Tis the Season: Light Amid Darkness

In past Tis the Seasons, I’ve shared many, many holiday stories: family traditions, interesting historical tidbits, heartfelt sentiments, favorite songs, and so on.  When faced with writing a post this year, though, writers block hit and it hit HARD.  I had lots of ideas, from sharing new memories to fleshing out older stories, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up staring at a blank page.  The words just wouldn’t come.

Then, I got thinking about what my friend Rachel said in her post earlier this week about Christmas being a time of light in the darkness and hope when all feels lost.  The more I thought about it, the more it felt right.  Light in the darkness… what a timely message.

We live in days of darkness, days of sorrow, days of pain, days of disappointment.  It’s been a rough year for so many both here in America and abroad.  We live in days of horrific war, days of the displacement and death of innocents, days of bombs and destruction.  We live in days of intolerance, of cruelty, of fear.  We live in days where people are massacred and ostracized for their beliefs, for their cultural heritage, for their orientation, and for their gender.  We live in days of doubt and days of deep insecurity where truth and trust cease to exist. Continue reading

Tis the Season: A Holiday Story by Corina Carrasco

Today’s Tis the Season post is a short story by Corina Carrasco from at Wasted Days And Wasted Nights.


She was working late on Christmas Eve and again all day on Christmas Day. It was the third year that she had no family to keep her away from work and so she had volunteered to take the shifts that no one wanted so that others could be with their families. She considered it a gift to both her co-workers and herself. Her co-workers could stay home and celebrate their traditions with their families. She could spend the time at work and be distracted from the fact that she had nowhere else to be.

In previous years, she would not have missed family Christmas. She would not have given up the spirit of family being together, laughing and loving, even teasing and rolling their eyes at the words coming from the black sheep. She loved being with everyone else, in a house too full for stretching out one’s elbows but full enough to lock the warmth, both outer and inner, inside each person.

Christmas Eve wasn’t bad. A lot of people came into the coffee shop to relax after getting the last of their errands finished. Feeling accomplished, they would sit and enjoy that venti hot drink before moving on. There were smiles and holiday wishes. Other people would pop in to get that last minute Christmas gift that they had forgotten, or the one they would have on hand in case they needed one more gift. She sold a lot of gift cards that night and by closing time, she had all but forgotten that she was closing up alone and that she’d go back to her empty house to put on Christmas carols and have a cup of hot chocolate so she could sleep well and pop back into work at seven o’clock the next morning. It would be busy even though it was a holiday. She wouldn’t let her mind wander to the past. That was all over. Continue reading

Tis the Season: A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from Britta of  It’s a Britta Bottle!


A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

One of my absolute favorite Christmas memories is a relatively recent one, in what some might see as a most unconventional location.

The Setting: A shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

The Event: Christmas Ice Skating

The Players: A group of Western English teachers

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A visual image of the scenario

Christmas in Thailand! Say what! Continue reading

Calling Holiday Guest Bloggers!

It’s that time of year again!  Although the retail world has been celebrating Christmas for a month already, the arrival of December means that the holidays are just around the corner.

This year, I’m excited to announce the return of what is becoming one of my favorite holiday traditions: Tis the Season.

Every year on my blog, I do a week-long series in the days leading up to Christmas.  In it, I share family traditions, stories, favorite songs, and discuss what the holidays mean to me.  I did most of the writing in year one and, last year, I was joined by some wonderful guest bloggers.

This will be year three of Tis the Season and I am really looking forward to what the series has in store.

I would like to invite you, reader, to join me!  This time of year is all about togetherness, so what better way to celebrate than by bringing in guest bloggers?

Tis the Season this year will go from December 19-25.  My vision for the series is to have a post for each day.  Ideally, I will write one post and guests (yes, you!) will write the others.  If interest is high, I am all for making the series longer or putting up mulitple posts in one day.

It’s really easy to get involved!  All you have to do is send me an email or leave a comment on this post.  Then, it’s up to you to write your guest post.  Possibilities are limitless, but keep it holiday-themed.  I’ve got a list of prompts/ideas at the end of this post to help get your brain churning.

 

Please email me your post with a link to your blog by December 15.  This leaves me plenty of time to organize and format everything.  If you want any photos included, send those along as well.  Send emails to keepyourfeetblog@gmail.com.  I’ll include a link to your blog and any other social media in the final post, so if you’re looking to get your site out there, this is a great opportunity!

