The Year Santa Found Us

I’ve often shared my favorite Christmas memory, when at the age of 6, I received a refurbished doll cradle. That story can be found here. But there’s another Christmas that often comes to mind. One spent in different circumstances, far away from the sunny winters in San Diego.

My grandmother and step-grandfather (we called him Clarence) were tenant farmers in West Tennessee. I guess you could say they were poor. They lived in a house some might describe as a shack with no running water. Grandma used to say they had running water, but outside. No indoor plumbing. The house was drafty and cold in the winter, but Clarence kept it warm. Sometimes almost too warm. When you got out of bed in the morning, the linoleum-covered floors felt like walking barefoot on an ice rink. “Sure ‘nuf cold,” Grandma said.

Most years, they barely made it through. Grandma kept a vegetable garden and put up all the excess so they could eat all winter. They kept hens for the eggs and an occasional Sunday fried chicken. Christmas was just another day for them. There was no Christmas tree and usually no gifts for Grandma.

One year when I was around eight years old, we’d gone to visit Grandma on Christmas Eve. When we got ready to leave, Grandma and Clarence begged us to stay the night, spend Christmas with them. I can imagine my mother’s panic when Dad agreed. These days, I know how Mom felt about Grandma’s house.

My older brother and I went to bed in the big four-poster in the back bedroom and snuggled down beneath the numerous quilts, me wondering if Santa would find us way out in the country. Big brother already disbelieved in Santa, but he tolerated my wide-eyed innocence.

“They don’t even have a tree,” I whispered. “Where will Santa put the presents?”

“Maybe there won’t be any,” Mike said.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to go to sleep as misery churned in my belly.

Grandma’s grandfather clock struck the hour, every hour, throughout that dark night. I tossed and turned and worried and fretted. Finally, I heard Clarence up stirring the fire. It was almost time. I poked Mike in the side. “It’s morning! Let’s go see if Santa found us.”

Mike moaned and snuggled deeper into the covers. I turned over and waited a few more minutes. When I heard Grandma in the kitchen starting breakfast, I crawled out of the covers and hopped around on the cold floor, pulling my clothes on before dashing out to the warmth of the fire.

My eyes bulged at the sight of a Christmas tree in the front room and beneath it, toys and gifts. I immediately ran back to the bedroom and woke Mike. By now, Mom was up with little brother then Dad wandered out and we were allowed to open our gifts.

As the fire in the old pot-bellied stove roared and its heat filled the room, my brothers and I played with our new toys. Nothing else mattered to me, beyond the joy in my heart. Santa had found us and had somehow managed to slip into the house, bringing everything we needed for our Christmas celebration.

I now know Mom and Dad made a late-night trip back to our house and gathered up Christmas, including the Christmas tree and whatever Mom had planned for Christmas dinner. I can well imagine what she said to my dad on the way. I have been privy to many similar discussions over the years. And I can’t say that I blame her. But looking back, I remember the joy shining from Grandma’s face as she was able to watch her grandchildren open their Christmas gifts—a rare treat for her—a Christmas present like no other.

That sacrifice made by my parents, putting aside their plans in order to spend Christmas with Grandma and give her something they knew she’d love, stuck with me all my life. I never forgot it. To this day, when I hear the chime of a grandfather clock, my mind spins back to that cold, dark Christmas Eve. And then I remember a glow of warmth that came not from the old stove, but from the general region of my heart. Grandma didn’t have gifts for us, but she gave lots of warm hugs and kisses.


Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you enjoyed the story and if you did, I hope you’ll take a moment to let me know. Leave a comment below and share one of your cherished Christmas memories.


Merry Christmas!


A 1920s Traditional Christmas

What did Christmas look like in the 1920’s? It depends on who you were, and where you lived. I guess you could say the same about contemporary Christmas celebrations. When I began this research, I was a little surprised. It didn’t look that different. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Traditions are kept and passed down from one generation to the next. We love our traditions and Christmas wouldn’t be complete without them.

Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, lights, candles, goodies, toys, and Santa Claus, stockings, ribbons, bows, nutcrackers, cookies, cakes, pies, nativity sets, train sets, Christmas villages…the list goes on. These are still part of our Christmas celebrations today, as they were almost a hundred years ago.

One of the greatest differences will not surprise you. One memoir-writer said, “We had neither the time nor the wherewithal to decorate our homes…” (earlier than Christmas week). Most waited until Christmas Eve. But when you think about it, with the use of real trees lit by candles, it wasn’t safe to keep one up longer than a few days.

