Holiday History Recollection #1

Holiday History Recollection #1

Over the years I’ve had so much fun looking up not only the etymology of holiday words, but also the history behind some of our common traditions. So now that we’re in Advent, I thought I’d do a series of recollections and look at those posts from years past…because I don’t know about you, but I often need a refresher!

Let’s start out with a look at the stories (true and…not) behind two Christmas songs.

I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy learning about the true story behind things like songs, poems, and stories…much like the one that goes along with the carol “Good King Wenceslas.”

This song is based on the famous life of a Bohemian duke, Wenceslaus I (known in Czech as Svatý Václav). Wenceslaus was renowned for his piety and Christian devotion, and nothing could stop him from doing good…even terrible weather. The event memorialized in the song took place on December 26, the feast day of St. Stephen, a day traditionally reserved for delivering alms to the poor. Wenceslaus was so determined to take these alms to his people that he trekked out in the middle of a blizzard to accomplish it. The song is from the perspective of one of his servants, who thought at one point during the journey that he’d surely die from the cold; the snow was so thick he couldn’t see what was ahead of him. But he made his way by literally following in the footsteps of the duke, which led him unerringly to the door of the people he was helping.

Wenceslaus lived from 907-935 and is famous for his midnight vigils and dedication to protecting and providing for his people, especially the poor. Upon his death, many biographies were written about him, and he was soon named a saint. So great was his popularity that the Holy Roman Emporer Otto even posthumously conferred on him the title of “king.” How fascinating is that? He has been held up for centuries as what a true, noble leader should be.

Wenceslaus has remained a popular figure in both Bohemia and England for centuries, resulting in the poem and Christmas carol we all know, written in 1853 by John Mason Neale. The variation in the spelling of his name has happened in the time since the song was written; it originally had that ‘u’ in there.

Because my kids asked me after I went through the original St. Nicholas story with them, when Rudolph came about, and I had no clue.

As it turns out, our beloved reindeer was an invention of a writer named Robert L. May, who was hired by the Montgomery Ward company to create an original piece of work for their annual children’s coloring book. May devised Rudolph in 1939…to some opposition. The publishers didn’t like the red nose idea. Red noses were associated with drunkards, which certainly wasn’t the image they wanted to portray. But when May had his illustrator friend create a cutesy deer character (they decided actual reindeer weren’t cute enough so went with a more familiar-to-Americans white-tailed variety) with a beaming red nose, the powers-that-be relented–and the story took off to amazing success. The original poem was written in the meter of “The Night Before Christmas.”

The song we all know and love was written a decade later, by the author’s brother-in-law. It remained the all-time best selling album in the country until the 80s!

The stop-motion animation version that I grew up thinking was the only Rudolph story worth watching, LOL, came about in 1964. Though very popular, this movie apparently doesn’t stick very accurately to the original poem. Which now makes me want to look up the original and see what’s been changed!

So there we have it. Our history of Rudolph.

Righteous but Dangerous

Righteous but Dangerous

This month, our Spiritual Formation exercise (assigned by our fabulous Spiritual Director, Laura Heagy) is “Psalm 23 Reloaded.” It involves memorizing the psalm, dwelling on it, and reframing it in other terms. Really great, if you want to play along at home! 😉

As I was exploring the psalm the other day, taking it line by line, something jumped out at me that I’d never considered before. I don’t know about you, but sometimes these familiar, memorized passages just blur into routine in my mind, so these practices of taking time with them, slowing down, and examining them piece by piece, word by word and phrase by phrase, can be so enriching! Let’s look at these lines, in the NABRE version:

He guides me along right paths
   for the sake of His name.
Even though I walk through the valley
   of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff comfort me.

I had never before paid attention to the order of this image, but let’s take a look. This is our Good Shepherd. He has already led us to the choices, lushest grass in the meadow. He’s let us refresh ourselves by crystal-clear pools of clean, cool water. This has refreshed us and restored, has filled us up.

But then we start moving. We don’t stay in that pasture. We never get the chance to stagnate when we’re following after our Shepherd. He leads us onward, just as a shepherd will always lead his sheep out of any good grazing ground, knowing it won’t stay good for long if you just hunker down. So He guides us out of that peaceful place, along the path of righteousness. The right path. Why? For the sake of His name.

He’s not leading us onward just for our own comfort or pleasure. He’s leading us because we have a purpose. We have a job to do, and it’s bringing glory to Him. Our purpose, our calling, is to show the world how great is our God. So we walk. We move. We chase after Him. He takes us up on a narrow mountain path.

And it’s dangerous, my friends. That valley–it’s going to involve trials. Temptations. Predators. Dangers.

Because this isn’t a tame faith, and we don’t serve a tame God. He’s a God who led the Israelites into the Wilderness; whose own Son spent 40 days there too. This wild, untamed God calls us onward into hard things. Painful things. Dangerous things. Where there are wolves and landslides and always, always the risk of falling.

We WILL be there, in that place. But when we are, we don’t have to fear.

Because our Shepherd is there too. He has a rod in hand–and do you know why shepherds carried rods? To ward off those predators. They would use them to kill wolves or lions or whatever other animals threatened their sheep.

Our Shepherd still does the same. When we stick close to His side, we don’t have to fear the predators. He can take care of us.

