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Showing posts with label Christmas traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas traditions. Show all posts

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter


Nora and Joe and I lit the first Advent candle the day after Oliver was born. We have been marking the days by hanging the tiny figures on our vintage Advent calendar. We have baked Candy Cane Cookies, joyed in the twinkle lights of the Christmas trees, and tried out a few carols. Solstice has come and gone, darkness leaning now toward the light - Advent reflections are in everything. Even in our part of the South Texas Gulf Coast we have had a share of cold weather. Winter is here, although the picture is one from years past. Our Peace sign in the front courtyard is out for Christmastime, but the blessing is for always.

  • “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ― Edith Sitwell

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Music of Christmas

I love Christmas music. For many years, I have begun listening to all my favorite albums and artists on November 14, for my birthday gift to myself!  I love all the carols and traditional music as well as newer artists and music. Some of the oldest and dearest are ones I have played on the piano and have the sheet music. This one could be one of the first copies of Irving Berlin's White Christmas!  It is tattered and worn and fragile, but I still love opening it and playing the chords and melody from its yellowed pages.  So this year, I sit down and play again. Sometimes Nora hears and joins me on the bench and plays her own version.  And this year, once again, I will watch the movie and sing along with White Christmas and Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep!  Merry Christmas!  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas!

When we began pulling out our Christmas boxes and trees, all our beloved decorations were the same, but we were finding new places to put them in our new home. We were also combining Ben and Kristen's things, so we had alot of choices to make.  It has made this house feel even more like home to see it in its Christmas dress. The mantle looks the same, but it is a different fireplace.  We have Christmas trees in new and unusual places. But the dear, familiar ornaments that hung on our tree as our boys were growing up, and even the few sweet old glass balls that hung on my childhood tree remind me that many things remain unchanged.  The arrival of our new grandson, Oliver, has made it all even sweeter. Today Nora and I made Candy Cane cookies, just like the ones our family made when with our little boys so many years ago. She loves the Advent calendar. Sean and Teion and their girls have been here to help and will be at our table on Christmas Day. Jeremy and Michala, Maddie, and Jordann are coming soon after Christmas. The wonder of Christmas is here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Starting Christmas

Everyone has their own idea about when it is the right time to start Christmas.  I don't mean shopping early (I am an all year long Christmas shopper, and make every effort to avoid going into stores after the middle of November!)  or seeing decorations hung on city streets as early as Halloween.  I understand that many resist being encouraged to begin thinking Christmas thoughts before Thanksgiving.  But I believe Christmas is more than decorations or gift exchanges, and seasonal foods. We need Christmas, the deep peace of knowing that God is with us, all the time, and it does not seem strange to me that this bubbles up at times with a desire for little things that show that need. For years, I have treated myself to beginning listening to my beloved Christmas music on my birthday, which is coming up soon. So I was really not surprised a couple of months ago when our 2 year old granddaughter Nora, began asking for a Mismas Tree. Perhaps she had seen the decorations when they went into the garage closet when we moved this summer.  Perhaps she saw a picture of a tree. But suddenly she was insistent.  She begged for a Mismas Tree with a star.  Her mom obligingly got this little tree out of the closet, we plugged in the lights, and then Nora wanted a star.  I cut one from cardboard for her and offered to cover it with foil.  She passed on the foil and I lifted her as high as I could for her to put her star where she wanted it.

So there is the start of our Christmas, before September's song or Halloween.  Note the pumpkins nearby!  We will do the rest of our decorating soon, since baby Oliver is due to make his appearance around Thanksgiving!  "For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” 
― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Friday, December 18, 2015

Gingerbread House

Today is the day my father was born in 1909. He left us in 1982,  too soon to see any of his grandsons or great granddaughters learn to love to cook as much as he did. My sons are passing me up as gourmet cooks, Lauren (22) cooks meals for the family now, Skye (13) is a great pastry cook, Maddie  (9) tried her hand at chicken curry recently, even making the curry blend herself, and Jordann (7) loves to tie on an apron and help to bake.

