Last Sunday, we drove out past Drayton Valley, to the Alberta provincial Crown forest land to tromp through the woods and choose our Christmas tree. This has become a tradition in recent years for Sam and I and our youngest daughter, Reena. Then, we bundled it up on our car to bring home. I love the fresh, living pine smell. With the extra branches, we made wreaths: one for outside and one for a candle centerpiece. All our decorations are up, inside and outside. It was a fun time of decorating with both girls still at home. I even change the paintings on our walls to go with the winter-Christmas theme. I like to sit in the dark with just the Christmas lights on. It is peaceful and provides a serenity to begin and end my day.
With the pandemic encroaching on our celebrations this year, revaluating why we do what we do – and finding ways to still share in the joy of Christmas together -- seems important. I was thinking about this as we took the time to drive and pick out a tree, decorate the house, make or buy presents, and sing carols together. We were even thinking of ways to get together outdoors with our extended family until that was put on lock down too. So, we are now looking at ways to share time together online with those of our family not in our house.
What is the significance of traditions? They help us to remember, to take time away from our busyness and prepare our hearts for Christmas and the coming of Christ. Here are some of the meanings behind these traditional symbols we use in our home:
Pine tree – an evergreen, reminds me of the everlasting love of God, always present and green with life even in the dead of winter.
Wreath – a circle – complete, never ending
Candles and lights – Jesus is the light of the world. Star of Bethlehem.
Advent calendar - preparation, prepare our hearts.
Creche -manger scene - retelling the story of Christ’s birth.
Sing carols – singing the story, praise, and halleluiah. celebration
Ornaments – beauty – memories – ones given, ones made, ones chosen
Poinsettia - a winter blooming flower that is shaped like the star of David.
Gifts – to think of others – Christ gave himself to us, wise men gave gifts
I have been working on painting Ornaments again in these last couple months. They are miniature reflections on love, joy, peace, hope, life, and beauty. I found myself painting some of the symbols I find most meaningful as well as other themes that I keep coming back to. I will share a few of them here, all of ornaments are on my website in the "store" under Winter category.
Love Birds – (bashful quail on one side and “Love” on the other) My sister took the photo of these quail parading around her backyard. Their stance made me think of a bashful young couple not quite sure of themselves but loving each other. Love extends through thick and thin.
Shout for Joy – (two children jumping together) The exuberance, laughter and joyful wonder in children celebrates the joy in our hearts. I think of my two grandchildren, and the joy they are.
Walk through the Woods – There is a peacefulness and stillness when I go walking or skiing through the snow blanketed woods. Especially when the snow is falling, muffling the noises.
Garden Beauty, Anemone and Butterfly- Both of these are reminders of spring and the beauty of flowers and growing things. Spring will come again. This is also a sign of hope and promise of coming life.
Poinsettias – the flower that blooms in December in Mexico, like red stars illuminating the landscape. I don’t tend to paint these at any other time, but I enjoy it now as I let it remind me of the Mexican legend and its association with Christmas.
Waterfalls - God is the living water. He fills us up with his everlasting love. This is a theme I come back to all year long.
And the Angels Sang – What did the shepherds see when the host of Angels sang , “Glory to God?” I imagine it was like the northern lights – full of light and moving color vibrating with music.
Some of my favorite Christmas songs:
• What child is this?
• Mary do you know?
• Long time ago in Bethlehem (Mary’s little boy child)
• Angels we have heard on high
• Carol of the bells
• I heard the bells on Christmas Day
• Good King Wenceslas
• Ding dong! Merrily on high!
• Do you hear what I hear?
What traditions do you have for this time of year? What is the meaning or significance for you?