Tag Archives: holiday

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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Filed under assumptions, celebration, children, Discoveries, exploration, Family, Festivals, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, winter

Holiday Greetings

vicchristmastradToday I participated in two holiday traditions, a Christmas gathering for the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club and the writing of my annual Christmas letter, which I do in lieu of a card.  The writing of Christmas greetings and handling out of Christmas gifts are two areas where I recently learned the history of the tradition.

In the early 1850’s the first American made Christmas card was distributed by H. Pease, a printer and variety store owner in Albany, New York.  Louis Prang, a German immigrant and printer perfected color printing and introduced a new colorful Christmas card in 1874.  Within five years the sales were over 5 million.  Popularity grew and Americans began sending cards instead of writing Christmas letters or making personal visits.  Cards held their popularity until the 21st Century.  The increased use of the internet led to a 60% decrease in the sale of Christmas cards in the past decade.  In 1958 the average U.S. family mailed 100 Christmas cards.  In 2001 that figure was down to an average of 28 cards per family sent and received.    I know I have dropped my card sending down from about 75 to 30, and the number I receive has also substantially declined.

About eight years ago I went back to what I recently learned was the original tradition.  Instead of purchasing and mailing Christmas Cards, I created a Christmas Newsletter that gave all the information on my family newspaper style.  I use articles and columns to lay out my newsletter for easy reading.  The first year I did this I received many positive responses.  Friends and family enjoyed getting this newsworthy mailing rather than a purchased card with just a signature inside.  Today I wrote and have printed my 2018 Christmas newsletter.

The Christmas party I attended today included a white elephant gift exchange, which is a bit different since it involves the giving of a used item from your home that is no longer of use to you but may be of use to someone else.  They are given wrapped, but do not have the giver’s name attached.  This provides a festive yet inexpensive way to enjoy the act of giving and receiving gifts.

Gift giving was not always part of Christmas tradition.  The act of giving gifts increased from the 1820’s through the 1850’s, when shopkeepers re-shaped the holiday tradition.  Prior to that time people gave unwrapped gifts.  Then Americans began wrapping the gifts they gave, as a gift hidden in paper heightened the excitement and designated it as a gift.  As this grew in popularity gifts from stores, factories and homes of laborers were wrapped in paper that advertised the material status of the giver.  The more grand stores used distinctive colored paper and adorned them with tinsel cords and bright ribbon.

Gift giving became a symbol of materialism, as it signified family ties and the importance of the recipient to the giver.  In 1856 Harper’s Magazine attached the security of a relationship to gift giving when it stated “Love is the moral of Christmas…What are gifts but proof of Love.”  Gifts were given on a declining scale based on a person’s relationship.  The best gifts were given to family and close social circles, lesser gifts in descending order of value to relatives and acquaintances.  The deserving poor received the least valuable and least personal gifts.

The act of giving gifts was controversial, as some perceived it to be a materialistic perversion of a holy day.  Affluence was viewed as a reward from God and charitable gifting as a Christian duty.  A rich man could escape condemnation by acting in a generous fashion to help those in poverty.   Best and Company had an advertisement in 1894 that suggested while purchasing items for Christmas the shopper should think of Children less fortunate and for them the store suggested “a gift of serviceable clothing” be chosen from a group of marked down goods that “would be more than welcome.”

In today’s society the act of giving to those less fortunate is seen in all aspects of our life, including toy donation boxes in stores, mitten trees, and the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive to gather money for providing meals, toys, and other items to those in need.   Over the years I have participated in various forms of charitable giving, including shopping for a needy child and/or family, donating to mitten trees, working as a server at a soup kitchen, donating a stuffed Christmas sock for a designated sex/age child.

As you go through your holiday preparations think about where the traditions came from, jot a personal note in that Christmas card and if you are able, help out a child or family in need.  After all, it is an American tradition.

 

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It’s Just Another Day

As I write this only a few hours before the ringing in of 2018 it occurs to me that millions of people are getting together with friends, going to parties, visiting bars, or participating in numerous other activities to ring in the new year.  Year after year I have spent New Year’s Eve the same way — home doing my normal activities until around 11:30 pm when I switch to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve to watch the ball drop in Times Square.  Some years I go to bed immediately after, other years I continue to watch the celebration for an hour or two.

New Year’s Day arrives.  I might flip on the parades to watch a bit.  I change over my calendar to the new year, and empty out my “Good Things” jar.  Overall the day is treated like pretty much any other stay-at-home day, doing whatever activities I choose or need to handle.

best-quote-for-new-year-2018Do I set goals for the new year?  Usually.  Do I achieve them?  Sometimes.  Even though for the most part New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are just another day, they still contain a bit of tradition that is repeated year-after-year.

As I was writing this I looked up and saw my handwritten list of 2017 goals I had set.  Lets just say I had good intentions and leave it at that.  That list just got folded in half and tossed in the wastepaper basket.

I’m thinking instead of setting goals maybe as I go through the year I should make a list of things I accomplish.  In fact, now that I think of it, that would end the year on a much more positive note.  No depressing list of goals I did not achieve to toss into a wastepaper basket.  Instead I will be able to review the year with a list of things I completed — assuming of course I do something productive in the next twelve months.

Here’s Wishing Everyone A Productive and Happy New Year!

 

 

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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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My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day - Happy Veterans DayThe only purpose of this post is to give recognition of those who provide service to our country, protecting our lands both here and abroad.  Those who have served in the past and continue to serve now.  THANKING ALL VETERANS FOR THEIR SERVICE.

Veteran - What is a Veteran

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Celebrate Independence Day

St Clair Fireworks 2

Photo by Grace Grogan; copyright 2014

Wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th of July.  I am glad that I live in a city that still believes in having their 4th of July Fireworks on the appropriate day, so on Saturday evening I will be enjoying bursts of color shot from a barge over the St. Clair River.   With Ron and I being photographers, we watch with cameras on tripods to capture the event.

My weekend is kicking off with a visit from my best friend, Vicki, who lives four hours away.  We haven’t seen each in several months.  She and her boyfriend are taking a motorcycle trip along the eastern coast of Michigan this weekend and are stopping in for the night.

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair.  Photo by Grace Grogan  Copyright 2014

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair. Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2014

The Blue Water Area is full of things to do on this weekend.  The Blue Water Sandfest, an amateur and professional sand sculpting event is being held at the Ft. Gratiot Lighthouse, Algonac is having their Pickerel Festival, and there are numerous other events throughout the area as well.

Wishing Everyone a Safe and Happy 4th of July.

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