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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Northern VA
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 10:34 AM
Number of posts: 40,384

About Me

I've been a member of DU for over 14 years, but now it is time for me to check out. The glee people on this site took over bashing Gov Northam is too much. EW Jackson, VA's version of a RW troll is being respected and his options considered while the Gov who expanded medicare to 800,000 citizens of my state (including an adult son) is bashed over a 35-year old indiscretion. I see DU as being infected by RW trolls and ratfuckers while the admins are largely absent. See 2016 if you don't believe me. While Northam was being bashed, threads appeared bashing Harris (she took a hard stance against Franken) and Booker (he's corporate) and promoted people who will never be elected in America such as Gabbard and Sanders. Their indiscretions are ignored. For what reason? Their unelectability? The members here that aren't RW trolls or ratfuckers are attempting to achieve some type of purity that will never happen due to mankind's flawed nature. People ar human and prone to mistakes. The rhetorical tools that attack people such as HRC, Franken and Northam will be turned on people like Kamala Harris and Justin Fairfax. It is only a matter of time. I refuse to help the RW and the PURE destroy people and our party. DU was a noble idea, but is a tool on the internet being used to ruin the Democratic Party, suppress the vote, and destroy decent candidates. I won't take part in this crap any longer. To my couple of friends here, so long, it was nice chatting with you. You know how to reach me if you want.

Journal Archives

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 23: La Befana - Italy's Christmas Witch

The legend of Befana began thousands of years ago and remains to this day a tradition practised by Italian children and their families. As the story goes, one day, the three Magi left their country bearing special gifts of gold, incense and myrrh for the new-born Jesus Christ. They were guided by a star across many countries. At every village that they passed, people ran to meet them and accompany them in their journey.

But there was one old woman who did not join the Magi. She claimed to be too busy with her housework and promised to join them later when she had time. The next day, she realized her mistake and frantically ran after the Magi with gifts for the child, still clutching her broom. But it was too late – the Magi were long gone.

In other versions of the story, she refuses to give the Magi directions. (I am skeptical. Would Wise Men really stop and ask some random woman for directions?)

Ever since then the old woman has been known as “La Befana” or simply “Befana.” On the eve of January 6th, Befana flies from house to house on her old broomstick and delivers all the gifts she didn’t give to the Holy Child to good girls and boys.

In fact, Befana’s name is the Greek word “epifania” or “epiphany,” and is significant because the religious feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. This Christian celebration, in remembrance of the Magi’s visit to Jesus, can include purifying rites and benedictions with water. Water prepared on the eve of the Epiphany (the night that Befana flies the skies) is said to have sacred properties that can ward off evil spirits and is used in critical moments of a family’s life. Celebration of the Epiphany can be traced as far back as the 13th century and is one of the most popular Italian feasts.

La Befana shares a lot of similarities with Santa. Children write her letters and leave their stockings for her to fill. See flies around at night with gifts. She leaves cinders, coal and onions for the bad kids. She climbs down chimneys to enter houses.

Here's a video of the La Befana Festival in Urbania, Italy from 2014. The festival ends with the witch flying over the streets and fireworks.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

Help me pick a Christmas Meal

We've been renovating our kitchen and don't have a regular sized oven at the moment. We have a small Breville toaster oven, a large cooktop, and a great grill outside.

Here's our dilemma. There were only 4 of us, so we were going to make Chicken cordon bleu. However, relatives have started arriving unexpectedly and now there will be 10. We'd never fit 10 Chicken cordon bleus in the little oven.

What should we make?

Past Christmas dinners we have had (as a main course):

Roast Beef
Roast Rack of Lamb
Coq au vin
Beef Tenderloins

Any ideas? What say you, DU?

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 22: Whatever happened to the Christmas Goose?

Most people won't have a Christmas goose for dinner this year, but once that goose was the most popular meal.

Long ago in the old country, roast goose was the centerpiece for Michaelmas, a popular feast day in the Middle Ages, and before that, tradition says, it was offered as a sacrifice to the gods Odin and Thor.

So a Christmas goose is just a goose by any other name, right? Not exactly. Domestic geese are most delicious at two times of year—when they’re young in the early summer and toward the end of the year when they’re fattest—the second being precisely why they were such Christmas commodities. Similar to a Thanksgiving turkey, geese require a couple of hours to fully cook and are usually roasted in a pan filled with spices and citrus. They are all dark meat, rich and flavorful, and some prefer the flavor and moistness of the bird.