Many families went out and cut their own trees from their property, a family’s farm, or they just went somewhere and found one. In the city of course, they were brought in on wagons and sold on the street. Here’s a link showing several scenes that include well-to-do families with their typical Christmas trees:  http://www.cardboardchristmas.com/papateds/Christmas1920s.html And some less fortunate children here:  http://streeturchins.blogspot.com/2010/12/merry-christmas-little-urchins.html

I was interested to see the train sets and villages set up beneath the trees, a tradition that continues in some families today. The trees were pine or cedar and didn’t always have the lovely traditional shape we go for these days. Some looked reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s tree.

Their traditional tree decorations included stringed popcorn, pine cones, red and green ropes (purchased at the store) or homemade paper chains. Snowflake cutouts and tinsel icicles were also used. And don’t forget the lights. Yes, those who had electricity could string lights on their trees. The lights were made by General Electric’s “Edison Decorative Miniature Lamp Division.” You’ll notice they were weather proof, so yes, our ’20s era counterparts decorated outdoors. But most folks either used candles or no lights at all.

What did the stockings contain? An apple (not the lovely red variety we now have, but a homegrown one), an orange, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, candy canes, chocolate drops, and raisins (dried on stems). Maybe a small toy or two. One lady says, “We didn’t hang our stockings by the fireplace, we needed that for heat. Besides, our stockings were just that. Our stockings. They weren’t decorative.” They’d wake up Christmas morning to find their sock or knee-length stocking filled and lying on a chair, or tied around a bedpost or doorknob.

Most folks didn’t go all out for Christmas. Handmade items like socks, gloves, mittens, and scarves were the most common gifts and may be the only gifts a family received. The most popular gifts: the Raggedy Ann doll and die-cast metal toys. Also, roller skates gained popularity, along with wagons and bicycles. And of course the toy train sets and baby dolls.

A traditional Christmas dinner usually included roast chicken rather than turkey or ham. Cakes, pies, and cookies were included. And Jell-O! Yes! Beautiful Jell-O molds for the holidays. Do you think they made “pink stuff” and “green stuff” back then?

Folks baked extra during the holidays and shared desserts with family and neighbors. The wonderful fruitcakes probably got passed around. Some families are still passing the same ones around, apparently. I grew up eating fruitcake and liking it. During prohibition, I suppose they had to use rum flavoring for their cakes and eggnogs.

Religious celebrations included Christmas Eve services, Christmas morning services, traditional programs at church and school, and wandering carolers who usually waited until Christmas Eve, or sometimes Christmas Night to walk about their neighborhoods. You would recognize many of the songs they sang, because we still sing them today. Here’s a sample of some popular Christmas music of the 1920s: http://yuleplay.com/playlist/?pid=1524&pname=1920s%20Christmas%20Songs

Folks sent Christmas cards. I found some cute samples of Christmas cards from the twenties and they’re posted here on Pinterest, along with a few other goodies I found.

One thing that has never gone out of style is giving. We give gifts. It doesn’t really matter how big or how costly the gifts. Sometimes, it’s just really nice to be remembered.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at an interesting era in our history. What traditions did your family observe (your childhood days or even further back)? What is/was your favorite food served at Christmas Dinner?

Photo from: http://streeturchins.blogspot.com/2010/12/merry-christmas-little-urchins.html

Five Days of Christmas Blog Posts – for extra fun:

FREE Today only: This Dance (ebook)

Julie Arduini: Christmas Music
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: Miracle at 1782 Ayshire Drive
Tracy Ruckman: Surrender is Key to Writers 
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: A Special Gathering
Sheryl Holmes: Created to Crave
                      
Fay Lamb, On the Ledge: Ho, Ho, Help          

FREE Today only: This Dance (ebook)

Christmas Grace by Rose McCauley

Rose McCauley

Fellow Kentucky author, Rose McCauley, has a new book releasing TODAY! Congratulations, Rose! 

Christmas Grace


Grace Buchanan and Chris Fisher were best friends for sixteen years…until he fell in love with her other best friend, Terrie. Chris and Terrie married after high school, then she died three years ago.
A renewed friendship soon awakens stronger feelings in Grace and Chris. Can they both let go of the past long enough to claim the future God has for them?
Books are available online at www.amazon.com in Kindle now and soon in paperback. Book 3 in The Smoky Mountain Christmas Collection.


Rose McCauley has been writing for over ten years and has been published in several non-fiction anthologies and devotionals. This is her second Christmas novella. Christmas books are her favorites. A retired schoolteacher who has been happily married to her college sweetheart for over four decades, she is also mother to three grown children and their spouses and grandmother to five lovely, lively kids! You can reach her through her website and blog at www.rosemccauley.com or on twitter @RoseAMcCauley and FB at https://www.facebook.com/RoseAllenMcCauley?ref=hl
Look for Rose McCauley’s books here: Amazon author page

Rose McCauley – Authorview

Rose McCauley

Rose McCauley is a fellow Kentucky author and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She’s the embodiment of Southern hospitality. 

