Sunday, December 23, 2018

#Festivus the #Nutcracker and The #Christmas Chronicles

Merry Christmas Eve Eve...and today is also Festivus. In case you haven't heard of Festivus, or if you're not a huge Seinfeld fan like me, here's a little bit about it...

"Happy Festivus" is the traditional greeting of Festivus, a holiday featured in the Season 9 episode of Seinfeld named "The Strike", which first aired on December 18, 1997. Since then, many people have been inspired by this zany, offbeat Seinfeld holiday and now celebrate Festivus as any other holiday.

According to the Seinfeld model, Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd. However many people celebrate it other times in December and even at other times throughout the year.

The slogan of Festivus is "A Festivus for the rest of us!" The usual holiday tradition of a tree is manifested in an unadorned aluminum pole, which is in direct contrast to normal holiday materialism. Those attending Festivus may also participate in the "Airing of Grievances" which is an opportunity to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year, followed by a Festivus dinner, and then completed by the "Feats of Strength" where the head of the household must be pinned. All of these traditions are based upon the events in the Seinfeld episode, Strangely enough, our Festivus traditions also have roots that pre-date Seinfeld, as it began in the household of Dan O'Keefe, a television writer who is credited for writing the Seinfeld episodeRead more here:


We were once again able to go see Nashville Ballet's Nutcracker thanks to my sons' music school. They get an allotment of tickets every year from the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) for families with kids who attend the school. It's such a wonderful performance. The Nutcracker has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories. It never gets old. The music is so wonderful and I love the magical story. This is a picture of me and my son, Reece after the show.


If you haven't already heard about the Netflix original movie, The Christmas Chronicles, I would be surprised. Seems like it has been one of the most buzzed about holiday movies this season. Reece and I finally watched it last night and it was wonderful. It's a family affair with Kurt Russell as Santa, Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus (a brief appearance) and Oliver Hudson, Goldie's son and Russell's stepson (also a brief appearance). The story has a sad element, but its themes are keeping the Christmas spirit and believing in yourself. Plus, it's funny and very entertaining. It's sure to be another movie people will be watching at Christmas for years to come. I know we will. Oh, and I forgot to mention the adorable elves. Judge for yourself...

Always in spirit...

Friday, December 21, 2018

#WinterSolstice and #Yule and honoring Scrooge on #HumbugDay

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere.

Date: December 21, 2018
Celebrations: Festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing, fires
Significance: Astronomically marks the beginning of shortening nights and lengthening days
Also called: Midwinter, Yule, the Longest Night, Jól
Observed by: Various cultures

Pagan origins

The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day "midwinter" (winter solstice) holiday called Yule (also called Jul, Julblot, jólablót, midvinterblot, julofferfest). Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendents of Yule customs. Scandinavians still call Christmas "Jul". In English, the word "Yule" is often used in combination with the season "yuletide" a usage first recorded in 900. It is believed that the celebration of this day was a worship of these peculiar days, interpreted as the reawakening of nature. The Yule (Jul) particular god was Jólner, which is one of Odin's many names.

The concept of Yule occurs in a tribute poem to Harold Hårfager from about AD 900, where someone said "drinking Yule". Julblot is the most solemn sacrifice feast. At the Yule blót, sacrifices were given to the gods to earn blessing on the forthcoming germinating crops. The Yule blót was eventually integrated into the Christian Christmas. As a remainder from this Viking era, the Midsummer is still important in Scandinavia, and hence vividly celebrated. 

(Source: Wikipedia)


At Yule is where it starts,
the wreath, the wassailing,
the ritual, the search for Sunna.

At Yule is where it starts,
the Wild Hunt, the binding,
the wandering, the feeding of Sleipnir,
the spirits who wander about to greet us.

At Yule is where it ends,
the nights of 12, the unfolding of our Wyrd,
the all night vigil, the pledge to Ingvi,
the burial of the boar´s head.

For Yule is both the ending and the beginning.
The Darkness and the Light.
It is where our Troth is most sacred
and where the ties to the Elder Kin are most binding.