I am often asked where I learned to love cooking. A great deal of that became a part of me because Mother and Daddy owned a cafe most of the time I was growing up. Mother worked there and cooked more at home, but Daddy cooked for the cafe, creating the best hamburgers and lunch plates.  He got up early and went in to make scratch pies and hot rolls. So as I watched Nora and her Mom, Kristen, make a gingerbread house, I thought how much Daddy and Mother would have loved to see this project!  At 21 months, Nora was intrigued by putting the little candy dots on the house. Perhaps it is a good thing she does not eat candy yet.They did a fantastic job.  There was not much cooking in this kitchen project, but she will be standing on a stool helping me make cookies soon! You made your great granddaddy proud, Nora! It was Kristen's first gingerbread house, too!  But she bakes beautiful cakes, so she knew how to handle that frosting.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Gifts Continued

As we packed away our home's Christmas dress, took ornaments off the trees, and reflected on all the comings and goings of our busy family during this season, I thought about the gifts we gave our children and grandchildren. We all know our best gifts are not topped with bows and found under the Christmas tree, but I want the gifts that are there to have meaning. Almost always there are gifts of music and books and games. Every year, I like to wrap up one thing for my "boys" - all of them, including their Dad, that will be fun and bring back memories of childhood Christmases. I enjoy giving them things that encourage their own home building and hospitality. But this year, there was a gift for each of our married sons and their wives (plus ones I mailed for my nieces) that took a little explanation. They all know my fondness for estate sales and might have thought on first look that I got carried away when I found a box of old silverplate.  But these gifts were nothing I shopped for, and cost me nothing other than a few minutes' time to assemble them.  

They each opened a tissue-wrapped, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon.  Any questions about the odd set I hope were answered with the printed message I included explaining the origin of the old flatware.  

This worn, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon belonged to Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, your great grandmother. I have had these for many years, and thought for a time to make something from them - a piece of jewelry, a windchime, or kitchenart perhaps.  Somehow, it never seemed right to alter them. Do with them as you wish, but I hope you will remember their story, her story.  Grandma Terrell likely never had a matched set of anything, that is part of  your knife, fork, and spoon story. She lived in the years that I remember her best in an old frame farmhouse on a hill not far from the cemetery in Bullard, Texas where she is buried. In the kitchen where she worked I remember a wood stove, a bucket and dipper which were for water drawn from the well by the back door, and a window at one end where food scraps were thrown out for her chickens.

She worked hard with her hands and loved fiercely with her heart. She had few material possessions, never drove a car, never had indoor plumbing util she was nearly 80. She cooked food that made my mouth water - peas and other fresh vegetables from her garden, biscuits, cornbread, and teacakes for a little girl who adored her ad watched everything she did never knowing she herself would someday have granddaughters. 







Friday, December 26, 2014

Generations of Joy


Sometimes, family story is as simple as looking at what has been kept and how it is used today. On Christmas Eve 2014, Nora finds joy in this stuffed Santa who wiggles his head while music tinkles "Santa Claus is Coming Town!"  This Santa made her Daddy giggle when he was her age, and through the years perched on various bookshelves, stair steps, and kitchen counters in many different homes through our years of moving often.  He is one of the beloved Christmas decorations we pull out of a bin when we happily begin dressing our home for Christmas every year.

An even older story comes from the wooden high chair where Nora and Santa are playing.  It is also where she joined our family yesterday for her first Christmas dinner at Grandma and Papa Terrell's old oak table. The high chair, circa 1941, used by my sister in the mid 40's, all of our sons, including Nora's Daddy, and our granddaughters as they arrived and shared meals at our house.  The worn spindled back, scuffed footrest, and dented tray hold stories of 4 generations  (5 if you count my grandparents, who without doubt frequently joined Mother and Daddy for mealtime). That is a great deal of joy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Journey

Our Advent practices vary from year to year.  The Advent wreath and candles change. I choose different books to read from.  But we always set up the Advent calendars (we have several) and our grandchildren love keeping us "up to date" with them.  Here, Skye is adding a little wooden figure to the tiny numbered peg where it will hang, joining those already there and waiting for the rest of the nativity scene to join in this little folding wooden box. In recent years, I have added a daily post during Advent to another blog  www.stonesandfeathers.wordpress.com.  These and other practices help me choose wonder and joy in the middle of all the lists of things to do at this time of year. It is my gift to both myself and my family.

