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Monday, December 24, 2012

O Holy Night, indeed!

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
 
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
 
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim
!
 
Let us never forget the reason for the season.
Merry Christmas!!
 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Stories: The Christmas Candle

It's the Christmas season and time to enjoy another Christmas novella crafted by Mary Connealy. Featured in the 2 for 1 novella collection, Candlelight Christmas, along with Linda Goodnight, The Christmas Candle is a story of grief and healing perfect for this holiday season. In The Christmas Candle, we meet Rose Palmer who buries her life in her work, growing herbs for the perfect scented candle. Though she seems dedicated, there's an underlying fear of change that makes her dedication equate with isolation. And that isolation is busted wide open when a pair of boys tumble into her life.

No matter how much she protests, Rose's heart is warmed by the boys and their overprotective father. With the help of the Christmas Candle, the hurting hearts of those in need receive the most beautiful Christmas miracle of all.

As always, Mary Connealy pens a fast paced story filled with characters who don't realize they can't always do it all themselves. Unfortunately, asking for help is not even a thought, much less 'said and done.' In true Connealy style, The Christmas Candle thaws even the most frozen hearts and lets the warmth of faith and trust flow in. I loved this sweet novella and know you will, too.






Arkansas Ozarks 1883
Gabe Wagner, has left his hectic city life and moved onto Rose Palmer’s mountain. His plans to build a house will tear the heart out of her Ozark Mountain home. Rose learns that what she calls peace and quiet has evolved into isolation and loneliness. As Christmas approaches and she searches for the perfect way to honor the Savior’s birth, she realizes she wants to let Gabe into her life. But to do it, she may have to face a larger world that frightens her while she gives up the safe life she has always known.

Can the search for the perfect Christmas candle and the broken hearts of two little boys bring a solitary woman and a grieving man together?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Victorian Christmas Traditions - The Christmas Tree

A Christmas Tree

I have been looking at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brillantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and...sugar-plums; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels...there were teetotums, humming tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers...real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whisped to another pretty child, her bosom friend, "There was everything and more."

-Charles Dickens, Household Word






We have the Victorians to thank for so many of the celebrations and customs we enjoy at Christmas. They revived old traditions, such as caroling, and invented new ones such as sending Christmas cards.

The Victorians made church-going, gift-giving, and charity to the poor essential parts of the holiday. During this time Father Christmas and Santa Claus became symbols of holiday generosity. Through Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, German customs grew in popularity, especially the Christmas tree or Christbaum.


A photo of Queen Victoria near a decorated Christmas tree surrounded by her family sparked a tree-trimming inspiration in Victorian homes. The German custom of decorating Christmas trees atop tables gained a new perspective when Victorians selected taller trees from trimming on the floor in their homes. They adorned their evergreen treasures with flickering candles, fancy paper Santas, glistening angels, chocolate wreaths, gilded apples, silver cornucopias decorated with tinsel tassels, and dozens of other beautiful, often hand-made, ornaments.

Most of all, the Victorians made Christmas a family celebration-- the Christ Child and children its primary focus. A Victorian Christmas included the exchange of gifts between parents and children; attendance together at Church services; a multi-course family dinner; and visits with friends, relatives, and other families.

In my opinion, this is the perfect Christmas celebration. How about you?


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday Stories: A Light In The Window

 
Julie Lessman has done it again. No matter who publishes her work, you always know when the author cited is "Julie Lessman" you will NOT be disappointed. Her newest release, A Light In The Window is a Christmas love story destined to become a classic.

Julie offers her readers a warm, loving Christmas story--one that serves dual purposes:
  • Capturing the true essence of Christ's love for us when we completely surrender ourselves to Him;
  • and we finally have the love story that started the entire O'Connor clan phenomenon in the Daughters of Boston series, and continuing in the Winds of Change series.

In the finest of her signature "Gone With The Wind" style, Julie Lessman takes the common theme of two men after one girl and weaves so many twists and turns in the love story, your heart can't help but hurt and cheer for every one of her characters.

Lessman has that unique knack of infusing God's love into her characters. God's deep love. A love that passes all understanding. It brings joy, tears, passion and difficult choices into that sparkling light that makes us remember that God does NOTHING half way.

Squeeze in the time to read A Light In The Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story this Christmas season. You won't be disappointed.

Product Details
One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston's most notorious pursue her, she encounters a tug-of-war of the heart she isn’t expecting. Sam O’Rourke is the childhood hero she’s pined for, the brother of her best friend and a member of the large, boisterous family to which she longs to be a part. So when his best friend Patrick O’Connor joins in pursuit of her affections, the choice seems all too clear. Sam is from a family of faith and Patrick is not, two rogues whose wild ways clash head-on with Marcy’s—both in her faith and in her heart.

