Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Traditions Trivia Series: Gift Giving


Most of us have been on a quest the past several weeks (or more!) to find the perfect gift to give our family members and our friends.

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No doubt about it though, the perfect gift has already been given;

Jesus! 

God Himself gave us the first and best Christmas Present that there could ever be!!  Thus, the tradition of gift giving began.

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The image of the Wise Men giving gifts to Jesus is associated with Christmas, and we often see Nativity scenes with the shepherds and the Magi peering at Baby Jesus.  The chronology of the events of Jesus’ birth are understandably confusing.  When studied closely, however, evidence points to Jesus being about one or two years old when the Wise Men arrived.

The Bible does not tell us how many of these men followed the miraculous star in the East, which led them to where the Christ Child was, but we do know that they brought Baby Jesus three gifts.

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“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”  Matt. 2:11

Gold symbolizes  the deity and glory of our Savior.  Frankincense is a fragrance, representing the sinless and perfect life of Jesus.  Myrrh is a bitter herb, signifying the suffering Jesus would endure to pay our sin debt.

These Magi were divinely warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  In spite of how they might have lived before their journey to Jesus, once they experienced Him, their obedience was to God, not Herod.  Isn’t that the way it goes - an encounter with Jesus is always life changing, and route changing too!divider 
The most common gifts given in times past of celebrating Jesus’ birth were sweet oranges, which were rare treats, or homemade food items, and handmade clothing & crafts.  Stockings that were actually worn were hung on hearths with anticipation of finding treats in them, dating back as early as the fourth century.

Christmas Stocking Vintage Image 
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we can give back to God by giving to others.  While we hope that our loved ones’ faces light up with joy as they open their presents – presents that we put such thought and effort into - what’s more important is that we do all that we can to help them receive the Greatest Gift of all!

I hope that each of you have a very Merry CHRISTmas!   

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Traditions Trivia Series: Christmas Cards


Continuing my Christmas Tradition series, today we will look at the history behind Christmas greeting cards.

Christmas Vintage Ice Skating

Greeting cards were originally created by the Chinese celebrating the New Year.  In those ancient times, they were sent primarily by the ruling classes.  Later, ancient Egyptians also sent greeting cards.

A postal service called the Penny Post began in London, England in 1680.  It was affordable enough that ordinary people could send mail within 10 miles of the city.  The Penny Post was highly successful and the idea caught on. 

OldDesignShop_HorseCarriageChristmasCard  

In the US, Benjamin Franklin initiated the forerunner of the US Postal Service in 1792.  Before long, postal delivery became widespread, making it possible for people to send cards and letters worldwide.

1904 postal angel

With the postal services in place, the first commercially available Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. 

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Cole’s credentials included writing children's books, designing the world’s first stamp, inventing a prize winning teapot, and he was the founder of the Victoria and Albert museum in London.  If you’re not familiar with his name, you may recognize him by his nickname – “Old King Cole,” as he was affectionately called.

The designer of this first American Christmas card was John Callcot Horsley.  Below is what the card looked like, and it was met with a bit of controversy because of the young child sipping wine.  

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Printing methods improved, and Louis Prang from Germany became known as “the father of the American Christmas Card” as he began massively producing and selling Christmas greetings in the US in the mid 1870’s. 

Christmas greetings became more common by this point, and provided ample opportunity for artists, writers, printers, and engravers. 

The following cards are by Kate Greenaway, a famous children’s book illustrator.  She began her career designing Christmas, New Year, and Valentine cards. 

Where are you going, my pretty maid? 

Prithee little maiden!

Home for the Holidays

A Happy Christmas. Victorian greetings card (1881)

Aren’t they sweet!  I love her artwork!

Well, thank you for joining me today as we take a look at the tradition of sending Christmas greetings.  Will you also join me in prayer this week for those that are in need of knowing Jesus as their Savior?  Let’s pray that they will be drawn to Him this Christmas Season, realize their need, and respond to His calling.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Traditions Trivia Series: Christmas Lights


“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  John 8:12

1940's Christmas Nativity

I’m so glad that you joined me for the continuation of my Christmas traditions series.  Today, my post will explore the tradition of Christmas lights.  As I begin, I find myself wondering if perhaps the stable where Baby Jesus was born was softly illuminated by lamplight.

We couldn’t know about then, but before electricity, once upon a time, as people assembled together to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, churches were beautifully illuminated with candlelight and lamps.  I can just imagine the glowing scene on a crisp, wintery night.

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Also, the early Christmas trees were sometimes lit by candlelight.  Melted wax secured the candles to the evergreen branches until candleholders became fashionable in the late 19th century. 

candles gleaming

Germany is due the credit for beginning the tradition of lighting Christmas trees in this way.  Queen Victoria helped this idea grow in England and the United States as well, largely as a results of a woodcut picture of her candlelit Christmas tree.

christmas tree queen victoria 

In the 1880’s, Sir Joseph Swan facilitated actors to be dressed in small lights as part of their costumes in an operetta, which inspired the term “fairy lights.”  And soon to follow, Thomas Edison’s work with electrical lighting became directly responsible for the invention of electric Christmas lights.

