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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

Find it in our new Coloring Corner

Not everybody has been lucky in love. So a lucky other’s love story may not universally engender sighs of contentment. If love has done you wrong, your Bay Weekly pick of the week may not be James Baden and Mackenzie Williams’ Love Story, recounted by staff writer Kathy Knotts.
    Fortunately, that’s not the whole story of Bay Weekly. Every week, it’s our mission to have something for almost everybody.
    This week, we send you a Valentine.
    That genre of love token, I’m convinced, has at one time or another warmed every heart. For two centuries, Valentine cards have been a favorite conveyance of affection, from good will to adoration.
    The holiday is the greeting card industry’s second largest sales day. As many as a billion paper cards are exchanged, from inexpensive boxed valentines favored by school children to limited-edition handmade cards costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars. (Millions of e-Valentines are sent, but paper cards are far ahead.)
    Only a fraction of those cards go between lovers. Children, mothers and wives get 80 percent, according to industry tracking. Sweethearts come fourth. Eighty-five percent of valentine card buyers are women, but children give the most. Teachers get more cards than anybody else.
    That statistic won’t dampen my pleasure as, again this Valentine’s Day, I browse the Valentine collection inherited from country schoolteacher Miss Cora Smith, Bay Weekly benefactor and my first cousin twice removed. Handmade and store-bought … funny, sweet and loving, these cards still speak of the affection in the hearts of the children who gave them as much as a century ago.
    Surely a Valentine has made you happy? Can you recall one?
    Two from long ago stand on my mantle, adding sweet memory to the warmth of the fire below. By serendipity, I excavated them at this Valentine season from my treasure chest of past mementoes.
    Both are handmade.
    One is part of a vigorously colored grid of six card-size images created by my younger son at perhaps eight years old. The only Valentine in the block, it shows a blood-red heart pierced by a detailed arrow and dripping five small hearts. Be My Valentine is lettered in blue against a pink background.
    The other is a heart in outline, elaborately inked on an on oversize sheet of art paper. Inside is a message that makes me imagine the friend would have been a suitor.
    When you turn to Bay Weekly page 10, you’ll find a Chesapeake Valentine challenging you to color it lovingly, drawn especially for you by artist Sophia Openshaw.
    Take it, please, as a token of our affection for you.
    Enjoy it. Color it. Feel free to pass it on.
    Coloring Corner will offer you another challenge next week. Tell us if you like it, and images for you to color will keep coming.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Bay Weekly’s Dining Guide takes the guesswork out of where to go

