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9 Symbols of Christmas

A SEA OF XMAS LITES JULIA

9 Symbols of Christmas

Yule–now known as Christmas–once designated a specific period of time, about two months long, from December to January. This period was a time for important feasts, such as the Winter Solstice Festivals. Eventually Yule came to designate a pagan feast lasting twelve days in mid-winter around the time of the Winter Solstice.

The time of Yule historically marked the sun’s rebirth when the longest night of the year (Winter Solstice) gave birth to the beginning of longer days. Norse people considered the sun a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from earth then at Winter Solstice the sun began rolling back closer to earth again. One of the traditions–originally a Nordic tradition–linked to this time period was the yule log.

The yule log symbolized the fire and the light of the sun.  Some people thought that the ashes of the yule log would make a home immune to evil spirits and lightning strikes. The logs could be decorated with evergreen–sacred to the Celts as the tree did not “die” and represented the Eternal aspect of the Divine; and dusted with flour to signify triumph, light and life.

–The yule log was actually an entire tree. The tree was chosen and brought into the house with ceremony. Tradition decreed that the log/tree must be harvested from the householder’s land or given as a gift.

–The large end was put in the fireplace with the rest of the tree sticking out into the house. Some people used a log instead of the entire tree. A bit of last year’s tree–having been carefully stored–was used to get the present yule log to burn.

–Different countries used different types of trees for the yule log.

England: oak      Scotland: birch

France: cherry    Devon and Somerset, UK: large bunch of Ash twigs instead of log

Some parts of Ireland: large candle instead of a log and it’s only lit on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night.

In present day: a yule log can be a chocolate sponge cake rolled and layered with cream; chocolate icing and sometimes decorated to look like a bark-covered log.

Or, a piece of log/wood that is planed flat on the bottom and has three holes drilled in it for three candles.

The Norse celebrate the return of the sun–a male deity–with the yule log. Other traditions, such as the Balts, celebrate the return of the sun–a female deity–with many traditions similar to the Norse and involving fire.

According to the Journal of Baltic Tradition, 1994, Winter Solstice celebrations marked the rebirth of the Great Goddess Saule (SOW-lay). Saule means the sun itself. The Great Goddess Saule was regarded as Queen of Heaven and Earth and the Matriarch of the Cosmos.

The Yule Log is not the only tradition to be handed down to modern Christians via pagan rituals.

–During Winter Solstice the Norse Goddess Freya sits at her spinning wheel weaving the fates. The Wheel of Fate symbolizes the cycle of the seasons, the continuity of life–birth, life, death, and rebirth. The wreath once symbolized the Wheel of Fate.

–Trees (now Christmas trees) were brought in to attract and honor tree spirits. The hope was that during the coming warm time the trees would thrive and produce food. Part of attracting these spirits was to sing as a group to guide them to the homes where various foods decorated the tree for them.

–Foods (now Christmas ornaments) decorating indoor trees also symbolized the abundance to come when the sun shed warmth again.  blue xmas ornament

–The five pointed star was put on the tree to symbolize the five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and spirit.

–Bells were rung to drive away the demons that surfaced during the dark and cold time of the year.

–Candles symbolized fire and the light of the sun.

candle in dark

–Evergreens held power over death and held the power to defeat winter demons and had enough tenacity to urge the coming of the sun.

xmas tree star

–Legend says the snowflake was formed from Demeter’s tears when Persephone descended to the Underworld. The flakes have six sides representing the months of her time in the Underworld. Six is also the numerological digit associated with affection. For pagans, snowflakes are the winter symbol for love.

Were you aware of the origins of some of these symbols of Christmas? Do you know any myths attributing different origins to these symbols of Christmas? (Please share!) Leave a comment!

