At Christmas I had a Christmas calamity. I had this beautiful number 3 crock that I use as a planter. I had bought it from the Smithfield Barn a few years ago. It always lived inside the garage against the wall in the winter.
Right before Christmas, when my stepson was pulling one of the cars into the garage, he accidentally smashed it with his tire. I was pretty upset. I love my old crocks.
So I contacted my friends who are in the business of old things that I buy things from and said to let me know if you see an old number 3 crock I’ve had a calamity.
Today I got a text message from one of the folks at Sales by Helen. They were telling me my package was going to be dropped off soon. So I texted back because I hadn’t bought anything. And they said no you’re being gifted something. So then I wondered who was still spreading Christmas cheer right up to the end of Christmas season – well it is not Epiphany quite yet.
Well, it’s John Romani, who owns Sales by Helen.
A perfect old number 3 crock with a note:
I am totally in awe of the gesture of kindness. This is a small business owner in a very uncertain economy and this is why I support local small businesses. No, not for free stuff because they will tell you I am not a free stuff blogger.
This is quintessential of local small businesses. They know their customers, and they remember what their customers are looking for. They are our neighbors and friends as well.
Sales By Helen is a business I have supported since I first went to a Helen sale and met John’s mom Helen, years ago. I have all the things that I bought over the years still today. Not only do they do house sales and estate sales, but they also have online shopping available. And there is complementary delivery within a certain area and shipping.
A random act of kindness on a cloudy day. Thanks John and Company ❤️
About two years ago my friend David randomly (and finally) gave me his grandmother’s poundcake recipe. I hadn’t made it yet until today, and finally did so as I was thinking about him this morning.
We lost David this year to a tragic, and senseless accident caused by a stranger. He was literally hit by a car as a pedestrian. It was a particularly hard lost process, because this was one of my oldest friends. He was also just a tremendous human being, and one of those genuinely good people you feel very fortunate to have known.
I always think of David around Christmas, because we used to go for decades with our parents to the same Christmas party on Christmas Eve. We would congregate in the host’s library away from all the adults and hang out.
We also went to JDA and SDA together, AKA Junior and Senior Dancing Assemblies for those of you Who did not grow up in the Main Line area. I always wondered if they ever found the remains of old stale pretzels we shoved down the heating grates at Merion Tribute House in the lobby. We shared many laughs there as Mrs. Farber in her gold lamé evening gowns, and her aqua net shellacked hair tried to civilize all of us. Mostly for all of us, it was like a bloodsport, trying to make her blow her stack at every dance we went to.
We always stayed friends, losing a connection for a year or two here or there as we grew up and lives took us to different states and locations per-Internet/social media. But as friends, we always found our way back to each other. When social media came around, it made it much easier to stay connected and we would talk or message more often. And then there was the one time he finally sent me his grandmother’s pound cake recipe. She made it with currants and walnuts, which makes it in my mind a perfect Christmas cake.
I did not have any currants left after baking, so I substituted this raisin mix I get from Nuts.com. I also did add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It’s a straightforward recipe and it is not super sweet which I kind of like because Christmas cookies are so sugary.
I will admit, I was laughing when I was making the pound cake because it is a little bit labor-intensive given the nature of the batter. And I was laughing, because as I am creaming the butter, I’m getting stuff everywhere as I’m adding the sugar, then the eggs, and so on, and so forth. And my friend David was one of the neatest people I ever met, so I really was laughing.
I think in the end, it did not take quite two hours to bake this cake at 325°, but it did take probably an hour and a half and a few minutes.
It’s a wonderfully old-school buttery pound cake. For me, the 2 cups of eggs amounted to 9 raw eggs. Yes, you break them into a measuring cup.
Anyway, I don’t know if I will be posting more before Christmas or not. It’s been a weird year, and I hope you all enjoy your Christmas holiday with your loved ones and friends and family.
We also have our first fire in the woodstove tonight, and it is the perfect evening for it!
Ebenezer Scrooge. One of the most remembered characters in literature. Created by Charles Dickens in the 19th century for A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol was published December 19, 1843. 179 years ago this year. And the characters are still relevant today…179 years later.
The most recognizable and remembered of the characters is Scrooge. Also his clerk, Bob Cratchit. In his time Bob was the symbol in Victorian England of the overworked, essentially abused working class person. Long hours, low pay. The irony of course? This also sounds like today, doesn’t it?
In a Christmas Carol the Ghost of Christmas Present debunks Ebenezer Scrooge’s “un Christian” beliefs on religion and the “sabbath” in the context of business. This ghost also talks about how many people who claim a religious justification for their actions, yet in reality live literally not getting or caring about the true meaning of Christianity. Sort of a do as I say, not as I do thing and utter hypocrisy. Now today, we experience that hypocrisy of true Christians every day. You know like Stepford Wives for Totalitarianism and their ilk?
In any event this ghost thinks man should judge morality by the deed, not by how a man doing describes/labels his actions. Under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present are two ragged spirit figures. They are supposed to be like starving children.
The identities of the sprit figures are “Ignorance and Want.” I have never been sure that was other than the proverbial metaphorically speaking of it all: this ghost cares for these children because society, or man, should care for ignorance and want always, and not just talk about it. For the good of mankind.
