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Christmas 2011, Christmases Past, Christmas Stories to Believe In

Updated on December 16, 2011

To be human is to dream, to yearn, to believe, to strive for better things that are eternal.

Betty and Franklin Parker

63 Heritage Loop, Crossville, TN 38571

Why is this Christmas 2011 different from earlier ones? We are happier, laugh more, love more, are more grateful and busier. But world conflicts abound. Jobless people are hurting. Behind the coming 2012 elections is an old dilemma: when will the haves let the have-nots rise? When will empathy, altruism, fair play, honesty, compromise, cooperation replace their opposites?

Our best day of 2011 was June 4, our birthdays and 61st wedding anniversary party, with over 40 neighbors and relatives present; food served by Jeri Abbott, Al and Jackie Dwenger, Quessie Krell, Geri Mize, Paul Happy; Brenda Frye sang gloriously beautifully accompanied by Emily and Dan Byrens; joy and laughter doing our funny skit—all thanks to hostess-provider Peggy Happy. Unforgettable!

Looking back over our life journey here are places where we enjoyed Christmases past: 1946–49 Berea College near Lexington, KY, where we met. 1950-51 Ferrum College near Roanoke, VA, our first teaching jobs. 1952-56 Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, where we were graduate students working part time jobs. 1957 Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), Africa, on a Kappa Delta Pi International Fellowship research. 1958-64 University of Texas, Austin, Associate Professor, with leave of absence 1961 in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia, Africa) as Fulbright Scholar researcher; spent Christmas at Victoria Falls. 1964-68 University of Oklahoma, Norman, Professor. 1968-86 West VA University, Morgantown, Professor, retired.

Post retirement Visiting Professorships: 1986-88 Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, and 1989-93 Western Carolina University (part of Universuty of N.C. system).

At Uplands since May 1994, 17 years: we gave each year in dialogue form book reviews, all published as blogs the last on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sept 20, 2010. Our next book review on Eleanor Roosevelt, Monday, February 20, 2012, Adshead, Pleasant Hill.

Our latest delight: Thanks to percussionist Jane Heald who needed help, Frank is beating drums in Uplands Ensemble (orchestra), ready to jingle the sleigh bells for “Frosty the Snow Man“ and “Jingle Bells.”

To acess our articles copy on your browser and click on: And on or or any other search engine type in and click on: Franklin Parker, or Franklin and Betty J. Parker or

Warm Regards. Season’s Greetings. Stay well. Be H A P P Y.

“Silent Night, Holy Night”: How, When, Where It Was Written

Franklin & Betty J. Parker, adapted from Billie Ann

Lopez, "The Christmas that Gave us a Much-Loved Melody," Christian Science Monitor,

Dec. 13, 1995, p. 16.

It was mid-December 1818, 193 years ago, St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorf Village, near Salzburg, Austria. Church mice had nibbled holes in the bellows of the church organ. The organ would not work. No bellows, no organ. No organ, no church music. Christmas Eve was fast approaching. What would the choir sing? What words? To what tune? Played on what instrument?

Pastor Josef Mohr (1792-1848) was worried. He quickly wrote six stanzas for a Christmas song. He had no music. The organ without a working bellows could not be played. Early December 24, 1818, Pastor Mohr rushed his six stanzas to church organist Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863). Could Herr Gruber quickly compose an accompanying melody on his guitar? Could they join words and melody in time for the choir to sing that Christmas Eve?

The two men labored all day long. They finished just in time to give the words and music to the choir to rehearse. On Christmas Eve, accompanied only by a guitar, the choir sang the first version of "Silent Night, Holy Night."

It took seven years to raise enough money to repair the bellows of the St. Nikolaus Church. In 1825, organ builder Karl Mauracher traveled from his home in Zillertal, Austria, to repair the St. Nikolaus Church organ. There he first heard the quickly written version of "Silent Night, Holy Night." He was so impressed with this little D major tune in six-eight time that he urged vocal groups passing through his home village to sing it.

In 1831 the Strasser family from the same village of Zillertal sang "Silent Night, Holy Night" at the Leipzig Trade Fair. It was the hit of the Leipzig Trade Fair. Its popularity spread far and wide. A version was published in 1838 which organist Franz Xaver Gruber corrected for an 1854 printing. A museum in Halle, Germany, has one of the copies written in Gruber's own hand. A memorial chapel on the site of St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorf, near Salzburg, Austria, has the original words by Father Josef Mohr and the original music by organist Franz Gruber.

Thus the words hastily composed by a distraught pastor and the music quickly written by a worried church organist have been heard round the world in many languages for 193 years. "Silent Night, Holy Night" stirs hearts and minds. Its words and music evoke the wonder and glory of Christmas. And all because mice nibbled holes in the bellows of a church organ in an Austrian village 193 years ago.

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild.

Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.

"Yes, Virginia. There IS a Santa Claus," adapted by bfparker

"DEAR EDITOR, " 8 year old Virginia wrote, just before Christmas, 1897, 114 years ago, to the Editor of The New York Sun, "Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says 'If you see it in The Sun it's so.'" "Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?" [Signed] Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West 95th Street, N.Y.C.

VIRGINIA'S LETTER landed on the desk of The Sun's leading editorial writer, Francis P. Church. He could have ignored the letter. He could have given it to an assistant to answer.

INSTEAD HE answered: "Virginia," your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

"YES, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

"THERE WOULD be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal life with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

"NOT BELIEVE in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

"NOBODY SEES Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and un-seeable in the world.

"ONLY FAITH, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

"NO SANTA CLAUS! Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Note: Francis P. Church, THE SUN'S EDITORIAL writer, was born Feb. 22, 1839, in Rochester, N.Y. He was the first publisher, editor, and owner of the Army and Navy Journal. He later edited Galaxy Magazine. He died in N.Y.C. April 11, 1906, not knowing that his editorial answer to Virginia would become famous. End of Christmas 2011.


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