Edward Johnson, the vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, had eighty red, white, and blue miniature light bulbs made for his Christmas tree in 1882, which is believed to be the very first electric lights to adorn a Christmas tree.

JohnsonEdward-FirstElectricTree

The first electrically lit Christmas tree at the White House was switched on by President Grover Cleveland during his second term in 1895. 

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The cost of lighting a Christmas tree in the early 1900’s would be about $300!  It would be another 30 years still until Christmas lights were affordable enough to be sold to the general public.

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Oh, the beauty of Christmas!  May the beautiful light of Jesus shine brightly in your heart, filling you with joy that is evermore infectious! 
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Liebster Award Fun!

Many thanks to Chrissy at Mom Loves Freebie for nominating me for the Liebster Award!

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What fun!

Liebster-Award

The Rules:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
2. Share eleven interesting facts about yourself.
3. Answer the eleven questions provided by the blogger who nominated you.
4. Come up with eleven questions for your nominees.
5. Nominate eleven other bloggers!

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My Eleven Interesting Facts:
(Ha! I use the term “interesting” rather loosely, but I think that is what I’m supposed to say here!)

1.  My family stays amused at my delight over little things that aren’t often typically noticed.

2.  I LOVE pine straw and leaves scattered across lawns far better than manicured landscapes.

3.  Yesterday was our 28th wedding anniversary.

4.  I love seniors.  They have so much wisdom to impart.  

5.  I’m quiet natured in groups, but I can talk the ears off of a Billy goat when I am comfortable in a one on one situation.

6.  I don’t exactly have a good singing voice, so I try to keep it as quiet as possible in church, but I love to sing, so that’s difficult!  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” it says in Psalm 100.  I think that verse is written to folks like me – joyful “noise” rather than joyful music. :) 

7.  If you have read my post labeled 20 Random Things that You Might Not Know About Me, I mentioned that I don’t like using the word “I” so much, so this list is a little challenging for me.  Let’s see, does that count as one?  Just in case not, here’s a short one – I’m excessively cold natured.  I would freeze to death where some of you live!

8.  I have extremely fond memories of my early years growing up on Lake Conway in Orlando, Florida.  I spent many hours swinging on a homemade swing hanging from a giant tree that overlooked the lake, and had a neighborhood full of children to play with.  Here is a picture of some of those kids:

December Days in Florida

That’s me in the front on your right.  Those were the days!  Such an easier, more innocent time in our nation. 

9.  I have a vivid memory, that goes way back, even to some toddler times.  But yet, I’m a bit scattered.  I find it challenging to keep up with my shoes, rings, and keys, especially.  ;)

10.  Due to sentimentality, I keep almost everything.  The most treasured item that I have from my childhood, is “Mrs. Mouse,” a little Remco vinyl doll.  My little childhood friend Tracy, which is the one pictured above on the front left with short hair, gave me Mrs. Mouse, in her sweet, loving effort to keep me from crying for my mom when she was going out for the evening. 

Mrs. Mouse became my treasured companion.  I kept her with me, all the time, that is, when I could get away with it.  She traveled wherever I traveled, and as quirky as it may seem, ‘til this day you will find her packed in my luggage if we take a trip.  Here, I’ll show you…

DSC_1980Yes, I realize, she may look a little creepy to you.  But to me she’s beautiful!  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ya’ know! :)       

11.  And that leads me to this one – I love old pictures.  This generation is more creative with photography, but somehow, old photographs are far more charming to me.  Are they to you?

christmas_dividers20[1]My Eleven Questions from Chrissy:

1. What do you like most about blogging?

Getting to visit with people that I normally wouldn’t get to meet.

2. If you could have any pet in the world what would you pick?

I’ll cheat a little here, because I can’t pick just one.  I would love to have a pet monkey – that is, as long as it was clean and had clean habits. :)  Life wouldn’t be worth living to me without my little doggie friends, and I love horses.  But I wouldn’t mind having a pet elephant, either!  I just love animals!  So much that I can’t wait to see what the animal kingdom will be like when we get to Heaven!  Maybe we can even have tigers for pets!  Wouldn’t that be awesome!


3. What are you really good at doing? Or a talent you have?

Uh oh, on this one!  I’m not good at anything! :)   I take that back…when I look at my kids I think I must be good at mothering, but it is probably more of a case that they are WONDERFUL kids!  Talent…humm…I probably could have been good at piano if I had had lessons growing up, and I love to decorate, if that accounts for anything. 

4. What were your favorite subjects at school?

School, goodness, that was a long time ago!  Language arts, because it was the easiest to me.  But now, history would absolutely be my favorite.  I just didn’t realize it then because memorizing facts and dates deterred me from discovering my passion for old times.
 
5. What was your life like before kids? Or if you don't have any, what do you think it would be like with kids?

You know, I always longed for the time that I would have children.  Motherhood was what God had planned for me.  Once I had my third child, I discovered a completeness that I had not yet known.  But to directly answer the question, childhood was in part, fun, adolescence was turbulent and scary, and then I married at 22 and became a mother at 24.   

