Sunday, January 8, 2017

Christmas 2016 and New Year 2017

Hopefully, everyone enjoyed their Christmas or any other holiday they celebrated, and the end of year festivities.  Since my husband, because of his illness (Alzheimer's,) did not know what season it was I had not planned to do anything for Christmas.  But then ...listening to Christmas music, reading holiday blogs and seeing all the bright lights everywhere I decided to get a little Norfolk Pine plant and decorate it.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Our Christmas ornaments were away in boxes plus they were too large for the little tree.  I found the ornaments bought a couple of years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia, but the little doll ornaments in folk dresses were too heavy.  I then placed my wooden matryoshka nesting dolls in front of the tree until our cats thought they were cat toys and started pushing them around ...

I bought a 2017 cat calendar for my husband - each day a new cat!  We bought some pecan pralines for us and as a treat to myself I bought some French imports from Le Marché  shop in New York: my favorite Amora mustard for my vinaigrette, some specialty hard candy "Bergamot de Nancy," some  
bouchée from Suchard - they are dark chocolate you can buy by the piece in French grocery stores.  I could not pass up a 1980s vintage mystery paperback in a second-hand bookstore. We received some good candy and other gifts from family as well.  My French blogging friend, Claude, sent me a couple of souvenir magnets, very useful hot pads and tricolor paper napkins (to be used on the 14th of July! (Bastille Day.)

So that Mitsouko, our Grey Korat, would not bother our little tree I had to place on my iPad cat videos that she loves to watch.

The decorations were not removed from our tree until yesterday, January 7th, in honor of my late father who was an Armenian Christian Orthodox.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, while Christmas decorations have been taken down in the USA and many countries, other countries following the Eastern Orthodox Church, such as Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Ethiopia, etc., celebrate Christmas on January 6 and 7th according to the Julian calendar.  The Julian calendar pre-dates the more commonly observed Gregorian calendar.  (I explained this in my post of January 2011, click here to read it.)  Below is an Armenian Christmas card (written in English and Armenian) I received on January 6th.  Next to it is the Holy Etchmiadzin, the Armenian cathedral located near Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.  Bottom left is Russian Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) next to his grand-daughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden.)  (See more on them in my post of January 2015, click here to read it, although in Russia New Year is a bigger holiday.)  Bottom right is a group of Ukrainian ladies celebrating Christmas in their folk dresses.

As 2016 came to a close, we were reminded of the many people we lost, such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gene Wilder, Prince, Robert Vaughn, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, jazz great Pete Fountain, Frank Sinatra, Jr., The Eagles' Glenn Frey, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, French actresses Michele Morgan and Nicole Courcel, French composer Pierre Boulez.  In sports we lost Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali.  We also lost writers Harper Lee, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, Pat Conroy, Umberto Eco, and Franco-Belgian writer Francoise Mallet-Joris.  Two founding members of the rock group The Jefferson Airplanes also left us this year - guitarist Paul Kantner and vocalist Signe Anderson.  The Jefferson Airplanes were a rock band from the 1960s from San Francisco who pioneered psychedelic rock.  I saw them performed live in San Francisco in the mid 1960s. 

We also lost Papa Wemba, a Congolese singer and musician, called "The King of Rumba Rock" - I have several of his CDs.  Another terrible tragedy was the loss of 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as The Red Army Choir.  The choir was founded in 1928 by composer and conductor Alexander Alexandrov and has a worldwide reputation for excellence.  The Ensemble had been dubbed "Russian's singing weapon" by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill after he assisted at their performance at the Yalta Conference in 1945.  I have several of the choir's CDs, too.  They have powerful voices; there are also dancers in the group.  (Photos courtesy Alexandrov Ensemble.)

At the end of my 29 December 2013 post I mentioned that we had seen a Russian choir in Atlanta and attached a video of one of my favorite Russian's folksongs, The Monotonous Little Bell.  I wrote down the lyrics in French and English (click here to see them.)  I had noted then that it was a melancholy song - a song of remembrance.  This folk song is also in the Alexandrov Ensemble's repertoire - listen to it below.  Isn't it beautiful?  (Photos by Alexander Shadrakova.)

Another personality we lost in 2016 was David Bald Eagle, a Lakota Chief.  He passed away at age 97 after a long and extraordinary life.  He was born in a traditional teepee on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.  He only spoke Lakota until he was 12 and at 15 he underwent the traditional Sundance ceremony.  During WWII he was awarded the Silver Star for fighting at Anzio, Italy.  Afterward he parachuted into the fighting in Normandy, was injured by German soldiers and saved by British commandos.

