Yesterday was a busy, busy day but I got a LOT done, so that makes me very happy. I managed to clean, wrap gifts, bake some cookies and do a bunch of other stuff in between. I need to finish the cookies tonight so I can deliver some to a co-worker who is off work this week, and send some to Hubby’s work for his co-workers. Anything I still want to bake can be done before we head to my parent’s house on Christmas Eve.
Verse of the Day
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. … With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Thoughts on the Verse of the Day
Call on the name of the Lord! Proclaim him as your risen Lord! Share with him in baptism as the first Christians did. Have God add you to his holy people. Know that Jesus will save you from the corruption that plagues our world and so many of our lives. You see, God sent Jesus to save, redeem, restore, and bless. Share in the joy of that salvation. Don’t wait! Today is the day of salvation! Share in it. Rejoice in it. Pass it on to others. Christ our King has come to bring his salvation to all!
I know we have all probably heard about Yule Logs, and I’m betting we have seen the T.V. channels that play the yule log scene, complete with fire crackles, for the 24 hours of Christmas Day, but what really is a Yule Log and what is it all about?
This custom of burning the Yule log goes back to pre-medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition, with Yule being the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe. Back then the Yule log was a whole tree, chosen very carefully and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log was placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The remains from the previous year’s log had been carefully stored away and slowly fed the fire through the 12 days of Christmas. This remaining piece of log was the starting fire to get the new log to burning. Hmmm . . . this is one I’m fine with not celebrating here. One, we don’t have a fireplace and two, it sounds pretty messy.
Food for Thought
Celebrate Short Fiction Day – (always on Winter Solstice) – This is the day we have the least amount of daylight each year. Some people may think of that as depressing, but it’s really not! Know why? Because you can use this long winter night to read a short fiction story! Short stories have been around since people were able to tell a story about anything that strikes their imagination. Pick out a favorite story, or find a new one, curl up on this long, winter’s night and enjoy a tale spun from someone’s wildest imaginings. It’s a good night for it.
Crossword Puzzle Day – Happy Birthday to Crossword puzzles! These challenging word games are enjoyed by millions around the world. The very first ones were published in England in 1913 in children’s books and magazines. Crossword puzzles are not only fun, but they can help delay the effects of dementia or sharpen the brain for problem solving.
Forefather’s Day – Today we commemorate the day the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. It was a difficult time for the people of Europe, as they were told that they had to believe and worship God in the way they were told to, not how they felt in their hearts. So this group of people left for the New World to escape religious persecution and live their lives and their faith as they wanted to. Now, the pilgrims set sail in two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower, but the Speedwell was leaking so badly that they were forced to return to England, and cram everyone onto the Mayflower, which was what made it much later than they’d planned. This put them setting sail in the late fall. They also had to deal with strong fall west winds, delaying their arrival even further. Ultimately they landed on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts just before Christmas. Forefather’s Day is celebrated in New England, but if you aren’t from there, chances are you haven’t heard of this day before now. Don’t you wish they had the ability to do video footage of these types of events? I can’t imagine the hardships they had to endure at home, forcing them to leave the only place they’d ever known, to set sail with far too many other people to a destination that was completely foreign to them. I have to respect their choice though – for they stood up for what they believed, no matter the consequences. Sadly, I look around our own country and the freedoms our forefathers sought and sacrificed for seem to being stripped, and we have no place new we can go to seek the freedoms that we are losing. This means we need to take a stand now, to retain the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to make our own choices to live our lives as we see fit, before the persecution starts. Look to other lands and see what they are going through. I don’t want that for us . . . do you? We made a good start by electing a new President who actually loves our country last year. He’s made a lot of progress, but there’s a lot of work to do. We can help out by making sure we vote in other people as a support network who value this nation as much as our President does, and want to make it strong again.
