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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

As Thansgiving 2012 ends and the Advent season is a week away, I thought I’d reflect on what transpires in between. First up is Black Friday. While many get excited when this arrives – even plan routes, stores, and means of “attack” – I have only braved the early (early!) crowds once. Yes, that means one, uno, singular.
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Yesterday, I shopped but not at some inhumane time! I did some online shopping very late on Thanksgiving and went to three “bargain” stores mid-afternoon Friday.
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Second, the annual Christmas movie watching. Our family began by watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas” on Thanksgiving. Friday we watched “Polar Express.” There will be more viewing opportunities to come as we settle in to watch “Prancer,” the Santa Clause movies with Tim Allen & especially “It’s a Wonderful Life!” Is the original “Die Hard” considered a Christmas movie!?
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My birthday always falls after Thanksgiving – so that means a pizza dinner.
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This year the annual Ohio State vs. Michigan football game falls after Thanksgiving. My family has a long history with the Buckeyes and being from Ohio, I will be cheering for the boys in red.

Next Sunday – December 2 – will be the first Sunday of Advent. Our church Christmas Tree will be decorated and traditional Advent hymns will be sung. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, our home Christmas tree will be set up. When my children were little, they all decorated it while we took pictures. As they’ve grown up, the decorating has fallen to grandkids and which ever kids are here. It always is magical to watch the ornaments being selected and locating just the right spot for it amongst the branches of our artificial tree. Then it’s my job to pick out the garland. We’ve had tinsel, strand garland of gold or silver, pearl strands wound around the tree, and ribbon. Normally, an angel rests on top of the tree or a star. The year I used a giant red velvet bow was not looked upon fondly so I won’t do that again! By Christmas Eve the tree is ready for Santa’s visit.
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As I reflect upon our family’s activities and traditions, I wonder what my grandparents and great-grandparents experiences were. I’m pretty sure at the heart of the holidays was family – just as it is for mine.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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My husband gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I am LOVING it!  I can sit on the couch with the kindle in my hands and listen to Pandora Radio (which I really like – especially the shuffle feature), scan the web, play Angry Birds (not very good at!), and read books. However, the one thing I can not do at this time is write blog posts.  WordPress doesn’t have an app that is compatible with the Kindle Fire. (Sad face)  It allows me to get into my dashboard and click (or rather, touch) the New Post icon. I can enter a title but I can’t write a post. This post was started on my Kindle – well, only the title. I spent quite awhile scanning for an app that will work but nothing. Oh, well. Apparently there’s supposed to be one coming – when, I don’t know.

I did download the Ancestry app which allows me to have my uploaded trees with me wherever I go. Handy if I happen to be at the library and come across something in a reference book. Then I can at least have the names and dates with me for guidance.

So what new technology did you get for Christmas or Hannukah? How are you using it for genealogy?

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GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

This picture (to the left) was taken in 1954; location – Japan when my parents were stationed at Tachikawa with the Air Force.  My impression has always been – what a sad tree!  I believe this was the only type of tree that would work as a “Christmas” tree – short of buying an artificial tree from the Base/Post Exchange. I hadn’t been born yet but my sister and brother were the children who had “visions of sugarplums” for that year’s Christmas.

This picture (to the right) was taken about 1968 when I was a little over 7 years old; location – the house I grew up in east of Dayton, Ohio.  I obviously have some teeth missing!  Those pants were not purple – from what I remember – but blue. This is the artificial tree we used – it was only a year or two old because I remember having live trees when I was very small.  Mom used this artificial tree at least until the time I was 18 years old and then I think she gave it to my cousin. This tree is set at the corner of the living room and formal dining room. From what I remember, this was the same location it was set year after year. During my childhood, Christmas dinners were always at our house. Those who attended included my maternal grandparents, my sister, her husband, and two kids, my brother and his wife (and later their son), and sometimes my brother-in-law’s parents.

