Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New look at New Year's.

My least favorite holiday approaches, New Years. I can see marking the end of a calendar year and the beginning of the next. I just could never understand the staying up all night kissing at midnight tradition. As I got older I looked at other cultures traditions for new years and found ours sort of lacking. They had special food, special clothes, parades, give gifts etc. we just get drunk and smooch. So this year I decided to look into our New Year traditions and I am liking this Holiday much better for it.

It probably won’t surprise you most of the traditions in America came from Great Brittan. Auld Lang syne a Scottish song, whose words totally escaped me so I Googled them and here they are. A right catchy tune… something Beowulf would have sung.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

Another really old tradition is the New Year’s resolution. I guess that came from Babylon. The most common resolution for them was to return all borrowed farm equipment. Yep, got to get that ox back to old Zeb, it’s eating me out of house and home!

What I can gather from this song and other information I could find, new years is a starting over time. It’s hoping for better luck, for yourself and your loved ones in the coming year. Whatever you eat, whatever actions you take, such as making loud noise at midnight to chase bad luck from your door, and the people you are with on the first day of the New Year will determine your luck, and theirs, for the rest of the year. So People started gathering with friends and family and staying up to mid night, to be together in the very first minutes of the New Year.

Do not to eat chicken, as a chicken scratches in the dirt and you don’t want to have to be scratching for your food all year. Chickens also scratch backward so that is bad too. Don’t eat beef as cows stand still. Pork is ok as a pig roots forward. Lintels are considered lucky as they are shaped like coins. Donuts too are lucky.

So this year I’ll open the door at midnight and bang two pots together, like my mom always did, now I know why. I will eat donuts for breakfast New Years morning, watch the Rose parade and make Lentil and soup for lunch. Somewhere in there I will have a couple of beers and maybe some Bailey’s Irish cream in my coffee.

I lift my martini glass of lintels to you, and leave you with this Irish Blessing for the coming New Year.

Walls for the wind, and roof for the rain, and drinks by the fire.

Laughter to cheer you, and those you love near you, and all that your heart may desire.

I have included a site below that has some more interesting new year’s traditions.

December is birthday month for my girls. Kathy turned 18 and Brenda 21. I am proud of my two girls and the young women they are becoming. Happy birthday to you both, Love Mom

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to the advent calendar as much as I enjoyed creating it. The theme throughout is an old theme, it isn’t the things you get or give that make you happy. It is the family and friends you share life with that make the season. It is how you choose to look at life. The small things matter, remember others, accept what is given to you, be thankful, and keep moving forward, even if it is out into the fog.

So Happy Christmas to all and to all a good life!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I grew up attending The United Methodist Church two blocks down from our house. The church was a small clapboard building on Main Street, with a tiny and aging congregation. On Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM, it was a sold out house. Ushers at the door distributed candles outfitted with round cardboard wax catchers, we entered the church the only light coming from the big pillar candles in the windows, and settled into the pews. Reverend Magee appeared at the lectern to signal the start of the service. As the congregations sang, “Angles we have heard on High” , four angels in white gowns with gold garland halos bobby pined to their heads, glowing candles in hand, led the choir from the back of the church up the center aisle and into the alter area. The angles lit the candles in four candelabras at the front of the church. At the conclusion of the song, Reverend Magee at the lectern and his wife , stationed at the back of the church with a flash light, began reading from the book of Luke , “In those days a decree went out…” the reading alternated from the front of the church to the back of the church telling the Christmas story . At the conclusion of the story everyone sang “Joy to the World” as the angles come down from the alter, passing the flame from their candles to the congregation until every candle was lit and the little church glowed. In closing, Reverend Magee ask the people gathered to take this light that came to world on this day, out into the world and into their home and into their hearts. The congregation silently filed down the aisle and out the doors in to the quiet dark streets, their shoulders hunched, hands cupped around the vulnerable frame.

In years since, I have attended many Christmas Eve services. Some with huge pipe organs, some with quartets of French horn, mandolin, oboe and guitar, some with huge choirs and liturgical dancers, all with beautiful decorations and lights. None of them touched me like that simple service and sight of the people, lit candles in hand, coming out the door of that little white church, making their way into the night.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giving and receiving, The yin and the yang of The Season

Christmas 1992 in Richland Washington was a doozy for me. After Thanksgiving, Mike went to his new Job in Houston Texas at the University of Houston. Our second Daughter was due December 24th, the plan was for me to stay behind and sell the house, have the baby. Then Brenda, our 3 year old daughter, the baby and I would join him in Houston.

