Reclaiming Christmas

The fact that the world has ‘stolen’ our Christian holy days and turned them into commercial extravaganzas has been one of my pet peeves for a very long time. Walk up and down the aisles full of Christmas decorations in any store and what do you see? Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and Disney characters galore. What do any of these have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? Look at the outdoor decorations in your neighbourhood. You might see a nativity scene, particularly in front of a church, but where is Christ in most of those decorations? What does an inflatable penguin or puppy have to do with Christmas? I don’t know either, but you can get one for just $19.98 CAD at Walmart!

Don’t even get me started on that stupid Elf on a Shelf! Whoever thought that one up did nothing but add more meaningless stress to an already over-stressed season for anyone who bought into it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total Grinch! I love Christmas lights. After all, it was Christ Himself who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

Though standing a tree in the house and decorating it with lights and ornaments often strikes me as a weird tradition, I also love the Christmas tree that stands in front of our living room window. Many of its decorations point to the true meaning of Christmas. That’s very intentional. It’s one small attempt at reclaiming Christmas.

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Although a beautiful nativity scene also has a place of prominence, our home isn’t completely devoid of the fun side of Christmas. Santa and one of his reindeer stand atop a cabinet in the living room. Surrounded by teddy bears and twinkly lights, he’s checking his list and preparing for his round the world gift giving flight, but it’s the little Santa bowing over the manger on another shelf that holds greater meaning for me.

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So what is the real meaning of Christmas? “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” an angel told some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem that night so long ago; a night that would forever change the world. (Luke 2:8-10 NIV) That night the mighty Creator of the universe chose to come to earth in the form of a tiny babe, to live among us, and to show us who He really is. That night, He began His journey to the cross where He would pay the penalty for all our failures and give us the gift of eternal life with Him. There is no better gift than that! It costs nothing but the willingness to humble ourselves and surrender to His leading in our lives. That’s what Christmas is really all about! That’s true love and that’s why I want to reclaim Christmas. I can’t take it back from the masses who celebrate by overindulging and running up their credit card bills, but I can keep the love of Christ at the centre of my Christmas season.

When we were teaching in Japan, I asked one of my adult students why so many Japanese people celebrate the birth of a God they don’t believe in. “We love to decorate and we love to shop,” she told me. Perhaps that’s why most people celebrate a holy day that has no real meaning to them.

Why do you celebrate Christmas? What does it mean to you?

 

‘Tis the season

LogoFashion Friday is putting in its appearance much later in the day than usual. In fact, I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen at all this week. We arrived home last night after a whirlwind trip to Vancouver (the second in seven weeks) to assist my 96-year-old father with his move into long term care and to deal with everything in his previous apartment. Though he wasn’t very happy about having to leave the assisted living facility where he lived for the past six years, it was actually exactly what he needed and he seems to be settling in well.

We were thankful to make it home in time to attend the first event of our Christmas season this evening. I was especially glad that I didn’t have to think about what I was going to wear. Last year, I planned my outfits for each Christmas event in advance writing down exactly what I was going to wear including shoes and accessories. It made the season so so much easier that I decided to do the same thing this year. Though I hadn’t quite finished doing this when we got the call to go to Vancouver, I did have this evening’s outfit planned. Here’s what I wore.

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I decided awhile ago that I’d put together outfits for each event this season from what was already in my closet rather than buying anything new. The dark green sequinned top added a festive look to this evening’s simple black outfit. I added an emerald necklace that was my mother’s, sparkly earrings that I bought last year, and a silver bangle.

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One thing to think about when planning an outfit for a special event is what you’ll be doing. Since I would be sitting at a table for tonight’s dinner and the entertainment that followed, what I wore from the waist down was less important than what would be seen above the table. I’ll wear something entirely different when we go dancing tomorrow evening.

How you see yourself

LogoWe were on the way to the city to finish up our Christmas shopping earlier this week when the cell phone rang. It was the call we’d been waiting for for a month and a half. A space had finally been found for my very frail 96-year-old father to move into a long term care facility in Burnaby, the suburb of Vancouver that has been his home for over 30 years. He would be moving before the end of the week!

So here I am back on the road again today heading for the coast (wasn’t I just there?) to clean out the little assisted living apartment where Dad has spent the past six years and to make sure that he’s comfortably settled into his new surroundings.

There wasn’t time to write the fashion post that I had planned for today, so it will have to wait for another time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this thought.

How you see yourself

Gram’s in nesting mode!

The urge to clean and organize is commonly known as nesting and usually comes upon a woman in the final weeks of pregnancy. I don’t remember actually experiencing this overwhelming desire to get my home ready for a new baby. I worked up until a few days before baby #1 arrived. It’s a good thing that that was back in the day when they kept mom and baby in hospital for several days because hubby was still putting up a wall to separate the nursery from the living room when she was born! I was a bit more prepared when baby #2 arrived 19 months later. Babies #3 and #4 arrived at very busy times in our life (there are long stories behind both of those) when nesting was the furthest thing from my mind.

