Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Very wordy Sunday by guest Blogger Jim Cheney

The 9 Most Festive Christmas Towns in Pennsylvania

Thanks to the state’s rich German and religious heritage, there are few better places in the United States to spend the holiday season than Pennsylvania. Many communities around the state put on fantastic and festive events during the season, but few manage the keep the excitement going throughout the entire holiday season.
If you’re looking for somewhere great to visit this holiday season, start planning your travels to these amazingly festive holiday towns in Pennsylvania.


Most Christmasy towns in PA - Bethlehem
Bethlehem is known as “Christmas City USA.”
Dubbed “Christmas City USA,” the name of the community itself makes this Lehigh Valley city one of the most festive in the state. The city is home to two Christmas markets, the authentic Christmas City Village downtown and the somewhat overhyped Christkindlmarkt.
In addition to shopping, visitors can also tour the buildings of Historic Bethlehem and see their Christmas decorations and learn about the past residents of the area. The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet will also be putting on presentations of “The Nutcracker” on the campus of Lehigh University. There are even horse-drawn carriage rides through beautiful downtown Bethlehem.


Fleming's Christmas Tree Farm in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.
Visit the Christmas Tree Capital of the World and the birthplace of actor Jimmy Stewart.
The birthplace of actor Jimmy Stewart, Indiana looks just like the setting of his most famous film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The city comes alive each November and December with the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, which brings a parade, live music, and many exciting events and activities into downtown Indiana.
While there, don’t miss the fantastic Jimmy Stewart Museum, where you can learn about the actor’s life and legacy. Then, head out to a Christmas tree farm and see why the area is dubbed the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” Finally, return for some great shopping at the local merchants along Philadelphia Street.


The most christmasy towns in Pennsylvania
Downtown Philly comes alive during the holiday season.
Pennsylvania’s largest city features more than enough Christmas excitement to keep you occupied this holiday season. In fact, I’ve even written a whole post just about my favorite holiday destinations in the city.
Highlights include an amazing Christmas show at the world’s largest, functioning pipe organ. Then head over to the most authentic German Christmas market I’ve come across in the state.
Philadelphia is also home to the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country and the Mummersparade on New Year’s Day, the oldest folk festival in the nation.


I’ve been to many communities in Pennsylvania, but none have made me feel most nostalgic than Wellsboro. This north-central Pennsylvania town features an amazing downtown filled almost exclusively with local shops and restaurants. After dark, the 1920s theater and gas-powered street lamps give off a warm glow that’s sure to make you feel a little peace on earth.
The highlight of Wellsboro’s holiday celebrations is their Dickens of a Christmas festival held during the first weekend in December. This festival brings Victorian interpreters to the streets of the city, and you might even run into Scrooge himself.


Most Christmasy Towns in Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh
The Christmas Market in downtown Pittsburgh (Photo used courtesy of Discover the Burgh).
Pittsburgh pulls out all the stops during the holiday season. Starting with their Light Up Night in mid-November, the city comes alive with a Christmas market, ice skating rink, lights, and more. Phipps Conservatory decks their gardens for their Winter Flower Show, and the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh allow visitors to see how the holiday season is celebrated around the world.
The season culminates on New Year’s Eve with one of the best displays of fireworks in Pennsylvania.


The western PA city of Hermitage comes alive this time of year and makes a great holiday destination in Pennsylvania. The most popular place to visit during the holiday season is Kraynak’s. Their Christmasland is known throughout the state as being one of the most festival holiday displays in Pennsylvania. Stroll through the 300-foot long holiday spectacular and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.
Also not to be missed is the Festival of Trees at the Stewart House. Other attractions in the area worth visiting include Christmas at the Waugh House Museum, Christmas in the Park in nearby Grove City, or the Christmas tree in downtown Mercer.

