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Why we shouldn’t take the “X” out of XMas
Christ Pantocrator, a mosaic on the Cefalù Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Cefalù, Sicily, Italy built in 1131.(pantheos.org)
In a day and age where we have terminology like safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and triggers it seems that there is very little under the sun that couldn’t be considered offensive to someone. In extreme cases, some may be offended by what they assumed or perceived you were going to say – what you were thinking, but didn’t quite get to.
This policing of thought is a form of censorship that is typically accompanied by some form of mob justice: shaming, social crusading, or demands for resignation or a sacking. The problem with mob justice is it is often a response that began as a knee-jerk reaction that progressively develops in emotional intensity and irrationality. Reason and emotion generally don’t share the same sphere – a sort of mental oil and water.
In addition, the targets are often soft ones – those whose intent was not malicious or hurtful or made by a person who said something and genuinely did not know it would be offensive. Perhaps, it was a family member or friend whose only experience with a certain race, creed, religion or gender was very limited and often to just their stereotypes. These soft targets are easy to attack as opposed to those who genuinely deserve such attacks, e.g. Stormfront, Nazi sympathizers, KKK, Westboro Church, etc.
The truth isn’t always important when mob justice or social crusading is freight training along. Once that momentum has picked up speed, facts and reason generally fall by the wayside and are not important any more. The saddest part of all is that these soft targets are good people who made a mistake out of a lack of understanding, not from malintent – they are “teachable.” Instead of taking advantage of a learning opportunity, the mob attacks and actually has a hand in perpetuating that person’s ignorance.
The antidote for any form of ignorance is knowledge and understanding not insulting, shaming, and attacking one’s reputation. Ignorance is often used as an insult, but it shouldn’t be taken that way always. Ignorance means we lack knowledge of a particular subject or topic. It’s like there is a missing piece of a puzzle. It doesn’t mean a person is stupid – what makes a person stupid is refusing incoming knowledge; to pretend it doesn’t exist.
One of the common displays of ignorance I encounter often is criticism for the use of the term “XMas,” instead of Christmas. Since I was about 20 years of age, I have devoured everything I can across all religions and ideologies e.g. Islam, Buddhism, Animism, Hinduism, Kabbalah, etc. I thoroughly enjoy the mixture of thought, history and culture. I simply can’t get enough.
Because this is a deep topic of interest for me, I frequent many forums and partake in discussion daily. Almost without fail, using “XMas,” “Xian,” or “Xianity” garners a comment along the lines of “That’s offensive.”, “Why are you taking Christ out of Christmas?”, or “That’s incredibly insulting to me. It’s blasphemous.”
When a person finds out that I am a humanist that just adds fuel to the fire, because they assume that because I am not a theist I must be disparaging their belief system. This is partly due to the obnoxiousness or arrogance of many “new atheists.” Many Christians incorrectly think that the use of “X” in Xmas, Xian or Xianity is a modern term invented by these new atheists as a way to stir the pot.
In actuality, I am trying to have meaningful dialogue with people different than me. I’m trying to increase my understanding of religious thought and I am assuming that those who I am in discussion with are also trying to increase their understanding. I’ve been accused of being a hopeless optimist and this may be the case here, because more often than not the conversation then begins to devolve, meander, lose its way and stop being productive. It’s a shame, because it’s completely unnecessary.
The term was not developed by atheists, but by Christians nearly 1,500 years ago. The “X” is actually not a Roman letter, but the Greek letter “chi” which resembles an “x.” “Chi” is the first letter in the Greek word “Christos,” which is in turn the word for “Christ.” Greek is the language that the New Testament is written in and the word looks like this in original Greek: Χριστός.
If you still aren’t convinced, take a look at above image of the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century manuscript of the Bible. Here’s the actual text from Matthew 16:16b: See, the “ΧC”? That is short for χριστὸς. You can see the use of “XC” on many Christ Pantocrator – depictions of Christ. The banner image of this article is a mosaic on the Cefalù Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Cefalù, Sicily, Italy built in 1131.
So, next time that you see an “x” used in XMas, Xian, or Xianity don’t take offense. It’s not a derogatory way to take Christ out of Christmas, it’s not disrespectful or meant to offend. In fact, it’s the opposite. It places Christ back into Christmas and pays respect to the rich history of Christianity…er….Xianity.
So, don’t let “I’m offended.” also mean “I don’t want to learn.”
This article is an attempt by a humanist to extend an olive branch to Xians. If you pick up this olive branch and pass it along, two “opposing” groups just set an example for others to follow. If people used the same energy and eagerness they expend to be offended and applied it to a willingness to listen and understand, we’d really be on to something.
Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas!
The Voice – Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians: http://www.crivoice.org/symbols/xmasorigin.html
Today I Found Out: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/12/the-x-in-xmas-doesnt-take-the-christ-out-of-christmas/
New Bedford Man to Serve up To A Decade in Prison for Child Rape
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III announced today that a New Bedford child rapist was sentenced to serve eight to 10 years in state prison Wednesday afternoon in Fall River Superior Court.
Manny DaSilva, 48, of New Bedford, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of rape of a child, and two counts of indecent assault and battery of a person under 14 years of age.
Judge William Sullivan , after hearing a victim impact statement penned by the victim and listening to another impact statement from the victim’s mother, sentenced Mr. DaSilva to serve eight to 10 years in state prison, to be followed by seven years of supervised probation upon his release from prison.
