Thursday, December 26, 2013

December has marched along in its usual frenetic style with Christmas and holiday parties combined with shopping and working all dressed up in twinkling lights, sparkling ornaments, ribbons and bows and before we know it, Christmas, with a chaser of New Year's, is over and the dark days of winter settle in.  Well, not really-- not if you count the twelve days of Christmas meticulously itemized in the grand old Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."   This lovely, old, and very recognizable song was first published in 1780 in England but is thought to be of French origin and sprang out of the Catholic tradition.

When I was little, and really until only a few years ago, I thought it was a charming old nursery rhyme that perhaps children of centuries ago used to sing and dream about at Christmas time.  After all, there was no Walmart or Target, but I have come to find out that all of the gifts that seem to get bigger and grander as the song progresses, is packed with hidden meanings that describe the bones of the Christian faith.

This year, just before Christmas, my sister Chris had me running all over Northern Virginia collecting and sending to her the "Twelve Days of Christmas" ornaments she had started buying when she was here visiting back in October, making my Christmas rush all the more rushed.   Of course, I, the more rational one of the two of us, bought a complete set for me, to begin with, in order to save myself from running around.

In the midst of all of this, my friend Judy sent through this reminder of what the Christmas season is really about through an email message that had been circulating.  It explains this lovely old French/English/Catholic based Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which begins on Christmas Day--the first day of Christmas-and it goes like this...

1. The partridge in a pear tree represents the Baby Jesus.

2. Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.

Have you ever noticed that deer are NOT mentioned in this song?
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5. Five golden rings recall the Torah or law which are the first five books of the Old Testament.

6. Six geese a-laying stands for the six days it took God to create heaven and earth.

7. Seven swans a-swimming represent the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit; Prophesy, Serving,Teaching, Exhortation,Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.

8. The eight maids a a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.

9. Nine ladies dancing represents the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

10. Ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

11. Eleven pipers stand for the eleven faithful disciples.

12. And finally--The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of Christian belief in the apostles Creed.

And, of course, "my true love" is our Gracious and Loving God!

So, on this second day of Christmas, as we all rush back to the stores to return and exchange gifts (although I'm pretty sure two turtle doves will not be among those items) then come home to clean up from yesterdays festivities and resume our busy lives, perhaps we can appreciate some of these greatest of gifts that define the Christian faith!  Now, I have to go and find yet another "Twelve Days of Christmas" ornament that Chris did not get while she was here, sighhhhhh.  I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and maybe a couple of golden rings, too!

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Christmas Tree Time

Welcome to the Blooming Hill Christmas Tree preview!

'Tis the season to decorate a tree with tinsel and garland and pretty glass balls that sparkle among flickering lights, reminding us of how beautiful, not bleak, this winter season is, in so many ways.

How he gets that ribbon to cascade and twirl at the same time is beyond me!
For me, one of the best things about decorating a Christmas tree, be it small and quaint or large and refined, is to not only watch, but also feel the magical transformation, of sorts, taking place in our seldom-used living room, from quiet and reserved to glowing brilliantly and beckoning me to spend time gazing at the different ornaments and trimmings that embellish, of all things, the artificial tree temporarily placed there.

This year, our main Christmas tree (I say MAIN because we put up six trees of different sizes throughout the house--Completely over the top, I know) had simply blown out the very last of its pre-strung lights and since we searched and searched for a replacement tree but could never find one that came close to our dear old tree, Peter decided he would take off all of its lights and start over again.

So about two weeks ago, off came over 1000 tiny useless lights, each one painstakingly clipped and fastened to the tree by the manufacturer and on went over 1000 brand new tiny LED lights, each one painstakingly wrapped tightly around each branch by Peter who wore heavy work gloves to save from cutting his fingers, as anyone who has strung lights on a Christmas tree, real or artificial, can tell you. In between, the tree was placed in the shower and given a proper spritzing off that gave it a shiny new appearance and "spruced" it up (pardon the pun) even more.

Still trying to get that topper just right.
A lot of work, I know, but it is a tree that we have come to love, lightly flocked giving the appearance of a dusting of snow that settled on it while still growing in the assembly line meadow, all those years ago, and the tips of the branches appear to have tiny crystal water droplets that add to its shimmering effect. When Kevin was seven years old, we decided to try a real tree for Christmas and told him we would all go out and cut one down at a Christmas tree farm.  Thinking he would be excited to do this, his only reply back was, "But our Christmas tree is up in the attic."  While it took a a bit of coaxing, he finally relented and we found a fresh tree that year, only to return to "our Christmas tree up in the attic" the following year, along with adding a few more artificial trees to the mix, as the years went by.
Finished tree, glowing peacefully, in the Family room decorated with birds.

A work in progress with natural feather trimmings and the  infamous Auburn-Alabama game trundling on in the background.  For once, it was not the Big 10 channel...Go figure!
A corner in the kitchen getting its fair share of attention from the tree master.
The dining room feather tree receiving its last minute touch-up.
So, each year,  Peter, or P. Lorenz as we like to refer to him when he gets in his artsy decorating mode, gets to work creating visual masterpieces with hand-blown glass globes and figurines dipped in the colors of a rainbow and creamy, satin ribbons twirling over the tree branches that are draped in silver and white strings of pearls.  Yes, I do help but P. Lorenz becomes a Christmas tree decorating machine on a mission and its often best to just get out of the way and enjoy the whole process as it unfolds.

Suddenly, the whole house is brimming with holiday joy as the auras of each tree spill out into the night through the windows lighting up welcoming doorways and pathways. We move from move from room to room.  First, the living room, then onto the foyer, dining room, kitchen and family room taking in and experiencing the serendipity of each tree and its unique and burgeoning personality using ornaments we have collected together, through the years.

Tabletop tree in the foyer festooned in red poinsettias, shining hearts and teardrop ornaments.
Just so you know, I decorated one of the trees myself!
Apparently, this is the Tucker's favorite tree.
I never get tired of seeing these trees come to life each and every year.  They look different yet the same, which is comforting to me, as we usher in this joyous season, full of hopes, dreams and promises.  I wish you a holiday season filled with celebration and love and, if you think of it, send me a picture of your Christmas tree.  I'd love to share in your delight as well. (bloominghillva@gmail.com or post it here in the comments section or on my Facebook page.)