Category: BLOGMAS 2021
We’re on winter storm watch here just like so many other places this Christmas, but there is no need to worry ~ NORAD will be watching to track Santa’s progress.
Every day of the year, Cheyenne’s Mountain (AKA Stargate to many SYFY fans 😀 ) NORAD defends North America using an all-domain and globally integrated approach to track everything that flies in and around Canada and the United States. But, on Dec. 24, NORAD adds a VERY special mission ~ tracking Santa Claus.
Like so many origin stories, NORAD’s mission to track Santa truly began by accident when in 1955 a young child, trying to reach Santa, dialed the misprinted phone number from a department store ad in the local newspaper. Instead of calling Santa, the child called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night who answered the child’s phone call, was quick to realize a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa. After more incoming calls, Shoup assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls and a tradition was born, that continued when NORAD was formed in 1958.
Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the world. Because of the support, services and resources generously provided by volunteers and our government and corporate contributors, NORAD Tracks Santa has persevered for more than 65 years.
In fact, what started because of a typo has flourished and is recognized as one of the Department of Defense’s largest community outreach programs.
Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives several million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers typically answer more than 130,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children across the globe.
In addition to the phone line and website, children and the young-at-heart can track Santa through our mobile apps and our social media platforms:
NORAD Tracks Santa Website: https://www.noradsanta.org
NORAD Tracks Santa Newsroom: https://noradsantanews.com/newsroom
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
- The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
- Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
- Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
- The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
- The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
- The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
- Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
- The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
- Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
- The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
- The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
- The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol… so pass it on if you wish.’
Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25th. The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6.
While there are family and even cultural traditions for Christmas menus, we try and vary it to OUR own tastes each year. Sometimes that is also dependent on regional availability of the specialty items needed to create those menus.
This year with it just being the 2 of us, we’re really making a super simple “trimmed” down menu. I found a turkey breast instead of the WHOLE turkey and the butcher is even cutting me an extra small prime rib 😀
WOW I’m truly blessed with so many to choose from!
Some of my favorites are my very first personal desk when I was 9, my aunt coming to visit from Texas around that same time and sitting on the floor in a leather dress playing A Barrel of Monkeys with the younger kids or maybe the year I got my first bike, whoops wait that was the birthday before Christmas.
But I think my all time favorite was when my grandfather worked for General Electric as an X-ray technician of sorts (he oversaw the installation and calibration of X-ray equipment) and the year he brought home a GE Snow tree and the beautiful ornate ornaments (I still don’t know the correlation between between being an X-ray technician and Christmas trees).
Anyway this tree had a HUGE decorated cardboard base and once the tree was up and decorated you filled this base with thousands of tiny Styrofoam balls and when you turned the switch on the tree would make it’s own snow. As a kid I thought it was pretty cool, but as an adult I look back and realize what a MESS it made!! Especially when the Santa Ana winds were blowing and the static electricity was high – those damn balls stuck to EVERYTHING! We lived in the high desert of southern California and the winds were ever present during December, often morphing into their severe form of Devil Winds and the snow was nowhere to be found so the tree was a novelty we all enjoyed.
But wait, that is not my favorite memory. It turns out that my favorite memory is of trying to stump my dad each AND EVERY year with his gift – it became a mission of sorts to be the first to stump him. I swear the man was Carnac when it came to knowing what was inside a box. We tried EVERY year to stump him and I don’t remember ever being able to do it. We tried adding bricks, taping a silver dollar with duct tape to the bottom so it would flip back and forth to make noise when you shook it, the box insides a box trick, adding a pair of old shoes… but he ALWAYS guessed! I still don’t know how he did it.
I’m a Virgo and as such tend to make lists and be over-prepared as the general rule. So, the only last minute gifts I tend to need are a couple extras for those unexpected visits that come up like a surprise gift from a neighbor.