6. Do you like to read? If so, what type of things?

I like to read.  Okay now, don’t shoot me, but I’ll add, sometimes.  I’m a little complicated on that subject.  I enjoy reading books that are beneficial spiritually.  As for fiction, I go through stages.  Sometimes all I want to do is read, yet at other times I cycle in not reading a lot of fiction, especially when my kids were little and life was plenty full of adventure! :)    

7. What do you consider to be a bad habit of yours?

Eating cookies for breakfast.  Today it was chocolate chip.

8. What is your favorite type of music?

Piano music!  I LOVE the piano!!  And nothing is better than Peanuts music by Vince Guaraldi, in my opinion!

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9. If you could spend a day with any famous person, living or deceased, who would that be?

Well, no doubt about it, Jesus, but the wonderful thing is, we can spend every day with Him!  So, I’ll give a second answer.  Wow, that’s food for thought.  I’ve never explored that thought before…Okay, I’m thinking… and in the meantime, I’ll go to the next question…

10. Do you like to clean or hate it?

Love it!  I hate it!  Hee hee!  It’s kind of one of those love/hate things!

11. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you make that dream come true?

That’s easy – a mom.  As a child, I was obsessive about dance too, and wish I had pursued it.  I would love to have a little dance studio by my house where I could teach girls classical ballet and Irish dance.

Now back to #9.  I think I’ll go way back in time and say the apostle Peter.  You gotta love Peter!  I’m pretty sure he was fun, funny, and a mess!  Just imagine the stories that he could tell us!  But I would also love to sit down with Corrie ten Boom or Elisabeth Elliot, gleaning wisdom from their experience with God. 
 
christmas_dividers20[1]Eleven Questions for My Nominees:

1.  Do you live where it is common to have winter snow and do you like snow?
2.  Do you decorate your Christmas tree with a theme, or do you decorate it with an eclectic collection of sentimental decorations?
3.  What are some fun things that you plan to do this Christmas Season?
4.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
5.  What was a favorite childhood toy that you had?  How did you acquire it and do you still have it?  
6.  Do you like to watch old movies, and if you do, what are some that you especially like?
7.  If you could live in any time period, when would that be and why?
9.  Would you describe your decorating style as being  fun & cutesy, charming & rustic, elegant & ornate, or classic and sophisticated?
10.  Green acres is the place for me; how about you – if you had your druthers, would you prefer city or rural living?
11.  If you could open up a door and climb inside the world of a fiction book, what book would it be and why? 
 
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My Nominees:

Life on a Back Road
Across My Kitchen Table
Little Birdie Blessings
The Enchanted Rose
A Sheltering Tree
An Artful Mom
The Writers Reverie
Afternoon Coffee and Evening Tea
Blessings and Sweet Tea
Ms. Redo
Sunny Skies and Sweet Tea

Thanks for taking the time to visit today!  Signature red

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Traditions Trivia Series: Cookies

Celebrating Jesus’ birthday. . . simply the best!  I love, love, love this time of year!!!

1950s old time card

As we make preparations to do so, do you ever wonder where some of the traditions began?  This month, I will feature a few of those traditions in a series of posts.

Today, it’s Christmas Cookies!

The English word cookie comes from the Dutch word “kookje,” which means “little cake.”

a Dutch Christmas 

The history of cookies can be traced back to Medieval European biscuits.  Across Europe, by the 16th century, Christmas biscuits had become popular, with mothers intent to bake special sweets for their children. 

It was fun reading this excerpt from The American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, which was published in 1796,  where she writes:

“Another Christmas Cookey…Kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.” 

American Cookery


“Cookey” - cute spelling but I don’t think I would want to eat six month old cookies! :)

Gingerbread cookies have been around for a long time, and weren’t associated in particular with Christmas until Queen Victoria. She is credited with making them a popular tradition of Christmas as they were a part of her Christmas Day menu, along with following other imported German folk traditions of her Prince Consort, Albert.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

 
Nationalities sometimes have their own specialty Christmas cookies. One of my favorites are Papparkakor cookies which are Swedish. These spicy ginger and cinnamon flavored cookies that were traditionally cut out in flower & heart shapes, became a favorite in my family when I tried a delicious recipe that you can find here.

Christmas baking 

A popular Mexican Christmas cookie is called Reposteria, which is a sugary shortbread cookie coated in cinnamon. Pepernoten are ball shaped cookies that were a baking tradition in Holland, and the popular Norwegian Christmas cookie Krumkake is a thin wafer that is oftentimes filled with cream. (I haven’t tried these three types of cookies, but if you are interested, you can click on them to see recipes.)

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I love to bake spritz cookies at Christmastime. I find it fun to use a cookie press and they are quite tasty! These delicate, buttery cookies are originally German biscuits that are called Spritzgeb├Ąck. Germany is credited with introducing cookie cutters to the United States at the end of the 19th century, also.

I hope that the kick-off to your Christmas season is overflowing with fun and festivities!  What are your favorite Christmas cookies to bake this time of year?

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