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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

If you give a mom your credit card 3 days before Christmas and tell her to treat herself, she might go shopping.

If she goes shopping, she might find a shirt she likes on the clearance rack.

If she finds a shirt she likes, she might buy it.

If she buys it, she might give it back to you, with the credit card and a suggestion that it would be nice if it were wrapped.

If it’s wrapped, it might go under the Christmas tree.

If it goes under the Christmas tree, she’ll probably open it.

If she opens it and Christmas Day is a  Sunday, she might wear it to church.

If she wears her new shirt to church, she will probably feel happy that she’s wearing her new Christmas present, she likes it, and it fits.

If she feels happy she’s wearing it, she will most likely keep wearing it after church for Christmas dinner.

If she’s still wearing it while she preps Christmas dinner, her husband might notice a problem.

If he notices a problem and says so, she may ask what it is.

If she asks what it is, he could tell her there is still a sticker on the shirt.

If he tells her there is still a sticker on the shirt, she could look down to see it.

If she looks down to see it, she could gasp in dismay.

When she gasps in dismay, she most definitely will yank the sticker off the shirt. A small, round sticker. On the left side of the shirt. She just wore to church in front of God and everybody.

After she yanks off the sticker, she may think but will not say that her Christmas treat ended up being a booby prize.

If she thinks it’s a booby prize, she still will not say whether it was small, medium, large, or extra large.

Though she will not say the size, she will say laughter is always a Christmas treat.

Tis the season!

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On August 11, 2001, our home and business burned. A month later, September 11 attacks changed our world.  We returned to our rebuilt home just before Thanksgiving and continued to rebuild our lives that Christmas season. 

I wanted somehow to show our kids, ages 5 and 7, that in times of great loss, we celebrate new beginnings and hope for the future  – and to inspire and encourage neighbors on our quiet, urban street. Thus began Operation Christmas Lights.

That December, a friend and I collected milk jugs and asked our friends to help.  We collected over 50 jugs, made Chinese lanterns of them with votive candles and kitty litter, and attached a Christmas card to each milk jug handle.  It  took us days to complete.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, our families worked up two city blocks, placing a lantern in front of each home.  I was nervous placing candles in front of some of our neighbors’ homes; sometimes inner city neighbors are volatile.  It was growing dark, the wind began to whip, and we hurried to light the candles before our family went to Christmas Eve services.  I couldn’t be late because the kids were singing before the service, and I was “volunteered” to direct them!

A light dusting of snow began to fall while we were in the service.  When we returned home, the white snow dusted the street and sidewalks and reflected off the dark night sky.   There was a unique calm and silence on our street.  In front of each house, reflecting against the snow, were our recycled milk jug Christmas lights.  They lit the path to our newly rebuilt home. 

The neighbor I most paused at leaving a light in front of had rearranged the milk jugs so there were three lights in front of her home.  Even they caught the Christmas spirit that evening.

My prayer now, as my kids are teens, is that they remember to share the light they have with others, especially in bad times. And they know no matter how bad things are, there will always be a path of lights leading them home for Christmas.

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History can be as boring as dirt if we leave the back stories out of the timelines.

If you like the back stories of our Christmas traditions, find a copy of the late Webb Garrison’s book, A Treasury of Christmas Stories.

Garrison’s stories are often short enough to read aloud at a single sitting with family and share the kinds of details that make history memorable and fun.

  • what George Washington purchased his stepchildren the first Christmas he was married;
  • in 1214, English barons refused to visit King John in England over Christmas, resulting in the writing and signing of the Magna Carta;
  • Joel Poinsett (for whom the poinsettia is named), the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met a mob of anti-American demonstrators in front of the U.S. embassy, with an American flag on a pole as his only protection – they disbanded;
  • Union soldiers gave Savannah, Georgia, a free Christmas dinner in the middle of the Civil War;
  • The first Christmas tree in the White House was a present for the wife of President Franklin Pierce, helped pull her out of a devastating depression following the accidental death of their last surviving son.

Garrison, former assistant dean of Emory University and president of McKendree College, died a few years ago. 

In the conclusion of his book, he urges families to read these stories aloud and share them together because storytelling combines art with instruction and entertainment. 

“Tell your stories” is the advice of many working in social media today.  Reading and sharing great stories is a great step towards being able to share your own stories.

I highly recommend Garrison’s books to anyone who enjoys a great story, who wants to gain greater insights into our history and traditions.

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Christmas is hard when we have lost those we love.

 During the Civil War, a husband struggled with the loss of his wife.  His first wife died when he was young, and he mourned seven years. 

Then he married again.  They were a happy family, rejoicing in their five children.  His youngest three daughters filled their home with laughter: grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, and Edith with golden hair. 

 One hot spring day, while her husband slept in the next room, his wife trimmed Edith’s hair.  The golden curls were so pretty she decided to save one lock as a keepsake.  She used sealing wax to hold the lock of hair into place when tragedy struck.

A spring wind breezed through the room. Her dress burst into flames.  Either the sealing wax spilled onto her dress or the match did.  Her first instinct was to protect her daughters.  So she ran screaming, a tower of flames, into her husband’s study next door.  He awakened and tried to save her. 

First, he covered her with a rug to smother the flames.  The rug was too small.  Still, she burned.  He threw his arms around her and put out the final flames with his own body.

She died of burns the next morning.  He was so badly injured that he could not attend her funeral.  His face was so burned that he was never able to shave again and wore a beard the rest of his life.

Her horrific death happened near the beginning of the Civil War. Then his firstborn son, 19, returned from the war, critically injured.  Christmas was the hardest.  He could not celebrate.  The man asked his friends, “Where is peace?”

God gave him solace to his grief on Christmas Day, 1863, as the morning church bells rang. 

