Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our New Nativity Scene

This year we have a new Nativity Scene! Normally we have two other ones. A beautiful stained-glass scene that my best friend gave me, piece by piece, over many years. It's truly lovely. And we have a painted wooden one for "kids" to play with and re-enact the big night. But this year, as my daughter was going through the Christmas boxes, she found this Christmas craft I had bought a few years ago. You know, for a time to do a leisurely Christmas activity - like that would ever happen - obviously not, since it was still in the book. A Nativity Scene for her to punch out and put together like paper dolls. She did such a nice job that I thought we should use this one this year.

So I've been thinking a lot about Christmas lights on trees: coloured or white. The question has been going around on holiday memes. Actually I find it quite fascinating, which string people choose. I have always thought that the choice in Christmas lights is sort of a reflection of oneself- you know, like how your house is decorated, how you dress, etc.

For example I am a very casual person - casual in house decor, casual in dressing, casual in attitude (casual in that I am very accepting of and very interested in other people's ideas and points of view, even though I generally have definite ideas and personal opinions about most things). Going to the grocery store in sweats doesn't bother me. People seeing me in my pjs doesn't bother me (I have nice pjs). Going to the grocery store in my pjs doesn't bother me :) I love colour. Colour in life, nature, people, everything. Although I am an adult I would never call myself a grown-up. I don't look my age (and have been known not to act it on occasion :) I have coloured lights on my tree and outdoors. Now, I grew up with that, but it definitely suits me. I am not a white-light only person.

I love the white-light people that I know. But generally speaking they are much more particular about what they wear and generally appear to be more mature than I. Maybe all white lights scare me. Like white walls and white furniture. I could never live in a white house since I could never be myself in it - I'd be too nervous. But I would admire it and those able to be comfortable in it. I would wish I could do it, but know that I couldn't. When I see all white, I am waiting, like it isn't finished, like it's only beginning.

I love this question and I love to look at people's Christmas trees and homes and see how they are extensions of those who live with them and the stage of life they are in.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My First Meme

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.
Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

Hmmm...I'm not sure, but I might even agree with this. Especially the second half.

Kinda cool.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas Cards

Look what I can do! I had the best day yesterday! My friend Kim and I made home-ade Christmas cards. I made eighteen. We had so much fun.

I bought a pad of pre-scored coloured Christmas card paper and several packs of stickers. We also bought beautiful paper and different embellishments and "copied" ideas from a card magazine. Kim is very motivated and organized and her enthusiasm is contagious. HO HO HO.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lest We Forget

November 11th in Canada is Remembrance Day. A statutory holiday set aside to remember those who have served in World Wars I & II, the Korean War, The Gulf War and those currently in active duty in Afghanistan. A day to be thankful, grateful and remember those who choose to defend me and my fellow Canadians. Our Canadian military.

We are fortunate enough to live in an area where my daughter's school takes Remembrance Day very seriously. They had an hour-long service with the two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 am, video presentations, poems that the students had written, laying of wreathes from each homeroom in the school, Taps and, of course, the recitation of "In Flanders Fields". As always, I sat in the back and sniffled, in awe of those who would choose to serve to protect someone like me, someone they don't even know.

This year is even harder for Canadians since it the first year in a long-time that our military is serving in active, war duty and not peace-keeping duty.

On Saturday, November 11th, we went to our neighbouring university for the official Remembrance Day ceremony. The service is getting longer and longer as there are more and more wreathes laid for those "in memory of" and the parade of veterans is getting shorter and shorter as more veterans pass on each year. What will Remembrance Day be like when all the veterans are gone or will there always be veterans since there will always be war somewhere in the world? That is the question.

Our newishly-elected federal government has a different foreign policy than the governments before it and I don't think it is truly reflective of what Canadians want. However, our troops are in active duty and we must support and pray for them and the people they are trying to help. And all those men and women, some of them barely into adulthood, who had such a spirit of honor and adventure that they would risk their lives for the good. Talk about "shock and in awe!"

