Category Archives: Holidays
By Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department
- Avoid taking naps in front of the store. You might get run over when the door’s open.
- Don’t try to wrestle for something with someone twice your size.
- Be barely hydrated so that you don’t have to stop for the bathroom.
- Bring your entire family so they can carry your stuff (and you can buy more).
- Sleep through Thanksgiving so that you’re well rested for the early marathon shopping.
- Don’t forget to ask for a gift receipt. Remember, some of it may be on sale for a reason.
- Dress in layers, so that you’re warm while you’re waiting to get in, and can remove layers once you’re running and shoving.
- Know your budget! You don’t want to buy so many discounted items that you go into debt.
- Have a plan of attack. Scope out your favorite stores ahead of time, know which aisles to hit, and provide everyone with a whistle. This way, if anyone in your group gets involved in a tug-of-war, they can call for back-up.
- Avoid it altogether, and wait for Cyber Monday when you can aggressively shop for deals from your bed.
And finally – remember to be safe. You don’t want to be part of the mob that always ends up in the next days papers. So be courteous to the other shoppers and to the employees, which will help to keep a safe environment for everyone.
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
It’s October, and what better time of year to pick out a book that will give you the creeps? Today we’re going to look at five works of fiction that feature terrifying creatures. (Sticklers may feel that some of these descriptions contain spoilers, but I’ve tried not to include any details that aren’t already well-known by horror buffs or pop culture aficionados.)
When it comes to monsters, what frightens me most is a sense of inevitability. A monster doesn’t have to be hideous or enormous to cause you to lose control: think the fatal allure of Dracula, or the overwhelming numbers of a zombie invasion. And what about a creature that can cause you to descend into madness, living — perhaps eternally — after having lost the essence of who you are?
“The Call of Cthulhu”
“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
One creature with such terrifying powers is Cthulhu, first introduced in horror writer H. P. Lovecraft‘s short story “The Call of Cthulhu.” Portrayed as an ancient, dead-but-waiting god, his giant form a strange combination of octopus, bat, and human, Cthulhu embodies a powerful evil. One look at him will drive anyone insane, simply because the human mind cannot comprehend such terror. Unsurprisingly, he is a favorite subject of death metal bands! And you poetry scholars might recognize that Lovecraft seems to have been inspired by Tennyson’s sonnet, “The Kraken.”
Lovecraft’s knack for capturing dread has inspired an entire genre known as “Lovecraftian horror,” described by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) more than gore or other elements of shock.”
The Hound of the Baskervilles
“I sprang to my feet, my inert hand grasping my pistol, my mind paralyzed by the dreadful shape which had sprung out upon us from the shadows of the fog.”
Sherlockian scholars consider this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s perfect novel. The tale has been adapted, riffed on, referenced, and parodied dozens of times, taking new forms in every kind of media, including comic books, plays, radio dramas, video games, and more.
How has this story stood the test of time? Sherlock Holmes is, of course, one of literature’s most fascinating characters. But the spectral hound is the real draw. Tied to local legend and a family curse spanning generations, it is an unearthly beast that glows in the dark, pursuing members of the Baskerville family across the moors until they drop dead from fright. But the hound leaves the dead bodies alone. Therefore, the beast doesn’t hunt for food, making its motives inscrutable, but undeniably evil.
Life on the moor is full of secrets and intrigue, both stimulating Sherlock Holmes’ mind and hampering his investigation. Holmes, a man of science, remains skeptical about the supernatural hound’s existence, but he can deny neither the enormous paw prints left in the sodden ground, nor the chilling howls heard in the night. Doyle perfectly paces this novel, increasing the suspense until the climactic moment: the terrifying appearance of the hound!
“Then he saw them. The gulls. Out there, riding the seas. What he had thought at first to be the white caps of the waves were gulls. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands…”
You’re probably aware of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The Birds, but did you know he based it on a short story by Daphne du Maurier? While not a “monster story,” this is one of my favorite works of suspense. For me, the premise is all the more terrifying for being within the realm of possibility, especially as we see a growing occurrence of natural disasters in real life.
In remote, rugged Cornwall, a wounded war veteran named Nat becomes increasingly aware of flocks of restless birds. The flocks increase in number, and the birds grow more violent and daring. At first, Nat attributes this behavior to the unusual weather, but takes the threat more seriously than do his neighbors. Soon, however, the entire country is under siege, and it’s no longer safe to go outdoors. The tension mounts beautifully, as the narrator gradually comes to understand the enormity of the event: the birds are inescapable, and this isn’t a fight he can fight alone.