You and the groundhog may disagree about how much more winter we’ll have.
    You may rejoice, or wince, at the decisions of caucusing Iowans.
    But no matter your views on politics or weather, I bet you’re tickled at the suggestion to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
    Then comes the tough question: Where will we go?
    Read on to answer that.
    Like Groundhog Day, Bay Weekly’s annual Dining Guide comes to you at the halfway point through winter. Your spirits need shoring up. By now, your snowbird friends have all flown to warmer climes. Cold has spent its bracing effect. You’ve seen about all you need of snow. Your woodpile is diminishing and your heat bills soaring. Your endurance is fraying. You’d really like to get away — were it not for the chains that bind you.
    An hour or two’s excursion for a good meal: That’s a renewable prescription for treating the midwinter blahs and brightening the seasonal-disorder blues.
    Our annual Dining Guide maps your way to eating out through much of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties. Each of the spots you’ll learn about in these pages will satisfy you in some special way.
    For relief from the midwinter blues, February ends with Annapolis Restaurant Week. From February 22 to 28, 42 Annapolis restaurants offer special prix fixe menus at lunch, dinner and, at some, breakfast.
    Speaking of breakfast, you’ve got choices near and far. In Severna Park, we recommend two of contributing writer and breakfast-out lover Bob Melamud’s favorites, Garry’s Grill and Cakes and Confections, both places where breakfast is only one option.
    In Annapolis, Chick & Ruths Delly is a natural. But have you thought of John Barry Restaurant & Bar
at O’Callaghan Hotel? Brunch at Metropolitan is a treat. In Galesville, Sunday brunch at Pirates Cove. In Deale, Happy Harbor serves breakfast seven days, and Dockside does on weekends.
    In Huntingtown, try Chessie’s or carryout at Bowen’s Grocery.
    Lunch and dinner? Depends on where you are and what you want.
    Want comfort food and the friendliness of a neighborhood tavern? Try Babes Boys in Upper Marlboro, Happy Harbor in Deale and Anthony’s in Dunkirk.
    Wanting to introduce visitors to Chesapeake ­specialties? You’ll find just what you want at Pirates Cove and Thursdays in Galesville.
    Want pizza? Try Rocco’s in Annapolis, Angelina’s in Edgewater, Chessie’s in Huntingtown or Brick Wood Fired Bistro in Prince Frederick. Have your pizza flatbread style at Metropolitan in downtown Annapolis.
    Want classic American? How about Preserve, in Annapolis, named for a focus on pickling, preserving and fermenting? Or Brick Wood Fired Bistro, where, says owner Jason Nagers “we’re all about fire.”
    Want ethnic? For Italian, try Luna Blu in Annapolis or Angelina’s.
    For Irish, try John Barry in Annapolis and Babes Boys in Upper Marlboro.
    Want Swiss, sort of? Try The Melting Pot.
    Want German? Naturally, it’s The Old Stein Inn and Bier Bär in Edgewater.
    For French, it’s Café Bretton in Severna Park.
    For Spanish, Jalapeños. For Mexican? Jalapeños again, when you’re in the white-table-cloth mood. In the cantina mood, try Rivera’s Tex-Mex café in Severna Park.
    Want sushi? Tsunami, of course, in Annapolis, but you’ll also be pleasantly surprised at Umai Sushi House in Deale, where Korean cuisine is the other specialty.
    Want Thai? Lemongrass in Annapolis.
    Want Chinese? Try Hunan L’Rose in Odenton.
    Want fun with your food? Try Anthony’s Bar and Grill in Dunkirk.
    Want sports while you eat and drink? There’s Dockside and ­Thursdays in Owings.
    Need fish and meat to cook at home? Bowen’s Grocery features an old-fashioned butcher shop plus fresh oysters and crabmeat. For more fresh seafood, try Chesapeake Seafood in Edgewater. For locally raised beef, pork, chicken, lamb and eggs, the place is En-Tice-Ment farm-raised meats in Harwood and at farmers markets.
    How about some of the best baked treats in town? Cakes and Confections is the place.
    All of these special places share one particular ­quality to recommend them to you as a Bay Weekly ­reader: They’re our partners in bringing you this weekly paper. Without them, there’d be no Dining Guide or Free Will Astrology for you. No News of the Weird or Creature Feature. No 8 Days a Week or Sky Watch. No Bay ­Gardener or Sporting Life. And in their place, you’d have to find your own.
    So use your Dining Guide. Keep it for future reference. Use it to figure out where to go out. Enjoy your meals, and — please — say Bay Weekly sent me.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Make a habit of carrying out lunch, and you’ll be as bad as Jonas

Talk about leaving behind litter!    
    Snowstorm Jonas has left us tons to recycle. Mother Earth will do much of the job, melting the snow and filtering it into groundwater aquifers. Where the piles rise into mountains — as in RFK Stadium where D.C. snow is dumped — a tractor-trailer-sized melter hired from Indiana is speeding up the return of snow to water, which will then be treated before entering the stormwater sewer system that eventually leads to the Bay.
    However all this snow melts, much of it is Chesapeake bound, sped along by our rooftops, driveways, sidewalks and roads.
    Of course Jonas will stick us with the bill.
    Stormwater is a recycling issue for which we’d rather not be held accountable.
    On other recycling fronts, we’re much more responsible.
    At household recycling, many of us are champions. Throughout Anne Arundel County, yellow 65-gallon cans line our roadsides on recycling day. Second nature as that recycling seems now, it didn’t happen by accident. Anne Arundel County has waged a two-decades-long campaign to achieve 44 percent recycling. We’ve had lots of help in learning our lesson: tutoring, free ever-larger recycling containers, curbside pickup.
    Yet there’s a backside to that success story. Over half of Anne Arundel household waste ends up as trash, no matter how easy it’s been made for us to avoid that sad ending for the discards of our purchases.
    Old habits are hard to change, and new ones even harder to form.
    Retraining ourselves to restrain our carryout lunch waste is the challenge we take on in this week’s feature story, Lunch to Go.
    The story was born in our own habits. On most any given day, two or three people in the Bay Weekly office order carryout — with all its packaging.
    Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat?
    Reducing our carryout waste, Knotts writes, begins with a pledge to make lunch greener, starting with small steps.
    As an office, we’re creating our own habit-changing support system. Our waste inventory was Step 1, this story Step 2 in building self-awareness of our habits. Next comes stepping up to a commitment to reduce our waste.
    We have Fiesta Ware dishes and our own flatware. So we’re reminding ourselves and one another to tell restaurants to skip the utensils. We’ll be asking restaurants that use polystyrene to make the switch, and we’ll avoid them if they won’t. We’re handing out this article to managers when we pick up carryout.
    We’re also asking what each of us can do personally, based on our own habits. Some pledge to carry personal to-go kits, so we can package our own leftovers when we eat out.
    Kathy’s seen the video of a sea turtle having a straw forcibly removed from its nostril. So she pledges to buy and use a glass or metal straw instead of grabbing the hard-to-identify plastic straws at restaurants. (There are plenty of places to buy reusable lunch ware; her favorite is reuseit.com.)
    What can you do to green your lunch? How far are you willing to go? Write kathy@bayweekly.com or visit the Bay Weekly Facebook page.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