A few of the “things” I keep on hand (with a festive ribbon already tied to them) for those occasions are:
- Coffee gift cards
- Homemade JARS such as the Harvest Soup or Brownie mixes I did this year
- Homemade applesauce
- Homemade jam
- And closer to the actual day a plate full of homemade goodies
Here are a couple of recipes I make most years that are great to have around and NEVER EVER go to waste whether they are given as gifts or eaten in house LOL 😀
1 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits
14 ounces Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Fisher’s Cinnamon Pecans
- Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
- Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips, caramel bits and condensed milk together until smooth.
- Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
- Top with pecans using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.
CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
14 ounces Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Crushed Honey Roasted Peanuts or walnuts
- Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
- Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips and condensed milk together until smooth.
- Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
- Top with peanut pieces using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.
When does your family open their presents?
This category has changed a lot over the years for me as I have gotten older and had my own family. Being a military family on a tight budget I’ve always started shopping early (like in January) to work everything we want to do into our tight budget. So I anticipate watching as my friends and family open their gifts that I have tried to select perfectly just for them.
My family traditions as a kid were of a BIG Christmas eve open and that carried on through college, but as we (cousins) all got older and began getting married with families of our own, our grandparents passed on, some of us moved away, blended families (with their own traditions) were formed, etc… getting together for both Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day became harder and harder to do.
Eventually Christmas eve became a MUCH smaller event for mainly immediate family for a small dinner and to open our gifts to each other. Christmas morning was for being at our respective homes with our kids opening presents and then the larger family get together much later on Christmas day for dinner at just one place, usually my mom and dad’s house which became our house after my dad passed away.
These days with everyone all over the country and now with the pandemic, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are mainly just hubby and I with LOTS of phone calls to family and friends and we open our gifts on Christmas morning.
We did attend our Eagles Christmas party yesterday though and opening gifts for the secret gift exchange was part of the activities. It was as if they knew me. I love my new Starbucks coffee cup and hot cocoa! 😀
I know this category sounds a bit like Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. That was intentional on my part. I believe there are truly lessons to be learned from that story! I don’t believe that we have to be the mean spirited, unkind Ebeneezer Scrooge with a life gone wrong though LOL 😀 in order to benefit from the lessons. We can CHOOSE to live a better life and be PRESENT in order to make a better FUTURE. There is ALWAYS room to BE BETTER and MORE loving and MORE giving!
Christmas Past is a COMPLETELY subjective category. The older I get the more I realize that it’s the traditions and the memories that weave our holidays together. It’s little things like the who puts the lights on the tree or the angel on top of it. It’s the favorite recipes that you only make at Christmas time. It’s the laughter of the munchkins each morning as they discover what mischief AnnaBelle has gotten into. It’s a baking day with the munchkins making your favorite traditional recipes to share on Giving plates to the neighbors…
Last year was an unusual Christmas for us with my surgery and it’s life altering outcome, but we did follow many of our normal traditions like putting up the tree, Christmas Eve service with our neighbor who attended the same church and Christmas Eve dinner at a friends (even if I couldn’t eat anything 😀 ).
This category for me is also subjective based on where we were living at the time. This year being back in the cold of the Pacific Northwest is actually making me remember Snowy Christmases for some reason. A couple of my favorite Christmases were when we were in Upper Peninsula Michigan. Maybe it was the trees, water and snow, but for me it was also the old churches. There was so much history there. These are 2 of my favorite country churches from Michigan. I took these pictures in 2011 at Christmas time ON THE SAME DAY. That’s how fast weather changes with lake effect snow!
I JUST LOVE OLD CHURCHES! The bottom 3 pictures are from a REALLY neat stone church in the middle of town.
But, my favorite country church is from a teeny tiny little town called Mansfield. It was once a growing little town until there was a mine disaster. Now all that exists is the monument to the disaster, the church and a few random homes.
