Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Candles

 It's no big surprise that I love to celebrate and I love traditions.  Some "holidays" I find are rather silly and bizarre, others are more traditional and a few are down right sacred.  That last category is where I put the Advent candles.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and counts down the days until the arrival of Christmas. The term Advent comes from the Latin “adventur”, meaning arrival. Advent wreaths  are an old Protestant custom, which originated in Eastern Germany. The traditional Advent wreath is made from evergreen branches to symbolize God's ever-lasting presence. In the wreath are four candles -- three purple or royal blue candles that represent penance and one pink one to represent the hope of the coming joy. (Some call it Mary's candle)  Each candle represents one of the four weeks before Christmas. (I could never understand why the pink one was the third Sunday.  I always thought it should be last, but  oh well, I don't make-up these traditions.)

I started having Advent wreaths when I was a kid.  I was a regular church-goer in a very traditional Episcopal church.  I went to church, but my mom didn't.  She worked and wanted a true day off, but her religion didn't seem to waver, so she appreciated the touch of symbolism I brought home with the candles.  I grew up using the purple candles that are more common in these wreaths.

When my girls were young, we went to an Episcopal church that was kind of a mix of old traditions and new thinking.  It had a guitar playing priest who really  tried to bring the kids into the service at every opportunity.  One thing he did, however, was revert to the apparently older version of the Advent candles and use royal blue instead of purple.  I don't really remember his theology behind the decision, but I do remember the hub bub it caused with some of the older members of the congregation.

Today, I don't go to church.  Partly because I work a lot of Sundays and partly because I haven't found a church that suits me, and partly because while I consider myself a Christian, I'm not sold on the "organization" of churches anymore.  That has a lot to do with working with a holy roller televangelist for a while, but that's another story.

Anyway, my daughter is going to church regularly and so I really wanted to carry my love of the meanings of the Advent candles to her home.  So I went off in search of candles. I thought it would be easy to find a ready packaged set of Advent candles, but I was wrong. (Of course, I didn't actually try a religious store since I was shopping on Black Friday.  I could have thought of this earlier, I suppose.)  I actually had a hard time finding any taper style candles that were colors other than red and white.  I finally found some though and she will have 3 royal blue and 1 pink candle to light starting tonight.

In all the hustle and bustle of the start of the Christmas season, we will slow down, and have a little joy with the beauty and grace of a burning candle to remind us there's more to the season than shopping and gift-giving.

May you have a wonderful, peaceful first Sunday in Advent, with candles or without. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving musings

I do...issue this my proclamation, hereby appointing Thursday...a day of public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God, earnestly recommending to all the good set apart the said day for those purposes. -Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

Do you really think Thanksgiving gets lost in all the Christmas stuff?  I don't think so.  I know it seems Christmas comes to retail earlier and earlier each year.  We even had a small display up before Halloween, but we held off on most things until after that sacred of scary holidays.  Other stores were a little more aggressive with their Christmas fare, but you can't really blame them.  People were shopping for the stuff, and stores want to sell things, that's how they stay in business.

I do think Thanksgiving has been washed into a huge winter holiday season that starts with Halloween and extends all the way to Valentine's day. But celebrating is a way to make people smile.  I would celebrate a holiday every day if I could and the dreary winter weather seems to make the need for celebrations more pressing.

 The bigger question is that have the meanings of these holidays been lost in the glitz and food and gifts?  What does Thanksgiving mean to you?  If it's just eating turkey and pumpkin pie, you're missing out on something.  If football is the all-encompassing goal of the day, you're missing out on something.  Yes, it's a time of family, but if you're all stressed out about the gas prices, the lines at the airports, or holiday travel in general, you're missing out on something.

Now don't get me wrong.  I plan on food, football, and family on Thanksgiving day too.  Some of my family will be traveling to the "other" family and won't be with us.  But it's the thought and feelings that make it a holiday. It isn't really necessary to have your family close in body, if they're close in spirit.

I wonder why we need a holiday to make us stop and appreciate what we have.  It seems that we are so busy with our day to day craziness, that we don't really look at the big picture.  I feel very fortunate to have kids I love, grandkids I adore, pets that give me unconditional love, great people to work with,  a roof over my head complete with some special sentimental comforts, food in my refrigerator, etc etc.

I think that when we are evaluating our lives,  we always seem to compare ourselves with the wrong people.  We're looking at celebrities, and wealthy neighbors and people who have "stuff".  We should be looking at the people around us who don't have what we have, in terms of "stuff" or family and friends.  Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks....for what you do have....for whatever your circumstances, I guarantee you are better off than someone else.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, November 5, 2010


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at Soule Mama

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Round 5

I'm always a little surprised and excited when Kate posts the next round of this Stay-At-Home Robin.  I don't know why.  It comes around very promptly at the first of each month.  I guess it's just that I'm able to tuckk the whole project away once the round is done and completely forget about it.  That's especially true this time of year because I have so many projects in the works for the holidays.

Anyway, round 5 is actually 2 pieces...a 4x6 and a 4x7 that fit across the top of what I have so far.  Interesting that it is in two pieces and not just one long piece.  It really made me think about where I might be going, since I don't really know what other steps will bring.  Anyway.

I decided to do an adaption of the Prairie Queen traditional quilt pattern for my 4x6.  Now, the first problem was adapting a square design into a rectangle.  The second problem is this is really small for me.  I have traditionally used the width of one of the sewing machine feet as my 1/4 inch sewing gauge.  Well, guess what?  It's not exactly a quarter of an inch, but a little bit wider.  That small difference doesn't seem to matter when I'm making a regular size quilt, but on this tiny scale it's huge.  So I've got tape down on my machine and am trying to be very careful with my seems.  Not quite careful enough however as I ended up about 1/4 inch short on my 4x6 so I cheated slightly and my 4x7 is a quarter inch bigger.  That's the beauty of doing your own piece, I guess.  It was especially easy since my 4x7 is just one piece of material.  Whew!

There you have my little wall hanging so far.  It's really pushing my brain, but I love it. I still have my prairie theme going, and I still have ideas for down the road, if the directions take me to them.