This photo (to the left) was taken in 1991 either before we left or after we returned from Christmas Eve services at our church. This is one of the very few pictures I have of our family by the Christmas tree. Boy, my husband and I look so young!  Our youngest was a few months shy of two years old and our oldest was a month away from 10 years old.  Our second daughter had just turned eight and our son was six and a half.  Over the years, our tree has moved “around” the living room.  We had it in this location for a few years and for the last 10+ years it has been in the opposite corner.  Our Christmas tradition since this photo was taken has rarely changed. There were some years that we went looking at Christmas lights after church. We’ve always had a meal of “finger food” late in the evening – I’ve made sausage balls, cheese and crackers, stuffed shells, deli meat sandwiches, fresh vegetables and dip, and more. The last couple of years we have had Wing Stop chicken wings and tamales from our local tamale factory. The first year we decided on wings, the restaurant was open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve so we picked up the order as soon as church was over. Last year it closed early, so I had to go pick up the wings and fries and try to keep them warm the rest of the day. The french fries did not fair very well – so I don’t think we’ll do that this year. On Christmas Day we’ve had the traditional dinner – turkey (and sometimes ham), dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade giblet gravy (and turkey gravy from a jar for those who won’t eat the other kind), green bean casserole, Christmas cauliflower, scalloped corn, and pies.  There were years that I started making cookies in the middle of December and other times, I just don’t bother!  I’ve made homemade chex mix for gifts to friends and family. The last two years one of our daughter’s has had us to her home for the Christmas dinner. Our oldest daughter hasn’t been able to be with us for Christmas in over seven years. For the last 5 years, we’ve enjoyed being with all four grandsons.

The only picture of our family with my mom was taken at my sister’s home in 1999. Our kids ranged from almost 10 to almost 17. That year we had Christmas dinner at my sister’s home and my contribution was my Christmas cauliflower and something else! See the red plaid skirt that I’m wearing? I wore this at almost every Christmas from 1978 until just a few years ago!

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Although this photo was taken in 2008, this could be a photo from today. The Christmas tree is in the same spot – although our present tree is a new artificial tree – and I haven’t added any garland to it. This year I will use strands of beads as garland. Our Christmas this year will begin on Christmas Eve when we attend our Worship Celebration at our church of over 20 years. Then we’ll come back home and eat our “finger food” dinner, culminating in the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” (a tradition since the children were all small) and the Biblical Christmas story. We’ll set our presents out under the tree after the grandkids go to bed and then later, Santa will arrive. He’ll find a cold glass of egg nog in the fridge in case he’s thirsty and a couple of cookies with a note to him on the kitchen table. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday – the first one in six years – so our morning will be very early! I have always had a family breakfast before presents are opened and this year, I think I will have a crock pot breakfast casserole that has cooked through the night. After we eat, it will be time to dig into gifts and take pictures. At 10:30 we’ll be at our church, celebrating the real reason for Christmas. Then it will be home to finish cooking the dinner. Hopefully, I’ll get the turkey in the oven before we leave. One of our grandson’s might not be with us that day – perhaps late in the evening. The kids will be playing with new toys, probably have new movies playing on the TV, and the aroma of delicious food cooking.

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

In the future, I hope that we can still enjoy our grandchildren – and further into the future – our great-grandchildren – and our children and families at Christmas. Wherever we are, we’ll still decorate a Christmas tree – big or small. Some of our traditions may continue and some will be replaced with new traditions. We’ll still have some of our tree ornaments – especially the really nice handmade ones that the kids and grandkids have made. Pictures will still be snapped and food will still be eaten. I may prepare a traditional Christmas dinner, yet I see myself changing it in my golden years – especially if there are only my husband and I sharing the holiday together. No matter the year, we’ll always remember the joy of Christmas’s past and the true reason we celebrate the season!

Merry Christmas!

(written for the 113th Carnival of Genealogy: A Charles Dickens Christmas)

all photos – digital and print – held by Wendy Littrell

 

 

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Addressing Christmas Cards

As Christmas approaches, I realize that soon I will need to write my annual Christmas letter and get the Christmas cards addressed for the mail.  I have a list of addresses I use for my holiday cards, adding and removing from year to year.  That led me to wonder how technology has changed the way we send Christmas greetings and how we store addresses.

My approach each year is to pull up the previous year’s Christmas letter that I save in my word processing program.  I use that as the template for the current letter as it keeps me on track.  The letters are printed out on special 8.5×11 holiday stationery. Some of my Christmas cards don’t require letters – generally those go to church friends or others who I see on a regular basis and know what my yearly activities have been. Distant family members and friends get a letter and a card.  Then I pull out my address book to address all the cards.  There are those who have moved and lacking a current address, I attach my Christmas letter to an email.

So I have mixed both current technology – computerized Christmas letters -and old-school address book to complete the Christmas card task.  There are some people who have all of the addresses and information in their smart phones or tablets. If their phone gets lost or suffers major damage, all of that information could be lost. Future generations would never have an old-fashioned address book to look through, perhaps with clues as to their parents’ or grandparents’ friends or relatives.

