There are four holidays celebrated during the month of December. They are all culturally important, and in the end, they represent the very same concepts, and give rise for celebration and unity.
Kwanzaa begins December 26th and is the newest holiday, created in 1966 to unite African Americans. Having a small amount of Sudan descent, I am intrigued by this holiday. Being fascinated by the world makes me interested in all celebrations. Kwanzaa focuses on seven principals, each being thought of each day as a candle is lit. Unity, Self Determination (self strength), Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics (supporting each other’s businesses), Purpose, Creativity, and Faith in each other. Candles, food, family, community, gift giving (generosity), and hope is the basis of Kwanzaa.
Beloved Christmas was created to overshadow the pagan holiday, Yule. Who doesn’t love the twinkly lights, the music, gift giving, family, candles, greenery, and the childlike wonder that comes with the season? It is my favorite time of year. Kindness, hope, and faith fill the moments of the season.
Hanukkah is a celebration of light and hope. When the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the eternal light within only had enough oil for one day. People were sent out to retrieve more oil. It took them eight days to get back, but the light had stayed lit. For this miracle, Hanukkah is referred to as the Festival of Lights. It is actually a minor holiday but was given more focus because of Christmas. Gift giving and lighting the menorah are a part of this holiday. Family and togetherness are the focus.
Yule is the original celebration- the Solstice- and is celebrated from December 21st until January 1st. The festival came about because the holly king (who looks a lot like Santa) is defeated by the Oak King, and the sun is born. In times of old, the cold and darkest time of the year was one of concern, and it looked like the sun stayed the same for twelve days. The Yule log was burned for twelve days in hopes of pleasing the sun god so that it would return. The oak king is also known as the green man, the face of crops, greenery, and life.
All of the celebrations this month have some very important aspects to them, and that is what we can focus on this time of year. There is no need to “try to get in the spirit”, the spirit is within you.
Blessed Yuletide cometh soon. The light returns in just two moons. This morn is cast a cheery rose across melting snowy pastures, as the dawn awakens the world here on my little homestead. And I am content before the fire with a cup of strong coffee and kittens playing nearby.
I oft write about things to come and things to do and things to change, but rarely sit in wonder of a lit Yule tree and think of all those that love me. I have so many that I overwhelmingly adore. My life is filled with great love, and in that, I need nothing more. And yet, I write to you from stunning views of mountains at dawn and the warmth of the fire in the wood stove warms me as my heart warms in the winter light.
My homemade presents are nearly complete and I so loved creating sweet things for all. I have one more row of a scarf to complete and then wrapping of all gifts will commence. Nat King Cole croons sweetly from the kitchen, and my mind turns to Santa, who will be coming to my house once more. How I love being a Grammie.
My wish for you, my friends, is peace. Peace of spirit and peace of mind. Of decisions that make the world better and your own life better too. Time spent with those that love you. And that you love too. I wish you gratitude and seed catalogs.
Well, I hate to toot my own horn, but I have some pretty darn good gift ideas for y’all! Whether you want to make something homemade, give the gift of a career or health change, or want something you can click and order, look no further. I have some great ideas for you!
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Don’t have cash to purchase much this year? Me neither! So most of the gifts I am giving are homemade. I would love to show you what I am making but my children might read my blog! But here are some ideas all the same: Click on the links to find instructions.
I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)
The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.
It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.
So, what can you make?
Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.
Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.
Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.
Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.
Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.
Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.
Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!
I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?
The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh. The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule. Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.
It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home. Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day. I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air. We keep the lights on the tree on often. Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm. I put a Christmas album on. My favorite is Andy Williams. The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.
The birds outside sing and dart about. The fat squirrel looks at me through the window. She is out of bird seed. Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife. A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time. The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky. Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live. I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.
Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors. Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding. Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here. Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house. Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family. A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.
What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends? From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule. May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.
Folks, this little festive cocktail is so delicious. Of course, you can leave out the spirits. What I like about the amaretto is that it isn’t as potent as whiskey or rum so it doesn’t go to my head! And the flavors of the amaretto meld marvelously with the fresh, frothy eggnog. Leave Santa a little of this with his cookies and he’ll be nice and warm flitting around the world.