There are some on this earth of yours… who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us….they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. The boy is Ignorance. The girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.
~ghost of christmas present in a christmas carol
I started thinking about the metaphors in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol again a few years ago, when I read this article in The Guardian, a U.K. paper. I was able to find it again:
…A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man – the startlingly nasty Scrooge – to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies.
The famous child in A Christmas Carol is poor “Tiny” Tim Cratchit but there are two others. When Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, he is shocked when two wild and ragged children tumble out from the giant’s robes.
He thinks they must belong to the giant, but he tells Scrooge that they are Man’s. He tells him the boy is called Ignorance and the girl Want.
“Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy…”
Every Christmas through the 70s (I was now on a council estate in Newcastle where snow was more familiar), the BBC showed an Oscar-winning animated version of the story by Richard Williams, with Alistair Sim voicing Scrooge. It is beautifully animated in a style that evokes the John Leech illustrations from the original publication, but whereas the children are fairly bland creations in those engravings, here they are snarling beasts. I was – and remain – fascinated by them.
It is a brief moment in the story but surely a key moment – and a big part of why the story is still so relevant. Ignorance and Want remain the prime movers behind so many of the worlds ills….But Dickens was having a go at his complacent readers – he was chastising them about their own ignorance…
A Christmas Carol is actually life lessons wrapped in a Victorian Christmas story. Allow me to liberally quote an article by a professor at Indiana University named Richard Gunderman in a publication called The Conversation:
…The story begins on Christmas Eve. The “grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” Ebenezer Scrooge is toiling in his office, where he turns away two fundraisers seeking to provide for the poor, rudely rebuffs his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and berates his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, for expecting to get Christmas Day off with pay.
At home that night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his partner Jacob Marley, who “died seven years ago, this very night.” Now wandering the earth dragging heavy chains forged by his own avarice, Marley warns Scrooge that he will meet the same fate if he does not listen to the three spirits who will visit him during the night.
The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to scenes from his earlier life, where he is reminded that he was once a kinder and gentler person….
he reexperiences what it is like to be lonely at the holidays until he is rescued by his sister. He then visits the holiday party of his employer, Mr Fezziwig, who despite modest means embodies the spirit of celebration.
He then sees his younger self with his fiancée Belle, to whom he intended to devote the rest of his life, until he was gradually overmastered by the love of money. Belle eventually breaks their engagement and marries another man, whose large and happy family Christmas the ghost takes Scrooge to witness.
The Ghost of Christmas Present whisks Scrooge to celebrations of Christmas in different settings throughout the land. They then travel to the home of Fred, who valiantly defends his uncle against criticism, choosing to pity rather than condemn him. Then Scrooge finds himself at the modest holiday feast of the Cratchit family, where he meets Tiny Tim, their ailing youngest child, and learns that unless the course of events changes, this will be the boy’s last Christmas. Finally, the ghost shows Scrooge two starving children, Ignorance and Want…The ghost of Christmas Yet to Come transports Scrooge to the holiday one year later, where he witnesses the reactions of various people to the recent death of a “wretched man.” A businessman states that he will attend the funeral only if a lunch is provided, and various people sell stolen items from the dead man’s estate to a fence. The only people who feel any emotion at his passing are debtors who now have more time to repay their loans. After returning to the Cratchit home, where Scrooge sees the family mourning the passing of Tiny Tim, he is taken to a neglected grave, where to his horror, he sees the name Ebenezer Scrooge.
Dickens was always about teaching us lessons. Read any article about A Christmas Carol especially, and you will see that it is a cautionary tale wrapped in a tale of redemption. Dickens refers to the lessons of the present to see the effects on the present and into the future. He also makes us think about how the past influences it all.
That should give you chills, because this is so very true today. And it’s that old thing about ignoring the past means we are doomed to repeat terrible things. That is why some history, although unpleasant, should not be made to disappear. Look what the dumbing down of America has currently given us. If we don’t persist in being and doing better, where will we all end up?
I have felt this way since before the onset of our COVID-19 world view existence. But COVID and the Trump years and Trump mentality have definitely thrown us into a post Victorian world that once again shows the vast chasms of life between the haves and the have nots.
We live in a world full of exceedingly selfish and mean people a lot of the time. That is not being a Debbie Downer, as anyone in corporate America and they will tell you it’s a harsh and true reality.
Take this time of the year, for example. It’s the time of year when employees receive year end bonuses. Only that is at the discretion, more like whim, of corporate overlords. I have remarked before about the year of the canned Polish Ham or a box of chocolates that then Prudential Securities offered hard working sales assistants, other support staff, and operations personnel in the early to mid 80s while the stock brokers all got fat, monetary bonuses. I know it happened, because I was literally there. Essentially all of the people who slaved to make brokers look good, got the short end of the stick. If you were lucky a broker gave you a monetary bonus, but it was not a requirement.
Total Scrooge moments, indeed back then.
Then there was always working in an office where the proverbial office pets got bonuses, and the rest? Nothing. It didn’t matter how hard you worked, you were just forgotten. You got to watch as others received bonuses, as you were deliberately overlooked. Yet another Scrooge moment, but then you figure Karma is a bitch and everything that goes around will come around eventually. The universe is funny and true that way. Oh wait, another Dickens lesson, correct?