And then while cleaning out some old files I found these OLD Christmas pictures from a million years ago, well maybe not a million, but a really LONG time ago! Just goes to show you how subjective your memories of the past can be. The little boy with his back to you is my brother who in the next picture though much younger is much bigger than I am. I have NO idea what that look is all about, but it doesn’t look like I was very happy 😀 And it seems like there are a bunch of pictures with us sitting on that step 😀
THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
Christmas is the most important holiday to me and not because Santa comes, though that is pretty important to the kiddos, but more importantly, it’s a caring spirit, a sharing feeling, an attitude that I try to practice all year long. I truly feel good about giving – whether it’s the Angel trees I select gifts for or the smile from the Salvation Army bell ringer as you put your money in their red bucket and wish them Merry Christmas.
For 10 years I chaired an Angel Tree Program for FISH and I loved doing it! I prepared for it every year and I truly believe each year got better and better. The night before we distributed the gifts I would go shopping for the teenage girls. We were ALWAYS lacking in gifts for the teen girls no matter what we tried to boost things up for them. So now when I choose the angels from the trees in the community I seek out the teenage girls specifically.
Christmas means lots and lots of memories of family, some no longer with us, but ALWAYS in my heart when I hang an ornament that reminds me of that person or a recipe that they always prepared like my dad’s, Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing or Gram’s Christmas box full of goodies picked out just for each one of us or…
One of the things I try to practice is to make at least one homemade gift each year – nothing extravagant, but just something that says “I MADE THIS with LOVE JUST FOR YOU“.
The years that we host the Christmas holidays we include a lot of family recipes. But, more importantly, Christmas is the spirit of Love and Giving and it must be felt and shared. Christmas is a gift from above and each year as I grow older I realize more and more that Christmas is about Love, Peace, Sharing, Caring and just being together.
I can only answer for myself, but I assume for those that are not religious, the meaning of Christmas is still a celebration, but one of celebrating friendships and family by gathering to eat together, share their time and share tokens of appreciation in the form of gifts with others.
The Festival of Lights is now 25 years old and a great way to kick off the holiday season. It’s ALL Volunteer and NON-Profit. It began as a fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club to help get the city out of debt and then took on a life of its own and now helps with scholarships and special projects. The festival runs every night from Thanksgiving to New Years. So if you have company in town for Thanksgiving it’s a great jump start to your holidays. You can drive your own car or take a horse drawn carriage ride through the displays. They have also coordinated a local radio station to listen to as you view the displays. The night we went through the fog was moving in early so a few of the pictures look a bit “smoky”.
As of this year they have the world’s tallest (41 feet, 16,000 pounds with working jaw) nutcracker built by a local company, 500,00 lights, 90 animated displays, 3D displays, horse drawn carriage rides through the displays and a Holiday Village with Santa, hot cider with a bake sale and a synchronized light show in the courtyard. The displays depict fairy tales, the military, patriotism, the local logging industry, local vineyards, local fishing and the traditional Christmas songs and scenes. People come from all over to see it. Unfortunately for locals, it doesn’t change much, but is still fun every few years.
Sorry everyone – not sure how it happened, but I have gotten a few days behind, but WILL catch up today and tomorrow! Odd, because I’m actually ready for the holidays 😀 but I did get a bit overzealous with baking the past few days!
I wrapped as I went this year and boy did that make things easier than facing a large pill of gifts to wrap all at one time! I also went pretty simply with color coordinated papers, matching ribbons, cute little tags or their favorite character ornaments and colored twines.
There are some of the MANY fun ideas to try ALL over PINTEREST, but these are some of my favorites! These are also some simpler, but classic ideas! I LOVE that some of them are so creative and use plainer papers – papers that can be used year round and then spruced up for whatever the occasion is.
This has always been a really hard category for me. I LOVE Christmas! There is nothing about this season I don’t like short of maybe crowds of rude people and Black Friday.
Sometimes seeing things through someone else’s eyes can give the same old traditions new meaning an in the long run that can also make the favorite traditions and the memories mean that much more.
If I had to pick just one tradition though, it would be putting up the tree as a family while eating leftover turkey (from Thanksgiving) sandwiches. When I was a kid we usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and leave it until Kings Day, the Epiphany on January 6th. Hubby and I still do that and for that reason we like to go cut our own tree so it’s fresh and lasts the entire time. I use an apple cider/sugar mix that keeps the sap from forming on the cut area and keep the water cool and full.