The mourning husband, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem that would become the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

 The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 I hope you hear the bells this Christmas Day! 

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St. Nick Follies

“Isn’t  St. Nicholas Day a Catholic thing?” a friend asked me last year as I shared what our kids got in their shoes that early December morning.

“It’s OK.  I AM Catholic.”

St. Nick has always been a favorite of mine – I named my son after him, even though I didn’t convert to Catholicism until my son was almost a year old. But I didn’t know about the tradition of St. Nick’s Day.

Then came the year my son was in kindergarten, and his sister was a second grader. We visited another family, who observed St. Nick’s Day. Their kids showed MY kids the presents they had gotten in their shoes that morning.

My kids cried. “Why did St. Nick skip us? Were we bad?” My son added, “And I was named after him!”

“Don’t worry kids. St. Nick got really busy last night and couldn’t get to everyone . Let’s put your shoes out tonight and see what happens.”

Thank God, that night, St. Nick made it to our house. Disaster averted.

In the Christmas rush, it took me a week to realize the kids were leaving out their shoes nightly. They had decided maybe he would stop again. So each night, they tried leaving out shoes in different rooms. They swapped from shoes to boots to see if that makes a difference.

Since then, St. Nick has made it to our home, every year, on time. He doesn’t visit twice.

During the hustle of the Advent season, if you find shoes lying on the floor for no reason, there may be one you don’t realize.

Lesson: keep your boots at the door so you’re prepared for new opportunities whenever they arrive!

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Santa's Workshop

Remember when Ralphie looks at the department store displays in A Christmas Story? Evansville families can see comparable displays at the Vanderburgh 4-H Center Winter Carnival. Freewill donations are accepted for this first class family outing. What makes the Winter Carnival special?

Outdoor Light Display. Santa’s Workshop (in the SIAM building in the center of the lights display). The Southern Indiana Antique Machinery Club has restored Main Street’s department store Christmas displays and exhibits them from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays.  Santa will be sitting in the workshop if you would like to visit him or have your picture taken with him.

Christmas Tree Contest. Nineteen area 4-H and extension homemaker clubs decorated trees inside Santa’s Workshop. A donation bucket sits under each tree so visitors can vote for their favorites. Tree themes reflect their decorators. Themes include sunflowers, pink feathers, a frog theme made with recycled soda cans, and contest ribbons. Some donate decorations to charity after the carnival – one has school supplies, and another hats and gloves. Shameless hint: my kids helped with the Tech, Energetics, and Livestock club treese. The Tech treeme is decorated with household items donated by club members which will be donated as a housewarming present to a Habitat for Humanity family after Christmas. The Energetics tree is decorated with Christmas candies the members strung into garland and fashioned into ornaments. The Livestock tree is decorated with animal ornaments which club members made out of recycled soda cans and hollowed out eggs.

Supper with Santa. On Friday, December 3, the Center will host Supper with Santa at a cost of $5 per person. This includes supper (pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, drinks, and cookies), crafts for kids, a visit with Santa, and games. A pedal tractor pull contest will also be held for a $2 per entry fee. Reservations are being accepted through this Wednesday, December 1, at 867-6217.

Support the 4-H Center. The Vanderburgh 4-H Center is the ONLY Indiana fairgrounds which is a private not-for-profit.  They do not receive government funding to stay open. They survive solely on facility rentals and donations. Your donations at the Winter Carnival help them continue to provide facilities to local 4-H clubs, maintain their playground and basketball goals, and provide a wonderful place for local families to walk and picnic. 

Volunteers from SIAM, the 4-H Center, and over 20 local 4-H and extension homemakers clubs come together to decorate for the Winter Carnival. They provide an affordable Christmas outing for families and hope the donations received help us preserve this local treasure.
A Very Sweet Christmas

Energetics Christmas Tree

Helping Habitat for Humanity

Tech Club Christmas tree

Animal art

Livestock Club Christmas tree

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A Christmas candle

My childhood ended when I was 9. On an August Saturday morning, a funny thing happened on the way to the airport. My dad left to fly a plane solo for fun. He made a wrong turn, skipped the airport, and kept driving.

That fall, I escaped into books. It was easier to turn the pages and absorb written stories than wrap my head around a house full of concerned friends who eventually went back to their own homes, my mother’s finding a job, our losing our car and replacing it with an old pickup without seating room for my 3 younger siblings and me, and things around the house disappearing as my mom sold them so we could eat.

That Christmas, our neighbor’s son put up our artificial tree. However, he read the directions upside down and didn’t realize the small branches were at the top and the biggest ones were at the bottom when he finished. After he left, we tried to fix it, though the tree was taller than we were. The end result looked like a modern art parody of a Christmas tree.

A ladies group at the new church we joined had adopted us as a Christmas family. In 4 months, I went from giving my leftovers to charity to being the one who needed it.

Everyone around knew we were alone. Sometimes late at night, prankers banged or kicked our front door and ran.

The nights were the hardest that Christmas. One evening, we sat pretending we were ok when there was a knock at the door. Great. The prankers were starting earlier for the holidays.

It was the mother of one of my classmates, with her sons. “We would like to share the Christ in Christmas with you. Can we come in?”

My mother let her in, with a tray of Christmas candies and a small present for each of us. We enjoyed her home-made peanut brittle, and she left.

She saved our Christmas.

My childhood was dark, and that night she gave us a candle.  When you have lost everything, you know how precious a candle lit in the darkness is. Now, 35 years later, it’s my turn to light some candles and ask you to do the same.

Here goes:

This holiday season, seek those who are suffering. Help them. The light you share with the suffering on a cold winter’s night gives the most powerful gift we have.

Hope.

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