Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas: Past and Present by Micki Peluso

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of talking dolls, video games,
bicycles and other expensive toys, danced in their heads. Mama in her kerchief
and I in my cap had just settled down to tackle the mountain of Christmas bills,
which was larger than the national debt.

Years ago, Christmas seemed easier, less commercial and more enjoyable. Many families lived near each other, and most of the decorations, foodstuffs and presents were homemade. While there was stress and haste to accomplish the needed tasks by Christmas Eve, the stress was different than what is experienced today. Generations past did not seem to lose sight of the reason for Christmas; a birthday celebration of sharing and love. The nostalgia of horse-
drawn sleigh rides through wooded country roads is sorely missed. Bells jingling
accompaniment to carols sung off key by bundled-up children in the back of the
sleigh, is a thing of the past. Yet Christmas retains an aura of magic, nonetheless.

Originally, the Christian church did not acknowledge Christmas at all, as such observance was considered a heathen rite. The earliest records of anyChristmas celebration dates back to the early part of the third century. Gift giving, as a custom, may have originated with the Romans, relating to their worship of Dionysus at Delphi. The Christmas tree comes from the Germans, although its origin has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The tree replaces a former customary pyramid of candles, part of the pagan festivals. There is a legend that Martin Luther brought an evergreen home to his children and decorated it for Christmas. German immigrants carried this custom with them to the New World, but it did not gain popularity until 1860, when John C. Bushmann, a German, decorated a tree in Massachusets and invited people to see it. Evergreens, a symbol of survival, date to the 18th century when St. Boniface, honoring the
Christianization of Germany, dedicated a fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the  sacred oak of Odin. The “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” was the General Grant tree in General Grant National Park in California, dedicated May 1, 1926, by the town mayor. The tree was 267 feet high and 3500-4000 years old.

Mistletoe, burned on the altar of the Druid gods, was regarded as a symbol of love and peace. The Celtic custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the practice of enemies meeting under the plant, dropping their weapons and embracing in peace. Some parts of England decorated with mistletoe and holly, but other parts banned its use due to association with Druid rites. Mistletoe was considered a cure for sterility, a remedy for poisons, and kissing under it would surely lead to marriage.

The 4th century German St. Nicholas, shortened through the years to Santa Claus, has become the epitome of today’s Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas, taking pity upon three young maidens with no dowry and no hope, tossed a bag of gold through each of their windows, and granted them a future. Other anonymous gifts being credited to him were emulated and the tradition grew. The Norsemen enhanced the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with their
goddess, Hertha, known to appear in fireplaces, bringing happiness and good
luck.

Sir Henry Cole, impressed by a lithograph drawing, made by J.C. Horsley, instigated the idea of Christmas cards. It took eighteen years for the custom to gain popularity, and then it was adopted mainly by gentry. Christmas was banned in England in 1644, during the Puritan ascendency. A law was passed ordering December 25th a market day and shops were forced to open. Even the making of plum pudding and mincemeat pies was forbidden. Thislaw was repealed after the Restoration, but the Dissenters still referred to Yuletide as “Fooltide.” The General Court of Massachusetts passed a law in 1657 making the celebration of Christmas a penal offense. This law, too, was repealed, but many years would pass before New England celebrated Christmas. When Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, it was the observance of Christmas that made his conquest of the British a success. The enemy was sleeping off the affects of the celebration.

Befana, or Epiphany, is the Italian female counterpart of Santa Claus. On Epiphany, or Twelth Night, she is said to fill children’s stockings with presents. According to legend, Befana was too busy to see the Wise Men during their visit to the Christ Child, saying that she would see them on their way back to the East. The Magi, however, chose a different route home, and now Befana must search for them throughout eternity. The sacred song traditionally sung on her yearly visit is the Befanata. The number of Magi visiting the stable on that first Christmas Eve could be anywhere from two to twenty. The number three was chosen because of the three gifts; gold, frankencense and myrrh. Western tradition calls the Magi, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but they have different names and numbers in different parts of the world.

Though distinctly Christian, the social aspect of Christmas is observed and enjoyed by many religious and ethnic groups. Rabbi Eichler, during a sermon in Boston in 1910 explains why: “…Christmas has a double aspect, a social and theological side. The Jew can and does heartily join in the social Christmas. Gladly, does he contribute to the spirit of good will and peace, characteristic of the season. It was from the light of Israel’s sanctuary that Christianity lit its torch. The Hanukkah lights, therefore, justly typify civilization and universal religion.”

Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, penned the famous poem, “Twas the Night before Christmas.” Dr.Moore never intended for the poem to be published. Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Troy, New York, accompanied her father on a visit to Dr. Moore. She asked for a copy of the poem and sent it anonymously to the editor of The Troy Sentinel. A copy of the newspaper carrying his poem was sent to Dr. Moore, who was greatly annoyed that  something he composed for the amusement of his children should be printed. It was not until eight years later, that Dr. Moore publicly admitted that he wrote the poem.

Christmas is the favorite Holiday of children, who unquestionably accept the myth of Santa Claus. In 1897, one little girl began to have doubts as to the reality of Santa Claus, and wrote to the New York Sun, asking for confirmation. Her letter read: Dear editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says,” If you see it in The Sun, it’s so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?” Virginia D’Hanlon. Francis P. Church’s editorial answer to the little girl became almost asfamous as Dr. Moore’s poem. In part, this is what he wrote: “Virginia, your little friends are so wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe, except they see… Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists….Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as if there were no Virginias…No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

It is sentiments like this that warm the heart of child and adult alike as Christmas nears. It is not the gifts, soon forgotten, that make Christmas a time of wonder and magic. It is the love within all people for God, for children, for each other. During this hectic holiday season, take a moment or two to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

“And I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a Goodnight!”

by Dr. Clement Clarke Moore
Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, leading to a first time publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a career in Journalism. I’ve freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper, written for two more and published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges, magazines and e-zine editions. My first book, published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . . And THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that Builds Character, third place in the Predators and Editors Contest and first place for People’s Choice Monthly Award. I have stories in ‘Women’s Memoirs’, ‘Tales2inspire’, and ‘Creature Features.’ Two of my short horror stories were recently published in an International Award winning anthology called ‘The Speed of Dark.’ ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ is my first children’s book. My collection of short fiction, and slice of life stories in a book collection called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck’, is due to be released in January, 2017.

The Romance of Christmas By Kathleen Ball

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I can’t think of anything that goes together as well as Christmas and Romance. I know for a lot of us it’s a time of stress, but if you can take a moment to sit and relax you might discover the wonder of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy presents as much as anyone, but Christmas is not only a day for presents. it is a day of great emotion.

The joy of watching a child’s or grandchild’s eyes when they discover the presents under the tree; the very same tree you told them not to touch. Their expression of pleasure is dreamlike. It’s a day of love and laughter and it’s a day to listen to your heart.

The buildup and suspense of Christmas starts as soon as you put up your tree and your first and most fervent wish is for the lights work.  The first smile comes when topping the tree, unless you have a hot toddy. In that case your smile may be earlier. When finished I always take a step back and sigh, it’s Christmas time.

As in romance, there is anticipation and hope for a blissful outcome. And like romance, there can be a multitude of obstacles to overcome. In a romance novel there is the will they or won’t they moments— moments where one of the main characters does something to throw a wrench into their relationship. You keep reading, hoping they get back on track and then the magic happens. The author weaves a story of hope, dreams, and shows us love is the main thing, the only thing that matters. The feeling of wow, a sense of well-being and delight invade your heart.

Last year my father died, my son was deployed, and the magic didn’t happen for me. I didn’t want to celebrate. It made me realize two things. Life is short, celebrate when you can and it doesn’t matter where my family is as long as they are all safe.

This Christmas Eve I expect the swirl of enchantment to wash over me as I hope and pray for a better, peaceful year. I’ll experience the delight of my heart overflowing as I count my many blessings. I will have inner peace knowing I played secret Santa to a few families in need. And I will hope and pray for all who are having a bad year—especially for the military families with their loved ones halfway around the world.

This year I celebrate, understanding the need to cherish and make lifelong memories. I celebrate with an open and compassionate heart. Mostly I pray these things will happen- hence the magic of Christmas.

Hope and a happy ending is why I love to read and write romance. I love the emotions of expectation, happiness, despair, and love. I love cheering for the couple and crying when all is lost. I love the heart-filling ending, and I try to hold the feeling close to me as long as possible.

