Let the Christmas Traditions and Customs Begin

Santa Claus waves to spectators along Central Park West during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Santa Claus waves to spectators along Central Park West during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Santa is officially tucked in place at Macy’s New York. You did watch the Macy parade on Thanksgiving, didn’t you?

Macy’s parade always signals Christmas preparations and traditions can officially begin for me.

I absolutely love Christmas customs and traditions. This month I’ll be sharing about my favorites starting with the Advent wreath.

If you attend a traditional liturgical church, you probably lit the second candle of an Advent Wreath yesterday because Advent this year began on Sunday, November 27.

Not familiar with the tradition of Advent? Here’s my cliff note version:

Advent comes from adventus meaning “coming” or “visit” and includes the four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent also serves as the beginning of the liturgical year for churches.

Observance of advent began sometime after the 4th century. In the Middle Ages, the church extended the celebration to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit.

Modern-day Advent services center on a garland wreath of evergreen branches representing eternity and symbolizing the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

The wreath contains three purple (or blue) candles, one pink candle, and one white candle. Each successive Sunday of Advent one of the candles is lit. The order and exact wording used as the candles come to light varies among churches.

Traditionally, the Prophecy Candle is first. Second Sunday candle is the Bethlehem candle. Third Sunday candle is the pink Shepherd candle. Fourth Sunday is the last purple candle called the Angel Candle. The White Candle (or Christ Candle) is lit on Christmas Eve.

Other variations light the candles to represent Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy.

Read more about the symbolism of the advent wreath, candles, and colors here.

If your church does not formally recognize a season of Advent, constructing an Advent wreath for your home can be part of family holiday traditions.

Here’s a link to an Advent wreath-coloring page for children. You’ll also find fun holiday activities to occupy little hands there.

Observing Advent is a great way to keep Christ the focus, teach the true meaning of Christmas, and diminish the commercialism of Christmas.

Is an advent wreath part of your Christmas season?

Miller Farm Turkey Report

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Our turkeys are growing quite nicely. We have a tom and a hen. The tom is a wanderer who can escape the turkey pen.

One night I went out to close up the chickens and the tom was not in the pen.

tomA quick search revealed he had gone into the cage that we use for roosters.  We call it “death row.”  Apparently, this turkey is ready for Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, he is not quite big enough.

The next night he was missing again.  He was not nested in death row.

I looked up in all the trees thinking of the song “Five fat turkeys are we. We slept all night in a tree.”  No turkey.

As I closed up the chicken coop, I discovered wandering tom in with a hen.tom-with-hen

The turkey thought he was a chicken.

The next night he was not in the nest boxes, or in death row.  Instead, he was on the perch in the coop.

tom-2I’ve decided to let him sleep with the chickens.

Now my morning list of chores includes: Move turkey back to the turkey pen.

Doing What’s Needful

do-the-needfulWe’ve finished a month of focus on thankfulness. When I saw this graphic on the Grammarly blog, I thought doing the needful would be an excellent way to end the month.

This wording might not be the phrasing we would use in the U.S. More likely, we’d say something like Please do what I asked.

Grammarly.com offers a full discussion of the phrase’s origin on their blog.

Isn’t doing what needs to be done a wonderful guideline for our actions year round?

Cyber Security for the Holidays

We’re full on turkey and pumpkin pie leftovers. The serious holiday gift buying has begun. It’s time to think about cyber security.cybertheif

 We all know how hackers use stolen data to create plausible emails to trick people into clicking harmful links and/or opening infected attachments, spreading malware, viruses, and other threats.

Yahoo’s data breach last September was a good reminder we need to be pro-active in protecting our data. I hope if you ever had a Yahoo account, you immediately changed your password or deleted the account if it’s inactive. If not, stop reading this blog and do it now.

We need to use caution when making on-line purchases or sharing posts on social media. We don’t want to put ourselves or anyone else at risk if we are hacked or have our data stolen in a cyber attack.

Here are seven tips for keeping your data safe all the time, not only during the holiday season.

  1. Use different passwords on all your accounts.
  2. Change your password and security question answers for all accounts regularly.
  3. Avoid your name, initials, or birth date in a password.
  4. Avoid actual words as part of a password.
  5. Keep your anti-virus/anti-malware and all your computer programs up-to-date.
  6. Frequently review all on-line accounts for suspicious activity.

Lastly, some reminders about your email.

~Never click on an email link if it’s unsolicited or from someone you don’t know.

~ Double-check before you click even if something seems to be from a friend, call, text, or email that friend and verify before you open.

~Regardless of how official an email appears never open unsolicited email. The IRS, your bank, your credit card companies, and other companies will NOT email you to ask for personal information. They already have it.

Use these tips and reminders about cyber security be security wise this holiday season and always.

Turkey Game

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of my greatest treasures is the collection of music books from my Aunt Keta. She was a music teacher and she worked for a music publishing company so she had many, many books. She actually gave a kindergarten music book to me on my first birthday.

turkey-runI use it regularly in my classroom. One of the songs is called The Turkeys Run Away.   We sing it every November and play the game.

This year when I explained how to play the game, I found myself saying “I will be the farmer and I will chase the turkeys.”

For a brief moment, I thought about the last time I chased a turkey. It had not ended so well – I fractured my ankle.  I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and began to sing.

I am happy to report no teachers were harmed in the playing of this game.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we think about all the things we are thankful for. Chicken Wrangler Sara and I are so grateful for our readers.

As you gather with your family and friends today, we offer this Irish blessing for you and yours.

thanksgiving-for-2016

It’s Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving arrives on Thursday making this week filled with family reunions, food, fun, travel, football games, Black Friday, and being thankful.

Not necessarily in that order.

The way we celebrate things today is quite different from how Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving feasts.

Historically, Pilgrims in The Commonwealth of Virginia held Thanksgiving services beginning in 1607. Days of prayer, not days of feasting, but services deeply grounded in religious beliefs and gratitude to their Heavenly Father.

Our national holiday stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. The colonist didn’t call it Thanksgiving, though.

Thanksgiving to them  was a religious holiday in which they would go to church and thank God for a specific event. The activities that autumn of 1621 – dancing, singing secular songs, playing games – wouldn’t have been allowed. Not religious. The feast was a secular celebration, so it never would have been considered a thanksgiving in the pilgrims’ minds.

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation for a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” established what we do today.

Interesting that the basis for our celebration remained the same as the early colonist feasts – thankfulness.

As you go about the preparations this week, spend some time thinking about the origins of the holiday and all the reasons you have to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!