(This week's Fun Monday assignment is all about what we love around the holidays. Our hostess, the woman in charge over at Mamalang's , asks us to share a picture of our favorite Christmas "thing" and our three favorite Christmas carols.)
I watched the Rick Steves' European Christmas special on PBS last night as I do each year because it reminds me of what Christmas done right is all about. Starting in London's Trafalgar Square and traveling on to the Swiss Alps with many stops in between, Steves provides an insiders look at how people of many countries celebrate the winter holidays. Regardless of the country, the essentials of Christmas--family, friends, community, customs, traditional decorating for the home, food, music, and faith--could be found.
Many years ago I really loved the holiday season. Starting in early November, I began cleaning the house from top to bottom; nursing live plants like paperwhites, amaryllis, and poinsettias into bloom at just the right time; gathering the live greenery, berries, and ribbon to make wreaths, swags, and arrangements for all through the house. I studded oranges with cloves and rolled them in cinnamon for hanging pomanders and even buffed great quantities of red delicious apples to a high sheen and piled them in pine bough lined baskets.
Finally the first week of December it was time to bring home the Christmas tree--which was my favorite thing about the holiday. The tree had to be a fraser fir from the mountains of North Carolina because no other tree branches would hold up under the weight and quantity of glass ornaments that I'd collected at tag sales, auctions, antique stores, and Christmas shops throughout the year.
If you look closely at the tree you can spot some of my most treasured ornaments. There's
the six huge striped and decaled balls that I found at an auction. There's all manner of Shiny Brite ornaments with their bold stripes and glittery sentiments like "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World". Shiny Brites were popular in the 1950s. I also had a great collection of fancy shaped reflectors that went around each colored light. When the tree lights came on it was magic. In addition to the balls, icicles, and pendants, my all time favorite tree decorations would have to be the German and Czech glass ornaments of every imaginable shape--houses, fruit, vegetables, animals, lamps, teapots, birds, clocks, Santas, and even the good luck pickle.
Underneath the tree, all the presents were wrapped in simple paper and tied with real ribbon. That is, except gifts for Zack the crazy border collie, whom you all have met on many occasions, and his brother Frank the chow mix with his white "taillight"! Their presents went in gift bags, which as you can see, was not nearly secure enough to last until Christmas.
After the Christmas tree, hearing the music of the season has to be way up there on my list. Mamalang asked that we share our three favorite Christmas carols. That would be really hard, so I'll share the three music collections that I've just bought for this season:
Celtic Christmas--is a Windham Hill Collection. A new collection is released every year. I love these recordings because they remind me of the music of my childhood in the Appalachian Mountains, like the English ballad "Barbara Allen".
A Midwinter Night's Dream--by Loreena McKennitt is a real event. McKennitt is also Celtic in feel. All her recordings are artistic journeys with the lyrics and instruments exploring a theme. Favorite carol on this one: "In the Bleak Midwinter."
Wintersong--by Sarah McLachlan has her arrangements of old standards like "Greensleeves" with heartbreaking harmonies. On this CD "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" carries a wish that we all have in this season.
So, there you have my favorite Christmas thing and the sounds that I'll be playing this holiday season as I try to do Christmas right. Now be sure to head over to Mamalang's and check out how other Fun Monday participants plan to celebrate the season.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.