The incident dates back to late 2010, when the victim was 9-years-old. The victim, a fourth grader at the time, would go, along with her brother, to a home that Mr. DaSilva was residing in with his parents each day after school. The two children would often play in Mr. DaSilva’s room while he was still at work. But upon returning from work, he would send the boy to the living room, while keeping the female victim in his bedroom. After raping the young girl, Mr. DaSilva would make the victim kneel and pray with him to forgive him for his sins.
The victim eventually disclosed the abuse four years later to a friend after the friend showed concern about the victim’s psychological well-being. The friend reported the disclosure to a teacher and a police investigation ensued, resulting in Mr. DaSilva’s arrest in 2014.
“The facts of this case are extremely disturbing to me. This is a man who stole the innocence of a young girl, causing her years of psychological distress. It is particularly offensive that this man was a caretaker of the child, while he sexually abused her,” District Attorney Quinn said. “However, I was inspired to hear of the strength and courage the victim has shown ever since finally revealing the abuse to a friend. The victim is now excelling in school and her psychological well-being has improved dramatically. If there is a lesson to be learned from this tragic case, it is this: If you are being victimized, speak to someone. You will get the help and support you need.
“I would also like to thank the family of the victim for their staunch support of her throughout this matter.”
New Bedford High School’s 30th Annual Band Competition
On Saturday, October 3 at 6:00 p.m., New Bedford High School’s Whaler Marching Band will host bands from across New England for its 30th Annual Competition.
In addition to attending a New Bedford High School band performance, spectators will also enjoy performances by the combined middle school bands of students from Roosevelt Middle School, Keith Middle School, Normandin Middle School, as well as Ford Middle School in Acushnet.
New Bedford High School’s music program has continued a meteoric rise, more than doubling in size from its ranks six years ago and performs in more than 25 competitions a year.
The Whaler Marching Band will host friendly competition from local high schools: Wareham High, B.M.C. Durfee High of Fall River, North Middlesex High, Falmouth High, and Joseph Case High of Swansea.
Several band members commented on the sense of community and working together as a team in reflecting on the upcoming competition.
“The great thing about Home Competition is that instead of traveling around and being the visitors at other venues, we get to host other bands and show them that New Bedford really is a beautiful city, and this is where we come from,” said senior Olivia Marques. “As a band, we are so proud of our city, and this is our opportunity to bring a great event into our hometown and showcase the amazing talents of our students.”
Said junior Max Pacheco, “Our home show is a fantastic experience because having our friends, family and community come out to support us makes all of the hard work worthwhile. The opportunity to share our hard work with the community and try to affect others with our music is something really special.”
Junior Carina Borges said, “We’re on our home turf, and we embrace it. When we perform, you feel the rush.”
NBHS Band Director Eric Drew said this year’s show will be one to remember.
“Our band students are putting their spectacular work ethic to great use, and their improvement is obvious to everyone who has heard the band,” Mr. Drew said. “This year’s show is called ‘Another Story Must Begin…’ using the music of Les Miserables. Twenty-five years ago, NBHS did a show based on this same music; our show is different, but it reflects our history and our tradition. I hope the whole community can join us this weekend and help us celebrate the incredible work, improvement, and success of our students, our band, and our school here at New Bedford High.”
“We are looking forward to welcoming the whole community here to New Bedford High School to watch the exceptionally talented students of our school perform,” said Headmaster Bernadette Coelho.
The 30th Annual Band Competition begins at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 3 at McCoy Field, 70 Hathaway Boulevard, New Bedford. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens.
In case of severe weather, the competition will be held in the New Bedford High School gymnasium, 230 Hathaway Boulevard
State Police Investigating Fatal Crash
This morning at about 5:10 a.m., State Police from the Andover Barracks responded to a report of a crash involving two motor vehicles on Route 93 southbound, south of exit 38 in Woburn, which resulted in the death of one of the operators.
Preliminary investigation by Trooper Robert McCarthy indicates that a 26 year-old woman from Nashua, N.H., the sole occupant of a 2006 Audi A4, was traveling southbound when, for reasons still under investigation, she lost control of the vehicle and swerved from the left lane into the median, striking the guardrail and causing the vehicle to stop across the left travel lane. The vehicle was then struck on the passenger side by a 2008 Ford Ecovan, operated by a 40 year-old male from Londonderry, NH. He was not injured in the crash.
The female operator sustained fatal injuries as a result of that impact, and was determined to be dead at the scene. Her name is being withheld until next of kin is notified.
Two travel lanes were closed for approximately 2 hours.
Trooper McCarthy was assisted in this investigation by the State Police Crime Scene Services Section. Also assisting on scene were members of Woburn Fire and EMS and MassDOT.
There is no further information available at this time. Please do not contact the barracks for media inquiries.
For the Color-Blind? Coming full circle with the Senhor da Pedra festa
“Get the heck up, my dad is going to kill you!”
My mind starts to rush. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for just over two years and the last thing I want to do is screw things up with her dad, particularly during the week that I am vacationing in his hometown for the first time, at his home no less.
“Did he find out that I drooled over his second-favorite pillow?”
I frantically ask my girlfriend.
“You did what!?” she exclaims.
“Does he know you snuck into the guest room last night? Oh god, do you think he heard us?”
“No, you moron! He needs you to go help him. They’re decorating the streets.”
Relieved my life had been spared, I was fully clothed and on my way to Eugenia Street within 10 minutes. As I neared my destination, I observed an 8½” x 11” flyer duct-taped to a telephone pole.
Senhor da Pedra Feast
New Bedford P.D.
