Christmas Vocabulary – Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

Mistletoe has always been a magical, mysterious, and sacred plant of folklore since the time of the Druids. This Christmas phrase refers to a tradition of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe that probably dates to the ancient winter festival Saturnalia.

In Victorian times, kissing under the mistletoe signaled a marriage proposal. When all the berries were gone from the original sprig, there could be no more kissing. If a girl remained unkissed at the end of the evening, she could not expect to marry the following year. Christmas mistletoe was then burned on Twelfth Night lest all those who did kiss under it never marry.

Another mistletoe kissing tradition dictates that a person standing under a ball of mistletoe cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a mistletoe kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill.

On the other hand, when a couple in love  kiss under the mistletoe, it is seen as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life.

The interesting thing is that a mistletoe plant is actually a parasitic and eating any part of it can cause poisoning. That’s why you find artificial mistletoe used in kissing balls today.

I love the romantic idea of meeting under the mistletoe for a kiss. Would you expect less from a romance writer?

To encourage the tradition, I decorate with two artifical mistletoe balls during the holidays. One is a very old plastic bell and the other a silk ball.

Whether you believe all the folklore or not, mistletoe balls can make for fun at Christmas celebrations when someone whispers “Meet me under the mistletoe.”

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Christmas Music – the Customs and Traditions

Christian tradition and the liturgical Church calendar recognize the Christmas season from sundown on December 24 (Christmas Eve) through Epiphany of the Lord (January 6). Most of us celebrated the single day, December 25.

Songs of the season are a different story. Christmas music runs non-stop through store speakers beginning after Halloween. Satellite stations and cable networks devote channels to holiday-themed music and shows beginning at Thanksgiving.

For some that’s a good thing. For others, it’s too much. Personally, I’d prefer some Christmas carols and contemporary Christmas songs throughout the year instead of the over saturation.

There was a time before the fourth century when there were no Birth-of-Christ hymns. A songbook with carols only appeared after Christmas was formalized as a feast and fixed to Dec. 25.

In the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi organized nativity pageants featuring real hay, real animals, and, for the first time, real narrative songs. Christmas singing took on a life of its own, beyond the constraints of the sacred feast. Even drinking songs (much to the church’s horror) contained Yuletide lyrics.

Christmas celebrations and caroling died with the Puritan movement when Cromwell’s Parliament banned any secular observances under threat of fines. The restrictions crossed the Atlantic and settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony restricted Christmas caroling and festivities too.

The popularity of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol struck down the grim, Puritan-inflected holiday and led to the 20th century festive, secular tunes. One of the most popular of those songs is “White Christmas,” composed in 1940 by Jewish Irving Berlin, who did not much care for the holiday.

white-christmas Berlin’s tune, Bing Crosby’s rendition, and the 1954 movie by the same title ushered in carols, songs, and theatrical productions appealing more to the Yuletide mood than to the holiday itself.

Others holiday songs like  “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” followed. New versions of these old songs, secular and traditional, quickly emerged.

Whether we want to or not, we find ourselves humming or singing along with the old-fashioned melodies.

One of our family Christmas traditions was to gather around the piano and sing carols from the church hymnal.  A tradition that now includes other instruments.

Christmas music listeners might distinguish between sacred songs (those with lyrics about Christ’s birth) and secular ones (Santa Claus, snowmen, mistletoe, elves, etc.) If you go wassailing or caroling, you make conscious choices on what to sing.

Whatever lyrics you choose, Christmas music anchors us in the past —before Shakespeare and Beowulf and all the eras in between—and fills us with the spirit of Christmas.

What’s your favorite Christmas song or carol?

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An Early Gift

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of the nice things about living in one place for a long time is maintaining friendships. 

My friend Greta and I have known each other since our oldest children were in elementary school. These “kids” are now 24.  We have laughed and cried together many times.  We still do.

Greta has gotten chickens from us and supplies fruit and vegetable scraps to both flocks. I bring surplus food to her from the volunteer work I do. 

Last Saturday, upon returning from an early morning meeting, I discovered that Greta had dropped off a bag but not for the chickens. 

It was a gift bag and in it were two pair of slippers – one for me and one for Rachel. They are wonderful!I love the slippers especially now that the weather has turned cold. However, I value the gift of friendship most of all.

 

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Guest Author – Leeann Betts

Welcome guest author, Leeann Betts. She’s here to tell us about herself and her new release, In Search of Christmas Past.

Leeann writes contemporary suspense, and has six titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with Petty Cash releasing in December.

In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft.

Check out her answers to the interview questions:

  • When did you write In Search of Christmas Past?

I started writing this book as part of a proposal for a novella collection about scavenger hunts and Christmas. When the story wasn’t accepted, I decided I liked it well enough to write a full book. I love the setting in the Colorado mountains, and since I love mysteries, a scavenger hunt seemed a fun thing to write about.

  • How did you come up with the idea for this book?

The idea came as a result of a call for submissions, an that’s how I get some of my ideas. At other times, a title or a character comes to mind, or a line from a song or a movie strikes me the right way. Most of the time it’s because I’ve been asking “What if _____?”

  • What will readers find appealing about In Search of Christmas Past?

I think readers will find the idea that two people can fall in love and still have completely different dreams and ambitions. The problems come when these two try to frame their lives based on what they want. Figuring out how to do that is important, and without God, almost impossible.

  • Do you have a favorite time of day for writing?

