The closer we get to Christmas, the more apparent crass consumerism becomes. Kids line up in department stores to meet Santa and tell him what they expect for Christmas. Santa just says, “All right little Suzy, you betcha”, which is a horrible thing to say if your name is not Suzy.Happy-Elf-800

On Christmas Day, the presents arrive and Santa gets all the credit, along with all the snacks along the way. This is where I see a potential problem at the pole.

Santa gets all  the credit but the elves do all the work and it’s high time we talked about equal rights for elves. All year long, a dedicated team of elves crank out toys at the North Pole so that Santa can give them away from his reindeer-powered space sleigh. But what thanks do they get?

You never see Santa saying something like, “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my elves.” It makes me wonder if the elves are working there of their own free will? If so, how much are they being paid? Do they get health insurance? What about retirement? I think it’s time to know.

After gratuitous internet research, I discovered the real history of Santa’s elves. In the beginning, Santa Ltd. was a small non-profit start-up, making and delivering toys. It was a neighborhood tradition but soon it went viral, and spread throughout Europe like the bubonic plague.

Santa loved the publicity but knew that to make and deliver more toys, he was going to need more space and a  big crew. He found a great deal on real estate deal at the North Pole and he and Mrs. Clause moved in. Santa knew that to run a toy making business of such an epic scale, he would need workers. He went for a walk through town and noticed the doors on the buildings were shorter, and there was no big and tall mens store. He put two and two together and realized that he was in Elf Land. Everybody in town, except for Santa and Mrs. Clause, was an elf, and Santa knew there would be no shortage – pun intended – of workers for his toy factory.

The first year Santa employed 20 elves but that number swelled to over 200 during the Cabbage Patch craze of the 80’s. Currently Santa Ltd. employs over 500 seasonal elves. The elves receive a fair wage, regular raises, and are non-union. They are independent contractors and not long ago, one of them went rogue.

One elf broke away from the toy-making mold and struck out on his own. The runaway elf became the Elf on a Shelf. Elf on a Shelf is popular with both kids and adults. Each day, the elf is placed in a different location in the home and from this lair, he spies on the kids. The elf sees everything they do and if they rack up too many “naughty” points, Santa will be alerted and they won’t get crap for Christmas. That’s the story we tell them so they can celebrate the days before Christmas under the watchful eye of an elfin spy. Merry Christmas and Paranoia on Earth.

To learn more about the elf culture, visit Elfies.com, and write your congressperson to demand elf rights.

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I love customs. The ones connected to holidays, not the ones you have to go through at the airport. I also love that every holiday has its own customs, and Christmas has the most.

When one thinks of holiday customs, the first thing that comes to mind is the HolidayEggnog-GettyImages-173614342-583eca393df78c6f6a38d12cThanksgiving tradition of E-D-A; Eating, Drinking, and Arguing. On the Fourth of July, customs include backyard barbecues, and losing digits from fireworks. And on St. Patrick’s Day, you might follow the custom of passing out. These are all great customs but for a true custom aficionado, Christmas is the mother lode.

For starters, it is a custom at Christmas to decorate your home. Most people use lights to achieve their look, while others rely on oversized inflatable characters. These things are fine with me as long as they stay inflated, but alas, that is not the case. To save electricity, most inflatable aficionados unplug their characters during the day, leaving them lying on the ground, flat and lifeless. Try explaining to a five year old why Santa is dead on the lawn.

Another Christmas tradition is the Christmas tree. You have a choice between real trees and artificial trees, to decorate in your home. If you customarily cut your own tree, remember C-F-S, Check For Squirrels. When I was a kid, my dad had the tradition of putting up the Christmas tree on the day before Christmas, and pretty soon, the whole house would smell like aluminum.

When do you open your Christmas presents? Some families have the custom of opening their gifts on Christmas Eve, while others opt for Christmas morning. This is also the time that the contents of the stockings are opened. I never understood the custom of hanging a sock by the fireplace. How much stuff can you fit in a sock. And what if you don’t have a fireplace? Do you nail your sock to the wall? I just leave a shoebox by the fireplace. It holds more and I don’t have to give up a sock.

