Tag Archives: traditions

memories gather and dance.


Toy Department during Christmas season in the J.L. Hudson store, Detroit – 1957

 loved this view of the toy department at the store during the Christmas season.

toys were displayed on shelves, tables, and display cases,

with decorations featuring elves, a sleigh, and reindeer in background.

this is where i went every year

all dressed up fancy

to buy little gifts (with help from the elves) for my family

to see santa

to have a special lunch

 always, always amazed

by the glamour and magic of it all.

“like snowflakes, my christmas memories gather and dance –

each, beautiful, unique, and gone too soon.

-deborah whipp


credits: detroit memories, linda yates rudnicki, j.l. hudson’s

as far as anyone knows…


not me, nor anyone in my family, but i love the spirit of ‘pocket pancaking’

all families are unique, with their own quirks, traditions, and ways of communicating – and the holiday season often serves as the perfect showcase for these interconnected elements. so when tonight show host, jimmy fallon asked his viewers to tweet funny examples using hashtag #myfamilyisweird, the responses did not disappoint. one person shared their relatives’ tradition of hiding leftover pancakes in each other’s pockets, while another posted a photo of a ‘hideous hand-me-down elf ornament their mother keeps trying to throw away each year, but hilariously ends up back on the tree. customs we cultivate with our kin can do more than just make us laugh, studies have long shown that establishing family routines and rituals positively benefits our health, relationships and well-being.

does your family have any unusual traditions? in my family we had a super creepy automotron mange-y looking furry toy cat that kept coming back. we bought it for a visiting grandie and just thought it was an ordinary stuffed animal, but what we soon discovered was that it would move or make noise at random times. people who received this gift ending up reporting that they kept in their garage or basement or closet, because it creeped them out so much. even with all that, they housed if for a full year, just for the opportunity to ‘gift it’ to someone else in family at the next christmas gathering. people went to great lengths to disguise it when wrapping, so the recipient would let down their guard and open it. we gifted it back and forth to each other for many years, until one year it just disappeared….

“remember as far as anyone knows we’re a nice, normal family.”

— homer Ssmpson

keeping joy alive.

Krewe of Red Beans Hire a Mardi Gras Artist
new orleans mardi gras home – photo credit: ryan hodgson-rigsbee

 “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist,” the latest altruistic endeavor from Krewe of Red Beans, is a grassroots effort that aims to transform 40 Orleans Parish homes into Mardi Gras floats, putting laid-off artists back to work and inspiring the city along the way.

The project is the brainchild of artist and float designer Caroline Thomas. The idea for “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” came to her after several people asked her to decorate their homes. Thinking there might be an opportunity to put the whole industry back to work, Thomas approached Krewe of Red Beans and Feed the Second Line founder Devin De Wulf.



puxatawny phil with some other (less famous) celebs.

it’s his big day, and one of my favorite fun holidays

no matter what he predicts

about the coming of spring

(*not sure about his accuracy)

 i love his spirit. 

 *the national climatic data center compared U.S. national temperatures from 1988 to 2012 to determine the accuracy of Phil’s predictions, and he’s only been proven correct 39% of the time — significantly worse than chance.



“It is very frus­trat­ing not to be under­stood in this world. If you say one thing and keep being told that you mean some­thing else, it can make you want to scream. But some­where in the world there is a place for all of us, whether you are an elec­tric form of dec­o­ra­tion, pep­per­mint-scent­ed sweet, a source of tim­ber, or a pota­to pan­cake. On a cold, snowy night, every­one and every­thing should be wel­comed some­where, and the latke was wel­comed into a home full of peo­ple who under­stood what a latke is, and how it fits into its par­tic­u­lar holiday.”

And then they ate it. AAAHHHH!!