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References:  Wikipedia  Blog.dictionary.com  Shootingforthemoon.com/yuletraditionsandsymbols
Dictionary.com    Journal of Baltic Tradition, issue #2, 1994
Whychristmas.com/customs/yulelog.shtml   Religionfacts.com/neopaganism
Photo credits: all-free-downloads.com   Candle: geralt  Ornament: Hans  Tree with star: Paul Barrows    Sea of Christmas lights: Julia

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The Little Angel Who Couldn’t Sing: A Family Christmas Story

blue xmas ornament

Each year I post this timeless story, The Little Angel Who Couldn’t Sing. I hope you enjoy it and share it freely with friends, family, co-workers, or anyone you think might enjoy it. Please give attribution to Betty Matney.

Little Angel huddled, shivering and sobbing, in the shadow of a large bank of dirty clouds outside of Heaven’s Gate. Gusts of cold north wind tugged at his mud-spattered robe and tangled the feathers of his wings, forcing him to burrow deeper into his hiding place. He knew he should get up and go home, but he couldn’t face his friends. If it didn’t get any colder, he’d sneak home after dark.

Suddenly, he stopped crying and raised his head to listen. Voices drifted across the clouds. He curled into a tighter ball and lay very still. He didn’t want any of the angels to find him.

A deep voice spoke briskly, “I tell you, I heard someone crying.”

There was a mumbled response Little Angel couldn’t hear very well.

Even closer this time, the deep voice said, “I know how happy everyone is, but I also know crying when I hear it.”

Whoever it was they were nearly at his bank of clouds. He covered his head with his wings and held his breath.

Big feet shuffled to a stop and a different voice said, “What do we have here?”

Little Angel slowly raised his head and peeked over the edge of his wing. His blue eyes popped wide. God Himself looked down at him.
Holding his long, gray, wind-tossed hair out of His eyes with one hand, He bent over and held His other hand out to Little Angel. “Come out of there, little one.”

He lowered his wing and God pulled him out of his hole. He stood there, robe wrinkled and dirty, gold halo tilted over his right ear, eyes cast down.

God knelt on one knee. With a finger under Little Angel’s chin, He lifted his face. “How old are you, little one?”

Little Angel mumbled, “Seven years old, Sir.”

“So, on the day when joy is almost tearing this old place apart, why are you down here alone and crying?” Gently, He wiped the tears away with the end of the green sash wrapped around His waist.

Little Angel bit his trembling lower lip to keep from crying again.

God twisted His head around and looked up at the other adult angel. “Aren’t all the angels practicing their singing for the performance tonight?”

The other angel looked flustered. “Yes, Sir. They are supposed to be, Sir.”

God turned His kindly eyes on the little angel. “Does that have something to do with why you’re crying?”

Tears filled Little Angel’s eyes as he nodded. “I…I can’t…” He sniffled and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his robe. “I can’t sing!” Tears spilled down his cheeks. “The chorus master said I can’t carry a tune. I should just fly around and hum, but I shouldn’t hum too loud.” He threw his arm across his face and wailed into his sleeve. “I don’t want to just hum! I want to do something important like everyone else!”

God sighed and pushed to His feet. He patted the little angel on the head. “Of course, you do.”

He dropped his arm and stared up at God. God stroked His thick, white beard. Finally, He smiled as He reached over and plucked a few pieces of dirty cloud from the little angel’s red curls. “You go get cleaned up and meet me at the Pearly Gates in an hour.” As he took off running, God shouted, “And straighten up that halo!”


Little Angel skidded to a halt in front of God, jolting his halo into a tilt over his right ear.

God reached over and straightened it up. “You look much better, except you seemed to have missed a few spots on your face.” God ran a thumb over the little angel’s cheeks.

He giggled. “Those are freckles.”

God smiled. “Ah, so they are.”

Little Angel fidgeted.

God chuckled. “Anxious to find out what you’re doing. Frankly,” God’s Voice got very serious. “I don’t know how we overlooked this task. It is very important.”

He lifted his chin and drew his shoulders back.

