Need Some Christmas Spirit

I am asking for your help during this season of merriment. I have one more Christmas column to write before the newspaper goes on Christmas vacation for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I was wondering if you could provide me with a little inspiration.

Tell me what makes your Christmas spirit sing–or give me some suggestions on how to give my flagging spirit some renewed energy.

Christmas is my favourite time of year–but with all the bad news in the media lately, I need a little boost.

And while you are at it–tell me what you will be eating on Christmas Day–I could use some easy suggestions–and if you want to throw in a recipe that would be wonderful.

Thanks so much–you always come through for me–so I am looking forward to your comments!

Published in: on December 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm  Comments (31)  
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Put Another Log on the Fire

My newspaper column for this week:

Ten days before Christmas. By the time you read this, the timeline will have shifted. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Remember when we were kids and ten days was a lifetime, and Christmas seemed to take its jolly time to get here? I read an explanation the other day about why as we get older things seem to move faster—something about events no longer being new to us so we experience them at a faster pace. I am sure that explanation makes sense to someone somewhere, but it did not really resonate with me.

I do find that different things have become more important to me over the years. Things I would have glossed over or not paid any particular attention to when I was younger. As I get older, I may not get wiser, but I do find myself being more reflective and more thankful for the present. Sound like I have taken one too many bites from Oprah’s gingerbread, or delved too deeply into Deepak Chopra’s philosophy, or heaven forbid, taken a page out of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now? (I find all of his books to be dense, or maybe I am the one who is dense.)

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to attend two small parties—one with my Writers’ Group, and another with some friends whom I have known since high school. The warmth of being surrounded by good friends (with good food in our bellies topped up with a little wine) was wonderful, but the loveliness of the moments spent with friends was brought to the fore even more vividly by a suggestion I read this morning in my search for a topic for this column. I turned to a book that my husband gave me over a decade ago called “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” and recognized in number 303 a truth that had been borne out by my experience over the weekend.

My little book of joys suggested in number 303 that “When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire.” In both instances, the hosts of the evening “threw another log on the fire”, if not literally, then figuratively. I stayed up long past my bedtime listening to shared stories and taking part in something that needed no screen, either computer or television or phone, to keep me entertained. The art of conversation and conviviality is not lost—and the closeness of friendship shared is one of the most potent elements in the magic of Christmas.

On Saturday I was fortunate to share some tea with a couple of friends at Tim Horton’s. The coffee shop was filled to the brim as it so often is. Our peals of laughter brought us to the attention of other patrons, who I am sure wondered if we had brought a flask to spice up our hot drinks. We had not—we were just enjoying being in each other’s presence. We joked, occasionally elbow jostled, and left on a higher note than the one we had come in on.

Life is full of these moments. My dream for Christmas Day is that I be surrounded by family and friends and that the warmth of the day envelope us all. But I have learned to appreciate the random moments when my family is just sitting around watching a movie, or sharing a meal and laughing together. Or those moments when you realize that the friends that surround you are the most important thing—and that sharing our lives together is what life is all about.

I have used the word “share” many times throughout this column—and though I could have called on my thesaurus to find a few derivatives of the word I did not—as there is no greater word than share. We share our lives and we are richer; we share our food and drink and we are sustained; we share our laughter and we reach that ultimate goal: happiness.

This Christmas season I am counting my blessings. And the blessing that wins out over everything else is the people in my life. They help me keep what little is left of my sanity; they bring joy to my life; they are the magic of Christmas.

Am I getting sloppily sentimental? Perhaps. But is there a better time of year to realize that sloppy sentimentality? I think not. So put another log on the fire, even if you do not have a fireplace.

What is one of your Christmas blessings?

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 12:47 am  Comments (22)  
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You Are What You Eat

This week’s column is a longer rendition of my last post (with some changes)–so if you read it–skip on to half way through–

I am feeling a bit uneasy and cannibalistic discussing this but did you know that how you eat gingerbread boy tells a lot about you? There are so many ways we can self-analyze ourselves, but I found this one particularly entertaining and seasonally on target. How often do we get to analyze our holiday selves?

