Archive for December, 2009

December 26, 2009

the perfect post-Christmas day

This day after Christmas is a perfect day for…
 
a little clean-up
post-Christmas
 
 
a little putting-away
post-Christmas
 
 
a little shopping
post-Christmas
 
 
a little bit of reading

post-Christmas
This is definitely one of my favorite (and best) gifts from 2009.
Thanks ever so much, Cerella!

 
 
and a whole lot of kickin’ back!
post-Christmas my favorite part about this photo? You guessed it: everything pictured was FREE.
 
 
Truly the perfect cap to a great Christmas season!
 
Now, if I can just get the smell of turkey out of my belongings…


Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
 
December 25, 2009

the Gift

The Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’
NativityThe time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Nativity
Three wise men came from the east, following a star which stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Nativity

A great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

Nativity


Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
December 21, 2009

the rituals

Aside from the family traditions of Christmas, I have a few rituals that are simply my own. Each of them came about at various times in my life, and each is highly personal and solely mine. As yet, I have not practiced these things with anyone else, although occasionally they do occur while in mixed company. But I intentionally make time to do these things solo, and that keeps them from being spoiled by any outside factors. These are my own personal traditions, all rooted in individual nostalgia.
 
The viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life

  It's a Wonderful Life

I was 20 years old before I ever saw this film. I had already developed a great love for Jimmy Stewart, having been introduced to him while watching Mr Smith Goes to Washington during a high school civics class, but I had never explored his filmography. This was the pre-DVD era, when cable service was still expensive and the Turner Classic Movies network did not yet exist. Finding films from the Golden Age of Hollywood just wasn’t a simple task. So I had to rely on network television. Luckily, broadcasters have always been big fans of showing It’s a Wonderful Life in repeated airings. I spent that holiday season working the graveyard shift at a youth shelter with only the television to keep me awake throughout the night. I remember my introduction to the film vividly, as I came to it almost halfway into the story and spent the remaining hour attempting to piece together just what was happening to George Bailey. I was riveted from the moment I began watching, and I was in tears by the end. Fortunately for me, the network reaired the film multiple times each night leading up to Christmas, and I watched it from the beginning each and every time. I probably saw Wonderful Life ten times in a single week, and it became an instant favorite. Because I first fell in love with the story while virtually alone, I enjoy watching it the same way today. It is such an emotional film to begin with, but it’s all-the-more poignant to me since it reminds me of a rare moment in my adolescence when life seemed good.
 
Reading a Christmas-themed book
The Father Christmas Letters by JRR TolkienFor the past few years I’ve enjoyed selecting a book centered around a Christmas topic. For me, this is a bit more difficult than it sounds because I’m not a fan of Hallmark stories or Lifetime romances. I don’t like The Christmas Shoes or anything by Richard Paul Evans, so I tend to find children’s books that are simply beautiful, or I reach back to the classics and read Dickens. I’ve enjoyed The Polar Express multiple times, as well as Eloise at Christmastime (a personal favorite), and last year I chose The Autobiography of Santa Claus on recommendation of a friend and was highly impressed. [Do make time for this fantastic historical first-person narrative of the history of Saint Nicholas. You won’t be disappointed!] But this year I finally pulled out my copy of The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve owned this slim book for seven years, purchasing it during my initial foray into Tolkien’s world, but never actually pulled it out at Christmas to read through. And now I can’t believe I’ve been missing so much! It is a sampling of the letters that Father Christmas wrote to the Tolkien children throughout their lives, complete with illustrations and tales of the North Polar Bear and the pesky Goblins that attacked Father’s home at the North Pole. Each and every year for 23 years, the children received a hand-written, artfully illustrated missive from Father Christmas, regaling them with the most incredible happenings during the year since the previous letter was received. The stories are fantastical, imaginative, awe-inspiring tales that thrill my heart and make me wish I had thought of the idea myself. And I’m enjoying these stories better than I have any other Christmas collection I’ve ever read. Including The Polar Express. But since my love of Tolkien is not shared by other family members (outside a passing interest in The Lord of the Rings films), The Father Christmas Letters are my own personal joy. And one I’m sure I’ll want to revisit year after year.
 