And then there were the generous and kind bosses. I had a few of those over the years. They remembered Christmas and the actual spirit of the season. If not with a monetary bonus, then a nice gift. I wonder, do those bosses still really and truly exist?
But there will always be the bosses who will Bob Cratchit as many as possible, whenever possible. For them, it is always how much money they can make, and everyone else is well, kind of expendable. I do believe those people will indeed have a reckoning. We may never see it, but it will happen. These are a lot of the people who end up terribly alone…wait for it….like Ebenezer Scrooge.
The holidays are supposed to be pleasant, and while business might always be business, it seems like today more than ever you hear these tales of being Scrooged. And here we are supposed to be living in a world and a time where worker bees are supposed to be respected and have rights, but do they?
We will always live in a world where the next guy might have a lot more, or a lot less. But it’s all about how do we deal with this in our world, isn’t it? It’s also about being kind once in a while.
My critics like to tell me I am not kind. That I am mean. But am I really, or is it just about speaking my truth? That’s for them to figure out, incidentally. I know who I am, and my self-worth.
Now I know speaking my truth comes with a cost. My cost is corporate America. I am like a whistleblower after a fashion, so they will shun me until I am of retirement age. So it is a good thing I am content as being self-employed, a variation on a gig worker. I use my talents for various gigs of varying durations. I am not and will never be wealthy, but it has become enough. That probably makes some uncomfortable because I should want more. But what will more get me precisely?
When more becomes too much, and more of too much becomes the focus you get the Scrooges. Self focused, bullying, miserly, cold. No spirit of generosity. Lacking in actual joy about anything.
So sure, would it be nice to have more? Yes, because having a little more makes paying the bills easier. But our society has become one where we live seemingly only to work, and there is no balance. And those who crave balance, are often punished for that. If you think about it, we seemingly live in a world at times which punishes us for being happy or even wanting to be happy.
We all deserve to be happy, don’t we? So maybe we have to hit the pause button and reflect? We all struggle at times, right? So why can’t we reflect and be human and move forward?
Life is short. Re-read A Christmas Carol and learn from it. Hopefully it is not on a banned or book burning list somewhere. Life and Dickens, still true today.
So it is now five days before Christmas in 2022. Nothing has happened except once again, Lloyd farmhouse is not secure. How I learned about this today was from someone whose dog got loose and they went in a panic across the field stopping the dog just before the entrance of the house.
This is not someone who’s been involved with this issue. They sent me photos and videos taken from outside the house asking me if this is the same house I used to write about. And I said yes it was.
So what I want to know, is why Caln Township is looking the other way? This house is for all intents and purposes, a construction site, correct? So legally, isn’t it supposed to be secured?
The inside apparently is more trashed than ever. I’m wondering if the owner of the property is just waiting for me to post something like this or for someone /anyone to post something like this, so they have an excuse to take it down because there’s nothing stopping them from getting a demolition permit?
Except Caln Township, hello? Why is everything look the other way in your neck of the woods? Of course, however, this does give me the opportunity to point out once again how this is a historic resource that is rotting to the point it’s criminal.
Now nothing has been built on the site and it’s been a few years, so is nothing going to get built? I’m guessing given the economy in the way rates have been the answer is nothing is happening right now. And since nothing is happening right now then perhaps the property owner should be securing the property or the township should be doing it for him and sending him a bill?
I also seem to recall that there were supervisors elected that were supposed to help with issues like this? Are they still there? What happens when kids decide to explore over here because you know they will and obviously have been, and what not f something bad happens?
Merry Christmas, Caln residents. This is another fine example of your government at work. And yes, Caln Township I can indeed have this opinion. Just like I can have the opinion that this is still one of the finest examples in Chester County of demolition by neglect. Such a time honored tradition.
Last word? This beautiful farmhouse, which is a prime example of the Chester County style of farmhouses, also predates the American Revolution, and nobody gives a shit. Yeah, you can still see even in this state of disarray her good bones.
As a child, I lived in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. Our parish church was Old St. Joseph’s on Willings Alley. Old St. Joe’s is one of the oldest churches in Philadelphia. Across 4th street and down from it is Old St. Mary’s. Two churches in the area which are also important are Holy Trinity Church on S. 6th Street and St. Peter Claver at 12th and Lombard Streets.
All of these churches were part of the fabric of my growing up. I did not attend church other than at Old St. Mary’s and Old St. Joseph’s (where our family pew is), but these churches were part of the community and quite frankly the multitude of historic structures we learned about as kids.
Holy Trinity on S. 6th Street had it’s parish absorbed by Old St. Mary’s years ago. It does however, have a small graveyard dating back to the 18th century. Stephen Girard was once buried there as a matter of fact. (His grave was later moved.) Holy Trinity was founded in 1784 by German speaking Catholics. It was the first national parish for Germans and in 1797 they opened an orphanage for children orphaned by the yellow fever epidemic back then. It was the first national parish for any ethnicity in the United States, and was the third parish established in the city of Philadelphia, predating the erection of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A long, emotional fight to protect Philadelphia’s mother church for Black Catholics is coming to its end. On Monday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that St. Peter Claver, the city’s first Black Catholic church, will finally close Jan. 23.
