So with the recent sighting of one of the Christ Church Ghosts (the Little Boy), it reminded me of a Christ Church Ghost Story of my own.
In life, my late grandfather was a man of many talents. He was the People’s Warden at Christ Church for many years, an avid carpentry hobbyist (if it something in the Church made of wood, he and the late Jack Newton probably repaired it at least once in their lifetimes), but above all his favorite hobby was Numismatics. He was a coin collector.
He had an entire room dedicated to his coins and stacks of them in his closet (so many that my Grandmother would joke that one day they’d fall through the floor and into the dining room). He would also, every year, buy the proof and uncirculated sets and give them to his grandchildren in the hopes that one of them would one day share his hobby.
Sadly, that hope was not immediately realized, and when he passed away, his entire collection was sold off and converted into a smaller number of pieces, safely locked away for the future.
My present interest in Numismatics came about when my Grandmother found a number of pieces from his collection that had been misplaced prior to the sale. In a gray parts container (he also used to be a part of the old family business, DeAngelis Buick) he ferreted away a number of interesting pieces. 3¢ Nickels, Morgan Dollars with character, Indian Head Pennies, even an old 8 Reals (a piece of eight) with a curious counter-stamp on it. These weren’t the most expensive pieces in his collection — he certainly had some that were worth quite a bit — but these were his favorites. It was this little neglected capsule that really struck up something within me, and that — along with what he had given me over the years — began my own serious collection.
So every year at Christ Church there is a tradition that at the All Saints Day service, we read the names of those we have lost the prior year.
Right around the time that Grandpa’s name was coming up in the list, our youngest daughter was getting fussy, so my wife took her outside to walk her around a bit with our eldest. The list continued on and finished, and eventually they came back indoors.
However, my wife had a very astonished look on her face. Jokingly and in the spirit of the holiday I asked her if she had seen a ghost. She didn’t say anything in response except to open up her hand.
In it was an almost perfectly preserved 1915 Barber Dime.
She had found it lying in a crack in the side of the building, simply sitting there in the same shape as one would expect to find one in circulation in the early 1900s. Almost 100 years old, lost to time.
The next words that came out of my mouth, however, I’ll never forget:
I’ve always been one who has scratched his beard over the whole “War on Christmas.” Aside from the occasional, rare, and laughable “Really, now?” moments that crop up in the press (like the whole “How the Grinch Stole the Holiday” debacle), Christmas is vibrantly alive and well in the United States. One only needs to walk down a main street to see the festive decorations and lights adorning nearly every storefront and front yard.
Regardless, sometimes when I discuss how I wish people “Happy Holidays” some people get indignant. “What other holidays are there other than Christmas? Especially this year when Chanukah is over and done with!”
As a Christian, when I say Happy Holidays, I am acknowledging my own Christian tradition.
Christmas is but one holiday on the Christian calendar that falls around this time of year, so allow me to show you precisely what I mean. When I say Happy Holidays I am personally referring to:
- Advent – A holy seasons of 4 weeks leading up to Yuletide, where the following holidays fall:
- Dec 4th: The Feast of St. John of Damascus: An amazingly educated man and defender of religious art.
- Dec 5th: The Feast of St. Clement of Alexandria: An early Christian philosopher who focused upon equality among other things.
- Dec 6th: The Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra <—- This is Santa Claus’ feast day. Has to get his energy up before Christmas, I suppose. 🙂
- Dec 7th: The Feast of St. Ambrose of Milan: Patron saint of bees, beekeepers, wax, and candles. A neglected saint nowadays in the era of electric light.
- Dec 24th: Christmas Eve (you probably are familiar with this one). Major holiday.
- Christmastide or Yuletide – Christmas actually lasts 12 days. Not one day.
- Dec 25th: Christmas Day! The celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christmas carols begin. Major holiday.
- Dec 26th: The Feast of St. Stephen. You’ve probably read about him in Acts.