Some folks honor the tradition of drinking egg nog during the holidays. I am not one of these folks. To me, eggnog tastes like a raw omelet. Egg Beaters over ice. My dad liked egg nog because it mixed well with rum, but I prefer to have my eggs cooked, with a shot of rum on the side.

One custom that is rapidly fading away is the Christmas card. People used to send loads of Christmas cards every year. My mother would set up a card table in front of the TV and spend hours addressing a zillion Christmas cards. My job was to apply the stamps, which were only available as lick-ons at the time. Good thing I liked the taste of glue. Now, Christmas wishes are sent via e-mail which, in my opinion, sucks, but as long as you are reading this, “Merry Christmas to you and yours.”

And, of course, there is the Christmas custom of going to church. If you are the kind of person who attends church just once a year, Christmas is your big day, and if you like it, you might come back at Easter. In my family, it was my mother’s custom that we attend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services., and when Christmas fell on a Saturday we wound up going to church three days in a row. Ho, ho, ho, pass the egg nog.

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It’s THAT season again

It is the holiday season, a time for peace on earth and goodwill towards man. Yeah, right, outdoor_christmas_decoration_maybe it is on paper but in real life the holiday season means shopping,  drinking, and over indulgence, and the place people have become the most over indulgent is the area of holiday decorations.

It used to be so easy. When I was a kid, we decorated our house for the holidays with one string of lights that had bulbs the size of small gerbils. The lights stretched across the front porch and took dad less than a six-pack to install. The entire budget for holiday decorations was used for replacement bulbs.

Fast forward to today when the average home is decorated with enough colored lights, animated characters, inflatable Santas, and flashing displays to turn the typical suburban home into a poor man’s Las Vegas…or a rich man’s Branson. The decorations are nice but the competition is rampant among homeowners who try to outdo each  other in the use of holiday voltage.

These displays are ostentatious, gaudy, and cost thousands of dollars. Gaudy and ostentatious do not bother me but the cost is high enough to turn holiday decorating into a rich man’s hobby. What can the average Joe do to compete in this ritual? After watching shows like Design on a Dime, I became obsessed with the idea of developing Christmas decorations that are both eye-catching and affordable. Here are some ideas.

Use Your Recyclables – Fill plastic soda bottles with colored water and hang them from the trees. Construct a Christmas tree in your front yard by stacking empty Budweiser cans. And turn your entire abode into a shiny ornament by stapling empty pie tins and pieces of aluminum foil to the front of your house. If you live in a cul-de-sac, the headlights of oncoming traffic will light the neighborhood in reflective brilliance.

Recycle Your Current Decorations – There is no reason to own decorations that are only usable for one holiday. Take the Jack-O-Lantern for example. These pumpkins are only seen during Halloween but there’s no reason you can’t extend their usefulness by gluing some cotton on the jaw and plopping a red hat on top. Presto, you’ve got a Santa-O-Lantern. I put skeletons in my yard for Halloween  but then I use bathrobes and Burger King crowns to turn them into the three magi for Christmas. And

Borrow Stuff – Everybody knows somebody who has a lot of decorations.              These people also buy a lot of decorations every year, so if you ask to borrow a string of lights or two, they will gladly give them to you. A string of lights here and an animated Santa there, and presto, you’ve got a festive front yard. Plus, after a couple of years, the people you borrowed the stuff from will forget all about it and will probably let you borrow even more. This method works best if you move a lot.

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This week’s big event was Columbus Day. It was celebrated on October 9th, even though Columbus-Day-Ships-Coloring-Pages-_27Columbus officially landed in the new world on October 12, 1492. We used to celebrate Columbus Day on October 12th until someone in government realized they could get another three-day weekend if they moved it to Monday. They did the same thing with  George Washington’s birthday.

We have had the last 525 years to learn all we could about the man credited with being the discoverer of the new world. He is hailed as a great sailor even though the place he was aiming for was 900 miles to the east. He wound up closer to Indiana than he was to India. To help you learn more about Columbus, here are some fun facts to know and tell.