What I love most about this short story, as opposed to the film version, is how it activates my imagination. (The same could be said for every good book, I suppose.) Visualizing the growing threat, the brutal attacks, and the despair of the survivors leaves me breathless and full of adrenaline.
“It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.”
For a more modern look at the toll horror takes on a human mind, we turn to Bird Box, Josh Malerman‘s debut novel. No one can say what the creatures in this story look like, because anyone who glimpses them is driven to immediate, deadly violence, culminating in suicide. The victims lose their minds, as well as their humanity, before losing their own lives. A mother and her young children have survived by covering the windows in their isolated house, and learning to navigate blindfolded when they go outside. Now, they are driven to leave their home behind, and they set out on a blindfolded quest to find other survivors. Who can they trust? And what is following them?
Be warned: this intense novel doesn’t shy away from the disturbing, graphic descriptions of the victims’ deaths.
“Want a balloon?”
When you think “scary clown,” you probably picture Pennywise, the creature Tim Curry played in the 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel, It. The thought of a creepy guy in white makeup who wants to eat children is sufficiently scary for most people, but IT is more than that: the clown is only one of the forms IT takes.
Ancient, malevolent, and powerful, IT comes from an unknown dimension. It lies slumbering until atrocious acts of human violence awaken it (unfortunately, this happens fairly regularly). When it comes to earth to feed, IT can take the shape of anything it chooses, in order to lure its victims. Sometimes IT appears as a victim’s loved one; other times, IT appears as a victim’s worst fear. But, as with Cthulhu, if a person were to see IT’s true form, the absolute horror would so baffle his mind, that he would go insane.
In 2015, British costume company MorphCostumes voted Pennywise the scariest creature in literature. The clown trumped Dracula, The Lord of the Rings’ Nazgûl, and Harry Potter’s Dementors, among other classic horror standards, based on “appearance, powers, and evil intent.”
Did your favorite creature make my list? Leave a comment below! And if you’re looking for history on some of the most famous undead creatures, check out this blog post from last year, “How Monsters Are Born,” by reference librarian Sharon Reily.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
“Eight more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween . . .” OK, maybe not the most appropriate way to lead into a blog about scary-but-not-too-scary creatures who live in children’s books, by invoking a jingle used in the classic horror film “Halloween,” starring the fabulous future kid-lit author Jamie Lee Curtis, but with that tie-in, how could I not?
The Wild Things
First in our no-particular-order list of creepy creatures: the Wild Things inhabiting the island where Max sailed his private boat in and out of weeks and almost over a year in Maurice Sendak’s fabulous classic Where The Wild Things Are. Being the King of all Wild Things was a blast for a while, what with having no homework, no bedtime, and no rules, but Max became terribly lonely “and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” So he abdicated his throne and sailed back into the night of his very own room, to find his still-hot supper waiting for him. The lesson here, in my opinion? Those who truly love you will forgive your occasional monstrous behavior, and maybe even make you a grilled cheese sandwich.
“You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch/Your heart’s an empty hole/Your brain is full of spiders/You have garlic in your soul.” Hence, the next monster in our Monster Mash-Up, that grouchy green grump who lives on Mount Crumpit. Yes, friends and fiends, the antagonist-turned-protagonist of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is next in the roster of scary-not-scary monsters. Let us ponder for a moment the classic literary juxtaposition of Good vs. Evil. After a busy night of animal abuse, cosplay, and totally highjacking all the boxes and bags and the last can of Who-Hash from Whoville, yet waking up to the sound of Cindy Lou Who and all her friends and relatives singing and celebrating anyway, the Grinch has an epiphany. “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” The Grinch’s heart “grew three sizes that day,” making him not so monstrous after all.
I implied at the beginning of this article that the monsters listed here wouldn’t be too ghastly. Darling Reader, I lied. You should now take the opportunity to fortify yourself with some chocolate before proceeding onward, because the Dementors from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and subsequent books in the series) are making their sinister presence known in our melange of monsters. According to Professor Remus Lupin, “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” According to the website Pottermore.com (and if you don’t know about this marvelous site, you must visit as soon as you finish reading this delightful and not frightful blog), Dementors are the true scary beasties of the mystical realm. Oh, it is also imperative to note that Dementors cannot be destroyed, but only driven away temporarily by using the Patronus Charm.
