Monthly Archives: November 2014

AVOID THE CHAOS

 

I’m not going near one of the super stores this Friday, or on Thanksgiving Day either.  I live 90 miles from the nearest one so it’s not too hard to make that pledge, but even if one were next door I’d avoid it. As for shopping on Thanksgiving, forget it! The poor employees, who probably aren’t making enough to afford most of what they’re selling, need the day off to spend with their families, watch a football game, and relax.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, in part because it’s not sullied by rampant materialism, but recently stores are opening late on that day, too. I can imagine their opening hours creeping earlier and earlier until the holiday itself is co-opted by commercialism.

It was Abraham Lincoln who, in 1864 at the height of the Civil War, declared the last Thursday in November to be a National holiday, set aside for giving thanks. So we owe our 16th prez our thanks for Thanksgiving.

The idea of holiday shopping beginning the day after turkey day originated in 1924 when Macy’s held their first Thanksgiving Day parade. Retailers geared up for shoppers and looked forward to the sales generated between the holidays.

In 1939, Thanksgiving was due to fall on the fifth Thursday, November 30, thus shortening the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Merchants and shopkeepers petitioned President Roosevelt for help. Their timing was good as the U.S. was still struggling through the Great Depression, and FDR wanted to do whatever he could to stimulate the economy. So in October of that year, he moved Thanksgiving to the 4th Thursday in November.   Not too surprisingly, his declaration didn’t please everyone, and many people stuck to the old calendar until 1941 when Congress made it law.

The day after Thanksgiving was named Black Friday by the Philadelphia police because of the awful traffic jams created by shoppers. Retailers, understandably, weren’t crazy about that association, so they began to refer to it as the day they passed from red to black on their balance sheets. Although that isn’t true for many of the big retailers who are profitable all year, the idea has stuck.

Of course it’s not necessary to join the throngs clogging the streets and pushing and shoving their fellow bargain hunters. Anyone with a connection to the internet has probably figured out how to take advantage of the low prices on Black Friday without leaving home. Which brings us to my one day offer of my new Happiness Cards: They will be available at the LOW price of $10 a box on Friday, and I’ll pay the shipping. They make super gifts! What could be better than providing your friends and family with a beautiful and inspiring way to spread a little happiness in the New Year.

GIVING MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD

With the holidays just around the corner and Christmas trees showing up in stores before Halloween I am tempted to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head until the chaos subsides. But, according to many psychological studies and expert wisdom, I’d be missing out on the many benefits I’d get from participating in gift giving.

Most of us have experienced the high that can come from looking for, finding and presenting the perfect gift for a beloved family member or friend. And research has given a scientific validity to that high. In a New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, A Gift That Gives Right Back: The Giving Itself, she tells us that it’s the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the greater psychological benefits.

An important part of shopping for someone else is thinking about that person and what he/she needs or would like. Grabbing something off a shelf and rushing to the cashier at the last moment probably won’t produce much of a positive effect. It’s the “thinking about” before-hand that strengthens the connection between giver and receiver and results in good feelings for both. Maya Angelou wrote that “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed.”

Perhaps it is O. Henry’s poignant short story, The Gift of the Magi, that expresses the spirit of giving most eloquently. I had planned to outline the story here, but if you haven’t read it, it would be unkind of me to clue you in on the ending. It’s the ending that contains the message. Here’s a link to the story.

http://www.happinesscards.net

THE MEASURE OF OUR DAYS

THE MEASURE OF OUR DAYS

                 Calendars are mankind’s connection to the cosmos. The first known calendar, from around 8000 B.C.E., was found in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was based on the revolution of the moon around the earth, a lunar calendar. There are more than 40 calendars in use in the world today, many based on the cycles of the moon.  The Jewish and Chinese calendars are examples. An old Jewish book tells us that, “The moon was created for the counting of the days.”

It takes the earth 365.25 days to make its way around the sun. It’s that pesky quarter of a day that has resulted in some creative solutions by calendar-makers in the past. Some have ignored that quarter of a day discrepancy. The Islamic calendar is an example. I’ve always wondered why the Haj, an important Islamic pilgrimage, hasn’t been at the same time every year. Now I know. Some cultures have stuck in an extra few days or wiped out a few whenever things get too badly skewed.

In 1582 Pope Gregory and the Catholic Church reworked the Julian calendar, then in use, so that Easter coincided with spring by lopping off 10 days in October. Easter was sliding earlier and earlier in the year because of the way that quarter of a day was ignored by the calendar makers.  An international agreement in the 18th century established the Gregorian calendar as the worldwide method of dividing up time, although several religions and cultures hung onto their old calendars for religious celebrations and cultural holidays. It took 3 centuries of discussion and deliberation for the Gregorian calendar to be accepted by the worldwide community.

The ancient Mayans could have saved Pope Gregory and his buddies all that work. Their calendar is more accurate than is the Gregorian method of dividing up the year. In 10,000 years their calendar loses two days, whereas ours (Gregorian) gains 3. The Romans were in on the calendar game as well. They had only 354 days in their yearly calendar, but their names for the months were retained. Days of the week, with the exception of Saturday, are named after Saxon gods in our calendar, Saturday after the Roman god of agriculture.

How’s that for a bit of trivia?  But even trivia can have it’s uses, and perhaps what you learned will make buying your 2015 calendar a little more fun. No need to leave your home, either. Get yours in the menu bar above. Just click on 2015 Calendar.

MUSINGS ON HAPPINESS

When I started looking for quotes for my Happiness Cards, I began a Google search with the most obvious word, “happiness.”  From the quotations I found, it was apparent that we humans have been looking for, and doling out advice about happiness since the ancient Greeks. Epictetus wrote, “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things that are beyond the power of the will.” Easier said than done, Epictetus!

One can hardly pick up a popular magazine these days without seeing an article on happiness. Amazon lists more than 74,000 books with happiness in the title. I found 23 articles on the subject in the Huffington Post, everything from “Why Tens of Thousands of People Are Signing Up for This Online Course” (about happiness) by Carolyn Gregoire to a Tony Schwartz article, “Happiness Is Overrated.”

The New York Times ran an article by Arthur Brooks, “A Formula for Happiness,” that appeared in the December 14, 2013 issue. It sums up 40 years of research on the topic. About 50% of the determining factors of whether one is happy is something we can do nothing about – our genes. Another 40% or so is recent events, but the happiness acquired by getting that dream job or moving to California is short lived. The remaining 10 to 12%, made up of faith, family, community and work, is the one area where we have some control.

I have found that staying mindful of negative thoughts when they dominate my mind chatter, and replacing them with positive ones can do more to improve my mood than anything else I’ve tried. As Dale Carnegie said many years ago, “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It’s what you think about.” Amen to that!