Technically speaking, a nine branched Chanukah candelabra is called a Chanukiah. The word Menorah, from the Hebrew word for something that enlightens, is actually the name of the seven branched candelabra that was used in the Temple and Tabernacle, but today “Menorah ” is usually associated with Chanukah.
Just about anything that burns fuel or can hold a candle or lamp oil can be used to make a Chanukiah. My friend and colleague David Holzman has even made decorative menorahs out of engine valves.
“Decorative” because his candlesticks are arranged in a circle and to be a kosher Chanukah menorah, acceptable for ritual use, when viewed all eight lights have to be in a straight horizontal row at the same level so you can see eight distinct flames.
Eight? Didn’t I say nine before? Well there’s a light for each of the eight days of Chanukah. The ninth is called the Shamas (beadle), it is used to light the actual Chanukah lights, and it is usually set off from the other eight by height. So things that come in sets of eight are useful. Fortunately, lots of car stuff comes in sets of eight. Murilee Martin thought an exhaust manifold from a straight eight might work.
It doesn’t necessarily have to come in sets of eight, used car dealer extraordinaire Steve Lang suggested chrome exhaust tips, though those would take some pretty big candles.
Being a traditionalist I’m not a huge fan of electric menorahs, but I just might make a spark plug menorah next year. Other possibilities that come to mind are a set of velocity stacks, the cylinder block to a Duesenberg SJ, or a Packard cylinder head.
Or you could just rig up eight exhaust flame throwers.
So what kind of car part would you use to make a Chanukah menorah?
*I’m usually a stickler for accuracy when it comes to transliterating Hebrew, but alliteration works so well in headlines.
Apparently American comedians are getting lots of material out of Norway’s butter products crisis, because a lack of butter is something Americans find hilarious. You can’t turn on Comedy Central and not see Dane Cook cutting Norway a new one about their lack of pussycat cakes. Well, Norway’s not gonna take it anymore! Enter Tommy*, one pissed off Norwegian who’s mad as hell, and not taking it anymore! Tommy’s threatening to come and eat your American butter in front of you and your family’s eyes.
(Language and sanity warning, needless to say):
(H/T: Jon of the Exurban League.)
If the pepper-sprayed shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday are any indication, Americans are desperate for a good deal (and lacking in basic social skills). There are some good buys at the big box stores and I’m not against shopping at them, but this year even they are too pricey for our single-income household. Not only are times tough for my family, but for the country too. It is distressing to be unable to find items made here — or even Canada for that matter — or any other country that doesn’t hate us. Even toys that say “Made in America” turn out to be merely assembled here after the parts come from China. Retailers are catching onto the public disapproval and are changing the labels to use sneaky wording like “Made in PRC,” otherwise known as the People’s Republic of China, for the unsuspecting.
Inevitably, when you buy the plastic stuff made in “PRC” a few weeks later you’ll nearly disable your foot on a piece of it on the living room rug in the dead of night while trying to get to the bathroom. Or, even worse, that thing your precious cherub wanted so badly sits collecting dust and ends up in a give-a-way bag. Don’t pour money down the drain to China this year. Instead, support local businesses while working on your creative skills with these homemade gifts that your family will cherish. If you have any cooks in the family, this first gift is made just for them!
For a household without kids, or even a lot of nearby family, we sure do make a big fuss over Christmas. Food is a big part of the fun. Here are our menus. So what’s going to be on your table?
Christmas Eve Dinner
- Cracked Crab with cocktail sauce and lemon
- Asparagus with Dipping Sauce
- French Bread
- Surprise Dessert (can’t publish it here or it wont be a surprise)
Beverage: French 75 champagne cocktails (Gin, Champagne, Fresh Lemon Juice and a little Peach Liquor)
- Latkes with Sour Cream and Apple Sauce
- Christmas cookies
Christmas Pre-Dinner (we’re having appetizers around 4 with a friend who lives down the street)
- Mushroom Appetizer with cream sauce on toast points – I have no idea its real name but our friend makes it and it’s divine
- Onion Tarts – also home made
Beverage: Small Batch Bourbon Boston Sour (Bourbon, Fresh lime juice, Elderflower Liquor, egg white)
- Beef Wellington
- Broiled Tomatoes
- Sugar snap peas with mint
- Smashed Potatoes
- Old Fashioned Trifle, in my new trifle dish which I’m hoping will arrive on time
Beverage: Red wine with dinner, dessert wine with the Trifle
Boxing Day — All Meals
(Thumbnail on Lifestyle homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)
In a day when parents and children rarely watch the same TV shows, Christmas TV specials and holiday movies still somehow manage to continue to bring families together.
These days it’s even easier than it used to be to share these traditions. ABC Family has made an art out of holiday programming with their “25 Days of Christmas” programming blocs that package specials throughout the month of December. Home video and streaming services also allow families to watch programs whenever they want.
