Category: holidays

Quirky Local Celebrations?

This past weekend, the family headed out for the yearly Chester Greenwood Day Parade. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this in the past, but for those of you not in the know, Chester Greenwood was the inventor of the earmuff, and he’s from Farmington, Maine, right where I live and work. So the first Saturday of December is always Chester Greenwood Day, and there’s always a big parade in town where everybody wears earmuffs. (Even the trucks and buses.)

We’re just cool like that.

But I wondered what other places do for quirky celebrations. I know Payson, Utah does Onion Days every year. (Having attended a few Onion Days parades myself). It celebrates the onion harvest, because . . . I guess onions were really big in Payson? (Clearly I fail at understanding why I’m watching a parade dedicated to an onion year after year.) And the whole state of Utah has Pioneer Day, celebrating the day the pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley. (See? I did better at that one.)

So my question for you this fine Monday is what quirk celebrations do you know of in your neck of the wood? After all, that seems to be where Groundhog Day really came to life. Quirky local celebration makes the big-time. Who knows. Maybe Chester Greenwood Day will be all the rage years from now. I know the parade this year was pretty darn big. The sky’s the limit! (As long as the sky is wearing earmuffs, that is.)

What’s Been Your Favorite Costume?

Happy Halloween, everybody! I thought I’d take some time today to think back on the various costumes I’ve worn over the years, and to ask you which ones you’ve worn that you’ve really liked.

For me, I’m not really a huge dresser upper. In fact, I’ll be impressed if I can remember more than a handful of costumes as I do this exercise. But hey. It’s worth a shot, right? I don’t have a political post in me today, despite all the political news flying around. It’s Halloween. I’m taking a break. So without further ado, here we go:

  • Eeyore. I believe I’ve blogged about this before, but I have a big full-size Eeyore costume my mom got me probably about . . . 18 years ago? I’m not honestly sure. But I wear it from time to time, and it’s my go-to lazy costume. It’s a nice one, bought from the Disney Store, as I recall. Just put it on like a jump suit and you’re good to go. As an added bonus, it’s really large, so I can wear it over my coat and warm pants, which comes in handy some Halloweens out here in Maine. But I don’t wear it every year, because I don’t want people to get too tired of seeing me in it.
  • Yoda. This is the first costume I can remember wearing for Halloween. I loved it, even though it was just a plastic mask and a plastic smock. Straight from a box. But come on. Yoda? It doesn’t get cooler than that.
  • Clown. Not a scary clown. Just a clown. Red nose. Colored wig. Big bow tie. Done. (Are you sensing a theme?)
  • Draco Malfoy. Brandon Sanderson hosted a Harry Potter murder mystery party way back in the day. One which he had written in his spare time. (This sounds like an awesome charity event or something now. Back then, it was just friends getting together to do something cool.) Denisa was Pansy Parkinson. I was Draco. This one I actually worked at some. We made Slytherin patches, got cloaks, and made green and silver ties for us both to wear. I didn’t look anything like Draco from the movies, though. Didn’t dye my hair anything. But it was fun.
  • Ralph, from Groundhog Day. Come to think of it, I wrote a murder mystery of my own based around Groundhog Day a few years ago. Who killed Ned Ryerson? I was Ralph. Denisa was Mrs. Lancaster. It was a pretty easy costume. Just wear a hat with ear flaps and some plaid. Done. That was a fun party.
  • Ernie from Sesame Street. I’ve seen pictures of this one. My mom made a Bert and Ernie costume for my brother and me. But I don’t remember actually wearing it. Just too young.

And . . . that’s it. Those are all the costumes I can remember. I think I might have been a vampire at some point. I remember face paint and pointed glow in the dark teeth. But it’s too hazy to be sure. I’ve thrown on a Yankees jersey from time to time to make a half-hearted attempt to at least be dressed up as something. But I can’t honestly remember any other costumes I’ve worn. There must have been others.

I’m always impressed by the outfits people come up with, but I just have never been one to make them myself. How about you? Anything you’re particularly proud of? Please share!

