The Best Christmas in United States History

…is today!

So, have a very Merry Christmas, and as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, every one!”



10. Junior Electrician Outlet Panel
9. Hasbro’s Slippery Steps
8. Black & Decker Silly Driller
7. Roof Hanger Paratrooper Outfit
6. Remco’s Pocket Hive
5. Traffic Tag
4. Will It Burn? from Parker Brothers
3. Chimney Explorer
2. My First Ferret Farm
1. Ooh – You’re Blue!, the Exciting Hold-Your-Breath Game


10. Ahahl and the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
9. The Sweatiest Angel
8. Santa’s Three-Day Eggnog Bender
7. Christmas Eve at the All-Male Cinema
6. A Holiday Visit from Salmonella
5. Ironman Mike Tyson Hurts Santa Real Bad
4. My Christmas Sauna with Burl Ives
3. Jack Frost Loses the Feeling in His Extremities
2. I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus
1. The Teddy Bear Who Came to Life and Mauled a Retail Clerk

(courtesy of The Late Show with David Letterman)

The Top 10 Least Popular Holiday Specials

10. Andy Williams and the Osmond Brothers’ Kwazy Kwanzaa

9. It’s an Utterly Horrible Life, Charlie Brown

8. Miracle Whip on 34th Street

7. Frosty the Ex-Girlfriend

6. Harry Potter and the Marketing Tie-In That All of Your Friends Will Get for Christmas So You’d Better Ask For It, Too

5. Pay It Forward, with 0% Financing and No Payments Due Until January of 2003

4. Prancer II: Pass the Steak Sauce

3. Dude, Where’s My Sleigh?

2. Winona Ryder in “How the Wench Stole Christmas”

1. Crouching Reindeer, Hidden Yule Log

(courtesy of the Top Five List)

5 Worst Christmases in U.S. History

Not every Christmas season is uplifting, in fact, some American Christmases have been downright depressing. In today’s Friday History List, I look at the five worst Christmas seasons in United States history. If you ever get tempted to think that this holiday season is tough, just remember these, and be thankful for what we have.

5. Christmas 1963 – Barely one month before, the young and popular President John Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. At Christmastime, much of the nation was still in shock and mourning.

4. Christmas 1941 – In the days following Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Burma, Borneo, Hong Kong and Guam..On Christmas Day 1941, Americans worried about Japanese midget subs in San Francisco Bay and German U-boats off the coast of New Jersey.

3. Christmas 1929 – This was the first Christmas after the Stock Market crash of October. With banks failing, companies shutting down and the life savings of many Americans having evaporated, there was plenty of coal in the nation’s stocking this year.

2.  Christmas 1862 – When 1862 began, both North and South were hopeful that “the late unpleasantness” might soon be over. The North trusted in their new commander, George McClellan, and the South was buoyant after the successes of 1861. By Christmastime, inconceivable slaughter at Shiloh and Antietam had ended all illusions. In the North, the families of Union soldiers mowed down at Fredericksburg only days before had even less to celebrate.

1. Christmas 1776 – The United States, barely five months old, seemed on the verge of extinction this Christmas. George Washington’s continental army had been driven from New York, chased through New Jersey and now sat, malnourished, sickly and demoralized, on the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River. Many of Washington’s troops planned on going home in a week, since their enlistment papers expired with the new year. The British busied themselves making preparations for their winter quarters, in full expectation of accepting the surrender of whatever remained of the American rebellion in the spring. A list had already been prepared, detailing which American leaders would be granted amnesty, which would be imprisoned, and which would be hung for high treason. What no one knew that Christmas morning was that Washington was about to save the American Revolution and in doing so, change the course of history.

It’s Christmastime at UMBC! (A Pictorial Essay)

And you thought it was the Christmas season!

Outside of the Math Psychology Building

In the lobby of the RAC

At the Commons

Outside the University Center

Seen all over campus

The UMBC Bookstore:

The Yum Shoppe

The College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences - 1st Floor UC

Through the window of the ELC

A successful 2009 Maryland Charity Campaign

At the Skylight Lounge:

The OIT Help Desk Christmas Party:

Happy Thanksgiving! I Might Be OCD! (No, I’m Sure Of It Now.)