Jim Thorpe

Christmas Towns in Pennsylvania - Jim Throe
Visit Jim Thorpe during the holiday season for Olde Time Christmas.
Another great holiday destination in Pennsylvania is the community of Jim Thorpe. Nestled among the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe features a quaint downtown that seems like a winter wonderland.
The town throws an Olde Time Christmas celebration during the first three weekends of December. Visitors can enjoy shopping in the downtown shops, take train rides with Santa, and enjoy live music.


Christmasy towns in PA - Hershey
Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark is a great place to enjoy the holiday season.
It should come as no surprise that the town known as the “Sweetest Place on Earth” and “Chocolatetown, USA” is also one of the best holiday destinations in Pennsylvania.
The star attraction in Hershey is Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark. The park is open for holiday festivities in November and December and features many of your favorite rides, along with special holiday decorations, live reindeer, and Santa. Nearby, visitors can drive through Holiday Sweet Lights, a two-mile driving trail through the countryside featuring hundreds of displays.


The holiday season in Greensburg means one thing: Overly’s Country Christmas. Begun in 1956, this holiday tradition has grown to become one of the largest holiday light displays in the state. Visitors flock to the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds just outside of Greensburg to see this light display, and proceeds go towards local children’s charities.
When visiting the area, don’t miss the holiday plays at both the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center and The Palace in Irwin.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

autumn crone

Each year I feel closer to this Crone, with most of my physical life behind  me and most of my spiritual life spread ahead of me.  The Crone who plants the seeds that are dormant under the winter's snow and then, when the earth stirs from it's slumber, they send out roots and shoots and grow, first into the maiden then the mother and finally the Crone.  Each generation of Crones who pass on the seeds of knowledge and wonder.   She is winter, when nothing appears to be growing, though below the ground the roots are reaching out and making a strong platform for the new green growth of  Spring.

With the final celebration of the harvests bounty over, and the first snowfall of the season upon us, it's time to look forward to the stillness of winter, nature is reduced to the essentials.  A good time to reconnect with our roots, and look forward.  Tell old stories and make new plans.   

The Crone !
"I am the silence of midnight, and black velvet skies.
I am the shadow of vision that tempers your eyes.
I am the darkness of secrets that draw the veil thin,...
The coldness of winter that shakes on your skin.

I am Grandmother, Weaver, Enchantress and Crone.
The knowledge of Justice that strikes at the bone.
Destruction is mine when its time comes to be:
Death to the living, who all come to me.
Mine is the hand of the spinning of fates.
Mine is the passage between life's fragile gates.
I am the giver of magickal sight,
The slight sliver of waning moonlight.
I am the branch of ageless worn trees.
Hear my voice and know me !
I am the Raven that flies through the woods,
Black silken wings opened up to the sky !
Bearer of closure, competition, and truth
Dreamscapes and Banshee am I !
Mine is the wisdom that comes in the dark.
Mine is the dying that calls to your flesh.
Mine are the hidden remains of your heart.
Mine is the mist that will take your last breath.
Give unto me what is old and outworn,
And I will return it with new life reborn.
Give me your sorrows, your sadness, your grief.
And in the dark hour, I will give thee relief !
I am the giver of death and rebirth,
Mine are the last things, before they are first.
See me in the shadows, and in the dark sea.
I am the Crone !
Hear my voice and know me!"

Author Unknown
Borrowed from: Claudia Andate

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Guest blogger Carolyn Emerick on Thanksgiving etc

Carolyn Emerick, one of my favorite writers, penned this tremendous article and just in case like me you are in a tryptophan stupor, but still feel the need to do something constructive,  please read this.

