Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Symbols: Christmas Card

My hand is about to fall off from addressing envelopes and signing the names of all six family members to the Christmas cards.  This is the first time we’ve done Christmas cards in a long time and time is quickly fading away.  It’s like I suddenly looked up at we’re only two weeks from the big day.  I’m not worried about the shopping, that comes much later, but we do need to hurry up and get these cards out or we’ll have to hold them until next year.  We even did a newsletter with everything that’s been going on.  I don’t if anyone will read it, but it’s there for their perusal.


Now I’m not getting off subject.  I bring up Christmas cards to talk about the history of them.  In London in 1843 Sir Henry Cole was too busy during the holiday season to do the writing he would normally do.  So, he ordered the first set of Christmas cards, which featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley.  The card was of a family drinking wine, which did cause some controversy.  These cards read “merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.”  The cards were printed in black and white, then colored by hand.  1,000 cards were produced, of which 12 exist today. 


The early cards that took off from that point rarely had winter scenes or religious themes.  They were usually of children and animals.  In 1875 Louis Prang became the first printer to sell Christmas cards in America.  His cards had pictures of floral arrangements and were expensive.  The cards didn’t take off in America and the cheap penny Christmas postcards from Germany ran him out of business.  Of course the German domination ended after World War 1 and American companies took over.


According to one website that was researched, today more than two billion Christmas cards are exchanged annually, just within the United States.  This year there will be two billion and sixty because of the Slagle effort.



Friday Night Lights A Hit With Me

Today is Wednesday, so I feel like I should be writing about a book for the CFBA.  But we are taking a Christmas break, which is nice to be able to read some books I’ve put on hold.  Since I don’t have a book to talk about, I thought I would talk about a TV show that has really caught my interest this season - “Friday Night Lights.” 


Not only are the characters great and the storyline real, the show doesn’t apologize for portraying faith.  I believe the show to be fair toward the Christian influence of the players.  There has been at least one prayer in every show and they pray to Jesus, not just something generic.  The students go to church, and deal with their problems in a way that is reflective of the real world.  Some may say that they took the good Christian cheerleader and turned her into someone who was having sex with her crippled boyfriend’s best friend.  But let’s take another look at that issue.  Do Christian teenagers have sex?  Yes.  If you don’t believe me, you are not living in the real world.  Are there teenagers who are strong enough to stay away?  Yes.  There are those students in the show as well.  Let’s get back to the cheerleader.  She is a Christian, the earlier episodes established that.  She made the mistake of having sex.  There were consequences for that mistake.  In Numbers 32 Moses is talking to his army and he warns them that if they do not do as the Lord commands, they “will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (23).  In last night’s episode, which I assume was the fall finale since there were no previews, Lyla’s sins found her out and she paid dearly for her sins.  She was repentant to the ones that sin hurt and realized that she must endure the pain.  There was no scene of her at the alter or even of her praying for forgiveness, but I got the feeling that she had done that at some point behind the scenes.  And at the end of the show, there was a strong redemptive quality.  We all sin and come short of the glory of God.  When children disobey, they are punished (at least they should be if the parent loves them).  God is not different toward his children.  There are consequences to our actions, but there is also repentance and redemption.


Last night’s show also talked openly about sex and how boys and girls are viewed differently because of the things they do.  There was also a scene in the classroom in which a preacher’s daughter (I don’t recall her name because last night was her first appearance) explained how boys think that it’s okay to spread their seed because that is human nature, but humans are to rise above nature and be stronger than those urges.  She called it higher evolution.  I thought that was really good and met the secular views on secular grounds.  She didn’t mention the Bible or God or that sex should wait until marriage.  She made her point within the confides of the secular argument about human nature and she won.  Again, it was very well done.