The church was originally dedicated in 1892 and has been a bedrock institution for Philly’s Black Catholic community. It is one of four churches that the archdiocese plans to close next month — the others are Sacred Heart Church in Phoenixville, St. Philip Neri Church in East Greenville, and Holy Trinity Church in Old City.
“In a lot of ways, it’s probably just as important as Mother Bethel A.M.E., because this is the first place that Black Catholics had of their own in the archdiocese and in a city that prides itself on its Catholic heritage,” said Anthea Butler, professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
But despite the church’s historical significance, Black Catholics in Philly have felt for a long time that the archdiocese did not adequately support it. They say this conclusion felt inevitable.
St. Peter Claver sits at what used to be the heart of Black Philadelphia at 12th and Lombard Streets. Even aside from its role in a religious sense, the church was a safe, communal gathering space for generations of Philadelphians. “Some of the older people would come in there … some of them would take their shoes off and say, ‘I’m walking on this sacred ground. Because this is where my ancestors came through,’” said Arlene Edmonds, a Black Catholic journalist and author.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, as white flight, urban renewal, and gentrification moved Black Philadelphians to North Philly and West Philly, it became harder for St. Peter Claver to fill its pews. In 1984, the archdiocese closed the church’s parish, and then, a year later, the church was officially “suppressed” by the archdiocese. Together, those actions meant that St. Peter Claver could no longer hold regular Mass or accept new parishioners. It could no longer perform sacraments, like baptisms, marriages, or funerals.
“What it does is strangle a church,” said Adrienne Harris, a third-generation member of St. Peter Claver and the chairperson of the St. Peter Claver archives, in a video made by former parishioners about the church. “That was the archdiocese’s method of strangling the life out of St. Peter Claver.”
~ philadelphia Inquirer 12/13/22
Holy Trinity’s church building was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places as “Trinity Roman Catholic Church” on April 30, 1957, and is part of the Society Hill historic district. The exterior cannot be altered without the approval of the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The church was also documented in the Historic American Buildings Survey by the National Park Service. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been killing this church for years, most recently beginning in 2019.
Next up we have another church that oozes history of Philadelphia, black Catholics, and the history of this country. St. Peter Claver at 12th and Lombard. The church was named for St. Peter Claver, who was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary born in Verdú (Catalonia, Spain) who, due to his life and work, became the patron saint of slaves. St. Peter Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well.
St. Peter Claver’s physical church was founded in 1842, but it was someone else’s church first. As in another denomination. It became the first Black Catholic Church in 1892. I remember going by this church so many times. I remember as a little, little girl weddings spilling out onto the street. It was so alive, so vibrant. And much like Holy Trinity, is a church that the Arch Diocese of Philadelphia has been slowly killing it for years. That and gentrification. This church once sat in the midst of an important and historical black community. But when real estate becomes desirable, we all know the drill, right?
There is a wonderful Scribe Precious Places video on this church:
Here are some images I found:
Flash forward to this week’s latest Scrooge news for Christmas season 2022: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is closing St. Peter Claver, Holy Trinity, and a church known to many on Phoenixville, PA called Sacred Heart Church. That is not a church known to me, it is on Church Street in Phoenixville. See a couple of photos below. I did take photos of this church once, and I just can’t locate them. Also the fourth closure is the original St. Philip Neri in East Greenville, PA. Apparently that hasn’t been used as a church since the 1960s.
PHILADELPHIA PA – Roman Catholic Church buildings in Phoenixville and East Greenville that are either currently unused or no longer considered necessary will be officially closed effective Jan. 23 (2023; Monday) and no longer will be available as places of worship, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Sunday (Dec. 11, 2022). The real estate parcels may later be offered for sale, it indicated.
The Sacred Heart parish merged with that of St. Ann’s in Phoenixville in 2012, and the combined congregation has since worshiped at the St. Ann’s building on Main Street. Sacred Heart has been unused for “liturgical celebrations” since March 2020 when COVID hit, the archdiocese said. The cost of its continued maintenance and repair could become a drain on parish finances, it added.
The growing St. Philip Neri congregation opened a new church in Pennsburg in 1968, leaving the East Greenville church and other related campus buildings “now empty and unutilized,” the announcement added. Selling those properties would “would help alleviate” parish “financial burdens” by allowing it to pare down existing debt, it stated.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is an institution I have little respect for. I have always struggled with their lack of support towards historic Catholic churches in the region, but as an adult I found their handling of pedophile priests despicable. I still find their handling of abusive priests despicable. I am a Roman Catholic by birth. I was baptized and receive my 1st Holy Communion at Old St. Joseph’s on Willings Alley in Society Hill. I remember most of the masses being said in Latin as a child at Old St. Mary’s on S. 4th Street. We moved to suburbia and my church became St. John Vianney in Gladwyne. Our parish priest when we first moved to suburbia and joined the church there was Father Ignatius Reynolds, and my great Aunt Josie had sung at his ordination mass.
You see, back then, churches were an extended part of many communities and many families. But as I grew into adulthood, while I maintained my faith, my faith in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia waned.
