December 2007 Issue
...But There's Always Mistletoe!!
I've been facincated by mistletoe for most of my life. I experienced my very first kiss because I hung around under an archway festooned with the plant at a holiday party, when I was about 14. Naturally, I view this arboreal parasite with a predisposition to fondness.
Imagine my surprise when, after spending much of my life thinking that this smooch-producing sprig must come from some Arctic neighborhood near Santa's workshop, I learned that it grows wild in a broad and much more tropical climate from New Jersey to Florida, and all across the country! I've been driving past mistletoe my whole life and never realized it was there.
Now that the leaves are off the trees, look at the tallest of them... especially oaks... and look closely at what you probably assumed were squirrel nests; those darker clumps of stuff stuck in the upper branches. If you can see daylight through the clump, it's not a nest. If you can see distinctly green foliage in the clump (and the tree is not a conifer) you're looking at mistletoe! It is most prevalent near steams and other natural sources of water. There are hundreds of trees with mistletoe along the beltway around Charlotte, NC
I remember some of our rural neghbors, when I was living in Virginia years ago, going out to "harvest" mistletoe around the holidays. They'd haul out their shotguns and blast away with bird-shot at the leafy green clumps in the tree tops, knocking them to the ground. A few snips and some trimming, and they'd have dozens of little lapel sprigs to sell by the roadside for a dollar or two each.
A word of caution... Mistletoe is poisonous! Keep it away from food, pets, kids, etc. What is it with these holiday plants, anyway? Poinsettias, mistletoe, holly.... Don't eat the decorations!!!
As a kid, I used to enjoy listening to the radio when the government would use it's powerful national defense systems to "track" Santa's annual flight from the North Pole to deliver toys to kids around the world. It was reassuring to know that the old guy was being watched over, just in case of trouble.
Times change, and yet some things don't change all that much. This year, kids can track Santa through the NORAD web site. Radios have given way to computers, but the military is still on the job reassuring kids that Santa and the reindeer are on their way!
Our Double Holiday
This is an especially fun time of year for Irene and me because we get to celebrate twice as much as most couples. I was raised as a Protestant and Irene is Jewish, so we share both Christmas and Chanukah with each other.
I find a lot of common ground in our faiths... Contributing to and sharing with the common goodness of people, respecting our Creator, and helping others less fortunate than ourselves. I don't think it matters if you're called a "Christian" or a "mensch", as long as you act like one!
This is where I throw in a plug for my VO talents. I'm usually cast as the generic announcer: thunder-throat, VOG, etc., but this holiday season I've got some TV ads for AMC Wireless featuring a "Ben Stein" style... deadpan, un-inflected, almost bored-sounding. Now, that's a switch!!
Holiday Punch Anyone?
This one is great, but can pack a wicked "punch" for anyone not used to sparring with alcohol. So be careful..
Fill a punch bowl half-way with frozen strawberries and slices of bananas, oranges, lemons, and whatever other fruit strikes your fancy. Add blocks of ice and fill the rest of the bowl with equal parts club soda and Tawny Port wine (cheap is good!)
If you want to see what your friends are like without inhibitions or judgment, add a pint of vodka to the mix. Just put away the cameras first!