Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” Jon Stewart

On Thanksgiving Day, I would ask my family what they were thankful for. My mother used to do that. It was a tradition – something I wanted to carry on from my childhood.  Thanksgiving is a day to remember to be grateful. We never prayed before a meal but one day a year we said thank you. 

I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my mother in many years. Our families lived back East and Thanksgiving was the holiday that my in-laws came to visit.  My sister-in-law loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner and we had it at their house. Since we were not cooking, we had Thanksgiving movie before going to dinner. There are always big movies that open on Thanksgiving. That was our family holiday tradition.  

When our life changed, Thanksgiving became one of those days that we didn’t know what do with.  We didn’t have a tradition anymore. There are so many expectations and family issues that come up with holidays. It is hard for me not to have a plan but I try to let go of that now.  Sometimes I do it at the house and sometimes we go somewhere.  We spend it with other people’s families or we do something by ourselves.  I miss the security of having a tradition but I have learned to go with the flow. Whatever we do, it always turns out to be fun and delicious – different, but fun. 

My mother died on the weekend before Thanksgiving so I am always a little sad now around the holidays.  Wherever I am celebrating, in my head, I hear my mother’s voice asking, what are you thankful for today?

Here is my list.

Sunsets. I can see the sunset on the beach every night.

The way the light hits my house in the morning.

My dog – even though he is not the same as my first dog.

My kids are happy, healthy and doing well.

 Morning coffee.

I’m still traveling.

Having an amazing day in a country not your own.

A great walk through the Venice Beach canals to have lunch.

Opening a beautifully wrapped present.

An interesting conversation.

The feeling I have in an airport.

Someone who makes me laugh.

A good hair day.

Fun with my friends.

A great movie,  museum, play, ballet or TV show.

Dessert.

Kindness.

Walking or driving by a beautiful street art mural.

Having an amazing meal.

Pizza night.

Great music and  rock concerts.

Getting lost in a book.

Healthyish.

Writing something that I’m proud of.

My favorite jeans.

Shoes that do not hurt.

The endorphin rush after exercise.

Still able to have some of my photographs and art.

Hitting every green light on Venice Blvd on the way home (especially at Lincoln Blvd – the world’s longest red light)

Happy Thanksgiving.

JAZ

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July 4th – We Hold These Truths

  July 4th    We Hold These Truths

”May the foundation of our new constitution, be justice, truth and righteousness. Like the wise man’s house may it be founded upon those rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it.” Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, July 13, 1776

The importance of July Fourth is that it marks the birth of the United States of America.

The signers of that document composed by Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, knew that a declaration of independence from the dictatorial rule of Great Britain would lead to war.

They understood that the strong British army would be sailing across the Atlantic to descend on the relatively defenseless colonies. They knew that they didn’t have the numbers, arms or training to stand against the British, much less defeat them militarily. Yet they put their signatures, lives, families, and their destiny, on that parchment.

Against all odds, and even against reason, that Declaration told the world that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

Most of the people living in those colonies had simply had enough of British domination, of working and existing at the pleasure of a king they didn’t know and who obviously considered them his indentured servants. They wanted to be free, to make their own decisions and govern themselves.

The Declaration legally created the United States of America. But it did much more than that. It stated all governments everywhere were supposed to derive “their just powers from the consent of the people,” and that when any one of these governments became destructive of the people’s rights and liberties, the people could alter or abolish that government and begin a new one.

These words have served as inspiration for people everywhere.

But for Americans the Declaration has a special significance. It infused into our culture most of what we have come to believe and value. Our noblest ideals and highest aspirations—our beliefs in liberty, equality, and individual rights, including the right of every person to pursue happiness—came out of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”  Declaration of Independence

Happy July Fourth and Fly Safe,

JAZ

Holiday Traditions With Friends

Holiday Traditions With Friends

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was in the Bahamas one Christmas when I was nineteen.  The Monday after Christmas I needed to go to a pharmacy. They were all closed because it was Boxing Day. That was my first real experience with  a holiday that we don’t celebrate here.  You never think about that until you are in a country that is celebrating their holiday.  It gives you a little more insight into a place when you see them observing their traditions.

