Tuesday, 21 December 2010

More on The Christmas Tree

Well my tree's up and it's lovely! You know trees always look so small against the sky, but as soon as you try to get them in your living room you realize how large they actually are, mine ended up going in the family room instead because of its ten foot stature! There is something just so thrilling about going out in the cold and wading through the snow in search of the perfect Christmas tree that makes even grown-ups excited and breathless and rosy. I have always enjoyed reading the circular letter by American poet, Robert Frost, entitled simply Christmas Trees.  My favorite line is: 

    A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!
... I can't help wishing I could send you one
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

I would encourage you to find this short poem, and especially, to find the one formatted as a children's story illustrated by Ted Rand.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is perhaps the most important part of the holiday decorations, so I thought I would take a moment to see how this charming tradition came about.

The first known Christmas trees to be erected were in the the 1400's in what is now Estonia and Latvia. They were originally set up and decorated in a public place, such as the town square, so that they could be shared and enjoyed by the entire village. The people of the town or village would have a great big party on Christmas with dancing around the tree that was decorated with fruits, paper flowers, and nuts. All of the dainties were eaten off of the tree and then the townspeople set it afire!

Although there is much debate about who erected the first Christmas tree in America it appears to have been in the end of the 18th century, and it continued to be a custom among German communities until Americans of other nationalities found it to be fashionable in Europe in the 1840's to the 1850's.

The tradition of decorating fir trees in Europe began in the early 1800's and with Queen Victoria's marriage to German, Prince Albert Christmas trees became increasingly popular in England. The image of the British royal family's tree in Godey's Lady's Book, December 1850 and by 1870 most households decorated their own Christmas trees.

It was considered bad luck to put up your Christmas tree before December 23 or to take it down before January 6, the Twelfth Night, commercialization has since encouraged the custom of putting up of the tree much earlier.

I hope today to go to my neighbors and cut one of their trees for my own house this afternoon!

Words of Christmas

I hope these words of Christmas brighten your day and help you "get in the mood," for this cheerful season!

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, Which shall be to all people. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, Lying in a manger.
~ St. Luke 2:10-12

Heap on the wood! - the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We'll keep our Christmas merry still.
~ Sir Walter Scott

The earth has grown old with its burden of care But at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair And its soul full of music breaks the air, When the song of angels is sung."
~ Phillips Brooks

 Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."
~ Washington Irving

 "You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much,but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't"
~ Louisa M. Alcott

It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, "God Bless Us, Every One!
~ Charles Dickens

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Review: North of Fifty-Three

I just recently finished an old book that I had picked up at book fair about a year ago. It was nondescriptly titled North of Fifty-Three, and it was by Bertrand W. Sinclair. The cover intrigued me little more than than the title, and I imagined it to about some remote war with men as the most prominent characters (which, of course, is perfectly fine by me... when I'm in the mood!). Why I bought it I'll never know. Was I ever in for a pleasant surprise!

The story opens in a moderately sized city in Victorian Canada. The heroine, Miss Hazel Weir, is a young and blameless stenographer who seems to attract disgrace. Due to no fault of her own Hazel leaves her city for a teaching position in the untamed west. In Caribou Meadows Miss Weir is met with more ill reputed companions and one evening she tries to escape her own misfortunes by a walk in the beautiful wood. Just as the heroine has reached some degree of peace, night unexpectedly falls and she is lost and alone in the great wilderness. Wandering in vain, she stumbles upon a man she learned of in Caribou Meadows, a man completely unlike she has ever ween before; Roaring Bill Wagstaff. Bill Wagstaff offers to take her home the next day and Hazel is forced to comply. The following few days they spend in trying to find the town and finally Hazel grows impatient with her guide and demands why they are not "finding" the settlement. Bill Wagstaff replies simply that he is taking her to his home. Of course the poor heroine vows to hate her kidnapper for life and reluctantly finds this difficult as she sees how honourable and good he is. The harsh winter climate determines that she will have to spend several months with her captor, and in the spring she demands that she be delivered unto civilization once again. On the way he saves her life, tells her he loves her and asks her to marry him. She refuses even though she finds to her horror that she doesn't want to. 
Reunited with some old friends Hazel prepares to go back to Granville, on the train east our heroine discovers that she left the only person she loves in the Canadian wilderness. So Miss Weir hurries back to the little cabin and Hazel and Bill are married. The story could end there but it doesn't! The reader is lead along a winding trail of happiness, heartache and gold mines before a most satisfying finish.

This was a wonderful book and very well written, I would encourage anyone who likes a great romance or adventure story to find and read this obscure gem! Happy reading!