Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas is Magic

A few weeks ago I decorated my Christmas tree with an assortment of carefully selected ornaments, those that had special significance or appeal.  This will be my last “real” Christmas tree, at least for a few years.  Most of my ornaments will be given away or sold.  My snowman collection, which I have been accumulating for years, and many other things that say “holiday tradition” to me will be forsaken for a new adventure.

I have made the decision to downsize out of my house and into a motor home.  When one goes from a house to an RV, most of your possessions must go, and that includes the majority of my holiday decorations, including my Christmas tree.  Some will be given to my adult children, others will go into an estate sale for others to enjoy.  popcorn and paper garland

When you decorate your tree each year, do you have ornaments that hold special meaning?  Are there traditions you have carried on from your childhood?  Long before Elf-On-A-Shelf became a fad, my mother always had an elf on her Christmas tree for good luck.  When I got married I had to have an elf, and when my daughter found out I was downsizing she said “are you taking your elf?”  This is the way that family traditions are handed down.

American Christmas traditions began around 1830 when an image from England of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating the holiday around a table-top tree was re-printed in American publications.   The photo was widely published and by 1900 one in five  Americans had a Christmas tree.  The first trees were decorated with things such as nuts, popcorn strings, homemade trinkets, oranges and lemons.  Newspapers and magazines encouraged Americans to purchase more elaborate decorations, and by 1870 ornaments were being imported from Germany.

German immigrants brought to America the tradition of putting lights, sweets, and toys on the branches of the tree.    My tree has some glass-blown ornaments, Hallmark dated ornaments, birds, elves, glass balls, and ornaments from my youth.   There are ornaments that were purchased as souvenirs, such as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Washington DC, and the Calgary Stampede.  There are memorial ornaments for my father, nephew, and husband.  One year I was given an ornament that depicts two favorite things of mine…books and coffee.  There is a special, sentimental feeling each year as these are brought back out and placed on the tree.

Minolta DSCAlong with tree decorating traditions, most of us grew up with the magic of Santa Clause.  Saint Nicholas was a Christian holy person believed to have lived in the third century, who became known as a protector of children.  The bearded, jolly Santa dressed in red that first appeared in Clement Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas in 1820.   Thomas Nast was an artist who’s first major depiction of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly in 1886 created the image we envision today.  Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly between 1863 to 1886, and Santa is seen or referenced in all but one.   It is Nast who was instrumental in standardizing a national image of a jolly, kind and portly Santa dressed in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop.

Santa lives on today because he exemplifies dreams, hope, wishes and beliefs.  In a world filled with stress, violence, poverty, and hunger, Christmas brings out the good in everyone.  The thought that if you just believe, good things will happen.  Christmas is magic, and if you don’t believe that, watch a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.

 

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Do I like it or not?

We are having our first snowfall of the year…well not really.  We had a few flurries in the air a couple times earlier this year, but nothing that stuck and it has been unseasonably warm until now.  We are getting dumped on.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. you go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? J. B. Priestley

The First Fall of Snow

So with the snow falling and sticking to the roads and people nervous as they always are on the first bad roads of the season, we had to make a 40-mile round trip to pick up my daughter from work due to her car being in for service.  What are my thoughts?

  • People constantly refer to how bad the roads are
  • Some people are very nervous and drive extremely slow
  • Some people are idiots and drive a maniac speeds
  • My car appears to automatically turn of Max Defrost when it is turned off, so auto-start doesn’t give you the max benefit when used.
  • Heated car seats are the best
  • If you forgo using the brush for mittens because the snow is fluffy, you will regret it later when your mittens are wet and fingers feel cold.
  • Freshly fallen snow on bushes and trees with Christmas lights on them is pretty.
  • There is something about snow that puts you in the Christmas mood
  • Yikes!  Only 12 days until Christmas and I’m not decorated and have more shopping to do.
  • Who am I kidding, I wish I were somewhere on a beach, somewhere tropical, not in the midst of a snow storm.

So, I assembled my Christmas tree last night, and I should have put the lights on tonight but it still remains naked.  I’ll tackle that project tomorrow night.  For tonight, I’m going to crash.

If you are in the midst of a snowstorm, stay warm.
If you are somewhere tropical, I wish we could trade places.

 

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Tradition with a Twist

As we celebrate Thanksgiving the minds of many is already on what has to be done in preparation for Christmas…the shopping, baking, decorating, and the traditional Christmas card mailing.

I have noticed over the years that the number of cards received has dropped tremendously.  Is it because people are too busy to bother?  Is it because people think an email “Happy Holidays” is as good as a traditional snail mail greeting?   Is it because the price of Christmas cards has become so outrageous, and then once bought and prepared the postage still has to be purchased?  The words Tradition and Change

It could be any or all of those reasons, but I tend to believe the cost of cards has had a huge impact on the traditional sending of the card.   The last time I purchased cards, which was several years ago, it was over fifty dollars just for the cards.  I had always sent the traditional card with a newsletter on our happenings for the past year typed and included, and usually a bit of a handwritten personal note on the card as well.   Then life happenings put me in a position to change all that.

In 2010 I did not get my traditional cards bought and the holiday crept up on me.  Still I did not want to miss the traditional sending of the holiday greetings, so I did it with a twist.  I used my Publisher program to make a Christmas Greetings newsletter.  I set it up to read like a newspaper with various topics and column headings and included a few pictures of the family as well.  A separate column was set up where I wrote about each of my adult children and my grandchildren.  Other topics might have been travel, house remodeling/upgrades, and other such items.  I then mailed the newsletter, with no card, in regular #10 envelopes.  I folded them so that the “Christmas Greetings” header was visible when it was pulled from the envelope to give it a bit of holiday feel.

My newsletter was well received.  People enjoyed getting lots of news on the family.  I also heard that the newsletter format was liked because it was a rather long letter, but they were able to pick up and read various columns and then sit it down and finish later without loosing where they had been.   I have not purchased any Christmas cards since then.  Every year I continue to do the Christmas newsletter.  It is printed back-to-back, which cuts down on paper.  Some years it is one sheet (2 pages), other years it has been 2 sheets (4 pages).  A red pickup truck with a Christmas tree in the bed drives down a snow covered driveway toward a large farmhouse decorated for christmas. The ground and trees are covered with snow. A dog walks across the front yard. Red bows and wreaths hang from the mailbox, a pinetree in the front yard and the house.

What has happened over the years since I started this?  Last year I received three “letters only” Christmas greetings.   So far I am the only one using newspaper format, the others were written in the traditional letter style, but they were full of information and happenings from throughout the year.   I enjoy receiving Christmas newsletters.  It is nice to hear about what people you are away from are doing, and it is more personal than a standard card.  It shows you took time, put effort into the greeting, even if it is a letter that has been printed and photo copied.  It still took a bit of time to compose that newsletter.

As we enter the holiday frenzy I challenge you to do tradition with a twist.  If you have already purchased your Christmas cards, then enclose a short newsletter about the past year inside each.  If you have not purchased cards, consider composing a Christmas Greetings newsletter and mail those out to family and friends instead.  You may find, as I did, that in a couple years you start getting those in return as well.  Tradition with a Twist!

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Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

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Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

DSC_4495

Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

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