When I was a kid we did a BIG family get together with a buffet of food and opening our family presents on Christmas Eve. I just saw a few of my cousins recently and we were reminiscing about some of those holidays and LOL how horrible our wardrobes were back then.
Then on Christmas Day we would do Christmas morning and “Santa” with just the immediate family followed by a BIG turkey with all the trimmings including my dad’s stuffing and giblet gravy with ALL the family as well as extended family, which included crazy Aunt Louise and Uncle Herb. I replicated dad’s stuffing recipe a few years ago (Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing) and that is now a MUST TRADITION for the Christmas meal no matter what the protein is.
Our newest tradition in the last several years is watching Christmas movies and dreaming about moving to every small town depicted in them, kind of like Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls. We loved that show!
BEFORE I get to my normal more solemn stories and inspirations I wanted to share this story that made me laugh and then laugh some more! I found this on facebook so don’t know where it actually originated.
My husband added these “cookies” to his Walmart order last week, to meet the minimum amount for free shipping. If he’d clicked on them for more info before clicking “Add to Cart,” he might have noticed the very tiny letters that said, “real USA chicken as the #1 ingredient” and questioned his purchase. But, as he did not do that, they ended up on our front porch, along with a pack of Oreos. This was a pleasant surprise to my kids, who wasted no time digging in. I opened the package for them, which I might not have done if I’d noticed the tiny words on the label that read, “treats for dogs.” Or if I’d noticed that some of them were shaped like a dog bone. Or if I’d sniffed them after cutting off the shrink-wrap.
But, as they looked like cookies, said “Christmas cookie biscuits” on the label, and arrived with Oreos, in no part of my mind was I thinking that maybe I should verify that they were for human consumption.
So strong was my assumption that they were actual cookies, that I thought nothing of it when my 11-year-old daughter complained that they tasted bad. Store-bought sugar cookies are always gross, which is why I wasn’t tempted to eat one. I shrugged and said, “Try microwaving it for 10 seconds, they’re probably frozen from being outside.” She did so, but it didn’t help. She told me they tasted the way she imagined dog food would taste. STILL no alarm bells in my mind. Meanwhile, my 14-year-old son ate all of his cookie with no complaint. One of my neighbor’s boys even ate one later that evening, again with no complaint!
The next day, my 6-year-old son, who hadn’t had one yet, joked that he was going to have a dog treat (referring to the cookies). I asked why he said that, and he said because they were shaped like bones. Wait… what?! I grabbed the package to inspect it, and sure enough. They were dog treats! I fed my kids DOG TREATS!! I FED MY NEIGHBOR’S KID DOG TREATS!!!!!
Though shocked and somewhat horrified, I literally fell on the floor dying of laughter, especially when my oldest said, “I thought they were good!”
After confessing to my neighbor that I’d fed her son a dog treat (she also thought it was hilarious, thankfully), I gave them to a much more suitable recipient: her German Shepherd.
However, I did make one of them into an ornament for our tree. Because that is a Christmas memory that deserves to be preserved.
The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc… and on December 18th they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.
On December 19th a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.
On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.
The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc… to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.. ‘Pastor,’ she asked, ‘where did you get that tablecloth?’ The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house cleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.
The man asked him where he got the Tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.
He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.
He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
This true Story was submitted by Pastor Rob Reid.
Or this story I found years ago over at Heather’s blog Family Forever, now a closed blog, but I kept it to remind me to remember this for the future. I think next year that many of my gifts will be given in the same manner as my family really doesn’t ‘need’ anything, but so many others do. Don’t forget your tissue box as you read this story.
THE SIMPLE WHITE ENVELOPE
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas –oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it — the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth.. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.
Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.
These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish just one of them could have won,’ he said. ‘They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.’ Mike loved kids — all kids — and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.
That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition –one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknown to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s giving spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.