1. Columbus landed his three ships, the Nina, The Pinta, and The Salty Margarita, in the Bahamas, at the height of tourist season. The Salty Margarita was what Columbus originally wanted his ship named but the painter was hard of hearing and thought he said Santa Maria, so that’s what he put on the back of the ship.

2. Columbus docked in Nassau and immediately claimed the island for Spain, which came as a shock to the Bahamian people living there at the time. The natives didn’t like Columbus and claimed he and his crew were illegal immigrants. Columbus said they were just dreamers.

3. Columbus sensed that his jokes weren’t going over very well and a war may ensue. This is when Columbus came up with an idea that changed the world forever. He figured that if there was going to be a war, there would be a need for life insurance, so he knighted several of his crew and sent them door to door as the Knights of Columbus.

4. Eventually more Spaniards moved to the Bahamas and real estate started to go through the roof. The locals used their profits to open Duty Free shops featuring sun screen, straw baskets, and rum.

5. Columbus made several trips back to the Bahamas, each time returning to Spain with loot he basically stole. Eventually he retired to Nassau where he enjoyed Bahama Mamas. Not the drink, real Bahama “Mamas”. He had 13 children and named them all after cities in Ohio.

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Fall, by any other name, is Autumn

We have left the glorious season of summer behind and are now firmly implanted in the season of fall, also known as autumn. I don’t know why this season is the only one with two names, but I bet it’s something political. What I want to know is why the N is autumn is silent. What does it have to hide?Unknown

Fall is certainly a season with positives and negatives. On the plus side, fall is the time for the World Series, the football season, basketball season, hockey season, and if you are into it, the new TV show season.

Fall is also harvest time when all of the vegetables you planted in the spring are on their last legs, except for the zucchini, which will produce fruit in up to a foot of snow. Apples are very big in the fall and that means apple cider, apple pie, and apple shoemaker…I mean cobbler. The highlight of fall is, of course, Halloween. This is the only day of the year that children are allowed to talk to strangers in the hopes of getting candy. These things all sound like fun but fall also has a few drawbacks.

Fall signals the annual leaf migration when they leave their homes in the trees and migrate to the ground. Early in fall, the leaves on the trees change color and paint the landscape in glorious shades, but soon enough, they fall. They fall in your yard to the point that your lawn will be carpeted by a foot of colorful fallen fall foliage overnight. This can be a problem. You can either rake all of your leaves into a big pile and jump in it, instantly regretting not picking up after the dog before you started raking. Or, you can use a power blower, and, working at night, blow your leaves into your neighbors’ yards. If neither of these alternatives appeal to you, here are a few more suggestions for your leaf disposal.

Sew two bedsheets together, forming a big pillow case. Stuff the case with leaves and sew it shut. You now have a handy guest bed for guests that you don’t want to stay too long.

Use leaves to make your Halloween costume. Cover yourself with spray adhesive and roll in a pile of leaves. When somebody asks who you are, simply move a bit and say, Russel,

Leaves make fine insulation for your home. Fill the attic with leaves at least a foot thick. This will save you money on your heating bill and provide a potpourri of rotting vegetable matter.

Now, let’s leave the leaf and look at the real folly of fall, and by that I mean the upcoming end of this year’s Daylight Savings Time.

November 5th marks the end of DST this year. On this day, at 2:00 AM, time will not only stand still, it will go backwards. This is the time that the United States Department of Messing With Our Heads  decided that we are not quite depressed enough, and make us re-set our clocks so that it gets dark at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon.

Daylight Savings Time was invented by Benjamin Franklin, allegedly to allow more time for agrarians to tend to their crops. But when the clocks turn back again, my lights go on sooner, and that means my electric bill goes up, and guess who discovered electricity? Benjamin Franklin! Hey was just trying to put more dark in the day so he could sell more watts. He could be president today.

Finally, fall means that I have to change the batteries in my smoke detectors, even though they still have some juice in them. You change the batteries before they have a chance to remind you to change them by beeping in the middle of the night.

Fall is here and we need to embrace it, and not in a weird way, like hugging a scarecrow, but in a way that adds vodka to your apple cider so you can put the rake down, sit back, and enjoy the colors, or, as I like to say, “Fall, it’s a ball.”©️

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