Tag 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.

First Christmas by Diane Piron_Gelman

“At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more frequently.” —Helen Mirren

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” —Robert Frost

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” —Mark Twain

“Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” —Elmore Leonard

“Only connect.” —E. M. Forster, Howard’s End

And, please, enjoy the Christmas story that follows …

candles

It’s still dark out when Annie wakes. She didn’t mean to fall asleep. She meant to stay up all night, or at least long enough to hear reindeer hooves on the sloping roof of her house. The chimney is closest to her room—she eyeballed it Christmas Eve morning, just to make sure. If only she could’ve stayed awake. She imagines how the reindeer might have sounded. Little pitter-patters, like rain.

Her clock says five a.m., squarish numbers glowing in the dark. She sits up, keeping her puffy comforter close around her so the cool draft only hits her back, and peers out the window near the foot of her bed. It’s getting lighter, isn’t it? It’s not her imagination, the dark sky is starting to fade to silver-gray. Morning is here. It just needs time to catch its breath. Soon it’ll be here for real, and they’ll all be downstairs, her and Joel admiring the Christmas tree while Dad makes pancakes and Mom—

A soft knock comes at her door. Then Joel’s voice, hushed: “Annie?”

She scoots out of bed, the comforter wrapped around her like a princess cloak, her favorite stuffed lamb tucked in the crook of one arm. “Coming.”

#

Joel sits next to Annie at the top of the stairs. The staircase leads down into the dim grey shadow-light of too-early-for-Christmas-presents. Joel wishes it would hurry up and get lighter. Beside him, Annie stirs under her pink-striped comforter. “I wish we could go down now,” she says. “I want to see Santa!”

“He’s not there.” Joel wishes he’d brought his own comforter, with the baseballs and mitts on it. His bathrobe doesn’t feel warm enough, even though he can hear the bump of the furnace kicking on. “Santa starts at the North Pole, remember. He covers North America first. We’re pretty early on his route.” He tells himself this every year, to banish the sneaking dread he doesn’t dare confess to his little sister. She’d laugh if she knew he was scared of Santa Claus. No self-respecting twelve-year-old boy should even still believe in Santa, and most days this year, he didn’t…until he woke up this morning just before five, and heard the subtle little noises their old house always makes, and couldn’t shake the sudden conviction that the Jolly Old Elf was lurking around downstairs. Jolly. Hah. What’s jolly about a guy who knows what you’re doing every minute, and you can’t even spot him?

Santa is the spirit of giving. That’s what makes him real. The thought comes in his mother’s voice, clear and sweet and so vivid it’s almost audible. He huddles deeper into his bathrobe, tight around a cold empty feeling he doesn’t want to admit to. Annie holds out a corner of her comforter. “You can share my princess cloak,” she says.

“Thanks.” He drapes half the comforter over himself. Annie nestles in, like a puppy. Sadness washes over him, and he shuts his eyes tight. Annie shouldn’t see him cry. She’s only six. This Christmas, this first one After, will be hard enough for her. He’s her big brother. Mom asked him to look out for Annie, and he will. Right now, though, it feels like his little sister is looking out for him.

#

Annie leans against Joel, both of them wrapped up warm in her princess cloak. She can hear the house talking to itself, see the dimness downstairs ebbing like waves on the lakeshore in summer. Mom used to take them to the lake, Before. But now it’s After, and Mom is gone. The thought leaves a hole in Annie’s heart where Mom used to be. Sitting here now, with her big brother next to her trying hard not to cry, she has a glimmer of how—maybe—to help him out.

She nudges his shoulder. “Race you to our stockings in…what time is it?”

He swallows hard, opens his eyes, checks his watch. “Five-thirty.”

She screws up her face, trying to remember how long it is until six a.m., the earliest they’re allowed to go downstairs and start Christmas. “Half an hour?”

He looks at her, with a grin that’s almost like the one she remembers, even though his eyes are wet. “Sure, Annie Banannie. I’ll race you.”

“Don’t forget ‘on your mark, get set.’”

“I won’t.” He ruffles her hair. “I won’t forget anything. I promise.”

She finds his other hand beneath the comforter and slips her own into it. He squeezes and keeps hold. Together in the silence, they wait for Christmas Day to begin.