Apparently if you eat the head of your gingerbread boy first, says Dr. Alan Hirsch, you are a natural born leader. I always eat the head first. For some reason it just makes sense to me. As for the natural born leader stuff, well, maybe—because I am not a very good follower. Just ask any man with whom I have ever slow danced.

Dr. Hirsch is the neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. One would think he had better things to do than analyze how we eat our gingerbread—but apparently not. Personally I think he may have just made up this seasonal anecdote, but I am a bit sceptical by nature (except of course when it comes to Santa Claus whom I wholeheartedly believe in, but that is another column). If his analysis is true, then I wish that I ate the left arm of my gingerbread boy/girl first because that would mean that I am creative. So I may just start rethinking the way I eat my gingerbread.

I am going to stay away from the right arm altogether. Eating it first according to the good doctor means you are pessimistic. I do not need any more pessimism in my life, so if you see a trail of gingerbread right arms anywhere, you will know I have been there, and rejected the right arms for fear that their pessimism will rub off on me. Eating the legs is a whole different ball game though. If you prefer to start at the extremities, it means you are sensitive. I do not start with the legs, but my husband often says I have “delicate sensibilities” which translated means of course that I am a pain in the neck, so it is somewhat surprising that I do not eat the legs first given my propensities.

The article from which I gleaned these fascinating facts was written by an unknown editor in the December Food Network magazine. It was accompanied by a picture of a gingerbread boy with his mouth likened to the famous “Scream” painting, and there was a bite out of his head. A little unsettling to say the least—maybe I will forego eating any gingerbread boys this season.

Now, I am sure we could extend this type of self-analyzation a bit further. What does it mean if you love Christmas fruitcake? If you listen to all the negative chatter about the luscious cakes you might be tempted to buy into the negativity about them. But not me. I love fruitcake and though I am not sure what that may mean, I think that it can only be good. Perhaps I am a non-conformist. Perhaps I am nostalgic—because my mom always made fruitcake at Christmas. Or, and this could quite possibly the case—I am a bit of a fruitcake myself.

I have many favourite Christmas foods that could be dissected successfully for personality traits. Take turkey stuffing: ostensibly (yes, I used the thesaurus to find this word—having used apparently already a couple of times) you are a risk-taker if you stuff your turkey as (some) experts advise you to cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole to avoid any chance of food poisoning. A culinary note for you: once stuffing is cooked outside the turkey, it is no longer stuffing, but dressing—this is an important distinction among foodies.

My favourite holiday cookie is one that even I dare to make—it is so good that the trouble of actually making it from scratch is worth it. It is the raspberry thumbprint cookie. It too can be analyzed—and I am afraid that the jury would name me as a glutton as I have been known to shove the whole cookie in my mouth at once (I tend to make them on the smaller size so this can be done without danger of choking). Slovenly though my method may be, it is gastronomical nirvana.

I am not sure that how I eat my food really is a window into my soul, but I do know that I enjoy all the Christmas delights the holiday has to offer, and whether that makes me a leader or slovenly is up for debate.

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 10:29 am  Comments (18)  
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Christmas Conspiracy

Earl and Mooch

Earl and Mooch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blessed is the season which engages the whole word in a conspiracy of Love!” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

I found these words of Christmas holiday wisdom on the Daily Comics page in my local daily, The Windsor Star. It was in the comic strip “Mutts” by Patrick McDonnell, and the one frame strip had an illustration of a dog and cat hugging while perched on the back of a chair looking out onto the world through a window.

Winter Landscape Illustration

Winter Landscape Illustration (Photo credit: pavlinajane)

I wish all of you peace and harmony and love (to go along with the hustle and bustle of the season and the occasional argument and alcohol induced outburst).

Happy Christmas Eve Day.

A Christmas “Like”

Confession (film)

Confession (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel a confession coming on, and since it is Christmas I think that all my blog friends will forgive me. Sometimes I hit “like” just to say hi. I read your posts 90% of the time; okay 75% of the time, but sometimes when I am in a rush I just want to acknowledge you and your friendship—so I hit “like”. Sometimes I hit “like” when I have nothing to add; and on occasion I hit “like” to let you know that I was there and support you.