The First Thanksgiving in 1621, by JLG Ferris 1912
The First Thanksgiving in 1621, by JLG Ferris 1912

American Thanksgiving and the Wampanoag Tribes

The Roman goddess Abundantia with a cornucopia, by Peter Paul Rubens circa 1630

Thanksgiving Fact and Fiction

Nations need myths of national identity. They give citizens an emotional tie to their country. Stories about the birth of a nation provide legitimacy to the government.
This is why the Roman Empire relied on the myth of Romulus and Remus to lend credence to the city of Rome, and the Roman Empire by association.
Likewise, as long as human beings have depended on agriculture for our sustenance, we have celebrated harvest festivals. (Read about harvest fests around the world here)
It just so happens that the American national myth also happens to be a harvest festival. But, unlike the Remus and Romulas tale, ours does have some basis in fact. It is accounted for in primary documents written by Mayflower passengers (which you can read here and here).
It is actually true that the first settlers in the New World did feast with their Native American neighbors. It is not true that the British colonists were starving and desperate at this time, however. The pilgrims were fortunate to have been taken under the wing of local Natives who showed them the lay of the land and how to grow indigenous crops. We know from primary accounts that both the Natives and the settlers provided food for the first Thanksgiving feast.
This National Geographic article gives some history on Thanksgiving. However it says one thing that appears to be wrong. It says we only have one source documenting the first Thanksgiving. But this link from the Pilgrim Hall Museum lists three.
Primary documents testify that the Native guests brought venison to the feast, and the colonists brought their own vegetables and small game. The first Thanksgiving hosted approximately 50 English settlers and 90 Native Americans. (Another great source for Thanksgiving info is this paper by the Library of Congress.)

Abe Lincoln, the president who made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

A National Holiday

The first Thanksgiving feast was not repeated for over 200 years when a letter from Edward Winslow, an original Plymouth settler, was unearthed which detailed the great feast in 1863. It was so popular at the time that President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.
And, now we come full circle with the sentence above: Nations need myths of national identity. The United States was smack in the middle of Civil War when Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. He was in the midst of fighting to hold the country together and asserting that no state has the right to secede from the nation. So, a national foundation story was badly needed just then. How convenient that the document detailing Thanksgiving was discovered right at that moment.

The Landing of the Pilgrims by Henry Bacon

Wampanoag women | Source

First Encounters

The Native Americans who held territory in the area where the English settlers landed were of the Wampanoag Nation.
The fact that the Natives were welcoming and kind to the settlers in New England seems to be very well documented. However, both groups were naturally suspicious of one another.
Although the pilgrims seem to have chosen their landing point by sheer happenstance, the Plymouth Bay area had been visited and scouted in recent years before their landing. These visitors were not connected to the English pilgrims in any way. They were primarily French explorers and fur traders.
Previous visitors describe a bustling and prosperous settlement. Historians estimate that there may have been as many as 21,000 to 24,000 people living there in the years immediately before the arrival of the pilgrims. A horrific plague decimated their population.
Below is a drawing of the Native American settlement at Plymouth circa 1606.

Patuxet Villiage at Plymouth Bay, Early 17th Century

Plymouth, Massachusetts, harbor showing extensive Native American settlement (a sketch by Samuel de Champlain from his voyage of 1606) | Source

Depiction of plague among Native American people.

Confusing Historical Events

Some other instances from history may cause the confusion in making some people think that the English settlers caused the plague among the local Natives:
  • The Spanish Conquistadors brought disease to the Natives in South America and the Caribbean Islands.
  • And, a tale has been told of the U.S. government purposely using biological warfare to give smallpox to Native Americans later in the 1800s. But, this has been denounced as false, (see this paper from the University of Michigan).

Epidemics and Hardships

The Wampanoag were a Native American people living in the southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island area at the time of English settlement. They had been a prosperous community with a large population, but suffered an epidemic which killed off a substantial portion of the population immediately prior to the English landing at Plymouth.
This is another area of confusion regarding history. Some assume that these English settlers brought disease. But the Natives in the east coast experienced an epidemic before the pilgrims landed.
That doesn't leave Europeans off the hook completely, however. It is now thought that explorers and traders who visited the region, in the years before the pilgrims landed, brought rodents carrying disease which infected the local water. This is a hypothesis, but still not a provable fact. The truth is, we don't know for sure what the plague was. But you can see this scholarly article for more information on this theory.
The real history demonstrates that while the New England settlers had a difficult first winter, the Native Americans in the region also had recently suffered rough times. So, in this particular instance, both the Europeans and the Natives were willing to help each other. If only this was the case in other epochs of American history.