Most of all I have learned that giving is really much better than receiving. I understood the concept but never carried it within me. Kindness is free and I have embraced the saying Kindness Matters. It’s not only for a few weeks or for a special day—kindness needs to be a lifelong project. What if a simple smile is all it took to make the world a better place?  I know I can be too optimistic; it’s the romantic in me.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a year of kindness.

 

Sexy Cowboys and the women who love them…

Finalist in the 2012 RONE Awards. Top Pick, Five Star Series from the Romance Review.

Kathleen Ball writes contemporary western romance with great emotion and memorable

characters. Her books are award winners and have appeared on best sellers lists including

Amazon’s Best Sellers List, All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand, Desert Breeze Publishing and

Secret Cravings Publishing Best Sellers list. She is the recipient of eight Editor’s Choice

Awards, and The Readers’ Choice Award for Ryelee’s Cowboy.

There’s something about a cowboy…. Http://www.kathleenballromance.com

“I wish it could be Christmas every day” by Jon Magee

 

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Happy Christmas every body!

Yes, I know this seems to be a bit on the early side, however, as this item is being published it will be Christmas that I will be celebrating along with many others. It will be a time of sharing Christmas meals and the pulling of the traditional Christmas crackers. There will be the singing of Christmas songs and the festive joy. The town puts on a Christmas treat to the elderly of the town on the third Wednesday of December, so along with the committee my wife and I will be mingling with hundreds of folks who are over 70 years of age as they enjoy a Christmas meal and concert. Many of them do not manage to get out regularly due to health issues relating to age, so this is a unique time for them to interact with their peers, to reminisce, relax and revel in the joy of it all.

It is Christmas, even if its not the 25th December. December is, of course, a month that will include many other social events. We will be having a children’s party for the Parent and Toddlers group. That should be fun with the children enjoying the games. Then there will be the Christmas meal with the Bowlers, and the same with the men’s drop in, with the opportunity of good company. The list of events seems to be endless, and such a variety of the kind of people and age groups involved. Yet, for all of that, it is the senior citizens event that I prefer to focus on with regard to the social aspects of Christmas. Why?

When I lived in Edinburgh I recall a project I was involved in that required me to go from door to door visiting the residents. I found one lady very helpful and quite pleasant and appreciated how receptive she was to what we were discussing. As I prepared to leave she called me back to enquire as to whether I planned to  visit her neighbour. On my confirmation that I would she advised, “Do note that she is elderly and hard of hearing, and if she does hear the knock at the door she will be quite slow in walking, so take your time”. I thanked her, its always good to hear of such good neighbourliness, taking time to ensure she did not miss out on the visit. I knocked loudly and waited, and waited, and waited. It was just as well I was warned, I thought, she really is taking a long time.It was at this point that a car pulled up and the driver called across. “Are you looking for ‘Mrs Smith’, because if so you will be waiting a long time”. I confirmed that I had been made aware that ‘Mrs Smith’ was both deaf and also very slow moving, and understood she would need to take her time. “No, you do not understand”, he said, “You see, what I was meaning is that ‘Mrs Smith’ died 3 months ago. She will never answer that door again for anyone.” I was astounded. The neighbour I thought was so caring did not know that ‘Mrs Smith’ had died 3 months previously. There was a superficial sense of caring, but clearly she had not given time to her on a regular basis. The real need had escaped her attention. On reflection, I would guess that could have happened in any city. We nod, we smile in the passing, but so often no one has time to get to know each other, and when we fail to give the time we fail to care adequately.

So, coming back to Christmas. The gathering of these elderly people in a safe environment means an opportunity to know peace, love and joy, important elements in the Christmas story. Tomorrow, they may see no one, but today they see everyone and enjoy every moment of it. In 1973 the pop group “Wizzard” recorded the record “I wish it could be Christmas every day”. It was destined to be high in the British pop charts for for weeks over December 1973 to January 1974. I am not sure I agree with all the words of the lyrics, but I guess that the title encapsulates the words I want to express. I wish that every day we could find a way to bring together those who need such care. I wish that every day we could be a society that can share the love, joy and peace that’s at the heart of the Christmas message.
Author of “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” & “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey” http://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister