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December is a time to look to the past for remembrance, tradition

President Franklin Roosevelt was on target in 1941 when he asserted that Dec. 7 would be a “date that would live in infamy.” 

What he called “a sudden and deliberate attack” by forces from Japan brought focus to the tragic and powerful events of World War II.

Those in the so-called Greatest Generation have varying memories. My peers were too young to read about the progress of the war, but were conditioned to hear talk of things both fearful and strongly resolved. Words such as draft board, ration books, Gold Star Mothers and victory gardens built a community looked on as ‘the home front”.

Images of those burning ships and the flag raising at Iwo Jima are iconic and, as did the president’s words, brought unity and determination.

Does anyone remember the wartime posters in the lobby of the Arcada that reminded us that  “Loose lips sink ships!?”

The contemporary generation will advance its day of infamy – 9/11. In the same way images persist of the falling towers and words with fresh and powerful meaning such as first responders.

Various service organizations have scheduled events to follow the rallying cry to “Remember Pearl Harbor!” with the particular emphasis on the human loss, not the images.

The American Legion Post 342 Newsletter cites their Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Dinner “held to remind all Americans of what happened and the subsequent results – 3 years, 9 months of costly war in which the U.S. suffered over 400,000 killed in action, and thousands more wounded and missing in action. The message goes on to declare remembrance of those who made the supreme sacrifice and those who still survive.

Another December tradition are the many renderings of Handel’s Messiah. 

First performed in the 1740s, and appreciated for the magnificent and evocative connection to scripture in the English language, this choral work is much anticipated at Christmas, “for unto us a child is born.”

Sandra Vargulich is a member of the Chancel Choir, directed by Jeff Hunt at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles. Worshipers this coming Sunday will find the entire service devoted to this traditional and much anticipated work.

Vargulich, like many members, responded to the call of Mark Armstrong to write for the Advent Devotional collection. She reports that rehearsals for the worship contribution of this work began 10 days after Labor Day. 

Sandra goes on “I am sure speak for the choir when I say it is a labor of love.” She says that they are hoping that such music is one avenue through which you may prepare your heart ... .” Nearly every church has a practice of seeking out and welcoming visitors, implying a promise not to scold about what kept you so long.  Check your local listings. Follow the avenue to the wonderful music of Christmas.

Hint: At Baker Church there are often more empty seats at the 10:30 service and the acoustics are just fine in the balcony.

Finally, December brings out the drum rolls heralding the upcoming bowl games. Don’t you sometimes wonder why we need the has-been, never-were commentators and writers who whine and scold, criticize, and tell their own versions? Memo to those people: The Huskies and the Badgers are going to a major bowl. Get over it. Enjoy the games, everybody.

So, as the snow clouds gather, winter hats off to the vets, the singers and the players.


• Joan Arteberry is a long-time resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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