Tag Archives: Holiday

The Christmas Price Index

Christmas Price Index

Christmas Price Index

The Christmas Price Index was conceived by PNC Bank’s chief economist as a humorous commodity price index to measure the changing cost of goods over time. Commodity price indices, as compiled by economics, use a “market basket” of certain goods and then measure the cost of the goods from year to year to gauge inflation in different sectors of the economy.

The Christmas Price Index chose the items in the popular Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as its market basket: a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese, seven swans, eight maids, nine dancing ladies, ten leaping lords, eleven pipers, and twelve drummers. According to tradition, the purchasing of the items begins on December 26 and ends on January 6.

PNC compiles both a “Christmas Price Index” and “The True Cost of Christmas.” The “Christmas Price Index” is calculated by adding the cost of the items in the song. The “True Cost of Christmas,” however, is calculated by following the exact instructions in the song (buying a partridge in a pear tree on each of the twelve days, buying two turtle doves from the second day onward, for a total of 22 turtle doves, etc.) for the complete set of 364 items.

The price of each item is set as follows:

  • The pear tree comes from a local Philadelphia nursery.
  • The partridge, turtle dove, and French hen prices are determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
  • The price of a canary at Petco is used for the calling bird, though the price of a blackbird would be more in tune with the song.
  • Gordon Jewelers sets the cost of the gold rings, though the gold rings of the song actually refer to ring-necked pheasants.
  • The National Aviary in Pittsburgh sets prices for swans and geese.
  • The maids are assumed to be unskilled laborers earning the Federal Minimum Wage.
  • A Philadelphia dance company provides estimates for the salary of “ladies dancing”.
  • The Philadelphia Ballet estimates the salary for the “leaping lords”.
  • The going-rate for drummers and pipers is that of a Pennsylvania musicians’ union.

This year PNC Bank has provided a stop-motion video/interactive web site on the web for a better user expereince — go HERE. (Give it some time to load.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvwzslJeeLg]

Rock and Roll Saturday – Christmas Rock

Some of my favorite Holiday music.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV8x7H3DD8Y]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN4Uu0OlmTg&w=480&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Khpk9274gMg&w=480&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSynDh_K0EE&w=480&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5cX_ncZLls&w=480&h=360]

And a timeless classic… the Charlie Brown Christmas dance.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBPcoI4OE9Y&w=480&h=360]

That’s like Joy on steroids!

Ebenezer Scrooge


Jim Carrey as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. Could Dickens have ever dreamed what would become of his little holiday novella and his dual-personality character, Ebenezer Scrooge?

Ebenezer was a sour-old soul who bemoaned life and lived a prisoner to his greed. He squandered his days in the quest for coin thinking nothing of the plight of family and friends around him.

In the end, old Ebenezer was blessed with the vision of his journey — where he’d been, where he was, and where he was going. Without defense against who he had become, Ebenezer claimed redemption, sought out the comfort of others, and became a changed man.

We’ve all known a Scrooge in our lifetime. Tear down the barriers of age, sex, and race, and remember the people you’ve known through the years. I’m sure at least one of them, likely many more, has Scrooge like qualities.

A Scrooge is selfish,  self-centered, greedy, has the means to be generous yet clutches a dime like it’s the only thing separating them from the poorhouse. A Scrooge may be haunted by their own past and couldn’t see the potential joy in tomorrow if their very life depended on it.

Scrooge and Tiny TimYou getting picture of that person yet?

I have. They look nothing like Alistair Sim, Albert Finney or Jim Carrey.

Oh and if you happen to be looking at that person in the mirror. Seek out the ghosts of Christmas past and ponder Christmas yet to come. For every Ebenezer Scrooge there are hundreds of Tiny Tims waiting for someone’s generosity and love.

The truth be known, there’s a little Ebenezer in all of us. I mean after all, we’re only human.

Holiday memories

OrnamentsI never gave it much thought growing up. Every year just after Thanksgiving mother would start dragging boxes down from the attic marked “Christmas.”

