Echoes of Christmas Past

OLLI Connects doesn’t have as many Christmases to remember as Ebeneezer Scrooge did, but 2023 is definitely not our first holiday season. We leafed through the yellowed, curling pages of our past issues and discovered tales and memories that we enjoyed rereading.

You may have read one or two of them, but we’ll bet you a shilling that you haven’t seen them all. Thanks to the magic of internal web links, we don’t have to stack the stories up on the page we’re about to take you to.  We can simply give you a taste of each one and let you choose whether to enjoy the full meal.

Ready?  Of course you are! — Editors

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year

Kun Shi
with a poem by Patricia Antolino

The Lunar New Year tradition is observed in China and several Asian countries, and among Chinese Americans. It normally arrives in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. In 2023 the Lunar New Year’s Day falls on January 22nd.

Lunar New Year Celebration
The Lunar New Year (Xinnian in Chinese) is often called Spring Festival (Chunjie), because it is the beginning of the spring season on the lunar calendar. It is called Seollal in Korean and Tết in Vietnamese.

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2022 – A Look Back

Theresa Sokol
Al Carlson

We like to end each year with an issue in which we look back at the stories, poems, articles, memoirs, and–well, whatever–that we’ve published during the past 51 weeks.  And we have a staggering variety this time around.

We’ll share them with you in a moment. We want to stress that these are not necessarily “the best” articles in their category–just the ones that stood out for us personally, sometimes for very subjective reasons. We hope that you have a list of your own favorites.

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The Operatunity Holiday Cookbook

Beryl B. Byles
Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

The Operatunity SIG has provided a fitting and suitably dramatic finale to OLLI Connects’ month-long tribute to holiday foods and recipes.  Originally published in 2020 just for SIG member contributors, Beryl Byles agreed to allow OLLI Connects to reformat the book and share a few recipes for our Act III installment of holiday delectable dishes submitted by our subscribers…..along with appropriate opera selections, of course. And, if you want to delve further into the compilation, the entire updated book is linked to this story. — Editor

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The Linzer Torte

Victoria Dym

I am in the checkout line at the Giant Eagle which is Pittsburgh’s version of Publix. While waiting, I skim an article on Christmas family gatherings: a recipe for a Holiday Ham, glazed with brown sugar and rings of pineapple (the way Mom used to make it), escalloped potatoes, lemony Brussels sprouts, and a Linzer Torte. The picture shows the food deftly plated and arranged on a Christmas tablecloth. There’s a vase with red roses, white lilies and pine.

You want the magazine? The cashier winks at me. Later that night, after my daughter, Sydney’s bath, and of course, her bedtime story, I read to my husband, Larry, in bed from the magazine, The Linzer Torte has two delicious layers of rich and buttery, nut flavored pastry sandwiched together with raspberry preserves. What makes this torte so beautiful is the lattice design of the top crust.
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Stollen Chronicles (2022)

Jane Applegate Belzer
Photos by Shelly Belzer and author

The holidays are coming and it’s time for me to challenge my baking skills. I know that sounds dangerous because we all want our holiday treats to be just perfect. So why take on a new project instead of relying on tried and true recipes born from family traditions? I am fortunate to have a couple of friends who are very skilled bakers and they never make the same holiday treats twice. Cookies, pies, breads, cakes and candies that dazzle the eyes and the palates. Impressive. So this year I’m taking my cue from them and I’m baking Stollen or Christstollen as it is called in its German homeland.  View more

For the holiday season OLLI Connects is featuring food blogs and recipes over the first three weeks of December followed by a discussion of our favorite issues on the final Monday of 2022. Deliciousness is on the menu beginning with Jane Applegate Belzer's beautiful Stollen. 
And don't forget to visit OLLI Connects on Thursday, December 8th to discover the identity of the To Tell The Truth competition winner.
— Editors

‘Twas the Night Before

Neil Cosentino

It was the night before Christmas Eve in 1970 at Torrejon Air Base near Madrid, Spain. I was a captain in the United States Air Force and the junior aircraft commander of one of the three Strategic Air Command (SAC) KC-135 tankers.  We were from three different air bases. My home base was Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. We were there to provide backup air refueling for the SIOP war plan, emergency air refueling and training sorties. It would be another Christmas on SAC alert duty away from our families.

It was the first day of my two days off from alert duty. I had made plans to go into Madrid and do my favorite thing: enjoying the city as if it were a living museum. I was always surprised during my walks in Madrid, London, Paris, Tokyo, Copenhagen or Rome that when I roamed these cities at random,  (More…)

How Sweet It’s Been!

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

Late winter holidays provide the perfect excuse to gorge on sweets, treats and rich temptations for the palate in order to take the edge off a numbing progression of dark, icy days.

Wait! What? This is Florida, America’s Spring Break playground—sun, beaches, sand, Disneyworld, parks—amusement or nature—the ultimate getaway destination for the winter weary!

Sadly, not this year for the over 65 set….

The monotony of COVID-induced isolation forced us to remain holed up at home. We endured feverish hours refreshing vaccine sites or counting the days until the achievement of full immunity after getting our jabs. Late March ushered in the mass breakout of grateful grandparents sporting newly minted silver coiffures and COVID-padded waistlines.  (More…)

A Dark and Stormy Night

Linda Ho

It was a dark and stormy night. The fierce wind swirled relentlessly around the rustic oak cabin nestled in a lonely valley of the Smoky Mountains. By nightfall, snow drifts covered the three small windows of the one-room lodge built by the early pioneers of the Tennessee Valley.

Five-year-old twins Jeremiah and Johanna were huddled next to the fireplace, mesmerized by the crackling sounds of pine logs set ablaze and their brightly dancing embers. The warmth of the fire snuggled them in a cocoon of safety against the frightening storm.  (More…)

My Tiny Christmas Trees

Jane Applegate Belzer

Years ago, in another life, a full-size Christmas tree would stand in my living room in late December, hung with lights and ornaments. But sometime in January the tinsel had to come down, and a litter of pine needles had to be cleared away. One year those needles even broke my vacuum cleaner. 

Remarried now, and to a man of other holidays and other traditions, I’ve channeled my nostalgia for the Christmas trees of childhood into collecting miniatures. The first came from the Brandywine Valley ten years ago. Since then, they have multiplied during our travels in the United States and abroad. And every December some of them come out to march across the mantelpiece and hearth, the solution to ecumenical Christmas decoration in a mixed household – without the pine needles.

Let me introduce you to a few of my tree friends:  (More…)

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