What traditions are important to you in all the busy preparations for Christmas?  How do these change your "list?"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Past, a Story

                                      1970 -    Joe's paper sculpture angels, at our house on Willow Green in San Antonio, Texas.  This is the only picture I have of them, and they got folded and hidden in one of our moves!

Recently a group of friends gathered for a meal and story sharing. We each told a story of a Christmas remembered. How valuable it is to hear each others' stories! Most of the stories were fond memories of a childhood Christmas experience. So much of our family preparation for and pleasure in Christmas includes ways we have done it before - stockings, and where they are hung, manger scenes and where they are placed, tree decorations, taken out of the box one by one with memories of each, carols around the piano, lots of family around for help and hugs, and cookies baked from recipes so old they are spattered and yellow.

I recounted the tale of our first married Christmas, when Joe and I were far from family and were beginning our own Christmas traditions, starting from scratch for Christmas decorations. I told part of this story in a previous post.   Our First Christmas

In our conversation and shared storytime that recent evening, I also told of disappointment (we would have to go back to Texas the first of the year), of grief due to the death of my beloved grandfather and the fact we could not leave in time to drive back to the funeral, of uncertainty for what the future held, and some of the ways those beginning traditions and stories have played out in our lives. Since that first Oregon Christmas, except for the Christmases we celebrated while living in Indonesia, we have always had some of the decorations for our tree that hung on it the year before. Those years from 1987 to 1991, all of our Christmas decorations including family stockings were mistakenly sent to storage when our overseas shipment was packed in California! That was one of the first boxes I looked for when we got the storage shipment back in 1992!

Even though the beginning Parker family Christmas may have seemed like starting from scratch, it was not entirely. We each brought to our marriage a faith that had been nurtured in our families of origin that was the reason for celebrating Christmas anywhere, at all. The trimmings for the tree, our handmade gifts, the clever folded angels Joe cut from paper for me - all of those were not just traditions carried on from the past, they signified the reason for those traditions:  the coming of God to be with us in the form of a human baby, to show us how to live and love. Fifty one years and many many Christmas candles and carols, evergreen trees and manger scenes, stockings and presents, boy grins and grandgirl giggles later, the traditions are precious, and the Christmas Story remains the same.


Friday, January 11, 2013

In recent years, I have seldom put away our Christmas decorations before Epiphany, which has now come and gone.  I even leave a couple of little trees up and add red tissue paper hearts so they become Valentine trees.  This year, I was late getting to the rest of "all things Christmasy".  As I stripped the big tree in our family room, I held each dear old ornament for a second and savored the stories they tell. My camera helped.  We don't limit the tree adorning to things we have bought for that purpose; these items hanging near each other here are a good example.  The glass ball in the center hung on our family tree when I was growing up, so it has graced decades of trees.  Many of those trees stood at the window of the small living room at 1128 Sunset Ave. in Jacksonville, Texas where my parents moved in 1944, and was still in use for many years after I grew up and left home to start my own family.  Daddy died in 1982, shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary.  Mother eventually stopped putting up a big tree and passed some of the tree decorations on to me, so they have traveled far and outlasted any number of trees! This ball and its peers hold dear memories of my childhood and my parents, but it also speaks endurance to me!

On the left is a small torn piece of paper with a tiny handmade Christmas tree.  It arrived one year as a card from dear friends.  I love it perched on a branch as it reminds me of friendship and how much it means to make something for a friend.