Yikes. Okay. Let’s flee the darkness of the Dementors and continue onward in our odyssey of oddities. Do you know the gruffalo? No? Oh! The Gruffalo is a children’s book written by Julia Donaldson that was inspired by a Chinese folk tale in which a fox borrows the terror of a tiger. In Donaldson’s story, a mouse is taking a walk in the woods and encounters several creatures—a fox, an owl, and a snake– who would like to make a meal out of him. The clever mouse declines the “invitations” to their homes by telling them that he already has lunch plans with his friend the gruffalo, who is a monster-like hybrid of half grizzly bear and half buffalo, whose favorite snack happens to be whichever animal that the mouse is trying to evade. Terrified by the description of the fictional beast, each animal flees. Mousie is so proud of himself, and taunts them: “Silly old fox/owl/snake, doesn’t he know? There’s no such thing as a gruffalo!” But here comes the plot twist! The mouse is shocked to encounter a real gruffalo, who threatens to eat him. Again, Mousie’s cunning saves the day. The mouse tells the gruffalo that he is the scariest monster in the forest, and proves it by leading the gruffalo past each creature that menaced him earlier, causing them to run away again when they see them walking together. The gruffalo is increasingly impressed by this, and is apparently clueless that *he* is the scary one, so the sly mouse further presses it to his advantage by threatening to eat the gruffalo, who then hightails it into the forest. Personally, I find this to be an excellent instructional tale for those among us who are physically diminutive (I’m 5’2”, Darling Reader) but make up for it in confidence.
So there you have it, Darling Reader, some charming-and not-alarming (well, with the exception of those foul Dementors) monsters who inhabit the pages of children’s books, and now your own imagination. Have a frighteningly good Fall, and don’t be afraid to keep exploring the vast forest of literature that is available to you at WCPL. Happy reading–
***The opinions and viewpoints expressed here are, as always, solely a product of the sometimes-disturbing contents of the author’s head and are in no way representative of the employees of WCPL, their families, or their Halloween-costumed housepets. The author also wishes it to be known that while the nickname “Scary Stacy” was bestowed upon her by some sorority sisters in college, she really is trying to mellow into a kinder, gentler sort of modern monster.
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Most of us vividly remember the morning of September 11, 2001. We remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. But today, many children were either born after that date or were too young to remember the attacks. For those kids, here are eleven children’s books about September 11, 2001.
It’s Still a Dog’s New York by Susan L. Roth (J E ROT)
Pepper and Rover, two New York dogs, are miserable after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Pepper feels overwhelmed with sadness and fear and anger. But in a tour of New York City, his friend Rover shows him that even though they’re sad, they can go on.
September Roses by Jeanette Winter (J E WIN)
On September 11, 2001, two sisters from South Africa are flying to New York City with 2,400 roses to be displayed at a flower show. When they land, they learn of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The sisters cannot go home, and they are stranded with boxes and boxes of roses at the airport. When a kind stranger offers them a place to stay, they decide to repay this kindness by arranging their roses in the shape of the fallen towers.
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (J F RHODES)
As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Deja’s fifth grade teacher at her new school begins a unit on the tragedy, but Deja doesn’t completely understand why. Not when she has more important things to worry about, like the fact that her family is living in a homeless shelter or why her father is so sad all the time. As she begins making friends at school for the first time in her life, Deja realizes just how much the Twin Towers affect her.
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis (J F TARSHIS)
When Lucas’s parents decide football is too dangerous and make him quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan: his Uncle Benny, who is a New York City firefighter. So the next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York. But just as Lucas arrives at his uncle’s firehouse, everything changes—and nothing will ever be the same again.
Cyber Spies and Secret Agents of Modern Times by Allison Lassieur (J 327.12 LAS)
The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, spurred the United States and other countries around the world to develop new spying techniques, new cutting-edge equipment, and new recruits to meet the challenge of 21st century enemies and threats. Learn about the exciting modern world of spies and secret agents.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy (J 327.676073 DEE)
Nine months after the September 11 attacks, an American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people in western Kenya. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American people, and he is here to accept it. Word of the gift will travel newswires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship.