Tribal Structure

There is often a conflation of terms when discussing Native American tribal organization. But here are some points to help clarify:
  • Tribal structure varied by region. After all, life in the northeast was very different than life in the Great Plains, and so forth.
  • There tend to be three levels of societal structure in Native American society - Nation, Tribe, and Clan.
  • An Indian Nation is comprised of many tribes who share language and regional ties. For example, the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Nation is made up of the Seneca, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Oneida, and Cayuga tribes.
  • Tribes are subdivided by Clans. Clans are usually extended family groups. For this reason, many Native Clans have customs that forbid intermarriage within the same clan, to prevent inbreeding.
  • For example, the Seneca tribe is divided into eight clans named for animals, such as the Wolf Clan.
  • Tribes or clans not belonging to a nation were vulnerable to attack and absorption into neighboring tribes.

The Wampanoag Nation

The Wampanoag were a Native American people living in the southwestern portion of Massachusetts at the time that the English landed in Plymouth in November, 1620.
They also occupied the areas now known as Rhode Island, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard.
Like other Native groups in the region, the Wampanoag were a nation comprised of many tribes (see the description of tribal structure to the right).
The Patuxet tribe had recently occupied the area where the English landed. They named it Plymouth Bay, but it had been known as Patuxet village to the Wampanoag.
The great plague had completely decimated the Patuxet only a few years before the pilgrims landed. It was recorded in first hand accounts that crops were found growing that must have been planted just three or four years prior.
This situation, while devastating to the Wampanoag, was a boon for the pilgrims. When they landed, they encountered a land that was brimming with abundant food sources without anyone claiming territorial rights to it.

Wampanoag Nation Territory

Map of Wampanoag territory in the Massachusetts area. | Source

Tisquantum, or as he was called by the English, Squanto.

Squanto - the last Patuxet

There is one member of the Patuxet tribe you may already be familiar with. Tisquantum, more commonly known as Squanto, made his way into American history and legend.
He had previously been captured by European merchant vessels in the New World. He was sold into slavery and ended up in Spain. Squanto was eventually given his freedom. As a free man he booked passage to England where he was able to make his way back home.
Arriving back at his former village of Patuxet, he found that it had been ravaged by disease and there were no survivors. Squanto was the last living person in his tribe.
During his time with the English he learned the language. For this reason, Squanto was introduced to the English settlers at Plymouth as a translator. Despite his time as a slave and the horrific experience of returning home to find every last family member dead, Squanto agreed to help the colonists.
Not only did he work as a translator, he also taught the New England settlers how to cultivate corn, fertilize the land, and even helped then broker peace with other nearby tribes.

Bias and Balance

For most of America's history, interactions between Europeans and Native Americans has been told through a skewed lens that favored Europeans and marginalized Natives. Today, more than ever before, it has become mainstream to take a more honest look at history and consider the viewpoints of other groups of people.
However, what can sometimes happen is that the pendulum swings too far the other way. It is becoming the trend to demonize Europeans (sometimes deservedly, sometimes unfairly) while placing other groups on a pedestal that can sometimes be unrealistic.
I think it's important to tell all of history with an unbiased viewpoint that is fair to all cultures involved. Admittedly, this can be difficult to do. Especially when the other viewpoint is not well documented.

Vintage Thanksgiving card

The Wampanoag Perspective

Ramona Peters is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Mashpee, one of the tribes within the Wampanoag Nation. In 2012 she gave an interview to the website Indian Country Today Media Network called "What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale."
The interview seems to have occurred off the cuff, so she doesn't name sources for her information. However, her role as tribe historian lends credence to her opinion. And her account jives with another article from the same website which does list a primary source. The article is called "The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story," by Michelle Tirado.
The story described by both women, which was apparently recorded by Mayflower pilgrim Edward Winslow, is slightly different than the version that has slipped into national myth.