“Do you have your sack of stardust?”

He nodded and lifted the small, red velvet sack hanging from the robe’s tie.

God leaned over and whispered in the little angel’s ear.

Little Angel’s wings drooped. “The donkey? That’s a dumb job.”

God frowned. “Remember who the donkey is carrying. But, the donkey is small. It is important that he have some help with his burden. Will you help him?”

He looked up at God with wide eyes. “Yes, sir.” Little Angel took off running towards a hole in the clouds that would let him drop to earth quickly.

Just as he was diving through, God yelled, “And straighten up that halo!”


Little Angel stood on the side of the road leading to Bethlehem. Overhead a zillion stars shone, but down here it was dark and cold. He shivered and pulled his wings around himself.From around a curve in the road hooves clip-clopped along the frozen ground. The small donkey staggered a few steps before he caught himself. A woman, wrapped in a blue cape, rode the small creature while a man with a staff walked beside them.

The man walked slowly, now and then patting the donkey’s short neck. “What a brave little beast you are.”

The donkey’s winter coat was long and fuzzy and very black. Patches of white hair that matched the hair on its belly filled its long ears. It was young, not much more than a baby, really. And so tired that sometimes its nose dragged the ground. As the three drew alongside Little Angel,the donkey stopped. The man rubbed its ears and stood beside it.

Little Angel walked over and placed a hand on its halter. The donkey’s big, dark eyes lifted to him. The donkey groaned, “I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”

“I will help you.” Little Angel took the red sack from his belt and knelt. He dipped his fingertips inside. When he took them out, they shone with silvery powder. Swiftly, he rubbed all four hooves with the silvery powder. “Take a few steps and see if that helps.”

The donkey nodded. “I’ll try.” As he stepped forward, he added, “Your halo’s crooked.”

He straightened up his halo as the donkey took the first short, slow steps. He twitched his long ears then gave a joyful bray. “My feet don’t hurt!”

With a big smile, Little Angel patted the donkey. “You know, Bethlehem is just over that hill.” He pointed towards a small hill in the distance.

When the man led out again, Little Angel jogged next to the trotting donkey as it nimbly skirted the frozen puddles along the road.
Very soon they reached Bethlehem. Little Angel waited beside the donkey as the man inquired for a room at inn after inn after inn. Every place was full until finally only one inn was left. The man sagged with fatigue as he walked to the last door.

The donkey sighed as the man stood talking to the landlord. “I need something to eat and some water and a place to rest pretty soon. My feet are hurting again.”

Little Angel hugged the donkey. “I’m sure this is the place we are to stop. There’s a stable out back.” He looked at the woman sitting quietly on the donkey, her body bent with tiredness. He gave the donkey another hug. “You are so brave and good,” he whispered to the donkey.

The donkey raised its black nose to Little Angel’s ear. “The woman’s going to have a baby. I didn’t think she could walk very far, so I had to keep walking for her.” The donkey sighed. “Did you know about the baby?”

He scratched the donkey’s ear. “Yes, I knew about the baby.”

When the man returned, he led the donkey to the stable behind the inn. He helped the woman off and spread his own cloak over her as she lay down on a pile of straw. After she was settled, he took the donkey into another stall to feed and water the animal before returning to the woman, his wife.

Little Angel sat in the corner of the stall as the donkey ate and then tucked its legs under it and lay down. “Don’t sleep too soundly,” he cautioned. “The celebration will be starting soon.”

The words were barely out of his mouth before a baby cried. He rushed to the wall and peeked through the space between two boards. Eyes wide, he watched the man wrap the baby in a warm blanket and lay it in the manger next to the woman. The man stood between the manger and the woman, smiling first at one and then at the other. The woman’s face shone with happiness as she gazed at her husband and then at the Infant Boy.

The donkey stood next to Little Angel, staring through the crack. “Do you see the glow around the baby?”

Little Angel gave a happy nod. “He’s a very special Baby.”