That’s to be feared when work stops on an oyster reef

In a Bay of 700,000 acres, why make a big deal about eight acres?
    Could it be because those eight acres are the slippery slope on which restoration of Crassostrea virginica could lose its footing?
    With Chesapeake Country under blizzard watch, you can understand why the slippery slope is a dreaded place.
    Less understandable is what’s going on at the muddy bottom of the Eastern Shore’s Tred Avon River.
    More precisely, not going on.
    At issue is Gov. Larry Hogan’s stop-work order on building an ­oyster reef on those eight acres.
    That hole in the water on the Choptank River tributary that links Easton and Oxford is one small piece in a complex saga of oyster restoration. As sagas must, the story stretches back through many years of dramatic rises and falls of a local hero.
    The hero is our Chesapeake oyster, an inert bivalve with superpowers apparent if only you look inside its shell. The Chesapeake ecology and economy rests on a foundation of oysters.
    Our oyster’s trials and tribulations are so well known that our school children recite them.
    Snatching our hero from the jaws of doom is a multi-billion dollar rescue mission that’s spanned decades and only now seems to be working.
    Sanctuaries give our native oyster just what the name supposes they should: undisturbed places to grow where their colonies rise up like trees in an underwater forest rich with life.
    Twenty-five percent of the Bay’s traditional oystering grounds are promised to be reserved as sanctuaries, some 9,000 acres, according to the current Maryland Department of Natural Resources plan. It’s a plan that took years to fine tune, not in locked rooms where bureaucrats debate but in the public forum. It’s a plan in which we have all had our say, from citizens to watermen to scientists to waterway managers and environmental planners.
    A sanctuary isn’t made by name alone. Oysters have to be cultivated there, from the bottom up. Once the right place is found, a foundation has to be laid. Oyster shell is the bed oysters like best. Dropping shell once it’s acquired is a heavy construction project. None of it’s simple or cheap. As much of the money comes through federal and state funding, you can bet it’s made way to its destination — Harris Creek or the Tred Avon — through a policy-making maze.
    In Harris Creek — the Choptank tributary nearest to the main Bay — the sanctuary has been made: 350 acres of new reefs laid and seeded with two billion juvenile oysters at a cost of $26 million.
    On the Tred Avon, work was started in a 150-acre oyster restoration. The money — $11.5 million — was in hand and the contractors hired and ready to go.
    In so big a plan, why halt work on eight acres, unless it’s a first step on a slippery slope away from the best ­success we’ve had yet in restoring our native oyster?
    What happens on those few acres makes a big splash.
    “This largely federal project is a critical piece of and the next step in the state’s commitment to restore oyster populations in five Maryland waterways under the 2014 multi-state Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement with the federal government,” according to our two senators, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.
    It’s important enough that you need to know.
    Learn more in the Bay Journal article Watermen Seek, Win, Halt in Tred Avon Oyster Restoration Project: http://bit.ly/BayWeekly_Oysters.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