He married an English teacher and they became ballroom dancers.  Unfortunately she died in a car crash.  David Bald Eagle then took up skydiving and was a stunt double.  He also drove race cars and was in the rodeo circuit.  He toured in a Wild West Show as a rodeo performer and while in Brussels at the World's Fair in 1958 he met his second wife, Josee Kesteman, a young Belgian actress (seen in collage below.)  Bald Eagle appeared in over 40 Hollywood films including "Dancing with Wolves."  He achieved more than I can tell here and had an outstanding long life, well lived.

On television I watched the celebrations and fire works for the end of 2016 and the start of 2017.

 On New Year's Day I made the traditional Deep South recipe to bring us a prosperous year with good health and good luck: Hoppin' John with collard greens and cornbread.  Hoppin' John is made with black-eyed peas, rice and bacon or smoked turkey (I have my own recipe.)  Black-eyed peas being for coins, collard greens - green being the color of money, and cornbread which is the color of gold ... we usually pour some spicy pepper sauce on the collard greens.  I started making this dish for New Year way back when we moved to Georgia and have made it every New Year's Day, except one year we were in Columbus, Ohio, and I could not find fresh collard greens there and last year when I was in bed with pneumonia.  The next night I was not too hungry so used the "pot liquor" or pot likker - it is the brothy juice left from cooking the collard greens.  It is full of nutrients and is very tasty.  Now for y'all not to believe that I have lost all my French ways, I did start the meal with a little bit of "pâté de campagne"(country paté) and "cornichons" (French sour pickles) and ended with a piece of Camembert cheese - both with crusty French country bread and a glass of red wine ... voila!

On January 2nd, I watched the Pasadena Rose Parade.  The Armenian Rose Float presented "Fields of Dreams."  It was the 2017 winner of the "Past President's Trophy" for the most creative use of floral and non-floral elements.  It comprised 18,000 white and red roses and other flowers near the rendering of Mount Ararat.  Other elements such as pomegranate, lentils and nuts covered the Artsakh stallion.

Now it was time to remove our old calendar and replace it with the new 2017 calendar.  We went from St. Petersburg, Russia - a calendar I bought a couple of years ago there, to a new Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, calendar that our daughter Celine sent us.  She moved to Pittsburgh after her July wedding and is hoping to entice us to visit her.  We will but not now when it is so cold there (a blustery 14 F (-10 C) feeling like 0 F (-17.7 C) today, Sunday January 8, 2017.)

Actually today is also the coldest day in Georgia at 28 F (-2.2 C.)  It snowed a bit during the night of Friday to Saturday.  Saturday morning, January 7th, I took some pictures in our backyard.  The snow was not deep but the surface had a sheer layer of ice on it.  It was very sunny though.

It was so sunny that our cat Cody decided to jump back by the window-sill for a nap.  No birds were close by although I could see by their tracks that they had tried to get some water from the frozen bird bath.

Today, from the computer room upstairs I can see the front and side of the house.  It looks the same as yesterday - light snow on the ground, full sun and no traffic.  People have been told to stay indoors because there is "black ice" on the roads.  This is what happens when the sun hits the surface of the roads and melts the top of the snow.  It ices again and becomes invisible.  It is a real hazard when driving.

But in Georgia the weather warms up quickly.  We will be back in the 60s F soon, and 66 F (18.8 C) is predicted within four days, on Thursday January 12, 2017.  Sunshine, blue skies and a good year ahead, that is my wish for all of you.  Let's look forward to 2017, hoping for less noise and more joy.  We need to look and see the beauty that is all around us and also remember that we live on the same planet and need to take care of it.  The French fleur de lys vintage postcard below says "On vit de souvenirs et d’espérance" - we live from memories and hope.

I hope that your year 2017 will be very happy!


Jono said...

What a wonderful post and holiday synopsis! Have the best year possible, my friend. It will be tough, but you are tougher. All the best to you.

donna baker said...

Yes Vagabonde, we are all in this together. Your Christmas looked like a good one and I loved hearing of the Sioux Chief. My husband and children are Choctaw/Chickasaw and forbearers had a terrible time of it as did Armenia. I so hope your new year is a good one.

Linda said...

I was so thrilled to see your post in my news feed! I love all the vintage images as well as your beautiful photos! I wish you all the best in 2017...and always! Thank you so much for sharing. Warm hugs and much love.

David said...

Vagabonde, Great post with lots to take in and enjoy! Loved your little Norfolk pine Christmas tree... It was nice that you were able to get in the spirit a bit and also that you bought and received some holiday goodies. We had our nesting santas out with our new little tree too. Loved the Russian and Armenian Christmas items and information.

