17    Dec 20120 comments

Sleigh Bells Ring: Holiday music

What is it about holiday music? Those catchy tunes we can’t get out of our head? The musical notes that bring us back to earlier times?

It really doesn’t matter if the listener celebrates Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza; that winter music - religious or secular - just gets deep inside our bones. Important family events take place at the holidays, and a particular song may bring back all kinds of warm, fuzzy memories.

A favorite of mine is "Sleigh Ride," in the instrumental version by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Written by Leroy Anderson in 1948, Mitchell Paris added the lyrics in 1950. Here's the story behind the song. It is considered one of the top 10 most popular Christmas songs ever, even though the holiday is never mentioned in the lyrics.

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4    Jul 20120 comments

4th of July: Star-spangled family fun!

Today is Independence Day in the US. It is always marked with fun-filled activities, including parades, barbecues, picnics, and the all-important fireworks displays.

What’s your most memorable 4th of July family memory?

We may celebrate at a lake, at the beach, in a backyard or at a neighborhood park. It’s always a day for family and friends to gather. No matter what was going on in other parts of the world (see newspaper article from 1940 below), this holiday was celebrated to remind us of the freedoms we enjoyed at home.

My grandparents owned a large property with some 80 summer rental cottages, about two hours north of New York City. Many of the same families returned year after year, and we became a close group as we  grew up together.

My grandmother organized the two main summer events:  4th of July at the season's opening, and the Labor Day festivities in early September, signaling the end of our carefree summer, returning to the city and getting ready for school.

In the faux Tudor “big house,” Grandma's big country kitchen sported a black cast iron stove, the source of everything delicious! Every year, she produced buckets of the most delicious coleslaw, potato and macaroni salads.

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