Merry Christmas!

While searching for something “Christmas-y” in the Digital Archives,  I came across this entry in the The James T. Callow Folklore Archive.  The poem, a reworking of A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, struck me as a wonderfully creative way to teach children the true meaning of Christmas.

In researching this original poem, I discovered that Clement Clarke Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas for his own children in 1822.  It was published anonymously by someone in his family and he didn’t even get credit for it until years later.  And, while Moore wrote other poems and had other work published, this one poem is what he’s remembered for.  This one poem has been associated with Christmas for generations.

The re-write published in Professor Callow’s archive, really only works with a knowledge of this original poem.  And to me, that’s what makes it notable, interesting, and distinct.

Interested in other traditions and customs associated with Christmas?  Check out The James T. Callow Folklore archive.  It’s a great way to spend a snowy Christmas afternoon.

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
AND ALL THROUGH THE TOWN
ST. JOSEPH WAS SEARCHING,
WALKING UP ROADS AND DOWN.
OUR LADY WAS WAITING
SO MEEK AND SO MILD,
WHILE JOSEPH WAS SEEKING
A PLACE FOR THE CHILD.
THE CHILDREN WERE NESTLED,
EACH SNUG IN HIS BED;
AND THE GROWNUPS WOULDN’T BOTHER,
“THERE’S NO ROOM,” THEY SAID.
WHEN EVEN THE INNKEEPER SENT THEM AWAY
AND JOSEPH WAS WONDERING WHERE THEY WOULD STAY,
HE THOUGHT OF THE CAVE IN THE SIDE OF THE HILL.
“LET’S GO THERE,” SAID MARY, “IT’S SILENT AND STILL.”
THE MOON ON THE BREAST
OF THE NEW FALLEN SNOW
MADE A PATHWAY OF LIGHT
FOR THEIR TIRED FEET TO GO.
AND IN THE CAVE
IN A CRADLE OF HAY
THE SAVIOR WAS BORN
ON THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY!
THE FATHER WAS WATCHING
IN HEAVEN ABOVE,
AND SENT FOR HIS ANGELS,
HIS COURTIERS OF LOVE.
MORE RAPID THAN EAGLES,
GOD’S BRIGHT ANGELS CAME,
REJOICING AND EAGER,
AS EACH HEARD HIS NAME.
“COME POWERS, COME CHERUBS,
COME VIRTUES AND RAPHAEL;
COME THRONES AND DOMINIONS,
COME MICHAEL AND GABRIEL.”
“NOW FLY TO THE EARTH
WHERE MY POOR PEOPLE LIVE,
ANNOUNCE THE GLAD TIDINGS
MY SON COMES TO GIVE!”
THE SHEPHERDS WERE WATCHING
THEIR FLOCKS ON THIS NIGHT;
AND SAW IN THE HEAVENS
AN UNEARTHLY LIGHT.
THE ANGELS ASSURED THEM
THEY’D NOTHING TO FEAR,
“IT’S CHRISTMAS,” THEY SAID,
“THE SAVIOR IS HERE.”
THEY HASTENED TO FIND HIM,
AND STOOD AT THE DOOR,
UNTIL MARY INVITED THEM IN
TO ADORE.
HE WAS SWADDLED IN BANDS
FROM HIS HEAD TO HIS FEET,
AND NEVER DID SHEPHERDS
SEE A BABY SO SWEET.
HE SPOKE NOT A WORD,
BUT THE SHEPHERDS ALL KNEW
HE WAS TELLING THEM SECRETS,
AND BLESSING THEM, TOO.
THEN SOFTLY THEY LEFT HIM,
THE BABE IN THE HAY,
AND REJOICED WITH GREAT JOY,
ON THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY.
MARY HEARD THEM EXCLAIM
AS THEY WALKED UP THE HILL,
“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST;
PEACE TO MEN OF GOOD WILL.”

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1914

One hundred years ago in December, 1914, the University of Detroit celebrated the upcoming holidays with a special “Xmas Number” edition of the Tamarack.  The look of this issue is slightly different, but the material included is just as creative and interesting as all the others.  Reading through some of the stories and poetry included in each Tamarack publication allows the reader to time travel a bit; but the December, 1914, issue offers a glimpse into Detroit’s place in a unique period in U.S. history.