You may remember the Cratchit's in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and their Christmas Goose:

"God Bless us, every one!" is the famous benediction that Tiny Tim Cratchit pronounces over what is perhaps the most famous holiday meal of all time, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. On the Cratchit family's holiday table are potatoes, gravy, applesauce, a pudding "like a speckled cannon-ball" blazing with ignited brandy. But at the center of the meal—and the heart of Tiny Tim's prayer—is a glorious roast goose.

That goose has always stuck with me, and no wonder: It moved Dickens to a culinary rapture unparalleled in the thousands of pages he wrote. The Cratchits rush to take their places at the table with their spoons crammed in their mouths "lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped." The family says grace, and a breathless pause ensues as Mrs. Cratchit prepares to plunge the carving knife into the goose. "Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the applesauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits, in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!"

There's lots to love in this passage: the atom of leftover bone, the children sauced in sage and onion. But what's always most delighted me is the vision of the little Cratchits politely sucking their spoons so as not to clamor out of turn for their helping of goose.


Why did serving goose go away?

While there’s no official reason behind its decline, we do have some theories. Believe it or not, many people blame Charles Dickens. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens associated goose with the struggling Cratchit family, turning it into a poor man’s supper. Another hunch is the rise of agricultural technology in the 20th century made it easier and more affordable to buy other meats. Which brings us to…

the turkey

Not only were there tons of turkeys for Christmas and Thanksgiving, they were cheaper, too. A 10-pound goose ordered online today can cost over $15.00 a pound, more than most of us want to pay. Compared to spiral ham, which cost $2.91 per pound in 2014, turkey clocked in at a cool $1.28. In 2012, Americans ate an estimated 22 million turkeys on Christmas Day; we suspect the number has gone up.


Whatever you have for Christmas Dinner, Enjoy!

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 21: The Christmas Tale Spoken Record That Launched the Audiobook

It was 5 in the morning, and just back from a party, Dylan Thomas answered the phone in his room at the Chelsea Hotel. Barbara Holdridge, 22, had decided to launch a record company and she had an offer for the poet. Over lunch the following week with Holdridge and her business partner, Marianne Mantell, both recent graduates of New York’s Hunter College, Thomas took the deal: $500 upfront, plus 10 percent of sales above 1,000 albums, for a reading of his verse.

“He was mesmerizing,” Holdridge, now 87 years old, recalls. The 1952 disc, Thomas’ buttery reading of his beloved A Child’s Christmas in Wales on its B-side, would sell 400,000-plus copies, birthing a new popular literary form—the spoken word record, antecedent to today’s audiobook.


Holdridge and Mantell sold the company to Raytheon in 1970, and today Caedmon lives on within HarperCollins, which acquired it in 1987. Even now it issues new recordings alongside its classic catalog.

Holdridge is still proud of the labor of love that helped set the stage for today’s multibillion-dollar audiobook industry, whose users are on track to listen to well over two billion hours of audio in 2016. “For years at parties we’d talk about what we did and people would say, ‘Dylan Thomas! I grew up on those recordings!’”

About the story itself:

A Child's Christmas in Wales is a piece of prose by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas recorded by Thomas in 1952. Emerging from an earlier piece he wrote for BBC Radio, the work is an anecdotal reminiscence of a Christmas from the viewpoint of a young boy, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas's most popular works.

As with his poetry, A Child's Christmas in Wales does not have a tight narrative structure but instead uses descriptive passages in a fictionalized autobiographical style, designed to create an emotive sense of the nostalgia Thomas is intending to evoke, remembering a Christmas from the viewpoint of the author as a young boy. Thomas searches for a nostalgic belief in Christmases past, for example with, "It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas", furthering his idyllic memory of childhood by describing the snow as being better and more exciting than the snow experienced as an adult. The dissertation, with exaggerated characters for comedic effect, show how childhood memories are enlarged through youthful interpretation.


Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion"; the 'play for voices' Under Milk Wood; and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child's Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became widely popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death at the age of 39 in New York City. By then he had acquired a reputation, which he had encouraged, as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet".


(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 20: Wassailing-What's a little Xmas vandalism between friends?

Recently, I wrote about sugar plums.

Another treat that lives on in song instead of practice is wassail from the Christmas Carol "Here We Come A-Wassailing." Wassailing simply means caroling. In the Victorian era, beggars and orphans would go door to door singing and hoping to get a bite to eat or a drink. The name comes from the Middle English phrase wæs hæil, which means "be healthy." Wassail is a drink made from ale or beer and spices, kind of like mulled wine. Other versions includes hard alcohol such as brandy or even rum. Most wassail recipes call for some kind of fruit, generally apples, which makes wassail remind me of a British version of sangria. Epicurious has a version made from sherry, brandy and plenty of spices. Chow's recipe includes cranberry juice, apple cider and an apple brandy.


