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.

christmas-ornaments


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 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!


 

ae75dd56-5953-42b4-a3aa-1615c5f496cb

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.

Tis the Season Day 7: JOY to the World

We’ve come to the final day of Tis the Season.  It’s Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year.  But instead of decorating cookies with my younger brother, I’m sitting here pondering the meaning of Christmas.

(As I wrote that last sentence, I could hear Sam from the next room go, “How ‘come Amelia’s not helping?”  I really should be helping.  Sam’s decorating takes a violent turn if left alone for too long.  We’ve had a number of bloody snowmen cookies over the years.)

Christmas is many things.  It’s a time for family and friends.  It’s a time for giving.  It’s a time for laughter, for memories, for nostalgia.  More than any of those things, though, it’s a time for JOY.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about happiness and joy.  At first, the two words appear synonymous.  Dictionaries will tell you that they’re the same.  But I disagree.  Happiness great, but it is fleeting.  It’s a state of mind, something that you feel for one moment and then is gone the next.  I can chase happiness and something still falls short.  The thing about joy, though, is that it runs deep.  It sinks into the soul.  Down in the core of who I am is a small, indistinguishable flame.  When the metaphorical storms of life hit and everything seems to fall apart, joy remains.  It is steadfast, unshakable.

Where does this joy come from?  Easy.  It comes from knowing and being known by God.  When it comes down to it, that’s what this holiday is all about.

The creator of the universe, the almighty God entered into His creation as one of His created.  He was born not to the wealth, glory, and splendor He deserves, but is born of a peasant in a barn.  He grew up poor and even during the three years He spent teaching, healing, and performing miracles, He was hated and despised by the very people He created.  By the very nature of who Jesus is, He deserves honor and praise.  But by the people He created, the ones He came to redeem, He received slander, torture, and death.

Despite everything, He still loves us.  He still wants us.  It doesn’t matter how broken we are, He is right there with open arms.  He not only provided salvation from our sins, but adopted us as His children.  He wants to know us and be known by Him.  He doesn’t just want us to know things about Him, to live a life of empty religion, but wants us to know who He is, His character, and His love.  It’s intimate, it’s deep, it’s rich… and there for free even though we deserve none of it.  Woah.

This beautiful intimacy of what we celebrate on Christmas is the essence of JOY.

Peter sums it up perfectly: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

One of the most popular Christmas songs out there is “Joy to the World”.  Growing up, I never thought much about the words.  This year, though, they resonated in my heart.  Although they’re associated with the first coming of Jesus, they’re actually about the second.  The words speak of the immense joy that we will have when all is finished and we can physically be with Him once more.  The joy is so great that Heaven and Nature sings–even the rocks cannot help but cry out in adoration.

What better way to end Tis the Season than with inexpressible, glorious, inexhaustible, steadfast JOY?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tis the Season Day 5: A Shift in Focus (Guest Post by Britta!)

Welcome to Day 5 of Tis the Season!  Today, I’m honored to feature a guest post by the wonderful Britta of What’s Past is Prologue!  Although I don’t know her very well, I’m over-the-moon in love with her blog and so pleased to have her contribute to my Christmas series.  If you’re looking for new blogs to read, definitely stop by her blog!  Here comes the post…

Christmas 2014: A Shift in Focus

Hello there, everyone! In case you don’t know, I’m Britta; Amelia and I go to the same little college out on the prairie together. When I started up my blog a short while ago, she was one of my first followers and I always look forward to her own posts. So, it’s my pleasure to be contributing to Keep Your Feet’s “Tis the Seasons” series.

The holidays have always been a magical time for me. I love the traditions, being able to spend time with family, the overall cheer. I love how we are able to take the darkest time of the year and give so much beauty and light to it. There is something so undeniably special and comforting about that.

Despite all this, despite my love for the holiday season, I have to admit—I’m not feeling the holiday spirit at all this year. Last year at this time, I was so excited for Christmas I could hardly stand it. I listened to Christmas music non-stop in the days leading up to the end of fall semester. It was without a doubt my study music of choice pretty much every day. I looked forward to seeing family, to continuing the long lasting Christmas traditions we have, to having time off from school and basking in all the holiday cheer.