Pedophile priests were the nail in the coffin. First for putting a former, then pedophile and defrocked priest back into my then Haverford neighborhood with no supervision. He eventually was convicted and spent a couple of years in jail. When he lived in my neighborhood he would drive big expensive SUVs with a vanity plate. And then there was that monsignor in Wayne also caught up in that scandal, PA who once upon a time was aghast that I wasn’t planning to do pre-Cana. Catholics are supposed to do this before they wed. It used to be the priest that baptized you and knew your family when you were growing up. Today in my humble opinion, it is just a money maker.
I think pedophile priests and the subsequent fall out are STILL a big problem financially for the Catholic church in this region. I think that the Catholic church in the US is so out of touch with reality is another problem. And I just think the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in general is about their power, not the people who are their extended “flock.” They have had Archbishops and occasional Cardinals heading up the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for decades that have been more about what they could get out of the office they held versus pastoral care and what not. It’s more about the eternal bottom line versus the “flock” entrusted to their care. Yes I know, I am blasphemous and going to hell according to them. I think personally God prefers the truth, but I digress.
Four Catholic churches in the Philadelphia area, including two in the city, will close their doors in the new year as part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s latest plan to relegate buildings and merge parishes.
The churches – Holy Trinity Church in Society Hill, The Saint Peter Claver Church building in South Philly, Sacred Heart Church in Phoenixville, Chester County and the original Saint Philip Neri Church in East Greenville, Montgomery County – are slated to close by Jan. 23.
Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez has approved the relegation of all four buildings to profane but not sordid use, a formal designation that means the buildings will no longer be Roman Catholic churches. The future of each building will be determined by its respective parish.
The Holy Trinity Church building was the third Roman Catholic Church built in Philadelphia and the first national parish in the country. In July 2009, Holy Trinity Parish merged with Old Saint Mary Parish. At the time, the Holy Trinity church building became a worship site of the newly formed Old Saint Mary Parish and was used for an occasional celebration of Mass.
The building’s exterior is historically designated and cannot be altered without the approval of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
Saint Peter Claver Church, long considered the mother church for Black Catholics in Philadelphia, has not been a parish church since 1985 and has not been an active worship site since 2014. After Saint Peter Claver Parish closed in 1985, the building became the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization. At the time of the church’s closure, Mass was being offered on a monthly basis and was attended by fewer than 15 people, the archdiocese said.
The building has been historically designated since April 1984, protecting its exterior from alterations without approval from the historical commission. The cost of repairs to the church and rectory buildings would exceed $1.3 million, the archdiocese said.
It is expected that the sale of the Saint Peter Claver Church properties would generate funds to support ongoing ministry to Black Catholics through the Office of Black Catholics, the archdiocese said. Many of the sacred items inside the church already have been moved to active parishes that currently serve Black Catholics.
I do not know pretty much anything about St. Philip Neri in East Greenville, but it is another church the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has slowly been killing off. They closed their parish school in 2012, and the church that was there in the 1960s. It is a teeny weeny borough in Montgomery County. The only thing I ever knew about that place is it was the home for Knoll which makes furniture, and is still there today. But it’s so tiny, I can’t find a photo of the old church, sadly.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been doing this for years. They seemingly have little desire in preserving churches. Especially historic and ethnically linked churches. It is literally criminal that they are NOT preserving St. Peter Claver (and if you believe they will give proceeds of any real estate sales to helping Black Catholics in Philadelphia, y’all are skippy in my humble opinion.) St. Peter Claver, like Holy Trinity is is deemed and certified historic.
They will sell off all of these churches to the highest bidder eventually, it’s all about the money and the homogenous modern churches they build today that have little charm and history and lack a feeling of faith and community. That is why I have never joined a Catholic church in Chester County. I have either found too many of their parishioners practitioners of ugly and judgmental political agendas personally, or the churches themselves. You know like Saints Peter and Paul on Booth Road in West Chester. They lost me once they started planting their ugly anti abortion signs. The two churches I find the least objectionable, are just a little too far for me: St. Agnes in West Chester Borough which has the heritage, history, and actual faith that made me like church once upon a time and Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church in Chester Springs, which for a new church doesn’t feel terrible. Also Saints Philip and James in Exton gets an honorable mention, but they did have that priest who was killing Canadian geese.
And for this news of these churches closing coming out at Christmas? It doesn’t get more Scrooge than that.
As you arrive for Mass today, you will see that the statues around the church were vandalized overnight. St. Anthony, St. Joseph, Our Lady of Lourdes and the Holy Family Statue all suffered damage. Police have already been on-site and we are confident in their investigation.
Please keep the persons responsible for this vandalism in your prayers. We ask that God touch their hearts. For ourselves, we take a moment to thank God for the opportunity to practice forgiveness. His mercy is unending and as Christians, we are called to forgive as He forgives.
I am especially grateful that the Nativity was not harmed. Even in our cynical world, the miracle of the Nativity remains untouched.
Fr. Steve Leva
Surely, we can do better than this? Here’s hoping some local stone masons donate their skills to righting this wrong.
I have been going to write this post for a few days. Every time I sat down to begin it, life got in the way, so I decided I just need to start it today.
