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Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

No Christmas Snow

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A handful of snowflakes came down on Christmas Eve Day, but not enough for me to shoot a snowy picture. Although I was mighty tired of snow last March, I would have liked to see some this week.

A fresh snowfall is pretty, but I guess I’m glad the roads are dry. Our plan for Christmas is to watch John’s children open presents early, then come home and get ready for our Christmas dinner, which shouldn’t be hard as two of the world’s best cooks are bringing more than half the meal.

Suzanne, meanwhile, is in the Caribbean with the Swedish side of the family. Note the photo of her kids learning a traditional song from their Swedish-Danish cousins while dancing around the tree (actually, it’s a lamp this year) on an island that probably never sees snow.

In other December photos: John’s children getting creative with an erector set (who needs to know what the Ukrainian directions say?), an Amaryllis on Erik’s piano as well as his Santa Lucia and Swedish creche, early Christmas gift-opening before the trip to the Caribbean, and family members enjoying 80-degree weather. Finally, the Swedish tomtens that my husband and I received in time for Christmas.

I hope that those who celebrate this holiday have a merry one, and I send warm wishes to everyone. See you tomorrow.

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Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT
The history of the Christmas market at Gamla Stan in Stockholm is described in a newspaper’s Swedish Advent calendar series.

This year I started following on twitter a newspaper called The Local. It covers Sweden, which is nice for me because my son-in-law is Swedish. Today’s post is on a series the paper has featured this month.

“Every day until Christmas Eve, The Local explains the unique history behind Swedish Christmas traditions in our own Advent calendar. …

“For centuries, Swedish Christmas markets have brought warmth and light to the darkest time of the year. Visiting a Swedish Christmas market (julmarknad) isn’t just a great way of becoming truly immersed in Sweden’s Christmas traditions, it may also be one of the best ways, short of a time machine, to experience what life was like in the past.

“The history of the festive markets goes back to 14th century Germany, and Sweden appears to have adopted the Christmas market not long afterward. Much like today, the earliest Christmas markets were typically held in town squares throughout the month of December, and featured small stalls where merchants and craftspeople could sell their wares.

“At Stortorget, Stockholm’s oldest square located in what is now known as Gamla Stan, markets were held at different times throughout the year as early as the 1300s, and there is evidence that one of these was held in connection with the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle on December 21st.

“In 1523, during the first year of his reign, King Gustav Vasa established a permanent Christmas market at Stortorget. Though there have been periods over the centuries when the Stortorget julmarknad has not operated, it is still the oldest such market in Sweden and one of the oldest in Europe.

“When the Stortorget julmarknad was established, the king took care to stipulate that only Swedish goods were sold, a tradition carried on today by Stockholms-Gillet, which has organized the market since 1915. …

“Scents from traditional Swedish favourites like warm glögg, brända mandlar (candied almonds), and julgodis like knäck permeate the air just as they have in the past.

“The traditional foods and handicrafts offered for sale give a glimpse of life in the past, as well as the opportunity to incorporate them into modern life. The sense of stepping back in time is enhanced when attending a julmarknad at a historic location, or at one of Sweden’s fantastic open-air museums, such as Skansen in Stockholm. …

“Each day until Christmas Eve, we’re looking at the story behind one Swedish festive tradition. Find the rest of our #SwedishChristmas series here.”

Other topics covered: How one Swedish woman influenced the candy cane, Sweden’s favourite Christmas film, how a folklore tomte became Sweden’s Santa, and how glögg sends Swedish wine consumption through the roof.

Erik has been known to warm our insides with glögg at Christmas. But not this year: the Swedish side of the family is celebrating in Guadalupe and keeping warm by the swimming pool.

Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
The gingersnap: A humble cookie’s journey from holy medicine to Swedish Christmas favourite.

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Today I’m posting recent photos, including a few gingerbread pictures that really get me into the spirit of the season.

The first is of a gingerbread house that two of my grandchildren decorated. You can see that they also made a garage from some extra pieces of gingerbread.

Next there’s one of my shadow pictures, followed by the random donkey that graces the yard at Boston’s old city hall.

Background for the photo after that: About a week ago all four grandchildren were at a Christmas crafts workshop where grownups in elf hats made everything run smoothly. The next day I found elf hats on parking meters around town.

Next are several gingerbread creations at annual displays in town. The tree house, hobbit house, Victorian advertisement for the Gentleman Handyman, and the Acton Dental house with Santa inside in the dentist chair are all at the Colonial Inn. The last gingerbread house is in the library and is created every year by a local physician who starts to work weeks in advance.

Finally, what’s this? Another shadow picture. A Christmas-y one this time.

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Art: Robert T. Barrett
The “other” wise man, meeting the needs that cross his path, is too late to present gifts to the baby in the manger. But “Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I loved this story as a child. Just for you, I present a summary from Wikipedia, slightly edited.