The Tamarack is not just about nostalgia, however.  As the country was swiftly growing into the new century, much like today, the attachment to the familiarity of what was is even now strongly felt in this Tamarack’s perspective. A longing for home in those early years of the last century, often meant a longing for the country and the family farm.  Memories of childhood, changes in the seasons, and the anticipated holiday gatherings were then presented in clear juxtaposition to the noisy bustle of a growing city those writers knew.  Today these sorts of memories hold a different significance and importance to the fast pace of our modern perception.

The important political issues of today held a different meaning to those who awoke that Christmas morning in 1914 to the exciting promise of a more bountiful new year just ahead.  Immigration in those days was not a matter of keeping out illegal aliens but about managing the sheer numbers of immigrants flooding onto our shores.  The country in 1914 was on the brink of WWI, and no previous conflict could prepare us for what was waiting to take thousands of lives. Our primary goal regarding war was about victory (“might makes right”), not about human rights back then. The political environment was one of restriction and control, and this was reflected in the quickly changing policies regarding women’s rights, prohibition, and economic growth through manufacturing and trade.

And then of course, Henry Ford stood at the ready with jobs, and the ability for the average worker to realize a greater income working fewer hours than was previously the case.  This meant the promise of more leisure time: time spent on education, reading, and art.  (This was the time when Jazz was coming into its own in the northern states, and the assembly line was enhancing the quality of life for so many Detroiters by helping redefine what “leisure” really was.)

The main goals for the graduates of 1914 were advancing with industry, finding a place in the rapid growth of corporate America, and defending the country from those who would interfere with this rush of progress. The focus of the “Xmas Number” Tamarack was on nostalgia, the changing seasons, and just getting through to graduation.  All the excitement of the bright future those students saw before them was waiting for them at the other end of the holiday season.  All the goofing and friendship they had enjoyed during their carefree college years at U. of D. were bound to pay off in more of the same forever and ever.  Right?

 

The Merry Christmas Time

There are only three small entries in the Black Abolitionist Archive associated with Christmas, so I chose this one. While this holiday was important to an enslaved people learning about the celebration of this Christmas story from the periphery of the Christian families who enslaved them, the way they celebrated this holiday was different. The celebration of any special occasion during this time was focused on Church, prayer, thankfulness, and finding joy where they could.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. In this essay (shown here), published in the Weekly Anglo-African on December 29, 1860, the writer expresses nicely what this period of time in this particular year meant to the average “Anglo-African” family. To them, it was about providing their children with a way to bring out the smiles, putting aside worries about the tense political climate to be with friends by the fire, and to focus on the poor who had far fewer blessings.

Often, it seems, you can read between the lines of these essays to discover something interesting, something of the true expression in the writer’s thoughts.  This essay is about more than a simple holiday “feel good” declaration.  It holds the seeds of discontent that would, in 1865, burst forth from a horrible war and into the end of slavery.  This was the beginning of a much longer fight for true freedom, but the truth of this couldn’t be known at that time.  While reading this essay, it’s a good idea to remember the times, think about the history, and bear in mind the struggles going on outside the walls of that newspaper office. In 1860 when this was written, the stirrings of war in an unsettled country were just about ready to move the battle forward.

Since this one isn’t long, I’ve included a transcription with the image below:

“The Merry Christmas Time

Far away from the sun, on the very verge and rim of his orbit, when a pound additional of centrifugal momentum would cause old earth to secede from the planetary union and plunge us all into a dimmer abyss than threatens South Carolina, what a nice, warm, healthful, cheery institution is this merry Christmas time.

We old folks sit cozily by the fire, pipe in hand, stirring our hot lemonade and sweeping the vistas of the past with telescopic eyes, now merry with pleasant, or brimming with sad reminiscences. How much better — don’t frown good wife! — how much better the doughnuts, the olekoks and the kroellers tasted when New-York was all this side of the stone-bridge at Canal-street!  Better, yes better, for teeth and digestion and stomachie capacity were then at an enormous premium. We can distinctly remember two dinners three teas — not counting those that fell out with us by the way — and the enormous supper comfortably put away on Christmas day and evening.