Why the title of the post? I was going through old photos and it just sort of hit me is that was the title. The photos I was going through were of parties and black-tie fundraisers from many, many years ago.
One of the things I loved best about a lot of those parties were the dresses we had back then. So we’re talking the 80s through mid 90s. And especially in the late 80s, the dresses were pretty. That was one of my favorite era for black tie dresses and gowns. I am not talking the Dynasty-esque dresses, there were just a lot of pretty, well made dresses.
How fancy you dressed back then, was dictated by the event itself. And the events themselves were kind of special. You couldn’t just buy a ticket and subscribe necessarily, you need to receive an invitation to do that. ticket prices for the event but they weren’t exorbitant. Of course back then sometimes they felt exorbitant because a lot of us were just starting out working full-time after college, etc.
Back, then black tie was predominantly floor length as far as the dresses went. Sometimes tea length, it just depended on the dress. White tie was something else again. Perhaps one of my favorite gowns was this crazy beautiful iridescent silk taffeta Victor Costa gown. My mother bought it for me at Nan Duskin in Philadelphia.
There were a lot of stores as in department stores and boutiques to choose from. And they always had a selection of ladies black tie attire. And the dresses were pretty, the fabrics had body to them.
And most importantly, at least for me as compared to the majority of the dresses you see today in photos, Hoochie Mama wasn’t hollering for her dress back. Sure there was tons of strapless, but the dresses left a little to the imagination and they weren’t sliced all the way down the chest bone or all the way up to the pelvic bone, it seemed.
Also back then? Plastic surgery was reserved for something your mother’s friends did, sometimes badly. Today it feels like no one can age gracefully (or otherwise) and plastic surgery and procedures seem to be starting rather young.
The parties, especially at Christmas, were so much fun. The Charity Ball is in the Philadelphia Charity Ball, at that point was December 23. but before that starting in November, there were all sorts of events and Christmas parties. Around Thanksgiving was Pilgrimage on the Parkway.
I remember a few parties that were even held at 30th St., Station. One Christmas party I remember in particular because I had this dress back then that I loved and this party was not formal, it was semi formal. Semi-formal meant short dresses and men wore coat and tie. I had found this dress at John Wanamaker’s when it was still, John Wanamaker’s. The dress was a wonderful red with blue undertones as opposed to orange. It had a halter neck and a regular zip up back but it was the 80s, so the halter collar part was pearls. Not big, huge, Barbara Bush sized pearls, they were regular sized, but that was the entire color. The dress was to the knee.
Back then half of what we wore as far as evening shoes were simple, black peau de soie pumps. The heels were an average height, they weren’t sky high, and the heels weren’t chunky. And if you didn’t have those you had velvet pumps of a similar style. Essentially classic and elegant.
Sometimes we had our hair done in an updo, but not all the time. I have pretty thick hair and I remember one party that I went to in Alexandria Old Town, Virginia. I ended up taking out the up do before the party because the woman had teased my hair into a southern up do and it looked like I was related to Imelda Marcos. I still remember that moment because it was really funny.
And at that time, I had a lot of friends in the Washington DC area. People who had migrated there for work after college and more. And back then when you went to Washington for one of those black ties or Christmas parties, you had to bring your A game. those women in DC knew how to dress. And the dresses were gorgeous down there. So were the parties.
This one group of girls I remember used to do this great holiday fundraiser and it was black-tie edit benefited Toys for Tots. I want to say for a while it was held I think back then at the Ritz Carlton in Washington DC. I remember it was always held on a lower level of the hotel and wherever it was held there were these antique dioramas built into the wall on that level they were kind of fascinating to look at.
And at one of those Washington DC Christmas parties one year, we all met Walter Cronkite. He was in town for something , but retired at that point. I remember how tall he seemed. He had come into DC from Annapolis. He was so nice. He actually did stop to speak to all of us. And his voice in person was just as great as it was on TV. He had been at something at the hotel and literally just stuck his head into the party we were at to check it out. I remember he had such a nice face in person and his eyes sparkled.
This was of course before the age of social media. So there weren’t many photos. Just memories. Like memories of the parental units going to black tie Christmas parties. Or the Christmas parties we went to as a family. All dressed up, white tights, mary janes, and matching dresses until we revolted finally. Oh and don’t forget the matching Christmas nightgowns!
And all of these parties had great food and beverages served using actual china and glassware, and no plastic utensils.
I remember neighborhood parties. I remember one where every year one neighborhood man would wear his Christmas plaid pants. And sometimes a Christmas vest. The pants were what my one grandmother would have called “high water” pants, or they were a little too short. He would greet everyone at every party with a big grin and say “Howdy, neighbor!” (No it wasn’t Texas, it was the Main Line.)
Back then there were quite a few neighborhood parties. As a general society, we weren’t so transient. People moved into areas and stayed, they didn’t move into areas and then flip for the next bigger house. People actually sang Christmas carols, and knew their neighbors. Even if I didn’t want to be all dressed up and looking exactly like my sister, the parties were pretty fun and festive.