The article isn't exactly correct about Wassailing meaning caroling. It was much more.

But first, there are two types of wassailing. It started as a celebration of the harvest in the Fall. People would sing and parade around trees to insure a good harvest by banning evil spirits. Here's an example

Roger Wilkins' grandfather began making cider on his Somerset farm 100 years ago. The farm's annual wassail event - a tradition said to banish evil spirits from the orchard - is becoming increasingly popular.

With video: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-somerset-42844637/wassailing-drinking-to-a-good-harvest
and https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-42589356
It would go like this:

A wassail King and his wassail Queen would lead a throng, banging on pots and pans, in procession, wandering from orchard to orchard and singing. At each stop, the Queen would be lifted into a tree, carrying the Clayen Cup filled with wassail. Once up there, she would leave some of the toast, as an offering to the good spirits of the tree, a way of showing the tree what amazing use its fruit has been put to.

Then there’s a brief chant, which goes something like “here’s to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An’ all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!” and they’re off to another orchard.


Christmas wassailing is slightly different and usually occurred on the 12th night of Christmas. this practice became prevalent in the medieval Days due to feudalism:

Wassailing is also the act of going from house to house and demanding hospitality – wassail, presumably – as a kind of grown-up version of Hallowe’en. The Lord of the manor would provide a certain amount of refreshments and people would carouse about the village, singing festive songs and generally mingling. There was even a wassail bowl, to put your wassail in.

From the song Here We Come a Wassailing, “we are not daily beggars that beg from door to door but we are friendly neighbours whom you have seen before.”

Of course, things could turn nasty, with small gangs arriving on your doorstep, demanding hot booze. But nowadays, through the healing veil of time, it’s all become confused with general carol singing. Wassail itself, if it is mentioned at all, has become any mulled alcohol with fruit in it. The toast is less common, unless used by cider-farming wassailers.

If the land-owner didn't offer up the goods,

he could expect his reputation to plummet and possibly his property vandalized. The old Yuletide holiday was celebrated in a fashion more similar to Halloween and trick-or-treat than to our modern Christmas. This drunken disorderliness is one of the reasons used to outlaw Christmas celebrations by the newly empowered puritans in the Commonwealth of England during the mid seventeenth century. Over the past few centuries, the roving gangs of wassailers have become tamed into the serene image of the Christmas caroler singing from door to door in the white winter weather, sipping on hot apple-cider. The hooligan shaking down the neighborhood for treats has been reserved for Halloween.


So the puritans, who took the fun out of everything, modified the pagan ritual of drunken wassailing and vandalism into the wholesome practice of caroling.

Wassailing lines in a few Christmas carols sometimes interchangeably use wassailing or caroling. Compare the songs "Here We Come a Wassailing" with "Here We Come a Caroling."

They also depict the demands from wassailing like in "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" were the singers demand figgy pudding and then state, "we won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some, so bring some right here."

So if you decide to inflict your drunken self onto some richer neighbors this Christmas with demands for food and drink, relax, it's a normal Christmas tradition. Tell them FSogol said so!

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 19: What Exactly Was the Christmas Star?

From the King James Bible, Matthew 2:1 - 2:12

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

During the Christmas season, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing stars hanging from street lamps and perched atop Christmas trees. Although the Star of Bethlehem appears just once in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, it has become one of the holiday’s most important and enduring symbols. Yet astronomers are still puzzled by whatever might have inspired that aspect of the Christmas story.

As EarthSky.org’s Larry Sessions writes, it's clear to modern astronomers that the Star of Bethlehem behaved very oddly, if it existed at all. First of all, Jesus Christ almost certainly wasn’t born in December, so looking for its origins in the night sky this time of year isn’t the best place to start. Historians have long agreed that Christmas shares roots with the ancient Roman solstice holiday, Saturnalia, and that Jesus was most likely born in the spring when shepherds would be tending their flocks, Donna Vickroy writes for the Chicago Tribune. In fact, Christmas only takes place on December 25 because of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who moved the holiday in order to coincide with the shortest night of the year.
While the Bible says that the three Magi were led to Jesus’ birthplace by a star in the sky, Art Maurer, the director of Joliet Junior College’s Trackman Planetarium, tells Vickroy that that explanation doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the story. "The Magi came from Persia, which meant they traveled 900 miles west. So they didn't see a star in the east," Maurer tells Vickroy.


