Monday, December 30, 2013

New Years From A To Z

Dear George,
I’d say life is more meaningful when we know as much as possible about the holidays we’re celebrating.  New Years would be a perfect example.  It goes back about 4000 years to the ancient Babylonians, so there are centuries and  centuries of information to be assimilated.  At first this seems like a very difficult task, it but becomes much clearer and more manageable when we approach it alphabetically.  Here are 26 important things know about New Years from A to Z.

  • Auld Lang Syne: The Scottish song was written by Robert Burns in the 1700's and literally means "old long since," referring to the remembrance of old friends.
  • Black-eyed peas: Many in the southeastern U.S. eat black-eyed peas on New Year's because they are believed to bring good luck.  According to legend, black-eyed peas were originally cattle food in the Old South.  However when residents faced starvation during the Civil War’s 40-day Battle of Vicksburg they had no choice but to eat black-eyed peas, thus starting a southern tradition.     
  • Caesar: Julius Caesar established January 1 as the first day of the new year in 46 B.C.
  • Drunk driving: New Year’s Day is the worst day of the year for fatal crashes involving drunk drivers.  Half of fatal crashes in the U.S. on this date involve a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater.    
  • Emancipation: On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln declared slavery unlawful in the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Facebook:  750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook on the New Year’s weekend in 2010.   
  • Gunfire: Shooting guns in the air is a widespread way of celebrating New Years.  In Puerto Rico about 25 people are injured and 2 people die each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.   
  • Hime-Hajime: A Japanese expression for the first time a couple has sex after the new year.  “Hime” means “young lady” or “princess”, and “Hajime” means “beginning”.
  • Immigration:  On Jan . 1, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15-year-old Irish girl, was the first of over 12 million immigrants to pass through Ellis Island.
  • Janus: January is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of gates and doors.  One of Janus’s two faces looks forward; the other, backward.  Legends held that at midnight on the last day of December Janus would see the past year and the new year at the same time.
  • Kissing:  44% of American adults plan to kiss someone at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
  • Las Vegas: Tickets for the New Year’s Eve Party at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas start at $10,000 per person.   
  • Mummers' Parade:             10,000 Philadelphians march through the city in elaborate costumes in the Mummers' Parade on New Year's Day.                                                 
  • Noise: Welcoming the new year with noisemakers goes back to ancient times when it was felt that noise scared off evil spirits.  In Denmark people throw pieces of broken pottery against the sides of friends’ houses.  In Japan dancers go from house to house, making strange noises and pounding bamboo sticks.
  • Old New Year:  January 1 is officially New Year’s Day in Russia and other Eastern European countries.  However, the Russian Orthodox Church has continued to use the Julian calendar in which Jan. 13 is the beginning of the new year.  Many orthodox people celebrate New Years on both Jan. 1 and Jan. 13.
  • One Liner: Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.
  • Passing out:  40% of young people (18-25) report that they have passed out before midnight on New Year’s Eve.  25% say they’ve gotten into a fight; 40% have woken up with an injury.
  • Quotes (about New Year's Eve): "I get half a million just to show up at parties.  My life is, like, really, really fun."  (Paris Hilton)
  • Resolutions: The most popular New Year's resolution is to lose weight.  About 60% of Americans make this resolution each year.  8% are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution.  
  • Superstitions: In Brazil people who live near the beach used to jump seven times into the waves after midnight because doing so brings wealth.  In Spain people eat twelve grapes at midnight in order to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.  
  • Times Square Ball:  In a tradition that began in 1907, about a million people gather in Times Square on New Year's Eve to watch the ball drop.  The current ball, made by Waterford Crystal, weighs 11,875 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter, is covered with 2,688 crystals. and is worth about $2 million.
  • Underwear: An old-time Spanish tradition  says that wearing yellow underwear on New Years leads to wealth and success, while red underwear means a year of passion and romance. 
  • Voodoo New Year:  The Voodoo New Year in Benin features a witchcraft festival in which men slash their bodies with knives and pour alcohol into the wounds.
  • “Wrong Way” Riegels:  Recovering a fumble in the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day, 1929, U. Cal-Berkeley center Roy Riegels ran 60 yards the wrong way, resulting in Georgia Tech's victory by a score of 8-7.
  • Xin nian…: “Happy New Year” in Mandarin Chinese is “Xin nian yu juai.”  In Swedish, “Gott Nytt Ar.”  In Laotian, “Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab.”
  • Y2K:  Experts prophesied worldwide computer catastrophes because of computers being programmed to record dates using only two digits (e.g., 99) instead of 4 (e.g., 1999), thus meaning that the year 2000 would incorrectly register as 1900.  Despite a few scattered problems, New Year 2000 came and went without major digital disasters.  
  • Zydeco: Chubby Carrier headlines the zydeco party at New Orlean's Hyatt Regency on New Year's Eve. 


