Carolling. Photo © Dwight Sipler, via flickr and creative commons

“This qualifies as a barbaric cultural practice,” Nature Boy said the other day when we were grocery shopping. “I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels deep and lasting psychological distress at being subjected to holiday carols non-stop from November 1 through December.”

He paused to survey the candy-cane display. “Wasn’t there supposed to be a hotline I could report this to?”

Neurologists have already determined that music primes our reactions. That the Academy of Motion Pictures of America awards Oscars to best original scores and sound editing underscores the role music plays in playing on our emotions. More »

Saint Nicholas taking on new experiences by exchanging reindeer and sled for a goat. Image: WikiCommons (

Saint Nicholas taking on new experiences by exchanging reindeer and sled for a goat. Image: WikiCommons

A friend rings me in December every year and warbles, “Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me.” Her sometime-Eartha Kitt, sometime-Madonna Material Girl imitation morphs into one of a 10-year-old requesting a hippopotamus for Christmas.

Then she moves onto the greedier lines of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, and ends with a rousingly nasal rendition of the Chipmunks demanding hula hoops and planes that loop the loop. We call this annual singsong The Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Medley. It seems to suit the season.

Yet, despite singing about wantin’ stuff, Bev and I inevitably end up talking about events and activities. The concerts we attend during December. The dinners with friends. The family gatherings, the anticipated holiday vacations, the quiet days with good books… .

Some of the activities we talk about come with price tags. Some require only time and effort.

Chances are, those experiences will influence our emotions to greater, longer-lasting and more positive effect than any possessions we acquire during the season, no matter how much we may covet the objects.

According to San Francisco State University psychologist Ryan Howell, people who invest in acquiring experiences over obtaining possessions report greater happiness and life satisfaction. Experiences can include anything from attending concerts or theatre to spending time at the spa, to travel or even going for walks….

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….

 William Kurtz Still life of fruit, from

’Tis the season. Those who are dear to us gather near to us to feast, share and converse. We assemble around the groaning board, and retire from it, groaning, “I couldn’t eat another thing.”

But when they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie, we gather our resources, loosen our belts one more notch and manage one more bite.

The sharing of food and drink, and the celebration of plenty, are integral to our social and cultural life. At this time of the year, in this part of the world, turkey and some mistletoe truly bind us together.

Read more….


Sources include:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article 1article 2; article 3