The first snow fell in November that year. Nothing really unusual for that time of year in that part of the Washington, except it stayed. And then a whole bunch more fell. The most snow they had seen in 25 years. Figures.

Brenda and I puttered around; we brought home a little Christmas tree and decorated it. I shoveled the sidewalks. My mom called and nearly fainted when I told her about the snow removal I had done. That must have bothered the neighbors to. Faye, Ken, and Bruce got together and decided to rotate shoveling my walk. It took me awhile to figure it out. The guys got out there early and had it done in the morning before I opened the blinds. I could hear them but always thought they were clearing their walks. I don’t know why I never wondered why my walk was clear if they were shoveling there walks. We had a light dusting of a snow fall one afternoon, so Faye, who was in her 80’s, thought she would give their work a touch up. When I saw my elderly neighbor lady shoveling my walk, I was out the front door like a shot. That is when I learned of their plan to keep my walk clear. I got a stern talking to about accepting people’s gifts and she was just fine and fit enough to shovel this walk thank you very much. I went back in the house.

That was a good lesson Faye taught me that day. We always hear it is better to give than receive. Part of the joy of giving a gift is the happy acceptance of that gift. To graciously accept a gift is a gift in return.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A different kind of Sleigh Ride!!!

Christmas 1982. All of my brothers and sister were home, Mike was back in Oregon visiting during Iowa States winter break, and Craig’s girlfriend, Julie, was over. Being young and restless we decided we need an adventure. It was decided we would drive up in to the hills to the snow. So the six of us pilled in a jeep Wagoner, and took off at around 4:30 or so in the evening…just going to be gone a little while we told mom and dad.
We cruised along up into the hills trying to find “good” snow, snowman building kind of snow. It was getting dark so we decided we needed to head back home. Then the headlights went out and a few seconds later the engine died. Great.
We decided to try to do a rolling start. To do that we needed to get out and push the Wagoner up the hill. When we got it to the brink of the hill my brother Craig set the parking brake and we all jumped in. Craig released the parking brake and away we went…nothing, the engine wouldn’t start. We coasted down the hill and part way up the next. We all decided we should just keep pushing up hill and ridding downhill, that way covering some distance before we pooped out. By now it was dark and Craig needed to see. He and my brother Todd found a flashlight and decided Todd would hold the flash light out the front passenger side window and shine its beam on the road so Craig could see. So my sister Emily, me, Mike, Todd and Julie got behind the jeep and pushed, Craig pushed and steered at the driver’s side door until , again we reached the brink of the hill. Down we went again only this time, Todd was hanging out the front passenger side window with the flashlight…one candle power, but better than nothing I guess. Todd had to duck a couple of times as tree branches threatened to smack him in the face. I think we repeated this maneuver two more times, until we came to a hill that was just too steep for us. So we set the brake, locked the doors and started walking.
As we walked along a coyote yipped in the distance. Someone sharply drew in their breath, someone else said, yips, so my brother Craig started telling stories. He pretended he was a news anchor interviewing the survivors of a great ordeal. “Yes we only had one soda cracker between the six of us; we peed on each other for warmth.” We thought this was hysterical, everyone added their “facts” to our fantastic survival story. Soon the story ran its course and we walked along in silence. One of us noticed how the trees made a dark silhouette against the sky. The stars were very bright that night and Mike pointed out the different constellations. At the top of a hill there was a break in the tress we could see the hills before us, folding in on themselves, stretching into the night.
After some time we came to a house all lit up with Christmas lights. We decided a mob of us appearing on their doorstep, might be unsettling to the home owner. So we stood under the yard light as Mike and Craig went up to the front door to ask if we could use the phone. Craig turned back to us and yelled to come on. The kitchen was warm after being out in the cold. As we waited for my dad to come pick us up the lady of the house, concerned that we were too cold, made us all Hot chocolate. We held the warm mugs in our hands, steam rising up in our faces. It was the best hot chocolate I ever had.
Following is my Granny’s hot chocolate mix. Put it in canning jars and attach directions…makes great gifts.
Hot chocolate Mix (yields 15 cups of 45 servings)
10 cups dry milk powder
4 ¾ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¾ cup powdered non dairy creamer.
Mix all ingredients. Store in an air tight container.
For serving, 1/3 cup mix in a mug add ¾ cup boiling water