But the merry Christmas time is for the young. It is the special hour for muscular Christianity on the part of the young men, who speed over immense distances in a twinkling of time in search of dimpling cheeks and gladdened eyes — awaiting with shy dissent their welcome coming. How the poor fellow trembles, fumbles in is pocket, crumbles the package in his nervous hands, chokes as he vainly essays the well conned speech, and wishes himself through the floor or ceiling.

Merry Christmas is the children’s day! How long expected, how gladly welcomed by them. Hear their sweet voices, their pattering feet, witness their joy in gifts, their braveries, their graceful rompings and big eyed wonder. Throughout Christendom their tiny voices send up a not unwelcomed choral song to Him who has said ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.

The merry Christmas time should be a season for other things beside merry making. There are precious and gentle duties which can be performed at no other time so well nor so gracefully. ‘The poor ye have always with you.’ And the poor are never so poor as at this season of the year. The special class to whom we now allude are those who have struggled honestly and faithfully in the battle of life but on whom the sun of success has failed to shine. They started out along with us, have labored as hard, perhaps harder than we, they have always kept up appearances — but oh how difficultly do they keep the wolf from the door!  Or there are those whom in our youth we knew well to do and surrounded with their Christmas comforts with their young — now, alas gone before them — as our playmates, but whom swift age has overtaken and grim poverty. To either of these classes, too proud to ask, this season affords a graceful opportunity to give what we know is needed without fear of refusal. Half a load of coal to old Uncle A., or a fine fat turkey to old Aunty B., — how well she knows how to roast it! — or, a pair of plain warm blankets to old Mr. L., would be gifts twice blessed.

Reader, with the means or even the possibility to give, you cannot imagine until you have tried, how much these little benevolences add to the joy of the merry Christmas times.”

 

Light Up the Land

Father Daniel A. Lord‘s love of theater and music started in early childhood and never really left him.  Throughout his life, he expressed this love through creating performances, composing, and writing. His final legacy is reflected in his 1952 musical, “Light Up the Land”.

The UDM Libraries/Instructional Design Studio is pleased to announce the addition of the digitized version of “Light Up the Land” to our Digital Archives. The collection includes the digitized musical (offered in two parts), along with the production program and a biography of Father Lord.

The introduction to the archive provides the following details about the musical:

“‘Light Up the Land’ was presented as part of the 75th anniversary of the University of Detroit in November 1952. The story is about the history and value of education in an American democracy. It starts out with a young couple thinking about leaving school to get married believing that education is a waste of time. A kindly professor guides them through the history of education and how democracy played a role, from the time of Moses, the City of Athens during the Golden Age, the American Revolution, and other eras up to modern America.”

Visit the Light Up the Land archive and see for yourself what an amazing gift of creativity this is.

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Poetic Express

Art is tough to define, though many have tried.  In one attempt at defining, someone once said that art is what’s left behind after creativity is expressed.  And while there may be artists who hide their work from others to be enjoyed only in private, most artists have a desire to share their creativity.

Art can be visual representation, but it can also be communication: of ideas, of noticing, of one individual’s take on the world. In his book The Sane Society (1955), Erich Fromm talks about what he calls “Collective art.” This is art as a meaningful response to the world in a social setting.

“‘Collective art, is shared; it permits man to feel one with others in a meaningful, rich, productive way. It is not an individual leisure time occupation, added to life, it is an integral part of life.” (p. 339)

Maurice Greenia, Jr., is an artist who likes to share his work. With The Poetic Express, he takes his art to the streets.  He gives it away, he makes it free for everyone, and in this way, he makes it an integral part of the society he lives in.

The Poetic Express is a weaving of image and text, poetry and humor, unique story telling and fantasy.  It communicates, it shares, and it amuses all who come upon it.  And this all started, Maurice tells us in his introduction to the collection, in the mid-1980s with a very unique experiment (volume 1).

Maurice adds to this collection often, and now volume 28 is available. If you haven’t spent some time with The Poetic Express collection in the Maurice Greenia, Jr. Collections digital archive, you’re really in for a treat!

(April, 2015, will mark the 30th anniversary of the first volume that was completed in 1985!  Look for something special to commemorate this creative milestone.)

 

Fall means Football!