© 2006 Sharon Ann Hess

An excerpt from A Christmas Carol, illustrating Ebenezer Scrooge's complete transformation from Bah Humbug to Christmas reveler...

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, everyone!

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Always in spirit...

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It's #GingerbreadHouseDay and #NationalPoinsettiaDay #Christmas

Gingerbread House Day

Earlier in the fall, I was seriously considering trying out making a gingerbread house this year. Well, we're closer to Christmas and I'm now thinking probably not. Maybe next year. Looks like just Gingerbread men and cats this year. lol (Sprinkled through this post will be some gingerbread houses I found particularly enchanting.)

I did find this awesome book with step by step instructions, tips, etc. I checked it out at the library so I'll either check it out next year or I'll pick up a copy since this is something I will do at some point, perhaps next year.

Christa Currie

I've been watching the Holiday Gingerbread Showdown on Food Network and I'm loving the creations some of the contestants have created. I believe the finale is this Sunday. 

How about some of the history behind gingerbread houses?

Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.

Recently the record for world’s largest gingerbread house was broken. The previous record was set by the Mall of America in 2006. The new winning gingerbread house, spanning nearly 40,000 cubic feet, was erected at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas. The house required a building permit and was built much like a traditional house. 4,000 gingerbread bricks were used during its construction. To put that in perspective, a recipe for a house this size would include 1,800 pounds of butter and 1,080 ounces of ground ginger. Sounds more like a gingerbread resort! (Source: The History of Gingerbread)

National Poinsettia Day

I love poinsettias, but guess what? I can't have them sitting around because I have cats and they are poisonous to cats. I could do fake ones, but they're just not as pretty. Pout. I really love the variations of colors and they just have a calming effect when I see them.

Anyway, let's look at the history of the poinsettia and its connection to Christmas. (I will also sprinkle pretty poinsettia images for your enjoyment.)

The story of the poinsettia is one that spans hundreds of years and contains countless twists and turns as it wound its way into our holiday canon. Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like it’s Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.


For us to begin, we have to go all the way back to 14th century where the plant had a long history of medicinal use in pre-Hispanic Mexico. It was said that its milky white sap, called latex, could be used to reduce fever symptoms. The plant was so highly prized in Aztec culture that “Cuetlaxochitl,” as the plant was known, was also used to create red and purple dyes for clothing and textiles. It is said that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec emperors, was so captivated by the plant that he would have caravans of poinsettias shipped to the capital city of Teotihuacan because the plants could not grow at the high altitude.

However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that Cuetlaxochitl, now an established decorative plant in Mexican tradition, began its journey into Christmas traditions.

The journey began in the small town of Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico where Franciscan monks began using the shrub in their Nativity processions. Coincidentally, it is also around this time that the Mexican legend of Pepita and the ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’ began, forever tying the red and green shrub to Christmas folklore.

Pepita and the Poinsettia

As legend has it, a young girl named Pepita was traveling to her village to visit the Nativity scene at the chapel. Pepita did not have enough money to buy a present to give the baby Jesus at the services, however, and so she gathered a bundle of roadside weeds and formed a bouquet.

She was upset that she didn’t have more to offer, but she was reminded by her cousin that “even the most humble gift, given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” Upon entering the chapel and presenting her bouquet to the Nativity Jesus, the bouquet of roadside weeds miraculously turned into a bouquet of beautiful red flowers that the locals knew as Cuetlaxochitl.

Joel Roberts Poinsett

During this time, the poinsettia’s association with Christmas was almost entirely confined to small Mexican towns and their local folklore. It remained in relative obscurity for almost two hundred years before a man by the name of Joel Roberts Poinsett would introduce it to the United States and forever change the way we decorate for the holidays.

Joel Roberts Poinsett was a man of many talents. He was not only the first person to introduce the poinsettia to the United States, but he was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and was also a skilled and passionate botanist who co-founded the institution that we now call the Smithsonian Institute.

