Updated on December 3, 2017
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.
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.”
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.
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?
Updated on December 7, 2017
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.
Who wants to hear this phrase, which means disgust for the Christmas season?
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.
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.
Updated on November 29, 2017
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.