In the spirit of Christmas, I’m offering to you this list of the ten most essential specials and movies of the season.
We’ll start with a pair of very different types of animation from a production company synonymous with Christmas specials…
Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass are synonymous with their stop-motion Christmas specials of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Viewers not familiar with their names will recognize their unmistakable round-headed characters, candy-colored landscapes, and softly falling snow. A few of their specials are on this list, starting with The Year Without A Santa Claus.
In this 1974 special, Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth) tells the story of the year Santa (voiced by Mickey Rooney) decides — on doctor’s orders — to take a vacation. Two of his elves and the young reindeer Vixen take a trip to find enough Christmas spirit to cheer Santa up. Along their way, the elves battle the Heat Miser and Snow Miser and visit Southtown, USA, where they get lost. Santa journeys south to find Vixen and discovers that the children of the world need him. He can’t skip Christmas.
The Year Without A Santa Claus is a clever story with some memorable scenes and catchy songs, including those involving the villains.
It’s not as ubiquitous as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, but The Year Without A Santa Claus is trippy holiday fun.
Another Christmas special that has stood the test of time is Frosty The Snowman. Originally aired in 1969, Frosty vaguely follows the story line of the popular Christmas song. The special tells how the kids who built Frosty help him escape to the North Pole while trying to elude the magician whose hat brought him to life.
The special is a Rankin/Bass production but it’s a traditional cartoon, not the company’s signature stop-motion. Rankin and Bass hired a Japanese company to animate the showand it has a decidedly different look from most animation of the period. Jimmy Durante provides the narration and performs the title song.
Looking back the animation in Frosty is poor and the special as a whole is a bit cheesy but it’s still nostalgic Christmas fun.
Next up is a movie about one boy’s quest for a special Christmas gift. Don’t poke your eye out!
Atheist icon Madalyn Murray O’Hair has, during this Christmas season, something very few of us get the benefit of. She has perspective. In 1995 she was kidnapped and killed by the office manager for “American Atheists”, David Roland Waters. Her body did not turn up until 2001. She had been cut up into a dozen pieces by her fellow Atheist and left in a shallow Texas grave as food for critters that sport an exoskeleton as well as apathy for the personal politics of the carcass that is providing them sustenance.
Only two people know what Madalyn’s last moments were like; Waters, and Murray O’Hair herself. Death was a certainty, and the best she could hope for (if her personal beliefs were correct) was a quick passage into non-existence, and the return or her earthly remains to the bottom of the food chain.
How depressing a thought is that? If you’re an atheist, your BEST case scenario after a short life is non-existence; and that is only IF you are right. No wonder atheists are so crabby. What is actually worse for these folks is that not all atheists are actually true atheists. Many, even possibly Madalyn Murray O’Hair, hold a very deep belief in God, but they hate him. Her actions, as well as the ones of those who followed her, are the acts of people who are trying to rage a war against their Creator.
Regardless of our beliefs, we will all taste death. What happens after that seems to be the bone of contention. In the atheist rhetoric, people get seventy or eighty short years, and then nothingness. If this was something they actually believed, most of them would not care if there is a cross at the Soledad National War Memorial, prayer in school, or an acknowledgement of God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Believers could pray to Jesus, Buddha, or Mr. Bubble; it would simply be irrelevant to the atheist. It is obvious, however, that care very deeply who you pray to.
Atheists seem very quiet when Federal, State, and City funds or facilities are used for religions that are not Christian. There is no outcry of “separation of church and state” when the Dali Lama speaks at a public college or university. Very little is also said by the atheists when New York public school students were taken to a Mosque as a field trip and they really didn’t seem to care about the “Muslim week” in the CA public schools. The “no prayers in school” didn’t seem to apply when kids were forced to pray to Allah. They do have a fit if a high school student bows his or her head before lunch and gives thanks to God. They demand that kids who wear crosses or bring bibles to school either get rid of the offending object or be sent home (in some cases suspended). Atheists are now supporting the banning of private Bible studies in the dorm rooms of students who happen to attend public colleges. In short, atheists point their aggression towards the one religion they seem scared to death of, Christianity.
Last time I checked, Christians were not performing “drive by” baptisms against atheists. There is no persecution of anyone who doesn’t wear a cross. Christianity should not pose any tangible threat to these people. Despite this, they seem determined to spend their very few years of existence bitterly fighting something which does not try to harm them.
