Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas time. I love the traditions, both those I remember from childhood and those we have begun in our family. Some have diminished over the years. Others have gained in importance. In the spirit of the season, I thought I'd list our "Top Ten" (though not in any particular order).

1o. Opening one gift on Christmas Eve. This helps the kids survive the night (we don't shoot them for continuing to beg, and they actually get to sleep before midnight).

9. The grown ups open their gifts after all children are asleep (Shh. Don't tell them. Patrick and I started this one several years ago, so we could focus on watching our children open all their gifts on Christmas least that's what we told ourselves.)

8. Putting up the Christmas tree on the day of the Alabama/Auburn game. This tradition began the year we married, and continued until Ala/Au changed the day they play...which is now after late for me to wait. So there is no longer a set day, just as long as its up before Thanksgiving. But I miss that tradition, and if the Iron Bowl dates ever change back, I imagine it will be re-instituted.

7. Tell the stories. I love that my daughter wants to know the history behind all our ornaments. So as we decorate the tree each year, it takes longer than it would have to because I share with her where and when we received the various ornaments and decorations.

6. Baking. My husband tells me I transform into a different woman during the holidays. (Don't know if that's actually a compliment, though.) The Martha Stewart in me awakens and our home becomes a bakery, a craft studio, a decorator's loft....and I love that my daughter wants to help. So we have cookies, cakes, pies, candy, and lots of crafts to give away.

4. The pickle. This tradition began by accident, is insisted on by my daughter and loathed by my son. Several years ago I received a glass pickle ornament in a game of "dirty Santa"—the subject of lots of laughter. It was explained to me that there is actually a tradition behind it, which my daughter immediately latched onto. On Christmas Eve an adult hides the pickle among the branches of the tree and whomever finds it first on Christmas morning gets to open the first gift. Can you guess why my son hates it?

3. Christmas movies. I love 'em! "Christmas Vacation" is usually the first one we watch (Patrick's favorite). We bought "Home Alone" this year, but my favorites are still the old classics like "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life".

2. The gingerbread house. My son insists upon this one. We have decorated a gingerbread house together for four or five years now. We all agree that this year's was our best yet! I love it because it is a time where all four of us sit down and have fun together...laughter and creativity...what could be better?

1. The advent calendar. Three years ago, after years of hinting, my husband bought me a Christmas advent calendar house. I didn't want just a felt calendar, I wanted something like the one on "Christmas Vacation" actual house w/ doors you could open. Well, once I received it, I knew it would be the beginning of a new tradition. I found a wonderful book called "The ADVENTure of Christmas" written by Lisa Whelchel, with 25 different devotions (or stories) of the most common Christmas traditions, how they started, and how they can help share the love of Jesus. I found tiny ornaments to go along w/ most of the days and bought a little tree. So each night (at least that is the goal), beginning December 1st, we sit as a family, put that night's ornament on the tree, and read from the Adventure book the story of that tradition. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and to celebrate Christ.

Do you have any special family traditions? Which one(s) are your favorites? I hope you all have a blessed and very Merry Christmas with family and friends, and enjoy the joy of Christ this season and in the coming year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Flight of Shadows"

I just finished reading "Flight of Shadows" by Sigmund Brouwer (provided by Waterbrook Press for review). Very intriguing sci-fi, written with a Christian influence. It is a sequel to "Broken Angel" (which I didn't realized until after I had begun the book). So I would recommend reading that one first! However, I was able to follow the story line fairly well without having read the first one.

"Flight of Shadows" tells of a young girl whose whole existence is a genetic miracle...which makes her a target for both military and government agencies, as well as others who would like to unravel her secret. In a future torn apart by Wars, social and economic status are arranged, monitored, and maintained by the government. New to this "Outside" world, Caitlyn is alone and determined to trust no one. Yet an unlikely ally seems determined to help her...with or without her permission. Is Razor trustworthy, or motivated by the same desires as the forces who hunt her?

Brouwer does a beautiful job of painting a picture of this possible future, bleak as it is. This fast paced story line is full of well developed characters, whose thoughts and motives are not always clear...which added to the suspense. My one critique would be that the very short chapters, (a new one began whenever the point of view changed) which I assume were designed to the mount the tension in the story as events and characters race to the climax, were conversely distracting for me.

Because of the complexity of the plot and some violence, I would not recommend this book for children or young teens. But anyone else who enjoys reading science fiction would most likely enjoy "Flight of Shadows".