Inside these cardboard cubes was her collection of Christmas lights, decorations, and other paraphernalia associated with turning the average picket-fence home into a holiday wonderland. Or at least that’s how it looked from the eyes of a child.

To talk about ornaments you first have to talk about the tree. In the Mills household we always had a tree.

Aluminum TreeI don’t know if you remember those aluminum foil trees with the rotating wheel of multi-colored lights. We had one of those for many years. I think it was mainly because it was so easy to put up and take down. Mother was known to use every short-cut at her disposal where managing the house was concerned. But come Christmas she went all out in spite of the work involved

In later years I claimed squatter rights to the rotating color wheel. It found its way into my bedroom as a compliment to the blacklight and Jimi Hendrix posters. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m pretty confident we retired the silver spruce when mother upgraded to the new and improved artificial tree. No muss, no fuss, no pine needles to clean up. We had arrived.

Ceramic tree

I don’t exactly know when but somewhere along the way mother picked up doing ceramics as a hobby. I know before it was all said and done, and she moved on to her next hobby, she had made enough Christmas trees and candy dishes to decorate The White House and half of congress.

She had these little ceramic Christmas villages that would take up table tops, window sills, and mantel space all over the house.

It makes me wonder today what happened to all that stuff. I’d put out a little Christmas village of my own but this little spotty dog would have it in the backyard before breakfast. We can’t have anything nice.


Black Pepper Friday

The Sound of Sgt Pepper

The Sound of Sgt Pepper

Last week when Lieutenant Pike was demoted to Sgt Pepper he instantly became fodder for the internet practice of meming (photo-shopping current events into a parody image). From fascist pig to laughing stock overnight is quite an amazing transformation even in these speed-of-light, world-wide-web times.

You would think people would get the message that pepper spray is a social no-no in non-hostile situations. But then shopping at Wal-Mart on Black Friday could be considered hostile.

Late last evening, in an L.A. Wal-Mart, 20 customers were subjected to pepper spray, not from law-enforcement or over-eager security guards, but from a fellow shopper protecting her turf.

If seems that when the covering was lifted from a stack of electronics, a female shopper whipped out her pepper spray to hold the crowd at bay while she snagged the object of her frenzied shopping eyes.

In the ensuing melee, nearly two dozen customers were injured, many from “rapid crowd movement.” Police are still searching for the competing pepper sprayer. Those not affected by the spray continued their late night shopping excursion.

Labor Day

Labor Day. A day when Americans across the nation gather around grills and honor the worker. It is a National Federal holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.

First celebrated in 1882 Labor Day over the years has lost its purpose. It’s gone from honoring the people who’s backs this country was built on to just being a — Monday off.

We are in the midst of an economic crisis with millions of Americans unable to find a job and millions of others giving up looking. Manufacturing, the segment that made this country great, is leaving our shores for cheap labor elsewhere. General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt, in a recent speech talked about being crazy about China, China, China, China, China, and subsequently moved it’s X-Ray manufacturing there. GE has laid off one-fifth (20%) of their American workers since 2002.

To reward Mr. Immelt for his dedication to the American worker, President Obama named him to serve as chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

I don’t know where this country goes from here. The American Dream is being shattered every day. Family’s who once had a modest home  in a nice neighborhood are now living in their cars, a throw back to the days of the Great Depression. People are hungry and angry and frustrated. Without the right kind of change it’s likely to only get worse.

As we celebrate this labor day think about where we are and where we are headed.

And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.
The Grapes of Wrath

In general our country does not have a great track record for protecting the rights of the worker. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. History speaks for itself.

Bisbee Deportation

Pullman Strike

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho labor confrontation of 1899

Coal Strike of 1902

Great Railroad Strike of 1922




Valentine’s Day

February 14 – Valentines Day; the annual love-fest brought to you by the good folks at Hallmark. Seriously, I thought Valentines day was dreamed up by the chocolate candy and greeting card folks for the sole purpose of extracting dollars from your wallet at the speed of cherubs.

In the internet age research has become as easy as tapping out a word in a search bar and information pops up like a bagel from your toaster. Try it – search for “Valentine’s Day” and see what you get.