Post Ideas:

  • What holiday do you celebrate?
  • What does the holiday season mean to you?
  • What are some of your favorite holiday memories?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?
  • What are your favorite holiday songs, movies, etc.?
  • What is the best gift you’ve ever given/received?

I’m so excited to see what you all come up with and share the holiday season with you!

Tis the Season: Holding On to Memories

Growing up can be a jarring experience.  You move out into the world and, suddenly, everything you’ve ever known is different.  After a while, you get used to it.  Life is fluid.  That’s just the way the world works.

Some things, though, never change.  Like Christmas.

Although we’re not exactly warm and cuddly, my family has always been close.  We push each other’s buttons and drive each other crazy, but have always enjoyed spending time together.

Christmas has definitely been different this year, with Grandpa in the hospital.  But, in many ways, it’s still the same.  As I said in yesterday’s post, no matter what happens, Christmas is still Christmas.

Many years ago, before college, I had a moment one Christmas when I realized that it wouldn’t always be like this.  There will hit a point when we’re all grown up and have families of our own.  We’ll be too far away to come together like we always have.

I’m thankful that this hasn’t happened yet.

But don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing a year from now.  I don’t know if I’ll be home for Christmas.  So I’m bound and determined to make the most out of this year’s holiday.  I’m going to soak it all in, from the decorations to the carols to the time spent with family, and make memories that will last.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  I’m very thankful for each and every one of you.  I wish you joy and blessings this holiday season.

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Tis the Season is a yearly holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Tis the Season: No Matter What Comes, Christmas is Still Christmas

Christmas Eve is usually my favorite day of the year, but we’re running a bit low on holiday cheer in my house.  Over the past few days, my family has been thrown one curveball after another–from our power going out to my grandpa ending up in the hospital.

Initially, I had something VERY different planned for today’s Tis the Season.  This wasn’t a post I expected, but it needed to be written.

I’ll start with Grandpa.  Early on Monday, he checked himself into the Emergency Room with pain in his abdomen.  He thought it was food poisoning.  It turned out to be much worse.  On Tuesday, he had emergency surgery.  Removing a gallbladder is usually a short procedure (or so I’ve been told), but Grandpa’s took hours.  The surgery didn’t go well at all–due to a poor diet, his gallbladder was completely dead.  Taking it out set off several complications.

The thing about Grandpa is that it’s very hard for him to give up control.  I love him very much, but he can be domineering at times.  He likes his independence.  When I visited him on Monday, he looked exhausted from the pain and irritable for not being able to do things on his own.  He doesn’t like to be a burden to others.  The fact that various extended family have driven hours to help care for him makes him feel guilty.  Of course, post-surgery, I don’t know how lucid he is.  Mom’s been there every day and says he looks awful.

Because of this, Christmas plans have been shuffled around quite a bit.  We haven’t watched our normal movies or made our holiday yum-yums.  Mom hasn’t even wrapped presents yet.

On to the power outage.  Yesterday brought a mix of rain, sleet, and snow, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.  As I headed home from work, I noticed a car in the ditch.  Its hood had been completely ripped off and little bits of mechanical parts littered the ditch.  It turns out, the car ran straight into an electrical pole, tearing the power line in several places.

So… no electricity, no running water, no wifi.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  However, my brother and I planned on catching up on holiday baking.  It’s hard to bake cookies without a working oven.  Also, I hadn’t eaten lunch and couldn’t open the refrigerator, lest I let all the cold out.

We solved the no-power problem by taking our supplies to Grandpa’s now-vacant house and using his kitchen under the supervision of our sassy Southern aunt.

Things aren’t all bad, though.  My family still made it to church last night and then went to see the new Star Wars.  The power is on again, so we’re able to watch Christmas movies and decorate all the cookies we baked.  We’re still having steak dinner, followed by opening gifts around the Christmas tree.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns.  I often idealize the holiday season as a never-changing remnant of my childhood, but it’s so much more than that.  Traditions may fall by the wayside and plans may be changed last minute, but Christmas is still Christmas.  My family is still here and there are still a thousand reasons to be thankful.

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Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Tis the Season Guest Post: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from another special guest!  Join me in welcoming Tori from Between the Notes as she shares about her family’s Christmas this year in light of financial challenges.  I really love her honesty and determination to enjoy the simplicity of Christmas.  Thank you so much, Tori, for contributing!


