Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Arahaba tratry ny Noely

Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa celebrates a Jesus centered Christmas. Even though the temperature is warm, they decorate with snow (that doesn't melt) and holly. Santa Claus is known as Dadabe Noely. But he's not the center of celebration.

Instead, families gather at church at 5pm on Christmas Eve for services that last until midnight. Children and adults sing carols and act out the nativity story. They return to church on Christmas Day and share in sweets. Families give small gifts to one another and greet everyone with " Arahaba tratry ny Noely," Merry Christmas.

I love that they center their celebration on Jesus. What a beautiful Christmas they share.

Cooper, James. “The History of Christmas Cards .” Why Christmas?, 2018,

Jesus Came to Us

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What do I Love About Christmas?

These are a few (maybe a lot) of my favorite things:
  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (I've watched it every year since it came on television)
  2. Nativity Scenes (Indoor and outdoor)
  3. Looking at Christmas Lights with my hubby (revisiting the ones we've seen from year to year and discovering new ones)
  4. Hallmark Christmas Movies (Yep-I'm that girl)
  5. Making cookies with my daughters, grands, and mom! (We make a huge mess, but who cares)
  6. Peppermint and Chocolate (in my coffee, peppermint patties, anyway it comes)
  7. Our Christmas tree (the wonderful memories in each ornament)
  8. Decorations that reflect the beauty of the season (anything winter)
  9. Making Christmas Ornaments (always a joy)
  10. My grandchildren's Christmas plays (I love these!)
  11. Giving gifts (Always fun, sometimes a challenge)
  12. Gathering with loved ones (family and friends)
  13. The music (I have at least two stations ready to listen to in the car)
  14. Reading the story of Jesus' birth out loud, before we open gifts (A highlight for me)
  15. Celebrating the birth of Jesus who came to save the world! ("That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.")

What do you enjoy about Christmas?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Fiction Review: We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan's Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

My Review:
The title, We Hope for Better Things, says so much about this story. Elizabeth Balsam, the main character, takes readers on a journey through struggles, love, hate, and loss. I admit there were parts of this book I found difficult to read because the depravity of mankind is exposed, yet I wanted to keep reading as Elizabeth dug through her family's history with hope and determination to find truth. This is an important book and should be read for a better understanding of our history; in hopes that we'll be a better people. I remember my brother, in National Guards, had to go to Cincinnati for riots in the sixties. It was a scary time. Erin Bartels remarkable writing brings to light times of trouble with a degree of hope. This would be a great winter read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Hope

Luke 2:17-18
When they [shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 

Psalm 71:14
As for me, I will always have hope;
 I will praise you more and more.

I watch a lot of Christmas movies, mostly Hallmark. This particular year, as I'm recovering from knee replacement surgery, they've been great company. In almost every one of them, someone mentions the "magic of Christmas." True love develops, hearts are healed, mysteries solved due to this holiday spirit. Whether set in a small town or big city, the characters depend on the enchantment of the season to carry them through.

While that's sweet and entertaining, 
the magic of Christmas isn't magic at all.

After the shepherds laid eyes on baby Jesus, magic didn't pour over them. Initially fear filled their hearts. But then, the men who traveled to Bethlehem from the sheep fields witnessed God's hope for mankind. With beautiful, amazing hope they told everyone they met about the King born in the stable of Bethlehem. These men understood that God's promise of redemption arrived on earth. And they were excited! Because they found hope.

I'll admit that at Christmas positivity fills the air. People seem nicer, more thoughtful, more attentive. They smile more and practice kindness. For this I'm thankful. I know people say it's the season that brings out the good in people. But, I believe hope is the reason. The hope in Jesus fills the air. The excitement over this little baby, who would grow into a man and save us from the depravity of the world, arrived here. To save us!

That's hope, friends! Hope in Jesus.

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,
Green, Jonathan. Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Christmas. Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.