From far away and above them, singing drifted on the air. The donkey looked up. “What’s that?”

A grin stretched Little Angel’s face as he,too,looked up. “Those are the angels singing to the shepherds out in the hills. They are calling them to come to the stable and behold the Child that was born.” He dropped his eyes to the donkey. “I have to leave now.”

The donkey brushed its face against Little Angel’s chest. “Thank you. I don’t know if I could have made it all this way by myself.”

He gave the donkey a warm hug around its shaggy neck. “Everyone needs help sometimes.”

As he flew upwards, the donkey called, “Hey! Your halo is….”

He raised both hands and straightened his halo as he flew into the night. In the distance, he heard the final chorus and, all alone, Little Angel began to hum. As he flew higher, his humming grew louder until, unable to contain his joy, he burst into song. In a loud, happy voice, and slightly off-key, he added his own heavenly welcome to the Baby lying in the manger.

NOTE: This story was written by a close friend of mine, Betty Matney. Betty was a devout Catholic who lived with my wife and myself until she passed away here at home. She taught me that realChristians accepted all of Creator’s children whether those children were believers, non-believers, or simply believed in a different way. And that kindness to all living creatures was the basis of her faith. Of course, she could also be a cranky little old lady! LOL!

Before she passed away, Betty gave me all of her writing work to do with as I pleased. Though Betty has Journeyed to the Other Side, she was always happy to share good things with others. In this spirit of sharing, I offer you this story. Enjoy this story and share it freely. You may also make copies and share those copies as long as you attribute the story to Betty Matney as the author.

bring-light

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Don’t Stop Believing

believe

–I am grateful that I believe in the journey and in myself.
–I am grateful that others believe in me and in my work.

light

–I am grateful that I believe where there are shadows and sadness there is also light and joy.
–I am grateful that I have those who walk the pathways with me, whether the path is dark or light.

creator's child

–I am grateful that I am Creator’s child and I believe that I am worthy of laughter and love and hope.
–I am grateful that you are Creator’s child and that you share this journey with me.

aliciaDoSomethingGood

–I am grateful that I believe we all have a chance to do something good with our lives.
–I am grateful that I believe that together we can move beyond where we are right now and go forward to be better than ever.

gratitude

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10 Inspirational Quotes for Troubling Times

this-moment

1.The best way to find gratitude in your life is to help someone less fortunate than you.

2.It is the tears of the sky that nourish the flowers of the earth.
tears-of-the-sky

3.When I reach the end of my life, it is my greatest hope that I will still be able to look into a mirror and look myself in the eyes.

4.Responsibility rests with each individual.
responsibility-dawn

5.Every person makes a difference–for good or for ill.
manydroplets

6.When life gets tough, good memories are warm blankets we wrap around ourselves.
remember

7.Never stop reaching for the stars!
stairway-to-the-heavens

8.No matter how high, no matter how rugged, no matter how impossible it may seem, every mountain can be climbed.
mountainsareclimbed

9.Never doubt that sunrise will come.
nomatterhowlong

10.You can’t set the world on fire, if you don’t strike a match.
setworldonfire

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#Gratitude During Troubled Times

Gratitude reaffirms life and love, in spite of these troubled times. If practice makes perfect, I should rock at finding gratitude for I am not stranger to troubled times. In 1989, I lost my education, my home, my work, and everything I owned that couldn’t fit into a passenger van because of violence due to being a lesbian. How do you find gratitude on a daily basis when something like that occurs? Yet, if you do not feel gratitude today, in this moment, hope cannot survive for it sees nothing of worth to which to cling.

All across the nation, there is mass depression and fear–from children of immigrants crying in the classrooms because they fear their parents will be deported to threats of escalating violence.
My wife and I are not immune to it.