While she’s here, answering my questions, I’m over at her blog, answering hers. We’re doing a “reciprocal” post (you’ll find the link below). After you’ve read her interview, hop on over and find out what she asked me!

 

I am: Rose Allen McCauley; my family still calls me Rosie

My best trait: perseverance

My bad habit: disorganized

Qualities I admire: someone who is good at organizing!

What I like to read: fiction and non-fiction; ABA and CBA; women’s fiction, romance, small town stories; real life stories; Christmas stories

What I write: small town stories, romance, Christmas stories (or at least a Christmas scene in most of my stories)

What I watch: Dr. Oz, Hallmark movies, some police/crime shows with my husband

My family: I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for over 46 years. We have 3 kids and 5 grandkids so far! We live on a cattle farm, but are moving in a few months to a suburb of the small town of Paris.

My favorite food, snack, or beverage: dark chocolate, also fruit and nuts, or a combo of all three!

What I love to do: read, write, walk, sing, scrapbooking when I get a chance

What I admire: loyalty, kindness, helping others

What makes me happy: getting email/letters from people who are blessed by something I wrote; seeing people use their gifts for God; family and friends; peace and quiet; Christmas and Christmas books

What makes me sad: seeing people who don’t try to reach their potential

I believe: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God

 
 
Rose has been writing for over ten years and has been published in several non-fiction anthologies and devotionals. She is happy for Christmas Belles of Georgia to be her first fiction anthology because Christmas books are her favorites. A retired schoolteacher who has been happily married to her college sweetheart for 46 years, she is also mother to three grown children and their spouses and grandmother to five lovely, lively kids! You can reach her through her website www.rosemccauley.com or blogsite at www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com

Her book Christmas Belles of Georgia is available at cbd.com and amazon.com in both paperback and kindle versions. 

Now, hop on over to Rose’s blog for my interview! http://rosemccauley.blogspot.com/


Happy New Year – 2014 – Anything is Possible

A friend of mine is lamenting Christmas. He didn’t get everything he’d hoped for. In fact, this entire year is ending on a bit of a sour note for him.
Several months ago, he made the difficult decision to follow his dreams. He knew the road was going to be rough. It was. The approach of the Christmas season brought anxiety, since he wasn’t able to give as he had in the past. His family “suffered.” 
But he is pursuing his dream. Each new day dawns with the promise that said dream will come true. He will accomplish what he set out to do. Like an inventor with a great idea, this man is daily transferring his dreams to reality. It takes work and tons of ambition to keep chipping away at the iceberg blocking the finish line, but he’s determined. And with that determination, comes doubt.
His lament is the voice of discouragement. I understand that. Many of us tend to let our energy drain out to the dredges during the final few weeks of the year. We simply endure Christmas, then try to drum up some excitement and expectation to face the new year. Sometimes we become so caught up in our own problems, we don’t realize that others have troubles, too. 
Maybe you didn’t make your goals for 2013, so you’re discouraged about the year’s end. Maybe your Christmas was bleak and fraught with worry. There’s nothing new or weird or unusual about that. Here’s what a certain preacher had to say in the Old Testament:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—    the feeling of hitting the bottom.But there’s one other thing I remember,    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.They’re created new every morning.    How great your faithfulness!I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).    He’s all I’ve got left. (Lamentations 3:21-24, The Message)

<img alt="" border="0" height="200" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-u87z6pO_Dng/Ur3gcUXnXhI/AAAAAAAAAvs/h-WCBTxArX0/s200/freeimage-5640458-high.jpg" title="© Peafactory | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images” width=”133″ />
Stockfree Image
Get a grip on hope, because God’s promises are renewed every morning. Get some rest during these darker days of winter. Let God’s promises renew themselves in your spirit. As the days lengthen and the sun wakes the sleeping trees and plants and brings them back to life, you’ll wake up, too, with a renewed sense of purpose.
Most important of all, don’t give up. Stick with God––He’s all we’ve got left. But that’s like saving the best till last. He’s the Greatest and the Best. He’ll never let us down. His timetable may be different, but as long as we do our part, He’ll be there. 
What is our part? Faith. Believing in Him and in His promises. Believing that He sent His only Son. 
So for 2014, Believe. Anything is possible. You can win. You can make it. And what you’ll end up with––even if your hands seem empty––is a year’s worth of progress

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!

SnowPines-Shutterstock_165919043.jpg

Nothing says Christmas like a snow-covered pine bough. We’ve seen lots of the white stuff so far this year, which is a little unusual for our region. But it does give my Christmas spirit a boost. I hope your holidays are filled with family and fun this year. And remember, the important gifts don’t come in boxes. Time. Touch. Sound.