What’s new in Bay Weekly and beyond

If you were as lucky as I was, the days between Christmas and January 4 belonged to a different time zone. In that week, it’s possible to pretend everything’s done that needs to be done.
    Not now! 2016 has come out of the gate like a horse on a fast track with a big purse at its end. It’s already run through its first week and speeding through its second. Things are moving.
    The biggest is the Maryland General Assembly, which turns Annapolis from a sleepy town to a working capital for 90 days. One hundred eighty-eight citizen-lawmakers from every corner of the state gather, surrounded by a pack of influence-peddlers all devoted to shaping the law in their favor.
    Decisions that shape your life are being made there — and now. Find out how to follow that action in this week’s feature, Your Primer to the Maryland General Assembly.
    Everybody working at the State House will be too busy to catch the last season of Downton Abbey, started this month on PBS. But the rest of us manage the realities of our lives better with regular submersion in the plot lines of drama.
    Chesapeake Country’s many theater companies are beginning new seasons of live drama. Venus in Fur — a play to make you reconsider what you think you know about relationships, sex and power — is Colonial Players’ January eye-opening offering. Get stimulated at The Player’s theater in the round off State Circle on East Street Thursday to Sunday through January 23.
    The drama turns to our inner lives and family relationships at Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Studio 111 Theater on Chinquapin Round Road. In 19th century Russian master Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, “as their lives seem to spill over into ours, we witness life happen as it happens, unscripted and untidy,” says artistic director Sally Boyett.
    Stimulate your heart to beat faster in a third drama opening this week for two performances only, January 15 and 22, An Evening with Poe at Hammond Harwood House, where you’ll meet the master of suspense, drink port and hear dramatic readings from The Cask of Amontillado.
    Art galleries are hanging their first new shows after the holidays. To open your eyes wider to the world, see what’s on the walls and in the works at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, St. John’s College’s Mitchell Gallery and Annmarie Garden.
    Classes to stimulate your mind and tune up your body are soon starting, as well, at colleges, art centers, senior centers and wellness centers. Meadow Hill Wellness’s Empowerment — an eight-week, life-changing, mind-body course — promises to do double duty.
    Bay Weekly is up to new things as well, with new page of short news, Dock of the Bay (a section faithful readers will remember) and new features in the works. My question of the year is how we can keep you reading. Who knows that better than you? Please stop in during my “Editor Is In” hours Thursdays in January to tell me.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

And you open up your world

Reading puts ideas in your head.     
    There are so many places I’ll never visit. So many times, both past and future, out of my reach. So many people so close and far whose lives are stories unto themselves. So many thoughts I’d never imagine.
    Except for stories.
    Stories are my magic carpet, my time traveling machine, my introduction, my education.
    “A novel of the life of the city,” a Chicago Daily News editor called his paper, which in its day could be thick as a middle-size city’s telephone book.
    For Chesapeake Country, Bay Weekly is a weekly chapter of our ongoing story, featuring people whose lives run on tracks parallel to your own but each on its own path. They’re your neighbors. But what it is that moves them, how would you ever know — without these pages?
    Among them this week are the railway enthusiasts introduced by Bob Melamud in All Aboard.
    Chesapeake Country is not railway country. Our trains typically run down memory lane, as in the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, the B&O Railway Museum and the B&A Trail, a 13.3-mile rail trail on a former rail line.
    I’ve lived in places where the train ran as close to home as it does in the idealized villages created by enthusiasts like Tom Crockett of Tans Cycles Shop in North Beach and the volunteers of Marley Station, who you’ll meet in this story. So I can understand their appreciation for these arteries so near to ours but with beginnings and endings far beyond our reach.
    The scope of their affection, however, goes way further than appreciation. Their love is encompassing, expansionary. These are people who build cities and landscapes around their trains, adding more tracks until they’re so big they have to go public.
    Or they might move up the line in size, to miniature trains so big that children, and even full-sized adults, can ride them.
    Those are the sorts you’ll meet in Melamud’s story, which culminates in instructions for riding the closest we can conveniently get (without paying Amtrak prices) to a real train.
    I tested his instructions, and they work. My teenage train-loving grandkids and I rode to Baltimore on the Light Rail. We could have made a shorter trip by car, but as our destination was the National Aquarium, I’d have had to find Inner Harbor parking, so any adventure we might have had would have been less pleasant — and more expensive — than the light rail adventure we had. I recommend it.
    You’ll meet still more folks enamored of big vehicles in this week’s paper. Fire trucks come after trains, as staff writer Kathy Knotts follows the annual second Sunday of December Santa Run through many Annapolis-area neighborhoods. Collecting toys for kids in need is the reason for the run, but Santa’s rides by fire truck are much of the fun. Says organizer (and antique fire truck owner) John Muhitch, Santa Run happens because of “little boys who didn’t get a fire truck for Christmas.”
    Open up Bay Weekly, and you open up your world.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Without them, Christmas would be a lot less colorful