I wish that J.D. would watch cat (bird) videos but his span of attention for the flat screen is about 2 minutes. He does roam the house looking for some sunshine to bask in! We do have a heated birdbath for the cold weather and my wife fills a flower pot base and a cavity in a big rock in the back yard with water for the birds when the temperature gets above freezing.

A lot of famous and creative people did pass this last year...seems like more than normal. I didn't hear about David Bald Eagle, so thanks for that information. Did you hear about the creator of the Bambi images for the movie? Tyrus Wong was 106 years old and he died on 12/29. Here's a link about him:

We forgot the hoppin john so we may be in trouble this year! Like you we have snow...about 2.5 inches in our case...but it will be gone by Tuesday! Hooray!

Wishing you and yours the best in 2017! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Susan Heather said...

A most interesting post, especially about David Bald Eagle. I wish you well for the new year.

Elephant's Child said...

I am really glad that you did have a little Christmas celebration. Love your tree, and your cats.
We did lose a lot of people last year. The world is diminished by their passing, but so much richer for the time we had them.
I do hope your New Year is full of comfort and joy.

Petits Bonheurs said...

Merci d'être passée sur mon blog ce qui me permet de connaitre le tien.
Je suis enchantée par ton article. Que de belles photos !
Je te souhaite une belle année pleine de santé et de bonheur.
Puis j'espère un échange entre nous deux.
Amicalement. Un beau bonjour de Haute Provence

Things and Thoughts said...

Je ne savais pas que vous avez des racines arméniennes, c'est un peuple à qui les grecs se sentent liés. Je vous souhaite une année paisible, une bonne santé et que l'âme de nous tous soit remplie d'espoir et d'amour.

bayou said...

And our very best wishes for you, dear Vagabonde. As always, you highlighted my day with your delightful post and I will never get tired to read from you.

Jenny Woolf said...

Thanks for this nice post. Your tree is very charming! Sometimes "less is more" I wish I could get collard greens here, I wonder if they are known by another name. I have tried them in Florida and they're really delicious.
I realised I knew Papa Wemba when you mentioned his death, sorry he has gone. Certainly many well known figures have died in 2016, but I suppose there is bound to be variation year on year and 2017 could have a below average number.
All the best to you for the coming year.

Z said...

I'm so glad you had a celebration. A treat or two and some relaxation from everyday worries has to be good. You have - and need - great courage and a wonderful outlook on life.

Colette said...

Lovely post filled with wonderful imagery and interesting pieces of information. Thanks.

DJan said...

I know I will be both entertained and better informed by the time I finish one of your posts, VB, and this was no exception. I didn't know about David Bald Eagle and really appreciated learning about his life. And I love your little tree. We didn't even have that in our home, but we didn't miss it. Thanks for another wonderful visit. :-)

Diane said...

Sounds like you had a great Christmas. We went to the UK and picked up all the horrible bugs in existence so it was a Christmas for us that we need to forget.
Hope that 2017 will be good to you and a healthy one as well. Take care Diane

Nadezda said...

Dear Vagabonde, another very interesting post!
I liked your pictures of snow in Atlanta, it's a surprise. Here we had -20 C (-3 F) and today is 'warmer' -2 C only. What beautiful calendars you have, it's a pleasure to see one with Saint Petersburg photos.
Lovely Christmas tree you had, so nice decorations, I love red ones. Your cats are such curious and cute, Vagabonde, watching your Ipad, unbelievable!
The tragedy with Alexandre Ensemble was a great loss. I loved to listen to them especially the song 'Katusha'. I'm so sorry!
I'm sure Pasadena Rose Parade was awesome,so many roses.
I still keep mt Christmas tree decorated, I think up to the 'Old new year' on Jan 13th. :-)
Have a nice week!

Frances said...

Dear Vagabonde, this post was so enriching! I love how you link so many topics with such style, blending the celebratory with much more serious matters.

This new year certainly promises us many challenges, along with many opportunities. I send my very best wishes to you and your husband. xo

Marie-Anne said...

Comme d'habitude, j'ai adoré lire ton post, chère Vagabonde! Et toutes ces informations intéressantes. Quelle perte celle de l'Ensemble Alexandre! et je ne savais pas que le grand chef indien nous a aussi quittés.
Ton chat qui aime regarder les vidé est fantastique!!!
Dans notre famille aussi, en Grèce, pas de Noël sans fromages français et sans la bûche de Noël! Il faut bien garder les traditions!
Je te souhaite une bonne et heureuse année pour toi et tous ceux qui te sont chers!
Grosses bises,

molly said...