Humbug Day – we all know someone who is a Scrooge – someone who frowns and fusses about how much they just HATE CHRISTMAS. I can’t understand those people, because honestly, Christmas truly is my favorite time of the year. Everything it means, the history and purpose behind it – it is special in its entirety. But to a Scrooge, they just want it to be over, the fuss and decorations, the scurrying about, the frivolity and fun . . . they want it gone and life to go back to normal. Today is for those people, they can vent to their little heart’s desire – letting out all of their frustration about their feelings for Christmas. If you are feeling stressed, even if you LOVE Christmas, let your frustrations out too. You’ll fit right in! Just don’t let it get to you and turn you into an actual Scrooge. Bah Humbug Day is just a stress reliever, so take it as such. As for the REAL Scrooge’s, I feel their childhoods had to have been sad and completely deprived not to take joy in this amazing time of year. If you’re a Scrooge and really don’t want to be, maybe use this day to be a turning point to enjoying Christmas – do something for someone else to make them smile, and it may just melt your heart a little bit and make this day as special to you as it is to the rest of us. Happy Humbug Day! I may have to celebrate by watching A Christmas Carol later.
Look on the Bright Side Day – Sometimes when life is going crazy, the world is spinning off of its axis and we can’t seem to find the time, finances or enthusiasm to do everything, it’s difficult to see the bright side of things. It is so important to try though! If we merely look at the doom and gloom of everything we can get ourselves down and feeling terrible, which saps our energy and our spirit. Trying to find something good in every situation can bolster our spirits and make life feel less bleak. Try looking on the Bright Side today! It really is a great thing!
National Flashlight Day – Today is the Winter Solstice, and what that means is it is the shortest day, and longest night, of the year. And you don’t want to be left in the dark! So Flashlight Day was created to get prepared for being in the dark. Put new batteries in your flashlights; put them around your house where you can easily find them in case of a REAL dark time when the power goes out; put one in your car. I have one in my purse that I need to actually recharge. You never know when you will need one, and what better day than the darkest one of the year to get prepared for when that need should come up!? Did You Know? The flashlight was invented in 1898 by Joshua Lionel Cowen. However, this wasn’t his greatest invention. He also invented the Lionel train.
National Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day – This one tugs at my heart. Communities throughout the country will honor the memory of people who passed away in 2014 while homeless. Honoring the homeless who have died this past year and remembering those still struggling to find a place to sleep is something that various organizations join up to do, by hosting National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day candlelight vigils. “Mortality rates for homeless people are three times the rate for others, and life expectancy is around fifty years – about what it was for everyone in 1900,” said John Lozier, Executive Director of NHCHC. “These high death rates point to the terrible conditions of homelessness, and to serious problems of health care access in America.” Homeless people are not just in danger of losing their lives to disease and exposure, but it is horrifying how many homeless people are murdered. Rather than being treated with kindness by passers by, they are often the targets of cruelty by so many. When I was commuting to Seattle, I had to pass right through Pioneer Square, which can be a little creepy after dark (or before sunrise). I had to pass right by all of the benches that had the homeless folks who called their spots home, and in what was typical of many people, I’d look straight ahead and pass by as quickly as I could. One day, after I’d had a day off, one elderly gentleman, said good morning to me and said he’d missed seeing me the day before and had been worried that something had happened to me. I had to stop and go back to look at him, and ask him what he meant! This old guy had never asked me for anything, we’d never spoken, but he noticed the regulars, when they went by and sort of watched over them. We talked for a few moments, and with a lighter heart, and feeling like I knew someone in the square, I went to work. On the way home I took him a treat that I’d picked up on my way out of my building. The smile that wreathed his weathered face made me feel so good. Making him a sack lunch when I made my own became a daily routine, taking him extra the day before my day off so he’d have something to tide him over. Every day his gratitude just filled my heart. He’d tell me a joke, or comment on the weather, or just ask how I was every single day. He was special, and I really liked him. One day I went by his bench, with his sack lunch for him, but he wasn’t there. His blankets and a couple of things he always had with him were there – neatly folded up on his bench, but he wasn’t there. I set the lunch there, thinking he had gone somewhere to go to the bathroom – though the homeless generally take all of their earthly belongings with them when they go anywhere, and went to work. That afternoon I saw that all of the blankets he’d had were distributed around with the other people who lived there. This didn’t make me feel very good. I walked up to the nearest one, and asked where he was, and the news I got made me feel so sad. He had gathered enough change to go across the street to Starbucks for a coffee and to use the restroom, and had a heart attack right there in the store. He passed away immediately. He died with no family, nobody but the homeless and a few people who saw him daily, to mourn his passing. This man had a beautiful heart, and an even more beautiful spirit, and spread that to everyone he met for every day that I knew him. Do not discount the homeless as not worth knowing, because they are people who had life hit them hard, but that doesn’t discount their worth as people.