-Lemony Snicket, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming

Happy Hanukah to all who celebrate 



credits: Daniel Handler, Lisa Brown, McSweeney’s Publishing

the village.



the old mill, a boarding house, the glass lake, the stone bridge,

santa and his team, pine cone evergreens and the christmas tree

at my cottage 2016

once again

i was so excited to put out

 the remaining pieces

of the tiny village that my irish grandfather built

way back in the depression

when had become an american citizen

he was an architect by trade

as was his father

 he built this village by hand to exact scale


tiny stones


little sticks


heavy papers


incredible attention to every detail

all built

to share with us at the family christmas

i have very early and very fond mémories

of it placed on a big white board

with penciled in numbers for placement

so that every piece was in its place

beneath our christmas tree

with  lights installed underneath

 each building lit up inside

when it got dark outside

 a train ran around the village

it was covered in sparkly cotton snow

 it was so wonderful

i thought it would come to life at christmastime forever

 then it was lost for a long, long while

 i didn’t see it anymore


one day i saw its box out by the curb

waiting to go out with the trash

  during a very bad divorce between my parents

i would recognize its box anywhere

 i was lucky that i rescued it just in time

 only a few buildings and a few accessories remained intact

my siblings and i divided up what was salvageable

now i love to set up my own little section of his village each year

i think of how magical it was to see it all together as a child

i wonder what inspired him to create this wonderful village

i wonder where he got the ideas for each building

 i wonder how many buildings there were once upon a time

one of my buildings has the number 9 written inside in pencil

in my ‘umpa’s’  very neat and precise handwriting

 i wish i knew more of the story of the village

i wish i could ask him

no one remains who knows these answers


a couple of old photographs of parts of the village that i found in the original box


“i call architecture frozen music.”

-johann wolfgang von goethe

the cat came back. and just won’t go away. and is still coming back.



a few years back, when he was still a wee lad, grandbaby m came all the way from australia to visit for the holidays. we bought a crazy pile of used toys for him to play with, knowing he’d have to leave most of them behind, and planned to donate them back for other kids to enjoy, upon his return home. he was very fascinated by animals – cats in particular, at this stage of his life. while here, he played with real cats, and halloween cats, and we bought him knit cats, cloth cats, stuffed cats, and then – the mechanical cat.

imagine our surprise, after we purchased this cat,  when we discovered, it was just not an ordinary stuffed cat, but it had a place for batteries inside it’s belly, hidden under it’s mangy, ratted, orange fur. m took to this cat immediately, and loved to sit with it and play with it and carry it around.  the adults, on the other hand, began to become a bit freaked out by it the longer it was around. it had a peculiar habit of moving once in a while, in no particular interval of time, and quite often, it seemed to turn it’s creepy head and stare right at us. (chucky’s feline counterpart in my opinion).

we were all a bit relieved and happy when he took to this creature, figuring it would be traveling home down under with him, never to cross our paths again. imagine our surprise once more, when we discovered they had left it behind, hidden in the house for us to find. we put it back out for a while, under the tree, as it continued to move at will and make eye contact with us from time to time. once the holidays were over, i thought it might be funny to pack it up and bring it out at christmas the next year. i packed it up with the other holiday stuff and forgot about it. 

when the next year came, i wrapped it up and offered it as my ‘white elephant’ gift, one that some innocent family member would receive as a lucky surprise. another daughter chose this package, and not knowing, opened it, and there was a collective gasp from the group, as everyone remembered it from the year before. she was a good sport and reluctantly kept it for the year, only to do the same thing to some other unsuspecting relative at our next christmas celebration.

each year now, as is our new tradition, the person who ‘won’ it the year before, brings it back, elaborately wrapped and disguised, waiting to pass it on. each person reports that it does odd and creepy things when they have it – moving at will, making rustling sounds at night, and of course, the staring. each person has used their own strategy to deal with it. one combed its hair out, – trying to get on its good side, some have hidden it, left it in the box, or taken its batteries out. each year, it comes back, rattier, and mangier, and shows its age a bit more, yet it still instills a bit of illogical terror in all of us. this year, it could come back wrapped in a flat-screen tv box, or in a beautiful gift bag, just biding its time, until it once again goes home with someone – and it waits quietly for someone to forget and open it, the year’s winner.