I’m fairly lucky in that respect. My mom had kept my grandparents’ address books after they passed away. When my mother passed away, I got her address books and those of my grandparents.  In those pages are names that I know, reminding me of times in the past.  There are also names of people I had never heard of, which gave me pause as to what the relationship was.  There are also notations by names – death dates, the word “cousin”, etc. Those clues have proven very useful in my family research.

I worry that the digital age will change all of that. As our ancestors kept journals or diaries – we write blogs and websites. In high school we passed notes in class and between classes. Today, students text each other. My grandparents and mom wrote letters daily and weekly when they were apart due to military transfers. We write emails or update our Facebook status.  Even if everything in cyberspace will remain for eons, there is no tactile experience.  The feel of the leather address book covers, the brittle onion skin typewriter paper, or the embossed stationary can bring the past into the present.  The handwritten words of a beloved ancestor or family member long since passed can shed light on what was important to them at that time in their life.

In contrast, words in an email – sentence fragments, texting language, upper caps “shouting”, and short messages don’t say much about the writer, other than they used technology.  Even in this hurry up world we live in, perhaps it is important to revisit our ancestors’ (even parents’) use of the handwritten word – especially when it comes to addressing our cards, keeping our address books, and a long distance letter or two.

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pc240450  Our Christmas tree all lit up and decorated.  Santa had already arrived but everyone was still sleeping – except for my husband and me.  We  had gotten up early to make breakfast (me) and take our son to work (my husband) by 6 a.m.  The poinsettia just to the left of the lower part of the tree was given to us (along with a second one) by our daughter and son-in-law. 

Our grandson didn’t wake up until almost 7 a.m.!  Then we woke the rest of the household so we could eat the pumpkin bread I baked before unwrapping our gifts.

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Our grandson was quite excited to receive two video games from his Mom! 

There were sundry other gifts – games, DVDs, clothes, toys, books, household articles.

My mother-in-law gifted myself and my two daughters with hand-embroidered tea-towels with the days of the week on them.  My youngest daughter was excited to receive one of her first “grown-up” type of household presents.  My other daughter who was with us never pc250509expected to receive any other “hand-made” items from her grandmother (who had been ill for awhile – doing much better now!) and was overwhelmed by the gift. 

After our son got home from work, we opened a second set of gifts that my daughter and son-in-law had brought with them as well as my son’s gifts to him and his to us. 

I tried desperately to stay on schedule with the meal.  Unfortunately, I had never cooked all the dishes on the menu at one time so I was a little off my game.  Fortunately, most of the disruptions occured due to phone calls from relatives and grandsons eager to show Nana their toys or to give kisses.

Dinner was so good that we ate way too much!  Son-in-law sacked out on one sofa while the kids watched movies or played video games.  I finally talked everyone into eating at least one piece of pie a few hours after dinner.

By 9 p.m. I was so wiped out from being on my feet most of the day and all the cooking and excitement that I was falling asleep trying to read a new book (Stephen King) my husband got for me.  I had to turn in and slept amazingly well! 

Our family had a wonderful – little warm – Christmas.  Nothing compared to footnoteMaven’s in Washington State – who endured record snowfalls, power outages, and traveling white-knuckled to her daughter’s house for Christmas and then spending part of Christmas evening at their favorite Chinese restaurant that was open!  For her Christmas story please go here.

Happy New Year!

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Genealogy posts will be a little slow for the next week or so as I’m attempting to get caught up on items that need to be done by Christmas – the shopping for gifts, the buying of gifts, the constant asking for lists, the buying of ingredients for baking some gifts, the actual baking, the sorry-we-can’t-attend-the-party RSVPs, the buying of wrapping paper, the wrapping of gifts, the wondering if I’m going to get any laundry done due to washer backing up, the annual watching of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, the normal cooking and cleaning, the finishing of Christmas cards, the paying of bills, the hoping shipped packages will arrive on Wednesday, and the “why am I always in the wrong lane” at stores or on the road!