I turned left and suddenly found myself on Eugenia Street, a residential street on New Bedford’s ‘North End’ spanning about 2,900 feet. The city’s heavy Portuguese influence was immediately apparent, as every third or so house was proudly sporting a red and green flag containing a round yellow emblem.
“Nice of you to show up!” my girlfriend’s dad shouted from a distance.
He was in the middle of the street along with another dozen-and-a-half people. I should have been formulating an excuse to justify my two-hour tardiness, but I was too busy witnessing the well-oiled machine before me. Men and women, kids and seniors, friends and strangers, all working in unison. One shoveled dyed woodchips into plastic totes while another two evenly distributed the supply along the street. Burly men strategically placed life-sized wooden stencils along the street as a gang of ten diligently worked to fill in the triangular and rectangular outlines under the guidance of the ‘Director of Colors.’
“This is my daughter’s boyfriend. He’s from Miami. Ele é cubano. Fala espanhol.”
Simon Farias had introduced me to the Portuguese contingent, and seconds later I was scooping handfuls of yellow woodchips, and green, and brown, and blue, and red, and orange. Twenty minutes later I was feeling sluggish and asking Mr. Farias for coffee.
“Coffee? Yeah, come with me,” he uttered with a grin, as we started walking towards his parents’ house, located right on Eugenia Street and in the heart of the festivities to come.
Upon entering the home I observed Mr. Farias’ old lady sitting on the left side of the living room couch, his old man on the right side positioned in his recliner. A double-cheek kiss and handshake later I was at the kitchen counter hoping to get my caffeine fix when an unmarked red ceramic bottle suddenly appeared.
I had a question for Mr. Farias but it never came to fruition, as the three ounces of homemade moonshine that burned past my esophagus did an admirable job of clarifying any uncertainties I may have had.
“It’s good, no?” Mr. Farias asked rhetorically.
My fix was complete, and I was back on the clock transporting totes and getting paint under my fingernails. And perhaps it was the alcohol effect, but all of a sudden the dozen-and-a-half people didn’t seem to be working as hard. Surely, they were as efficient as ever, seamlessly synchronizing color schemes and operating an assembly line reminiscent of the second Industrial Revolution.
But with the productivity came a synergy and sense of camaraderie that was uncommon, one that could not be created overnight. Cousin Timmy was relentlessly badgered for his half-open plaid shirt and too-tight scooter half-helmet. Big Mike’s productivity was limited to consuming bottled Heinekens in 12-minute intervals, a “contribution” no one complained of because he was, after all, Big Mike. Eduarda criticized the over-baked ‘pops’ from the local Portuguese bakery and vowed to boycott ‘em, only to have her sister Tina roll her eyes and utter, “here we go again.” And then of course you had Uncle Joe, offering lukewarm draft beer to anyone and everyone from his homemade jockey box keg cooler.
Well, ‘a pop here’ and ‘lukewarm draft beer there’ later the final woodchips had been spread, and the 2005 Senhor da Pedra Feast decorating of the streets was officially complete. Not knowing what to expect next, Mr. Farias was all too eager to take his daughter’s boyfriend under his tutelage and show him the ropes, which consisted of paying a visit to David from across the street, Marcelino from next door, Johnny from the corner, and Ricky from ‘just around’ the corner. College had purportedly prepared me for ‘the real world,’ but as is often the case with post-secondary education, the theoretical knowledge it provides one with is just that, theoretical. David, Marcelino, Johnny, and Ricky, on the other hand, were ‘the real world.’
On August 21, 2005, I discovered that college had not prepared me for the real world. No, college hadn’t taught me that trying to out-drink Portuguese men to impress my girlfriend’s dad was a losing proposition. It hadn’t taught me that ‘Massa de Pimentão’ was much more than a Portuguese marinade; it was a table-side necessity. And no, college hadn’t even taught me how to pronounce “obrigado” and “mais ou menos.” If memory serves me correct, my one-day enrollment at Eugenia U. taught me a practical skill or two.
Class had adjourned, and I found myself surrounded by hundreds of people waiting for the big procession to depart the local church and come down Eugenia Street. And just like that, the statue of the revered Senhor da Pedra, the “Lord of the Rock,” was within 50 feet of my person, being carried on the shoulders of some of his faithful believers. More believers followed carrying additional church figures, as did a full-fledged band, children in their first-communion outfits, the local priest, church members carrying banners, city officials, decorated floats, a man portraying Jesus Christ carrying a large cross, and of course, his disciples. Believer or not, there was no denying the aura of that moment, one of appreciation, humility, and hope.
There was also no denying that I was hungry, and Mr. Farias’ old lady and old man had just the solution. Not only had they co-coordinated the decorating of the streets with the front-door neighbors for the better part of six years, but immediately following the procession their home became an open kitchen to family & friends, passers-by, and even the local funeral director and his ever-soliciting ways. From bacalhau (cod fish) and carne d’espeto (Portuguese beef skewers), to cacoila (marinated pulled pork) and rotisserie chicken à la Português; the options were plentiful, the outcome delectable. Two malasadas (Portuguese donuts) later I had departed my first Portuguese feast, and one afternoon later my girlfriend and I had departed back to Miami.
This past August 2014, I returned to the Senhor da Pedra Feast, only the morning routine was a little different. What was a previous vacation destination was now a place of abode, pillow-drooling was now directed at my girlfriend-turned-wife’s only pillow, and guest room late-night tiptoeing was no longer required.