During one of his diplomatic trips to Mexico in the winter of 1828 on behalf of President John Quincy Adams, he visited the Taxco area where he wandered the beautiful countryside and became enchanted by the brilliant red leaves of an unfamiliar plant. Poinsett had kept a greenhouse on his property in South Carolina and began shipping the blooms back to his home where he studied and carefully cultivated the plants.

It wasn’t long before he began sharing the plants among his friends and colleagues around Christmas time when the upper leaves of the shrub would turn red. The reputation of the enchanting Christmas plants spread and soon a Pennsylvania nurseryman by the name of Robert Buist began to cultivate poinsettias. Buist would be the first to sell the plant to the public under its botanical name of Euphorbia Pulcherrima, and played a large role in helping to establish the plants Christmas reputation.

It wasn’t until about 1836 that the plant formally attained its popular name of ‘Poinsettia’ after the man who first brought the plant to the United States and ignited a holiday tradition that continues to this day.

A National Phenomenon

In the early 1900’s the poinsettia began to gain in popularity on a wide scale, when Paul Ecke Sr. developed the first poinsettia plants that could be grown indoors in grow pots. He began selling them at roadside stands in Hollywood, California, and in 1923 founded the Ecke Ranch that today provides the nearly 80 percent of the plants that are bought and sold in the country.

Today ,the poinsettia is the most popular plant sold during the holidays and the best-selling potted plant in the United States. Within a six-week period leading up to Christmas there are over 70 million poinsettias sold and nearly $250 million in poinsettia sales accounted for.

In July of 2002, the United States Congress created National Poinsettia Day on December 12th to honor the late Joel Roberts Poinsett who played a crucial role in making the poinsettia into the Holiday fixture that it is today. (Source: The Long, Strange Tale of the Poinsettia in Christmas Lore)

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Always in spirit...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A special #Christmas Around the World for #StNicholasDay

Today is St. Nicholas Day so I thought I would share some of the traditions celebrated on the day around the world.

In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland, der Heilige Nikolaus (or Pelznickel) brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25. Nowadays, St. Nicholas Day (der Nikolaustag) on Dec. 6 is a preliminary round for Christmas.

Nikolaustag – 6. Dezember
On the night of December 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly or nor so mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), he usually only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany). As early as 1555, St. Nicholas brought gifts on Dec. 6, the only “Christmas” gift-giving time during the Middle Ages, and his companion, Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus, was a more ominous figure. In Alpine Europe Krampus is still a scary, devil-like figure. The Krampuslauf custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community.

Nikolaus and his escorts don’t always make a personal appearance. In some places today, children still leave their shoes by the window or the door on the night of Dec. 5. They awaken the next day (Dec. 6) to discover small gifts and goodies stuffed into the shoes, left by St. Nicholas. This is similar to the American Santa Claus custom, although the dates are different. Also similar to American custom, the children may leave a wish list for Nikolaus to pass on to the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) or the Christkind for Christmas.


St. Nicholas´ Day is popular especially with children who are given presents of sweets and various small toys. According to this tradition they clean their shoes, put them on the window sill in the evening and the next morning they find a lovely surprise in them.

The customs associated to St. Nicholas´ Day (6th December) gradually developed into the form known nowadays.

One of the customs of an ancient origin was marching of the three men in masks. The first of them represented a goat led by the second man wrapped in straw. The third man had an effigy of a woman dressed in trousers with boots hanging from them tied on his back. When the man turned round the effigy was kicking the passers-by with its boots.

Another custom became frequent later. St. Nicholas with an angel and a devil went round the houses giving out presents or the “devils reward”.


In many Polish households, the morning of December 6th, in Polish referred to as Mikołajki, is a blissful moment. This is when children find small gifts under their pillows, in their slippers or (nowadays more and more often) in a stocking carefully hang out for that purpose the evening before. The gifts are usually tiny – small toys or sweets are the most popular option, since bigger presents are still yet to be given on Christmas eve, by the very same person – Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or Santa Claus. So why does he visit Polish kids twice a year?