Groundhog Limerick Contest

Faithful readers will remember that five (five!) years ago, I ran a groundhog Haiku contest here on my blog. It was well received, with a big campaign effort by some of the contestants. It came right down to the wire, and I had a  lot of fun with it.

For this year’s Groundhog Day party, I decided to bring back the poetry, but to keep things lively, I switched the poetry format. That’s right, folks: limericks!

I made the stipulation that they had to be clean. No dirty groundhog limericks on my watch, people. But other than that, the sky was the limit. I wasn’t sure how many of my party goers would enter, but I was really happy to get 10 entries in the space of about 15 minutes. Limerick’s aren’t the easiest things to write off the cuff. Harder than haikus, at least.

So once again, let’s have a contest. I’m going to follow the pattern I set five years ago. This post will collect all entries for the contest. You can enter as many times as you like. I’m going to leave this open for a week. A week from now, I’ll select the top 5 entries and create a new post just for them. At that point, you all get to vote for which one you like the most.

But a contest wouldn’t be a contest without a prize. I gave away naming rights in my latest novel last time (TARNHELM, for those of you playing along at home.) So I’ll do the same thing this time. The winner can name a character in my current work in progress, which is top secret for now, but which will hopefully not be top secret in the very near future. Simple and straightforward. Win the contest. Have your name (or a name of your choosing) in my book. (I reserve the right to veto any names, assuming they’re not your legal name . . .)

For a refresher for those of you aspiring poets, here’s a quick rundown of what a limerick is. And without further ado, I present to you the entries so far:

Here we are at the house of Bryce
To celebrate groundhog on ice
Hit by the big truck
Head off like a puck
This poem is not very nice.

When pulling me out of a log
Let’s hope there’s not much of a fog
Shadow, I may see
Lest you pay a fee
I’m February’s fat star hog

Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundHOG
Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundBOG
Shadow shadow GROUND
Shadow shadow ROUND
Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundlOG.

Fateful day this groundhog delay
Groundhogs keep winter at bay
Blinded by the light
Of shadows in sight
For his shadow was seen at midday.

There’s an animal hogging the news
And casting shadows on views
It’s the groundhog, of course
Our annual source
Of featherbrained seasonal clues

Once an old groundhog from PA
Snuck into the garden to pray
While there on a stump
He just thought of Trump
And gave up and moved to Bombay.

There once was a groundhog with a beard
Who said “it is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen
4 larks and a wren
Have all built their nest in my beard!”

In days of old, when Grandpa Jack was not old,
And hunting laws were not invented,
The groundhog would die,
And on his stove they would fry,
And Jack’s stomach would be most contented.

There once was a groundhog from Spain
Who stepped in a trap and had pain
His shadow he saw
Six more weeks for pa,
Unless it was starting to rain.

There once was a groundhog named Phil
Who lived in a hole in a hill.
He ate and he ate
Until he felt great,
But Denisa wanted to kill.

Groundhog Day 2017

I am the only person I know in Maine who celebrates Groundhog Day. That is, the only person who throws a party every year on Groundhog Day. I have cultivated some Groundhog Day acolytes who show up to said party year after year and put up with my shenanigans. But as far as inspiring others to throw Groundhog Day parties of their own, I have been woefully inadequate.

Still, every year the decorations come up right after New Year’s. We have quite the collection these days: two signs with Groundhog Day quotes on them, 2 stuffed groundhogs, 1 groundhog hand puppet, a styrofoam groundhog head, several beanie babies, and drawings by the kids. People keep sending groundhog themed things my way, knowing my love of the day.

Why do I celebrate it? Why in the world *not*? It’s a day that I can celebrate however I want. It has no conflicts with other days (except the occasional Superbowl Sunday, but groundhogs love football, so that’s okay). It comes at a time when you need any reason to celebrate you can think of. It’s an excuse to watch a movie and get together. It’s funny.

It’s great.

I’ve been trying to come up with how many times I’ve actually been celebrating the holiday. The film came out in 1993 (ironically, a week and a half after Groundhog Day). I saw it in the theater, as I recall, but it’s not like that marks the start of a holiday tradition. The question is when did I start watching it every year? And I don’t know the answer.

