Tag Archives: Christmas Articles

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‘Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you…’ The minefield that is the ‘perfect’ gift and why the person getting it will never forgive you.

gift_Author’s program note. Over the course of your life, you’ll give a cart load of gifts. Gifts for people getting engaged, gifts for getting married, even gifts for getting divorced. There are gifts for going away and gifts for coming back. There are gifts for job promotion and gifts upon retirement. There are gifts for Christmas… and gifts for birthdays…. gifts for lovers… and, of course, the gifts you give yourself for coping with the utterly thankless responsibility of ensuring that this mountain of gifts arrives on time and always with the thoughtful consideration expected, required… and no doubt given!


Just reading this (very) partial list of gift giving occasions and events makes me fatigued and anxious. So many to give to… so little time… and as for the bucks required… Daunting! Exhausting! Downright intimidating! It seems like an awful lot of work for the fleeting “pleasure” of seeing the recipient’s beady eyes bore into your hapless offering, the entire future of your relationship hinging on what you’re giving and the terrible scrutiny it’s certain to receive by not only the closely inspecting and ultra finicky recipient… but also by every single person who will receive (whether they like it or not) the recipient’s staggeringly detailed report (in triplicate) on every aspect of what you gave.

It’s enough to drive a body to drink. I wonder whether there’s anything left in that bottle of cheap schnapps Uncle Ernie palmed off on me last Christmas.


Well, I want you to know that I’m not going to take it anymore. I mean, I’ve been bled enough, raked over the coals enough, embarrassed enough, chagrined, attacked, insulted, berated, demeaned, degraded, excoriated and humiliated enough by the whole stinking business which you and I both know is a conspiracy cooked up by a posse of shameless, rapacious robbers, like the owners of catalogs selling overpriced and completely useless bibelots along with licensed marauders who sell wilted flowers and low grade chocolates with high fallutin names sporting princely prices.

Everyone knows these criminals are mostly aging gay men, precious hair strands (fewer by the minute) arrayed in flagrant pompadour, wearing too much bling and an ocean of cheap scent with names like “Passionate Embrace” and “Te quiero”, not merely perfume but an eternal wish.

They have to sell tons of this egregious bric-a-brac to get the bucks required to give endless presents to their much younger boyfriends who demand gifts, then turn up their perfect aquiline noses at what they get, while demanding still more. Oh, my, what a muddle!

That’s why I am setting up something you and I both need. I call it Gift Givers Anonymous, and it’s a place we can hie to whenever a gift is given or received and we need to sound off. The first meeting is hereby called to order. Since I invented this baby, I get to go first.

Agenda for gift sound-off by the founder.

1) Lavish gifts given by me to people who failed to appreciate them sufficiently, if they were even appreciated at all.

2) Paltry gifts given to me by cheap-skates who lavished neither care nor concern nor any consideration at all on what they gave me.

Dear friend, now that you have the agenda, let’s get down to the essential business of blaming others and praising each and every generous gesture, no matter how small, we have ever made. This will take some substantial time because generosity and munificence are my middle names; not to mention that the milk of human kindness runs thick and malted in my veins.

The Music. I have chosen as the music to accompany this long-overdue article a song we have all heard from our earliest days when dandled on parental lap. It is called “Hush, Little Baby”. You’ll find it in any search engine many different versions of this song — whose lyricist and composer have been lost; (no doubt due to someone whose gifts were not in the fields of efficiency and management.)

Everyone and his brother has changed the lyrics. Still I found a very peppy version I quite like, by my near neighbor in Cambridge, Yo Yo Ma cleverly partnered with Bobby McFerrin, a man whose incandescent smile, far beyond mere happiness, suggests receiving a great big present, like having Ma play for him for free. Anyway, go listen to it now and sing along with the lyrics about a luckless man who kept buying things for his spoiled rug rat, things that kept breaking, cracking, ripping, fading, irritating, disappointing.

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word/ Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird/ And if that mockingbird won’t sing/ Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring/ And if that diamond ring turns brass/ Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”

Urgent personal note: I trust the lyricist who chronicled all these problems contacted the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce about them. Such a string of bad luck is more than coincidental. Take my word on that. See for yourself…

Great gifts, surprising consequences.

Ok, it’s time to dig into my immense, colossal, huge, astonishing array of stories about how I have given much and more often than not been “rewarded” by the back of the receiver’s hand. I am chagrined to expose these tawdry events, but the truth demands it. Besides, I have carried this burden alone long enough. Just the thought of sharing it amongst all of you makes me positively giddy.

