Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Italy's Presepe Napoletano



This year in my "Forever Friends" college circle we exchanged ornaments. My dear friend, Thora Jo chose a gorgeous wooden and gold star shape with a nativity in the center for me. I love it; because it's beautiful, because a dear friend chose it for me, and because Jesus is the focus. 


Way back in the 1220s, St. Francis of Assisi traveled to Bethlehem to visit the cave where it is believed Jesus was born. Back home, he was inspired to create his own nativity scene in a cave. Using a crib and candles, he put together a site for people to visit and worship. Setting up a crib for baby Jesus caught on and spread through Italy and other parts of Europe.

Naples, Italy is well known for crib making or Presepe Napoletano. In Naples, cribs are traditionally set out on December 8. On December 24, baby Jesus is placed in the crib.

I love the nativity sets and ornaments we display each year. I inherited Grammy's Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus and have a miniature set with Bethlehem in the background.

St. Francis started a beautiful tradition that reminds us why we celebrate Christmas!   

Cooper, James. “The History of Christmas Cards .” Why Christmas?, 2018, www.whychristmas.com.
Green, Jonathan. Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Christmas. Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What do Bells have to do with It?

A few years ago, I had the privilege to listen to a bell choir. The group of students chimed out some beautiful Christmas carols.

Bells have long been associated with Christmas. From jingle bells on Santa's reindeer to Juju's teacher in It's a Wonderful Life proclaiming, "Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings." 

Long before the jingling bells, St. Paulinus of Campania in Italy requested a bell-tower be built with a large bronze bell used to call his congregation to worship. On Christmas he chimed the bell four times, in celebration of Christ's birth.

Casting Crowns sings one of my favorite Christmas songs, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The song calls for peace on earth, much like the angels who sang to the shepherds.


Kerensa, Paul. Hark!: the Biography of Christmas. Lion, 2017.

Fiction Book Review: Who I Am with You (A Legacy of Faith Novel) by Robin Lee Hatcher


Book Description:
For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith. 
Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination. 

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have wronged them, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again. 

Who I Am With You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

My Review:
I loved this book.
Who I Am With You is one of those books I didn't want to end. I fell in love with the characters and want to know the rest of the story. Robin Lee Hatcher writes her characters with depth and insight. I enjoyed both Jessica's story and that of her grandfather. And I loved how the two connected through an old Bible. What a legacy! The town of Hope Springs sounds like some place I'd like to visit with its quaint downtown and surrounding mountains. The book as a whole is enjoyable and thought provoking with a beautiful spiritual thread woven throughout. This is the first in a series. I'm excited for the second one to be published. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Joy


Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Nine years ago on December 22, my daughter, Sara, labored for hours. In the hospital they kept a monitor on her as the labor pains ebbed and flowed. I sat close by and prayed this little one would arrive soon. And he did eventually come. She gave birth to Elijah Duncan, a beautiful baby boy. Joy overflowed from my heart when I held that sweet bundle.

Sara and James made their way to a hospital for Eli's birth. Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to the far away town of Bethlehem. No hospital, not even a room to stay in. Instead they rested in a cave used to shelter animals. And there, Mary gave birth to the Prince of Peace. The manger used as a feeding trough for the animals turned into a bed for the new born king. I've experienced childbirth, and I can tell you I wouldn't want to give birth in a cave for animals. But God made a way for Mary and Jesus to be safe and sound even among the sheep and cows.

I can imagine the joy in Mary's heart when she swaddled that sweet baby and held him tight. I wonder if she sang a lullaby to him before she placed him in the manger to rest. Jesus birth is a beautiful gift of redemption; the beginning of the joy the world can have if we trust in him. 
He truly is the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Norway's Julekurver



For years, I've enjoyed making a fun paper craft. Until recently, I didn't know that the tradition of making woven paper baskets came from Norway. 

Close to Christmas, people in Norway cut and weave paper or straw heart shaped baskets. They sometimes attach a handle and then fill the basket with sweets. The hearts decorate their trees and homes. There's rumor that Hans Christian Anderson may have started this tradition.

This is an entertaining craft to do with the whole family.
If you'd like to try your hand at heart baskets, follow these instructions.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Who Put the First Selfie on a Christmas Card?


We can thank Sir Henry Cole of England for the tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards. In 1843, he commissioned John Calcott Horsley to create an image Henry could send to his friends and family. The card featured a family celebrating the holiday, as well as, folks helping the poor. With the writing of A Christmas Carol, a new light shined on helping those in need.

My great-grandma's Christmas Cards on display.
Eventually Americans adopted the practice of sending cards to friends and family to celebrate the season. In 1875, Louis Prang mass produced affordable cards for everyone to share in. Then in 1915, the Hall brothers created Hallmark cards. And you know the rest of that story.
Guess who had the first "selfie" Christmas card? Ohio's own Annie Oakley. She toured Scotland around the holidays and had her photo printed on the cards she sent back to friends in America.
I'm fortunate to have a few of my great-grandma's Christmas cards framed for display. I enjoy sending and receiving cards. I hope you do too!


Cooper, James. “The History of Christmas Cards .” Why Christmas?, 2018, www.whychristmas.com.
Green, Jonathan. Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Christmas. Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Peace


Luke 2:13-14
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
  
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

As Eli and Ella Cate put my Fisher Price Nativity set together, I watched with great joy. They placed Mary and Joseph in the stable and gently laid baby Jesus in between them. Ella Cate found all the palm trees and lined them up, while Eli herded the sheep to the shepherds. As they were playing, my daughter, Sara, asked Eli if he would sing a song he'd learned for his great-grandfather's funeral. As he tinkered with the manger scene, his strong, young voice filled the room. "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." Wow, what a blessing to hear this almost nine-year old sing one of my favorite songs.
At Jesus birth the angels rejoiced with a song of peace. They glorified God and poured the favor of peace over the shepherds.
The Christmas season can get hectic. Too much to do, places to go. So many families are knee deep in sports and activities, while others are lonely, even sad. The holidays can be a difficult time for so many reasons. But it can also be a time filled with peace. Just knowing that Jesus birth changed the world and our options in life brings me calm and comfort. If it weren't for that sweet baby in the manger growing to be a man who gave his all for me, my life would be utter chaos. Instead I have peace in my heart, knowing my life is in God's hands.
I pray God's peace pours over you as you prepare to celebrate Jesus birth. May his arms be a place of rest and his feet a place of worship.