friends afterward.
One of the joyous downfalls of anyone who tries to watch their weight is the number of Christmas parties. I try to watch what I eat, but sometimes it’s so hard! These pictures were taken at the home of Robyn and David, dear friends up the road.
With all the fabulous goodies spread around, I put on ten pounds just looking at it. So rather than eat too much, I decided to take pictures of it and show you. Not too many calories were consumed in the making of this post.
I am a “Featured Publisher” with foodbuzz.com, so when I found this video/recipe for a special brie baked in puff pastry on their website recently, I knew I had to try it. I made it for this particular party, and will make it again soon for another party! It made quite a hit at the party, and I’m afraid I did indulge.
Even here in Hawai`i we love the atmosphere of a fireplace. Believe it or not, at an elevation of 3500 feet, the warmth feels good. The crowd of people made an actual flame unnecessary this time, however.
Jaunty white bears were scattered around the house.
The extra potent eggnog was a family recipe from another friend. One cup was all I could handle, since I don’t drink anything else all year. There was also a “virgin” eggnog available, but I stuck with my diet tonic after one cup of the “real” stuff.
The flash on my camera wasn’t able to get the right light for all the pictures, so some are darker than they should be. It’s a good thing I took this picture early in the evening. You wouldn’t have been able to see the counter of pupus or table loaded with goodies for the mob of people gathered around.
We all rolled into our cars after such a grand feast, but it was worth every bite! Thank you, Robyn and David, for helping me get into the Christmas spirit!
A few weeks ago, I was given the honor of performing a wedding for the grandson of my friends, Peggy and Brian Hewitt. The marriage of Jeremy and Heba Hewitt took place at Kikaua Point Park, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Since I’d never been there, even though I live fairly close, it was as fascinating for me as for the guests.
There is a new housing area nearby, which may be one reason this particular park has been opened up for people to visit.
Because the site is considered sacred and historical, vehicles are not allowed past the gate, but it’s a fairly short walk to the beach itself.
The lava has intriguing formations, but the ocean is almost always in view to soften the visual effect.
When I finally reached the beach area, I had to catch my breath at the beauty!
Other friends went down early to set up for the wedding.
The wedding party had to traipse across the sand, but they made it!
Peggy Hewitt, the grandmother of the groom, took the next few shots. I was busy performing the ceremony so I couldn’t continue to take pictures! Here I am waiting for the wedding party to get there.
And then talking with the groom while he waits for his bride.
I’m doing the deed . . .
. . . then signing the license
The newlyweds are off to Vietnam where they will teach English and continue their schooling. What a gorgeous couple!
Five years of my life were spent living on my 37’ O’Day sloop-rigged sailboat. It was something I’d dreamed of ever since I was a young girl. I remember reading many books about sailing and people living on boats, even though I’d never really been on a boat.
There are a few stories of my life of being a “liveaboard” on an old blog of mine. I sold that boat just a few years before I moved to Hawai`i, and I still miss it!
So when Judy Jones asked me to do a memorial service at sea for her husband, Bob, I jumped at the chance. Judy is a close friend, as well, and I assisted with the organization of a beautiful send-off out of the Honokohau Harbor here on the Kona side of the Big Island. Bob suffered a fatal heart attack while he was fishing on Christmas Island.
Here are a few pictures I took of that trip out into the Pacific Ocean when I wasn’t busy officiating. This first one shows some of the boats in the harbor as we pulled out.
This was the first time I’d seen Honokohau Harbor from the ocean side of the entrance. There is a mountain behind all that mist. We’d had small craft warnings all week. Then on the day of the service, it was calm and beautiful.
Here are a few more shots of the harbor from the ocean side. I probably should have put these into a collage, but I prefer looking at the bigger pictures of the ocean!
Friends joined us on their boats. When we were about five miles out, we had the ceremony and tossed leis into the water. The boats circled the leis several times, then headed back to the harbor. A beautiful Hawai`ian ritual! I wasn’t able to get a picture of that because I was in the process of officiating. I’ll need to leave that part to your imagination.
The skipper of the boat I was on had been Bob’s fishing partner on Christmas Island when Bob had his heart attack. He helped with the funeral the local Christmas Islanders held for Bob, and he placed Bob’s trusty fishing pole on top of the casket.
When we got back to shore, there was a huge potluck feast for everyone. It was a moving and yet joyous celebration of Bob’s life. He was well-loved by many.
One of the highlights of the school year for both students and faculty is graduation. For many of our young people here in Hawai`i, they may be the first person in their family to ever get beyond high school, if that far. It’s a highly emotional time, especially when one of them stands up and tells her or his story of what college has meant to them.
The picture above shows one of the young women who took many classes from me, and actually gave the graduate talk at the ceremony several years ago. Her comment to the audience about how much I had meant to her brought tears to my eyes.
Because we are a University Center, we provide a place for students to get everything from an Associate of Arts degree (through Hawai`i Community College), a Bachelor of Arts degree (through University of Hawai`i West Oahu or University of Hawai`i Hilo), and even a Master of Arts degree. Students may elect to receive a certificate in Human Services, Culinary Arts, Substance Abuse Counseling, or Early Childhood Education. So it’s no wonder our graduation brings “dignitaries” from all the schools.
So even though we are a small “parking lot” campus at this time, we have a fair number of students passing through our doors (for face to face classes) and computers (for online classes).
Today is the graduation ceremony for 2009. It is with pride that I join other faculty members this afternoon in “walking the line,” as we honor those who are receiving either degrees, or certificates, or both. In true Hawai`ian fashion, everyone gets leis from family and friends, almost up to their eyebrows to the point that they can scarcely breathe or see.
A couple years ago, I received an award for being an outstanding teacher, and I received my own share of sweet-smelling leis, actually more than this picture shows.
Once, a colleague at the University of Arizona in Tucson said that graduation was like a “death,” because many of the students we’ve been close to for so many years are leaving and we’ll never see them again. He was so right! The nice thing about our graduation here is that most of these are young people who will remain in our community as teachers, counselors, or whatever career they go into.
So now it’s time to put on the “mortar boards” and head out for the 2009 graduation ceremonies.