That said – what I have accomplished so far:

  • Received lists from all but ONE of my children (hint, hint!)
  • Almost done with Christmas shopping
  • Halfway through sending Christmas cards
  • Done with buying ingredients for baking
  • Two-thirds done with baking
  • Three-fourths done with buying wrapping paper
  • Sent regrets to 2 party requests and possibly a third
  • All but ten minutes done on watching “It’s A Wonderful Life”

I don’t know if I can do laundry until later today.  Bills will be paid on Monday.   UPS tracking of shipped packages will be done on Monday.  The rest of the baking of gifts will be done later today (after I purchase containers).  Christmas cards may be finished later today or tomorrow.  Wrapping will commence tomorrow (so if you are at my house on Sunday, I will probably not be much company!). Buying more wrapping paper will be done on Monday or Tuesday – after I see if I really do need more!

Now being in the wrong lane on the road – we’ve had an overabundance of fog at the end of the week.  Then we had sleet and freezing rain early in the week.  Most of the roads I travel on were bone dry - however in North Texas if something – anything – falls from the sky, people are stupefied.  Do I drive like a maniac?  Do I drive like the little old lady from Pasadena?  They have no clue in the world.  I end up behind people who are so scared to drive that they brake every five seconds and drive almost 20 mph.  Oh my goodness!  If you are so scared to drive on bone dry pavement, what in the world are you doing on the road to begin with?

Wrong lane at the stores:  Last night I was in a local department store that I frequent often.  Of course some of the cashiers are new – they have been hired as “seasonal” employees.  No problem if they are doing their best with the limited amount of training they’ve received.  The cashier is very polite and lets me know that her register needs to be cleared and it would be a couple minutes.  She’s very sweet – and probably about my age.  So I get in another lane behind a lady with ten different articles of clothing.  That cashier is very fast.  Then I watch them both stand and wait.  What are they waiting on?  Oh, the customer didn’t bring her purse into the store!  Someone had to go retrieve it for her!  Now, if you’re Christmas shopping (or shopping in general) – wouldn’t it be prudent to bring your money with you?  Not only that but there are dozens of signs all through the city that say “Lock (your vehicle), Take (your keys), Hide (your gifts)” due to the increased number of thefts from cars.  Why would you leave your money in a car at this time of year?  Then while I’m waiting, the first cashier lets me know she can help me.  She was so polite and told me that the next time I come in, she’ll probably be a little faster.  I told her it wasn’t the cashiers – it was the customers.

And why do people allow their just-walking babies to walk?  They dart out in front of carts, always manage to walk right in front of where I’m walking, or start pulling everything off the bottom shelf?  And then there are the “I’m taking 4 year old Johnny with me to see what he wants for Christmas.  Then I’m going to put it in the cart but not let him have it so he can scream at the top of his lungs for the next 30 minutes.”  UGH!  Please leave your wonderful, sweet, cooperative children at home.  And if they can fit in the seat of the basket – put them there!  There are enough people in the aisles – a toddler should not be put in harm’s way like that.  I’m sorry if I offended anyone but at any other time of year (besides the school shopping tax free weekend!) – there is generally no problem.  Your child is going to get hurt.  People can’t get through the aisles that have all sorts of stuff pulled off the shelves.  And we don’t really want to hear a screaming kid all evening.

I’ve changed my meal plan for this year – so here’s hoping it goes over well!  I’ve changed my gift-giving to others this year due to the economy and the fact that I’m always at a loss to get some of our good friends.

May your family have a blessed holiday – whether you are celebrating Christmas, Kwaanza or Hannukah.

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Our basement decorated for Christmas, mid 1960s
Photographed by Gene Amore
Digital scan in possession of Wendy Littrell (Address for private use).

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deck_the_halls_2007Miriam, at AnceStories, posted her first digital scrapbook page recently after reading Jasia’s post about a new Christmas Around the World digital scrapbook kit at her Creative Genealogy blog.  Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I’m posting this digital scrapbook page I made after Christmas last year.  I designed the paper and elements myself (since I also do “commercial” projects, I don’t want to have to buy licenses to use others’ kits!).  Since I do not own Photoshop and use Microsoft Digital Imaging, I had a pretty steep learning curve due to the lack of “instructions” on how to create digital elements on the web. 

Below is another digital scrapbook page I made to show off my grandson with the Christmas tree.  I didn’t add a whole lot to it as I wanted it to be very simple.

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The genea-bloggers are caroling!  footnoteMaven over at footnoteMaven will be hosting all of the carolers real soon! Please go visit her site.

For my carol, I’ve chosen “Mary, Did You Know” – the Kenny Rogers/Wynonna Judd version.

