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By Rebecca Price Janney, Nov 30 2017 07:00PM

When our son was very young, my husband and I decided we wanted to emphasize the birth of Christ more than the popular legend of Santa Claus at Christmas. Oh, we let him have fun with Santa, we just tried to put him and gift-giving into perspective.

One thing we taught him in age-appropriate ways as he grew up, was how Santa Claus is also known as St. Nicholas, and that he is known by different names and celebrated in different ways by many nations. Our American Santa, and all the rest, are based on a very real man who lived a long time ago.

Nicholas was a bishop who lived in present-day Turkey. He was born in 270 A.D. and died in 343. He was known for his love of children and his generosity. There’s a story about a very poor family in his parish whose father couldn’t provide dowries for his girls to marry, which severely limited their options for the future. When Nicholas heard about the family’s situation, one night he secretly visited their house and filled the shoes they kept by a window with coins. How they rejoiced the next morning!

Every December 6th people around the world celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas. Many encourage the children in their homes to put their shoes by a door, and the next day they will be filled with coins, candies, and maybe small toys.

Our son is in middle school now, but this is still a family tradition we enjoy, and I hope he’ll pass it along to his family one day.

By Rebecca Price Janney, Nov 22 2017 06:45PM

One of my favorite holiday shows is “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” I especially like the part where Snoopy goes to great lengths to feed CB’s uninvited guests and ends up making large batches of popcorn and buttered toast. Although Peppermint Patty is not amused, we viewers certainly are!

I doubt many of us serve Snoopy’s concoction at our tables. Let’s face it, turkey takes center stage this time of year, except maybe at the White House. Here’s a story you may enjoy about the history of U.S. Presidents and Thanksgiving turkeys.

By most accounts, the tradition began during the Civil War when Tad Lincoln tearfully intervened on behalf of a bird brought to the White House for Christmas dinner. Touched by the boy’s distress, President Lincoln spared the turkey’s life. This somehow morphed into a Thanksgiving tradition, I’m guessing because turkey is the meat of choice for the holiday because farmers brought their prized birds to the White House as gifts for First Families.

President Reagan was the first Chief Executive to send a turkey to a farm to live out the rest of its days, and a few years later, George H.W. Bush issued the first official pardon to a turkey (1989).

This year two turkeys were presented to President Trump—I understand the second was an “alternate” in case Drumstick wouldn’t be able to fulfill his official duties. Both Drumstick, weighting in at a whopping 36 pounds, and Wishbone, were pardoned and go to live at Virginia Tech’s “Gobbler’s Rest,” which is part of the school’s poultry sciences program. (Something tells me First Families still end up eating turkey!)

What are some of your family’s Thanksgiving food traditions? Popcorn anyone?

By Rebecca Price Janney, Nov 15 2017 06:08PM

Have you ever gone to a book signing? If so, what author did you see? I recalled going to the King of Prussia Mall in the 90s where I stood in a vast line for a couple of hours to have Charlton Heston sign a copy of his book for me. That special moment took all of a minute, but his friendliness and personal inscription were worth the wait. Authors are happy when people come out to see them!

I’m not expecting lines to be snaking around the building, but this Saturday I’ll be doing a book signing at the CLC Bookcenter in Moorestown, New Jersey. I would love to see you if you’re in

By Rebecca Price Janney, Nov 9 2017 06:01PM

Veterans Day is one of those holidays that seem to have been around practically forever, but its official observance is actually less than 100 years old.

On November 11, 1918 four horrific years that had plunged the entire world into conflict at last came to an end. Although the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, for most people the date of November 11, 1918 represented the end of the Great War.

To mark the first anniversary of the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson created Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. Thirty states made this a holiday, and elsewhere in the world countries observed “Remembrance Day.” In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make the date a regular observance, to remember and to honor our nation’s veterans. Congress said the “recurring anniversary of (November 11, 1918) should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Twelve years later, November 11th became a U.S. holiday, and on June 1, 1954 the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. Veterans, not just though who had served in the First World War.

As we observe Veterans Day this year, please share stories of veterans from your family. Also, please let me know if you do anything specific to thank or serve these brave men and women.

As I’ve mentioned before, my maternal grandfather, Harry Kocher, served in the U.S. Army during WWI, and my father, several uncles, and aunt were in WWII and its aftermath. One cousin was in the Navy during the Vietnam War. My husband’s father and several uncles were in the armed services; one uncle died in the Sea of Japan during WWII. From the beginning of our nation’s history, my family has served in every war, and for that, I am truly grateful. God bless our veterans! God bless America.

By Rebecca Price Janney, Nov 3 2017 12:09PM

Anyone who knows me understands how important family is to me, not just those of my current generation, but my ancestors as well. Ever since I discovered where I came from a few years ago, I’ve been so inspired I’ve had books published (Easton at the Forks, Easton in the Valley), and I do a fair amount of public speaking on the subject. This isn’t just a personal thing with me. I truly believe all of us should know something about our family histories.

Today I’m offering one good reason for doing so—the children we pass these stories down to become more resilient.

According to a recent study, one of the best things we can do for our families is to develop a strong narrative of our family.* Child psychologist Sara Duke, who works with learning disabled kids, agrees. “The (children) who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”

Duke conducted a study in which she asked children 20 questions, such as:

“Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?”

“Do you know how your parents met?”

“Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?”

She also ran a series of psychological tests. “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

She’s discovered in times of national trauma, such as terrorist attacks, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

When we find out about grandparents who fought in wars or supported the cause on the home front, their patriotism, their self-sacrifice encourage us. I’m proud that my mother was a Rosie the Riveter during WWII, how she worked after school in dangerous conditions—there were no safety guards on the machine she used—because she couldn’t go to war like her big brother, but she wanted to support the war effort.

Similarly, when we discover how a relative overcame a debilitating illness, or lost everything in the stock market, we gain knowledge of how they survived and realize we can as well when our own hard times come.

My husband tells the story of his grandmother, who raised ten children in a two bedroom house in Pittsburgh during the Depression and World War II. Although they usually just had something simple to eat for supper, Grandma often sent a child to the neighbors’ to make sure they had food before her own family sat down to eat. From her example, Scott learned compassion, to put the needs of others ahead of his own, and to be grateful for his blessings.

What stories from your family history have strengthened you in times of trial?

* (Bruce Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us,” The New York Times, March 15, 2013)

My Mother and Son Looking Over a Family Document at the Marx Room, EAPL
My Mother and Son Looking Over a Family Document at the Marx Room, EAPL
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