The Flywheel

Next meeting: January 6th

Consul General of Brazil

"BRIC"—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have four of the fastest growing economies in the 21st Century.

On Friday Consul General Ramos from Brazil visits Richmond Rotary to discuss his country, its economy and culture. This is sure to be a fascinating and informative presentation. We hope you'll be able to attend.


Meeting of Friday, December 23rd

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

It was the day before the Night Before Christmas and Past Prez Alan rung the bell.
Sid led the Pledge of Allegiance and as usual it was swell.
The Rotarians were jolly and quite full of mirth but fully respectful of Herb’s wish of Peace for the Earth. Then all of a sudden there arose such a clatter, it was good ol’ Henry Kelman telling us what was the matter. ‘Not much’, said Henry, “I can vote Republican again since the GOP House members wisely caved in” (and voted to extend the Payroll Tax Cut).

Visiting Rotarians

There was nary a one.

Rotarians with Guests

But Rich Alexander brought his fine son: (Nat Alexander).

Sunshine Report

It could have been better, John Nicol’s doing poorly, so send him cards, calls and letters.


  • The Crab Feed is coming, January 28th. So reserve a whole table or at least your own plate.
  • The meeting on the 30th was cancelled by the Board, so that Rotarians won’t ‘eat’ from our service fund hoard.
  • The hat was passed with good Christmas Cheer for the Mira Vista Staffers who keep us in food, wine and beer.
  • It’s never too early, though St. Nick’s not quite here, to plan for St. Paddy’s green beer and good cheer (March 17th, Hs Lordship’s with the ‘Scottish’ Fiddlers)


Don Lau ‘Menehune’ (a sort of an elf) recognized John Wilson’s birthday, a celebration of ‘self’.
Nick ‘the Grandfather’ Despota (it’s true!) was recognized for Luca, his Grandbaby new.
Jon Lawlis we know as a Rotarian hairy, recognized his 15th anniversary in Richmond which made us quite merry.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Don L. our elf kept right at his work, with Happy Dollars only and a bit more mirth.
John Wilson’s grandson won tickets to see the Kings, the ones in Sacramento, not manger scenes.
Retired Jim Young was a Happy Virgo, as deals not finished were approved by other bankers he knows.
And Erle Brown was Happy but my notes make no sense, they look like graffiti on an old picket fence.
Sister Suzy is prevailing in her cancer fight, so David A. Brown wished all Happy Holidays and to all a good night!


The Traditions of Christmas

Our own Father Nick Reina was reintroduced to the members by Jim Young as the source, informationally speaking, of the Origins of Christmas Traditions. Father Nick was assisted by the technologically sophisticated and Rotary program tested Sister Mary Greenan.

Fr. Nick started off acknowledging that most modern Christmas traditions, whether or not they are a part of church ceremony, are ‘traditions borrower’, starting with Christmas Day. Fr. Nick said there is general agreement among biblical scholars that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but there is no agreement about his actual birth date. Nick said the ancient church borrowed an aspect of the Roman celebration of the Winter Solstice,  the fourth day after the solstice was the first day the Romans could measure a slight lengthening of days after their summer and fall shortening and celebrated the 25th as the ‘rebirth of the Sun’. It is not a big stretch to the ‘birth of the Son’.

Fr. Nick mentioned a fairly recent controversy in the Christian Church about the phrase, “Merry Xmas”. Some American Evangelicals considered the use of ‘X’ as an attempt to interpose a devilish symbol into the Christmas context. Nick noted that if the concerned evangelicals biblical scholarship had extended back to the Greek Texts they would have realized that ‘X’ (chi) is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ and if you were hand writing that text you would have a lot of incentive to use a short hand like Xmas for “Christ’s Mass”.

Fr. Nick spent a lot of time talking about St. Nick (no relation). Apart from the well known story of Nicholas Bishop of Myra Lycia saving three young girls from being sold into slavery by throwing gold down their chimney, Fr. Nick provided a bunch of interesting facts about St. Nick that underlie the contemporary American image of Santa Claus: Santa’s red suit comes from ecclesiastical vestments; gift giving and chimney delivery is associated with St. Nick because of the traditional story, but in much of the world the gifts are given on Dec. 6th, St. Nicholas Feast Day. St. Nick’s relics (bones) are in the Basilica of St., Nicholas in Nick’s hometown of Bari Italy, having been brought their by pilgrim crusaders in order to protect them from advancing Islamic/Turkish armies. St. Nicholas was a Bishop in the Orthodox Church. Bari is a parish in the Roman Church. In a tribute to the Christmas message of Peace on Earth, the Roman and Orthodox Church have shared the Basilica of St. Nicholas since its construction.

A few other Christmas tradition factoids:

  • Decorated evergreens have been a winter tradition in Northern Europe, ‘forever’. Luther was the first to put lights on the ’Christmas Tree’ and Prince Albert made the trees a popular traditions when he brought them into the royal palace in mid-19th century England.
  • Winter greens, holly and mistletoe have been used ‘forever’ by pre-Christian Northern Europeans as symbols of continuing life (holly) and love (mistletoe).
  • The candy cane is an adaption of the crock held by shepherds abiding …and suitable for children.
  • Some modern traditions are attributable to individuals:

    The Christmas ‘flowering’ poinsettia was introduced to the United States by US Minister to Mexico John Roberts Poinsett. By 1836 the flower bore his name.

    The first ‘Christmas Cards’ were sent by Henry Cole a very busy 19th century English civil servant who did not have time to pen individual letters to his friends. (See example above.)

    ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ was written by Robert May, a copywriter working for Montgomery Ward in Chicago. It was a promotional vehicle for Christmas shopping and while it had a hard time getting out of the editors office, it was an instant hit with $2.4MM copies distributed in its first year,1939.

Father Nick concluded his presentation noting that no matter how you participate in Christmas holiday traditions, they have been around a long time and have been celebrated by lots of different people for different reason. Fr. Nick then said the reason he belongs to Rotary is because it is an organization that makes the spirit of Xmas happen everyday, giving to others and service above self.

Amen. Fr. Nick & the Christian Feast of the Epiphany is right around the corner!

- Rotating Editor, Jim Young
   …with apologies to poets and Xmas tradtionalists