This is a show that everyone should start watching.  It moves to Wednesdays in January.  Hopefully, the move will up the ratings because I hate to see a good show like this hit the can.  If you want to know more about the show or watch the episodes online go to the link below:





Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Symbols: The Christmas Tree

As we get closer to Christmas I am reminded of how symbolic everything really is.  So many people think that symbols are just things that writers and English teachers think up to make their lives more enjoyable.  While there may be some truth to that, in reality, symbols are everywhere.  Especially in the church and especially at Christmas time.  I want to take a look at some of the symbols surrounding the Christmas season and shed some light on where the symbol came from and what it means. 


What better place to start than the Christmas tree? 


It seems the Christmas tree had its humble beginnings in Germany, which really interests me because I’ve done a lot of research on my family history in America as well as Germany.  Our family line has close ties with the church, and so when I talk about when the tradition of the Christmas tree began, I am probably also looking at a piece of family history.  Anyway, the tree began as part of “The Paradise Plays.”  These plays were performed in churches and town squares during Advent and told the story of the human race from Adam and Even until Jesus in a manger.  So the tree was center stage from the beginning, where apples were hung on it to represent the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The tree represented many things, such as the original tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree made into the cross of Jesus, the tree the Apostle John saw in Revelation.


The modern Christmas tree comes from Germany.  Because of the tree in “The Paradise Plays,” German families set up a Paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve.  They hung wafers on it, which symbolized the bread eaten during communion.  Since the Christmas holiday was right after that day, people put candles in the tree to represent that Jesus came as a light to the world.  I don’t know how they kept the trees from burning down.  Have you ever thrown an evergreen into a fire?  It goes up immediately in a flash.


There is also the legend of St. Boniface that takes the Christmas tree back to the 7th century in Germany.  During the 7th century, Boniface went to German to teach the word of God.  According to the legend, he used the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity because of its triangular shape.  Once converted, the people began to see the fir tree as God’s Tree.  This could also be why the trees were used in “The Paradise Plays.”


The Christmas trees first came to England with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany.  I want to add on a personal note that we have a direct connection to Electress Sophia of Hanover through the church.  Her son was King George I.  The custom did not catch on because the British were not fond of the German Monarchy, so it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that the tradition caught on.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very popular and made the Christmas tree fashionable.


The Christmas trees in America were introduced by the Hessian soldiers.  The Pennsylvanian German settlements had community trees as early as 1747.  Most Christmas traditions in American followed the immigrants who settled the area.  But once mass communication really got going in the 19th century, customs began to spread.


Now there are all types of trees from manufactured to real, but they all have a place in homes, whether the people are Christians or not.  Stores may try to rename them Holiday Trees, but we know the difference and know the deep heritage they have in the Christian community.



Friday, December 08, 2006

Learning from Nanwrimo

What did I learn from National Novel Writing Month?  There are a lot of things that I learned, and I’m not sure I can come up with all of them this moment, but there are a few things that come to mind. 


One thing that I’ve always known about myself - I need a deadline.  If left to my own devices, I waste so much time doing other things.  Even though I love writing, I tend to take my own sweet time when it comes to getting some things done.  That’s why it’s nice when the muses visit me and I finish something in a flurry.  If I don’t have that drive, I put things off.  I need to push through those times when I’m not feeling the inspiration and get as much written as possible.  Even if the things I write are not top literary quality, at least I have written and I am that much better off for having done something.  Plus, when I write everyday, the story and characters stay fresh in my mind and it’s easier to move the story along and doesn’t seem so forced.


Secondly, when it comes down to it, I can make time in my busy schedule to get more written.  There is a lot of time in the evening and pieces of time during the day that allows me to write.  I need to seize the day and take advantage of the the time I’ve been given.


Thirdly, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer.  This is something I’ve always known, but this experience brought that out.  I enjoy learning about the characters and letting them take me to places I never thought of.  The best writing for me is to sit and type what happens on the movie screen in my head.  If I outline, then I feel the story is already written and there is no point to writing because I know what’s going to happen.  I’d rather take the adventure and see what happens.


I could go on, but I don’t want to.  I want to take the opportunity to write my fiction and not this blog.  I plan on coming back next week with some information about Christmas symbols.  You know, that is my two favorite things - Christmas and symbols, so when you put the two together, I could talk for hours.