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.
Greetings Folks! I am reporting here from piles of wrapping paper and dirty dishes. My heart is happy, as all of my children and grandchildren slept over Christmas Eve and Santa arrived sometime in the night. The morning is sunny and crisp and fresh with new insights, hopes, and dreams. And gratitude. Always gratitude.
For here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm (where I recover from the flu and a sprained back) I watch the chickens drinking deeply of their water, the large fluffy giant at the back door wondering if I will finish my breakfast cereal, and the cats sprawled about while the kittens play. My abode. I wonder which animals will be sent to our care this coming year.
2020 sounds awfully futuristic, doesn’t it? A dear friend of mine that I used to visit at a nursing home was born in 1892. It is all really a blink of an eye. I intend to notice more. Use my senses more. Lead from the heart. Proceed with love. Oh, I have a plethora of things that are going on a list of resolutions and vision boards, I’ve got molding to do! But I also am looking forward to a new year with my dearest friends. My beloved family. My animals. This land. And myself. ‘Tis a blessing to be here indeed.
Yule is not over! Our ancient tradition included 12 days from the 20th through the 31st. It was not until 567 AD that the Christian church decided it would become a part of Christianity and changed it to overlap their perceived Epiphany. Yule is all about the end of darkness through the birth of the light, the son of (the) God. It is about the sun returning. It is about banishing evil spirits and good luck for the coming year. For twelve days, the people would gather and tell stories, visit others, and celebrate the sun’s precious rays growing stronger. Is there someone you can visit in your community? Can you take a basket of food and crossword puzzles to an elder? Can you put bird seed out for the feathered ones?
As we think of ways to improve our own health and habits, let us also think of ways to be more of a light to those around us. Wishing you all health and happiness on this glorious morn, and I hope you had a lovely holiday with ones you hold dear.
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.
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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.
Opening the mailbox and pulling out a pretty envelope brings a childlike feeling of wonder to the season. I do love Christmas cards. In the era of social media, when we all know most of what is going on in each other’s life already, a card seems moot. Less and less folks send Christmas cards each year. It seems to be a dying art, much like letter writing, or visits in person. I enjoy seeing actual handwriting. Hand written notes that perhaps didn’t make it on social media. Not phony, bragging Christmas letters; just a nice old fashioned note from people we care about. A card is a hug sent through the mail.
Cards decorate walls for the holiday and next year the fronts can be torn off and used as gift tags on gifts.
The point is not necessarily to get a card in return, but to send, by means of a simple, lovely card, a silent memento that speaks of your care for the person. And that is something we need much more of in the world.
In the writing world, it is how we make more friends. If you would like to send me a card, I would be thrilled to send you one in return. And who knows, it may end up being a lifetime of letter writing and friendship.
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.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends. Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us. We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families. For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.
Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun! Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.
We have collected cute stockings for a long time. The children took some of their stockings to their own homes. We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her. Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve! (To my great delight!) I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.
This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home. I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones. Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store. They have them without the pictures on them. They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.
Incorporating things you love is easy. This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together. Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.
The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new. Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood. Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.
Yuletide décor is in the details. Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch! Put oil lamps in each room. Light plenty of candles. Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)
These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures. Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.
We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer. I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch. Always add pieces of yourself in the décor. A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.
Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk. Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors. Make handmade gifts this year. Spend time enjoying the season. And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.