Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve and the Moon Pie

This time of the holiday season is a great time to reflect on the passing of another year (no matter how bad it was or how much you learned to hate termites! - oh, I do digress, don't I?) But the New Year is also a great time to learn about how other people celebrate this time of year. 

Along with the Southern New Year's tradition of black eyed peas and cornbread at midnight, one of my favorite celebrations in the South involves a 600 lb Moon Pie. (No, not a real one - more's the pity - this is actually a metal replica!) Although the Moon Pie was originally produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee the delicious treat has become the center of the New Year's Celebration in Mobile, Alabama. At the stroke of midnight, the gigantic metal snack is dropped to bring in the New Year! 

In addition, the celebration - called MoonPie over Mobile - includes a Mardi Gras like parade where mini Moon Pies (produced especially for Moon Over Mobile) are tossed to the throngs. There is also lots of live jazz music and blues and even a giant specially baked Moon Pie for the enjoyment of the revelers. 

A final thought, am I the only one who feels that the Moon Pie (or lighted Ball, or star or Hog*) goes the wrong direction to indicate the New year? Why down? Wouldn't it be so much better if the indicator went up the side of the building or tower and the lights go off, rockets explode and people shout as the New Year begins? Let's work on that for next year, shall we?

Have a great New Year, from your Southern Pal, Marv!

*Yes, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, they drop a big ol' Hog to mark the beginning of the New Year. No, not a real Hog, a big fiberglass and metal hog that lights up when it hits the new year. Yeah, Moon Pies and Hogs for New Years - that's Southern Living! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Old Christmas - A Southern Tradition

There are many Christmas Traditions in the South, but none so unusual as "Old Christmas." Celebrated in the area of the Outer Banks, North Carolina, Old Christmas is celebrated - not on December 25, but on January 6.  

The basis for "Old Christmas" goes back to 1752, when England switched to the Gregorian Calendar which shortened the year. News traveled slow in those days, and on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the English settlers didn't get the word for decades, and had been celebrating the holiday when they always had, on what, in the new calendar, was Jan. 6.

Legend has it that the settlers didn't want to change and decided to merely keep celebrating the holiday on January 6.  Because of this, residents have found a place for both holidays. Christmas Day has become a time for family togetherness. Jan. 6, called Old Christmas, is a big community party.

Old Christmas celebrations have, in the past, been known to become rather rowdy and the celebration doesn't end until the arrival of Old Buck. Legend says that Old Buck was a wild bull that used to run amok on the Banks, and his spirit returns at each Old Christmas party in the form of a couple of folks dressed in an approximation of a bull outfit.

Old Buck runs around, makes adults laugh and scares a few children. But he’s also a reminder that this place, a finger of sand to which some of the toughest people in the world cling, is still a bit wild.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy 'Old Christmas' to you all! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Glitter and the King

Ok, so last week I didn't post anything.  To be honest, I was too sick to even remember what a blog was. I spent the entire week home in bed. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say that I'm feeling better and am back at work and even took a walk over to the Arcade to mail a Christmas Letter to the Grand Kids.  The closest Post Office is located in the center of the famous Arcade, one of America's oldest covered shopping centers and located right in the heart of Nashville, and there in lies our story for today.  

The pic above was taken as I walked back out of the Arcade,  The place sort of snuck up on me and surprised me. As I've noted in the past, the Arcade is filled with all manner of businesses from shoe shine to a tobacco shop.  Mostly, you'll find quick eateries for the downtown worker to lunch upon.  Deli Sandwiches, Mexican, Eastern and even a nifty little Cupcake place (now closed, unfortunately) have all spent time in the covered spaces, but this is not a restaurant!

It's a bit nondescript, and it took me a moment or two to realize what I was seeing due to the hanging Christmas Decorations.  Take a close look at the sign in that window.  That's right, it's a Wedding Chapel.  The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, to be exact.  I've always felt that we needed a bit more rhinestone in the business fare in the center of our city and it looks like they got it right.  