Gifting my niece and nephews with an ornament
Since the first of my family’s grandchildren were very young, I have taken to purchasing each a single ornament to add to their families’ collections. Though it does not mean as much to them at their still-young ages, I know that they will love pulling them out of their own holiday boxes when they have their own homes to decorate. I want each child to recall that the ornaments were gifts from me, their AJ, and I want them to realize that it was a lifelong commitment on my part. I know that my own collection of ornaments evokes strong sentiment and nostalgia each year, and I can recall the stories surrounding each piece. I want the same for my niece and nephews. And so each year I purchase something that documents their current interests or activities. Kiwi has received her fair share of beaded, blingy, feathered trinkets, all of which perfectly captured her girly-girl personality as a child. K2 has received a series of sports-related ornaments, as well as Star Wars and NASCAR themes. WS has a collection of country-style ornaments, including a metal reindeer, a rustic jingle bell, and a few related to football. And up until now, the Dyl Pickle, being the youngest, has received the most Christmasey items of the four, such as snowmen and nutcrackers. But now that he is developing specific interests, the fun is just getting started for me. This year’s ornament will be basketball-themed to represent Dyl’s first involvement in a team sport. What I hope is that the kids come to understand that this ritual means as much to me as it eventually will to them. Which is the spirit of Christmas that I always want to achieve.


Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
 

December 20, 2009

the shopping

You'd Better Not Pout - by Mary EngelbreitI have always loved the exchanging of gifts. A few years ago I discovered that “Gifts” is, in fact, my Love Language. It is how I show people affection, and it is how I tend to gauge someone’s affection toward me. As you can imagine, the latter brings with it much disappointment, as not everyone expresses love through the giving of tokens. But I do, and as I’ve come to understand this about myself, I have learned to put all of my expectations into the giving and try not to take the receiving so personally. It brings me great, unending joy to put together highly personal gifts for loved ones. I want them to know that I shopped with them in mind, searched for the exact right item that would be appreciated and (hopefully) loved by them, and that I tried my best to give them something that would fit their interests and their personalities. Of course, Christmas provides me the very best opportunities to express my love for each and every person in my life.
 
For many years I worked to make creative gifts by hand, but after a long stretch it became apparent that I had exhausted the possibilities for most of my family and friends. Gift-giving became a little more expensive when I was forced to purchase every gift, but the search for that just-right gift was no less enjoyable. And it still lent itself to creativity, if not artistic expression. A bonus to purchasing all of my gifts came in the realization that I would be able to actually shop during the Christmas season. When gifts are handmade, the work begins much earlier in the year. But with shopping I am able to find inspiration in my surroundings rather than create it on my own, and I slowly came to love the shopping process. I love being surrounded by the glitz and glitter and tinsel that fills stores for the six weeks (or more) of the holiday season. I love wandering among the aisles of ornaments and wrap supplies and trinkets and decorations, and I love hearing the Christmas tunes wafting through the ceilings. I am inspired by this atmosphere, and I can spend hours and hours just browsing and gathering ideas. I don’t spend much money — my family has always been less about the amount of presents than about the intention and the practicality — but I always look for the most perfect little thing to add to my original shopping list. Sometimes I find an extra ornament, or perhaps a fantastic little seasonal item that I must give to someone on my list. More often than not, I just gather ideas and take them home to implement in some creative way of my own. These are the ways that I can still make Christmas very personal to me and to the recipient of my creativity. And whether or not they really understand what I put into it, I am so happy with the experience that the actual opening of the gift becomes almost secondary. I’ve learned not to take any of it so personally anymore, although I do pay attention to the hits and misses so that next year I can be better informed and make the gift and the recipient more compatible.
 
I’m usually very good about having all the gifts pulled together in plenty of time, but in recent years I’ve struggled with one or two last-minute items. I’ve learned that my enthusiasm for finding the perfect gifts wanes considerably as the big day draws closer. I’m not a good shopper when people reach the stage of madness, and it’s during this last week before Christmas that people tend to be crazy. That takes all of the fun out of my experience, so I simply do my best to complete all of my tasks prior to Christmas week. This year, despite not making one thing by hand, I managed to make that happen. There’s still wrapping to do, but the main tasks are complete. And I find a great sense of accomplishment in that! By completing the largest task of the holiday season, I am now free to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. I can spend an evening wrapping. I can journal my memories. I can pull out Christmas photos and relive those days that are so fuzzy in my mind. These things bring just as much joy to me as the gift exchanges, and I want to really focus on them this year. For some reason, my past just seems very important to me right now. And I don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore those memories and compile some of them for next year’s Christmas season. I can’t think of anything better than pulling out a box of Christmas items and finding a journal of years past. The gifts will likely be pictured there, too, but what I remember the most is the laughter and the joy of sitting around a living room with my family and sharing what we’ve done for each other. These are the greatest gifts.


Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
 
“You’d Better Not Pout” was created by Mary Engelbreit