What Were the Twin Towers? by Jim O’Conner (J 725.23097471 O’CO)
When the Twin Towers were built in 1973, they were billed as an architectural wonder. At 1,368 feet, they clocked in as the tallest buildings in the world and changed the New York City skyline dramatically. Offices and corporations moved into the towers—also known as the World Trade Center—and the buildings were seen as the economic hub of the world. But on September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack toppled the towers and changed our nation forever. Discover the whole story of the Twin Towers—from their ambitious construction to their tragic end.
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (J 791.34 GER)
In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the detail, daring, and drama of Petit’s feat.
September 11 Then and Now by Peter Benoit (J 973.931 BEN)
This nonfiction book in the True Book series for young readers recounts the events before, during, and after the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.
America Is Under Attack: The Day the Towers Fell: September 11, 2001 by Don Brown (J 973.931 BRO)
Straightforward and honest, this account of September 11, 2001, moves chronologically through the morning, from the terrorist plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the World Trade Center site in New York City to the collapse of the buildings.
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman (J 974.7 KAL)
A fireboat, launched in 1931, is retired after many years of fighting fires along the Hudson River but is saved from being scrapped and then called into service again on September 11, 2001.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Faith and Begorra! It’s March again, which brings us to think about spring, St. Patrick’s Day, and little people. Eh, what?? Little people, you say?
We all know about leprechauns and their pots of gold (if nothing else from the Lucky Charms cereal commercials): little men dressed mostly in green who’ve buried their treasure at the end of the rainbow and don’t want anyone to find it (an ironic choice). In past centuries many have tried to find these pots of gold at the end of rainbows, but most never did.
In Irish folklore, stories and tales of “the little people” abound. We’ve heard these names: leprechauns, banshees, pookas, and selkies. Most of the fantastic creatures from Irish folklore did not like humans. According to the legends, the first inhabitants of Ireland were the Fomorians, who were said to have been giant-like. They were supernatural beings who kept being pushed off the good land of Ireland by humans and the other supernatural race—the Tuatha de Dannann (or the Fae).
According to legend, both of these races were pushed out of Ireland by human invaders. The Fomorians and the Tuath de Dannann fought each other regularly, but the Formorians were ultimately defeated. The Fae were also defeated by humans, the early Irish, and were consigned to live underground, occasionally kidnapping children and replacing them with changelings. They were also known to take unwary humans underground to keep as entertainment for a while, which was always longer than the human expected. The Tuatha de Dannann became known as “The Little People” partly to reduce the terror of the stories told about them, and also because they became lost in the myths of Irish legends.
One of the most well-known of the Little People is the leprechaun. Anyone who has seen Darby O’Gill and the Little People knows what a leprechaun looks like; most people recognize them from Lucky Charms cereal and remember “They’re magically delicious!” (the Lucky Charms, not the leprechauns). But long ago, leprechauns weren’t nice or friendly. They knew all humans wanted their pot of gold, which as everyone knows is at the end of the rainbow. Here are a few things you probably never knew about them.
- Leprechauns are fairies. Fairies are the little people of Ireland and leprechauns are little people; therefore they are fairies
- If you are kind to them, they might give you a golden reward—you may find a golden coin for your trouble
- There are no female leprechauns
- Sean Connery may have won the role of James Bond after Albert (Cubby) and Jane Broccoli saw the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People, starring Connery. They thought he had the sex appeal needed to play Bond
- There is a supposed colony of them in Portland, Oregon in a tiny park dedicated to the magical creatures
- Sometimes they are dressed all in red—these may be their cousins, the clurichauns, though. These red garbed fairies are mean and drunk. Some say that the red clurichauns are what leprechauns become at night after a wee bit of whisky
- At Carlingford Mountain, there are supposed actual remains of a leprechaun under glass. A business man found a tiny suit, gold coins and some bones after hearing a scream. The earth was also scorched near the site
- They are protected under European law. The Carlingford site is considered a Heritage site, protecting the colony of leprechauns and the plants and animals that live in its vicinity
- Although the legend of the leprechaun is known mainly of Ireland, other countries have legends of small men. Although the gnome doesn’t wear all green, he fits the bill as a small magical creature
- Leprechaun means small body in Middle Irish—that fits, since they are small men
- The leprechaun is the mascot for the University of Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish!) now, but it wasn’t always.
- You can make a leprechaun trap—all you need to get started is something shiny to lure the little men. The traps can be simple as a shoebox, or elaborate as your family can imagine. Although no one has caught anything yet—that anyone knows of—it doesn’t hurt to try!
- An Irish Blessing for St. Patrick’s Day
Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through.