Atheists in the Western World live in a civilization where they can fill their lives with every type of pleasure imaginable. In a short life that ultimately results in nothingness, a true atheist would live for their own transient happiness, because that is all they really have. If they were intellectually honest, they would use the energy they expend in a futile fight against Christianity in the west and direct it against the Muslim faith that is practiced in third world countries. This is a sect that would, if given the chance, deny them the sort of pleasure that we take granted, and seriously limit the quality of their short existence. They don’t believe in Allah, though. He is no more real to them than Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. To them, fighting against Allah would be like shadow boxing, but because they believe in the Christian God, and don’t want any reminders of certain uncomfortable inevitable events, they must do their best to wipe society clean of all symbols of Christianity. Christmas, and all its religious imagery tops this list of things that must go.
Christmas is hard on atheists. If they actually believed the “truth” that there is no God, and nothing beyond this life, they would simply shrug the whole thing off and take advantage of the holiday sales. Even though that mother they pass in the store, holding the hand of her four year old, and humming “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” obviously hasn’t bought into the atheist’s “truth” the thought of a Savior born in Bethlehem makes her happy. Her end will be the same bleak end as the atheists, so no harm, no foul, right? Once again, this only works if these folks really don’t believe in God.
To the atheist, Christmas is the outward expression and amplification of all the fears and doubts they won’t publicly acknowledge. In those private moments, those solitary moments, those laying in bed and thinking at three in the morning moments, there is that tiny little voice that talks about death and it just won’t shut up. It is the feeling of hopeless doubt and fear that grips the mind and just won’t let go until you drown it out with the television, a stiff drink, or an entire bag of Oreos. Most Christians remember those moments. Christmas is the celebration of the silencing of this voice and the laying impotent this fear.
There is a joy to Christmas that atheists simply, voluntarily, opt out of. To them the holiday is just something from “Target” wrapped in pretty paper that is soon forgotten. To Christians it is the gift of a child that ensures our best case scenario is better than a shallow grave in Texas and nonexistence (not to mention the nullifying of a worst case scenario that is beyond imagination). Christians celebrate out of gratitude for what our creator has bestowed upon us, but Christmas is actually more for that atheist who is suing school children for bringing a bible to class, than it is for the Christian. Christians enjoy Christmas, atheists need Christmas. The child it celebrates acts as a constant lifeline that is available to them whether they want it or not. Oddly, though, that seems to be the part they resent the most.
We know why atheists try to ruin Christmas for everyone else. It is out of fear and sheer hate of a God they believe in. The last few years have not been kind to their efforts, and reversal of legal fortunes has ensured that the lifeline for the atheist is still visible, especially at this time of year. Even Wal-Mart has bowed to public pressure and gone back to “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or some drivel about a solstice.
We now live in an atmosphere where going out and caroling has become an act of defiance, many Christians are getting war-weary of fighting the annual holiday battle (as well as fighting the other shoppers, the logistics of family, the snow, frustrated hunters who will settle for shooting an arrow into your light-up deer when they have failed to kill a real one, etc), for them I leave these simple words as a reminder of what the whole thing is all about:
“Mild he lays his glory by; born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth born to give them second birth”
The recession hit most American business hard, in particular the real estate industry, but perhaps the second hardest hit was Big Retail. Retail sales growth was achingly slow over the past few years and this year is expected to be no different, in spite of a not terrible Black Friday that showed the corpse is only MOSTLY dead. This holiday season, in a push to improve sales numbers retailers won’t be pointlessly staffing up on retail sales staff. Instead, they are buying extra soldiers and the latest in weapons technology to guarantee shoppers will buy more this year.
Big Retail has always held a gun to our head to buy the latest Elmo doll, fluffy pink robe, or tool set every Christmas, but this year the stakes are higher as bankruptcies loom. Retailers aren’t willing to rely on the usual tactics of isolated violence and intimidation, emotional manipulation, and predatory pricing. They are bringing out the literal “big guns.” Several of the major national retail chains met at a Starbucks in Colorado over the summer to agree on and flesh out the details for the offensive. They passed a resolution to increase spending for “boots on the ground.” Recruitment offices were opened from coast to coast. One insider says Wal-Mart hired enough solders that every household in America could be paid one visit between now and December 25th. But no one thinks that will be necessary.
“It just simplifies things,” said James Bass, CEO of big box toy retailer Kids Korner. “It never made sense to make a product people wanted, or to lure them in with promotions or even with Santa Claus. All that was window dressing over the gun we held anyway. We tried giving people choices and look at the mess the economy is in!”
To pay for this mercenary buildup, stores have cut costs by dispensing with the usual glossy, Christmas catalogs replete with enticing goodies; Christmas decorations and extra customer service; and cinnamon-laced apple cider, gift wrapping, and other typical freebies. This year retailers acknowledge it was never about convincing people anyway since capitalism, i.e., free trade, is a vicious use of corporatist force inflicted on the poor and middle class. Instead, shoppers will receive simple invitations, randomly generated, telling each and every American what they must buy from the store by December 24th.