Please forgive me. I find myself wrapped up in a lot of “to-dos” which should be “already-dones” so my free time has been limited of late. I would not come by if I did not care—so for that 25% of the time that I do not give you my full attention—remember I am thinking of you anyway.

And as a side note–I owe a few of you some replies to your comments – I am on it.

Do you ever “like” just to say hi?

Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm  Comments (30)  
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The Sunday Before

Christmas Caroling Students

Christmas Caroling (Photo credit: Lower Columbia College)

The glow of Christmas

Shines bright as the day draws near

Sing Hallelujah!

Published in: on December 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm  Comments (7)  
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Joy to the Messiness of Christmas

christmas morning!

christmas morning! (Photo credit: Nikki McLeod)


“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.
Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney

 Christmas is meant to be messy—it is a combination of all those things that make it slightly chaotic, happily disordered, and a bit muddled. There are those who may succeed in putting order in the holiday season—with napkins folded in reindeer shapes, festive name plates creatively crowning every plate, and a gourmet dinner cooked flawlessly for shining happy faces around the dining room table. Impeccable manners are displayed and the conversation is articulate, with no hint of religion, politics, or money.

          Beautifully wrapped gifts are opened carefully, the paper whisked away before it hits the floor, and expressions of gratitude greet every well-chosen present. Tasteful Christmas sweaters are worn with flare, and well-mannered children sit quietly awaiting their turn to open the bounty provided by Santa.

          …………………..Okay, now for a little reality. What I have described above may have happened on the Christmas shows carefully orchestrated in days of yore, (think Bing Crosby Christmas specials) and Martha Stewart may still bring some order to the holidays (though we really don’t know—Christmas Day may be one of havoc, turmoil and mayhem at her house too) but as for me and mine—we start out carefully unwrapping our gifts, but it soon becomes a frenzy of paper torn off with abandon, and bows tossed aside to reveal the prize of the day. Later we are left scrambling to find instructions and batteries among the tissue paper and flotsam and jetsam of Christmas unwrapped.

          I strive to produce a gourmet meal (having watched one too many shows on the Food Network), but we are all satisfied with what is eventually the outcome of my labours—some years it is overcooked prime rib, others a butchered turkey (this year I am going to use an electric knife bestowed on me by a friend—so hopefully it will not look like I wrestled with the meat). Generally the meal tastes pretty good and it is always saved by dessert. Those who gather around my table are generally well-mannered, but voices do get raised in passion, and perhaps a wine glass gets knocked over (usually by me as I am a klutz). But I contend that it is the “mess” of Christmas that makes it festive; it is the confusion and jumble and tangle of the whole event that is what makes memories.

          Christmas is not meant to be perfect—after all it is celebrated by people, and who do you know that is perfect? I love the noise of happy kids—their exuberance and joy at a holiday they can barely believe is happening makes one rethink what is important. I always have the sugarplum of a perfect Christmas dancing in my head, stress out to make sure that everything is impeccable–then I come to the realization that the Christmas we celebrate this year will be just right—despite arguments, unwanted presents, and overcooked meat. Life has its peccadilloes and so does Christmas.

         

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thinking that Christmas will not suffer from some turmoil is unrealistic—remember even June and Ward Cleaver had to put up with Beaver’s antics and Eddie’s caustic charm. Christmas does not solve the world’s problems per se, but for a few moments it can put them on hold and we can bask in the glow of our Christmas trees, the warmth of our families, and enjoy all the special foods and drinks and presents that help make the season merry.

          My fervent wish for all of you is that you can take some time out this Christmas to enjoy what the season has to offer. I leave you with these wise words from W.J. Tucker (my addition is in brackets):

          “For centuries men (and women) have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.” ~ from Pulpit Preaching

          Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ~ may you find joy in this holiday season!

The Other Side of Greed

Money cash

Money  (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

WordPress Krista asked today: “What is your least favourite personal quality in others? Extra points for sharing your least favourite personal quality in yourself.”