Boxing day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and trades people would receive gifts from their superiors or employers, known as a “Christmas box”. Today, Boxing Day is better known as a bank or public holiday that occurs on 26 December, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some other Commonwealth Nations. I always remember that Dec 26 is Boxing Day though I don’t celebrate it. JZ, BAHAMAS

Cuban families in Miami have a delicious Cuban tradition that we carry on with zeal. Every Christmas Eve starting early in the morning, all the men in the family set up a ‘caja China’ (direct translation: Chinese box) in the front yard of the house. They sit outside, smoke their cigars, drink their rum and cokes and roast a full pig in this box for hours on end. When the whole family comes over for dinner, the pig is still cooking and the men cut off the skin to serve as ‘chicharron’ while the rest of the pig roasts. It’s undeniably good. Our ‘kosher’ Jewish neighbors will tell you the same.   MA, CUBA

All Saints Day on Nov 1 is big day. Croatia is a strongly Catholic country and November  1st – the day of the dead – is a big family occasion.  All Saints Day is the day that people go to  visit the cemeteries . They bring flowers , light candles and say a prayer. All the businesses are closed and it is a time for families to be together in peace and quiet. ( spirituality)  to celebrate the lives of their deceased relatives.  PV, CROATIA

In Colombia, the Christmas traditions come from Spain. They make nativity scenes  called Pesebre.  Columbia is deeply rooted in Catholic tradition. From the 16th till the 24th everyone gets together and prays to the Novena and sing Christmas songs called Villancicos.    On Christmas Eve, the families gather around the Nativity Scene    and eat pork or ham,  dulce de guayaba , dulce de guanabana,bunuelos  ( fried dough) and natilla  (special pudding dessert with sugar, cloves, panela and milk). They drink Aguardiente (fire water) and dance and sing all night. The kids write letters to Nino Dios ( baby Jesus) and wait for him to bring them presents. On Christmas Day everyone makes their own brightly colored balloons and fills them with hot air and lets them into the sky at the same time. Feliz Navidad. AN, COLOMBIA

Shavuot is a holiday that usually  occurs in May, fifty days after Passover. It is  the end of the harvest season for grain and wheat.  People brought  the first fruits  of the season to the temple to thank God. It is fun to celebrate Shavuot on a kibbutz in Israel. Everyone wears white . The girls braid their hair and  make crowns of greens and flowers .  Families bring blankets and carpets and sit out on the grass and have a picnic. They eat dairy food.  The kids bring decorated baskets of fruit. There is a “parade” of tractors and farm equipment decorated for the holiday. This is followed by a lot of dancing and singing to celebrate the day that the Torah was given to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai.   KR ISRAEL

Peruvians put up a nativity scene at Christmas, not a tree.  In the Andean city of Cusco they buy the pieces for their nativity on Christmas Eve at the festival of Santorantikuy  — “buying of saints”. The city fills up as people come to Cusco from all over the region to sell little figures they have made of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Magi, the star and the stable animals, along with an array of ornaments, moss, lichen, ferns, bromeliads and other wild plants to create the backdrop. PF, PERU

One of the events I’m going to is Maha Kumbh Mela in February.  Maha Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad , India is the “ largest pilgrimage on earth.” It attracts between thirty and seventy million people.  The Maha Kumbh Mela comes every 144 years and will occur this Feb 2013.  Hindus gather at the Ganges for a purification bathing ceremony during the auspicious days. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies. The devout –including mystics, yogis and sadhus (in saffron sheets with powder and ashes on their skin), spend a month there. Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages in India- the Maha being the most important. DL, INDIA  (if you are interested, some of the other videos that appear at the end are fascinating)