The season for gift giving is well underway. If you are puzzling over a gift or two for your favorite photographer, I’ve cobbled together a list of gift ideas that may help. I’ve included is a stocking stuffer list for those quick last minute gifts every photographer will appreciate. Keeping budgets in mind, the prices included are the lowest I could find at the time of writing. Also included are low cost alternatives to some of the more pricier items every photographer dreams about owning. Please note I am a Canon fan and have added certain items specifically for use with a Canon camera, however, all of these items have an equivalent with other camera brands.
Are you looking for a fun toy for the boy or teen on your list? Here are the most popular ones that readers have been buying up from Amazon:
Take LEGO to the next level with MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0. Combining the versatility of the LEGO building system with a microcomputer brick and intuitive programming software, this building kit enables you to construct robots that see, speak, feel, and move. Designed for ages 10 and up, the 2.0 robotics tool set features everything you need to create and program your first robot in approximately one hour.
Finally, a popular item is the Scientific Explorer’s Mind Blowing Science Kit for Young Scientists. This kit is for younger kids from 4-8:
This smartly designed science kit allows young scientists to perform several amazing science experiments that range from erupting a color-changing volcano to growing colorful, jiggly crystals. Young scientists will learn about basic principles behind the science including the difference between acids and bases, and how to use a test tube and pipette.
The last toy mentions that adult supervision is necessary. Anyway, that seems to be what people are buying at Amazon for younger guys. If you have some additional suggestions, drop them in the comment section.
I’ll cop to having a nut allergy, but I guarantee you there’s somebody who’s at the bull’s eye of this graphic:
Did he attend your Thanksgiving dinner? In any case, how was it?
…I’d like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the PJ Lifestyle blog.
What caused Halloween to become a fall holiday on par with Thanksgiving and Christmas? When did the memo go out? A hundred years ago, when I was a young tike growing up in South Jersey, you wore a thin vacuformed polystyrene spaceman mask that attached to your head with an elastic band, and wore your regular clothes under what seemed like a gray Hefty bag with a NASA logo that tied in the back like a hospital gown, which your parents bought for you at the local Woolworth’s for $4.99 or so. You scored a few tiny Hershey or Three Musketeers bars, and your parents worried about you getting an apple with a razor blade or a shot of LSD inside. You watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year on Channel 10, along with John Facenda’s TV reports about Camden going up in flames annually during the previous night, and worried that the mayhem wasn’t going to spread to your neighborhood. (This New York Times article on Camden and Mischief Night found at the top of a Google search on the topic was published in 1992, but could have ran verbatim for every year prior for a quarter of a century or so.)
And once the candy was gone later that night or the next day, that was about it. Today though, Halloween is a major industry, and plenty of families put as much work into decorating the house for Halloween as they do for Christmas. One of my neighbors has a giant pirate ship in their front lawn for Halloween; others have turned their front lawns into haunted houses and grave yards, with plenty of cobwebs, skeletons, and come the witching hour, lots of smokey dry ice. But not everybody is happy with the rapid growth of the holiday. Or as Mollie Hemingway writes at Ricochet, “Could We Tone Down the Halloween Mania a Smidge?”
My last neighborhood (Capitol Hill, DC) had such dramatic Halloween celebrations that people came in from miles around. One neighbor used to recreate scary movies or videos (e.g. Friday the 13th, Michael Jackson’s Thriller) with actual actors and dancers.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. But neither do I forbid my children from taking part. The older one will be a cheeseburger this year, the younger an Octopus. I do forbid any dressing up as anything scary or demonic, but just can’t bring myself to ban a holiday where people give my kids candy and tell them how cute they are.
But I did pause after reading this column from Amity Shlaes, headlined “Halloween’s Pagan Themes Fill West’s Faith Vacuum.” She notes that consumers are expected to spend $6.86 billion on Halloween this fall. Here’s how her piece concludes:
There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.
Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them.
Perhaps when walking down your street this Oct. 31, you’ll see a child in an Aslan costume, or one dressed as Caspian, C.S. Lewis’s prince. The “Narnia” series was Lewis’s premeditated effort to lure kids to Jesus Christ through myth. The manipulative Lewis was on to something: Parents can keep children away from religion, but they can’t stop children from believing in something.
Fans of the orange holiday may want to pause for a moment to look at the empty spaces between its rituals, as with the pumpkin’s smile. Some of us forgo it to dedicate ourselves to one faith or another. But you don’t have to reject Halloween to ask what it may be replacing.
Exactly. It’s worth at least being intentional in how we celebrate this holiday and it’s worth thinking about what we say by how we celebrate it.
So what are your thoughts on Halloween? Do you make a big deal about it? If so, why? What will you — and/or your kids — be trick or treating as?
Me? I’ll probably go out as Mick Jagger. Or at least his CPA.