 My least favourite quality in others is greed. It is also my least favourite quality in myself. I have trained myself to be generous, but I have to admit that though I love to give, I also love to receive.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who said that someone he knows and respects posted on Facebook that Christmas to her is no longer wanting things, but being grateful for things. I would like to join her league—but this friend and I have not been quite as fortunate in life moneywise as the person who posted on Facebook. We both laughed and he said—“Yeah, Peace on earth and goodwill to man, but I would be grateful for a new truck.”

People who make wide sweeping statements such as “I don’t want anything for Christmas”, or “I am just happy being grateful for all I have” forget that others are not as fortunate as they are. I sometimes think that my brush with poverty has made me more aware that not everyone has a silver spoon in their drawer (I do, but my silver was inherited). I am more compassionate now and more willing to give to Missions who feed the homeless, having come close to walking in the shoes of the less fortunate. I am lucky to have family and friends who helped me and my family through some rough times saving us from a dire situation. Not all people are so lucky. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Have you ever had something unfortunate happen that taught you some lessons?

Published in: on December 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm  Comments (8)  
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What Is Your Reason for the Season?

christmas 2007

(Photo credit: paparutzi)

 My weekly newspaper column:

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

 It is hot (as in 40 degrees C) in Australia right now, which could explain why a blog friend of mine has decided to discard Christmas for the time being. But her real reasons are far beyond the discomfort of the heat.  Her husband is in a nursing home with advanced Parkinson’s; her teenage son has back surgery on Tuesday; the same son was in an awful accident not too long ago which put several of his younger cousins in the hospital — he has been charged and must go to court and may face jail—all because he was trying to give them a bit of fun; her stove has stopped working so there is nowhere to cook the turkey; and she just cannot face the added pressure of shopping and decorating and cooking for Christmas. When she broached the subject with her son, he agreed—in light of all that was going on in their lives, Christmas was not a bright light, but a responsibility which overshadowed their joy.

         

English: First Omagh Presbyterian Church - Mid...

Presbyterian Church –  Taken at noon on Christmas Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   They did make one concession though. They are going to go to church on Christmas. My first reaction when I read of their decision to forego the splash that is Christmas was one of pity, and I could not help but think about what they would miss out on. But are they really missing out? They have made a decision to celebrate what they truly believe Christmas is about—the spirituality, and erase all the extras, except for a visit from the son’s grandma which was his one concession to the season.

            I love the hurly burliness of the Christmas season and even when I have had to face the loss of some of those closest to me at the “happiest” time of the year, I have been able to celebrate, though a bit more sombrely and with a little less sparkle.  I find the Christmas season cheers me up—there is something in the air and it seems merrily contagious.  For the most part people are kinder, they smile more, and they greet friends and family and even strangers a bit more heartily. The lights on our trees and houses and decorations bring a brightness to an otherwise dark time of year.

            I love all the things Christmas—but I understand when the pressure to create a perfect holiday makes it less than merry and bright. Some people find blessings in the spirituality of the season and like my Australian friend this year discard what they think of as the commercialization and crassness of Christmas. I embrace the spirituality of the season, but the others parts of Christmas are close to my heart too. Yes, Christmas has been commercialized, but we can make our choice as to the extent we want that aspect to enter into our celebrations.

          

Cover of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole...

Cover via Amazon

  I think Dr. Seuss had something when he had the Grinch (of How the Grinch Stole Christmas fame) reflect on what Christmas was all about. This excerpt from the book (and movie of the same name) says it all: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

            Humourist Dave Barry puts a little different perspective on the whole question of Christmas, and though skewed for laughs, he covers several bases:“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall’!”

            Only you can answer the question of the meaning of Christmas and only you can decide how to celebrate it.  I am kind of partial to how President Calvin Coolidge defined it on Christmas Day, 1927 in his Presidential address: “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

What does Christmas mean to you?

Christmas spirit is………….

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” ~ Edna Ferber

Christmas is a feeling—one so strong you can reach out and touch it, savour it, respond to it. When we talk about Christmas spirit, I imagine a diaphanous spectre with gossamer wings, but in truth:

Detail of original engraving "The Hours&q...

 gossamer wings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spirit of Christmas

Cloaks our soul in warmth and love

Safely swaddling us ~

What do you think Christmas spirit is?

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