I love holidays. This is tied very closely to my love for traditions and seasons, which I think, is tied very closely to my need for order and predictability. Let me explain.

My desk is very neat and very regimented. Everything has a place, and everything is in its place – all the time. I don’t like things to be drifting into areas where they do not belong, because, well, that’s not where they belong. When something is displaced, I notice and return it immediately. There is order in my universe.

My orderly universe

I also love the seasons, especially the changing of the seasons. I like how there’s a definitive start and stop date to seasons, and I ensure that my personal routines adhere to this framework as much as possible. For example, I will not turn on the heat in the house before November 1st – period. That’s when my heating season starts. On the other side of the year, I will not turn on the air conditioning until June 1st. Every fall, I neatly fold my “summer clothes,” tee shirts, shorts, etc., and box them away in the closet until spring, replacing them in my dresser with the sweatshirts that had been stored away for the previous six months. I guess this is my way of marking the passage of the seasons, and thus the passage of time, in an orderly, disciplined manner.

Likewise, my holiday schedule is similarly regimented. Halloween decorations are to be displayed from October 1-31 only, because September isn’t Halloween season yet and November is Thanksgiving season. So, on November 1st every year, the Halloween decorations return to their boxes and the Thanksgiving decorations go up. On the day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” I can’t be bothered with shopping, because that is the day when the Thanksgiving decorations must go away, being replaced by the Christmas decorations. (While we decorate, my wife and I prepare a second, smaller Thanksgiving meal, because we rarely get enough leftovers from the actual feast.) Because of the sheer number of decorative items and the degree of difficulty involved (the tree alone may take hours to adorn satisfactorily), I allow Friday and Saturday to complete this task. But be assured, by the end of the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it is done. Christmas season officially ends for me on January 1st. On that day, all the Christmas decorations will come down and be stored away for the year. This act officially ends my holiday season.

But really, it goes farther than this. During the various holiday seasons, there are certain activities that I must engage in, or else I’ll feel like I’ve missed out on a key component. For example, I must watch all of the original Charlie Brown specials in their appropriate season (The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving & Charlie Brown Christmas).

I must also see all of the other TV specials from when I was a child (The Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, etc.)  I must also watch Alastair Sims’ 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.

"It's not convenient - and it's not fair!"

Now back to Thanksgiving. Today, I will wake up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. I will not pay much attention to the Broadway nonsense and endless interviews with actors from struggling NBC television shows, but I will become increasingly focused during the last 90 minutes as the ratio of inflatables to dancers picks up. I will attempt to interest my (now teenage) children in this and they will be less than excited (but that’s part of the tradition, too).

At the end of the parade, I will not take my eyes from the screen until Santa has disappeared. This may take a few minutes, as he continues to smile, wave and Ho, Ho, Ho as the credits roll for what seems like forever. But he is Santa, so I will wait.

After the parade, the television goes to football, where I must watch the Detroit Lions valiantly struggle against their inevitable fate, almost as if they were the central character in a Greek tragedy. Struggle they may, but in the end, they will be vanquished by whatever team is lucky enough to be playing them (this year it’s the Packers). At halftime, my wife, our children and I will leave our home and make the short drive to her mother’s home, where the Lions game will be waiting for us. Watching the Detroit Lions lose is also an important part of my Thanksgiving routine.

About the time the Lions’ opponents are running out the clock, dinner will be served; the fare is predictable and correct to the holiday. During the meal the television will be switched over to the Cowboys game, but I feel that this game is more peripheral to the day, and so I watch it with less intensity, often times dozing off. Eventually, the “let’s get ready to go home,” noises start to be made, the children are rounded up, and we, with a few token leftovers as souvenirs, make our way home to prepare for the work ahead of us on Friday and Saturday.

With all of this having been accomplished, with each benchmark having been achieved, I will feel satisfied that one season has successfully passed into another, and I didn’t miss anything in the process. It will have been a good Thanksgiving.

I wish an equally wonderful Thanksgiving for each of you today.