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know,
that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered,
will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know
your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know,
that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God.

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know,
that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding, is the great I AM.

(You can watch this video at YouTube.)  This song is on Kenny Rogers’ “The Gift” CD and was released in 1996.  It was written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry.  Lowry was asked by his church congregation in 1984 to write a song for Advent.  In Christianity Today, he said,

I tried to picture Mary holding the baby Jesus on the first Christmas morning and wondered what she was thinking about that child. She knew he was special—the Virgin Birth was her first clue—but could she ever imagine all the things that he would do while he was here?

Buddy Greene supplied the music for the lyrics six years later and the song was complete.  Besides Lowry and the duet of Rogers/Judd,  it’s also been recorded by about 30 artists including Rascal Flatts,  Reba McEntire and Kathleen Battle.

The first time I heard this song – several Christmases ago – I was in my room wrapping gifts, and felt such a peace settle over me as the music and lyrics touched the depth of my soul.  As a mother – and a mother of a son – I am inspired and awed by Mary.  I find myself wondering if, despite the knowledge of who and what her son was to be, she wanted to shield and protect him, just as any other mother would do.  I hear the words “baby boy”, and remember how I used to gaze at my newborn son many years ago, wondering what he was to become and knowing that there were so many opportunities for him and dreams for him to follow. 

Merry Christmas!

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christmastourbnr

Denise Olson, at Moultrie Creek is hosting the Christmas Tour of Blogs that will kick off on Dec. 15th. Genea-bloggers are encouraged to create a post describing their family’s Christmas decorations – past or present.

So sit back and enjoy my tour!

goldwreath
This is the gold wreath – made out of newspapers and painted with gold spray paint – that my mom made for our home when I was growing up.  It hung above our fireplace mantel.  On the mantel were Christmas decorations. 

 

 

60s-83This was the garland hung around the wrought iron railing by the front door.

 

 

 

 

60s-130Me in front of the Christmas tree probably about 1969-1970.  Notice the end table next to the tree has the red Christmas candles on it.  Our windows also had a single electric candle that we lit after the sun had gone down.  For a few years we even decorated the fir trees in our front yard with lights.   In the photo below, you’ll notice that our large, picture window had several of these “candles” on the sill.

 

christmastree

My first real “adult” Christmas in my own apartment included a wicker chair strung with garland and red satin balls because I was too poor to afford a Christmas tree!  The first tree I bought was in 1984 at the local Gibsons that cost $14!  It was pretty lonely looking (sort of like the tree on “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) until the lights, decorations and tinsel was put on.

We moved into our home 20 years ago, so we have had two decades of creating new and wonderful memories at Christmas time.  My husband would bring the tree and all the decorations down from the attic either the first or second weekend of December.  After setting up the tree and stringing the lights, I would hand each child one ornament at a time to place on the branches.  Of course as they grew older, they each had several of their “school” made decorations to use.  For the very first ornament, I took a picture and once the entire tree was decorated (after I hung the garland or threw the tinsel), I would position them on the floor gazing up at the tree in wonder for a photo.

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Generally the only other decorations that go up are the Santa Stocking, given to our youngest daughter many years ago by some good church friends, the Christmas Wreath (it has changed only a few times in 20 years),

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and the gold “Jingle Bell” that hangs between our dining and living room.  The bell belonged to my grandparents and as a child, I loved to pull the string and hear the tune as Santa and his reindeer (on the outside) spun around it.  I was fortunate enough to end up with it many years ago.  If you look at to the upper right of the tree over the floor lamp, you can see the bell.)  My children have on occasion put lights in their bedroom windows and once I wrapped holly vines over the top of the living room arch.

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I’ve either strung regular silver garland on the tree or “thrown” tinsel on each branch.  However, the tree above (2003), I strung pearl beads as garland.  The tree to the right (2006) I draped ribbon down from the top with bows tied on each length at different intervals. (The Jingle Bell is more visible in this picture.)

We’ve had the tree in two different places in our home.  For the last ten years (at least) it has sat in this exact spot.  This tree was purchased at an after Christmas sale, many years ago for half off the sale price!  In 1999 some good friends were moving and gave us their pre-lit Christmas tree.  It had so many white lights on it that we could feel the heat as soon as we walked into the room.  Needless to say we gave it to our oldest daughter the following year and went back to using our well loved tree.

I hope you have enjoyed my tour of Christmases past and present.  And may your family have a very Merry Christmas!

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