Fall in Michigan is full of surprises.  It’s difficult to know what to expect of the seasonal changes after Labor Day. Not only does the state become a colorful display of red, yellow, and orange foliage this time of year, it can display this foliage against a dramatic backdrop of painfully blue skies or thunderous storm clouds.  Each day is a different but beautifully expressed tumbling towards winter.  And winter can be harsh and unforgiving.

So ancient man (mid-19th century man to be exact) decided to do something about the unsettled nature of Fall and invented football.  Or so one story goes. Actually, Wikipedia says there was only one man, Walter Camp, to give this credit to in this country, since he is considered to be the “Father of American Football.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the thoughts of students at UDM turned to football with the coming of Fall.  The Titans were much beloved and strongly supported, not only by the entire university, but also by fans across the city and beyond. Devoted fans ensured a place for football as part of student life until its sad end in 1964. With each game, fans enjoyed reading about the players in glossy, brightly colored and highly collectable programs available for sale at each game.  These now grace the virtual pages of the University of Detroit Football Collection in digitized form.

And we are adding to this archive all the time! This month, for example, we’ve added 51 new program images to the programs collection and hope to add more soon.  We invite you to take a look at our newest additions this fall football season, and spend some time scrolling through the games of the past. Imagine yourself sitting in the stands among the crush of cheering fans. Smell the popcorn and hot dogs, feel the chill of a crisp fall afternoon, and relive a time when winning this one game was all that mattered in the world.

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The digital Football Collection offers viewers a way to revisit the time when the pride of the university was reflected in the powerful Titan team. To complete the experience, click through some of the audio interviews included with the collection and hear first hand the memories of those who were there on the field, who felt the sting of those days before uniforms were designed with safety and comfort in mind.  It’s easy to be proud once again listening to those who still remember their time on the field.

 

Lore of a People

A culture is defined by the stories it tells and the beliefs it holds about itself. In the English speaking world, there’s a rich oral tradition of teaching with story telling.  These stories become our collective beliefs, traditions, and customs, and they are passed down from parent to child, teacher to student, elders to youth for generations. The collection of these socially particular “truths” about the world allow us to define who we are as distinct from others.  Often the stories of who we are contain advice for daily life along with the grand answers to universal questions.  When these stories pertain to traditional values regarding how to live, local customs, or even songs and riddles, we say they are “folklore.”  In 1964, Dr. James T. Callow, then professor of English at the University of Detroit, was very interested in folklore.

Although there has always been a tradition of passing along the folklore of this country orally, Dr. Callow realized the value of recording it in an archive.  The value here is not just with the subject and advice offered, but with the process of continuing to hand down through generations the ideas and suggestions of those who long ago determined the need for it.  The meaning of saying such as, “loose lips sink ships,” for example, may be lost to those who continue to use it, the urge to continue to pass it along remains.  Understanding this form of communication, of how we interact with our fellow human beings, is where the value lies. The urge is to instruct, assist, and offer benefit, and this is a very human activity.

So, in 1964, Dr. Callow and his friend Frank Paulsen, created the Detroit Folklore Archive. For the thirty years between its founding and Dr. Callow’s retirement, the archive has grown to be one of the finest of its type in the country. In the introduction to this archive, we learn that in 1972, Dr. Callow computerized the collection using a “punch card system.”  And in his 1992 annual report,  Dr. Callow says, “I have motivated my students to take pains with their collecting because it is destined to be preserved for years to come. Nor will it lie gathering dust. Every time what we retrieve from this database (e.g., some of the proverbs, riddles, stories, songs, customs, and beliefs that these students gathered) are read and appreciated, it’s a way of perpetuating one’s own traditions, and those of one’s family and friends as well.”

Spend some time in this archive and you may be amazed at how much of it you have already been taught in childhood. This archive is a great place to find the customs and traditions of our daily world that we’ve taken for granted over the years since we were first taught these stories of ourselves.  It’s fun to just browse through the subjects or keyword search feature until you find something that catches your fancy.

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

Magnets are very Attractive

Did you know that Maurice Greenia, Jr. creates his own refrigerator magnets?  He takes old magnets that are often given away for advertizing or promotions, applies gesso to them, then paints what he feels on top of the gesso.  He’ll often add the name “Maugre” (Maurice’s nom de plume) and the year the particular item was created.  Some magnets depict animals, some people, some just abstract design … but all of them are unique expressions of Maurice’s creativity.  Not only do these look great on your fridge, but with access to any metal, you can fill your home or work space with these great magnetic works of art.