G-mail Comments
-Linda K-C (12-31):  Great post, as always. 
-Gayle C-L (12-30): David, Awesome as usual!!   Have a great New Year.  Lots of love.  G
-Jennifer M (12-30):  Good work finding something for every letter!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Beauty

Dear George,
A few hundred other camera bugs and I took in the annual holiday show at the Krohn Conservatory yesterday afternoon.  Flowers, trains, models of Cincinnati architecture.  It puts one in a holiday mood.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A River House Christmas Ditty

Cousins at Christmas: Thor, John, Peter, Dave, Ann, Steve, Vicki, Irish Setter Mike

Dear George,
Every year Christmas Eve takes me back nostalgically to family celebrations at our house on Riverside Boulevard in Menominee.  Friends would visit all week long, Vic would spray paint an evergreen at the auto body shop, our extended family would gather for a big party on Christmas Eve, Doris would prepare a holiday banquet, and we’d all wait anxiously for Santa.  It recently struck me that this grand family occasion has never been set to music. The lyrics below are written to be sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”  “Jingle Bells”, of course, starts with an initial verse (“Dashing through the snow / In a one-horse open sleigh / O’er the fields we go …etc.), followed by the chorus (“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way…etc.).  Then another verse (“A day or two ago…”), a repetition of the chorus, etc.  If you want to play the tune on the piano while you sing, the musical score is available at  Here’s my revised Menominee family version.

When we were little kids
And lived on Riverside
December was the best
Because of Yuletide

We all believed in Santa
He lives at the North Pole
We learned if kiddies misbehaved
They’d get a lump of coal

Norway pines
River ice
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

My dad would take us kids
We’d walk across the road
He’d pick a tall blue spruce
To home the tree we towed

Then to the body shop
They’d spray it blue or pink
Aunt Martha was perplexed
She knew not what to think

Norway pines
Colored lights
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

Christmas was our party time
Friends stopped by every day
The adults joked and talked
The kids played on the bay

My parents had great friends
O’Haras, Worths, and Mars
Sawyers, Caleys, St. Peters too
The Jacobsen girls were stars

Norway pines
Acorn fights
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

Our family met on Christmas Eve
We played games with our cousins
The grownups got all cheery
Drinking Swedish glug by the dozens

My uncles Ralph and Kent
Brought drugstore samples for all
Uncle Karl brought furs and jewels
Aunt Millie spoke in a drawl

Norway pines
Popcorn strings
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

My mother cooked a feast
Roast turkey, brussel sprouts
About those sweet potatoes
I always had my doubts

Dessert would be schaum torte
Such an incredible dish
How did Doris make it?
Perhaps she boiled a fish

Norway pines
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

We’d leap right up at sunrise
And rush down to the tree
The presents were in piles
For Pete, Steve, Vick, and me

Roller skates, water paints
Checker boards and trains
Lincoln logs and teddy bears
It frazzled our kiddie brains

Norway pines
Santa we love you
All those gifts, it’s just so fine
And we got some ice cream too

Now that I’m grown up
A thought occurs to me
It wasn’t even Santa
Who brought us all that glee

My parents kept it hidden
And worked behind the scenes
They never took the credit
But we know what it means

Norway pines
River ice
Sweet parents we love you
All your gifts, they were so fine
You gave us ice cream too-ooh
Norway pines
River ice
Sweet parents we love you
All your gifts, they were so fine
And you gave us ice cream too!