The next theory is they followed a bright meteor, supernova, or comet. Meteors burn up to quickly and wouldn’t give the kings much to follow. Halley’s comet went by in 11 BC. Comets were considered bad omens, not good ones in the ancient world. Lastly, history records no supernova in that period.

There’s one other possibility: it could have been a visible planet, like Jupiter. According to Maurer, Jupiter was in retrograde at the time, which means it would have appeared to travel east as it rose in the sky each night. Not only that, but ancient astronomers considered it the king planet, and its appearance in the Leo constellation might have been pretty significant for people who saw meaning in the movements of the stars and planets, Vickroy writes.

PS. Jupiter is pretty bright in the southern sky this year.


(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 18: The History of African American Department Store Santas

Last Christmas time, I wrote a long post of the origins of Santa Claus
This Advent season, I wrote a post on when women took over as Santa

What about African Americans? When did they start getting Santa jobs?

The first black Santas were part of racist minstrel shows. President Wilson attended one at his honeymoon at a Virginia resort. The press described it as a festive party "presided over by a dusky Santa Claus", with a large "gaily decorated" Christmas tree. Before [the tree] disported 15 Negroes, whose antics and musical efforts kept the President and everybody else almost convulsed with laughter."

Then In 1919,

the Pittsburgh Daily Post carried a report about the "the first negro Santa ever put on the streets of any city". He had been hired by the Volunteers of America in response to "appeals from poor coloured children", the newspaper added.

But the real breakthrough for black Santas came in 1936, when tap-dancing legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson became Harlem's "first negro Santa Claus" at an annual Christmas Eve party for underprivileged children. In previous years, the children had been visited by a "Nordic Santa" from downtown New York, reported a local newspaper.

In 1943, one of Harlem's biggest department stores, Blumstein's, hired its first black Santa Claus. It was followed, in 1946, by a store in Chicago. As white people moved out to the suburbs, and began shopping at the giant new malls that were being built there, it made economic sense for downtown department store owners to tailor the Christmas shopping experience to their now mainly black customers.


Bill "Bojangles" Robinson as Harlem's Santa, 1936

In the 1960s, Santa got caught up in the civil rights movement and boycotts. Santa was called "one of the established symbols of racism."

Shillittoes', (a Cincinnati department store), owner Fred Lazarus III refused to hire a black Father Christmas
claiming that, "this has nothing to do with equality of employment. It just doesn't fit the symbol as kids have known it."

He gave in to the boycotts and hired an African American Santa the following year. By 1970, even Macys had hired one.

One department store in Brooklyn even set up rival black-and-white Santas, separated by a low partition, to enable people to make their choice.


Kenny Green, the Santa of Iverson Mall in the suburbs of DC

Today, Macys in NYC offers two Santas (and yes, they speak Spanish too)


(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 17: Merry Christmas vs Happy Christmas?

Why say Merry Christmas? We don't say Merry Birthday, Merry Halloween, or Merry Easter.

Saying 'Merry Christmas' rather than 'Happy Christmas' seems to go back several hundred years. It's first recorded in 1534 when John Fisher (an English Catholic Bishop in the 1500s) wrote it in a Christmas letter to Thomas Cromwell: "And this our Lord God send you a mery {sic} Christmas, and a comfortable, to your heart’s desire."

There's also the carol "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" which dates back to the 16th century in England. It comes from the West Country in England and it was first published in the form we know it today in 1760.

In the English language of the time, the phrase 'Rest You Merry' didn't mean simply to be happy; 'rest' meant "to keep, cause to continue to remain" and 'merry' could mean "pleasant, bountiful, prosperous". The comma in the phrase should be AFTER the 'merry' not BEFORE it. But it's often put after the merry which changes the meaning to make 'merry Gentleman' and so a 'Merry Christmas.'

There are two different possible explanations"

The first Christmas Card, sent in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, had this wording on it: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You". (as you may remember from my post on Christmas letters). https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181155244

The first card. Note the small child drinking wine

The other source is Charles Dickens', "A Christmas Carol", where he uses the term "merry" 21 times.

The carol, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas (and a Happy New Year)" arrived in 1935, but the term had already stuck by then.

One proponent of "Happy Christmas" was Queen Elizabeth II who used that term in her radio broadcasts. As a result, Happy Christmas is used more in the UK. Clement Clark Moore used Happy Christmas too in "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (more commonly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Of course that was published in 1823, which is before Sir Henry Cole and Charles Dickens commodified the term "Merry."