Not only that, the second poster is even better.  
ELVIS!!  ELVIS IS DOING WEDDINGS IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE!  Did I shout that loud enough?  I expect I did.  My wife and I often joked about getting married by Elvis, but when the time came we opted instead for the county clerk.  I think wearing a pair of gold sunglasses and a white speckled suit may have  been a better idea. Hey, we do have an anniversary coming up.....

Yes, I've deleted the phone number as I'm not about to advertise for someone else, so if you really can't find them, inbox me and I'll put you in touch.  Just remember, I get pics...lots of pics!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is it the Death of Southern Ettiquette?

While walking through the city the other day, I happened to get to a door just ahead of a woman who was carrying a couple of big packages.  (Christmas shopping, perhaps?)  As we both encountered the door at the same time, I pulled it open and stepped back to allow her to go first.  She stopped and looked at me. Then she looked at the open door.  She didn't say a word but it was obvious she wasn't used to that.  She looked at me again, while people passed her by and entered the door and after a few more moments she tentatively walked through the door. 

While all the people walked past us, and when she had finally entered the door, I noted that not one of them paused to say "Thank you."  None. Not one.  And this woman with the packages didn't either.  It got me wondering are good manners finally dead?  In our fast paced, internet based, stare at your phone while you try to carry a conversation world, have manners been forgotten?

There is a history of Manners in the South (yes, all caps.)  Southern Gentility and Manners seem to go hand in hand.  In fact, let's ask the unasked question; What are Southern manners? I'm not talking about keeping your elbows off the table or which fork to use, but more about how to treat one another whether you are acquainted or not.  

Southern Manners are, of course, cemented in Christianity.  Nashville is known as the Buckle of the Bible Belt* after all. Manners in general, and Southern Manners specifically are based on the simplicity of the Golden Rule:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 

I've done a bit of research (talked to a few southern friends) and have come up with a sort of Primer for Southern Manners and offer it here as a place for people to learn and perhaps keep the idea of good manners from dying. 

Southern manners are based on 5 basic principles.
  • Be Humble. Others first, yourself last. Self-denial and deference to others ("After you") are the cornerstone of good manners, acting selfish or uppity is not.
  • Be Courteous: Remember the Golden Rule. Go out of your way to be helpful and kind to everyone you encounter.
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Don't be uncouth, rude, brash, loud, coarse, or cause a commotion in public.
  • Be Friendly: Put your best foot forward, whether you've been properly introduced or don't know the person from a hole in the ground.
  • Be Modest:  Practice modesty in all situations. "Why, shucks, I guess I was in the right place at the right time" would work just fine upon learning that you had won the Pulitzer Prize.
By keeping this five pointed approach in your life, you can easily become more well mannered - Dixie Style.  But there's more (of course).
  •  Always remember to say Please and Thank you.  Always ask, never tell. The only way to make a request is to ask for it, directives are much too surly.  Say "Thank you" without fail.   To show them you're really grateful, dress it up with "Thank you kindly," "Thanks a whole lot," "Preciate it". If your request is denied, say "Well, thank you anyway."  Keeping these two in your vocabulary is the very cornerstone of good manners.  
  • Always use "Sir" or "Ma'am."  It's as important as Please and Thank you.
  • Always refer to those of the female gender as Ladies. The descriptive "Woman" is usually reserved in Dixie for females of questionable respect. If you are a gentleman, then treat all ladies with a courtliness, deference, and respect you'd accord members of the royal family since, in the South, ladies occupy such status. This is an immutable rule of order in Dixie, no matter what may be happening elsewhere on this planet.
  • Hold the door open for all members of the fairer sex, regardless of their social station. 
  • Stand when a lady enters or leaves a room.
  • Walk on the street-side of a side-walk, when accompanying a lady.
In the south, being well mannered is not being "Politically Correct."  It stands head and shoulders above such trivial things.  PC, to a Southerner, is merely a way people try to excuse not bringing kids up properly, and not teaching them Good Southern Manners.

*The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.