It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas

Image via BestPriceNutrition

Today’s coffee of choice was a bit unorthodox for me.  I usually opt for sweet, icy beverages (anything similar to a milkshake usually makes me happy), but California finally got a major dose of cold weather this week, so I chose something new: an SkCDL (or “Skinny Cinnamon Dulce Latte” in layman’s terms).  This was recommended to me by the perkiest, Santa’s-elf-like barista I have ever met…which may explain why I had my first “Fa-La-La-La-La” moment of the year.  Yes, this warm beverage jolted memories of Christmas shopping at Stonestown Galleria with my mom, not to mention sugar plum fairies dancing in my head.  While I’m not one for cinnamon-flavored anything, this drink has just a subtle taste of the aforementioned spice, with a hint of vanilla flavor as well.  And at just around one hundred calories, I can revel in the Christmas spirit without rapidly heading towards Santa’s rotundity.

P.S. If you’ve ever wondered if the barista wrote your order correctly on your cup, you can learn to decipher the Starbucks code at: http://flashcarddb.com/cardset/48513-starbucks-drink-initials-flashcards.

“The Gift of the Magi”

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Henry David Thoreau said that “it is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”  How ironic, then, that in the Season of Consumerism, my favorite Christmas short story is one that emphasizes the importance of personal sacrifice, and not material possessions, as Christmas’s most important theme.

In “The Gift of the Magi” ‘s first line, the reader discovers a conflict: it’s just before Christmas, and Della has “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all” (Henry 1)…and she still has not bought her husband a Christmas present.  The two are poor, and, save for a few prized possessions, have no luxuries in their lives.  “The Gift of the Magi” is about the spirit of giving and sacrifice–what Della sacrifices to give her husband, Jim, for Christmas, and surprisingly, what he sacrifices for Della as well.

I first read O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” in eighth grade, and have taught it previously to ninth graders, as it can be found in most ninth grade literature textbooks.  This story can easily be taught the last day before winter break (when students’ blood sugar levels would make any Keebler elf envious), and is great for teaching plot, characterization, and especially irony.

FYI…The title derives itself from the Biblical magi, who were the three astrologers from the east who noticed a star when Jesus was born, and followed it until they reached Him.  They presented Him with gifts, three of which are specified in the Bible: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2.1-11 New World Translation).  There are many theories as to what the three gifts may have symbolized, as well as whether or not the magi were actually harmful to Jesus (they paid obeisance to Him, but also inadvertently tipped off Herod that He was alive).  These details are not, however, important to one’s understanding of O. Henry’s short story.

Related websites:

Christmas quotations

Every day, I post a Quote of the Day (excuse the redundancy) on my whiteboard.  Here are some quotes that get my students into the Christmas spirit:

“Christmas gift suggestions: to your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” -Oren Arnold

“There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.” -Anonymous

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” – Washington Irving

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – Dr. Seuss

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” -Calvin Coolidge

“Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.” -Lenore Hershey

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” -Charles Dickens

“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”  -Anonymous

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