My love for the holiday came from two intersecting points: The movie was awesome, and I really disliked Valentines Day. I remember my freshman year of college telling people that I didn’t celebrate Valentines Day, but rather Groundhog Day, instead. So I think we’ll count that as my official start of a real holiday. A lot of people discover things about themselves when they go to college. I discovered a holiday tradition.

So February 1997 was the first year, followed by a two year hiatus while I was on my mission in Germany. February 2000 I was definitely back at it, and Denisa joined the ranks for February 2001. That means that this year is my nineteenth year. I’ve celebrated in Utah nine times. This is my tenth year celebrating in Maine!

The way I’ve celebrated has changed from year to year. I’ve done family parties. Friend parties. Superbowl parties. Murder mystery parties. Movie parties. We’ve had dinner served. Snacks served. Desserts served. We’ve had Groundhog Games of Skill for the last long while, and those have included quizzes, drawing contests, a haiku contest, sculpture contests, and more. This year we’re doing a white elephant exchange (groundhog themed, of course.)

Really, whatever I come up with and want to do one year, I do. Sometimes it connects to years gone by. Sometimes it doesn’t. I heartily recommend the approach. While I think everyone should celebrate Groundhog Day, I realize not everyone sees the point. But I do believe everyone should pick a day and make that day their own. Maybe you’re more of a Flag Day sort of a person. Or a National Chocolate Covered Raisin gal. Whatever speaks to you, make it your own.

You’ll have a blast.

Happy Groundhog Day, everybody! May all your Punxsutawneys be filled and your winters be repetitive and long.

The Problem with Halloween

Okay. Now that the holiday is safely past us, I can speak up on something that occurred to me a few days ago, right about the time I was ready to pull all my hair out as Denisa and I tried to keep Halloween on track. First, a disclaimer: I actually really  like Halloween. I like how it gets people out and about. I like how it connects communities in ways Thanksgiving or even Christmas doesn’t. And while sure, you get some people decrying its pagan roots (some people are just allergic to fun), for the most part, we can all indulge our collective sweet tooth together for a bit and not have to worry about the “real meaning” of the holiday. (Interestingly, this is one holiday where you’re not supposed to think about the “real meaning” that closely . . .)

However.

It’s a holiday that has pretty high expectations from a kid perspective. You’ve got costumes. Pumpkin carving. Lots of decorations. Candy purchases. Parties. Cookie decorating. Trick or treating. Scary movies to watch. It’s a lot of moving parts to keep coordinated. You know me, though. I’m all for a good party. Except Halloween comes with no time off at all. No national holiday. No way to really catch your breath around the festivities.

We get two days for Thanksgiving, and all we’re really doing for that holiday is eating a ton of food and gearing ourselves up for the end of the year Christmas/New Years stuff. (Yes, I realize not everyone celebrates Christmas.  But this post isn’t about Christmas. It’s about Halloween.) Easter and Valentines Day don’t have too much baggage around them. Nothing you can’t whip together in an afternoon or an evening if push comes to shove. What other holidays do we have to worry about? Fourth of July? Burgers. New Year’s? Turn on the television and count down from ten. St. Patrick’s Day only needs green food coloring, when you get right down to it. Groundhog Day? (Hmm. Let’s not go there this post either. Groundhog Day is special.)

Granted, there’s “holiday spread” at play in all of these. Leprechaun traps. Elaborate valentines. Big parties. But Halloween has been doing this stealthy trick (it seems to me) over the last decade or so, morphing from something that seemed pretty straightforward into something that’s becoming very involved.

Or is this just my experience? Denisa and I didn’t even do a big party this year, and it still felt like we were juggling blazing cats while blindfolded. I’m all for fun, but sometimes I think I need to back away from the fun some.

Or else Obama could declare another national holiday. As a last “going away” present? I’m sure his poll numbers would skyrocket . . .

Just a thought. Bring on Thanksgiving!

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