“Christmas will be a little smaller this year,” my mother said.

Still sleep deprived after my busiest week of the semester, I was home for Thanksgiving and my mother and I were in the car running errands. It was my last visit home as a college student. Since I had started college a few years earlier, my family had made sacrifices and cut back on expenses to ensure that my tuition was covered. By this point, I was accustomed to doing things on a smaller scale.

However, things are different for my family this year.

In 2015, we have had more expenses than usual, many of them unexpected. My grandfather’s health has been declining since the spring, and there have been bills for doctor’s visits, medication, and home care nurses. This summer, there were car problems that took several weeks and several hundred dollars to repair. Last month, our heat stopped working and our washing machine leaked all over the den – on the same day.

With an expensive year nearly behind us, we are quite literally having ourselves a merry “little” Christmas, and that’s okay.

Having a scaled-back Christmas means that we aren’t hosting any big events or buying lots of gifts. The few gifts we give will be inexpensive, or “little tokens,” as my grandmother calls them. In fact, our Christmas is so small this year that we still haven’t put up our tree, although that’s mainly because the den is still a mess. When we’ve finished wrapping our little tokens, they may have to go in a pile under my measly Charlie Brown Christmas tree, which may be the only tree that goes up this year.

All my life, I’ve heard that the holiday season isn’t about material things. It’s the time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ, give back, give thanks, and enjoy time with loved ones. This year, I’m fully experiencing what that means. I’m in a position in which I can’t focus on material things, which has allowed me to focus on the things that do matter. This is my first Christmas as a college graduate and I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and provision through that season of my life, which was not the easiest. I am cherishing the time with my family, especially my grandfather, because I don’t know how many more Christmases I’ll have with him. I have found joy in making things for friends and family, as most of the gifts I’m giving this year are homemade. I am also making an effort to help others and give to those in need. In turn, I’ve realized how much I don’t need. And though my mother’s words were initially hard to accept, I am so grateful for my family’s little Christmas.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas. My family and I will – even if we have to spend Christmas morning beside a Charlie Brown tree.

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Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Tis the Season: Lucia, Lady of Light

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Lucia in watercolors. Painting by me.

Growing up in a community founded by Scandinavian immigrants, my childhood was sprinkled with homages to my heritage.  On my mother’s side of the family, I’m a third generation American, with ancestors from Sweden and Norway.

There are some beautiful holiday traditions that come from these countries.  One of their most celebrated is St. Lucia, lady of light.

The story of Lucia goes way back:

 Her legend stems from Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It is thought that during a time when the rulers of the land did not look favorably upon Christianity, a woman named Lucia had devoted her life to God and the poor. She gave her entire dowry to the poor, and the man she was to marry was very upset by this. Lucia was put on trial, refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was declared a witch. She was to be burned at the stake but when the guards tried to light the fire it would not light. Ultimately, she was stabbed. (Quote Source Here)

No one really knows how Lucia’s story came to Sweden.  One of the most popular tales surrounding the legend is that, during a terrible famine, a lighted ship sailed across Lake Vannern bearing a woman at the helm.  The woman’s head glowed with light and aboard the ship was food for the starving people.

Because of being so far north, winters in Sweden and Norway are dark, long, and harsh.  Over the years, Lucia has become a symbol of hope in that darkness.

Today, Sankta Lucia, or St. Lucia’s Day, falls on December 13.  The tradition began in the home, but now is celebrated as a community event.  A young woman is chosen each year to portray Lucia.  She is dresses in a white robe with a red sash around her waist.  Atop her head is a crown of candles.  She carries a tray of cookies to her house and community while her attendants (often siblings and small children) sings carols.

Although I’m not Catholic and do not really pay attention to saints, Lucia is incredibly special to me.  As a child, I participated in my community’s annual Sankta Lucia pageant.  Over the years, I played many parts, from simple attendant to Sugar Baker to member of the Tomte chorus.  When I was seventeen, I had the honor of being selected as my community’s Lucia.

The Lucia tradition is very near and dear to my heart.  America is such a great melting pot that culture and heritage is often lost and forgotten.  I’m very thankful that my parents got me involved in celebrating Swedish customs at a young age.  Someday, if I’m lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope that I will be able to pass on the tradition.

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Me as Lucia in my local pageant in 2009.


Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Tis the Season Guest Post: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from a special guest! Join me in welcoming Shannon from If You Captured Your Life in Snapshots, What Would it Look Like?.  She was kind enough to share her favorite holiday traditions.  I love her list and hope you do to!  Thank you so much, Shannon, for contributing!


 

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Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. There’s just something so magical about the season that no matter what part of the world you live in, the goodwill is infectious.

From the moment you spot that first snowflake or that first piece of tinsel, you’re grinning like a kid on Christmas Day. The first Christmas carol in December has you humming under your breath all day and the moment Advent starts, you start begging your mom and favorite aunt to sneak you some sweets. Christmas cheer is all around and you can’t help but pass it on.

For me, the best part of Christmas has always been the traditions. There are those that have been observed in your family for generations (like Midnight Mass or making boxes of sweets to send to your neighbors), those that seem more habit than tradition (like not hanging your decorations until the last weekend of Advent) and then there are those that you decide to adopt for one Christmas.

No matter what traditions you decide to follow, each of those little traditions adds something to the festive magic of the season. Each tradition makes the season infinitely more special and unique to you.

Some of my favorite Christmas traditions are:

  1. Decorating my house on 23rd – That one day when everyone steps out of their bustling lives and gathers together to decide how the house should look
  2. Advent Calendar – This is one tradition my Mom drummed into me when I was younger. Our calendar didn’t just count down the days to Christmas but worked as a Good Deed checklist as well. We got to choose what image we wanted to draw for calendar – stockings, candles, holly etc. If you did a good deed for that day, you got to color that day’s image in. Two good deeds equaled two colors for that day and so on and so forth.
  3. Cuddling up in front of the TV to watch Home Alone 2 – This is one of my Dad’s favorite Christmas movies
  4. Taking a walk around the neighborhood to admire the decorations, the lights, the community cribs etc.
  5. Last minute shopping – Even though I finish my Christmas shopping months before, I love browsing through the shops for last minute small gifts. You never know what treasures you may spot through the bustle 🙂
  6. Getting ready for Midnight Mass – If you have any siblings, you’d probably understand the attraction. There’s something about the craziness of that moment when everyone’s scrambling to get presentable that endears itself to me. It’s a moment for excitement, for confusion, for gossip, for resolutions and for good cheer.
  7. Sleeping under the Christmas tree – This one needs no explanation. There’s nothing better than watching those vibrant hues dance above you as you slowly drift off, comfy cozy under a warm blanket.

What are some of you favorite Christmas traditions?


Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s Almost Christmas!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how excited I am for Christmas!  This time of year is always incredibly busy with holidays and family commitments, but I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve got a lot coming up over the next few weeks–Christmas, attending a conference in St. Louis, and getting ready to head to England.  To be honest, I’m having a hard time focusing because there are so many big events in a row.

If we were having coffee, you’d know that I’ve spent the majority of my day preparing for my annual holiday series here on the blog!  Tis the Season started last year and I had so much fun with it that I decided to give it another go.  The holidays are all about coming together, and what better way to come together than host guest bloggers and share traditions?  I have a couple of really wonderful guest posts lined up, as well as a few of my own.  Stop by each day this week for a new post starting TOMORROW!

If we were having coffee, you’d know that I only have three days left of my job!  I’ve been working as the Interim Executive Director of my local Chamber of Commerce since October.  Although I really don’t enjoy the job much, I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude.  It’s been a great learning experience for me.  We hired a new Executive Director a few weeks ago, but she isn’t starting full time until January 4.  I’m currently working on training her and setting things up for a smooth transition.  I absolutely can’t wait to be done working there, but I’m thankful to have been able to work right until Christmas.

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that I am not seeing the new Star Wars until Wednesday.  So no spoilers!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in exactly a week from now, I’ll be in a minivan bound for St. Louis, Missouri .  I will be attending Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  I’m interested in pursuing Christian ministry/missions as a career, so this conference is a great opportunity to learn more about the field and network.  It only happens every three years, so I’m thankful to catch it.  There will be over 16,000 people attending!  It’s going to be a powerful week.  I know many people who have attended this conference in the past and have told me that it’s life-changing.

If we were having coffee, I’d inquire about your plans for the holidays.  Are you traveling?  Do you have any special family plans?  Is there anything big on your Christmas list this year?  Tell me all about it in the comments and stay tuned for Tis the Season posts throughout the week.

P.S. Enjoy this Christmassy photo I took with my cat, Paco, whom I love dearly.

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