But some things of course never change. The 8½” x 11” flyer contained the same verbiage, the red and green flags containing the round yellow emblems were as prevalent as ever, and Simon—formerly known as Mr. Farias—still mocked me for oversleeping. As for the dozen-and-a-half people, they were occupied reenacting their 2005 performance of the colors, but Simon still felt the need to once again remind them that his now son-in-law was Cuban. The demand for over-baked ‘pops’ remained steady; lukewarm draft beer was still served to the masses.
About 30 minutes after my arrival, Simon requested that I return home to obtain a notepad, as I had been marveling about the feast for years and vouching to one day write about it. The day had arrived.
With a yellow notepad in hand and pen on ear, I neared Eugenia Street as Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” played from an undisclosed location on a New Bedford summer. Soon thereafter Simon and I were meeting on a familiar kitchen counter to briefly discuss the history of the feast and the proposed list of questions I should ask the front-door neighbors.
“Facts, get the facts,” Simon emphasized.
As our meeting neared its conclusion, I slightly bowed my head and glanced over to the living room couch and recliner, both of which were now unoccupied.
“Better make it a double,” I reminiscently asked Simon as he reached for the unmarked red ceramic bottle.
I exited the home and went across the street to assume my fact-seeking role, where I was met with open arms by Maria, Tina, and the rest of their lovely family. The information came fast and furious, so I did my best to capture it all via bullet points:
The Senhor da Pedra feast originated in the 16th century in Vila Franca do Campo, a town in the Azorean island of São Miguel.
On the last Sunday of August 1929, Azorean immigrants from the Vila Franca do Campo region commemorated the feast in New Bedford for the first time.
The feast was suspended in New Bedford during the blackouts imposed during World War II, but João Amaral, Manuel Lazaro, and a few more good men revived the feast in 1959, at around which time Manuel Lazaro established the decorating of the streets tradition that we know today.
“So hold on, I thought it was your family that started the decorating of the streets tradition? “
I asked the lovely family in a puzzled manner.
“No, no, no,” responded one Tina DeMedeiros.
“My mother Maria and my late father joined in about 20 years ago. But it was Mr. Lazaro who started it decades ago, and his family and descendants keep the tradition alive till this day. They actually decorate the western portion of Eugenia Street, but instead of woodchips, they use a form of colored sand.”
“But do you guys get along with them?” I asked, shamefully hoping there was some sort of friction between the two families to make my story “juicer.”
“Oh my god, yes!” Tina exclaimed without hesitation.
“We’re great friends. This is a full-on community endeavor. We’re all in it together. The goal is for the kids to keep the tradition alive.”
“My juicy story will come one day,” I thought to myself.
“As a matter of fact,” Tina continued, “same goes for your father-in-law’s family. When they bought their house just across from us about 15 years ago, they immediately teamed up with us and we’ve been decorating the street with woodchips ever since using the same wooden stencils that my brother-in-law Joe built 20 years ago.
Even some side-street neighbors have joined in on the action and created their own version of decorating the streets. But I have to speak with Joe.
It’s time for him to build some new stencils. Maybe next year. Oh, and did I tell you that we dye the woodchips right here in my yard two nights before the parade and that the eyes for the pigeon outlines come from your in-laws’ berry garden? And JJ? What a talent for colors that kid has. Designer, director; call him what you want.”
Facts, facts, facts; I was merely working as instructed, and back to my bullet points I went:
The feast is hosted and organized by the Society of Senhor da Pedra, a non-profit organization which, among its other endeavors, assists local organizations of need.
The feast is not just a Sunday affair. It actually begins on Friday with a sacred church service. On Saturday the Senhor da Pedra and Nossa Senhora das Dores (Our Lady of Sorrows) statues are moved from the local immaculate conception school to the local immaculate conception church. And on Sunday is when you have the procession. All three days conclude with live musical acts and a variety of foods.
My notepad was littered with chicken scratch and I was beset with information overload. It was time to say my goodbyes to the lovely family.
“And feel free to speak to my husband David if you need additional information; he’s the real expert,” uttered Tina, as I walked back towards Eugenia Street.
Two hours later the procession of believers had embarked upon Eugenia Street and disarranged the woodchips and sand set upon it, and 25 minutes later the New Bedford Department of Public Works had restored the street to the City’s original color selection, asphalt gray.
“Heyyy, moron, did you speak with Tina?” shouted my father-in-law, as he caught a glimpse of me as the crowds dispersed.
“Oh yeah, Simon, and I’ve got the facts.”
The 2014 Senhor da Pedra Feast was officially in the books, and the lack of paint under my fingernails—now replaced by pen marks—was a clear indication that I had attended the feast in a different capacity than in 2005. So different, in fact, that I didn’t even get to visit my alma mater, Eugenia U.
And as I proceeded to walk home and continue reflecting about the things that had changed over a nine-year period, I saw Maria Maucabelo, Tina’s mom, through my peripheral vision sitting alone on her front porch. She had already answered some of my questions from earlier in the day and I had repeatedly expressed my sincere appreciation to her, but I figured that a final ‘thank you’ couldn’t hurt. So I approached the front porch to tell her “obrigado,” which led to a brief conversation. I began speaking to her in my “conversational” Portuguese, which consists of speaking Spanish slowly in as nasal-sounding of a manner as possible. Let’s just say we understood each other “mais ou menos.”
But despite a roughly 50% comprehension rate, I was able to discern the one phrase she continually emphasized:
“Esta festa é para todos.”
Simple enough, I thought to myself. Spanish and Portuguese share striking similarities in dialect, and even I could understand Ms. Maucabelo’s assertion that the Senhor da Pedra feast is for everybody.
