Monday, November 29, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

For those of you reading this from a screen in the Thousand Islands, were you one of the many spectators lining Washington Street in Watertown today for the annual Christmas Parade? If you were, did you spot Kaili & I riding in Sue & Gary's awesome convertible PT cruiser? It was so great to see the parade from our perspective - in the middle of it all - seeing the excited children, ready for the holidays and of course, Santa. Personally, I think that we were ALMOST as exciting as Santa. As we rode down Washington Street, children, young and old, shouted, "it's Miss Thousand Islands" and "look at the princesses!". I have to say, the most difficult part of this (I know, what can be difficult about riding in a parade?) was the candy throwing. It seems pretty easy, but there is a lot to think about - don't hit the people, look graceful, get it close to the sidewalk, etc.

With Mayor Graham before the parade started!

With Sheriff John Burns - a little closer to moving!

More pictures to come!

Now, it's back to the grind. I just arrived at my apartment in Ithaca after a two and a half hour drive from Chaumont. I have to admit, I'm really not ready to go back to classes tomorrow after a 10 day vacation. But, I guess I really don't have much of a choice. Luckily, most of my big projects are almost completed, and there isn't much left to do. I'm already so excited for Winter Break, even though I have to take two classes! Even though the holiday season has officially begun, it always feels more holiday-ish at home, than it does at school. Anyway, on my way down to Ithaca tonight, I noticed so many houses decorated with lights, Santa Claus statues, and reindeer. There is one house in particular that was not only decked out for Christmas, but is ALWAYS showing holiday spirit, for EVERY holiday, covering their front lawn with hundreds of decorations. Tonight, I noticed flashing Christmas lights, of every color, and several Santas and reindeer and snowmen. That said, we obviously all have our own ways of celebrating and getting in the holiday spirit - whatever your holiday may be - but I got to thinking, what is it that inspired the most common Christmas traditions like putting up lights, a tree, buying presents, etc.? Some may be more obvious than others, but I decided to do some research and I want to share it with you.

Origin of Christmas Traditions:

I couldn't find much about where the tradition of hanging Christmas lights began, but I like to believe that they represent the bright North star that led the shepherds and Three Kings to the manger on the night when Jesus Christ was born.

The Wreath, now a common decoration that is hung on doors, comes from the belief that the crown of thorns placed on Jesus Christ's head was made of holly, and that the berries, originally white, turned red from the blood. Also, evergreen is said to represent eternal life because it does not die or go brown in the winter.

Mistletoe comes from a pagan tradition during the celebration of winter solstice.

Christmas Trees have been said to also be a pagan tradition, however there is some Christian reasoning behind why we put up a fir tree. Whether your tree is freshly cut, purchased from the local tree farm, or assembled from three pieces, creating the illusion of a perfect tree, it is said that the triangular shape of the fir tree, and probably the belief that evergreen represents eternal life, inspired the tradition of Christmas trees. According to an online article, "In Germany during the 7th century, a dedicated monk went to spread God’s word. In order to simplify the Holy Trinity, a fundamental tenet of Christian faith, for new converts he compared it to a Fir tree and its triangular shape. New converts he encountered began to associate the tree with God. This association gained popularity, and five-hundred years later, the custom of displaying trees during the Christmas season became widespread."

What are your Christmas traditions?

In my house, probably the biggest Christmas tradition is something that my mom does. A top-secret recipe for homemade caramels, passed down from my mom's grandmother, is brought to life each Christmas season. Throughout the month of December, several square sheets of caramels are cut into hundreds of bite-size buttery drops of goodness, and wrapped individually in squares of wax paper. When we were little, my mom was able to make the caramel wrapping into a game, but as we have gotten older we have realized that it is a chore. Nonetheless, somehow the majority of caramels get wrapped and given to friends and family - something that is now anticipated. It's a busy season for our family this year, so I offered to help make the caramels, knowing that I will someday have the privilege of making them myself.

So, as we approach this holiday season, whether you are celebrating the first night of Hanukkah this week, or bringing out your advent calendar, remember the reasons behind the things we do to celebrate.

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