They say what really happened was that after such a difficult first winter, the pilgrims were celebrating a successful harvest. Where the story deviates is that in this version the settlers had not invited the Wampanoag to the party.
The Wampanoag had heard an unusual amount of gunshot going off, and came by to check it out. The gunshots were being fired off partly due to hunting for the feast, but also in reckless revelry of celebration. Being that the settlers and the Wampanoag had signed an agreement to defend one another, the Wampanoag tribe sent armed warriors to investigate the gunshot.
Due to their immense debt to the Natives for teaching them the lay of the land and protecting them from other tribes who might have been hostile to the English, the Wampanoag were welcomed and invited to stay. Since the warriors outnumbered colonists almost two to one, they sent some of their men out hunting to contribute to the feast.

Daily Gratitude

“Every day (is) a day of thanksgiving to the Wampanoag . . .(We) give thanks to the dawn of the new day, at the end of the day, to the sun, to the moon, for rain for helping crops grow. . . There (is) always something to be thankful for. .. Giving thanks comes naturally for the Wampanoag.”
- Gladys Widdiss, Wampanoag tribal elder.

Native American Feelings on Thanksgiving

In the same interview, Ramona Peters goes on to explain how she, as a Native American, feels about the Thanksgiving holiday.
In the days preceding Thanksgiving each year, articles flood the internet discussing the dark side of Thanksgiving. They report that to Native Americans, it is a Day of Mourning. Many of these articles are very harsh in their judgement of the English pilgrims.
Ramona Peters doesn't express a strong negative opinion in her interview, however. Yet, she does point out a few facts that she feels it is important to note:
  • Traditionally, when the Thanksgiving story is told, the Wampanoag Nation goes unnamed. They are generically referred to simply as Native Americans.
  • Even though the Native Americans are present in the story, the only god mentioned in the Thanksgiving story is the Christian God. The Wampanoag warriors would have given thanks in their own way. She does not go into great detail about Wampanoag spiritual beliefs here, but she does mention Mother Nature and a Creator.
  • Apart from thanking Mother Nature, Ms. Peters says that the Wampanoag would have given thanks to their human mothers as well.

Vintage Thanksgiving card.

Gratitude in Native Spirituality

From these and other sources we learn that "thanksgiving" was a regular part of life for many Native American peoples. In the Northeast, lifestyles typically consisted of a combination of hunting, fishing, foraging, and agriculture.
The cosmological outlook was very similar to the indigenous European (pagan) worldview. In societies that were tied so intricately to the Earth, spirits of the land, animals, and elements were immensely important. Offerings would be given to the Earth in gratitude for her abundance.
This creates a reciprocal relationship between humankind and the Earth. Since so much emphasis is placed upon the Earth, and gratitude is an important feature of spirituality, the notion of giving thanks occurs in tune with agricultural cycles.
In some Native American cultures, thanksgiving is offered regularly, independently of agriculture. For example, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) have a Thanksgiving Address which is recited at tribal gatherings, celebrations, or even as a daily affirmation or mantra.

for this I am truely grateful

Happy Turkey Day!!

Be careful out there on the highways and byways, this is the busiest travel day of the year.   Also be careful in the Malls, don't get carried away.  No matter how mightily you are temped to do so.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day there are is a lot of discussion of what people are grateful for. I think this should be going on all year, but then that's just my opinion, so anyway this year I decided to be prepared with an answer.   An answer beyond the standard health, wealth and family. OK well mat-be not so much, because I am grateful for all the people who are part of my life, but not so much for the crabby ones.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Thinking time has come
reflect and plan, snow piles up
one measures the year

Friday, November 4, 2016

Haiku~~a path

mossy stones, bright leaves
on the path toward springtime
crows fly overhead

Silent Sunday with animals