This year though? Not so. For some reason, my holiday cheer has been increasingly lacking in a way I can’t even really properly describe. I’ve been listening to Christmas music on and off, though certainly not with the same zeal that came with last year’s holiday season. The Christmas tree at home with all the presents underneath it is certainly beautiful, but it doesn’t conjure up the same feelings of excitement that it used to give me in the past. Today my mom and I made Christmas cookies—okay, well, truthfully she did all of the baking and I just helped with decorations and such. Usually, I am over the moon to contribute to this time-honored tradition—today? I couldn’t have been less excited. Even decorating the tree—one of my absolute favorite traditions—wasn’t as fun this year. This year, all these traditions that I usually love so much just seem more like chores to me than anything else.

Hold it, hold it! What kind of addition to “Tis the Season” is this? This is supposed to be all about the beauty and joy of the holiday season and you claim to be lacking all of that right now! What the heck?

Yes, you may be asking these questions right about now. In fact, I completely understand if you are. This certainly wasn’t the post I set out to write when I initially told Amelia I was interested in writing a guest post. I realized yesterday while I was trying to write that initial post that, while it probably would have been cheery, bright, and funny, it wouldn’t have been in line with my current feelings; my initial post idea would have felt cheap and dishonest.

To appease any uncertainties that might be had with this, I promise that I’m about to get to what I hope will be a meaningful point here, so just bear with me.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m being a Scrooge this year. It’s not that I’m not thankful for this holiday season. I really, truly do love all the joy and happiness that the holidays bring with them. The fact that Christmas comes around every year is quite comforting, really. It’s not that I hate Christmas or am dreading in it anyway; that is not the case at all. More so, I’m just filled with less excitement than I usually am.  During my busy semester that just wrapped up, I blamed my lack of excitement on my stress and exhaustion; however, I don’t think that’s what’s really going on.

You know what I think? I think I’m growing up.

Okay, that might sound cheesy, but it’s true. 2015 will be a year of big transitions for me as I graduate from college and move out into the real world. I think a lot of my disinterest in Christmas this year is simply coming from the fact that I’m more concerned with what’s ahead; my priorities have shifted as I look for meaning in myself and in my future. An appreciation for the time honored traditions that I love so much have been dampened with this shift in focus.

Despite my lack of excitement, I still want to make the most of this Christmas season. The traditions I usually love so much aren’t what’s most important, anyways. More so, I want to make sure I spend this holiday season the right way with the people who matter most. I want to let those people know how much they mean to me. To me, the holidays are really about  with family and friends, appreciating each other, and making special and long-lasting memories. They are about looking back on the year and being thankful for all the good times, for looking ahead with hope to the New Year.

There is so much beauty in this time of year; I am still very much aware of that and I am very thankful for that. A lack of holiday cheer doesn’t necessarily mean this holiday season will be any less enjoyable for me; it just means I’ll have to approach it differently.

Different can be good. I’m going to try to make the most of that.

Tis the Season Day 3: Victorian Ghost Stories

We have reached day three of Tis the Season and today I will be tying Christmastime with academia.

I had the pleasure of spending the past semester in a Victorian Lit and Culture class.  When you think about it, the Victorians are really the ones responsible for Christmas as we know it today.  They began traditions like singing carols and waiting for Saint Nicholas.  Prince Albert is responsible for bringing the practice of bringing evergreen trees into homes, a tradition he carried over from Germany when he married Queen Victoria.  One tradition, however, did not continue into the twenty-first century: Christmas Eve ghost stories.

Why ghost stories on Christmas?  According to a KnowledgeNuts article, they are a remnant from pre-Christmas pagan practices.  You see, the Christmas was strategically placed on December 25 because various festivals, rites, and rituals were already associated with the Winter solstice. Due to these practices, “the solstice was also considered the most haunted day of the year due to its association with the death of light. The barrier between the world of the living and the realm of the dead was supposedly lowered on this day.”