And there are buttons too!  These wearable works of art have gone from mundane to magnificent with just a few colors and brush strokes.  You can often find Maurice wearing one of his own creations.  He’s got enough to wear a different one for every day of the year.

I like the abstract ones with lots of color but there are almost three hundred to choose from in his collection.  The magnets and buttons pictured below are a couple of my favorites.

The Magnet and Pin Collection is just one aspect of Maurice Greenia, Jr.’s archive.  Spending some time in the entire archive is a great way to get to know what this unique urban artist has to offer.

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Dark Blue, image 67

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Dark Landscape, image 255

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Red Figure, image 76

Headache Cure

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive is an interesting place to spend some time before the summer ends.  A visitor can usually discover something interesting, funny, or amazing there.  Each entry is brief but loaded with a bit of America that few other collections offer.

Take this post, for example.  I was searching for something to write about and typed a few lines into Google to see what I could find.  To my delight, this brief story from the collection popped onto the page:

TILLIE VOSS WAS THE HUGE FOOTBALL PLAYER FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF
DETROIT IN THE YEAR OF ABOUT 1926. ONE DAY HE HAD A TERRIBLE
TOOTHACHE (SO THE STORY WAS TOLD FROM MY FATHER HOWARD
PHILIPPART, THE FULLBACK FOR U OF D). ASPIRIN DID NOT SEEM TO
HELP AND HE DESPERATELY NEEDED SLEEP FOR THE BIG NAVY GAME
THE FOLLOWING DAY. “I GOTTA DO SOMETHING,” HE TOLD MY FATHER
AND RAN FULL TILT HEAD FIRST INTO THE CINDER BLOCK WALL. AS
THEY CARTED HIM OFF TO BED FOR A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP, THE PLAYERS
SILENTLY APPLAUDED HIS DEDICATION AND LOYALTY.

This, to me, is why the term “holy moly” was invented.  The U of D football players of the 1920s were indeed solidly built and … um, “head strong”!

The introduction to The James T. Callow Folklore Collection tells the reader more about this unique archive:

“The University of Detroit Mercy Digital Folklore Archive, founded in 1964 by Professors Frank M. Paulsen and James T. Callow was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries /Instructional Design Studio in 2009. The archives is comprised at this point of over 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work in ‘Introduction to Folklore,’ ‘Studies in Folklore,’ ‘Folk Groups,’ and ‘Folklore Archiving.’ The folklore archive covers traditions gathered between 1964 and 1993. Included in the Archive is the Peabody field note collection containing approximately 12,000 entries from Tennessee and the Southeast.”

Sounds interesting, right?  To discover more, visit this wonderful archive by clicking here.

1917

The 1917 Tamarack (published in June of that year) presents a portrait of a university deeply committed to the war effort.  What begins as 14 pages of interesting advertisements (which capture the readers’ attentions right away), leads subtly into the strongly patriotic support of the country’s entry into World War I.  Reading through the pages of this issue offers visitors a glimpse into a time of war before this country really knew how horrible a world war could be.  There was no precedence for this type of combat as country after country got involved.  This young generation in this country had never known bloody warfare, especially the type that awaited them.  There was no way of knowing how terrible this would be.

Reading this issue of the Tamarack, visitors to the archive may wonder how many of these fresh faced souls came back alive.  How many of the ones who did were able to deal with the scars, both physical and emotional, that time in the trenches left with them.  The traumatic effect of war on survivors has been called by different names over the decades since 1917. Hopefully those returning from the Great War managed to find peace when they returned … if they did return.

By 1917, the war had spread across Europe.  In April of that year, the U.S. had declared war on Germany.  When this issue of the Tamarack was published in June, the country was in the process of losing its innocence.  Two years later (in June, 1919) the Treaty of Versailles would end it.  The world would never be the same again.

Two more issues of the Tamarack would be published after this one. Both focused on questions regarding the war and patriotism. I can’t help but wonder if the sobering effects of war helped to end the Tamarack’s future publications.

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