Happy New Year everybody! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to putting 2015 in the history books.

Of course there were and always are many blessings, but Charleston seemed to get wrapped up in the rest of the world’s craziness in a very bad way, the intensity of which the holidays only seem to exacerbate. Accordingly, I’m anxious to leave it behind and might actually stay up late enough to watch the crystal ball drop in Times Square — something I haven’t done in, what, 20 years? (Maybe not that long but it has been awhile.)

That said, here are some resolutions for 2016: I will attempt to walk a reasonably sober and righteous path, to be intelligent (if possible) or amusingly stupid but never dull, boring or middlebrow; to avoid vulgarity (creating a serious dilemma if Trump is the Republican nominee next fall); to embrace wit and good manners; to keep the head still, bring the club back slowly and don’t look up until contact; to read more worthwhile literature and less trash; to get at least 20 minutes of high-intensity cardiac workout 3 to 4 days out of the week; to try to eat less carbs, fats and processed foods with more emphasis on grains, fruits, fish and other proteins; to lose 5 to 10 pounds; to try and embrace a new type of hobby that I’ve never done before but have always had at least a passing interest; to spend more time with friends and to be better father and husband; to be more generous with people and do unexpected niceties (even anonymously); to brush up on my French or perhaps another language; to be very nice to the elderly, the blind and the lame; to show greater empathy for people with chronic illness; to travel more and realize that there actually is a world outside Charleston; to become more receptive and see more of what the world and its people have to offer; to shut the heck up before this list becomes entirely too long.

Whew — that’s a lot. Maybe I’ll do a little prioritizing and go from there.


And speaking of sobriety and avoiding overindulgence, my friend Walter Duane — apparently referencing my remarks about the annual bacchanal known as Thanksgiving dinner and the inevitable turkey coma — has some sage advice applicable to eating and drinking habits in general:

“Always leave the table feeling a little bit hungry,” he says. “No seconds on desserts.

“Avoid an after-dinner nap by volunteering to help with the dishes.

“Leave the alcohol at meals to bishops and sports writers. Don’t drink in the afternoon — period. Above all, don’t overeat.

“Contentment consists not in abundance but in few wants,” (paraphrasing the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus).


Since we’re still in the Twelve Days of Christmas, has anyone wondered about the lyrics to that song? I mean, how does one literally give a partridge in a pear tree, geese a-laying, maids a-milking and lords a-leaping?

Well, there’s now an ongoing Internet debate on the origin of those lyrics. A 1979 article by a Canadian hymnologist is said to be the first to speculate that the words actually had a hidden religious meaning and significance during an era when English Catholics could not openly practice their faith. His source was said to be elderly residents with deep roots in northern England.

Historic proof aside, those who believe the lyrics mean more than they say do generally agree on the following religious interpretation:

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. Two turtledoves were Old and New Testaments. Three French hens were faith, hope and charity. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy. The eight maids a-milking represent the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The 10 lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments. The 11 pipers piping stood for the 11 faithful disciples. And the 12 drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Very interesting — and might even help with memorizing the lyrics, which for whatever reason I find impossible.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@comcast.net.