In the past it was on the Saint Nicholas feast when the little ones received gifts, and Poles generally did not hand out presents on Christmas Eve. With time, when the Western customs of giving major gifts around Christmas started to reach Poland, it became natural that Mikołajki is just a prelude to bigger celebrations starting on December 24th. In some parts of Poland it is easier to distinguish these two gift-giving occasions, as Saint Nicholas is so tired after his special day, that he is replaced by Angel or Snowflake around Christmas Day. Nonetheless, in general most Polish children get to meet him twice a year.

Source: Careers in Poland


In countries such as Holland, you will be able to find special St Nicholas Day boots to mark the occasion. They will then hope to wake to find them filled with small presents on the day.

Apples and coins are traditionally given to children on this day too and families will celebrate with a large meal on the day itself or on the eve. 

In some families, the father will dress up as Saint Nicholas on the eve before the special day.


Saint Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas, and there are a series of yearly parades across major towns and cities. 

During these parades, someone dresses up as Sinterklaas on a horse, boat, carriage, or even helicopter. 

Sinterklaas travels to hospitals, schools, and from home to home, leaving small gifts for well-behaved children.


Unmarried women who have not found their perfect match also receive gifts. 

They will partake in a special mass called Rito delle nubili. This is a ritual where they turn a column seven times, which is said to bring them good luck in finding a spouse. 

This comes from the story where Saint Nicholas dropped a bag from the chimney into a stocking for a poor man who was unable to afford dowries for his three daughters. This ensured they could get married.

Source: Metro


On the night of December 5th to the 6th, Saint Nicolas goes to houses to bring candy to good children (dried fruits, mandarin oranges, cakes, candies, chocolates and especially a large gingerbread cookie representing the Holy Bishop). In some households inspired by this tradition, he even replaces Santa Claus and brings the Christmas gifts.

He wears a long white beard, a miter and a crosier and a long coat, often purple (sometimes blue or red). He is accompanied by Father Flog: he is the opposite from Saint Nick. He is scary looking and distributes flogs to flog naughty children.

Source: French Today

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Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Share your traditions in the comments.

Always in spirit...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas reading plans and #NationalCookieDay

Here it is a few days into December and I haven't even spread any cheer yet! Well, better late than never, right?

I did not get much Christmas reading in during the Christmas Spirit Readathon, but lucky for me, we still have the reading challenge going on. I have a nice stack of books lined up. Not sure if I'll get to them all (probably not), but at least I have a variety to choose from. I'm currently reading The Nutcracker and The Mistletoe Promise.

This Christmas Treasury came in my latest book order so I'm adding it to the list.

Today is National Cookie Day! In honor of the day, I'm sharing this Egg Nog Cookies recipe. I'll definitely be trying these out this year.


  • 1 c. softened butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. eggnog
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 3 and 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • Frosting:
  • 1 and 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 c. eggnog (to spreading consistency
  • 1 tsp. light Karo Syrup
  1. Mix together butter and sugar.
  2. Add in eggnog and egg.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Chill for at least one hour.
  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls (I rolled mine for a second) onto greased baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  7. When you pull them out out the oven, push tops with the bottom of a greased flat bottom glass to flatten a bit.
  8. Cool on drying rack.
  9. Frost with eggnog frosting and sprinkle with nutmeg (the karo syrup makes the frosting harden a bit when dry)
Image and recipe credit: Coupon Cravings

This week also has Cookie Cutter Week and Cookie Exchange Week going on. 

Here are some interesting cookie cutters I found around the web. 

For us bookish people, I adore this one (I'm thinking of getting it this year and making Christmas book stack cookies!). Book Stack Cookie Cutter

How about these Fred ABC (Already Been Chewed) Cookie Cutters. I just love these!

I love this set of three different types of Christmas trees cookie cutters. The bent over tree is adorable!

You may not have time to host a cookie exchange during this week, but you can do one any time during the holiday season. Tessa at Handle the Heat has some awesome ideas for hosting one...and free printables to boot. How to Host a Cookie Exchange.

Always in spirit...