Then there were the caroling parties every year with my cousin Suzy. Suzy lived in Newtown, Bucks County. None of us could sing, but we would still gather at Suzy‘s house. There was a little Christmas party, then we would go around Christmas caroling for a while, laugh like hell, and go back to Suzy’s l house. Suzy was also one of the first people I went hunting vintage Christmas ornaments with. Often that meant getting up at o’dark early to hit the flea markets outside of New Hope.
Then there were the family Christmas parties with my mother’s German friends, Susi and Babette. Those parties were spectacular like out of a movie set, but they weren’t artificial. They were natural and gorgeous and very German. The ornaments on the trees, fresh greens, candle light. We always loved going to their houses. And the fun thing about their parties were the people were so interesting and fun. When I entertain today, I still like to channel them. No pigs in a blanket at their houses, which was always fine because that to this day is an hors d’oeuvre, I don’t understand nor like.
In the 90s I remember being invited to this spectacular Christmas party. It was on Fishers Road in Bryn Mawr. A beautiful little house on a shared driveway. I’m not even sure if the house still exists because so many places have been knocked down for bigger houses to be built.
Anyway, the guy that owned the house had something to do with IKEA and he and his partner lived in it. He did this totally glorious European/Scandinavian Christmas party. The decorations were beautiful. Unbelievable trees and greens and decorations. The house was just decked. Candlelight. There were also so many different kinds of fish. Beautiful oysters on the half shell and shrimp and crab and I don’t even know what else. A true smörgåsbord. Ham, beef, cheeses, fruit. The house was like a jewel box. I think the reason I liked that party so much it was like another version of what my mother’s friends Susi and Babette would do.
These parties I remember were all pretty. The houses festive and beautiful. The decorating done by the homeowners, not a Christmas decorating service. Everyone was a little Martha Stewart on the Christmas bus back then. And it wasn’t party trays from the grocery store, these were planned out menus that the hostess did, and for the most part prepared herself. Yes, these kinds of parties are a lot of work, but they are worth it and your guests appreciate it.
As I mentioned, there were the annual Christmas parties you attended with your family. One party we went to we attended for decades. We watched the changes from the first wife to the second wife. With the first wife, sometimes they would all be there to greet you at the door. The wife and daughters in quasi matching dresses of icy perfection. With the second wife, it was all warmer and more genuine. And every year the Christmas tree was different. The most amusing thing about this party is every year the core crowd was the same. It was a party where I knew every year like clockwork that I would see certain friends. It was never the most exciting party, but it was beautiful and nice.
Then you grow up and everything is different again. And what is so funny is how things change now that we are the age of our parents taking all of us to Christmas parties or fussing about our gowns for The Charity Ball.
Me personally? On one hand, I loved all the fun black tie holiday parties and the annual Christmas parties we went to. But then on the other hand, I love our own Christmas traditions in a completely different time.
Now it’s us. Pre-COVID, we did a few Christmas parties, including one at Loch Aerie before she opened as a wedding and event venue. She was restored but the kitchen was just a shell and the ballroom addition was not built. Duffy’s did the catering with a kitchen in a big truck.
But mostly, even before COVID hit, it is us, at home. Those are our traditions. Not as formal, never as dressy. These days it’s more about how will I display my vintage Christmas ornaments and where on my tree will my wool felted Christmas mice will go. But the Christmas dishes and real glasses and silverware still come out.
I remember years ago, before I was married, and I was with someone else, we would go to their relatives for Christmas sometimes. The brother and sister-in-law took the time to do a beautiful meal with real plates and silverware and glasses, and then there was the other sister, and it was a lot of plastic cups and cooking things in disposable tinfoil pans. Obviously, you know which house I liked better.
A friend of my mine and I were talking about all of this yesterday. She texted me a photo, all bundled up underneath an umbrella in the rain waiting for Santa to come by on a fire truck where she lived. She says to me “this is me, no more Charity balls.” And then we both laughed, because I knew where she was coming from exactly. My friend’s parents also threw these amazing holiday parties and her mother’s house was one of my favorites. And like my own parents, everything was decorated and beautiful at Christmas.
And then there are other things that you remember about the season as a little kid. The Sears Wishbook. That catalog was huge and I remember a year after year turning down the corners of pages where there were dolls and toys I wanted. No kid ever got their entire wish list but thumbing through that catalog was kind of a Christmas tradition in and of itself.
So now we are all decorating our own homes. Sometimes my friends and I wonder how our mothers did it all. But as we all decorate, we all remember our ghosts of Christmas past. There aren’t nearly enough photos but we remember the feelings, the sound, the smells. Every year some of the images in our memory fade a little bit, yet many still remain. The echoes of people talking in rooms that no longer exist, with festive music playing in the background. Even some memories of Christmas sleigh and carriage rides. I still hear the jingles of sleigh bells, which is probably why I have some hanging in my house all year round.
Continue to create your Christmas memories. They are so important. And for goodness sake, no paper plates and plastic glasses. The season comes but once a year. Make it special.
So this turned out to be an un-Thanksgiving for me and I actually sent my people to my mother’s without me. I have had a 3 day mystery headache…NO I DO NOT HAVE COVID! (Already neurotically tested as we all still do these days.) But today, after 2 Advil, 2 Tylenol, and French Press coffee I am up for a little while with the headache doing a dull roar in the back of my head. I really love Thanksgiving, so I was bummed to pretty much sleep through it.