I like to write first thing in the morning, but that rarely happens, so I write when the muse hits me—NOT! The truth about writing for me is that unless I write every day, I lose the story and waste precious time renewing my acquaintance with where I am. I’ve found that writing a three to five-page synopsis really helps, as well as keeping my teaser and my back cover copy in front of my eyes. It’s hard to go off on a tangent when I have a roadmap.

  • What are you working on next?

Next up will be a synopsis for a Hallmark mystery, which I’m excited to get finished. I have most of it done—just a few plot points to work out. Then I have a couple of finished novels done that need a quick polish so I can send them to my agent and friend, Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary Management.

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In Search of Christmas Past Blurb

Grace Bellows, a senior in college, receives a Christmas card one month after her grandmother’s death, where her beloved Grammie challenges her to an old-fashioned scavenger hunt. Raised by her grandmother after her parents’ death in a car accident when she was eight, Grace has lived a jetsetter lifestyle with her wealthy grandmother. Now all she wants is to settle down and have a normal life.

Luke Fisher manages his family’s Christmas tree farm out of a sense of loyalty to his deceased mother because she gave up her dreams of being an attorney. He doesn’t want to live with any regrets, and longs to escape the confines of loyalty to live a life of adventure in the real world.

Can Grace and Luke solve the clues in her grandmother’s scavenger hunt and uncover the truth about their real feelings, or will the tension and their differences in goals and faith drive them apart?

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Click on either of these links to buy Leeann’s book:

Kindle

Smashwords

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You can also connect with Leeann online with these links:

Her Website (Receive a free ebook just for signing up for her quarterly newsletter.)

Her Blog

Facebook

Twitter

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Christmas Vocabulary – Bah, Humbug!

Christmas comes with its own vocabulary. I thought it’d be fun to share the origin and meaning of some of the more popular phrases like this one.

Who wants to hear this phrase, which means disgust for the Christmas season?

Not me.

The phrase comes from Charles Dickens’ mean-spirited main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, who made the expression famous in A Christmas Carol.

We used to be hear those words around our house whenever the Christmas storage boxes came out and then the phrase reappeared when we undecorated and refilled the boxes back up.

One year when all the children we still at home and I was getting lots of bah, humbugs, I found the delightful little door knocker pictured above.

You press the ring, and it says bah, humbug in such a funny voice that you can’t keep from laughing aloud. Wish you could hear it I promise you would giggle.

I hung Scrooge in a prominent place and established the Bah, Humbug Rule. Instead of voicing the words, you had to press the knocker.

Infectious laughter quickly replaced the grumpy words.

Poor Scrooge got lots of use while all the children were home not so much because they felt disgust for the holiday, but more to share the laughter. That first year, I think we had to replace the batteries twice.

I continue to hang him every year for the same reason. He brings back fond memories and he makes me laugh.

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Home for a Texas Christmas

The snow and cold in Colorado we enjoyed so much during Christmas will be missing this year. We’re back in Texas for our most favorite holiday.

Our oldest granddaughter, Catherine, is ecstatic that we’ve returned home to our roots. Her fondest memories are Christmas Eve at Nana and Pepa’s house. And, at her special request, we’ll restart the family traditions this year.

One of those Texas Christmas traditions is reading The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris, a children’s picture book that has entertained readers for more than forty years.

You’d recognize the familiar “Night Before Christmas” poem with a definite Texas spin. Santa’s all decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and a bandana around his neck. His faithful “hosses” pull his buckboard “sleigh” piled high with gifts and boot stocking stuffers.

As a child I spent hours listening to Gene Autry read the poem. That original 78 record is floating around in storage some place. We’ll have this YouTube version playing as we decorate.

Come Christmas Eve, we’ll munch on baked ham sandwiches on pumpernickel rye bread, homemade mustard potato salad, and cutout Christmas cookies. I’ll be the only one eating fruitcake, which is so sad but no one else in the family likes it.

There might be a plate of tamales too. It wouldn’t be Christmas without tamales, a true Texas tradition. Read all about it here.

In true homage to our German roots, some lucky child might find a pickle ornament hidden on the Christmas tree and gain good luck for the New Year. Learn about the Weihnachtsgurke legend here.

And before our holiday time together ends, you’re sure to hear.

Yes, Catherine, we are as excited as you are that we’re back home with all the wonderful, unique Christmas traditions of the Lone Star State.

See you on Christmas.

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Full Up at Miller Farm Inn

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

A fellow teacher at my school shares our love of dachshunds. Not quite as much as we do – she only has one.  Her dog’s name is Elvis and he is not fond of being put in a kennel.  His mom asked if he could possibly stay with us when they went out of town.  He came for a play date and everyone seemed to get along so it was settled.

Elvis came to stay over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  He arrived on Tuesday and seemed to be excited to join our 6 pack at Miller Farm.

Then Beekeeper Brian got a text from Miller’s mom. He needed a place to hang out also.  Had Brian not said anything, I might not have noticed.  After all what’s one more dachshund.

Miller arrived on Wednesday bringing our total to 8 dachshunds. It went remarkably well.

I decided to do an intermittent mop of the kitchen floor.  I put everyone in the back yard but they began to bark so I brought them back in.  A neighbor who works nights has asked us to try to keep them quiet during the day.  That seems reasonable even if it is difficult.

So I put them all in the living room so I could mop the kitchen without help.  They didn’t mind that at all.  In fact they all climbed on the couch for a nap. Elvis and Miller, the two black and tans, nearly blend into the sofa in the top right corner.

Rachel missed out on all the fun.  She was pet sitting for a couple who have 3 Great Danes.

She sent this picture with the largest who weighs in at 180 pounds. I think I’ll stick to large numbers of small dogs rather than small numbers of large dogs.

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