“Merry Christmas” is Back!

In the checkout lane of the supermarket the woman checking out in front of me wished the checkout person “Merry Christmas.” She smiled and sort of blushed, then said, “Remember when we couldn’t say that?” The checker and the bagger both smiled, and at the same time said back to the woman, “Merry Christmas.” Walking away with her shopping bag, the woman turned back to the checkout counter and said, “You know, I never stopped saying it, and I never will.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Over the last decade in America, we all became more inclusive of other cultures and more respectful of the way different races and cultures celebrated this time of year. There was a trend to avoid the phrase, or at least to revise it to “Happy Christmas”, or “Happy Holidays.”

But in 2016, on a blustery, snowy day in New Hampshire, Donald Trump was in full campaign mode before a cheering crowd packed into the SNHU ice hockey arena in Manchester. He’d been talking about supporting the military and police officers when he stopped, pointed his finger at the audience, and shouted, “And you are going to be able to say, ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” The crowd roared, and the rest is history.

The origin of the phrase “Merry Christmas” is a bit sketchy, but it may have been first used in a non-religious Christmas song in the 1600s that we all know and sing: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” In 1843, Charles Dickens used the same phrase in his novel “A Christmas Carol” and it was used as the sentiment on the first-ever commercially printed Christmas card.

The word “merry” probably comes from the old fashioned “merrymaking of the holiday” promoted by Dickens, a message of love, joy, and well wishes that we all make, irrespective of our individual belief systems or political leanings. It’s become a universal term communicating joy and good wishes, and can be used by people of all races and religious backgrounds during Christmas time.

So from us to you at this wonderful time of the year, “Merry Christmas!

Christmas in America

American history tells us that early settlers of Boston were Puritans who sailed to America in 1630 seeking religious freedom. The early Pilgrims, a separatist group, came ten years later, also seeking their own style of religious freedom.

In the colonies of New England, the Puritan population was staunchly against Christmas and its celebration. They saw it as a holiday associated with Catholic and pagan traditions, which they opposed. Consequently, in 1659 Christmas was officially outlawed in Boston. Anyone found celebrating it was fined fifty shillings and shunned by their neighbors.

This law was revoked in 1681 by a non-Puritan governor, but by that time, Christmas had simply been forgotten, and wouldn’t catch on again until the mid-19th century after Washington Irving wrote stories about how Christmas was celebrated in England before the Puritans took over. German immigrants practiced the tradition of placing evergreen branches and trees in their homes during cold winters, and Catholic immigrants brought the tradition of nativity scenes. The legend of Saint Nicholas and its traditions were brought by European emigrants. By the late 1800s most Americans celebrated Christmas, and President Grant declared Christmas a national holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Today, most Americans blend religious and secular customs with their own family traditions with food, decorations, and gift giving (thanks, Charles Dickens). For most Americans, Christmas remains a religious occasion, and it blends well with the Jewish Hanukkah.

Today, the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving and ends on New Years Day, giving all of us plenty of time to celebrate, shop, party, eat, pray, and decorate to our hearts content. While it serves us well to be reminded of the original meaning of Christmas, Christmas in the United States reflects the values of a free and diverse people.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at DLMoneyMatters! 

Longfellow and Catawba Wine

From time to time we like to divert from our usual blogs about small business accounting and daily money management to dig up a few nuggets about our hometown — Cincinnati. This is one of those times.

Longfellows is an the Over-the-Rhine bar that recently opened a new space for private events they call the Other Room. The original Longfellows bar is named after the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882) who has a certain connection to the Queen City. 

Longfellow loved mythology and legend, both of which Cincinnati has in abundance. We are named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman farmer and statesman known for his great civic virtue; we are also a legendary wine producing region of the world. 

catawba grapevine
Catawba Grapevine image courtesy of Double A Vineyards.

Nicholas Longworth was a wine grower in the Ohio River Valley outside of Cincinnati in the early 1800s. His prize wine was made from the native Catawba grape, and would become one of the greatest wines in the world.

This was the wine of poet Longfellow’s classic poem “Catawba Wine” — a tribute to the grape and the city that produced it, written on the receipt of a gift of Catawba wine from the Nicholas Longworth vineyards on the Ohio River.

CATAWBA WINE*

This song of mine
Is a Song of the Vine,
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers.

It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys. 

Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O’er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado. 

For richest and best
Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver. 

And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees,
Forever going and coming;
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing and humming.

Very good in its way
Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.

There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o’er the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains,
That have driven the Old World frantic.

To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer;
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil’s Elixir. 

While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it, one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it. 

And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.

*Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth “Catawba Wine” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [online resource], Maine Historical Society, Accessed 23 March 2019.