But headache or not, I am thinking about the Christmas decorations. I watched a Christmas movie last night that had way too much fake garland. It was everywhere. Enough to make you dizzy, and I love Christmas decorating.
But I have only one chunk of imitation Christmas garland. It goes outside on a bench. I do not use real garland any longer, inside or out. It gets dried out too fast. I also just don’t like imitation lit garland inside. Maybe in other people’s homes it works, but definitely not my own. It is just not my aesthetic. What I do use for garland, is a little more old-fashioned. Some say home spun. Wool felted garland. I happened on this quite by accident a few years ago. I just love the old fashioned look of it.
I also love giving wool felted and quilted ornaments as gifts. They are durable, festive, and kid friendly.
In addition to felt garland, I also like rag garland for Christmas. Bits of fabric and burlap. It’s fun! It’s also simple and evokes a happy Christmas simplicity.
Where have I sourced this garland, both wool felted and rag? Everywhere. Locally at different places over the years. And on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, and more. It’s gotten popular again and this year I have seen it on Food52’s website, Pottery Barn Kids, some on Amazon, but unless they say what country it’s made in, I don’t buy it. I try to stick to US made. I also like the UK made wool felted garlands, but they can be more expensive.
Why do I like these wool felted garlands? And the rag garlands? They are warm. They aren’t standoffish, untouchable Christmas decorations. They kind of draw you in. I also like the “flag” garlands. My friend’s mom and aunt used to make those. I like a pretty Christmas, not an untouchable ice queen Christmas. I like the nostalgia of Christmas, and love vintage ornaments, so these garlands accomplish that quite nicely.
As I said, I want to decorate each Christmas so that it is warm. I want you to remember a happy echo, not something just randomly and decorator inspired. I think you achieve that each Christmas by collecting what you love. My friend does this in part with all her Christmas putz houses and her very vintage Annalee Christmas decorations. She also shares a love of German kugels with me.
Now something else I love? Wool felted Christmas mice. I seem to have accumulated a bunch of them. Life’s Patina always has amazing ones for their Holiday Open House (which has sadly passed already) and the Smithfield Barn. As a matter of fact, the Smithfield Barn has them at Gas Works in Frazer, PA right now.
Wool felted mice are also all over eBay and Etsy. They are fun and have whimsey. I tuck them into my trees. I have also found them this year on Amazon. And a website called Craftspring which I have never tried, has some wonderful felted ornaments. Even Target has some squishy felted ornaments, although I am only finding a few worth buying. The German Christmas Shop USA has some terrific felted ornaments.
Christmas. Yes I love Christmas. And now that all my bulbs are in my garden, I’m starting to think about Christmas decorating. Right now I am thinking about what to do with Kugels.
I love old German Kugels.
In 1848, the first glass ornament, a kugel, appeared in Germany. The kugel was a large hollow ball ranging in size from 1 inch to 18 inches. Smaller ones were used for tree decorations. The blown, molded, figural glass ornaments that we are familiar with today evolved from the tradition of blowing kugels. These ornaments were not sold in America until 1880….Kugel is a German word that means “ball” and can be used to describe any type of ball-like object. Collectors used this term to describe any early thick glass ornament with a decorative cap. Early Kugels were too heavy to hang on tree branches; instead they were suspended from the ceiling. Soon after their invention, the Germans decided small Kugels should adorn tree boughs in shapes such as grapes, berry clusters, apples and pears. F. W. Woolworth is given credit for bringing Kugels to America in the 1880s.
My first Kugel belonged to my maternal grandmother’s father, my great grandfather Peter Mathias Scheidhoff of Lancaster, PA. His Kugel came from Germany via other family, not F.W. Woolworth. My Mumma gave it to my mother, who then gave it to me. It kind of started an ornament obsession for me. So now I have a few. And I hang them from the dining room chandelier for Christmas. I use felt garland and suspend the Kugels underneath on heavy fishing line. I acquired a few more at a Christmas sale over the weekend. I was really lucky and they were reasonable in price because they can be really, ridiculously expensive.
I also really like the Lenox porcelain snowflakes. Not the new ones, the ones that were made when Lenox was still a standalone company. I have been collecting them for years and if I don’t hang them on the tree I hang them on a chandelier in the hall. I hang them with thin red or green Christmas ribbon.
I received my first Lenox snowflakes as a gift years ago. My neighbor Lea was moving west to get married and gave me hers. She had a friend at that time who worked at the Lenox outlet somewhere in Bucks County, PA. Since then, I have found a few more here and there and also this weekend I found three more.
I am not a big Lenox holiday ornament person I know some people really are but I do love these snowflakes because they’re just pretty.
My last find for the vintage ornaments of it all were three more Mercury glass birds. My main Christmas tree are birds and pinecones and woodland creatures. And icicles. Glass icicles. Some people like metal icicles, I do not.
Now my husband is adamant about no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I will admit that I have a couple little Annalee guys out. I found them in my vintage ornament travels too, recently.
So I guess the Christmas Chronicles have begun at least in ideas. Do you collect vintage Christmas? Tell me!