By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
This poem is also a candidate for the most printed, quoted, illustrated, and parodied poem in America. Most people, age six and above, are so familiar with the poem they can easily supply the words to the first lines:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the_____________;
Not a creature was stirring, not even a _______________.
If you identified the rhyming words “house,” and “mouse,” you are in a vast majority. The poem is best known as “The Night before Christmas.” It first appeared on the second page of the Sentinel newspaper in Troy (New York) on December 23, 1823. The fifty-six line poem was published anonymously with the title, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” It became an instant success as it spread in papers throughout the region.
Problems of Christmas Past
While “The Night before Christmas” continues to play an active role in shaping our Christmas imagination, this was not always the case. Christmas in early America was not always welcome, for its common celebration was very different from our current practices. In New England, for instance, Christmas was seldom celebrated for the first 200 years of settlement. There was instead a strong social hostility that suppressed, and sometimes outlawed, its observance. Historian Stephen Nissenbaum (University of Massachusetts) explains:
The holiday they suppressed was not what we probably mean when we think of ‘traditional’ Christmas. As we shall see, it involved behavior that most of us would find offensive and even shocking today – rowdy public displays of excessive eating and drinking, the mockery of established authority, aggressive begging (often with the threat of doing harm), even the boisterous invasion of wealthy homes.
It may seem odd that Christmas was ever celebrated in such a fashion. But there was good reason. December was the major ‘punctuation mark’ in the rhythmic cycle of work in northern agricultural societies, a time when there was a minimum of work to be performed. The deep freeze of midwinter had not yet set in; the work of gathering the harvest and preparing for winter was done; and there was plenty of newly-fermented beer or wine as well as meat from freshly slaughtered animals – meat that had to be consumed before it spoiled. St. Nicholas, for example, is associated with the Christmas season chiefly because his ‘name-day,’ December 6, coincided in many European countries with the end of the harvest and slaughter season.
Christmas was a social challenge in early American life. To be sure, there were churches and Christians in America who celebrated December 25th for religious reasons as they commemorated the birth of Christ The very name of the holiday (holy day) recalls Christ’s Mass for a reason. The basis for the practice goes far back to the early church fathers, beginning 200 A.D. and later, meaning that the date for Christmas as being December 25th was not likely the church simply displacing the pagan celebration of Sol Invictus, as is commonly claimed. The early church rationale is clearly otherwise, for their concern was to avoid pagan ways and persecution while reasoning to a common date for Christ’s conception and death. The early church thought Jesus was conceived at the same time of year he died, reflecting a symmetry in the redemption of the world. Since Jesus died during Passover time on the 25 March, they reckoned that Jesus was conceived on March 25. If Jesus were conceived at that time of month, his birth nine months later would be December 25th.
Even though the Christian religious element was certainly a part of Christ-mas, it was largely discounted by the more influential Protestant churches which refused to choose a date for Christ’s birth because the Bible is silent on the issue. Instead of Christmas, many focused their post-harvest celebrations on Thanksgiving and New Year’s. America in the early 1800s was ready for a new Christmas emphasis. This came in part from the poem, “The Night Before Christmas.”
By speaking of the night before Christmas, the poem takes the focus from common concerns with Christmas day itself. Taking one step back, it introduces players on the scene with a delight that ignites the imagination of children and adults alike. The poem simultaneously picks up emerging social developments of the day while also promoting the same. It gleefully reframes Christmas at just the right time, in just the right way, so that Christmas takes an amazing turn which continues through present day.
The Dutch Influence: Enter the Good Cheer of St. Nicholas
“The Night Before Christmas” centers on the activities of a pipe smoking “jolly old elf” identified throughout as St. Nicholas, or St. Nick. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care / in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” When St. Nick arrives with a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, the poet remarks, “With a little old driver, so lively and quick / I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.” After the toy laden sleigh is flown atop the roof, to the poet’s surprise, “Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.”
The poet then spends a full thirteen lines describing the appearance and mannerisms of St. Nick, concluding significantly: “He was chubby and plump, a right jolly elf / And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself / A wink of his eye and a twist of his head / soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;” The remark about “nothing to dread” is especially appropriate. What a different feeling from Christmas past when reveling home invaders made for tense and cheerless times. In contrast, St. Nicholas leaves gifts in all the stockings, and a parting word affirming the new Christmas tone: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
With all the talk about St. Nicholas, it would surprise no one that the poet had connections to Dutch Christmas traditions. In Europe of the 1500s the Protestant Reformation undermined the practice of honoring the saints. Yet Biography.com explains:
St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland.