We may fall though. Either stumble through sin and temptation, or just slip off the road because of circumstance. We may tumble off the ledge, down toward that valley. We may think all is lost.

But He’ll catch us. That’s what the staff is for–that’s how shepherds pull their sheep back to safety. They hook the end around the creature and tug.

That is our comfort. Not that He’ll lead us where no dangers or pain exists, not that He’ll even remove us from those circumstances when they come upon us–but that He’ll be there with us through them. He leads us into them…and He’ll lead us out of them again, eventually. But first we have to pass through. We have to trust that He’ll defend, protect, and rescue.

But we have to stick close to His side. Don’t let the Shepherd out of your sight, friends. Stay close, within the reach of His staff. Where you can hear His voice.

And rest peacefully, knowing that hard, difficult, dangerous path is leading you rightly, toward righteousness. And that goodness and mercy aren’t away off in the distance. They’re chasing after you–pursuing you.

They’ll catch you, friend. I promise you that. Because where our Savior is, there is mercy…peace…goodness…and the house where we will dwell with joy forever.

Allelujah. Amen.

Word of the Week – King

Word of the Week – King

The start of Advent seems like a great time to look at the history of a word that reminds Christians of Christ–our Lord and…you guessed it…KING!

King is obviously a word that’s been around forever and hasn’t varied much in meaning. But have you ever wondered where it came from? More, have you ever wondered if it had anything to do with kin, which looks so similar?

Short answer: it does!

Kin has meant “a family, a tribe, a race” since Old English days, and one of the main speculations (though it’s a bit uncertain) is that king is directly related, making it literally “leader of the people,” like what we’d today call a chief. It or its related words in other Germanic langauges has been applied to leaders of all sorts over the centuries–not just political figures or heads of state, but church leaders or the heads of particular fields as well.

The Three Kings, as in the Wise Men of the biblical story, has been used since around 1200. The chess piece came about around 1400 (did you know chess was that old?), the playing card around 1560, and finally, the piece in checkers/draughts in 1830.

Black Friday Sale 2022

Black Friday Sale 2022

It’s that time of year again! Our thoughts begin to turn to Christmas and the gifts we want to give to those most dear to us. And if you have a book lover in your life (or are one and need to provide some ideas for your family and friends), then you are in the right place!

Browse my offerings in Bookish Things (check out some of the new products for the season!) and take 20% off nearly EVERYTHING* from now through Cyber Monday with code:

VeryMerry2022

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Sea Glass Prayer Jewelry

Codebreakers Gifts

Love the Codebreakers series? I have lots of options here–it’s in fact what inspired the whole Bookish T-shirt line!

Bath and Body

As a tie-in to Shadowed Loyalty, I’ve added some wonderful soaps, lotions, and candles to the store, all made by an amazing organization called Peace + All Good. This program gives women who have escaped from human trafficking a second chance and teaches them the valuable skills associated with this business. Every bar or tube or tin you buy helps someone make a new life for herself! I have a variety of scents for each product and can assure you that they’re all FABULOUS!

Bookish Jewelry

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Bookish Gifts

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Christmas

Want some holiday themed items? Check out my Bookish Christmas line, calendars, and more!

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Giving Thanks through the Years

Giving Thanks through the Years

This year, I thought it would be fun post a round-up of all my Thanksgiving posts through the years. Now, sometimes I took the week off and other years my post simply said “Happy Thanksgiving!”, and there have even been a few times when I re-shared a post from previous years so you’re not going to see an entry here for every single year…but then again, other years I posted several different Thanksgiving items, so you’ll get multiples from that year. =) Regardless, it was fun to travel back through the last 13 years on my blog and see the research and expressions of gratitude I’d composed before and compile them into one place.

My musings on Thanksgiving Day, specifically as concerns my writing career in the month before I re-released A Stray Drop of Blood in the version you all know now.

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I reflect on how grateful I am for the history of the Church that we have to stand on.

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Remember When…Thanksgiving Was Optional

Here I explore some of the history of our American holiday.

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Remember When…Thanksgiving Came

Musing on how Thanksgiving became a holiday, a link to a friend’s post, and a bit of my own history with Thanksgiving and why I love it.

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Stolen Blessings

Thanksgiving is a time we focus on blessings…but are we allowing others to participate in the giving?

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Our Five Kernels of Thanksgiving

One of my favorite Thanksgiving posts I’ve done was for Colonial Quills, where I tell the story of the Second Thanksgiving, and why five kernels of corn can mean so much.

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A Thanksgiving Prayer

There were several years in which I shared this same prayer of Gratitude and Thanksgiving from Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers. It’s worth rereading annually!

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The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Giving thanks isn’t easy…can we do it even when we’ve lost it all?

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I’m So Grateful for YOU!

As a writer, I often feel like I’m typing into a vacuum…but you all make it worthwhile, and I’m so thankful for you!

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Being Thankful…Especially Now

The year of All the Bad Things in many ways, 2020 was still a year for gratitude!

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Word of the Week – Cornucopia

Because obviously I have to look into the history of this Thanksgiving icon!

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No More Complaining, All Gratitude!

This year, I challenged us all to give up grumbling and complaining and focus instead on gratitude and compassion. There’s even a printable journal to help you out!

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