And who could disagree, right? As I had seen in 2005 and again in 2014, the feast was attended by men and women, kids and seniors, friends and strangers; you name it. The same notion seemed to apply to people of different races and ethnicities. Heck, I’m Cuban and the two barricades closing off Eugenia Street couldn’t have been placed there to keep me out, right? And what about Tio Sam’s wife, Antonia? She is Cape Verdean, a woman of dark complexion, and surely no one seemed to be messing with the black woman.
But what about the fact that the annual feast, without fail, is always attended by predominantly Portuguese persons of light complexion? Well, that could be reasonably attributed to the fact that more than 47 percent of New Bedford’s population is from Portugal or of Portuguese descent, and let’s not forget, the Senhor da Pedra feast did originate, after all, in Vila Franca do Campo.
So by all accounts, Ms. Maucabelo was right; this feast is for everybody. In essence, and despite all of the facts that my father-in-law insisted I gather, I could have written this same story back in 2005, one which boils down to a feast that strives to a) keep a rich tradition alive and b) accept people of all backgrounds without regard to ethnicity or color.
But as my conversation with Ms. Maucabelo was coming to an end, I looked up toward Eugenia Street, envisioned it as it was just before the arrival of the Department of Public Works employee, and pondered a question that was beyond my “conversational” Portuguese capabilities:
“Ms. Maucabelo, with all due respect and solely for purposes of clarification, are you sure this feast is also for the color-blind?”
This story is dedicated in memoriam to Maria Auxiliadora (Borges) Farias & Jose de Farias (the ‘old lady’ and the ‘old man’), Diamantina (Tina) Cardoso, Arlindo M. Moura, and Antonio (Suica) Pacheco Faria, all of whom not only played a special role in my life, but also helped shape the way I view the Senhor da Pedra Feast through the present day. It is also dedicated in memoriam to Eduarda Correia, who welcomed me with open arms when I interviewed her and her family and is surely missed.
10 Things to know about the Massachusetts Tax-Free Weekend
How does two days of tax-free shopping sound? A recently enacted statute will allow just that for most purchases on what has been dubbed the Massachusetts “sales tax holiday weekend.” All Massachusetts businesses normally making taxable sales of tangible personal property that are open on August 15 or 16, 2015 must participate in this sales tax holiday.
If you are ready to put on your shopping shoes to take advantage of the newly enacted statute, read on.
01. When is the Tax-Free Weekend?
The tax-free weekend takes place from from August 15th-16th.
02. Who can take advantage of the “Tax-Free Weekend”?
The exemption applies to sales of tangible personal property bought for personal use only. Purchases by corporations or other businesses and purchases by individuals for business use remain taxable.
03. What items does the exemption apply to?
Single items of tangible personal property costing $2,500 or less, subject to certain exclusions. What is not included? All motor vehicles, motorboats, meals, telecommunications services, gas, steam, electricity, tobacco products and any single item whose price is in excess of $2,500.
04. If I buy an item worth more than $2,500, will the tax exemption apply to the first $2,500?
No. Sales or use tax will be due in its entirety for purchases of single items worth more than $2,500.
05. Are there any exceptions?
Yes. For clothing items under $175, normal sales taxes apply. If you purchase an item of clothing that is more than $175, it is exempt from taxes up to the threshold of $2,500. For example, if you purchase a dress that costs $100, you pay regular sales tax. If you purchase a dress that costs $500, you pay no sales tax.
If you purchase an item of clothing that exceeds the threshold, you may deduct the first $175. For example, if you buy a dress that costs $2,550, tax is due on $2,375, which is $2,550-$175.
06. What about multiple or bundled items?
If you are purchasing multiple items, you do not need a separate invoice as long as each individual item is $2500 or less. Example: A customer purchases a television, a stereo receiver, and a computer. The three separate items costing $1,500, $1,200 and $2,000 can be rung up together, all tax free.
If you purchases several items for sale at a single price, the entire package is exempt if the sales price of the package is $2,500 or less. For example, a computer package including a CPU, keyboard, monitor, mouse, and printer with a single sales price of $3,500 would not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption because the single sales price of the package ($3,500) is more than the sales tax holiday threshold amount of $2,500.
Splitting of items normally sold together, voids the tax exemption.
07. Can I apply a coupon or discount?
If a store coupon or discount provided by a retailer or manufacturer reduces the sales price of the property, the discounted sales price determines whether the sales price is within the sales tax holiday price threshold of $2,500 or less. If a store coupon or discount applies to the total amount paid by a purchaser rather than to the sales price of a particular item and the purchaser has purchased both eligible property and taxable property, the seller should allocate the discount on a pro rata basis to each article sold.
Example: A furniture store customer has a coupon for 20% off her entire bill. She purchases a dining room table for $1,800, and a sofa for $3,500. The total discount available is $1,060 ($5,300 x .20), of which $360 is attributable to the table ($1,800 x .20), and $700 is attributable to the sofa ($3,500 x .20). No tax is due on the sale of the table. Tax of $175 is due on the sales price of the sofa, $2,800 ($3,500 – $700), as even its discounted price exceeds the $2,500 threshold.
08. What about exchanges, rain checks, layaway, special order items and rebates?
Exchanges: If you bring an item back after the sales tax holiday, you may exchange it for an identical or similar eligible item, no tax is due.
Layway: Tax exemption does not apply to layaway sales.
Rain Checks: Exemption applies if the rain check is used on the tax holiday weekend, not if the rain check is given to you during.
Special Orders: If you paid in full for an item by August 15, but its delivery is scheduled for after the tax-free weekend, you are eligible for the tax exemption.