"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row..."


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Holiday Traditions

We have loads of holiday traditions so I thought I'd just mention a few, especially the things we did when we were kids, or now when we are bigger kids, since those are the ones that seem to make the most impression.

As I said in my previous post, my family is very big into Advent. So we are excited for weeks.

But Christmas Eve is always very special.

For years and years, my family celebrated Christmas with the family that lived directly across the street. My Mom and their Mom are still best friends and the two families grew up together, especially the Moms if you know what I mean. They would come for supper or dessert, which ever worked out.

About 10 minutes before their expected arrival, my sister and I would take up our post at the front door to watch for them. As soon as they left...I'm laughing to myself remembering this...our whole family would run out to our front veranda and now they were in the middle of the street, and all of us would start SCREAMING. I mean really screaming with excitement, jumping up and down, laughing, everything. Our other neighbors used to go to their front doors to "see what on earth was happening" but over the years they got used to it and didn't bother looking, they knew that it was just our Christmas Eve beginning. As I write this, I am still stunned that we did and still do this - only now it's even more fun with our kids - they don't know what's going on but what kid doesn't like screaming in the street?

So they would come over and we would eat, lots of chocolate of course, and then we would put on a concert. Both families are very musical and creative and spent years in community theatre so our concert was a combination of Christmas Carols, original pieces and Broadway showtunes. It was awesome.

Then came the gifts. Over the years, the presenting of the presents has taken many forms, but in the last few years we have settled on "The Yankee Swap". It has other names and I hope I can explain it properly.

Basically, everyone brings a gift representing their own age and gender. For example: there are three people in my adult woman, an adult man and a child. So we would bring three gifts: one suitable for a man, one for a woman and one for a child. We are heavily into joke gifts and candy/chocolate, but you could have a theme (ie: tree ornaments) or regular gifts. My sister has four in her family: a woman, a man and two kids so they bring four gifts: two kid gifts and one for a man and one for a woman. So in the end you have as many gifts as you do people and the right amount of adult and child gifts. They all go in a box, we use a laundry hamper, whatever. Everyone now takes turns. First person picks out whatever gift they want (using label adult/child). Unwrap it...awwwwww, isn't it sweet, yummy, whatever. Next person goes, picks and unwraps. Here is the clincher...the second person can keep that gift they picked out from the pile or trade it with the other already opened gift. Now this goes on and on with each person. The person can keep the gift they picked from the pile or can trade with anyone who has already opened their gift and they have to trade. It's hilarious. Alliances form. You never know who is going to have what gift. And at the end, when everyone has a gift, the person who went first has a chance to trade if they want since there wasn't anyone to trade with when they opened the first gift. It is so much fun.

My next favorite tradition is the next morning opening stockings. Santa would leave my sister's and my stockings outside our bedroom door. We would get up and open them together - ooohing and awwwing over everything. We always got the same things (Santa was very equal-opportunity) . And then we would go into our parent's room, onto their bed and show them what we got from Santa. It was literally years before we realized that they may have already known what was in those stockings. We had such fun.

Every year, not always on "Christmas Day", we would have Christmas dinner with my family and my Mom's two sisters and their families. Eventually it turned into potluck. Family is the best and it doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you can do it together.

After I was divorced, I had to face part of Christmas without my little girl. I was really upset about that. I am very fortunate that her Dad and all of his family live very close by so there isn't a lot of driving and everyone in both families still share a Christmas visit, but the thought of leaving her there was killing me. Christmas Day night without my girl. So I decided that I needed to go to the movies, and it would be a sad movie so I could cry and everyone would think I was crying at the movie. I remember the first year, the movie was "Step-Mom" with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Good crying movie. So now every Christmas Day night my husband and I go to the movies and if my parents are visiting, they come too. And it has turned into a fun tradition and we see happy movies now. It turned out to be a good idea. Sometimes you need a new tradition so far from anything you've ever done. I thought the movie theatre would be empty, but it's packed. I find that kind of sad in itself, but then I'm thankful for the movie theatre because obviously there are a lot of people who need it open Christmas Day night.