In equatorial zones, poinsettias grow like weeds. But a touch of our winter is killing. How these tropical natives have become the flower of Christmas is a story of careful science in the greenhouse and ingenuity in marketing.
    “Most mother plants are grown offshore, in Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Kenya,” says Ray Greenstreet, whose Greenstreet Gardens is a major grower for our homes and for wholesalers.
    In June and July, Greenstreet and other growers bring in cuttings and root them in greenhouses. By late July and early August, plants are transplanted into display pots.
    The length of day light controls the plant’s growth and coloring. Flower buds form only when daylight is less than 12 hours.
    “In the long days of summer, we want to keep them vegetative as they grow to a certain size,” Greenstreet explains. “Then about September 23, days get shorter than nights, which naturally initiates blooming.”
    Traditionally, light and shade were controlled in greenhouses so plants bloomed sequentially. In the last quarter century, plants have been bred for seasonal blooming.
    “Early-season poinsettias bloom around November 15,” Greenstreet says, “and others bloom as late as mid-December. We grow a number of different bloom-response times, so we have nice fresh plants through the season.”
    For shipping around the country, Greenstreet roots about 185 varieties, in colors ranging from whites to mauves and lots of reds.
    “Right before 9/11,” Greenstreet says, “mauve or pink were selling well.” After the terrorist attacks, he continued, “people went back to tradition, and all they wanted for a couple seasons was red or white.”
    Now, variety is back. At Greenstreet you can choose from some 80 varieties, differing in leaf form as well as color.
    Buy your poinsettia when the temperature is above 36 degrees, packaged in a sleeve. Keep it warm in the car and bringing it in. At home, keep it away from drafts at a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees, in average light and evenly moist. Don’t let it sit in water. Carry it to a sink for watering, and let it drain before you put it back on display.
    Finally, don’t worry if your baby or cat has a bite. Poinsettias don’t taste good but are not toxic, both Greenstreet and Bay Gardener Frank Gouin confirm.

Take abundantly!

I used to dream of begin a doctor, though that dream faded as I fainted at the thought of blood. I’m better suited for prescribing help for the spirit. From my fully annotated Seasons Bounty, I offer my prescriptions for boosting your holiday spirit.

Light up the Darkness
    By day, deck your house and grounds in light. By night, tour Chesapeake Country to enjoy the brilliance of our neighbors and neighborhoods, from Solomons to Baltimore’s 34th Street, including Illuminated Historic London Town every Friday from 6 to 8pm. You’ve got all month to see the grand illuminations at Sandy Point State Park, Watkins Nature Center and Annmarie Gardens. But for parades of illuminated boats you’ve got to seize the night. In Solomons, that’s this Saturday, December 5, at 6:15pm. In Annapolis, see the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights Saturday, December 12 from 6 to 8pm.

Walk or Run in Winter’s Wonderland
    Run the Jingle Bell 5K for Arthritis and Kids Rudolf Romp this Saturday at Holiday Inn, Solomons, with registration starting at 7am: jbr.org.
    Balmy weather will be better for the Santa Speedo Run & Salvation Army Toy Drive Saturday, December 19 in Annapolis: SantaSpeedoRunAnnapolis.com.

Rock Around the Christmas Tree
    Make choosing — even cutting — and decorating your tree a family affair. Visit festive trees far and wide, from forests of decorated trees at Homestead and Greenstreet Gardens to the Annapolis Tree at City Dock, the Bayfront North Beach Tree to Washington’s sparkling giants, the National Christmas Tree and the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Or Gather Round the Menorah
    Chanukah begins December 6, when you can help light the Menorah at Westfield Annapolis Mall. On Thursday, December 10, cruise with a menorah on your car to Annapolis City Dock and celebrate with the Chabad of Anne Arundel County: 443-321-9859, chabadannearundel.org.
Hear the Ancient Yuletide Carol
    Music raises the spirits and enchants the season. You can hear it in many forms, from grand to Celtic to carols to rock. This weekend is your chance to hear the Naval Academy’s grand Messiah and Maggie Sansone’s Celtic Christmas Concert at Christ Church, West River. Check Seasons Bounty and 8 Days a Week for many other musical choices, including ones where you can raise your voice in song.

See a Christmas Show
    Why do we love A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life? Read this week’s story The Spirit of Christmas to find out why — and where you can see them. The Nutcracker sets a different mood, involving us in a dream of fantastical extravagance. See it danced by the Ballet Theater of Maryland this weekend in Bowie and the next two weekends in Annapolis. Also this weekend see a comic Nutcracker at Chesapeake Arts Center, and hear Duke Ellington’s wonderful jazz Nutcracker suite at Anne Arundel Community College.
    Be in North Beach at noon this Saturday to see another kind of Christmas show: the Pat Carpenter Beaches Holiday Parade, led by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Gather for refreshments at a yule log bonfire on the beach.