So, what does all that have to do with anything? The whole family comes home for Christmas every third year and this is that year! Suddenly I find myself cleaning and organizing, decorating, planning menus, and buying ingredients for all sorts of Christmas baking. Yes, Gram is definitely in nesting mode!

It started with the teeny tiny playroom in the corner of our basement that only gets used when grandchildren come to stay. It hadn’t had a thorough cleaning in a long time. I sorted through the old wooden toy box that was lovingly made for my siblings and I by a great uncle of ours in the 1950s discarding broken toys and putting away ones that are too babyish for our growing grandkids. I washed down the play kitchen that our children got for Christmas in the 1980s. Dolls that had been mine and our daughters’ when we were little girls were bathed and their clothes went through the laundry. Then the tiny toy dishes were washed.

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Just as the toys spill out into the rest of the basement when the grandkids are here, my cleaning frenzy has also moved on into other areas. Since we retired, Richard has taken over much of the day to day housework, but I’m attacking those nooks and crannies that don’t get regular attention. Why wait for spring cleaning when the family’s coming home and Gram is in nesting mode?

What are you doing to prepare for the holiday season?

 

A little piece of Paris

LogoEverywhere we went when we were in Paris in May, I saw people wearing berets. Most of them were women, but I did see at least one man sporting one. I hadn’t worn a beret since a pastel green one I had in high school, but before long, I decided that I needed to bring one home with me. It was easy to do as there were inexpensive ones available in almost every souvenir shop. My only dilemma was deciding what colour to buy. I finally settled on navy blue, but now that winter has arrived and I’m seeing more and more berets being worn here in Canada, I wish I’d bought more than one!

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Wearing pins or brooches on knit caps (or toques as we call them here in Canada) is a trend this year, so when image consultant and fashion blogger, Brenda Kinsel, suggested adding them to berets, I decided to give it a try. I don’t often wear pins, but I knew that there were a few hiding in the back of one of my drawers. Here, I’ve added a silver rose to my little piece of Paris.

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There are several ways to style a beret. It can be worn as I’m wearing mine or tilted to one side or the other. Every beret has a brim that fits snug to the head and holds it in place. Though I’ve seen them worn with the brim to the outside, the “correct” way is to tuck it inside.

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Inspiration everywhere

LogoEarlier this week, image consultant and fashion blogger, Brenda Kinsel, offered readers of her Tips & Teasers Facebook page this challenge:

“See all the colors in the background of this pic? Using any colors in this palette create an imaginary outfit – pants, top, jacket, jewels, etc. Tell us what it looks like!”

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Rather than creating an imaginary outfit, I shopped my closet and this is what I came up with.

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It’s a casual look built entirely of neutrals, but I think the pattern in the top lifts it out of drab. The grey skinny jeans, oatmeal cardigan, and black pearl necklace are all cabi from previous seasons. The taupe ankle boots are also several years old. Only the sleeveless V-neck top from Cleo, one of my favourite Canadian brands, is new.

Who would have thought that anyone could take fashion inspiration from a rusty old wall of corrugated metal? Brenda, that’s who! I absolutely love her blog and have learned so much from her. She seems to find inspiration everywhere!

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Thank you, Brenda! Obviously I need to start looking at old walls and other random things with a new eye!

 

Pendants for a Cause

LogoOne of the things that I enjoy about blogging is connecting with readers and other bloggers around the world. This week, I “met” Dr. Phoebe Chi, an internal medicine and public health physician and author, when she liked last Friday’s post and began following my blog.

In September of this year, after hearing about the devastation in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian, Phoebe wanted to do something. She was aware of the dire need for medical care and resources, but even with her formal training as a physician, she felt helpless to do anything to meet these needs.

With nothing but a few small pieces of sea glass, a pair of pliers, an assortment of wires, and a deep desire to give hope and help to those whose lives had been devastated, Phoebe decided to put her artistic skills to work and Pendants for a Cause was born!

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For the first month, all proceeds from the sale of the necklaces were donated to help meet the emergency health needs of Hurricane Dorian victims. Once those needs were met, the focus of Pendants for a Cause changed to another passion of Dr. Chi’s. Proceeds now go toward helping children around the world with heart conditions get the life-saving surgeries they need.

All Pendants for a Cause are available here. I think the wire wrapped necklaces are my favourites. I absolutely love these two.

Sea glass comes in every colour imaginable and some of Phoebe’s pendants are personalized with tiny charms. Perhaps it’s time to do some Christmas shopping!

In addition to necklaces, there are also earrings to choose from.

As one who loves to wander a beach looking for bits of glass that have been softened by the sea, I wondered how Phoebe was able to find enough to continue producing her jewelry. She told me that she has two sources. Most of her pieces are genuine, bought from a friend who lives in Italy. “She literally has a beach in her backyard that is full of them,” said Phoebe. I must admit that I’m terribly envious! The round pieces, used to make earrings like the ones shown on the left above, are cultured glass produced in a tumbler and purchased from a distributor.

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Dr. Phoebe Chi wearing one of her own creations.

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I have not been compensated in any way. Information and photographs provided by Pendants for a Cause.