Tag Archives: holiday

Luminarias in New Mexico

It’s Christmastime, and in New Mexico that means the night is full of glowing paper bags. The streets of Old Town are lit with luminarias, candles in bags that are somehow transformative.

New Mexico is my fourth state in a decade. I’ve lived in Missouri, midwestern and self-conscious; northern New Jersey, its traffic snarled under the spires of the country’s greatest city; and central Virginia,pastoral and historic and preening. New Mexico stands apart. Maybe it feels different because it belonged to a different country until just before the Civil War. Maybe a place that actually gets mistaken for Mars (and is used to study Mars) inevitably feels different. But throughout my short six months in this state, I’ve enjoyed feeling like a stranger in a strange land that is still familiar enough to feel like home.

It’s luminaria season in New Mexico. When New Mexico was New Spain, Spanish merchants brought the tradition of paper lanterns from China . Something as simple as votive candles in brown sacks dates back centuries. And it’s as beautiful as ever to behold.

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Luminarias in an Old Town courtyard

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Old Town Holiday Stroll

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Christmas in New Mexico

 

Writing prompt: Reconciliation Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Reconciliation Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

The tone sounded on the radio. It rang out, long and steady and unbroken. The people stood, arrow stiff, looking to the sky. Aina found it all theatrical and disconnected. The city of Vironevaeh’s old hatchet had been buried. It seemed irrelevant. So they were at peace with Naenaiaeh. The ancestors of Vironevaeh and Naenaiaeh had fought. But Naenaiaeh was all the way on another planet. No one could get into orbit, much less to other planets. Even communication between the two worlds was recent. So they’d been at “war”. How much of a war can be held between two civilizations that can’t even talk? What exactly is a war that consists of shaking your fist at the bright star in the sky and writing scathing plays about those bastards in the sky?

The tone stopped at last. Aina’s classmate Yosef wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.

“How can you be moved by this?” she asked him.

“I don’t know… how can I be moved reading stories from Earth? Or fiction? People that I didn’t know that died long ago or never existed.”

Aina snorted.

“Long ago, our peoples were one. And when they were, they were strong. I guess I hope that our unity will bring us back the strength we lost.”

“We weren’t strong because we were one, we were strong because we had technology that’s gone now.”

He shrugged. “Maybe we can regain it together. It would be poetic if our drive to reunite gave of the mechanical means to do so.”

Aina shook her head. She knew why the symbols of meaningless unity bothered her. Declarations of solidarity were just that—declarations. People cut and run when the opportunity presented itself. People told her that she should seek reconciliation too. It was the word on everyone’s tongues these days. But they didn’t know what they were talking about. Isn’t it better to live with one leg than to have a second that might betray you?

Writing Prompt: Make up your own holiday

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Make up your own holiday” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

After the near miss, the year was three days longer. You’d think that not getting hit by a huge asteroid would be the most important outcome of The Scare. At first it was.

Only in the aftermath of something terrible do you see the little ripples and effects. Your birthday wasn’t your birthday. The fourth of July wasn’t The Fourth of July. And it wasn’t just the solar calendar. The asteroid pulled the moon farther out, which changed the lunar calendar. A lot of holidays run on the lunar calendar—Easter, Yom Kippur, Chinese New Year. Each group of people had to decide whether to switch to the new calendar or approximate the old one. Sects were formed, conflicts occurred. The surf was different. Some forms of life live like a clock with the tides, and random species we tend not to think about starting dying in droves. The days were a little longer too.

I was the first one to start it. I looked at the new calendar, I looked at the old calendar, and I said, I don’t care. I’m going to make up my own holiday. It happened roughly once a year, but when I said it would. It didn’t have to answer to anyone but me. I called it Time Dilation Day. We dressed up like Einstein. There were substances that influenced how a person perceives the passage of time. And we didn’t worry. It was a day outside the rigidities of calendars—solar, lunar, or whatever.

That was ten years ago. I’m afraid now that I started a cult. I don’t get to say when Time Dilation Day happens anymore. There’s another asteroid passing near the Earth in a couple of years. It’s not supposed to be close enough. But maybe I can change that. I don’t want it to hit, just another near miss would be swell. Once you control the passage of time, you don’t give it up.

Writing prompt: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year in Chinatown, 2006.

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Chinese New Year” (This post was inspired by the time I wandered into Chinese New Year in Chinatown when i lived in New Jersey in 2006. It was a beautiful, soaking mess.)

The paper rockets exploded and the streamers coated the wrought iron railings. A dragon head bobbled down the street attended by a great drum. The rain poured from the sky, and the streets and sidewalks were full of umbrellas and vendors with umbrellas to sell, 3 for $5. It was Chinese New Year in Chinatown.

Elsie felt like it was a transformative cultural experience, a fresh excitement in the general excitement of New York.

“This is the year of the goat,” Cynthia said. Elsie was still struggling with her accent. There hadn’t been many Chinese speakers in Nebraska. “The goat is a lucky animal, its year suggests prosperity.”

“I hope,” Elsie said. “This is my year, the year it will all change.” She’d been in the city for a month. So far, she had spent more than she had, walked through gray snow, and tried not to smell aged trash.

Cynthia shrugged. “The goat also means stubbornness, a resistance to change. Maybe for many people, this is what luck is all about, not losing what you treasure.”

Elsie waved the thought away.  The rain was turning to sleet. Elsie jammed her hand back into her pocket.