So much interesting information here! I had not known much about the Indian Chief --- fascinating! I love your vintage cards and for a downsized holiday celebration your photos sure look colorful and cheerful....Best of luck to you in 2017. Sounds like you'll have some difficulties for which I wish you courage and strength and optimism.
Great read.

Jeanie said...

Happy New Year, my friend. I'm glad the holiday was a nice one. It sounds mellow and that sounds good. Your tree is adorable and a good substitute considering all was packed away. Very cheery and you can keep it with you when you move, too!

It has been quite the year for deaths but I fear this will continue, given our age and the ages of the people who interest us.

Meanwhile I am sending good wishes for a very happy new year, I hope all will be well as you work toward your move. Keep cozy in that cold!

Glenda Beall said...

Your posts are always interesting and educational. I have not been interested in Christmas decorating much since my husband died, but this year I felt a bit more festive and bought a little tree, with lights on it already, and put some lights outside. I have enjoyed the tree and decorations so much I don't want to take them down.
I really enjoy your vintage postcards and your lovely photographs. Your blog is one of my very favorite ones so I try not to miss a single post.
Hope your new year will be healthy and happy. I know with your husband's illness, it is hard to find joy. My 92 year old friend cares for her husband, also 92, who has dementia. It is wearing and frustrating, but she looks for the small things to enjoy. Memories are what get her through each day. I live about two hours north of you and I have had snow on the ground since Friday night, about six inches I think. Stay warm.

joared said...

This is a delightful post -- you covered so many interesting matters. Living alone, the years I choose to stay in sunny Southern California and/or family aren't able to come here for the holidays, I decorate differently. In fact, I have a small table top size tree I decorated one year. I carefully covered it then brought it out this year to augment some candles in my kitchen front window. Wishing you a very happy new year!

The Broad said...

What a beautiful forward looking post -- positive and engaging. Best wishes for a wonderful 2017...

Arti said...

Thanks for a beautiful seasonal post. All best wishes for 2017!

Cergie said...

Il me semble reconnaitre un bambou sacré ; c'est une jolie plante (feuilles et baies) nouvellement arrivée dans les massifs des villes ici. Ton petit sapin en pot me plait énormément, d'abord par sa taille et ensuite par son feuillage simple. Notre sapin de l'année dernière n'a pas été utilisé ce noël, il est resté dehors bien qu'il soit très beau (je l'arrose lorsqu'il fait chaud, ce qui n'est pas le cas en ce moment tu t'en doutes) parce que nous avons fêté Noël chez ma belle-soeur dans le Var.
Intéressantes explication / les coutumes arméniennes, la plus grande créchiste de nos amis (les deux autres étant des hommes) est d'origine arménienne, je n'ose imaginer le temps qui lui faut pour défaire sa crèche ! C'est une splendeur qui occupe tout un pan de mur !
2016 a en effet été une année difficile pour les stars, il faut dire que la plupart n'étaient pas de la prime jeunesse mais certaines avaient toutefois de belles années encore de créativité devant elles.
J'espère que ton mari apprécie tous ces petits plaisirs de Noël, les décorations, les délices, qu'ils l'entourent de douceurs même s'il n'en a plus vraiment conscience et que tu as toi-même beaucoup de plaisir....
Une heureuse année nouvelle à vous deux et à votre charmante famille : santé bien sûr mais aussi de nombreux moments de détente et de joie...

Mae Travels said...

Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope the New Year brings you happiness and peace.

best... mae at

Lee said...

G'day from Down Under, Vagabonde! I've just read your comment on my blog, and I am so appreciative that you took the time to visit. I really am. Thank you so much for the information given. As as I said in my response to you, please do not be a stranger in the future.

I've added your blog to my I shall be a regular reader. :)

May 2017 treat you and yours with great kindness.

kenju said...

Thank you for your visit and comment, and for giving me news of Naomi. She and I emailed recently and she said much the same things. I miss her posts and comments a lot, and I hope she will feel better soon. I enjoyed reading your post; especially the part about David Bald Eagle. What an interesting person! I notice we have one reader in common ( Joared).

LL Cool Joe said...

Thank you for letting me know about Naomi. She is a very special lady and I miss her posts and comments and a great deal. I hope her health improves and this year is a good year for her.

This is an action packed post with lots of great photos. I'm glad you had a good Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

Shammickite said...

I hope that your husband was able to enjoy your little Christmas tree. I think that Christmas can be a very hard time for many people. I am sending my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2017. I loved your description of Hoppin' John, a dish I have never heard of before, but I think I'd love to try it!

Vicki Lane said...

What a fine post! So full of so many beautiful thing! I hope the New Year holds good things for you and for us all.