Make Shopping a Pleasure
    With decorations, entertainment, refreshments and illuminations, local holiday shopping can feel like going to a party. Thursdays December 3 and 10 bring Midnight Madness to Annapolis, with 11th Hour December 17. Solomons is decked out for its 31st annual Christmas Walk this weekend. Calvert County Antique Festival has dealers from Solomons to the Beaches opening their doors. And the shops of Southern Anne Arundel County, from Friendship to Galesville, make shopping an adventure (see page 33 in Seasons Bounty).

Do Good Works
    Sharing is the best medicine for inducing the holiday spirit. Find your ways to share in Kathy Knotts’ feature story ’Tis the Season to Give.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

On the hunt in November

The antlered buck posed statue-like in full-focused attention in a valley surrounded, at a fair distance, by the houses of Fairhaven Cliffs. Perhaps he’d seen me seeing him from my perch well above him, but not assuring him safety were I a bow hunter. That hunting season lasts most of November, the month — this odd sighting reminded me — when Maryland’s 227,000 deer are at their most visible.
    November is rutting season, when bucks go in search of mates, and here one was, where deer, especially bucks, are not everyday sightings. The does and their families, our usual visitors, prefer Kudzu Valley, across the village, where groundhogs are the only neighbors. This was not the only buck I’d seen this month, when deer in Chesapeake Country are about as common as squirrels, and just about as oft seen dead along the roadsides.
    Not only are deer out and about in November, they are single-minded, both males and females hormonally driven to mate — as well as driven to distraction. Thus deer-vehicle crashes peak in November as well, bringing death to over 10,000 deer — and often injury to people as well as to their vehicles.
    The end of mating season coincides with the opening of the modern deer firearms season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That’s when most of the deer harvested in a year are taken. Last year 95,863 deer were harvested.
    From November 28 through December 12, hunters will be out in search of deer. So maybe for that time you should leave the woods to them.

In every faith, we look ahead in hope

On American’s feast day, Thanksgiving, we look back at “the great and various favors” of our year. I hope you were inspired in your recollection and naming of your blessings this Thanksgiving Day by George Washington’s apt words, quoted in last week’s Letter.
    Now we rush full of anticipation into the winter holidays.
    These great holidays rise from separate faiths, but all share a common theme. Each turns us toward the future.
    Advent — marked on special calendars in many a family — begins November 29 with anticipation building in the day-by-day countdown to Christmas.
    The Jewish eight-day festival of Chanukah, beginning December 6 this year, celebrates a victory of the faith and the surprising longevity of the light, which burned in the restored temple in Jerusalem for eight days when there was only oil enough for one.
    The Winter Solstice, December 22, marks the victory of the sun, which strikes a balance with darkness, then climbs again to ascendancy after six waning months.
    Christmas, December 25, celebrates the birth of a baby who was both man and God, bringing the light of hope to humankind. Even secular Christmas, presided over by Santa Claus, promises the magical fulfillment of all our hopes in a shower of gifts.
    New Year’s, which belongs to us all, tells us we get another chance.
    No wonder we love these holidays!
    Each of our seasonal rituals brings us back to the wellspring of hope, a visitation as old as human memory can stretch. Shopping for gifts, which begins in earnest Black Friday, we’re following the example of Saint Nicholas … of the Magi who followed the Star of Bethlehem to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus … and even deeper in history, the sacrifices made to sun gods to reverse the dying of the light.
    Cutting the Christmas tree and gathering greens, we dip deep into many other ancient cultures, bringing evergreen life into our homes at the nadir of the cycle of cold and darkness. Holly’s red berries not only brighten the season; to Christians they recall the blood of the dying Jesus staining his crown of thorns. Mistletoe is magical in many cultures and gives permission for love.
    Stringing the lights, lighting menorahs, decking our halls with lights, green and glitter: All defy the darkness.
    Our hopes spill out onto our lawns in Christmas cribs, Santa, elves and flocking reindeer.
    Baking warms our homes and sweetens the season.
    Arguments about whether our greetings should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays do wrong to this season of celebration. So intermingled are our traditions and united our hope that we are all in this together.
    Menorahs, bonfires or Christmas stars, our lights shine on our neighbors and theirs on us. Together, we of many faiths transform the dead of winter into a winter wonderland.
    I hope you’ll nurture the spirit of the season in your heart, home and community.

  1. Sandra Olivetti Martin

Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com