People prepare their homes for Christmas. Dubrovnik  is covered in Christmas lights and a lot of Christmas trees on the Stradun. On Christmas Eve, lunch is traditionally fish. (codfish-usually)That is the same in many Catholic and Eastern European countries. In the afternoon we go to our first neighbors to wish them  a good Christmas Eve. We sing the traditional Christmas song from door to door. (Colenda song – a song that has been sung for centuries). In the evening most people go to confession to wait for Christmas in the best spirit. Then we go to midnight mass.On Christmas Day our families are altogether for lunch. It is a time of happiness and celebration. PV CROATIA

New Year is a special holiday in Japan. It is leaving of old and starting of new. At the end of the year, we clean the house and decorate the entrance gate with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum. Bonenkai parties (forget the year gathering) are held everywhere to leave the old worries behind, and on New Years Eve, just before the temple bells ring at midnight, we eat toshikoshi soba (end of year buckwheat noodle) wishing for another healthy new year to come.

Viewing the first sunrise of the New Year is the best way for a fresh start.  We visit the shrine or temple, buy o-mikuji ( random fortune written on strips of paper) and hope for another happy year. RH, JAPAN

Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,

JAZ

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

“If you’re going to America, bring your own food.”     
Fran Lebowitz

I overheard a conversation between four immigrants.  They were discussing Thanksgiving  with  the confidence of people who had celebrated all their lives.  “My wife makes the turkey but we always do Israeli cous cous, salad and hummus to to go along with it, “ said the Israeli man.  “I have to have rice. I like to put my turkey on the white rice and eat it, replied the Vietnamese woman.  “ We make the turkey more spicy. My family likes spicy”, added the Colombian woman. “My friends and I go out. I love my turkey on Thanksgiving “, said the man from Budapest. I listened to the different accents discussing the best way to cook a turkey. It was clearly their holiday.

Most of them learned about the tradition from their kids. It is the same way that my grandparents learned about America. The kids assimilate first. They learn in school how to be  American kids.  My Vietnamese hairdresser said his son came home from school one day crying that they didn’t have turkey to eat. “So I went and bought a turkey breast and cooked it Vietnamese style with soy sauce and spices. Now we make best  American turkey in my family. Every year we learn more and we do it better.”  My Vietnamese manicurist said the first year they bought a turkey leg and cooked it with vegetables and rice and shared it with ten people. Now she cooks a roast on Christmas, a lamb on Easter and a whole turkey on Thanksgiving.

A Russian friend told me she learned about it at work.“Everyone asked what I was doing for the holiday and I didn’t know about this holiday. They told me that Columbus discovered America and there was a bird involved. I needed to cook this bird for the holiday. They told me it was Appreciation Day. Every year we say what we appreciate.  The first year I followed the recipe they gave me for the stuffing. No one liked it.  Now I make a Russian buckwheat stuffing which we love.”

I remember my Italian neighbors always had a pasta  on the table. “We can’t have a holiday without sauce”,  the mom would say. My  friends in Japan studied in the US.  Every year they miss Thanksgiving.  One of them makes a turkey every Thanksgiving. She puts the pictures on facebook.  Her small children who don’t speak English yet, have celebrated Thanksgiving in Japan every year since they were born.

I don’t know if any of these people know the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians.  It is  only discussed in elementary school.

But what I do know is for this one day in America,  we are all doing the same thing. Thanksgiving is the only day in this country that surpasses race, religion, ethnic background,  economic background, location,  country of origin, age, sex, sexual orientation and political affiliations.  We are all  having turkey  (or side dishes if you are vegetarian) with friends and family.  If we can all agree to have turkey on Thanksgiving,  some day we can learn to agree on other things. I guess that  is what Thanksgiving means – a day of peace, hope and gratitude. Maybe they do know the story – the modern version.

When I first met my daughter’s boyfriend, he told me that his family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because they are South African.   Our dinner is at their house this year.

Tell me your Thanksgiving stories.

Fly Safe and Happy Thanksgiving (The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest flying day of the year in the US)

JAZ