4 01, 2021

Discovering My Nativity’s Provenance

By |2020-12-26T10:23:05-06:00January 4th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays|4 Comments

If I had decorated for Christmas this year–which I didn’t–I would now be taking decorations down and storing for next Christmas.

We had a painter working to rejuvenate the outside of our almost forty-year-old home. He did a fabulous job painting and power washing. The house looks clean and fresh. Unfortunately weather delays meant he didn’t finish until December 23. We decided it was too late to put up decorations only to take them down three days later.

Not decorating gave me extra time to read subscription blogs, which had piled up like old newspapers used to do.

Image via Megan Hanlon

Imagine my surprise when one of my favorite blogs, Her View From Home popped up with a picture of my nativity angel and a heart-warming blog.

Turns out Her View from Home blogger, Megan Hanlon had the exact same manger I have when she was growing up. Only the angel she’d named Gloria and loved playing with as a child had gone missing by the time she inherited the set.

I’d received my nativity set as a thank-you for an estate sale I’d done many years ago. I always said someday I’d research its origin, or provenance. Never did.

Ms. Hanlon wanted a replacement Gloria to share her memories with her children. She searched the web. Finally, on eBay, she located “a white box with an outdated Sears & Roebuck Trim Shop logo and a picture of four figurines: a guitar-playing lad, a bearded man carrying a basket of bread, an angry camel, and a ginger-haired angel in a blue dress draped with a banner that proclaimed “Gloria.” All the pieces were there according to the listing.

She’d found her Angel Gloria replacement and, thanks to her blog, I now know where my set came from and its age.

Figures were missing from mine too—the four additional characters. I only had Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus and a homemade manager structure. No sheep or shepherds, no camel,  no “guitar-playing lad” or “man with a basket of bread,” and no Magi.

Missing Magi didn’t matter to me. Those kings didn’t show up at the manger anyway, but arrived later where Jesus lived as a small child. The sheep and shepherds I substituted from other sets. I’d bought a shepherd playing bagpipes in Ireland that I use. Still no man with a bread basket, but I may search eBay to complete my set with those original pieces.

For sure, next year when I set up my nativity for Christmas, I’ll be smiling and thinking of Ms. Hanlon’s children playing with her Gloria angel.

You can read her touching blog about “Finding Gloria” here.

21 12, 2020

A Much-Needed Holiday Tradition in a Pandemic Christmas

By |2020-12-21T05:56:23-06:00December 21st, 2020|A Writer's Life, Holidays|0 Comments

A long time ago, I began including newsy letters in our Christmas card greetings. In the beginning I wrote out the notes on individual cards.

With the introduction of word processors, I began to mass produce the letter. I know, I know some people loathe mass printed letters in cards, but I love them.

Keeper of things that I am, I have copies of every letter I’ve written, and there are a lot. The youngsters in that first picture card are all now parents and two are grandparents!

Last year for Christmas, we copied and compiled all the letters into notebooks for each of the children.

While it was never my intent to record family history, the letters are a memoir of sorts.

Reading through them sure brought back memories for all of us.

 

We’ve moved a lot between our military years and corporate days. I count Christmas greetings from friends with letters inside a real blessing, especially since our in-person visits are limited these days.

This year more than ever, we need to count blessings. Name them one by one as the old hymn says. If you don’t like the Christmas letter idea, it’s still a good idea to take some time to write down what’s been good this year. Remembering happy, positive things can, in turn, lift our spirits.

After the year we’ve had, I’m all for lifting spirits. How about you?

As 2020 comes to end (at last), it’s time for Chicken Wrangler Sara and me to begin our annual holiday break. See you back here on January 4 with new thoughts and views from the front porch.

Until then, enjoy the archives. We’ve been doing this since February 20, 2012. Hard to believe, isn’t it? There’s lots to browse.

14 12, 2020

Christmas Traditions during a Pandemic – classic movies

By |2020-12-01T15:37:52-06:00December 14th, 2020|Holidays, one word Wednesday|3 Comments

Getting in the holiday spirit during this season is proving hard for many of us. Since we’re hanging close to home, we’re watching classic movies.

I suspect most of my readers weren’t around when White Christmas debuted in 1954. But, I’m guessing everyone has heard the song and many watched the classic.

