Merry Christmas

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It is my favorite time of year.  Even with all the hustle and bustle and over commercialization of the season.  I love Christmas.  With this time of year comes many family traditions.  Out tree goes up the day after Halloween.  That’s right, I decorate before Thanksgiving.  🙂  My husband bought me an artificial tree years ago, now I can put it up as early as I want. I start the outside lights as early as I can convince my sweetie that it’s time.  It was late this year, second week in December.  I make dozens of cookies and divinity leading up to Christmas Eve.  The kids look through the cookbook and pick out their favorites, and we take turns making them.  Yum!

There are plenty of activities as well.  Just after Thanksgiving, we pack shoe boxes for children in other parts of the world.  You’d be amazed at how much will fit in a shoe box. We go to our Church Christmas Concert, this year my hubby played in the orchestra.  We drive near and far to view different Nativity Stories.  One is a drive through with real animals.  The other is a miniature Bethlehem that allows us to walk through the Biblical Christmas story.  My girls look forward to these events.  Events like these are important to us, to teach our children the meaning of Christmas.

At some point in the season, my girls stand in line waiting to see Santa.  Both are on the edge of being too old, they may even be faking it for me.  This year my youngest asked Santa for her own bedroom.  This is the same kid who asked for snow.  She was disappointed that morning when she awoke to a nice, warm Christmas.  Santa was kind enough to leave a can of instant snow under the tree.  Can’t wait to see how he handles the new bedroom wish!

Christmas Eve is a party with my side of the family.  All sorts of artery clogging food is spread out on the table.  We eat,talk, and laugh until the kids can’t stand it any longer.  We open presents, eat, talk, and laugh some more before loading up the car and heading home.  The girls leave milk and cookies for Santa and sprinkle reindeer food on the lawn.  Before bed, we read Luke 2, kiss the girls goodnight and collapse on the sofa and watch the tree lights.

Christmas morning starts bright and early.  The kids rip through all the gifts and afterwards the grandparents come over for breakfast.  They leave and we get to work on our part of lunch, which we have with my in-laws.  We stuff ourselves some more and enjoy each others company.

Christmas is God, family, and food.  In that order.  This Christmas I hope you have a joyous time celebrating with your traditions.  Merry Christmas.

CK

Christmas, Southern Style

Christmas is around the corner and as I run around trying to catch up on the insanity that goes along with my favorite time of year, I noticed there are certain things that happen every year.  I’m pretty sure some of these only happen in the South.

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Decorations:

  • If it doesn’t move paint it gold.  Gold may not be the color scheme of choice in the frozen regions of the country, but it is still alive and well here.  Everything from pine cones to magnolia blossoms are decked out in gold.  Bonus points if enough glitter to choke an elf, is added to it.
  • Town Nativity scene.  This is more of a small town things, larger cities have outsiders that have moved in and start screaming about separation of church and state.  Get over it! I’m sorry that was rude. We like our nativity scenes and display them proudly.
  • yard art.  Our usual yard art takes on a new “brighter” look for Christmas.  We cover everything with sparkling, fairy lights.  It’s not done right until you can land a plane in the front yard. If our Scrooge neighbors are lucky, we’ll take them down by July 4th.  Christmas caught me off guard this year and I anly have a few hundred lights on the house this year.
  • A small bag of reindeer food rests by Santa’s plate of cookies and milk.  They get hungry too.  Of course, I don’t know where it’s written that reindeer eat glitter.  What do I know, I’m just a mom.
  • Jesus and Santa share the stage.  Even front row Baptists make room for Santa.  He doesn’t steal the show, but he’s there bribing the kids with surprises to ensure good behavior at the annual Christmas party.

Food:There are a number of things that will make an appearance at every Christmas party, even if it’s a catered event.