“The Story of the Other Wise Man,” by Henry van Dyke, was initially published in 1895. The story is an expansion of the account of the Biblical Magi. It tells about a “fourth” wise man, a priest of the Magi named Artaban, one of the Medes from Persia. Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child — a sapphire, a ruby, and a “pearl of great price.”

However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet with the caravan of the other three wise men. Because he missed the caravan, and he can’t cross the desert with only a horse, he is forced to sell one of his treasures in order to buy the camels and supplies necessary for the trip. He then commences his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the child, whose parents have fled to Egypt. He saves the life of a child at the price of another of his treasures.

He then travels to Egypt and to many other countries, searching for Jesus for many years and performing acts of charity along the way. After 33 years, Artaban arrives in Jerusalem just as Jesus as been condemned to death. He spends his last treasure, the pearl, to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery. He is then badly injured in an accident and realizes he is dying. He has failed to meet Jesus because he has been busy meeting the needs that appear before him.

Then he hears a voice: “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”(Matthew 25:40) His treasures have been accepted.

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Photo: Teachingtimes.com
Could these faces lifted in song be any sweeter?

I was tired of “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” before I got through Thanksgiving this year. Maybe you felt the same. Why is it so rare to hear carols like “I Wonder as I Wander,” the haunting “Minuit, Chrétiens,” or authentic Gospel music at this season?

Today I decided to correct that loss a little with YouTube music that should not make anyone feel like running and hiding. I’d love it if you would share your favorite seasonal music with other readers in the Comments.

Above, the Choir of Kings College sings “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Next we have the Cambridge Singers with “I Wonder as I Wander.”

Finally, whatever one’s faith or feelings about religion, who can resist the voice of Harry Belafonte with his honeyed Jamaican diction? (Note where the person typing the lyrics wrote “the” instead of what he really said, which is so much more charming.)

 

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Photo: SWNS
Annis Lindkvist, right, and her younger sister, Emma Åhlström, with Jimmy Fraser, a homeless Scot they invited for Christmas in Sweden. 

I have never been sure how to react to someone who is homeless, but I have learned smiling is better than walking past, head down.

Mother Teresa said to smile. A woman who runs an excellent Rhode Island homeless agency told me she doesn’t give anyone money but talks to people and tries to see if she can help with a referral or something to eat. A formerly homeless veteran told me he always talks to veterans and tells them where to find veterans services. Once he took in a stranger overnight. Some people will buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

Last week as I was talking to an employee of a refugee agency, I became curious about how he was led to his current work. He said, “One day I stopped walking past people.”

He didn’t initially look for refugee work, but he landed there after launching his personal outreach to homeless people and a subsequent stint in Americorps. He used to talk to people on the New York City streets, asked what they needed and delivered food, socks, and as many of their needs as he could.

So many good people out there showing kindness one person at a time!

This Guardian story about a Swedish tourist in Scotland who not only befriended a homeless man but invited him for Christmas with her family (and sent him airfare) is really over the top.

Libby Brooks writes, “A homeless man from Edinburgh has described the ‘incredible act of kindness’ of a tourist who invited him to spend Christmas at her family home in Sweden.

“Jimmy Fraser was begging on George Street in the city centre when Annis Lindkvist and her sister Emma, from Sagmyra in central Sweden, asked him for directions.

“They struck up a friendship and swapped numbers at the end of the trip, staying in touch by text before Lindkvist offered to pay for his flights so he could spend a week with her family over the festive period.

“Fraser, who became homeless following his divorce 13 years ago, said: ‘It’s weird, I know. I was begging on George Street and these two women came up to me and the next thing I knew I was in Sweden. People promise you things all the time on the street but they never materialise.

” ‘But I thought I’m going to go for it as it’s once in a lifetime. I couldn’t believe it anyway at first. People tell you “see you tomorrow, I’ll get you a drink” and then nothing happens. But this did happen, actually, so it was really weird.’

“The 54-year-old former security guard, who went to an ice hockey match, Christmas markets and midnight mass with his host’s family and friends, told the BBC News website: ‘It was a beautiful experience.’ …

“Lindkvist described her own doubts about issuing such an open invitation to a stranger. ‘We give money to charity every month but we have never done anything like this before,’ she said. ‘There were friends and family who thought I was really crazy, but I just opened my home to him and said everything that is ours was his too.’

“The 37-year-old, who works with dementia sufferers, said she had invited Fraser back to stay with the family again over the Easter break, and that he was ‘part of the family now.’ ”

More here.

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Wherein the grandmother is too tired to talk but will describe the photos. Wreaths on the Colonial Inn, grandson with new truck, church nativity scene early Christmas morning, Christmas tree at John’s house, grandfather with two granddaughters.

So much fun to be around little kids at Christmas. Also very good for sleeping soundly the following night.

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