Here is a tale I could never tell (no matter how liberating) but for the fact our organization is pledged to a secrecy so impenetrable that even master spy Edward J. Snowden could not breach it. Alors…

Each year at Christmas I lavished presents on my dear mama, including the annual seasonal commemorations and heirlooms produced by America’s greatest silver smiths and crystal producers, Lennox, Towle, Gorham, et al. I was a prodigious purchaser of these stylish items, ranging in price from $40 to $150. I bought lavishly and gave lavishly, earnestly believing that they were received with all appropriate gestures, touching words, and loving regard. Over the course of many years, these valuable gifts became a trove, if not a king’s ransom, then surely a baron’s.

Then one day, close to the holiday, the phone rang. Mother. And I sat up ready for the expected gratitude to be rained upon me — not. “I got two more of those blanketty blank bells today. I’ve been meaning to tell you… I HATE THESE THINGS! Stop sending them!!!”

This was bad. But worse followed. At Christmas…. The most unforgiving gift season of every year.

One year, feeling exceptionally flush with cash, I ventured into F.A.O. Schwarz, a place of magic where the deepest of pockets is required. Anyway, this year I had those packed pockets and so ventured forth with confidence and elan. I was going to buy my beloved niece Chelsea and nephew Kyle something Over The Top, something grand, opulent, in-your-face, in short the very things one finds in wanton abundance at this entrancing place. And so, faster than you can say American Express, I selected and had shipped presents designed to awe. Alas, they did their job too well.

Fast forward a few days. Phone call. Sister, mother of above-mentioned enfants terrible. I was ready for gratitude, for praise, for rose petals and cotton candy. Instead I received a good and thorough lecture, exceedingly long and detailed, about the impertinence of giving magnificently when the merely adequate would do.

In plain English, this meant that while my whopping presents (a bear bigger than he was; a stunning miniature silver tea service for her) were favored by the kiddos, hers would be sneered at and disdained. And That Would Never Do. Thus, the radiant kindness and most considerate of gestures was dismissed as a clever ploy for estranging stingy parents from impressionable children preferring their suave and subtle uncle, an unscrupulous man of shrewd calculations, unequaled manipulations, and malignant stratagems; a man who has gotten his own back, recovering his wounded self-esteem, thanks to the empathetic and supportive membership at Gift Givers Anonymous.

Thanks and a superb gift-giving idea.

As the exuberant applause began to wane, my sentiments as rendered above having brought near chaos celebrating our collective freedom from the double thrall of gifts inadequately acknowledged and inadequate gifts given, I capped my timely presentation with one last idea, that each member (and members only, please) draw up a list of approved items desired, in this way to ensure that only the right gifts be given, not gifts we had been forced to say we liked, but which we most decidedly did not. Prospective brides have been doing this for decades, which in no way detracts from my unique emendation and improvement.

Please, then, note what I most humbly request: a pizza cutter, shower soap dish, one aluminum cullender, one pair wooden salad  tongs, six wooden hangers and three violet or lavender sachets for eradicating persistent moth infestation. Then the meeting was adjourned, members handed my list as they left, revivified, refreshed in spirit.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered all my lists in the trash, the last one defaced with this sentiment partly obscured by a huge red X. “Give you gifts? I’ll be d–ned if I do. I resign!”

Was it something I said?

About the Author

Now with near seven decades of a successful writing career, Dr. Lant is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.

To get your copy go to www.writerssecrets.com. You will also want to join his writing
course and learn from this master communicator just how you can improve everything
you ever write. www.writerssecrets.com

Get a year of insights and tips like these in Dr. Lant’s extraordinary online course where critiquing of your work is done LIVE with your reading and working on your rewrite!

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Protected: Cambridge senior citizen releases stunning manuscript of Herod, King of the Jews. Astonishing revelations from the man accused of ‘The Slaughter of the Innocents’ and intended murder of Jesus The Christ.

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How to keep Christmas well in your heart throughout the year.


by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

“and it was always said of Ebenezer Scrooge, that he knew
how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the
knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so,
as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

The words, of course, are from Charles Dickens’
masterful “A Christmas Carol” published in 1843,
a present the world gratefully rediscovers each and
every year. They remind us that Christmas, to be
Christmas, must be about magic and memories,
remembering both those who are with us and (especially)
those who are not..

Christmas this year, as every year, began for me
by unpacking my little electrified tree. It is battered
now and bears its many bruises proudly if carefully.

