Happy Boxing Day 2008

It’s the day after Christmas and our friends in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries in the commonwealth are celebrating Boxing Day.

Whatever the true origin of the holiday, it’s clear that it was associated with the practice of gift-giving. In that sense, it parallels Christmas with its long tradition of exchanging gifts, though Boxing Day involves giving, not to family and friends, but to those less fortunate than ourselves. – Vancouver Sun

For us in the U.S. spend the day after Christmas either shopping for after-Christmas bargains, visiting friends, travelling home, or trying to get the house back in order after yesterday’s festivities.

Although we emphasize giving to the needy preceding Christmas, I think our British friends have something here, but I wonder if it was discontinue in the U.S. in the 1700’s as a way to separate from the homeland.

So below are two links to learn more about Boxing Day and a jolly Christmas song to have as background music while eating leftovers.

An Incredible Gift of Music

About 5 years ago our church started a chime choir for adults. Since my wife wanted to get back into music, she jumped at the opportunity, and I joined her the following week to raise the total membership to five. Although all of us had musical backgrounds, none of us had experience with chimes or bells. I still recall our first “performance” as each of us had 8-10 chimes in front of us to play — and we didn’t have experience!

We’ve steady grown through the years in both numbers and abilities – and have played some very interesting pieces. Today, there are about a dozen of us and we’ve transitioned into bells and bells with chimes. For those familiar with handbell/chime music, we play level 2+ and level 3 pieces. On the other hand, we’re not the Raleigh Ringers!

The Christmas season brings us beautiful music, and time has brought us the contemporary, moving sounds of Manheim Steamroller and the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO).  In the spirit of Santa and as my holiday gift to you, sit back, enjoy, and marvel watching the Raleigh Ringers play a fast TSO song that you probably know (Wizards in Winter). Meanwhile, it’s time to take a few days off.

Merry Christmas to my Christian readers; and to others, happy holidays in the spirit of the greeting you prefer.

Looking Forward to Christmas Eve

100pixelmod32Probably my favorite day of the year, Christmas Eve is just one day away. More specifically, it’s the evening and night I enjoy the most. After weeks of holiday ads, attending events, dealing with traffic in shopping areas, long checkout lines along with countless other things to do, nightfall on Christmas Eve suddenly calms the holiday madness.

I’m not talking about presents or a family event; but my feeling will start around 8:00 pm; that’s when we leave to go to church. The roads aren’t crowded; many of the closed stores are fronted by empty parking lots; neighborhood lights are on; and light Christmas music will be on my car radio for that 15-minute journey.

My wife and I play in a bell & chimes choir at church; thus we’ll be there for two services. Whether the celebratory sounds of Joy to the World or the calm nature of Silent Night by candlelight, Christmas music at church is always moving. Besides, our music director always coordinates a wonderful music event.

We’ll leave church around 12:15-12:30 am feeling spiritually refreshed, but physically tired. Easy Christmas music will play while on the return trip home; and yes, a calmer drive than before. I’ll feel sad for the convenient store workers and wonder why the owners can’t close for the night.

Christmas Eve is simply the one night of the year when society seems to slow down – and I like that.

Two Wonderful Christmas Gifts

The holiday season is a great time for special stories – let alone when young people are involved. Although youth still have so much to learn, some of their stories continue to amaze me because these youngsters are well beyond their years and model behavior for everyone.

At Thanksgiving I did several posts on Brendan Foster. Today I bring attention to Nick Nelson and Adam Bender. Watch, marvel, and learn from these two young boys who serve as examples of life.

Nick Nelson and Adam Bender

NFL’s Battle of Ohio is now a Skirmish

helmetsThe Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns meet today for the 71st time in the NFL version of The Battle of Ohio. These two rivals first started playing in 1970 as part of the AFL-NFL merger. For those who don’t recall those days, in order to balance the number of teams in the two conferences, the NFL Browns, Steelers, and Colts agreed to move to the new-AFC; hence the start of the Cincinnati-Cleveland-Pittsburgh divisional games. Of course the Browns and Steelers already had a storied, fierce rivalry.

Besides being in-state foes, the rivalry had added significance as Bengal owner and founder Paul Brown was a former Cleveland head coach who was fired by Art Modell. Yes, there are Clevelanders to this day who still criticize that move. Surely you don’t think the use of black and brown to differentiate their common orange is a matter of coincidence?

Browns-Bengals games were a circled date on the calendar. Fans of each team live in the other’s city, and marriages are often divided on this rivalry – as it is in this house. Many years ago we were in Cleveland for a Thursday night game that served as the gateway event for my sister-in-law’s wedding that weekend. Of course there weren’t too many of we Bengal fans at that wedding!

The cities are culturally different too. Cleveland is rich with blue-collar backgrounds from eastern European heritage while Cincinnati was a blend of both the north and the south. Cleveland was built on heavy industrial while Cincinnati’s roots are in stockyards. Cincinnati is a GOP stronghold, while Cleveland is more Democratic. Cleveland has a lake; Cincinnati a river. Of course former Bengal coach Sam Wyche helped emphasize a difference with his PA comments.

The late 70s and 1980s were great years for this rivalry. Quarterbacks as Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, Brian Sipe, and Bernie Koser led some very good teams. Browns fans learned to cringe on the thought of the Anderson to Isaac Curtis combination, while Bengal fans would hold their breath if the Cardiac Kids had the ball in the final two minutes.

The 1990s brought us where we are today. With only one winning season since 1990, the Bengals struggle. Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season and the Browns have struggled since returning in 1999.

It’s all sad. It’s no longer a national TV marquee game. Game week no longer dominates the local media. Heck, the game was one page 4 in Saturday’s Cincinnati Enquirer Sports Section.

Many fans on both sides have lost interest; including our house. Sundays haven’t meant the same for my wife since 1995 and she still scoffs at any mention of Art Modell; meanwhile Bengal futility has caused me to make better use of my time.

The series is tied at 35 wins apiece, so today’s winning team will give one team the series lead. If we’re home this afternoon, the game will be on, but it won’t be the focal point of the day. When the winner says something to the other, the other will still sneer, but will also give a “so what/big deal” type of response because all of us yearn for what was – the days of two very competitive teams that needed to win as part of their drive to the playoffs.