Carola Bartz said...

A cat that loves to watch cat videos? You have a very special cat - it gave me a good laugh.
I usually don't put away our ornaments until after January 6th - for us that day is Epiphany and the end of Christmas. This year I put the Christmas tree out on Tuesday after the 6th, so we had it a good long time. The decoration on the house is still on - it has been raining too hard to get out and on the roof to put it down.
I wish you a joyful and healthy 2017.

Pixel Peeper said...

A very happy New Year to you!

We had a big, regular Christmas tree, but I also got one of those little Norfolk pines to put on a dresser. Oh, I have the same Christmas CD from Nana Mouskouri!

I used to love Russian folk music as a kid. Well, I still love it. I just looked up some more music in that genre.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

On my I just sent an email saying I had not heard from you. Silly me for Imshould have checked with blogger post.. first. This is an very detailed account of your traditions, background and presents ways to come into the new year. Would you believe I grew up with an Armenian neighbour? We are still in touch. He is a professor in Armenian studies who now lives and still teaches in Ottawa. And then I recall that in 1951 my parents applied to leave Hannover to live in Georgia but my mother was refused entry because she worked as a woman's prison officer in Berlin. Her job automatically gave her the political association to the ruling party during that time. Since she was not bannened from Canada we ended up here in 1953/4. Once in Cadada she was allowed entry into US with a visa when we travelled. My Dad was a refugee from Czechoslovakia when Sudeten people/Austrian descendents were kicked out by Russia in 1945. They were sent to camps in Germany. My Dad ended up in the British zone. He became an interpreter for the Tommies. Now I have been a Canadian for over 50 years.
Still some of my family's past is being carried forward and we also take on many new local traditions.

Magic Love Crow said...

I pray 2017 is happy for you, filled with many blessings! I love the little tree you got! It was so cute to see your black cat watching videos! I love your orange cat too! Please take care of yourself. It must be so hard with your hubby's illness! Thankyou for the information about David Bald Eagle! We lost so many good souls in 2016!!! So very sad!!! Sending you and your loved ones, Big Hugs and Much Love!!!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Your little decorated tree was perfect! Since we got our two kitties seven years ago, we've not had a traditional tree covered with our stash of antique... and fragile... decorations. Instead, my husband cut out the shape of a tree in cardboard, painted it, and put bubble lights around the perimeter. I made some paper "ornaments" to glue on it, and we have an aluminum paper-covered star on top. It hangs at the front window, and when it's time to take it down, it gets moved to a storage room, where it hangs until the next Christmas. Now we don't have to worry about our cats breaking ornaments or eating tinsel. (Nothing like seeing tinsel hanging out their cute little butts! HA)

I wish you and yours all the best in the new year.

Terra said...

I enjoyed your post; those are pretty postcards, and I like your Norfolk pine Christmas tree. My parents had one indoors for 20 years, each year it grew bigger until it was about 4 feet tall and wide, very graceful.

DeniseinVA said...

A marvelous read with lovely photos. I am so sorry to learn of your husband's illness. I wish you the very best in 2017.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for sharing your world and life with us. Thanks for your comment on Zadkine, who was a great artist indeed. I wish you a blessed 2017!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

So very many lovely and fun things to talk about here that I don't know where to start and know I'll leave some things out that impressed me. First, I love how you make your own happiness and joy in spite of your husband's illness. A good example for anyone and everyone -- we must each create our own joy!

Your kitty watching the cat videos is adorable and I love that they distracted him from the fun of batting around your precious ornaments! I also love your internationally-flavored New Year's Day meal -- French and Southern is not the fusion cuisine one normally thinks of, but your menu sounds scrumptious and I wish I had the same exact meal in front of me right this minute.

I loved everything about this post.

Pat said...

A wonderful post Vagabonde. I hope 2017 will bring peace and happiness to you and your family. Look after yourself.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

It is spring now as I catch up on your posts. I love your style of presenting such a variety of information centred around a special celebration.
Christmas at our place is also unique. We have blended not only cultures but religious backgrounds within our family. We are thankful for the open mindedness that allows us to join together regardless of past traditions to blend and create new ones. It is possible. Faith in each other and trust that it is for the common good had allowed it. This Easter weekend a niece will be having her Saturday wedding in a mosque and on Sunday there will be celebration of Easter with little ones for we are all one big family under one deity. It matters not who is Catholic or Lutheren or Sunni. It matters that there is mutual repect. Buddy likes going to Chuch and Mosques for prayers. He says God is everywhere. I love how Buddy is accepting. He has had to overcome much just because of his handicap. Can't wait For Eastervweekend.

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