Winter Solstice – Today is the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. What happens is that the sun’s daily maximum height in the sky is at its lowest, and the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. The result is that this day has the least number of daylight hours, and is the longest night of the year. The Solstice is celebrated by druids and pagans as the re-birth of the sun for the new year. Each year in the UK thousands of people gather to mark the occasion at Stonehenge in Somerset. The date for Winter Solstice is not set though – sometimes it arrives earlier, and sometimes later. A solar day is rarely 24 hours exactly, which makes the sun lag behind the clock for part of the year, and speeds ahead for another part of the year. The length of a solar day varies because the axis of the Earth’s rotation is tilted (23.5 degrees from vertical) and because its speed fluctuates as it orbits the sun, going faster when it is closer to the sun’s gravitational pull and decelerating when further away. It takes awhile for the clock and the solar days to line up, resulting in evenings having their earliest sunset a couple of weeks before the shortest day, and mornings getting darker until a couple of weeks after.
Yule – This one could get long, but it’s fascinating so I’ll try to condense it down, while not taking away from the historical details. First I’ll tell you that much of the historical/mythological information comes from The Edda – which is a collection of ancient Norse poems used to pass down the mythological stories from one generation to the next. The Edda was written in, or about, the 13th century. As early as two thousand years before Christ was born, Yule-tide was celebrated by the Aryans – or Nordic tribes. These people were sun-worshipers and believed that the sun was born each morning, rode across the upper world, and sank into his grave at night. As the year progressed and the daylight hours grew shorter, these people believed that the sun’s power was diminishing, and they were afraid that it would eventually be overcome by darkness and forced to stay in the underworld. After several months of shorter, darker days, the sun would grow stronger and stronger, with more daylight hours each day, they believed that the sun had been born again. This is why at Hweolor-tid (or the turning time) there was great rejoicing at the annual re-birth of the sun.
There are many myths that all tangle up around this time, of gods and goddesses who traveled the world and set up kingdoms, but I won’t go into those – it would get too long. There is one though, that ties in with our current use of mistletoe as part of our Christmas celebrations that I thought was pretty interesting – and in the end it all ties in to Yule celebrations. The Edda tells an ancient story of Balder, the sun-god, who was killed because of the jealousy of Loki (fire). Loki knew that everything in nature except the mistletoe had promised not to injure the great god Balder, so he searched for the mistletoe until he found it growing on an oak tree on the eastern slope of Valhalla. He cut off some and went back to the place were the gods were amusing themselves by using Balder as a target throwing stones and darts, trying to strike him with their battle axes. All of the weapons were harmless, for nothing could injure Balder. Loki gave the twig of mistletoe to the blind god, Höder, helped him aim, and told him to throw it. The mistletoe struck Balder, and it pierced through him and he fell to the ground, lifeless. There was a lot of excitement among the gods and goddesses gathered when Balder was struck dead, and sank into Hel. They would have slain the god of darkness had all of this not happened during their time of peace, which was never to be desecrated by violent acts. This was supposed to be a season of peace on earth and good-will to man. Now I told you that story to give you the general mind-set around the time of the birth of Christ – these were the things that the ancient people believed, celebrated and worshiped – among many others.