G-Mail Comments

-JML (12-27): That's great dad. Forgot about your painted trees. Merry Christmas
-Donna D (12-25): David, this brought a joyous tear to my eye:). Did u cry as u wrote this? Sooo fun.... Makes ur family Christmas sound like every kids (and adults) dream, wonderful!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Great Cincinnati Artists: Elizabeth Nourse

The First Communion.  (1895) 

Dear George,
Yesterday Katja and I went to see the Elizabeth Nourse exhibition at the Art Museum, and we loved it.  It was assembled to celebrate the museum’s recent acquisition of Nourse’s 1895 painting, “The First Communion”.  The exhibit included fourteen paintings by the artist from their holdings, along with several loans from local collections.  Elizabeth Nourse is regarded historically as Cincinnati’s most important woman artist, and we’ve enjoyed her works over the years. 

According to various sources listed below, Elizabeth Nourse was born in Mt. Healthy on Oct. 26, 1859, the youngest (along with her twin sister Adelaide) of ten children in a Catholic family.  Cincinnati at that time was a western outpost with a population of only 25,000.  At age 15 Nourse became a student at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati, one of the first women admitted to Thomas Satterwhite Noble’s new women’s life class.  In addition to drawing and painting, Nourse studied wood carving, engraving, and china painting.  She continued as a student at the McMicken School for seven years, graduating in 1880.  Offered a teaching position there, she refused because of her determination to become a professional artist.  Her parents died in 1882 when she was 23, and, assisted by a patron, she went to New York City to continue her training, participating for a short time in the Art Students League.  She returned to Cincinnati the following year, making her living painting portraits and doing murals in private residences.  For several years she spent her summers doing watercolor landscapes in the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee.    

La Mere

Nourse moved to Paris in 1887 with her older sister Louise, attending Académie Julian and studying under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre.  Upon finishing her studies, she opened her own studio in Paris, and she lived in Paris for the rest of her life.  In 1888 she had her first major exhibition at the New Salon (the Societé Nationale des Artistes Français).  Her first salon painting, La Mére, eventually hung in Woodrow Wilson’s study at Princeton.  Nourse soon became the second American woman to be invited to become a member of the society.  This was one of the two major salons in Paris, the international center of the art world in the early twentieth century.  Nourse was also regularly invited to enter international expositions in the U.S., and she won numerous awards at Chicago, San Francisco, Saint Louis, and Nashville, as well as contributing to juried exhibitions at the Chicago Art Institute, the Carnegie Institute, the Corcoran Gallery, and other major venues.  In 1893 the Cincinnati Art Museum held a solo exhibition of her works, including 102 pictures and sketches in oil, watercolor, pastel, and pencil. 
Along with Mary Cassatt and Cecilia Beaux, she was one of the few women painters to achieve international recognition in the pre-World War I era, a time when critics and exhibition jurors were almost entirely men.  With the outbreak of World War I, most American expatriates returned home, but Nourse and her sister Louise remained in Paris, working tirelessly to assist refugees and raise money for clothing, food, and coal.      

Nourse’s paintings were frequently depictions of the French rural countryside and of peasant women.  Her paintings of women centered on everyday life – hard work, caring for children, rest at day’s end.  She had an operation for breast cancer in 1920.  By 1924 Nourse stopped exhibiting and painted only for her own pleasure.  Her cancer returned in 1937, and she died on Oct. 8, 1938.  Here are some of Elizabeth Nourse’s best-known works, several of which are on permanent display at the Cincinnati Art Museum and are included in the current show.  The exhibition continues through March 2nd and is well worth a visit.  

Self-Portrait.  (1892) 

Two Dutch Children.  (Undated)

Peasant Women of Borst.  (1891)

Normandy Peasant Woman and Her Child.  (1900) 

Head of an Algerian – Moorish Prince.  (1897)

The New Shoe.  (1910)

Among Neighbours. (1889) 

In the Church at Volendam.  (1892)

SOURCES:, “Elizabeth Nourse (1860-1938);, “Elizabeth Nourse”;, “Elizabeth Nourse, Rites of Passage”;, “Elizabeth Nourse Found Greatest Fame in Paris”;, “Elizabeth Nourse: Cincinnati’s Most Famous Woman Artist” (by Mary Alice Heekin Burke);, “Elizabeth Nourse” 

G-mail Comments
-Ami G (12-21): These are beauties!  Thanks.
-Gayle C-L (12-20): George, This is Most Fascinating!!!  She is an Icon!
As Always ,, Thank you for sharing :)
-Linda C (12-20): Very interesting, your blog is so interesting.  Looking for thanksgiving blog from Nola to send to jayme, loved it, could you resend?