Rebates: Tax exemption only applies if the rebate is effective at the time of sale and it reduces the price to $2,500 or less.
09. How about rental items?
If payment has been made in full during the sales tax weekend, and the item rented is not a motor vehicle or motorboat. The rental cannot be for longer than 30 days.
10. Does the tax-free holiday apply to something I buy on the internet?
Yes, as long as it has been paid in full on August 15 or 16, 2015 Eastern Daylight Time.
Want more detail or information? Visit http://www.mass.gov/dor/businesses/help-and-resources/legal-library/tirs/tirs-by-years/2015-releases/tir-15-7.html.
6 BEST Vegetarian Dishes on the South Coast that even meat lovers will like!
Costa Rican Tortilla: all vegetarian black beans and rice, queso fresco spread and fried sweet plantains; hot-pressed in a flour tortilla – only at Mirasol’s Cafe.
“Is bacon a vegetable? Are French fries?”
Americans have a love affair with meat. They want a side of bacon to go with their bacon. They will wrap their turkey bacon in bacon. Our love for meat borders on obsession: we have meat-lovers pizza, a Pu Pu Platter has only meat in it, and we love our Italian subs that have five different types of sliced meats. Even those who are vegetarians often eat food that mimics meat in texture and flavor, with meat substitutes like veggie sausage, Tofurkey or even Mock Duck. We are ALL in the pursuit of umami, or savoriness, and meat seems to have it in spades.
Whether a vegetarian or a meat lover, passion can come from both positions and proponents of both can have reactions that border on extreme. A radical vegetarian will lecture you on the suffering of animals as you are eating your burger, and an extremist meat-lover will order extra bacon on his burger and chew it with his mouth open for you to see. If you are the same room as these two combatants, tension will rise as the comments go from light jabs to ideological warfare – eventually war breaks out. Hyperbolic, but it conveys the point.
Now, there was a time when most vegetarian products tasted like cardboard cakes sprinkled with salt. However, times have changed and there are actually some products that have umami and taste delicious. No, really.
Why bother with eating a vegetarian diet – whether in the form of tempah, tofu, or Tofurkey – or simply including more vegetables in your diet? At this point, it’s virtually redundant to say: it’s healthier. Better for one’s cholesterol, blood pressure, longevity.
So, here’s the rub: why can’t we enjoy both? Do we have to be only a meat-lover or a vegetarian/vegan? Do we have go cold turkey? Pun intended? How about having whole meals, or even days, where we eat vegetarian? I know meat-lovers will think it’s “crazy talk,” but there are dishes you can eat, and places that you can eat at, where you won’t even realize you didn’t take a single bite of meat, yet love the meal.
Having said that, this list is my opinion. I am not a vegetarian, but I would consider myself a proponent – I often go a day or more of making an effort to not eat meat and when I do eat meat, I make an effort to eat smaller portions. As I find more places and dishes, it become a less daunting task. If you are a vegetarian, or a vegan you may have better dishes or spots – ones that I am unaware of. By all means, share your top destinations or dishes. In fact, if you are a vegetarian this list will evoke a “Duh!” moment for you. In particular, it’s for those who, like myself, are trying to eat healthier or perhaps moving towards become a vegetarian.
Well, enough of my blathering. Let’s do delicious.
01. Combo Plate at Lebanese Pita Pocket
The Lebanese Pita Pocket truly is a hidden gem. Because it’s tucked away in a plaza where it’s “hard” to see from Route 6, it often gets overlooked. I’m not sure how long this family has been operating there, but I’ve been going there for a decade easily. It’s a shame how overlooked this place is, because the food there is phenomenal.
The menu has a lot of options, but if you get one of the combo plates ($9.25), you get to pick a “main” and two sides. If you make that main, their mouth-watering, cooked to perfection Falafel, and make those two sides the tabouleh and the chick pea salad, you just got yourself a completely vegetarian/vegan meal. I can’t tell you how amazing this combination is – you have to have it. Tell your boyfriend that Falafel is Lebanese for “meatballs.” He’ll never know.
Oh, for good measure throw in the grape leaves, which are out of this world good, or some of their made from scratch hummus. Of course, you have to complete this perfect meal with some Baklava.
02. Huevo Ranchero at Mirasol’s Cafe
My office…er, Mirasol’s Cafe has a number of vegetarian options. My personal favorite, since the day it opened is the Huevo Ranchero ($6.50) – Black bean and corn salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and a fried egg. It’s a massive sandwich and so savory that you won’t even notice there isn’t any meat. However, if you need texture you can add the veggie sausage – which, I kid you not, has the texture and flavor of the real deal. I actually prefer it over proper sausage.
Of course, you have to have one of the three “secret” hot sauces – white/mild jalapeño cream, green/medium, orange/habañero blast your face off. With the addition of these sauces and the veggie sausage, you are whisked away to that happy place and will never even realize you didn’t eat any meat.
On occasion – and never often enough – Mirasol’s will have a special called the Costa Rican Tortilla: all vegetarian black beans and rice, queso fresco spread and fried sweet plantains; hot-pressed in a flour tortilla. If it was a regular offering, it would supplant the Huevo Ranchero – it’s that good.
03. Buffet at Ayur-Shri
OK, this is one of my go-to spots. One of my favorite places on planet earth. Anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan knows Indian cuisine all too well – there is no culture on earth that focuses on this particular diet more. India is massive, indeed it’s a sub-continent and the second most populous nation on earth, that will soon become the most populous nation on earth. This translates into hundreds of millions of cooks creating recipes that revolve around an astounding variety of vegetables producing an equally mind-boggling array of dishes.