The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD.  Wow, that makes Valentines Day almost as old as Christmas and certainly older than Halloween and Thanksgiving. Who woulda thought?

The more interesting legends of V-Day are found at the next stop on the Google train – History.com.

One story goes that Valentine was a priest during the reign of Claudius II. Legend has it that the Emperor decided single men made better soldiers than their married counterparts so he outlawed marriage for young men. Priest Valentine believed the dictate to be unjust and began performing weddings on the down-low for young lovers. The Emperor discovered Valentine’s secret ceremonies and had him put to death. Everyone loves a martyr.

For you guys (me included) that failed to pickup a V-Day card for your sweetheart, fear not, for you are in good masculine company. It is estimated that 85% of all Valentine Cards purchased in the United States are bought by women.

Of all the commercial celebrations V-Day has usually been my least favorite. Over the years it seemed like February 14th was holding a gun to my head saying, by God you will love someone today! The fact of the matter is, I don’t need a date on the calendar to profess my love. The love is the same on May 17th or October 6th.  The only difference is the cards are much better. To my sweetheart I would say your Valentine is locked away in the depths of my heart and I share it with you every day.

I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day.  When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon. ~Author Unknown

Auld Lang Syne

I never went to a New Years bash that didn”t culminate with this once a year song. We have heard this little diddy since childhood, but probably know very little about it. The songs we know best are the ones that become the mileposts our lives – Ground control to Major Tom, Like a Candle in the Wind, or Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But I wonder if any of these will endure like Auld Lang Syne (ALS). No pun intended but only time will tell.

The song is actually a poem written by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, in 1788, and set to the tune of an old traditional folk song. The literal translation of the Scot’s title is “old long since”. The first line reading, “For auld lang syne” loosely translates to “For (the sake of) old times.”

Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo is often identified as the musician who popularised the song at New Year’s celebrations in North America, by his broadcasts on radio and television, beginning in 1929. ALS became Lombardo’s trademark piece of music.

There are some earlier accounts that say ALS was a New Years staple at the Lenox in Boston as early as 1896.

If you want to really impress your midnight kiss, sing the original Scottish version, as follows:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

Be prepared to answer the question – What is a gude-willy waught?

Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to. ~Bill Vaughn

Merry Christmas to our Soldiers and Sailors

When I served in the army, the hardest time to be away from home was Christmas. Sure, it was fun to lay around the barracks, play cards with my fellow soldiers and drink the holiday away, but what I really wanted was to be home.

Our troops are spread thin these days.  They are fighting a cowardly enemy that wounds and kills our young men and women using horrific techniques.

But let us not forget those serving peacetime and support missions in places like, Latin America, Western Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan. Sailors on Aircraft Carriers, Battlegroups, submarines, and other support ships are not only away from home, they are away from land. (Watch the series Documentary Carrier on Hulu if you want to truly understand what life on a Navy ship is about.)

So my blog today is to honor them and send my prayers and holiday wishes to our American heros and the families that love them. Be safe in your mission of freedom!

Rather than my normal quote, I offer this poem.

A Military Christmas Salute
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “It’s really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separate you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December.”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam”,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue…An American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fight,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

~ Author Unknown

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday

From the Scribe…

This year has certainly been interesting to say the least. I put fifteen thousand miles on my Harley touring my beloved America and writing my first novel. HAUNTING INJUSTICE, currently in the final phases of proofing, is the culmination of a dream. Most of the book was written on this trip. I spent a few mornings just a stones throw from the O.K. Corral in Tombstone Arizona tapping out chapters. The best coffee in town was found at the O.K. Cafe. 🙂

I found a library that had free Wi-Fi and a coffee shop. I spent some time there writing. People would stop by and ask me about my bike. I guess the highlight of the whole trip was meeting people and talking about my writing, my blog, my bike, and my book. Anyway, thousands of miles later and the book is almost ready. My mind is exploring the plot of the next book. I can’t wait to see how its received.

I’m watching the snow and ice fall outside my window thinking how fitting it is to end the year of the scribe with a White Christmas. Growing up in South Carolina, I didn’t get many of those.