They followed the parades. Cynthia, smiling, recited facts about various parts of the festival. Elsie mostly didn’t listen.

The street was a mess with paper and debris. But a shiny red envelope caught Elsie’s eye. She picked it up.

Cynthia smiled. “As a child, you get money in envelopes like these. It was very exciting.”

The envelope bore no identifiers or markings. Elsie looked inside. It was full of money. “It is the year of prosperity! I mean, I can’t even try to return it!”

Writing prompt: National Weatherman’s Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“National Weatherman’s Day” (This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts.)

I turned on the news. I took my shower and I brushed my teeth. There had been two homicides overnight, unusual but not unheard of in this town. In fairly suburban neighborhoods. Something domestic I imagined.

The weather outside was crisp. The dew point was low. No clouds in the sky. That always irritated me. The absence of clouds is boring. No stratus, cirrus, or anything. Just blank. The weather station by the front door confirmed the low dew point and said it was 58 degrees. The morning sun glared at me on the commute, and again I wished there were clouds.

“Marty, did you hear?” It was Terry, the senior weatherman, the guy who went on the screen. I just did calculations and measurements.

“Hey Terry, you’re all sweaty and red. You should get into makeup.” It wasn’t the first time he’d come to work hung over.

“I guess you didn’t hear then.” He lowered his voice. His eyes were wide. “Those two homicides overnight? They were weathermen.”

I laughed. It was the only reasonable reaction. I was incredibly jealous of Terry’s job, but I knew well enough that few others cared about it. It was just like him to make a couple of murders all about him. Maybe he’d had more than booze the night before.

“They were,” he defended. “Ed Street from channel 5 and a guy that does the broadcast on a little station in Springfield.”

“It’s a coincidence, I’ll give you that.”

“A Milwaukee weatherman died in hunting accident last night. And in Orlando a guy died in a car wreck.”

I shrugged. “So are you going to do the weather or not?”

He puffed. “Of course!”

“Then get to makeup, you look like a piece of raw meat.”

He glowered. Then he nodded and scurried off.

*

The phone rang before my alarm chimed. It had to be work, it was the only contact that could override my do-not-disturb setting.

“Marty?” It was the producer. “Terry’s dead.” He’d fallen down the stairs. Drunk I bet, no doubt fretting his conspiracy of weathermen. I was going to do the weather today. I was passingly sad to hear about Terry, but it was my big break.

I hung up the phone. Not knowing what else to do, I turned on the radio and hopped in the shower. A weatherman in San Francisco had died.

Suddenly I was less excited to do the weather.

Writing prompt: Puzzle day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“National Puzzle Day” (This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts.)

Cyn reached the front door at 12:03. She keyed in her entry code. Instead of turning blue, the key pad turned red and displayed a string of text. Who had the lowest average with over one hundred home runs?

“Damn,” Cyn spat. She hadn’t meant to get home after midnight. Some of the puzzles were solvable, but some, like this one, were ancient nonsense. She looked around the street. A few other bewildered people stood at their doors. It was a dangerous night to be on the street. Thousands of other people like her would wander the street. Police cars would challenge their operators too.

Every member of the city dreaded puzzle day. That’s what they called it. Exactly every 400th day, everything that worked smoothly the other 399 days would torture its users.

“Why does this happen?” the inevitable lament would arise. They lived in an ancient city of wonders. Most of the time, they took the functionality for granted. But not on puzzle day.

Cyn started toward Elbie’s house. Public transportation was out of the question. All of their questions were antique unit conversions. It was still quiet this time of night. She’d never been out on puzzle day, but like everyone else, she’d read enough.

Writing prompt: Measure your feet day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Measure your feet day” (Technically, today National Blonde Brownie Day, but I care zip about them and drew a huge blank. So I opted for tomorrow’s, measure you feet day. This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts.)

“Measure your feet today!” the full-page ad screamed. David had seen this ad, heard this commercial, for weeks, though he’d done his best to ignore it. It was weird that a hoax had so much money.

The shoes of Tutankhamen’s have been found! Top scientists indicate that his reincarnation is living today in our great nation. Measure your feet today… are they regal?

*

“Did you measure your feet?” Andy asked at recess before school.

“No. I’m not simple.”

“I guess there’s no way you’d be regal.”

“Nope,” David said.

Andy twitched. “Come on, where’s your sense of imagination? I’ll do your homework for a week if you measure your feet!”

David sighed. “Well, okay.” There wasn’t any advantage to buying into the hoax, but he could get behind not doing homework.

One of the other schoolboys, in the midst of this craze, of course had a tape measurer that he would loan out for a nickel. Andy paid it and gave David the tape.

As Andy instructed, David measured the length of his foot, the distance around his foot at the arch, the length of his big toe and the length of his second toe. He reported the numbers to Andy.

“Nuh uh!” Andy erupted. “You’re still messing with me!”

David was confused and growing annoyed. “I played along with your stupid game, are you going to honor your part or not?”

“You made those numbers up!” Andy grabbed the tape and David’s foot and proceeded to measure, too fired up to be squeamish now.

“Those numbers…” Andy trailed off. “You have to tell the New Tut organization immediately! Those are all the numbers!”

*

After Andy told David’s father about the measurements, there was no way he could avoid going. His mother dragged him to the regional center. The waiting room was filled with other boys, and even a few girls. Art work of feet in the Egyptian style adorned the wall.