Happy Holidays, all of you joyous Brooklynites, from Cobble Hill to Court Street, from Boerum Hill to Bed Stuy!!! Now, haven’t we all wondered how the tradition of gift giving at Christmastime began? I know I have!!! Because a Christmas without the pleasure of sharing presents is like a Spaghetti Puttanesca without the capers, or like a Hot Toddy without the cloves! You know, I tried making a Hot Toddy without the cloves, and it was a dull as a Match Game without Charles Nelson Reilly. Ha! Where was I? I sometimes get sidetracked, my friends. My doctors say this may be the result of something that happened to me at Watkins Glen in 1973. One second I was listening to the Allman Brothers…the next thing I remember I was face down in a muddy field, it was three days later, and I was crying out “Where is my string?” Apparently, I had been saying this phrase for 14 hours, without interruption.
Anyway, as far as we can tell, the tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas began in 884 when Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fat celebrated his victory over the rebel Engelschalk II by decreeing that all members of his royal retinue were to exchange oranges and salt to honor the birth of Christ. Now, this ‘arm’ of the Empire crumbled with Charles’ death in 888 (too bad for Big Chuck!), but with the resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th Century, Emperor Henry the Fowler heard tales of ol’ Charles gift-giving tradition, and around 933 he decided to bring it back, specifically as a way of giving thanks for the treaty he had just signed with the troublesome Magyars. By the middle of the 12th Century, during the reign of the legendary Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, there’s strong evidence that the gift-giving habit had spread to all classes throughout the Empire (and from there to the rest of Europe).
Now…there couldn’t possibly be a Brooklyn connection to all this Imperial Chatter, could there? Why yes, there is!!! As you know, Charles the Fat was the grandson of the mighty Emperor Charlemagne, who founded the Holy Roman Empire. Through a different line of descent, John Roebling, who designed the Mighty an’ Majestic Brooklyn Bridge, claimed to be a direct descendent of Charlemagne. How about that!!! You know it’s true, because you just read it!
And now, THE THREE DOT ROUNDUP! Those Christmas lights on Montague Street are prettier than Linda Gray in a pantsuit…If anyone out there is hoarding Sriacha hot sauce, here’s a h-h-hot tip: Fresh Direct’s got plenty!!! A shot of that stuff in your Chicken’n’Stars and you’ll Thai one on!…Hey, how does a Pinch Hitter make a cake? With Sacrifice Batter!!!…Did you know that the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is the longest continuous underwater vehicle tunnel in North America?…I know it’s not even New Years, but if anyone’s takin’ early bets for horse racing’s Triple Crown, my money’s on Almost Famous!…Is there anything more depressing than that damn “Christmas Time is Here” Peanuts song? Folks, it’s more of a downer than an audio book version of The Bell Jar read by Ian Curtis…I am a big fan of Limey Thespian Martin Freeman, but does he have to be in every movie?…Try saying ‘Limey Thespian’ three times fast!…Hey, at Puppy Birthday Parties, do the Doggie Clowns make Balloon Humans?…Did you know that one of TV’s classiest beauties, Suzanne Pleshette, was from Brooklyn Heights? AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVING IN BROOKLYN!
(Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own)
Tim Sommer has been employed to varying degrees of gainfulness as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive. He is currently working on the second volume of his biography of television pioneer Lee Leonard, and continues his efforts to get Sammy Petrillo a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.