  • Pigs in a blanket.  It’s not a party without piggies.  In case you don’t know, Southerners love pig.
  • Cheese straws.  OK, this one I don’t understand.  I’ve been told it proves I’m not Old Mobile!  That’s OK, I don’t want to be old.  Cheese straws and basically cheese flavored crackers/cookies.  There’s a local store that makes and sells them.  It’s a sign of good breeding to have a tray at any get-together.  I have an excuse, my mother’s from Texas, we do salsa.
  • Divinity.  If you haven’t had it, try it.  They are small puffs of sugary heaven with small bits of pecans.  They are sweet with a touch of vanilla. The pecans, or walnuts for me, cut the sweetness just enough to keep you from going into a sugar coma.
  • Fruitcake.  Yes, the fruitcake still lurks here.  Waiting for some unsuspecting person to whack off a slice and chip a tooth.  OK, that was harsh.  Not all fruitcake is bad.  Just most of the stuff you buy in the grocery store.  I make a very good fruitcake.  A local shop also makes a very good one. The men in my life demand fruitcake.
  • Velveeta Cheese.  I’m not sure how Velveeta is made, probably don’t want to know.  But Cheese dip, of one variety or another, is mandatory.
  • Cheese balls.  I have been to parties where there were no less than 5 different cheese balls, all handmade with love.  They varied by the cheese used to make them and the food they were rolled in for coating.  Some have even ventured into the unheard of goat cheese.  Shocking!
  • Nuts.  What I mean by nuts is pecans.  I married into a cheese loving pecan eating family.  I’m not a fan of either.  I’m pretty sure my mother in law doubts my Southern heritage based on those two things, and my aversion to cheese straws.  I can have a sideboard full of macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds.  I can even have a bowl full of the elusive Brazil nut, but if I don’t have pecans, I have failed as a hostess.  It’s all good, she loves me even with my odd ways 🙂  I have a wooden bowl my dad turned, every year I fill it to the top with unshelled nuts, for my sweetie.  Every evening he pulls the bowl toward him and munches on them.  I think that is his favorite dessert of the season.

Clothing:

  • Our small children run around in matching, cutesy outfits  with elves and Santas appliqued on the front.  Bonus points for ruffles at the ankles and on bottoms.
  • The Christmas plaid is pulled out of the closet.  It covers everything from pants, skirts, shirts, and the cute sweater the dog is sweating to death in for the Christmas card photo.
  • The purse has a nice embroidery of Christmas trees and matches the sweater and black velvet slippers you wear as you run frantically across town to shop for presents.
  • You’ve picked out the cutest, black velvet pantsuit to wear to the Christmas Eve party.  When the day finally arrives, so does the heat wave.  You spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day wearing Bermuda shorts, flip flops and a festive red T shirt.  Silently, you pray for a freezing New Years.  Maybe you can wear the pantsuit then.

One word of warning.  If you do find yourself in the South for Christmas be prepared to be wished a Merry Christmas everywhere you go.

Last but not least, the most outrageous.  Your daughter asks Santa for snow for Christmas Eve.  It’s the only thing she asks for.  You buy a tin of instant snow and plan on covering the front yard in it.  Unfortunately, it rains and you end up wrapping the tin up and stick it under the tree.  Don’t laugh.  That’s a true story!

What unusual traditions does your region have?

CK

Reading: Christmas

Christmas Lights

Image by David Wagner

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a Christmas Genre, but there should be.  When I cruise the library shelves there are hundreds of fiction titles on/about Christmas. A good bit of them are closer to Novellas than full novels, but that’s fine.

Welcome to the Christmas addict support group.  Please stop playing with the tinsel and sit down.  My name is Caren and I am a Christmas addict.  I have been known to decorate for Christmas the 3rd week in October, and every inch of my house is covered with bright and shiny.  Even my Nativity scene, first thing to go up and last to come down, has twinkle lights.  And I love Christmas literature.

This is the one form of literature that I can deal with being sappy.  It’s OK, Christmas makes me sappy.  When I read this genre, I want a happy ending, festivities with family & friends, and the odd ball neighbor thrown in for excitement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t read other Christmas stories, I love a good murder for the holidays, but generally I want a happy tale.

