Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year 2013

When I began this blog, I intended to share memories and observations about my life and the society I live in. It has been a learning experience. This year I will try to improve and elevate my writing and blogging experience to a higher level. I read the writing of bloggers that I admire. I'm afraid I don't have the talent to aspire to those heights, but I really want to improve. I invite the people who read my stuff to comment, criticize, or encourage.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Do We Celebrate Christmas?

English Traditions

I have been doing a little research on Christmas traditions from other countries.I found one in England called the Christmas Cracker. It is a noise maker designed to make the party festive with a loud pop and confetti or streamers. I have always associated them with New Year's instead of Christmas, but next Year I'm going to look into it. Of course I'll have to clean for a month. The tradition includes a crown for the participants and a token gift. 

The trick is for one person to hold one end of the wrapper and a friend or neighbor to hold the other. When both yank on the handle the, the noise maker pops. Sounds like a plan to me.
Russian Traditions

I really enjoyed reading about the Russian custom that marks Advent. During the days leading to Christmas meat is not eaten, and on Christmas eve they enjoy a feast of twelve dishes. The meat is saved for Christmas Dinner, but the Christmas Eve dinner is fabulous too.

Peruvian Traditions

In Peru early pioneers quickly adapted the rural setting of Christmas story to local conditions. The early settlers were devoted to the church.  Native artisans created art to celebrate the season.

There are other traditions from other countries I would like to pursue and incorporate so that I can understand other people and cultures better as well as understand Christmas better 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree at home was always one Daddy bought at the grocery store. It was usually 4 or 5 feet tall, well, maybe 6. He would come home from work with it on Momma's instructions, I'm sure. He would put a base on it with wood strips and set it up to satisfy her sense of balance in front of the living room window.

She loved to decorate and make it better than the year before. In those days decorations were simpler than they are now and the ornaments were delicate and treasured since we used them for years. The really nice ones were fragile and I was heart-broken if I broke one. The tree was usually put up no more than two weeks before Christmas because it would begin to shed when it got dry.

For Christmas morning we always went to Auntie's house. She was Momma's step-mother. My Aunt Tom and Uncle Jimmie lived with her. They were Mama's sister and brother and neither one of them ever married. It made a nice group of family members to exchange gifts and tell stories and cook for. On Christmas Day other family members sometimes joined us. I always wanted my cousin Ann to come. I loved her mother and she had sisters to add to the fun.

One year my Uncle Ed and his wife Ana were there with my cousin Eddie. Auntie and Tom took the tree out as soon as we opened the gifts and Eddie cried and cried. The year I was nine is the last one I remember. It's the last one before Momma died. It was special. It's the  last one before I gave up my belief in Santa. Mama shared the secret with me so I wouldn't tell Eddie, but the gift Santa gave me was a frying pan I wanted so I could cook eggs. I'm sure everybody else wondered why I got a frying pan from Santa, but it remains a memory I value, a secret she and I shared.

If you like Christmas stories, this is another one I value.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Traditions

In this season of Christmas I have been reflecting on customs and traditions.  Many of them are a mystery in origin to me. Some are mentioned in carols or come from long-forgotten sources, but I am still bound to them. The Christmas Tree is the first and most obvious one to explain or investigate.

 Evergreen branches were used by ancient cultures as a symbol of the return of Spring, and as a tribute to the pagan gods those cultures worshiped long before the Christian community began commemorating Christmas. 

The actual date and even the month are lost in time, but most scholars believe it to have been in the spring or early summer when the weather had warmed enough for men and animals not be at risk in the open fields..

December 25 was first suggested as early as 273 as the date of Jesus' birth. The date was accepted in 336  in the West after Constantine proclaimed his kingdom to be Christian. In the East, January 6 was observed for many years, but it was eventually accepted as the date of Epiphany, the time of the visitation of the Wise Men. 

After the date of December 25 became universally accepted, it was still a long time before the Christmas tree became a standard in homes and city squares and businesses. The Christmas Tree decorated with lights and ornaments came to the United States from Germany about 1840 with German immigrants. 

I am amazed at the multitude of myths, traditions, and customs that have arisen around Christmas. Some carry a spiritual message and some are just fun and foolishness, but the message is one of hope and affirmation. Make your traditions meaningful and share them with your loved ones--make joyous memories.

Christmas and Birthdays

I realized this week that a lot of people I know have birthdays in December, as I have. I thought when I was a child that it was a ripoff because my birthday got lost in the Christmas celebration. In reading I ran across a wonderful story about Robert Louis Stevenson's gift of his birthday to a young correspondent whose birthday fell on Christmas Day. I knew Robert Louis Stevenson was a noted writer, but I found him to also be a sensitive and kind human being whose gift spoke volumes. 

Your birthday is sort of a private event, a day set apart. I came to understand the significance of birthdays even more when three of my children were born Christmas week. As they grew up, we made  sure of the distinction between the birthday celebrations and Christmas. The birthdays fell on the 17th, 18th and 21st, I managed to provide birthday cakes and special days for each daughter, or so I thought. I always wondered if they felt slighted.

When I reflect on it now, I realize the blessing it was that my fourth daughter was born late. At the time, I was in great distress that she was due on the 15th of December and didn't arrive until the 12th of January. She weighed over 9 lbs. It was a relief to get a break in the birthday cake menu. 

Now I have come to realized the joy of knowing these special people, and I also understand that how they handled the Christmas/birthday conflict is a part of what made them unique.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Year's Resolution in Progress

I am trying to formulate a new plan. I have started several blogs and I find that I am sporadic and hesitant in production. I would like to become more systematic and productive, chose topics of interest to a wider audience, and generally exhibit a better quality of writing. Sounds like a plan. Well, we'll see.

Goal no. 2: I want to write well enough and interestingly enough to get more feedback. I feel like if I have anything to say my readers should feel like this a conversation. I want to learn how to encourage and respond to comments.

Goal no. 3: I really want to write about things that demand some research on my part. I like to attack new subjects and explore new ideas. It takes a lot of research and study to gain enough knowledge about a new subject or field to write about it. I want to write about these new subjects to engage people who are knowledgeable to get feedback and subjects for posts. 

Maybe by the new year I will begin to get this schedule established so that I can write more consistently and post with a weekly schedule. I am excited about this. If any bloggers read my goals, I would welcome hints to improve my blogging efforts. I do love to do it.