All at once, I give way to memories insistent,
vivid, one tumbling over another. The box opens
and recollections of one year of my life after another
pour out. First, I remember the day my grandmother gave
me this marvelous present and how she solemnly
told me to take good care of  it, as she had done.

I agreed to do so, little knowing the significance or the
power of what I promised. Now I know, for this year I am older
than she was when she gave it to me… and I now ponder
who, in due course, I must present this tree to and who will
keep the faith of generations with me. You see, I have
arrived at the stage of life when Christmas is far more
about who I shall  give to… rather than who will give to me.

It cheers

My little tree (circa 1935), just 16 inches tall, literally
bubbles with colorful cheer. It is called a bubbler because
its bulbs not only light up and glow… but one after
another they bubble, except (some days) the
one at the very top which, eccentrically,often
fails to bubble at all. Moreover, when one bulb
goes out…. they all go out which means a patient
review of all. However, I wouldn’t have it any
other way. Age means appreciating even flaws,
for they, too, are a part of the whole.

Because I am an historian and like many such
have a tendency to collect and keep for a lifetime,
I have been designated by my extended family as
the “keeper”, the one it is safe to leave with the
mementoes we all agree are important, but
which no one but me wants to take care of.
Once the bubbler tree is set up, other boxes
must be opened… and  they can only be opened
when there is sufficient time to pause, remember,
reflect, and again and again be seized by their
heart-tugging memories. One cannot rush this
process for the memories will not be denied.
They are forever bittersweet… featuring as they do those
loved and gone before. Yes, one must have sufficient
time for them for the memories that cascade at this time
of the year are always vivid, poignant, rich… with new
meanings that come as I age.

I smile, for instance, at a styrofoam bell given to me
(as to all class members) by Mrs. Eigenbraugh, my third
grade teacher. This ornament, a liberty bell, features my
teacher in a stately formal pose. She looks at me as the dedicated
prairie teacher she was. The autograph reads simply
“Mrs. Eigenbraugh, 1955.”

I am older now than Mrs. Eigenbraugh was then… and
I clearly see her at her desk dutifully, carefully signing
each gift in her copperplate hand. She no doubt paid
for these herself… and gave them as a small memento
of her and the season… little thinking that I, a half
century later, should be so moved at her gift… or
her conscientious generosity. Do teachers give
as much today?

Just one left

I was born in 1947 to young parents who had,
in those post war years, few dollars and sky-high
aspirations, with days and energy to spare. Like
everyone else in the neighborhood they had a
young child, part of that baby boomer wave.
For him, they bought a box of colored glass
ornaments which I broke one by one by
getting in my petal powered red car, pushing
it backwards across the living room… then
running car into Christmas tree… full speed ahead. No
one seemed to mind. We were young, and we
all had time and youth to spend without care.

Now I hold that glass ball in my hand, of faded
purple hue. It, along with my father and I, are
the survivors of this tale. And now this glass
ornament, once so little valued that we all
laughed every time I, with my running feet
and determined glint, scored a direct hit…
now this glass, I say, is precious and deeply
valued as a memento of youth, both my
parents and my own, and of the beautiful
dark-haired woman whose carefree laughter
and love are as clear in this ornament as if
it were a crystal ball. She told me to take good
care of this for there could never be another…
I have and I will. And in time I shall ask of
another what she asked of me: to remember….
and to take good care. For I am entitled to that
as well., having well and truly kept the promise.

Remember and reconnect

Each year about this time, I set out to reconnect
with someone from my past with whom I have
lost touch, the way one does. Sometimes I succeed in
this task; sometimes I don’t. When I do… I make a point
of writing them a memorable letter… about
how important they are to me… and how well and what
I  remember. Such letters in a lifetime are rare to
write and rarer still to receive. I am pleased
to say they always stimulate a similar letter
in response. That letter is always amongst
my best Christmas presents. As such I
place it carefully among my other treasured gifts
and mementos and savor them as, each  year,
I take them out and let memory hold sway.
Thus, with the help of my dearly beloved, I keep
Christmas in my heart all year long, like the better,
reformed, wiser Ebenezer Scrooge.

And so I say to you: God bless us everyone and every loving
memory of yore. They make us what we are and remind us,
lovingly, of where we have been and the people who
have helped us along the way in so very many ways.

Merry Christmas!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

About the Author

Now with near seven decades of a successful writing career, Dr. Lant is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.

To get your copy go to www.drjeffreylant.com


George J. Quacker Production

Div. Jeffrey Lant Associates, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.