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Tag Archive: Missouri

Dec 16

Christmas traditions of Missouri, first published in December of 2010 in The Examiner, a daily newspaper published Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.)

Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today’s Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.
–Gladys Tabor (Still Cove Journal)

french-breakfast

In our house on Christmas morning we honor a Yuletide tradition passed down from the early French traders who settled Missouri. We celebrate it year after year, but until recently when I researched Missouri Christmas traditions, I had no idea why.

Sometimes we celebrate “reveillon” (pronounced “rev-ay-yon”) on Christmas morning, sometimes on the day after depending upon when the grown offspring arrive.

No, Seinfeld fans, I am not speaking of “Festivus”.

Although the term “reveillon” may seem just as unusual to you as Festivus, the custom of “reveillon” is French for Christmas breakfast.

In Missouri, the Roman Catholic French, the first white settlers in the region, gathered at the home of the head of the family each year on Christmas morning to “reveil” (pronounced rev-ay), meaning wake for breakfast together.

The fare included flavored sweet breads, chestnuts, wild turkey, and dried fruit such as oranges, grapes and cranberries as well as oysters if they could get them. I discovered that in Kansas City markets in the 1850s many of these delicacies were indeed available.

The French adults did not exchange gifts, but the children placed their shoes on the hearth to be filled with candy and toys by the Petit Noel (the Christ Child). No one had a Christmas tree then.

Christmas traditions in Missouri, according to author Dorothy J. Caldwell, were patterned after time-honored traditions of European origin, some rowdy and some religious in nature. All included a time of honoring the spiritual meaning of the season and of family reunion and gaiety, as she described it.

I found excerpts from Caldwell’s writings in my hometown historical society newsletter. From that I located her article titled “Christmas in Missouri”, first published in the Missouri Historical Review in January 1971.

It is fascinating reading if you love history.

She explains how the Germans came to Missouri after the early French settlers, a history familiar to most Missourians, but their Christmas traditions may not be as familiar.

Caldwell references Gert Goebel of Franklin County, Missouri, who wrote that in the 1830s many Missourians held no Christmas church services, no presents were given, and the beautiful custom of the Christmas tree was unknown.

But it was not long after that German settlers introduced the Christmas tree to the Missouri frontier. Caldwell wrote that where cedar trees grew abundantly, “they were brought in from the woods, hung with bright red berries from wild bushes, red leaves from gum and sassafras trees and yellow leaves from maple trees, and topped with dusty miller or peacock feathers.”

With only native cedar trees and few pines, Christmas tree availability was scarce in Missouri, especially in Kansas City and St. Louis urban areas. Caldwell explains, “It was not until 1882 that cabinet-maker Oswald Karl Lux, a recent German settler, lighted the first full-sized Christmas tree in old Westport and in Kansas City. Two years later Westport and Kansas City citizens were able to buy Christmas trees shipped from Michigan.”

As we each carry-on with our unique and/or adapted family Christmas traditions, I like knowing that most of these are anchored deep in Missouri history.

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, a happy reveillon Christmas breakfast if you have one and a festive Christmas tree whether decorated with berries and feathers or with shiny ornaments and festal lights.

And I might add as Andy Rooney once quipped, “One of the most glorious traditions in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”

Apr 03

Ode to Opening Day When Any Team Can Win the Pennant

Dear Readers: This column was published back in the day when there was not much hope about the Kansas City Royals winning the Pennant, let alone the Division. That changed, as the photo below shows, with the Royals celebrating their big win in the 5th game of the 2015 World Series v. the Mets in New York.

Here then is a look back at one of my columns about the Kansas City Royals–Ode to Opening Day when any team can win the Pennant (Go Royal Sox!) First published April 9, 2009, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

 

Royals win World Series 2015

Photo flashback: Royals win 2015 World Series 

“You always get a special kick on Opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Joe DiMaggio.

Brimming with optimism as I drove along the interstate, I tuned the dial to sports radio hoping to find a pleasurable experience listening to the Kansas City Royals on Home Opening Day 2009.

And truthfully, I found one, even though the “boys in blue” had already lost their season opener away at the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series.

The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

“There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness,” author George Vecsey writes in A Year in the Sun (1989).

Thus, beating back my own disappointing memories, I decided to believe, really believe, in the home team despite its heart-breaking precedent and its past mediocrity.

The ghosts of failure would not haunt me this season, I vowed.

After all, it was Opening Day. They might win!

They did not.

However, these guys are pretty good, or so they say in Chicago.

The son who moved to the Chicago area called to say the local media there were highly respectful of the Royals and that they have some real talent on board this year. “The Sox won,” he reported.

The son who moved to Boston sent an iPhone photo from Opening Day at Fenway where the Boston Red Sox were playing Tampa Bay. “The Sox won,” the lucky duck texted.

So, should we rename our team Sox, I pondered? How about the Kansas City Royal Sox? Has a nice ring to it.

Not discouraged yet, I called the son who lives in Kansas City to tell him how great the Royals were in defeat. He quickly reminded me that I say this every Opening Day.

Baseball-almanac.com agrees, “Regardless of the outcome, Opening Day still remains as the number one date in the hearts, minds (and on the calendars) of baseball fans everywhere. The official countdown begins after the last pitch of the World Series when we can’t wait to hear those two magic words again, Play Ball!”

And if you will, those magic words, “We won!”

The late Jack Buck, St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster, summed up best our Opening Day dreams with his original on-air radio poem, titled “365”:

“When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.

In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree.
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows.
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.

They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the Pennant on Opening Day.”

 

Nov 14

The late musical legend and entertainer’s entertainer, Al Fike, inducted into Holt County, Missouri, Music Hall of Fame, Nov. 28, 2015, in Forest City, MO.

Al Fike Estes Park.jpg

“Al Fike and his beloved Rocky Mountains” reprinted with permission by The Estes Park Trail-Gazette, originally published in the Time of Your Life edition, Autumn 1989.

Al Fike, longtime music educator in Holt County and nationally-known entertainer, is one of the inductees in the new Holt County Music Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held at 7 PM on November 28th at the Historic City Hall on The Al Fike Stage in Forest City, MO. More information about the ceremony can be found on this link: https://www.facebook.com/forestcitymo/?fref=nf.

Al Fike Stage

Al Fike’s life story is on the link below directing you to the biography I wrote about him. It was a pleasure helping him record his memories of his amazing musical career. It was not published until after he died, although we worked on it together a few years before then. Al would indeed be honored and delighted to be inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in Holt County. I can just hear him saying “Ain’t ya glad you come” (a saying he used to begin his shows). Here’s the link to my book if you want to take a look: http://kayhoflander.com/books/al-fike/

 

Al began his professional career in 1948 in Central City, Colorado, after years of teaching music and serving as a school superintendent in Missouri. Al Fike became a living legend, preserving and enhancing the traditions of the American musical stage as no other performer has ever done. The Al Fike Show was an opportunity to see an entertainer’s entertainer perform (and teach).

 

 

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