Happy Holidays

That’s right, I said “Happy Holidays”. There are some people who seem to get upset at the use of “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. Sometimes I tell people Merry Christmas, and sometimes I say Happy Holidays. There are two reasons for this. One, there are several other religions that celebrate holidays in December. A couple of people I know celebrate the winter solstice today. I hope they have a happy holiday.
You don’t always know what the other person celebrates. I remember one Christmas when I was just starting out as a journalist, I sent Christmas cards to all my contacts. One doctor I had interviewed came back with a slightly embarrassed “Thanks but I am Muslim.”
And I know what it is like to be on the other end. When I went to school in the US, in November I was constantly being wished a Happy Thanksgiving, no matter how much I explained that actually Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Bermuda. (Although, we sometimes go to the supermarket and buy Thanksgiving takeout.) It wasn’t offensive, but sort of annoying.
At this time of year I say, “Happy Holidays” because I am not so arrogant as to think that the faith was raised in is the only one that counts in the world. Second, I say Happy Holidays to incorporate New Years and Boxing Day which are also part of the season.
Christians also seem to complain a lot about “Xmas” thinking that somehow it means that Christ has been crossed out. Quite honestly I can’t imagine why a non religious person would choose to cross out Christ but leave the “mass” which indicates a period of worship.
Actually in this case X is more of a symbol than a letter of the English alphabet.”Xmas” has been used since the 1500s in England and seems to refer to the Greek way of writing “Chr”. In ancient Christian paintings the symbol, X and XP were used to denote Christ. Sometimes the symbol XC was used to mean Christmas. So Xmas is a case of just when you think Christ is missing, there he is.

Other words that use to commonly have an X include Xstal (Crystal), Xant for Chrysanthemum. In the 17th century Xene was a common way of spelling Christine.
So get a grip, Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas.


Bermuda Election 2012

Last night as a journalist I had a chance to witness history in the making. Sounds exciting except that what it really means is I spent several hours huddled on a damp, very hard step outside Harrington Sound Primary trying to surreptitiously figure out what was going on inside the polling station as the votes were counted. Of course it was impossible. My eyes and ears just aren’t that good. In my constituency the OBA won and the PLP lost. My candidate was bitterly disappointed, and surprised.

On the way home at 12.30am I had some thoughts about what I would like to see from the next government in terms of behaviour.

1. I don’t want to see them dismissing people as potential voters because they don’t fit some imagined demographic based on race and class. EVERY VOTE COUNTS. 

2. I don’t want to see them running around acting like the big man about town. When my representative attends a church service or some other event, he does not need to sit up front. He can sit where there’s a seat. HUMILITY COUNTS.

3. I’d like to see my representative in my neighbourhood some time other than voting day. I would be nice if he attended parish meetings and neighbourhood watch events. I elected my representative to represent the constituency as well as the party. BEING PRESENT COUNTS.

4. I never want to hear my representative say that corruption is okay because the last government did it. If we wanted the last governments morality we would not have voted them out.  INTEGRITY COUNTS.

5. It would nice to hear this government carrying out well researched and articulate debates. It would be nice if my representative knew the difference between womb and wound. INTELLIGENCE COUNTS.

6. I don’t want to see my government driving their cars to the beach in shiny, expensive GP cars that I paid for. They can take their own car, drive a scooter or take the bus like everyone else. Children are hungry and people are hurting in this community. The big shiny cars are offensive. MODERATION COUNTS.

7.  Most of all I want to feel that myself, my children, my family, the people I care about and my community, all 60,000 of us, COUNT.

Paid genealogy sites

I’m always surprised when people say they have been researching their genealogy for years but aren’t subscribed to any paid genealogy sites. Paid genealogy sites such as ancestry.com and genes.reunited.co.uk are my weaknesses. Some women buy expensive shoes, I sign up to databases. If you have $300 to spare I highly recommend ancestry.com . This is sort of the mega genealogy site and they gobble up genealogy records all over the world. It’s particularly useful if your ancestors have connections in the US, but they also have UK records and access to family trees posted by other members. Warning, it’s easy to subscribe online but you have to call a toll free number to unsubscribe. When you are subscribing to paid genealogy databases always take the time to do the math. Usually the annual rate is cheaper than the quarterly or monthly rate. And the bill will charge to your card until your card expires. You have to watch the British websites. They have a slightly different system of “credits”. They want you to buy credits that buy a certain amount of information. One thing about ancestry, if they add new records while you are subscribed, they will not charge you extra to access them. But I have found with some of the British sites, every time you think you have full membership there is something else you can’t access without paying more for. Argh. Genesreunited.co.uk though has more British records and there are also more British people signed up who have posted British family trees. There are also a lot of Australians on the site. On this site you can access British passenger records entry and exit, which is one of the main reasons I like it.


You don’t need to go back to Portugal.

Many newcomers to genealogy often assume they have to go back to the old country to access vital records. Actually, this isn’t necessarily so. In case you didn’t know the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) are trying to baptise your dead ancestors. Maybe you object to people messing with the souls of your long dead dearly departed. Quite frankly my grandparents kept to their opinions in life, and I can’t imagine them caving now that they are dead. Anyway, the good news is that in order to baptise your ancestors, the LDS have to know who they were and where they lived. They do this by travelling around the world transcribing parish records. In their attempts to convert the dead they have created a very very useful genealogy tool. Warning though, it’s not always 100 percent accurate. They have a FREE online website with searchable databases at http://www.familysearch.org . They have also created family history centres around the world that contain family history data including microfiche versions of parish records. Although it’s nice to go back to the old country, to get to Parish records from the Azores you can go to the LDS family history centre in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The majority of their records are from Sao Miguel and some from Madeira. When I was living in Boston my husband and I took a trip down there. My aunt has family living nearby. In Boston the streets are always cleared and salted. I went in sneakers in the middle of winter and that was an experience. I forgot my winter boots in Boston. The centre was a little building with a sheet of ice in front of it. Once we slid our way across, it was warm and cozy inside. There were a few regulars there to help. Now let me tell you the bad news. The records are in Portuguese script. They are very difficult to wade through if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. Even if you know Portuguese if you are looking at the 1880s the handwriting is quite different. So be warned that you may not come out knowing anything more than you did when you went in. You might want to stay in the neighbourhood a few days and keep plugging away at it. Their telephone number is: 508-994-8215 , according to the family history centre website. The atmosphere is very friendly and no body tried to convert us or preach or anything.

Christmas Short Story Time

I teach creative writing twice a week to a group of talented teenagers. This year two of my students won the Royal Gazette Christmas short story contest. Yeah. So proud. (I didn’t pick them, someone else did.)  Last class one of my students told me that I was a real surprise to him because he always thought journalists were super skinny , wore Chanel No 5 and drove fancy cars. I got right down to the nitty gritty. “What do you mean I’m not skinny…”

So today when one of my other students came in to collect his prize he looked around the office. Out of ten light fixtures in the ceiling in the lobby there was only one that actually worked, making for a rather dim prize giving. He looked at me, shook his head and said: “Boy was X wrong about journalists.”

What Moniz Am I

In Bermuda, once you tell someone your name, they begin trying to place you in a context. What school did you go to, is a subtle question about class. The next question is What Moniz Are You? My answer imight be the McGalls Hill Moniz. Once they have your answer the person usually sorts through every Moniz they know from that area and then begins to sort you into the family context. Whose child and grandchild are you? When I tell my parents I have interviewed or met someone new, they usually sort through a Rolodex of people in their minds and give me the whole family rundown.