On the right, the small cross-stitched banner is my own handwork.  I love the little carolers.  I love more their song.  So, as I go back and forth to the garage with my boxes packed with Christmas heirlooms, they leave behind their message.  Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Friday, December 21, 2012



Carol of the Birds

I am strangely attracted to a Christmas carol rarely sung -
 treasure of music, words with sweet mystery,
 quiet, wondering melody
Questioning feathered twitters.

“Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.
Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
Hastening we seek the newborn King
And all our sweetest music bring.”

Stirring some ancient warmth within me
I play the notes and sing each verse,
 decorate a small Christmas tree
with vines, berries, woodland birds.

Greenfinch, Philomel sing
Re, mi, fa, sol in accents sweet
from woodland edges, farmland hedges
Noel, Christ on earth with man to dwell

Someone singing this tune for 400 years,
before that, once an older one now lost?
Could it be I am pulled by what I cannot remember?
Song and my great grandmother both born in southern France

She died when I was a baby.
Did she sing it, rocking me
in the old wooden rocker in which I rock my own grandchild?
Noel.





Friday, December 14, 2012

Trees and Trims

Our Christmas house has more than one tree to trim.  We have artificial trees these days, but the decorations that dress them have been on many trees in many different places.  After the spare snowflake and string ball trimmed tree of our 1964 Christmas, Joe and I added an ornament or two or three every year.  So that our sons would have their own Christmas ornaments when they left to begin their own traditions and families, we let them choose an ornament for their own each year which was stored in a box.  I love visiting their homes and seeing a few of those childhood choices on their trees this time of year.  This tree is in my kitchen.  It celebrates family and the cooking we enjoy together, and is trimmed with cookie cutters I used when I was a little girl, cookie recipes handwritten  by grandmothers and friends, and little gingerbread boys and girls. The gingerbread family is over 35 years old, so of course is not real gingerbread.  When my sons were all in the same elementary school, one year we made baker's clay ornaments colored with instant coffee for all their teachers plus some for our own tree.  They come back out to dance on our tree and remind us of many happy Christmas times together in our kitchen.


My granddaughters are a delight all year 'round, but Christmas brings more fun than ever.  We enjoy making this tea tray with a tiny tree, teacups and teapots. We add a mix of pretty tea bags and Joe's mother's small spoon collection plus the book A Cup of Christmas Tea.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snowflakes


Cutting paper snowflakes can make young children into magicians and grandmas into little girls again.  There is mystery involved in the folding, choosing just the right place to cut, and carefully trimming little triangles and curves and slashes.  But there is wonder in the unfolding!  Much like the real ones, no two snowflakes turn out exactly the same.  I have never lost that sense of expectation and trying to imagine how this one is going to turn out.

Forty-nine years ago Joe and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple.  That December found us far from our Texas family and friends, in Corvallis, Oregon.  The original plan for Joe to enter graduate school there had been delayed.  In the meantime, he did any odd job available, including painting houses.  I worked as a nurse in a busy pediatric practice within walking distance of our apartment.  One of our doctors had a farm outside of town where we were invited to come cut a Christmas tree. We tramped around the hillside brushing away blackberry vines to find a perfect small Grant pine.  Its symmetrical, graceful branches had wide spaces that were perfect for decorating.  But we were beginning our home and our traditions.  We had no old familiar ornaments to unbox and remember.  We also had no extra money in the budget for buying same.  So we hung a few candy canes, made some string balls from twine and starch and balloons, and carefully cut lacy snowflakes.  That year I knitted my new husband a green sweater with sleeves twice as long as his arms.  He painted a tiny recipe box for me and pasted "Good Things You Can Fix" on top.

The photograph is the few snowflakes that remain after all these years.  I framed them last year for a gift for Joe.  This year we will remember our 1964 snowflakes when we make paper snowflakes with our grandchildren.  If you have never cut a snowflake, try this project.  You will agree with Charles Dickens - "It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."

For some wonderfully fancy paper snowflakes, visit  www.bontempsbeignet.blogspot.ca/2011/11/faux-sneaux-flakes.html