While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen—A Light in the Window—Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to both men, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the "light in the window," meaning the message of Christ in her heart. But when disaster strikes during the play, Marcy is destined to discover the truth of the play’s message first-hand when it becomes clear that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has truly responded to “the light in the window.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Victorian Christmas Traditions - Stir Up Sunday


Christmas in Victorian England would not be complete without the making of the Christmas Pudding. This became such an important part of the Christmas celebration, it earned a distinction of its own on the Church calendar.
 
The last Sunday of the Church year, the Sunday before Advent, is often called “Stir Up Sunday.”

Stir Up Sunday is the traditional day everyone takes a turn stirring the Christmas Pudding while making a wish. Before the convenience of picking up dessert at the local store, this treat was made at home a month before Christmas in order to let the flavors all blend.

On Stir Up Sunday, families would return from Church and give the Pudding a lucky stir. The Pudding was stirred from East to West in following the tradition of the journey the Wise Men took to see the baby Jesus. While stirring the pudding, each family member would make a wish.

 The name Stir Up Sunday comes from the opening words of the Collect for the day during the Church service. Taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and later), the Collect is the prayer that “collects” all the themes of the readings of the day into one prayer. After Communion, the traditional Collect for the Day on Stir Up Sunday in the Church of England:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 On the way home from church, the children can often be heard reciting the rhyme:
Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot;
And when we get home, we’ll eat the lot.
This is the translation of the Collect the children gleaned : )
The tradition of the Christmas Pudding includes (but not limited to):

·         A Christmas Pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients representing Jesus and the 12 Disciples

·         The pudding is always stirred from East to West to honor the Wise Men who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.

·         Every member of the family stirs the pudding and makes a wish.

·         A coin was added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was thought to bring wealth to the person who found it on their plate on Christmas Day. Other symbols added to the pudding included a ring to foretell a marriage, or a thimble of good luck.


Check back this weekend. I’m off to scout out a recipe for a fantastic Christmas Pudding!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Victorian Christmas Traditions - Christmas Cards


One of the first signs of Christmas was the arrival of the Christmas card in the post. In 1843 Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card for Christmas. The illustration showed a group of people around a dinner table and a Christmas message. Only 1000 cards were printed that first year and were expensive, but the pattern for the future was formed. At one shilling each, these were pricey for ordinary Victorians and so were not immediately accessible. However the sentiment caught on and many children - Queen Victoria's included – were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards.
In 1870, postage was reduced to one half penny per ounce and a cheaper color lithography was used for printing. Thus began the real spread of the Christmas card. By the 1880s the sending of cards had become hugely popular, creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone. By the early 1870s, the custom had reached the United States. At first, designs were simple, but as technology advanced, new subjects evolved. By the 1860s, popular designs were Christmas feasts, church bells, snowbound mail-coaches and turkey and plum puddings.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Victorian Christmas Traditions - History

The Christmas holiday is my favorite time of year. Though the days are usually long and hectic, at night our home becomes a haven of comfort against the crowds. Soft scented candles and twinkling lights decorate our living and family rooms and make the evenings cozy, especially when I find a sappy holiday movie on TV. For some reason, I’ve finished all my shopping early this year, so I even have time to bake at night, adding the sweet smell of toasted almond cookies to the holiday atmosphere.

This idyllic scene does not happen every year. I’m taking full advantage of the serenity.

I mentioned in earlier posts that I’m rewriting my historical romance novels and one of the major changes I’m making is the time period. Originally written for a Regency setting, I’ve since decided my characters are better suited for the Victorian period of British history. So many innovations came into play during the Victorian era, I felt my Gypsy characters hindered by the rigors of Regency mores. They now enjoy the modicum of freedom the 1850’s offer.

This includes the renewed celebrations of Christmas.

Although Christ's Nativity has been celebrated since the 4th century, many of the English customs we are familiar with today are only as recent as the mid-19th century. Many early ceremonies find their roots in pagan beliefs, and some customs, like wassailing, still survive. Carols such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Here We Come a Wassailing”-- dating back to sixteenth century England -- were sung as peasants went door to door during the Yuletide season. In the spirit of English tradition, wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats such as “figgy pudding” to the carolers on Christmas Eve.

There is also the Orchard-Visiting Wassailing. The western counties of England such as Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire are particularly known for their cider-producing orchards. In this region, wassailing refers to drinking and singing to the health of trees, encouraging them to thrive and produce fruitful harvests.

Customs changed radically when the Protestant Reformation hit the scene. Pagan customs were condemned as superstitious and public celebrations of Christmas were banned. The Puritans abolished all celebrations. Excitement and joy in the holiday declined even into the Georgian Era. It wasn't until Prince Albert married Queen Victoria and brought many German customs with him that Christmas began to gain popularity again.

During this holiday season I’d like to share my research of the reawakening of the beautiful customs of Christmas. We owe thanks to the Victorian Era for many innovations and discoverings, but I'm most thankful for the return of Christmas celebrations!