So, it should come as no surprise that Ayur-Shri does some amazing things with vegetables. While you can order off the menu, they have a daily buffet that will change your life. There are too many things to list, so I will take the easy way out and say that the buffet is the “dish.” If I have to pick one dish on the buffet that you have to try, it would be the Saag Paneer: “Spinach cooked with homemade cheese, fresh herbs and spices.” The pakoras, the samosas, the white soup, the chutnies, the mango lassi…oh, man.
04. Tostada at No Problemo No Problemo has a tostada, $6 for the small, and $8 for a large serving that is as big as your head. “A Bed of Black Beans & Rice, with Corn Chips, Green Leaf Lettuce, Salsa, Cucumbers, Roasted Red Peppers, Cheese, Sour Cream & Scallions, Served with Cilantro Lime Dressing.” If you eat one of these, you’ll yell out things like “Ay, caramba!”, “Aye, yai, yai!” and “Olé!” If you top it with the Nick Dompierre Hot Sauce, you’ll be barking “No más!” Duran, you cut me deep.
Be sure to wash it down with one of two homemade Sangrias, that are always on tap. I should also mention the Plantain Quesadilla which is absolutely ridiculous.
05. Sivalai’s Tofu with Curry Sivalai Thai Restaurant is another hidden gem on Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven. There are actually a few really decent Thai Restaurants in the area, but Sivalai is my favorite. I have fond memories of arriving and Nahni and Chris coming out from behind the counter, scooping up my daughter, hugging her and bring her to the table. Thailand is dubbed the “Land of 1,000 Smiles” for a reason: they are generally a happy people.
What Sivalai does well, is not just provide one of the warmest, friendliest atmospheres anywhere on the South Coast, but they make fresh, unbelievably good, AND beautifully presented Thai food. One dish that shines in particular is the Tofu /w Curry Sauce ($8.50 lunch, $10.95 dinner). You get a choice of Panaeng, Red, Massaman, and Green Curry. The difference in flavor profile among the sauces is negligible, and the name of the sauce usually refers to the medley of vegetables in the dish. My personal favorite is the Green Curry: Thai green curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, Thai basil leaves, and Tofu served with white rice – though the Sticky Rice is preferable.
Honorable mention should go to the bi-monthly buffet, where you can not only enjoy an orgy of vegetables and fruits, but if you have never had Thai food (Oh, the humanity!) or have a friend that needs a little coaxing, come to the buffet and give it a go.
06. Hangman Hut’s “Fig Deal” Hangman Hut is one of those off-the-beaten-path spots, “way” out in Marion – in fact, we wrote a spotlight called just that in 2013. It’s a beautiful drive – unless the police pull you over for being in the passing lane, preparing to turn left. “Why are you in the passing lane if there are no cars to pass?” “Answer: because I am about to turn left.” True story, but I digress.
The Fig Deal is Fig Compote, Apple, Goat Cheese, Greens, Balsamic Vinegar and you can have it on your choice of bread, which is everything under the sun from white, wheat, rye, bagels, and even Portuguese Bolo. Words do it no justice. Proprietors Dina and Bill Quinlan are two of the most thoughtful, generous people you will bump into, making the overall experience there a consistently spectacular one.
Know of some other vegetarian or vegan dishes? Who did we miss on the list? Feel free to add a comment below and set us straight!
7 Practical Don’ts to Help You Train for Your First Marathon
This past holiday weekend is a great reminder of the constant plight of our natural inclination to overeat and under exercise. However, Mother Nature seems to be providing us with a favorable glowing light to get back on the right track with a beautiful five day forecast. During this time, I encourage everyone to take advantage of the sunlight and hit the pavement running. Even if you are not preparing yourself for a marathon or a big race, this list is a set of guiding principles to help runners learn from my mistakes.
I’ve subjected myself to the many joys of distance running for several years now. In that time, there have been numerous occasions where I have picked up a copy of Born to Run or have been browsing through forums, and have come up with the ridiculous notion of signing up for a marathon out of the blue. This is not to say that I could not perform the marathon on any given weekend if subjected to an extreme amount of duress, but it is to say that I have time and again put myself in the physical position of running a long distance race without first putting myself in the mental state to do so. The result of which ends in overtraining and eventual injury. The result of those results is that I have never completed a marathon. And so if you are just starting out in your running careers, learn from my many mistakes and be leery of the pitfalls into which I so often fall.
Don’t Sign Up for a Marathon that is Ten Months Away
You may think that time is on your side for training. It will give you the opportunity to pace yourself, enjoy your runs, and ease yourself into the sport. Don’t think that time is your friend. Most experts will agree that an experienced runner should have to train for no more than four to five months to reach their peak physical condition for a race. For this timeframe to work, it has to be implied that the athlete is already an active runner with an ability to run for at least five miles per outing for at least three days a week. From here it is a slow and arduous progression over the course of what feels like a very long time, when in actuality it is not.
The obvious truth is that marathon training is both physically and mentally taxing. It is not to be taken lightly and is dangerous when performed for extended periods of time. Many runners will not make it to the finish line of the first marathon for which they train for the simple fact that they push themselves too hard for too long and end up with some sort of injury. Don’t be like me: pace yourself and stick to a realistic program. When you dedicate yourself to training five-sixths out of the year you’re essentially just telling the world your legs aren’t going to work in six months.