 

  1. M. Pirrone, aka Diane Piron-Gelman, writes mystery, historical and general fiction when she isn’t editing manuscripts, reading out loud into a mic, watching endless episodes of Farscape with her husband, or teaching her two boys how to fend for themselves in our crazy mixed-up world. http://www.dmpirrone.net/

 

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

christmas-wars

 

Many people have the wrong impression about Christmas.  The story of Christmas is the greatest love story of all. It’s about God’s everlasting love – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

 

Christmas proves God’s love!  In fact LOVE came down from heaven on the day we celebrate as Christmas!  Yet realistically, if you think that the average “Christmas message” doesn’t move non-believers, you’re not alone.  That message simply doesn’t resonate with them. Bodie Hodge, Says, “the culture is losing the true meaning of Christmas because the education system and the media continues to indoctrinate people to reject the Bible as absolute truth. Instead, the Christian faith and the Bible is attacked and ridiculed and condemned as a “book of stories” because so-called science has supposedly proved it cannot be true—particularly in its history in Genesis.”[1]

 

Jesus shows us God’s perfect love.  He is God’s perfect love in human form.  Those who believe in Him and live in Him, live in love.  Everyone in the world needs our type of love.  Daily, the media provides the best thing to buy for Christmas.  Yet, living for Christ is offensive.  It’s ok to Sell-abrate Christmas as long as it’s for commercial gain!  This confuses people so much that now Santa Claus is the symbol of Christmas.

 

Love should not be a foreign concept to us. Through the caring for one another, we can spread the love of Christ and create a nurturing climate. Our actions often speak louder than words. Whether we realize it or not, the world is paying attention. As Christians, we should express Love by caring for one another, listening to what people actually have to say and by taking time out of our busy lives and trying to make a difference. The life that we lead here on earth is a temporary existence, when compared to the eternal salvation of heaven.

 

Jesus said a lot of remarkable things.  Three things that stick out and that I’d like to share are…

 

He said, “No great love…”  This shows He was a willing participant (I’m getting a little ahead of the Christmas story but everyone wants to know what they got for Christmas!)

 

Second, Jesus said, “the greatest command.”   We must love God with all our hearts, minds, soul…the very essence of our life.  Every iota of our being is His.

 

Third, Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we do that, we can learn to love the other person.  The world would be a better place.

 

The title of this blog is “Happy Holidays, What’s Your Present?”  I think that’s a fair question to ask?  We talked about how God loved us despite the original sin. He gave of Himself, in the bodily form of Jesus Christ.   So, what are YOU going to give this Christmas?  After all, it’s not your birthday.

 

Christmas is the time of year when some people are depressed.  The world needs to see Christ’s love.  Show it to them. This is the time of year people will go overboard and overextend themselves.  The world needs to know God’s love.

 

Your smile.  Your handshake.  Your kind words.  Those simple things could be the difference maker.

 

The Christmas story has been replaced by the Anti-Christ in Christmas Story.  Christmas has nothing to do with buying presents.  The commercial and anti-Christ message is about presents. God gave us the ultimate present.  Instead of worrying about buying someone else a present on Jesus’ birthday, why not give Him a present?

 

You can have a happy holidays.  But you need to have a merry CHRISTmas.  I hope the Christmas message challenges you into thinking, “How does Christmas change my world?”

 

My question to you is simple and I close with this.  Will your holidays be happy?  If so, what’s your present?  I hope it’s love.  For that is the present that Jesus wants you to give on His birthday.  The promise of eternal life with God!

 

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Yves N. Johnson is the Founder of Christ Is My Savior Ministries, LLC.  He has spoken both Nationally and Internationally.  His subjects ranges from personal development to Spiritual Warfare.  Yves recently published his second book, Outside The Wire: Every Man’s Guide For Spiritual Warfare.  His debut book was, There Is No Gray In Moral Failure: A Practical Guide In Preventing Financial and Sexual Abuse.

 


 

[1] Hodge, Bodie, Making the “Christmas Sermon” Relevant for Today’s Culture, Accessed on November 12, 2013 from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2003/12/22/christmas-sermon-relevant