The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname Sinterklaas, and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.
In America, St. Nicholas went through many transformations and eventually Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. Instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. . . . The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today.
So the “Night Before Christmas,” focused especially on “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” The real Saint Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. in a Greek speaking area of what is now southern Turkey. He lost his parents early on in an epidemic, but inherited their wealth. As a devout Christian, he took seriously Jesus’ words to “sell what you have and give to the poor.” Even though exiled and imprisoned for his faith during Roman Imperial persecution by Diocletian, Nicholas maintained an amazing generosity to those in need, especially extending concern and protection to children.
One story of his humble generosity tells how he responded to a poor man who had no dowry for his three daughters. This meant the daughters might be sold into slavery. Under the cover of darkness, so as not to broadcast his good deed, Nicholas threw three bags of gold through the poor man’s window, and they landed in and about stockings the three girls left by the fire to dry. This eventually led to hanging stockings “in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.”
In summation, turning again to the Christmas scholar Nissenbaum:
… The next incarnation of Christmas was taking shape. That incarnation engaged powerful new forces that were coming to dominate much of American society in the years after 1820—a heady brew that mixed a rapidly commercializing economy with a culture of domesticity centered on the well-being of children. Both elements were present in a new Christmas poem that soon came to define the rituals of the season in middle-class households throughout the United States. . . . . Although it was set on the night before Christmas, its subject was not the nativity but ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas.’ So it would be Santa Claus, not Jesus of Nazareth, whose influence finally succeeded in transforming Christmas from a season of misrule into a day of quieter family pleasures.
Ironic indeed. Yet there remains a subtle historical perspective unspoken by Nissenbaum. Not to be missed is the further irony of the subtle yet stupendous influence of the little Christ child lying in a manger on the youth from Turkey who became St. Nicholas. The saint who transformed Christmas would honestly say, he himself is a transformer only because of the impression on his heart by the Christ of Christmas Day. And St. Nicholas, both the historical and symbolic, would no doubt continue this hearty good will in wishing,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Note: “The Night Before Christmas” did not remain anonymous for long. It was later attributed to and claimed by Clement Clarke Moore, a scholar in New York City. However, the family of Henry Livingston eventually contested Moore’s claim, saying their father had written the poem, which they and a housekeeper heard at home as early as 1807. There have been detailed studies of word usage and phraseology by two scholars who separately conclude the internal evidence points best to Livingston as the author. But the external evidence has in the past led most to attribute the poem to Moore.
During the month of November, we asked our patrons to share what they were thankful for. The entire month our interactive display just kept growing and growing until we had to attach the responses to the furniture beneath the display. We had responses ranging everywhere from coffee, to politics, to sobriety, but by far what our patrons are most thankful for were their family and friends. It’s a good community we’re working with here.
Here’s the unedited list of all of the responses we received. Thank you for sharing with us.
- My family and friends
- My therapist
- God and Jesus
- Friends and family
- Post-it notes
- Books and libraries
- My family
- Friends and family
- That I have a family
- Family and friends
- For God and my family
- Cute boys
- Fuzzy friends (my pets)
- The hope that is found in Christ
- Food, God, hope and the Bible
- Quadruple shot espressos
- For god, family and my community
- That I don’t personally know any Trump supporters
- That God considers me
- Food, friends and family
- Doing great in class because of my teacher
- The gift of family and a fresh new year to live to the fullest
- For God and Jesus
- This library and electronics
- Friend of the Williamson County Public Library
- My health, my family, my friends and all of God’s blessings
- A loving mother and father
- Family (and my brother)
- My family and my life
- My beautiful friends, even though we are separate
- Friends and family
- Elie, Aiden, Asa and Ethan, rain and coffee
- My family and dog
- What I have and all my friends and family
- Harambe (the gorilla)
- For God and God alone
- This library
- For my wife and kids
- Jesus, love
- Pokemon Go
- A great book
- Small acts of kindness
- Good health, family and beautiful earth
- For food on my table, a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head; also that my Momma and Daddy love each other and we’re all healthy; I’m thankful that the sun came up this morning and that we live in a country with freedom for all, and definitely the pursuit of happiness
- My family, my jog, my boyfriend and Twenty-One Pilots
- Thankful god has blessed me to live 43 years. If he does nothing else for me, he has already done enough
- The library
- The amazing school I go to
- Books and the library
- For my family and friends, for God and Mary and Jesus
- For kindness in all its forms
- For my kids, family and the path Goad has for me and my dearest friend
- For wonderful parents and late husband
- For the right to be heard
- My cat, my jobs, my friends, my boyfriend, Dr. Brunner, the refugee center, Happy Thanksgiving!
- Very thankful for my mom
- My sobriety – one day at a time
- For my best friend
- For NPR, national public radio, its great broadcasts and programs and for the kind people and wonderful atmosphere of the Franklin (WC) public libraries
- Dolores and her wonderful staff and this beautiful library
- For good health and lots of love from my family and friends
- For my son! Family!
- For my family and other stuff
- For the ocean
- Our republic and the 2nd amendment and furry cats
- My diagnosis
- My awesome husband and kids
- God and everything he’s given me and my family and friends
- For god making us!
- My mother, my cat and Trader Joe’s mac n cheese
- New friends, music, beauty
- My family, a God who loves me, a great job, my cat (most of the time) and living in a democracy
- My mother and the love she has for her kids
- New friends and family in Franklin, TN
- Thanks to God for giving such a beautiful life
- For easy ways to cheer someone on a gloomy day
- For libraries!
- The power of prayer and my new job and friends, and dressing
- My family and friends
- Thankful that Christmas is coming soon
- For my mom and grandma and dad; I have three wonderful kids and their dad is OK, and to be alive and healthy and I love the Lord
- Our President and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama
- Random acts of kindness
- A good job and friends who I like to work with
- For education, parents and kids; for my life and such a loving family and friends, for everything and mom and dad; for all good things in this world and things that give hope that is light at the end of the tunnel
- My life and everything else
- For each new sunrise—each day is a new beginning
- For my friends and family, especially my son
- For my cat, Stevie, and Nintendo Funk
- For the opportunity to start over in some situations, righting your wrongs
- My friends, family and home/belongings
- My best friend, my family and boyfriend, music and marching band, my other close friends, reading and the library, God and how he saved me and how he still loves me unconditionally, even when I mess up, Camp Crestridge
- For my family and friends, for food and my safe home, for my city and each day of my life
- Being able to learn and grow. To do the best I can
- For my mother
- My family: mom, dad, brother, cousins, uncles, etc.
- For everything…family friends, scouts, God
- For gymnastics and family
- That I’m getting my gender reassignment surgery and moving to Canada
- That Trump is now our president
- For crunching leaves, laughter and the anticipation that Christmas is coming, and coffee
- Family and friends, and books
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
We all know about Christmas when we talk about December holidays. But there are other holidays around the world (and often celebrated in the United States) that you may not know about. You never know, you may want more days off to celebrate these holidays. Or a reason to celebrate in the first place!
Dec. 5 – The Day of the Ninja
This day was either created to commemorate Tom Cruise’s movie the Last Samurai (which had a ninja bit in it) or it was created by the Ninja Burger. Either way it really caught on, showing up in the nation’s consciousness by 2007. Now it has evolved to something similar to Talk Like a Pirate Day. So dress like a ninja on December 5 or watch your favorite ninja movie(s).
Dec. 6 – St. Nicholas’ Day
Yes, this is the same Nicholas that our Santa Claus comes from. Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop who legends say was a gift-giver, often putting coins in people’s shoes. Many people often left their shoes outside, so as not to track in outside dirt and keep the floors clean. It would have been easy to drop coins in shoes with no one watching. This day is most observed in the European countries (or families with European backgrounds here in the U.S.). Children often receive treats – including candy, cookies, small toys, or fruit – in stockings, socks, shoes or bags on December 6. Some churches have special services dedicated to the feast of St Nicholas on this day.
Dec. 10 – Dewey Decimal System Day
For library lovers everywhere, surprise! This day commemorates the birth of Melville Dewey (born Dec. 10), the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System of library classification, and if you’ve ever looked up books with a three digit number in a library, you were using the Dewey Decimal System. Maybe you’ve never thought about how you find a book in the library?? Dewey divided all of the world’s knowledge into ten sections, starting with 000 and ending with 900, using decimals to continue to group books into smaller and smaller subject categories, which would make longer and longer numbers (the longest so far being 331.892829225209712743090511). Anything that didn’t fit in any category was put in the 000s, which explains why computer books are there. They weren’t invented until many years after his death!