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 16: The Origin of Mrs. Claus & the War Years when Women took over

Marriage is a relatively new gig for Santa Claus. There’s no record of his original incarnation, Bishop of Myra St. Nicholas, having a wife. Although it’s not impossible for a fourth century Turkish bishop to have had a wife, the figure would expand and morph until, by the end of the 18th century, the bishop had transitioned into a full-time behavior monitor, jolly-maker, and bringer of toys.
But even mythological love affairs don’t just pop up overnight. It would be years and years before Santa found his lady. The first mention of Mrs. Claus appears in the 1849 short story “A Christmas Legend” by missionary James Rees, in which a couple disguise themselves, angel-like, as travelers, and seek shelter with a family. As it turns out, the two strangers are not the Clauses at all, but long-lost family members in double disguise. Still, real or not real, Rees had created a legend.
Over the next few decades, the legend took shape. Mentions of Mrs. Claus appeared in short stories, poems, and songs. She also began accompanying her husband to Christmas parties. Some reported that she dressed in red; others, like the architect/narrator in E.C. Gardner’s 1887 fanciful essay “A Hickory Back-Log,” decked her out in green and plaid.


The Mrs. Claus in Gardner’s tale (why would a Saint have a wife anyways?) harasses Garner over kitchen design.
Mrs. Claus next appears in Katharine Lee Bates’s 1889 poem "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride" demands to accompany her husband on his rounds and wants to deliver the toys herself. Bates is more well know for writing "America the Beautiful.” (Goody is short for Goodwife or Mrs.)

The poem can be found here.

Filene’s Department Store in Boston was the first to have a Mrs Claus. They hired a Mrs. Claus to help Santa entertain the kiddies in 1906 which was a time when most people had not considered Santa as married.
Over the years, Mrs. Claus became depicted more as a plump, cheerful, and patient character.

But Mrs. Claus wouldn’t become a mainstay of the Christmas celebration until the Baby Boom era, with the help of Nat King Cole’s “Mrs. Santa Claus” in 1953 and Phyllis McGinley’s 1963 children’s book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas.


The Second World War saw American women break into many male-dominated jobs: riveters, crane operators, cab drivers, and professional baseball players, to name a few. But perhaps the most unusual breakthrough of all occurred 76 years ago this Christmas, when department stores began hiring women to play Santa, sitting in thrones previously monopolized by men. Pretty soon, still more women in red Santa suits and matching hats could be seen ringing bells on street corners and ho-ho-ho-ing it up for charity.

Even before the U.S. officially entered the war, some astute observers saw it coming. “It is customary in wartime for women to take over numerous fields of employment conventionally reserved for men,” the St. Louis Star-Times noted in 1941. But while the paper conceded that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt might be right that a “woman’s place is in the office, factory, courtroom, marketplace, corner filling station, and other locations too numerous to mention,” it drew a line in the snow at Santa.


Charlie Howard, a department store Santa who also trained other practitioners, gave the concept a boost in 1937, when he announced that his program had gone co-ed. As he told the Associated Press, he planned to graduate two Mrs. Clauses that year, whose job, the story reported, would be to “greet little girls, learn what they want in their Christmas stockings, teach them how to play with dollies, doll houses, dishes and clothes.” The article, however, also quoted Howard as declaring, “And she’ll have to be good looking, too.”

Stay classy, Charlie.

Less than a year after the U.S. declared war on Japan, in November 1942, the first female department store Santa seems to have appeared in Chicago. “The manpower shortage has even hit old Saint Nick,” the caption on an Associated Press photo explained. “This lady Santa Claus has turned up—dressed like Mr. Claus except for the whiskers—at a Chicago department store, and youngsters seem just as happy telling her which gifts they are hoping for.” (Though other contemporary accounts would treat her as a full-fledged female Santa, the photo caption hedged a bit, ending with a reference to her as a “Mrs. Santa Claus” who would “pass on children’s wishes to her overworked husband.”)

In December 1942, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that, “Unable to find a man suitable for the job,” an F.W. Woolworth store in Union, New Jersey, had also hired a female Santa. Identified as Mrs. Anna Michaelson, she would “wear a skirt, instead of trousers, but all the other habiliments will be the same as those of the traditional Kris Kringle.” In Michaelson’s case that included a white wig and beard, which the mother of eight obligingly showed off for a news photographer.


