Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Carols

My favorite music at Christmas are the traditional carols and hymns that have been sung for hundreds of years . They impart a timeless joy and hope during this season of anticipation, and breathe a peace, solemnity, and cheer that transcends generations. Some carols speak of goodwill to others (such as Good King Wenceslas), but most are of Christ and his birth. Penned ages ago, in a time that knew great illiteracy, suffering, and loss, these songs impart the gospel and speak of hope and redemption in a simple way but it is their very simplicity makes them complex and enduring. And though we continue to hear them today, we often forget to listen to what the carols are saying to us. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to read the history and lyrics of songs that you may have heard a hundred times already this Christmas season, to reflect on their words, and then to listen once again and see if you haven't gained a new appreciation for them. :)

The 12th century Wexford Carol (lyrics here), performed beautifully by Alison Krauss and accompanied by YoYo Ma

Ding Dong! Merrily on High (lyrics here) and In the Bleak Midwinter (lyrics here), both performed by King's College Choir

French carol circa 1553, Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella (lyrics here); musical version by Fernando Ortega

Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is a 4th or 5th c. chant, whose present day text is based on the liturgy of Saint James. Unlike other carols, this one speaks not just of the Incarnation of Christ, but of his anticipated redemption and of his eternal reign. One of my favorite versions is performed simply but beautifully by Fernando Ortega.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 5: Favorite Holiday Movie/TV Show Special

Picking a favorite Christmas movie is much like picking a favorite Christmas book - it's just so hard to not like them all equally! The movies I enjoy watching every year vary from classics like Christmas in Connecticut, The Shop Around the Corner, and White Christmas to The Muppet Christmas Carol (am I the only one who thinks that Michael Cain is the best Scrooge ever, bar none?!), the Poirot Christmas episode (can't remember the exact title offhand), and The Chronicles of Narnia (even though it isn't exactly a Christmas movie, I think of it as such).

Day 4: Tips/Tricks to a Budget Friendly holiday season

I wish that I had some knowledge to impart about this subject but sadly, I don't have any beyond what I stated already on the Black Friday note. :) I know that I've found that sometimes driving all over town to get a deal is not worth the time ("time is money", or so they say!), especially if it's only $10 off of $30, or 15% off of $50, or what-have-you deals that show up around Christmas. For myself, I discovered that I actually save money by just buying what I need when I need it, or, if I don't need it immediately, waiting for it to go on sale. I also save money by staying out of stores who are having huge sales all the time because I'm usually tempted to spend money on things I don't necessarily need because it's "a good deal". I try not to get caught up in the "gotta get it now because it's going fast and it's soooo cheap" shopping frenzies because then I end up buying something I didn't plan for and I end up feeling that I have to give it to someone in order to justify the purchase. Silly, I know - but there you are. :)

Day 3: Most meaningful gift/best gift you've received

After 20+ years of gift receiving, it's so hard to remember which gifts were most meaningful. I've loved every gift I've ever received (okay, except some thoughtless gifts from parents who had obviously thrown whatever was handy into a gift bag for their child's teacher :) ). Gifts don't have to be expensive or a "hot item" to be appreciated - I know that I love the gifts that are thoughtful, handmade, relate to something I enjoy doing or are little luxuries that I don't often buy for myself. I think what makes Christmas gifts unique, special, or meaningful is not just the gift itself, but the intentions and thoughtfulness of the giver behind it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 2: Black Friday/General Shopping Tips & Tricks

I've tried deal-finding on Black Friday but never have much success. I think if you're planned and can map out the deals on BF, then it must be a great way to knock out your Christmas shopping at once and enjoy the season without feeling that you have to shop every day for someone. As for myself, I don't enjoy the feel of rushed, frenzied shopping - it feels so chaotic and cheerless. I love spending time looking for gifts that are meaningful and will please the person I'm giving it to. If I can save money, I do, but not if it ultimately is inconvenient or stressful trying to get a deal on it. I use sales if they're convenient, or just purchase at places where I can get a discount, such as Target (I save 5% with the debit card), Barnes and Noble (members get 10% off every day), or (students get a free year of Prime membership). This year my sister and I are making some of our gifts in an effort to have a more hands-on, meaningful Christmas.

Day 1: Christmas/Holiday traditions

I don't have my own family yet, so I'm not sure what traditions I will incorporate one day when I do. The traditions that I remember and still love are the ones that my family has created over the years. Looking at Christmas lights with my family - as we've gotten older, it's not only become more enjoyable, but often hilarious. Making shortbread from an old family recipe. Drinking peppermint mochas. Watching favorite Christmas movies. Listening to holiday music. Getting my yearly ornament (my mom gives ornaments every year to her children and grandchildren - she spends a lot of time finding ornaments that relate to something specific that we have enjoyed during the year, or is just something that we like (mine is usually espresso related). The Christmas Eve party at my grandmother's and then the midnight Christmas Eve candlelight service at my church - a beautiful and hushed way to welcome Christmas Day every year.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas

Some friends have been doing this on facebook for the past week and while I was a little skeptical at first about joining in, I finally gave in after deciding that it looked enjoyable and easy enough since you write only one a day. For 12 days you write your answers to the topic of the day. It's simple, fun, and a great way to share some special things one enjoys about Christmas. I have decided to also post them here, in addition to facebook, for anyone's enjoyment. :)

The 12 topics:

Day 1: Christmas/Holiday traditions

Day 2: Black Friday/General Shopping Tips & Tricks

Day 3: Most meaningful gift/best gift you've received

Day 4: Tips/Tricks to a Budget Friendly holiday season

Day 5: Favorite Holiday Movie/TV Show Special

Day 6: Gift ideas (what do YOU want? We all have family/friends reading our let them know!)

Day 7: Holiday Craft/DIY (If you don't make anything, what do you WISH you could make?)

Day 8: Least favorite thing about the Holidays

Day 9: Favorite Holiday recipe

Day 10: Favorite Christmas Songs/Caroles

Day 11: Favorite Cookie Recipe

Day 12: Oprah's Favorite Things: What item(s) would you want if you were in the audience? (have decided to skip this question on the blog - any suggestions for a replacement question? :) )