Superstition was aided by technological advances.  Modern gas lamps provided eerily dim light, leaving room for the imagination.  In a creaky old house filled with flickering shadows, ghosts were easily believable.

Dickens, of course, was a firm supporter of the Christmas Eve ghost story tradition.  What first comes to mind, of course, is A Christmas Carol, a story so deeply ingrained in our culture that we all know the story.  (I admit, I haven’t read it.  But I hope to someday!)  We all know of the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  Always big on enforcing strong moral messages, Dickens nails Scrooge’s story with a lesson on appreciating life and showing kindness to those less fortunate.

A lover of drama, Dickens took immense pleasure in doing readings of his work.  Last Fall, when I toured the Charles Dickens Museum, I actually got to stand in the room of his house where he used to present read to his family and friends.  They still have the podium he used.  He would stand there on Christmas Eve and read off his latest ghost story for his loved ones, thrilling them with dramatic voices and pauses.  It was really a treat getting to see into the famous author’s world.

I stumbled upon many fascinating and fun articles while researching for this post, and my favorite was probably one from The Guardian by Kira Cochrane.  If this post has piqued your interest, I highly recommend checking her article out!

What do you think about the Victorians and their ghost stories?  Do you wish this tradition was still around today?  Why or why not?

Tis the Season Day 2: Untraditional Christmas Movies

Welcome to Day 2 of Tis the Season!

Today we’ll be talking movies.  There are countless fantastic Christmas movies, from It’s a Wonderful Life to White Christmas to A Christmas Story to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. etc.  We make a point of watching all of these movies every year, but my all time favorite tradition is a bit unconventional.

Every year in the week leading up to Christmas, my mom and I watch the 1957 film An Affair to Remember back to back with the 1993 “Sleepless in Seattle”.  I don’t know how the tradition began, or why THESE particular movies, but it’s something I always look forward to.

Made in 1957, An Affair to Remember stars Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr.  Grant’s character, a playboy who dabbles in the arts, meets Kerr’s on a cruise liner from Europe to New York City.  Although involved with other people, the two fall in love.  When they get to New York, they promise to break of their relationships and meet on the top of the Empire State Building to run away and get married.  But not everything goes as planned.  On the way to the meeting, something happens to Kerr that prevents her from attending.  I don’t want to say too much to spoil the ending, which is the best part.  I will say that the movie ends on Christmas Day.

Sleepless in Seattle is from 1993, the year after I was born.  The trailer below pretty much sums it all up, but it stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The movie opens on Christmas Eve with Hanks’ character’s son, still grieving from the death of his mother, calls a late-night radio talk show asking for help.  Hanks ends up spilling his heart out to the show’s hostess, resulting in his nickname “Sleepless in Seattle”.  All the way across the country in Baltimore lives Ryan’s character, who hears the broadcast and is captivated by the story.  She then sends a letter to Hanks that gets picked up by the son, sparking a series of events that leads to a meeting atop the Empire State Building.

An Affair to Remember is a love story that ends on Christmas.  Sleepless in Seattle is a love story that begins on Christmas.  Both couples have or fail to meet at the top of the Empire State Building.  One takes place in the 1950’s, the other in the 1990’s, but somehow, they work so well together.

Because I’m recovering from getting my wisdom teeth removed, I’ve been a bit under the weather.  I’ve been spending most of yesterday and today laying on the couch in my pajamas.  Since I’m not allowed out of the house, Mom and I are planning on watching these movies back-to-back tonight!  I’m looking forward to it.

What Christmas movies do you watch every year?  What are your favorites?

Tis the Season Day 1: Ugly Ornaments

Every year, my family goes to one of the local Christmas tree farms and picks out a tree.  When I was little, in order to mark what ones we liked, my parents used my brothers and I as living markers.  We’d be told to stand by certain trees as they went off to look at more.

Since we are all in or beyond college, picking out the tree as a family no longer happens. But decorating said tree?  We go all out.