- Dec 27th: The Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. (Not St. John the Baptist, that’s in June.)
- Dec 28th: The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The day we remember the slaughter of the children at Herod’s command and celebrate young children in general. With a new baby this year, this feast is particularly important to me.
- Dec 30th: The Feast of Francis Joseph Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer. He’s a more recent saint and a bit obscure despite it.
- Jan 1st: The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Commemorates the circumcision of Jesus and his naming, eight days after Christmas Day.
- Epiphanytide – A season that lasts 8 weeks which starts off with:
- Jan 6th: Epiphany – The day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus. Major holiday.
So when I say “Happy Holidays” this time of year, as a Christian I am referring to three seasons and over 10 holidays, at least 3 of which are fairly major on the Christian calendar. Christmas is but one of them, and the shortest season of the three. 🙂
Also not in that list are civil holidays like New Year’s Day (which lands on the same day of the Feast of the Holy Name) and Boxing Day (mainly for my friends in the Commonwealth, piggybacking on The Feast of St. Stephen). So there are a few more.
If you want to talk about a more true-to-form “War on Christmas” I personally find it irksome that Christmas music — rather than Advent carols — are played all throughout Advent, and after Christmas Day they simply vanish, as if the other 11 days don’t exist. Episcopalians tend to celebrate all 12 days with fervor, sometimes to the point of odd stares. However, I’ve found that odd stares are best dealt with by means of education. Simply start singing a few lines of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and they’ll say, “Well, I’ve just had an epiphany! That’s what that song is about!”
But then then I tell them that they’re jumping the gun: Epiphany’s the next season. 😉
(PS. It also doesn’t hurt that at around this time of year there are other holidays celebrated by other religions. Just sayin’. 😉 )
I was going through some old family photos with my Grandmother today, and she shared a number of family stories with me. Here they are in MP3 format:
Grandpa and the Pastries (Carentan France)[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Grandpa-And-The-Pastries.mp3]
“Frankie” DeMatteis[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Frankie-DeMatteis.mp3]
Grandma’s First Experience With Uncle Andrew DeMatteis[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Uncle-Andrew-DeMatteis.mp3]
How Great-Grandpa DeMatteis Lost His Leg[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Great-Grandpa-DeMatteis-Leg.mp3]
Uncle Elmer Martin The Ferryboat Captain[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Uncle-Elmer-Martin-Ferry-Captain.mp3]
“Lord, If You Come Through the Roof, I’ll Pay For the Shingles”[audio http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130724-130724-Lord-If-You-Come-Through-The-Roof.mp3]
Two stories not represented here as I couldn’t find them in the recording (I need to comb through it more carefully) include one about General Eisenhower visiting Grandpa’s hospital and how he motivated everyone there not to waste food, and one about how Grandpa and his best war buddy Paul Reed got their spending money via a combination of pressing clothes and gambling. I’ll post them when I find them.
This is a restored photograph of Harry DeAngelis, my Great Grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) that I restored from a sadly dilapidated state. Here’s what it looked like beforehand:
Born on one of the seven hills of Rome, he slipped through Ellis Island illegally to get into the United States and somehow found his brothers who were here, miles from Grand Central Station looking for him. He couldn’t speak a word of English, but he quickly learned. Becoming a citizen as quickly as he could (it was much easier back then) he dropped his given name, Aristodemo, and took on the name Harry (after the song “I’m Just Wild About Harry”) as Italians were looked down upon, and he wanted to fully integrate.
The DeAngelis brothers originally had a bicycle shop where they sold and repaired bikes of all sorts, but as automobiles became more popular people came to them asking if they did auto repairs as well. At the time, there wasn’t as much difference between the mechanics of a bike and a car, so they started repairing cars. This eventually lead to them founding a car dealership (Nash, and eventually Cadillac, and Buick).
He truly attained the American Dream, starting off penniless and founding a strong legacy with a focus on education, frugality, and perseverance.
Anyways, I’ll have a full and proper biography about him up eventually.