The incoming vice-president declared one of his first priorities was to obtain government funding for so-called “conversion therapy”. Two types of conversion therapy are (a) electroshock treatment which destroys parts of the brain and was decades ago proven useless in both LGBT “conversions” and alcoholism; and (b) aversion therapy in which drugs are used to cause violent illness in the LGBT person every time the “undesirable” stimulus is shown. Aversion therapy links the undesired behavior to an unpleasant stimulus. The “undesirable” stimulus for lesbians would be other women; the “undesirable” stimulus for gays would be another man.

Meanwhile in the light of that statement, a lot of LGBT people, myself among them, can’t help but wonder that once government funding is obtained—with Republicans holding Congress and the White House this is not an ungrounded fear—how long will it be until “conversion therapy” is mandated for all LGBT people?

In spite of the depression, the fear, the hatred, and the violence we must find something worthy in life, something for which to feel grateful or life becomes a weight upon our backs that grinds us to the ground. Gratitude is the foundation of hope. Without hope, despair becomes the vortex that swallows us.

How do we find gratitude during these troubled times?
serenity-prayer

1.The Serenity Prayer. Whether you begin with God or Goddess or Creator makes no difference in the efficacy of this “prayer”. Even if you are atheist, this is a helpful mantra. Simply substitute “I must find the serenity within me to accept….”

2.Three times a day—morning, afternoon, and evening—step outside regardless of the weather. If it is cold, feel the bracing clean power of the cold. If it is warm, revel in the pleasant heat. If it is rainy, turn your face up to the life-giving rain. If it is sunny, let the sun beat upon you. If it is snowing, make snowballs and snow people; lay upon the ground and create a snow “angel”.
All seasons are necessary for life. By appreciating each type of weather, you are grounding yourself in something that you cannot change while letting its power soothe your heart.

3.Set aside time each day to read, watch television—not the news!—or play some silly game. Buy a coloring book and color. Let your mind and body rest.

4.DO NOT watch the news, listen to the news; read newspapers or news articles in the magazines. Give yourself time to adjust and heal before tackling the negativity you will inevitably find in those places.

5.At night, the last thing before you go to sleep, find the good things in your life and list them in your mind. This is a Gratitude List. The last thoughts we have before sleeping often determine how well we rest and what our mood is when we awaken.

If you are having a difficult time finding good things in your life, begin with the basics: I am alive. I can (list the senses you possess—hear, see, smell, taste, touch). My dog loves me.
siab

I have adequate clothing for this moment. I have a friend(s). My family loves me. I have a job (or if you are unemployed, I have the ability to find a job).
There are many basics and those are determined individually. Find the basics and repeat them night after night until you can begin adding other things to your nightly Gratitude List.

6.Stay away from marijuana and alcohol, even in small doses. They are both depressants. That’s why you get that “mellow feeling”; however, if a person is already feeling “down” or “blah”, alcohol and marijuana increase that negative feeling.

7.Stay away from negative friends and family. Tell them you don’t want to talk about the current situation. If they insist on discussing it, leave.

8.Exercise. Exercise releases natural chemicals in your body that enhance positive feelings.

9.This is NOT the time to begin a diet. Diets often depress people because of their perceptions of their own bodies.

10.Be gentle with yourself and others. We are all in this together.

dreamagain This is nearly impossible without the building block of gratitude upon which to lay your foundation.

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Pictorial: Attitude of Gratitude

beauty
Because….
creators-child
No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done….
change-2
Leave behind the strife that fills your soul and …
carrypeace
Remember….
choosetobe
Embrace that which is unique within you because…..
diversity-2
Remember, in many ways, you control your own happiness…
iamhappy
Even when….
light-in-darkness
It is there. Keep foremost in your mind that….
purposeandbeauty
And know that….
noroadsolong
Just….
openheartbeauty2
And always…
rejoice-in-love
For….
thegreatestbeauty

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#FREE #EBOOK FOR YOU!

Dear Reader,
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deadMenCover june 2014 (5)
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