You see, we have this massive box of Christmas ornaments.  Most of them have been around as long as I have been alive.  (Or longer.)  Most of them are also hideous.  There’s some caroling rats with fez hats, large wooden fish, floppy quilted angels, weird crocheted candy canes, and even a sand dollar with a tree painted on it.

When we were little, Mom was crafty.  Wanting the tree to look elegant and socially presentable, she hid all the ugly ornaments, omitting them from the options.  Being small children, my brothers and I never noticed.  As time passed, though, Mom was unable to get her hands on the ornaments soon enough and they were discovered.  It wasn’t long before we began sneaking them onto the Christmas tree.  At first, it was only a few a year.  Their appearances grew more and more frequent as we aged. By high school, my brothers and I were in charge of decorating the tree by ourselves.  Without parental supervision, decorating became a game.  As we dragged the massive box of ornaments from the basement, we gave each other mischievous smiles.  How many ugly ornaments could we get away with this year? How much can we piss Mom off and still get presents?

Last night, my little brother and I played the yearly Ugly Ornaments game. We were home alone with No one to hold us back. We went covered every of that tree. It’s a monstrosity! Sam and I are so proud.

Later, when Mom walked into the house after work, she looks at us and goes, “How many ugly ornaments will I have to sneak off the tree this year?”

I smiled.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

~~~

What are your family traditions regarding decorating the tree?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Want to contribute to Tis the Season? Let me know!

Yule Ball!

Here at Morris, we are basically a bunch of nerds.  We appreciate all aspects of fan culture, so it is only natural that our winter formal is the Yule Ball.  It’s the biggest and best dance of the year.  Quiddich Club goes all out with programming and decorations.

This year was no exception.  More on that later.

Since it’s my final Yule Ball and I missed last year’s due to being in England, I wanted to make this dance one to remember.  So I threw on my $6 thrift shop dress, my friend Gabi did my hair and assisted with makeup and… voila!  I was ready for a long night of laugher, friends, and dancing.

(The funny thing is that no glasses and curly hair resulted in many people, including one of my roommates, not recognizing me!)

IMG_3485
Eden, Kassandra, Rosa, Gabi, and I

My expectations were high going into the dance and it did not disappoint!  In addition to the dance floor, we could get treats (popcorn balls and butterbeer), take a break in the Room of Requirement (decorated with chairs, mirrors, and pretty lights), get a picture with Nagini (one of the Biology club snakes), take a photo at the booth, or attend the Sorting Hat Ceremony.  The ceremony was a new addition this year.  We were ushered into the performance hall where the Hogwarts Great Hall High Table was recreated on stage.  Students were dressed up as various Hogwarts professors and they performed a skit, welcoming us to another year at school, giving speeches, quarreling, and the Sorting Hat did a rap.  Then, row by row, we were brought on stage to be sorted.  It was a bit of a joke.  Some people got real houses, but everyone else were placed in random categories based on their clothing.  I, for one, got sorted into Netflix.  (Although, in reality, I’ve been a proud Hufflepuff for years.)

My friend Paden (who trolled the dance by dressing as Gandalf) getting sorted
My friend Paden (who trolled the dance by dressing as Gandalf) getting sorted

The thing about dancing is that I am absolutely terrible at it.  The only dance I attended during high school was my senior prom and, even then, a guy I’ve known since kindergarten was so off-put by my terrible moves that, even though we hadn’t talked in years, came over and attempted to teach me how to do it properly.  (It didn’t stick).  Still, I faithfully attended dances in college and suffered through the large number of awkward feelings that came over me on the dance floor.  This year, though, was different.  Studying abroad and working at camp made me more confident in myself and less conscious of other people.  So I got out there on that dance floor and flailed about to my heart’s content.  I had an absolute blast.

At midnight, they did a drop of over 400 balloons.  This was one of my favorite moments of the dance.  My friends and I positioned ourselves directly below the net so they rained down upon us.  As we batted the balloons upward, swishing confetti away from our eyes, my friend Rosa laughed and laughed and laughed.  She reminded me of those videos you see on YouTube where puppies experience snow for the first time and they bound around in pure joy.

All in all, it was a fantastic final Yule Ball.  I loved every moment.