A few of my favorites are:

  • The Spy Who Came For Christmas, By David Morrell- this breaks my happy rule, but it is a great suspense read from the guy who gave us Rambo.  Beyond Christmas books, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • Christmas in Harmony, by Philip Gulley- there’s a series of Harmony books, I love them all.  They are centered in the small town of Harmony and the local Quaker church.  They are uplifting.
  • Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop– an anthology edited by Otto Penzler.  This is a great collection of Christmas themed mysteries by some of the best mystery writers.
  • An Irish Country Christmas– by Patrick Taylor, this book borders on fantasy because it envisions a northern Ireland where Protestant and Catholics live peacefully together and even go to a single church on Christmas. It’s a wonderful book.
  • Blue Christmas– by Mary Kay Andrews.  It’s Mary Kay!  It’s Southern and funny.  One of my all time favorites.
  • The Book of Luke for the biblical story of Christmas. Read every Christmas Eve since I was a child.

There are dozens more books that celebrate the joy of Christmas.  Some are nontraditional tales others are feel good light reads meant to put a smile on your face.

What’s your favorite Christmas book?

Row80 update:

Reading: Just finished a book that is out of my reading box in two areas.  It’s a faith book and a sappy romance.  It was OK.

Writing: Nada, unless you count working on edits and rewriting sections 🙂

Revisions:  Originally, I had planned on working on my novel…instead I’m working on a short.  Guess what, it’s about Christmas! It’s a fantasy short story.

Submissions: This love of Christmas literature may be the reason several of my stories take place during Christmas.  Including the short I hope to have released the first week of October.  The Fruitcake, is a short tale involving everyone’s favorite holiday treat.  Stop laughing, some people actually like fruitcake, just not me.

How are your goals going?

CK

Seasons in the South

Colors Of Fall

Image by  Paul Brennan little paul

Yesterday, I took a visual tour of Fall on Pinterest.  Beautiful red and orange trees.  People wearing nice fuzzy sweaters. Hmmmm.  I am ready for cooler weather.  Of course, cooler weather isn’t on the calender until sometime in January.  At that point, I realized that seasons in the South have nothing to do with temperature.

Seasons in the South:

  • Football – this is the season we are currently enjoying.  Alabama and Auburn both started playing about 2 weeks ago.  The seasonal colors are proudly being displayed on homes, cars, and bodies.  On Sunday afternoons, one can hear the screaming and yelling of grown men throughout the neighborhood.  Strict social rules apply to this season. It is unfortunate that you have a friend or family member that roots for the other team, but you must not insult and taunt them.  They are still your friends.  Except on game day, all bets are off and don’t invite them over. This season lasts until the Iron Bowl in November.
  • Christmas-  This is my favorite season.  It overlaps football just a tad.  As a child the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving.  That was the day the tree came out of the attic, along with all that glitters, and was decorated.  Now, it starts the day after Halloween. There’s an old lady down the street who puts her tree up first.  I never know when it will go up, but it has been my goal to beat her.  Maybe this year.  This season is marked by brightly colored lights wrapped around unsuspecting trees and large wooden cutouts covering the front lawn.  Thankfully, the Nativity is still visible here.  Christmas parties start filling the calender after Thanksgiving.  People are lovingly stuffed with enough decadent food to cause the waistbands to tighten weeks before Christmas Eve.  The season usually ends the day after Christmas.  A few diehards hold out until Epiphany.
  • Mardi Gras– This is the only floating holiday.  Pun not intended, but it works!  The season of Mardi Gras starts long before the actual parades begin to roll and it ends on Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday changes based on when Lent starts.  Usually, February and March are prime Mardi Gras months.  The season is marked by usually mild mannered adults screaming for a masked rider to toss them chocolate covered marshmallow pies and cheap plastic beads.  Men present these beads to elegantly dressed ladies who normally wouldn’t accept something so cheap and tacky.  Huge galas are planned nightly, celebrating the royalty of the group.  A strict dress code is enforced.  After the coronation, they party until the sun comes up and then crawl home because they can’t remember where they parked.
    Leftovers from party.

    Leftovers from party.

    Summer- The longest lasting season in the South.  This one is marked by temperatures.  It’s hot and it lasts forever.  Summer begins in mid-May and holds on with a sweaty fist until late September, sometimes October.  It is characterized by high temperatures, oppressive humidity, and afternoon showers.  Natives wear as little as socially acceptable and spend their time finding new ways to cool off.  Fishing and swimming top the list.  It is strongly advised not to leave the house in the middle of the day.

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There you go.  A brief explanation of the seasons in the South.  They maybe somewhat different than yours.  What season are you in?

CK