Don’t Overload on Supplements
When you delve into the seedy underbelly of the running world, you learn about the consistent swarms of peddlers ruthlessly pushing their wares on unsuspecting suckers. Supplementing your workouts with products like energy gels, Creatine, and sports drinks are going to do one thing: enable you to over-train. Don’t let yourself be fooled into over-training. These products mask the feelings of complete physical exhaustion and allow your mind to tell your legs that they can make it another eight or ten miles, when your body is actually resorting to burning muscle mass instead of fat to finish a run. This is incredibly dangerous. The reality is, so long as you can manage to run 50 or so miles per week, you will be able to finish the marathon. Don’t be like me and chug a pre-workout thinking you need to average an 18-mile jog for the sake of it being a Wednesday afternoon, it’s not necessary.
Don’t Train Everyday
The widely talked about, though illusive, runner’s high is a sweet, sweet mistress. If you come to the peak of her with just the right song playing through your ear buds, you fall into the danger of becoming a friend of Renton and his trainspotting slags. And like any high, its addictive. Highly addictive. If you aren’t careful to manage your expectations of training, you will find yourself literally and metaphorically chasing the dragon (though it’s not a literal dragon). Don’t chase that dragon. My best advice is to know how to limit your training. Your body needs rest, and lots of it, and will generally tell you when it’s time to take that rest, usually by reclaiming your legs’ ability to bend. So if you’re like me and think you can split a thirty-five miler over the weekend every single week, you’re going to get injured and it’s going to hurt your pride even worse than it will your IT band.
Don’t Break In Your Shoes (or Socks) on Long Runs
Your footwear is both your greatest asset and your worst enemy on the road. There is nothing quite as uncomfortable as the blisters received from training in a new pair of Sauconys, and nothing as irritating as putting off precious training days because you can only land on the outsteps of your feet. Breaking in a new pair of shoes is a delicate practice of both moderation and adjustment to just the right level of comfort. Don’t devote a long run to breaking in a pair of shoes. One fifteen-mile run does not equal three five-mile runs, so don’t try to cram all of your wear-in distance to a single outing. The worst thing you can do to dishevel your tightly wound routine is to hit the road in a stiff, cushioned pair fresh out of the box with too many miles in mind. This goes double for socks: find a brand you are comfortable with and put them on around the house to wear them in. Don’t think that because they’re soft and new that they aren’t going to rub against the soles of your foot for every concentrated stride. Because they will, and it will hurt so very much.
Don’t Alter Your Form
If you read running forums, it’s clear to you that forefoot striking is best. Simultaneously, heel striking is best. Also, pronation must be corrected, until it doesn’t, as does supination. Often times, injuries occur, and in some instances it is due to form, but more likely than not, it is from overuse. Don’t alter your form thinking it’s the culprit. Form is a tricky, case-by-case topic, but in most instances, so long as a form is comfortable and gets you where you need to go while using the least possible caloric energy per stride, you’re in the clear as a distance runner. A common occurrence to those training for their first marathon is the mistreatment of a slight injury. Say you twist your left knee. Instead of simply taking a day or two off to recover, an athlete will believe the cause to be bad form, and will work around the problem with slight alterations. A crucial fact most beginners do not realize is that every stride is just one unit in a vast whole. By slightly changing form to favor that injured left knee, you are actually putting strain on not only your right knee, but the entire right side of your body. Do this once and little will happen, but do it over the course of a long run, resulting in thousands of strikes, and you will be looking at a much greater problem.
Don’t Be a Hero in Practice Races
Marathon training gives you the right to be a flashy human being. The ability to run long distances releases chemicals in your brain that promote self-confidence, often resulting in a demeanor cockier than normal. The problem with this sense of cockiness lay in practice races. Don’t be overconfident in practice races. Being able to run twenty miles at a whack not only instills this sense of confidence, but a sort of downplay for huge events like 10ks or half marathons. The danger is going into a shorter race and thinking because you’ve run further in training that you can breeze right through the short distances. Don’t do this. There is no glory in finishing a half marathon in an hour and a half if you twist your ankle along your gloating way. These practice races are just that: practice. They are the opportunity to rehearse taking water, bathroom breaks, and, most importantly, knowing your pace.
Don’t Binge Eat
When you train for a long race, you can burn 1,000 calories without breaking a sweat (not literally, you’ll actually probably break a sweat). In so doing, you will come home with the hunger of a thousand gods. Mere mortals will quake in the horror of your unearthly feasts, and you will do this without gaining a single pound, in fact, you will probably even loose weight. Don’t let your hunger get the better of you. Remember when I mentioned the whole “don’t use supplements” thing? That only works when you’re refilling your body with the proper nutrients, electrolytes, and minerals that you sweat and burn during your runs. You may come home with the appetite to eat nine quarter-pounders and a hot fudge sundae, but this will only negate all of the work you just put in. Instead, limit your caloric intake and pay strict attention that whatever you are eating has nutritional value.
That’s it. That’s all I have for you. Don’t do these things and you just may be able to finish a marathon before I can. Now get out there and have a good time, you crazy kids.
2015 Taste of South Coast winners
Here are the winners of the 2015 Taste of South Coast hosted by Downtown New Bedford Inc.
People’s Choice Food Awards
1. Lindsey’s Restaurant
2. Brew Fish Bar and Eatery
3. E.J.’s Restaurant and Deli
Best Table Presentation Award
1. Fay’s Restaurant and Catering
2. Ying Dynasty
3. Dorothy Cox Candies
People’s Choice Dessert Awards
1. Le Desserterie
2. Mad Good Cookie Company
3. Artisan Bake Shop