On to ancient Yule traditions. These traditions are usually attributed to time of the angels singing at the birth of Christ, but according to a much older story, the idea of peace and good-will at Yule-tide was taught centuries before Christ was born. According to The Edda, gift from gods and goddesses were laid on Balder’s bier and he turned around and sent gifts back from the realm of darkness into which he had fallen when he was hit with the mistletoe. Even with all of that though, it is likely from the Roman Saturnalia celebration that the ancient yule traditions of the exchange of presents and the party spirit came about. The Yule-Tide time was very merry for the ancient people who ate feasts, drank and danced in honor of the sun, the god of light and new life. When messengers went throughout the various countries bringing the word of a new religion and the birth of a Son who brought light and new life into the whole world, the ancients tried to retain as much of their established yule traditions as possible, but gave to the old-time festivals a finer character and significance. Since Christ’s birth wasn’t actually recorded in any official capacity, there wasn’t any certainty as to a specific date, so the early Christian fathers very wisely ascribed it to Yule-Tide, changing the occasion from the birthday of the sun, to that of the Son. For awhile the birth of Christ was celebrated on dates that varied from the first to the sixth of January, on the dates of other religious festivals like Jewish Passover, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, but the 25th of December, the birthday of the sun, was always the favorite date. Pope Julius, who reigned from 337 to 352 A.D. investigated the matter, and considered it settled beyond doubt that Christ was born on or about the 25th of December, and by the end of the 5th century, that date was generally accepted by all Christians.
This transition from the old celebration of Yule-tide to the new way of doing it happened so quietly and naturally, that it made no great impression on the minds of the masses, so nothing authentic can be learned of the early observance of Christmas. Holly, laurel, mistletoe and other greens that were used by the Druids still were used as decorations of the season, not as a shelter for fairies as they were in former days, but were now seen as emblems of resurrection and of immortal hope. The glorious luminary of day, whether known as Balder, Baal, Sol, or any other of the many names it was called by primitive peoples, still makes the hearts of mortals happy at Yule-tide by “turning back” as of old, only today it gives way to God, in whose honor Yule-tide is now observed.
Even though we are a little more than a week out from the New Year, I thought I would connect these together, since we are so close and I may forget to come back to it. New Year’s Day as a feast day is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, on record. It was mentioned by Tacitus in the First Century, but first mentioned as a Christian festival in about the year 567. In Rome the day was dedicated to by Numa to honor the god Janus, for whom Julius Caesar named the month January. Numa said that it should be observed as a day of good-humor and good fellowship, during which all grudges and hard feelings were to be forgotten. Sacrifices of cake, wine and incense were to be made to the two-faced god who looked forward backward. People were expected to give to the god the best they had to offer. It was the greatest occasion of the entire year and even today is a huge celebration. Various dates have been used for New Year’s Day, from March 1st to December 25th. It was as late as the 16th Century before the date of January 1st was universally accepted as the New Year by the Romans. There are nations that go by the Gregorian calendar, such as Russia and Greece, that observe New Year’s 13 days later than those who follow the Julian calendar. Among northern nations the love of fire and light started the custom of having bonfire to burn out the old year, destroying all evil connected with its past. Light has long been an expression of joy and gladness among many different nations of people. The Greek and Latin churches still call Christmas the “Feast of Lights”, making it a period of brilliancy in the church and in the home. Protestants cover their Christmas trees with lights and build a glowing fire in their hearth (provided we have one of course).
So many of our current holidays, especially this time of year, are infused with features from our pagan forbears, and the fathers of the early church showed wisdom in retaining the customs of these pre-Christian festivals, but filling them with the spirit of the new faith, making them examples of a purer love and hope. I have heard of many people who refuse to celebrate BECAUSE the origins of many traditions are from pagan origins, but seriously, God knows our hearts, and He knows the reason we celebrate. There is nothing wrong with including traditions of the ancients, with all of their rich heritage and beauty, with our current practices, as long as the reasons for these celebrations honors our beliefs and the reason for this season. I know that got really long, but there was just too much information to leave anything out!
This Day in History –
1937 – “Snow White” premiered at theaters.
Food Celebration of the Day –
National Hamburger Day – There are many different days that has us celebrating hamburgers, and why not? They are delicious! We celebrated this one a bit early and went out for burgers on Monday night. Who knows? We may just need to celebrate it again!
Well, bother. This is the problem with pre-setting up a few days worth of posts, leaving the Food for Thought, intro and closing paragraphs to do as the day arrives. I was thinking that YESTERDAY was hamburger day, and though we didn’t have actual hamburgers, we DID have patty melts. I was sort of patting myself on the back for being proactive and actually having the food of the day. Well, shoot. I guess we’ll have to have BLT’s instead now! Nothing wrong with THAT! It’s icy out there, which is fitting for the 1st day of winter, so I need to leave in time to take it slowly. God bless you and I’ll see you tomorrow.