I wish everyone the merriest of holidays and I realize that a lot of the US bloggers will start soon with their Thanksgiving (Canada celebrates in October). Don't eat too much! Have fun! Kiss everyone and tell those you love, how special they are!


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE Advent.

I grew up in a very small town and attended the "Neighbourhood" church. It was a United Baptist Church. It is very well grounded in scripture and celebrated all aspects of the Liturgical Year. I just assumed all churches were like that, whether they were Baptist, Catholic, United, whatever. About five years ago I became a Catholic and have learned that the church that I grew up in is not the typical United Baptist church. People kept asking me about why I knew so much about Lent, Holy Week, Advent and all things "very Catholic" and maybe not so much protestant. I even attended a different United Baptist church that had a vote during it's Sunday service to see whether or not they would have a Good Friday service - I promptly left that church after I had calmed myself down.

So like any good daughter, I went to my Mom for the scoop. She explained that the church that I grew up in is very special. It is a United Baptist church but is also very much a community church and that people of all denominations came there to worship, so the families could worship together as the body of Christ. It was full of Anglicans, Uniteds, Baptists (no Catholics :), and loads of people who brought all of their traditions and the church incorporated them into the church year and thusly I am very well informed without even knowing it. A very special place indeed, very family-oriented, embracing and inclusive. It is also a highly active church for all members of its congregation: Sunday school for all ages, women's' groups, men's groups, youth groups, seminars and of course community outreach programs. It sets a very high standard and it was years as an adult before I could find another like it.

My very favourite Advent memory is a tradition my church as a whole did for years. Advent is huge in that church, as it should be, but as a child it was almost magical in it's anticipation of Christmas Day (which of course was celebrated with a Birthday party for Jesus, with a huge cake and candles and the singing of "Happy Birthday").

When I was a child, the following is my favourite part of the Advent Celebration.

Of course, there was the lighting of the Advent Candles. Each week, a different family went up to the front and all the family members took turns reading: the scripture, the explanation, the lighting of the candle and the prayer. Of course we were all doing the same thing at home because everyone had their own Advent wreath on their table complete with all Advent devotions provided by the church so Advent was in the home as well as in the sanctuary. They continue this tradition to this day and my Mom still sends me (and extra for my friends) the Advent Season devotional booklet they are using that year.

Then after church and Sunday school, the whole church stayed and we all made homeade Advent wreaths to take home. Some Advent angels organized all the tree bows, wreath frames, candles, wreath decorations, etc. and we all went around like in an assembly line and assembled our wreaths.

The second Advent Sunday afterwards we all stayed and made Christmas cookies, Christmas decorations, and decorated a carrying bag. These were set up like centres/or little assembly lines. After everything was made, it was all put in the bag and left at the church.

Remember: all members of the church families are involved: moms, dads, kids, etc.

On the third Sunday, after church, every family was assigned a "shut-in" or someone who could not make it to church or needed a visit and we would go and take our decorations and cookies and bring Advent to them for the afternoon.

On the forth Sunday, you are pretty much out of your skin with excitement since the "day" is only a week away and it is a day for Christmas concerts or pageants or maybe even Santa comes (after church of course and in the hall not the sanctuary :)

These four weeks had such purpose and impressed upon me the "Season of Advent" and that we really were waiting and longing for Christmas to come.

My Mother was so instrumental in my love of Christmas. We would come home one day and the entire house was transformed to a Christmas wonderland, even the dishes and bathroom. We had tiny trees in our bedrooms and she made us a homeade tree ornament every Sunday in Advent so that when we had our own tree as an adult, we would have enough ornaments and the tree was loaded down with memories. She organized Christmas decoration/ornament making parties with her friends for all the kids. She made our Nativity Scene and Advent Calendar herself. She is practically as good as Santa himself!!

Advent is a wonderful time and I'm thankful that it is four weeks long so, although it goes way too fast, you can really soak up it's glory.