Makeup artist, Max Factor, Jr tried to standardize the appearance of Santa in 1939 to help prevent department stores from confusing kids and he created a template for Lady Santa Claus too. (Sadly, I can’t find a image of his work on Lady Santa)

NYC got it’s first female Santa in 1943 when Daisy Belmore was hired for Saks Fifth Ave. Belmore was most famous for appearing in Dracula and All Quiet on the Western Front.

Daisy Belmore as Santa

Some people and papers took the female Santas stoically. The Washington Post (Dec 1942) admitted it was better to have a female Santa than no Santa at all. Other writers and papers freaked out. Many of the Dept Store Santa’s felt that women would be incapable of doing the tough Santa work. The Smithsonian link about is good reading of the whining.

After the war ended the female department store Santas disappeared.

This link has a good timeline of the female Santas:

My absolute favorite Female Santa has to be Mrs. Phoebe Seabrook, a diminutive 62-year-old grandmother. When challenged for having a fake beard and soft voice, she admitted she was Santa’s wife. When the kids said they didn’t think Santa had a wife, she replied, “Well, he’s got one now.”

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 15: Joel Poinsett, US Secretary of War and the Poinsettia

Where did the poinsettia come from and how did it end up as a Christmas decoration?

As it turns out, the red-leafed plant was introduced to the United States by botanist and statesman Joel Poinsett (1779-1851), who as the first U.S. Minister to Mexico found the plant while serving there. The poinsettia is said to have been used by the Aztecs as a red dye and to reduce fevers.


John Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) (Library of Congress)

Besides being the US Minister (Ambassador) to Mexico, Poinsett was also the Secretary of War, presided over the United States Exploring Expedition which accomplished the first circumnavigation of the globe sponsored by the United States. Poinsetta also was one of the early promoters of the Smithsonian Institute, advising Congress over how to use;

James Smithson bequest. (Although Smithson had never visited the United States, he left his estate of $508,318—about $15 million in today's dollars—to establish in Washington, D.C. an institution for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." ) At the time, much debate was going on about how best to achieve Smithson's request.


But back to the plant itself,

Native to Central America, the plant flourished in an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon. The Aztecs used the plant decorative purposes but also put the plant to practical use. They extracted a purplish dye for use in textiles and cosmetics from the plant’s bracts. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

Poinsett maintained his own hothouses on his Greenville, South Carolina plantations, and while visiting the Taxco area in 1828, (as US Minister to Mexico) he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there. He immediately sent some of the plants back to South Carolina, where he began propagating the plants and sending them to friends and botanical gardens.

Among the recipients of Poinsett's work was John Bartram of Philadelphia, who in turn gave the plant over to another friend, Robert Buist, a Pennsylvania nurseryman. Mr. Buist is thought to be the first person to have sold the plant under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima. It is thought to have become known by its more popular name of poinsettia around 1836, the origin of the name recognizing the man who first brought the plant to the United States.

Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851. The day was meant to honor Poinsett and encourage people to enjoy the beauty of the popular holiday plant.


Mexico has a creation myth about the poinsettia where a little girl attending a Nativity scene in a Church and gave the Christ Child the only thing she could find, a small bundle of weedy plants. The Christ child performed a miracle and all the leaves turned red. Mexico calls the plant "Flores de Noche Buena," or Flowers of the Holy Night.

The earliest poinsettias were sold by individual florists and merchants—including the patriarch of the family, Albert Ecke, a German immigrant—and usually as single-cut stems instead of rooted in pots. But they were hardly durable; most would last two or three days, at best.

The Eckes helped transition poinsettias from ephemeral flowers to potted plants, created new shapes and introduced new colors (from shades of white and yellow to those that have names, “ice punch,” “pink peppermint” and “strawberries and cream” among them).

One of the earliest varieties, for which Ecke sought a patent in 1937, was “longer and more attractive; … will bloom in a cooler temperature than other known varieties; the bracts are a clearer and more beautiful color; … will produce more perfect bloom … than any other species of Poinsettia,” he wrote.

It’s one thing to have a ranch bursting with new plants, but it’s another to try to actually sell them. By nature, poinsettias are at their best between November and January, which aligns perfectly with the Christian advent season. For that reason, Paul Sr. started to market the plants as “Christmas flowers.”

Plant Patent 1,207, July 28, 1953


The Eckes family moved their operations indoors and grow poinsettias year round. They hold over 500 plant patents and have unique cutting and grafting procedures that allow them to license plants to other growers. They were marketing geniuses too. They provided plants to many magazines, the Tonight Show and the White House and soon everyone wanted the plant.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )
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