I know there are times when family can’t be physically together for the holidays. It’s those times that you can still take time to call or skype. Hearing a loved one’s voice from far away can make the holidays so much brighter. God bless you and your family with the most important things in life.

Now, I need to go hang up my stocking and put a pan of cookies in the oven while I watch my favorite Christmas movie. Thanks for stopping by. And don’t forget to buy books!

If the snow has you housebound, here’s a couple of Kindle suggestions for you. Happy reading! Nike Chillemi’s Goodbye, Noel, Write Integrity Press’ A Ruby Christmas (various authors), and The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt (various authors). Those last two are novellas and so much fun! By the way, these are not paid links. I do not receive any payment for these suggestions.

Happy Holidays!

The Skinny on Some Christmas Traditions, by Nike Chillemi

http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

I’m so glad you stopped by today. It is with great pleasure I welcome Nike Chillemi as a guest writer. I am so honored to promote her latest release, Goodbye Noel. As you may have guessed, it has a holiday theme. Nike writes historical suspense/crime novels and she’s such a good storyteller! If the reviews (found here) are any indication, this one doesn’t disappoint.  

Nike Chillemi- 

In popular publications we’ve been told umpteen times the first “Christmas” celebrations came from the mid-fourth century during Constantine’s rule in ancient Rome and were adopted and adapted from solar pagan rites. This is not entirely accurate.
There is evidence the Ethiopian Church celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25th in the 2nd century. Other Eastern churches in the second and third centuries determined the birth of Jesus to be January 5th or January 6th. The Eastern Church still celebrates the birth of Jesus on January 6th, while in the Western Church that date is Epiphany. These December 25th calculations came wholly from church history and heritage (much of that oral). This was before and separate from the papacy decision to declare December 25th the birth of Jesus for conversion reasons. The second century Egyptian theologian, Clement of Alexandria, wrote that ancient Egyptian church scholars practically tried to outdo each other with efforts to pinpoint the date of the birth of Jesus. They also came up with April 20th or 21st and May 20th…all of this having nothing to do with Roman paganism. Is December 25th the actual birthday of Jesus? I don’t know. To me every day is Christ’s birthday. 
It’s true worship of the oak and other trees were quite common in pagan Europe. However, the modern Christmas tree originated in Germany where legend has it St. Boniface cut down a great oak under which human sacrifices were made. Supposedly, in its place a tiny pine sapling grew the following spring and Boniface remarked it pointed to the heavens. That autumn he dug up the small tree and brought it into his house to have for Christmas. Many claimed these trees’ triangular shape signified the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The custom of a potted fir tree in the house at Christmas rapidly spread among Germanic Christians. In time they began decorating trees with bits of sugar candy which they gave to children on Christmas day. That tradition soon evolved into candy canes on tree boughs. Soon other gifts such as dried fruit and small bits of jewelry found their way onto trees.
Then in the 17th century, on a walk home from church late one night before Christmas, Martin Luther passed a grove of evergreen trees. When he looked up, it seemed as if the stars adorned the trees. He immediately cut and decorated a tree with lit candles for the Christmas Eve service. Cut and candle-lit trees quickly spread among Germanic Christians. When Germany’s Prince Albert married the love of his life, the young Queen Victoria, he brought to England the practice of decorating the Christmas tree with candles, candies, fancy cakes, small gifts, and toys. German immigrants brought this to Pennsylvania in the 1800s and the custom rapidly spread across America.
Eggnog is entirely American. While it’s true Europeans of wealth enjoyed eggy-milky drinks with fruit. The first true batch of eggnog was mixed up in 1607 at Captain John Smith’s Jamestown settlement. At that time it was called “egg and grog.” I’m sure we can all imagine what the ingredients were, as colonists called any drink with rum grog. It soon became a drink given to carolers at Christmas along with sweet meats and confections.
Stock.Xchng image #1148932
What about ye olde fruit cake? Cakes with fruit have been baked, well…as long as cakes have been baked. What we think of as the fruit cake, made with preserved fruit and nuts goes back to the middle-ages and the Crusades when people took this type of hearty cake on trips to sustain themselves while away from home. The British love affair with fruit cake began in the 1400s when dried fruits first arrived in the misty isles from the Mediterranean. In the mid-1800s cake with candied fruit had become a Victorian tea cake. It also became a cake served at weddings. Naturally in a time before fruit could be flown to markets from orchards and groves in a warm climate, the candied fruit cake made a perfect Christmas cake. In modern times it seems not to be as popular as years gone by, but fruit cake sales are still surprisingly high.
Whether you’re looking for a good holiday read, or the perfect gift, Nike Chillemi’s Goodbye Noel is a good fit. 


Links to order the book:

Amazon – ($2.99)                          Christianbooks – ($2.89)

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. Burning Hearts is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series. 

Fruitcake photo from: Stock.Xchng image #1148932