Dec. 13 – Saint Lucia’s Day
Saint Lucia (or Lucy) was a Christian martyr who according to legend brought food to Christians hiding in the caves and catacombs. She lit her way with a candle wreath, leaving her hands free to hold as much food as possible. This day is celebrated (or commemorated) mostly in the Scandinavian countries, where winter lasts longer; since she brought light, which is most appreciated on dark days. These days, girls are in white dresses with candle wreaths, and they bring cookies and pastries to everyone in the household.
Dec. 16-24 – Los Posadas
Los Posadas are held across Mexico and are becoming more and more popular in the United States. The word posada means inn or shelter, and these nine days commemorate and re-enact the arduous trip that Mary and Joseph took to get to Bethlehem. The celebration begins with a procession through the neighborhood where the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the procession. Each night they go to one designated home in the neighborhood. There is even a special song for this event—it is “La Cancion Para Pedir Posada”. When they are finally let in to the house, the celebration starts. It can be either a big party or a small gathering. Often children get to break piñatas to get candy. I’m sure they like this part!
Switching gears completely, and also on December 16 (this year, it always falls on the third Friday of December) is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Basically it is an excuse to have a party and wear the sweaters you are often gifted that you wouldn’t normally wear. National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (.com) has created a way you can make your party, either at home or at the office, a fundraising event. You can have fun and do good at the same time! In many countries, the holiday is associated with fundraising events for children’s charity.
Dec. 17 – Wright Brothers Day
In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed December 17 as Wright Brothers Day. This is the anniversary of the day they actually got their first plane prototype up in the air in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This plane, Flyer, managed to stay in the air 12 seconds and it flew close to 120 feet. It was definitely a cause for celebration.
Dec. 24-31 – Hanukkah
The most well-known holiday on this list is Hanukkah, which this year starts on December 24 and lasts eight days. Since the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, the date for the start of Hanukkah is different each year. This Festival of Lights commemorates a miraculous event in Jewish history. The Jews were rebelling against their overlords, the Seleucid Greeks, during the Maccabean Revolt—some of the Jews revolted because they didn’t want to worship idol gods. After the victorious Jews regained the Temple in Jerusalem, they rededicated it to God. When they checked the oil for lighting the menorah (the seven candle slotted candelabrum), they only had enough oil for one day. That oil lasted for eight days, by which time they had created a new supply of consecrated oil. The priests called this The Festival of Lights or Hanukkah (or Chanukah.) This is why menorahs have nine candles, eight for the eight day festival and the middle candle to light them with.
Dec. 26 – Boxing Day
Boxing Day is always the day after Christmas and is mainly celebrated in the countries of the United Kingdom. There are similar celebrations in Germany, though. Why Boxing Day? The day after Christmas was traditionally the day the collection boxes in the churches were opened and the money distributed to the poor. Some churches are still carrying on this tradition. In Holland, the boxes were ceramic, and called pigs—could this be where our term piggy bank comes from?? Also, servants were given the day off on this day, probably to be able to get a share of the collected coffers from the collection boxes. So many companies continued this tradition in Britain that December 26th is now an official public holiday. Boxing Day has become Britain’s Black Friday, but many people are unhappy with this.
*Boxing Day is also St. Stephen’s Day—the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas tells the story of the king who goes out to help a poor family on the Feast of Stephen, or St. Stephen’s Day.
Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Ron Karenga; his goal was to reconnect black Americans to their African roots and recognize their struggles as a people by building community. Derived from the Swahili term, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first-fruits,” Kwanzaa is based on African harvest celebrations. According to the official Kwanzaa Web site,
“Kwanzaa was created out of the philosophy of Kawaida, which is a cultural nationalist philosophy that argues that the key challenge in black people’s lives is the challenge of culture, and that what Africans must do is to discover and bring forth the best of their culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.”
Just as many African harvest celebrations run for seven days, Kwanzaa has seven principles known as the Nguzo Saba. They are umoja (unity); kujichagulia (self-determination); ujima (collective work and responsibility); ujamaa (cooperative economics); nia (purpose); kuumba (creativity); and imani (faith). Kwanzaa is not celebrated as much as it was in the 1960s and 70s, for several reasons. First is the overkill of Christmas celebrating, with presents and food, and the second is it’s a relatively recent creation, which means it doesn’t carry a long tradition of celebration behind it.