In a blender combine well:
2 1/2 cups of fresh milk
3 farm fresh eggs
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pour 2 ounces of amaretto over ice in a high ball and add a 1/2 cup (or to taste) eggnog. Best enjoyed while listening to the Andy William’s Christmas album. (My all time favorite. Even named my son after him!) Cheers!
Opening the mailbox, I peek inside, hoping for the seasonal item that I adore, a holiday card. This time of year as we skip to the mailbox there are more than just bills and advertisements, there are notes and photos and messages of love and good tidings. Someone took a moment out of their busy day to scribble your address and send you a message of love for the season. That is indeed special.
Each year I give you my postal address. I invite you to send me a card and I shall do the same to you. Such a beautiful tradition, Christmas cards. Some of these cards have turned into pen pals that I have had and adored for years. It makes it fun to go to the mailbox all year round if a hand scribed letter should be delivered. If you would like to exchange letters, please include one!
A letter in someone’s stocking or sent via post simply stating all of the things you love and honor them for can bring an unexpected twist to someone’s day, or life. We do not hear enough the things that are positive. Consider in your gift giving taking the time to write someone a letter. It would surely mean more than any tchotchke that you could come across.
In the age of quick messages via media, a hand written letter, note, or Yuletide card is indeed fine. The carrier walked away with a large stack of mine. I hope to hear from you!
Ornaments are special. They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.
This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names. It helped seal the moment. We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.
A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young. Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree. Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs. Decades of tales whisper among branches.
The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas. Of our honeymoon cruise. It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school. Ornaments that were given as gifts. Quite a few from New Mexico. Next weekend we will pick up another. Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.
When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future. Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.
Decorating for the holidays is one of the great joys of the season. Transforming your home into an even more enchanting version of itself adds to the details of Yule.
#1 Adding faux fur rugs and blankets creates a warm, cozy feel.
Even if the children have moved out, or if you never had children, still hang the stockings. One for each kid, or one for each dog, it matters not. No nails or hearth? Hang them from the curtain rod!
#2 Decorate as if your home were filled with children. Your inner child will thank you.
Oh yes, this year we have a fence around the tree! You can get inexpensive, folding fencing at an agricultural store like Big R. It keeps puppies and toddlers out, but the kitten is still in the tree! This year we opted for a faux tree. It is decked with ornaments from our travels and beautiful creations our children made.
#3 Choose a tree. Faux trees are easier to put up, last many years, hold onto the ornaments better, are a little sturdier, and don’t die in a few weeks. But I don’t know if they ever decompose. Real trees are fun to pick out, make the home smell nice, create a woodsy feel, and can be used as firewood after the holidays. But we always get one with a crooked trunk, have to tie it to the wall and since I love putting up a tree right after Thanksgiving, it does look pretty shabby by Christmas.
#4 A wreath symbolizes unity and strength, family and wholeness. It is the universal symbol of welcome. Make sure you put one on the door!
#5 Greenery is one of the key ingredients to a festive home. This stuff costs five dollars at the hardware store. Once floofed and placed around it instantly becomes Victorian style decor. The front porch with the ristras and my old grandfather clock look festive with their draping of faux swags.
The bar is set up in festive glow ready for visitors and guests.
#6 Tuck photographs of Christmases past into mirrors around the house.
#7 Amaryllis bulbs tucked into potted plants burst forth with tropical Yule flair.
#8 Scatter twinkly lights and tea candles everywhere. Winter is ever lovelier with lights. If it’s going to be dark at 4:30 the indoors ought to be inviting!
#9 Have plenty of firewood on hand for chilly nights. I do adore the glorious smell of wood smoke.
#10 Make sure you get out and enjoy the holidays! Go see the Christmas lights around town, go to the zoo and see their light show, have dinner by a roaring fire. If you are in Pueblo make sure you see the Riverwalk, eat at The Place, see our darling zoo, and enjoy the beautiful weather. And pop by to say hello!