White Christmas is right up there at the top of favorite Christmas movies with It’s A Wonderful Life.  Nothing sets the holiday mood better for me than a bag of popcorn in hand and watching the musical set in New England.

White Christmas has it all — romance, Rogers and Hammerstein songs, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing, Danny Kaye dancing.

Below is a clip of my favorite scene. I love the costumes, the dancing, and the singing.

Now don’t you feel more in the holiday spirit?

Ironic that hearing the classic song brings on images of Christmas past and the promise of Christmases future, especially since it was written tongue-in-cheek by Irving Berlin, a Jew who did not much care for the holiday.

Do you have a favorite classic holiday movie for getting in the holiday spirit?

7 12, 2020

Christmas Traditions during a Pandemic

By |2020-12-01T15:07:54-06:00December 7th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Christmas 2020 will be different. That shouldn’t stop us from all our traditions.

One of my familiar things to do is watch A Claymation Christmas Celebration. If you’ve never seen it, you’ve missed a real treat.

The program aired on CBS TV in 1987 and  won a 1988 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. We watched the show live and then for years afterward popped our video in the VCR to kick-start the holiday at our house. It’s available on YouTube nowadays.

The animation is something called stop motion clay animation that rivals some of today’s high tech productions.

So what’s the story about?

Two prehistoric dinosaurs one named Rex, an intellectual tyrannosaurus, and the other Herb, a dimwitted, bespectacled styracosaurus with a voracious appetite, are the main characters. The pair guides you along a typical small town’s Christmas choral celebration with various Christmas carols preformed. The California Raisins are special guest stars.

Throughout the story, Rex tries to explain the true pronunciation and meaning of the term wassail. Different groups sing their rendition, all of which are lyrically incorrect.

Finally, a large truck loaded with elfin, cider-swilling townsfolk arrives, singing the correct version. When one of the townies explains wassailing means going around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols and getting treats and cordials, Rex’s theories are validated, much to his delight.

My favorite carol from the show is “We Three Kings.”

The Walrus ice-skating to “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a very close second.

 

If you want, you can watch the full thirty-minute show on YouTube here.

For repeated viewing, you can purchase your own VHS video from Amazon or a DVD with Will Vinton’s Claymation productions for Easter and Halloween.

30 11, 2020

Observing Christmas with an Advent Wreath

By |2020-11-29T14:47:40-06:00November 30th, 2020|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade signals the beginning of Christmas preparations and traditions around our home. The Advent wreath also triggers the start of our Christmas celebrations too.

If you attend a traditional liturgical church, you lit the first candle of an Advent wreath yesterday. Or, under COVID-19 quarantine, watched the lighting via video like I did.

Unfamiliar with the tradition of Advent? Let me explain.

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

Modern-day Advent services feature a garland wreath with four candles.

First candle, the “Prophet’s Candle,” symbolizes hope. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting.

Second, the “Bethlehem’s Candle,” represents faith. The prophet Micah foretold the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.

Third, the “Shepherd’s Candle,” symbolizes joy. Angels announced the Christ child’s arrival to shepherds. The rose (pink) color rose signifies joy and rejoicing.

Fourth candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” signifies peace. The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace. It’s also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.

The (optional) fifth candle, “Christ’s candle,” stands in the middle and represents light and purity of Christ. It is lit on Christmas Day.

You can read more about the symbolism of the advent wreath here.

Individuals sometimes incorporate advent activities into their home holiday traditions when their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent. You can purchase wreath rings and candles. Or, with our COVID-19 holiday restrictions, you might consider constructing your own Advent wreath. Here’s a how-to video.

Observing Advent with an advent wreath is a great way to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Advent Candle from Unitarian Universalist Association
25 11, 2020

Old Irish Blessing for Thanksgiving

By |2020-11-20T10:04:17-06:00November 25th, 2020|Holidays|0 Comments

At Thanksgiving we think about all the things we are thankful for. For Chicken Wrangler Sara and I that’s you, our readers.

It’s our tradition to offer this Old Irish Blessing rich in what we wish for you and yours.  And, perhaps this crazy, mixed-up, pandemic Thanksgiving Day we all need the thoughts and words more than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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