Daily Update: Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Stephen, Second Day of Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa

Alleluia! on the Second Day of the Octave of Christmas. Today being December 26, it is the Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr (died c. 33). Today is also the Second Day of Christmas, and is also known as Boxing Day in English Commonwealth countries. And today is the First Day of Kwanzaa, created in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday.

All we know of Saint Stephen is from the Acts of the Apostles, where he was selected as one of seven Deacons. While preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob (and approving their action), was a man who would later be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. Stephen is the Patron Saint of deacons, altar servers, casket makers, and masons, and his aide is invoked against headaches. (In the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”, the King ”looked out, on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”) A tradition holds that the three Feasts after Christmas (Saint Stephen, Saint John the Evangelist, and Holy Innocents) represent the three paths of Christian discipleship: willing to be martyred and indeed martyred (Saint Stephen), willing to be martyred but not martyred (Saint John the Evangelist), and involuntarily martyred (Holy Innocents). Today is also the Second Day of Christmas, with two turtle doves being given, according to the song. The “turtle” in the name of the bird comes from the Latin turtur, which referred to the sound the bird makes. Today is also Boxing Day in English Commonwealth countries. Originally the day when presents would be given to servants and working people by their betters, it is now in many Commonwealth countries a movable secular holiday that is the next working day after Christmas Day. Finally, today is the First Day of Kwanzaa, created in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving; the name of the holiday comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza“, meaning “first fruits”.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading; Richard did not sleep well (too much Christmas dinner). I turned the timer on the Christmas Tree and outside lights back to Timer (I had switched them to On yesterday for Christmas activities), and brought in the flag. Richard and I then said our good-byes to Liz Ellen, and left for work. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading, the Second Day of my Epiphany Novena, and the Ninth and Last Day of my Holy Family Novena. Once we got to work we signed the Early Out list. After the Pre-Shift Meeting, Richard was on Mini Baccarat, and I was on the Sit-Down Blackjack table. I got out at 5:45 am, and napped in the break room until Richard got out at 7:00 am. We arrived home at 8:00 am (Liz Ellen had already left), and I promptly went back to bed.

Waking up again at 11:45 am, I set up my medications for this next week (nothing to renew), then read the morning paper. I then went to the Adoration Chapel for my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, and started reading the December 21st – December 28th, 2015 issue of my Jesuit America magazine. After my Hour I went both to Wal-Mart and to Verizon, but neither of them sells Galaxy Note 4 batteries.

I arrived back home at 2:30 pm; we had Christmas cards from Richard’s cousin Berro in California, from Richard’s brother Slug here in town (with the annual newsletter), from my friend Ann in Missouri, and from my internet friend Patricia in California. I got on Amazon and ordered two replacement Galaxy Note 4 batteries, plus a charger for the second battery. (My daughter is convinced that my phone is about to explode like one of those Hoverboards one sees in online videos; but my Galaxy Note 4 security stuff does not indicate that I am in dire danger, so I will continue using my current battery (and using my Galaxy Note 4) until my new battery stuff arrives from Amazon next week or the week after; the delivery date is January 4th, which is the Tuesday after New Years.) I also got a text from Liz Ellen that she had arrived in Decatur, Alabama on her travels back to Kentucky. (This is a good place to note that Liz Ellen and I had a very good visit; although we did not do any hiking, we did play video poker, she did two Juggling and Hooping programs at the local nursing homes (with me as Assistant), and we did shopping and hung out together. We were very happy with our presents to each other, and she now knows that one can edit music MP3s on the computer. Additionally, we were not tempted to kill each other; perhaps we are getting not just older, but wiser. So it was a very good visit.) I think I will finish this Daily Update, and do some reading for the rest of the day (what remains of it), since I opted not to go to the 4:00 pm Mass. Our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing a home game with the Houston Texans tonight; I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Third Day in the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!). Since tomorrow is the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas, tomorrow is the Feast of The Holy Family. Tomorrow is also the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist (died c.101). And tomorrow is the Third Day of Christmas, with the gift from one’s true love being three French hens. Tomorrow is the last day of the two week pay period at the casino, and Richard and I plan to work our eight hours. After work we will go to Wal-Mart so that I can get my salad supplies. Our New Orleans Saints (who are phoning in their remaining games, since they are not going to be in the playoffs) will play a home game with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 3:05 pm game. I will make lunch salads for Monday and Tuesday, and try to get to 6:00 pm Mass.

Our Parting Quote on this afternoon of the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!) comes from Stanisław Barańczak, Polish-born poet, educator, and translator. Born in 1946 in Poznań, Poland, his older sister was novelist Małgorzata Musierowicz, and they were raised by their mother, a dentist. Barańczak studied philology at Poznań’s Adam Mickiewicz University, where he obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. He became a lecturer at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and broke into print as a poet and critic in 1965. In the 1970s he was banned from publishing in Poland, though he continued to write for underground outlets, and his work became a samizdat pass-around. Barańczak was on the staff of the Poznań magazine Nurt from 1967 to 1971; he also married during this same time. He became a co-founder of the Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) in support of laborers who had been injured during or persecuted after the June 1976 riots in Warsaw, set off when the government raised the prices on many food staples; this activity lost him his position at the university, He was also a co-founder of the clandestine quarterly Zapis. Barańczak was a leading poet in the “New Wave” and one of the outstanding Polish writers to begin his career in the communist period, combining literary work with scholarship and politics. He eventually regained his post as Solidarity gained political traction. By then Harvard had offered him a job in the department of Slavic languages and literatures, but he was unable to accept it for nearly three years because the Polish government denied him a passport. In 1981, the year Poland declared martial law, he left the country and accepted a three-year contract to work as a lecturer at Harvard University, and only left Harvard in 1999 due to his health. He was a co-founder of the Paris Zeszyty Literackie in 1983, and a regular contributor to the periodical Teksty Drugie. He also served as editor of The Polish Review from 1986 to 1990. Baranczak’s best-known prose collection was Breathing Under Water and Other East European Essays (1990). Baranczak also wrote a book-length study of the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, and he translated the work of Polish writers into English, including, with Seamus Heaney, the 16th-century poet Jan Kochanowski, and, with Clare Cavanagh, the 1996 Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska; this last translation earned him and Cavanagh the PEN Translation Prize. In the other direction, from English to Polish, he was singularly prolific, translating much of Shakespeare, the verse of Robert Herrick, John Donne, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Philip Larkin, among other poets, and even light verse and song lyrics.  His book Surgical Precision (Chirurgiczna precyzja) won the 1999 Nike Award. His last translation from English to Polish was William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well (Wszystko dobre, co się dobrze kończy) in 2001 (died 2014): “Does someone who simply wants a breath of fresh air deserve to be called a dissident?”

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