Remember that on the 25th of each month we will be revealing one of our secrets for the perfect Christmas in 2012. Today we share secret #5- Tradition, no matter how silly or bothersome, is key.
Traditions really are what make the holidays special for most families. We have discussed all kinds of traditions here at the Yule Log. Family outings, church visits, decorations, songs, food, and more. The family happenings, even the seemingly strange or annoying ones, make the holiday special. When we look back later in life, it is the quirky and unique actions of that family past that come to mind and fill us with nostalgia. I can remember from my teen years being annoyed to do some of our family events involving cousins, food, and travel. I would absolutely love to be able to have those times again. Another great family “tradition” we had was to deliver dinner to a great-great aunt who was in her 90s. It was a right of passage to give this task to the next set of cousins. When it was your years, you complained and argued about having to do it. Now when we gather as an extended family, memories of those dinner trips are always part of the happy trips down memory lane. Think of your own family and an annoying holiday tradition you have. Everyone thought of something. More likely than not, that same silly tradition will be a source of happy thoughts of the past in later life. What silly but at the same time special traditions do you share with your family? Please let us know!
Kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition as well-known as hanging stockings by the fireplace. Why do we kiss under the mistletoe? What is the story on this plant? Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows on hardwoods. It feeds off the nutrients of the host tree and grows. It stays green all year and grows in a variety of types. The name most likely comes from a translation of “bird droppings on a branch”. This could be from the way the plant spreads. Birds eat the berries and then their droppings on a branch root a new plant. Some believe it to have beneficial medicinal effects (like Suzanne Somers) and some believe it to be poisonous. This could be due to legend that the mistletoe was growing in the branches of the tree that was used to make the cross used to crucify Christ. Legend of the plant does not end there.
Druids in the early first century believed in the power of the plant to bring fertility to humans as well as animals and to provide healing to the ill. The Druids would harvest the plant in a ceremony that was held 5 days after the new moon following the winter solstice. Eighth century vikings believed in the power of mistletoe to raise the dead. This came from the tale of the resurrection of Balder, the Viking god of the summer sun. 18th century England fully embraced the practice of kissing under the plant. Washington Irving made reference to the kissing habit in one of his articles in 1820. Basic kissing etiquette requires that if the plant is present and you are under it you must kiss. Some practices call for the man to remove a berry each time a kiss is made under the plant until no berries are left. Kissing under the berries returns good luck and failure to smack lips will bring on the bad luck. A romantic couple who kiss under the mistletoe will find marriage and a long, happy life. A single woman who fails to kiss when passing under will remain single for another year. The single woman could put it under her pillow and then will dream of her perfect mate. A new couple can burn a bundle of the plant for a prediction of their future. A steady burn means a long healthy couple life. A stuttered or uneven burn means trouble in the future. You must also take care when removing the plant. Tradition dictates that it should not touch the ground and must he the last green removed on Candlemas. Some may keep it hanging all year to protect from lightning and fire, but it must be removed on Christmas Eve.
So why the kiss? No one really knows! It might be the connection to fertility with the druids, or maybe something with the mother of Balder who was a fertility goddess. Regardless of how it started, the tradition and all its cautions are alive and well in pop culture. Pucker up!
Heard any news this week about the cruise industry? HA! Since every media outlet has had some type of cruise story to share, I thought the Yule Log should follow the trends. I also received an email telling me to “Not miss out- Book today!” for my 2012 Caribbean Christmas cruise. Really?? Well, I suppose if you plan to set sail in December, January is the time to book it. I would imagine if you have plans to go to any resort/vacation destination for Christmas you would need to book it early to get the best spot/room/place.
Taking a big trip or traveling to a tropical locale just has never seemed like a “normal” thing to do for the holidays to me. I’m more of the traditional type. Christmas is spent at home, in your pajamas, in front of the fireplace, with the cold wind (and hopefully snow) blowing outside. I think everyone should have a Christmas like in the carols and songs. Those who know me will nor be surprised to read this. I like my rituals and tradition. Christmas Eve dinner? Midnight Mass? Yes, please! Big bulb Christmas lights? Peppermint flavored candy canes? Sign me up! Boarding a plane to Mexico, a cruise ship to the Caymans, a train to Miami? Hmm, not for me. But it must be the thing for lots of people. Disney and other resorts have no problem attracting huge crowds. Some of my friends swear by Christmas with Mickey and don’t even bother with the tree and all since they won’t be home on Christmas. Maybe travel could work. I’m thinking a family trip AFTER Christmas would be the most change I could handle to start. Am I missing something about the allure of holiday travel? Please sell me on this if I’m missing out! Maybe there is a good deal to be found for a cruise.
This week we have mentioned how savings and jars both can be a big part of the Christmas season. I wanted to share a book I read over the holidays that brought savings and the jar together. The title of the book is Christmas Jars, a short novel from author Jason Wright. The novel tells the tell of a young reporter and he quest to score the big feature story to break her career wide open. She is searching for the origins of a mysterious jar full of money she received just when she needed it. She discovers the history of the jar and so much more by the end of the story. The book has lots of good lessons and makes you as the reader consider how you fit into a larger world at the holidays and throughout the year. After reading the book I started my own Christmas Jar and am really looking forward to finding a recipient for it in December 2012. Check out the Christmas Jars website for more information.
So tracking our uses for jars, so far we have blessings, wishes, and giving. I think we might find a whole lot more as the months pass by!
Wanted to congratulate one of our readers, Marisa, for being the one to finally identify what a caganer is. Might have to share more on this unique custom later in the year. So far my oddest discovery of a Christmas tradition.