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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

Holly border

Have you ever noticed that a lot of Christmas songs and carols mention holly? We have the Old English carol Deck the Halls…, the even older The Holly and the Ivy, and the modern songs Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas, and We Need a Little Christmas.

We see holly decorations everywhere, adorning carolers on holiday cards, and tucked into floral arrangements. I even wore it pinned into my hair on my wedding day a few days before Christmas. But, what is all the fuss about holly? How and why did it come to represent the season?

Believe it or not it is not something dreamed up by Disney illustrators or even Norman Rockwell; but the custom goes way back to the Romans, early Christians, and ancient Druids. Holly is an evergreen and is one of the few plants of the forest that remains vivid and green during the dormant months. The ancient pagans used holly for wreaths and garlands for decorations during the winter months. Its vivid green glossy leaves and red berries promised that things would spring to life later in the year.

The Druids and Holly

Holly played a major role for the Celts during their celebrations of the summer and winter solstice. The Druids or priests wore sprigs of the plant in their hair during the mistletoe rituals at solstice observances. They regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life.

To cut down a holly tree would bring bad luck but hanging it in the house would bring good luck and protection. It was also thought to protect homes against lightning strikes. Folklore says that the pointy leaves gave magical protection against evil spirits and it was also brought into their homes during the cold months to give shelter to the fairies of the forest.

The Romans and Holly

The Romans used holly during their celebration of Saturnalia as it was considered sacred to Saturn. Therefore, the early Christians used holly and evergreens as decorations for Christmas during the Roman times. The church fathers disapproved of this practice as it was considered “too pagan.”

The Christian Meaning of Holly

The Christians saw holly as a symbol for Christ. The red berries represent the drops of blood shed by Christ at his crucifixion and the prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns. In addition, the holly’s bitter bark is reminiscent of the bitter drink given to Christ when he was on the cross.

Other bits of folklore surrounding holly include the thought that the cross was made of holly and another claims that holly sprang up from Christ’s footsteps.

This Christmas season when you see sprigs of holly decking the halls and decorating the malls remember that it is more than just a colorful plant of festive Christmas colors but a long-established tradition that goes much farther back in time than you ever imagined.

What can we learn from the Newtown tragedy?


Eye with tears

What can I say about the Newtown tragedy that hasn’t already been said? The nation is shocked and stunned with the slaughter of innocent young children. We try to make sense out of this tragedy but can’t. We are left with many questions and those questions may never be answered—all those who might know the answers are dead.

Like the rest of you I have heard countless discussions of the tragedy and a few points stand out to me. The first is that these mass killings are becoming even more frequent and each one is more horrifying than the last. I heard a psychiatrist say that the killings have some similar threads—most are done by society misfits and there have been warning signs. He said this is their way of gaining recognition. Each must be shocking and worse than the ones before to gather that recognition.

Similar threads and contributing factors

He said there are several factors driving these killings. One is the constant coverage by the 24 hour news channels. The perpetrator knows he is guaranteed to receive the attention he craves—he will leave his mark on society. Another factor is the dehumanization of our society driven by violent movies, TV shows and video games.

How can we avoid future mass shootings? The most obvious is the debate over gun control. Even conservatives are beginning to say something needs to be done. Yes, we have the Second Amendment right to bear arms but I don’t think anyone has ever said they want to take away all our guns, despite the fears the gun lobbyists from the NRA have tried to create.

I grew up with guns and learned to shoot at an early age. I’m not sure how young I was but I know that before the age of 12 I was hunting and target practicing with a .22 rifle. It was a rite of passage when our father took us hunting for the first time and taught us to respect and shoot a gun.

I believe we should have the right to have weapons and to defend ourselves but do we need assault rifles with the capabilities of firing multiple rounds consecutively? Do we need something of that magnitude to kill a deer?

We need guidelines for the Second Amendment

We need a limitation of the Second Amendment. We also have the right of free speech but we do not have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. We cannot incite a riot and cause panic in a public place. The more powerful weapons should be limited to the military and police and kept out of the hands of the ordinary citizen.

The president has started a national conversation of the assault weapon problem. Hopefully, legislation will result that will allow gun ownership but take the powerful weapons off the streets.

Secondly, if the people doing these mass shootings are crying for recognition, then we must find a way to deny them that attention. Once the shooter is identified then we should impose a blackout of referring to that person by name.

Are we dehumanized?

How do we solve the problem of dehumanizing society? If everyone refused to attend violent and gory movies, watch brutal TV shows and refused to buy vicious video games then the problem would solve itself. If there is no demand then it is not profitable to continue producing such material.

We need to look at the mental health system of this country. In some of the cases family members recognized there were problems but were not able to get the proper help and support before their loved one turned to drastic methods.

There are some islands of light beginning to show through this dark time. Some retailers are taking the assault weapons off the shelves. A teacher’s union refused to invest with a company that invests in guns. People across the country are offering their support to the Newtown community, including bringing in therapy dogs to help ease the tensions. Others have sent Christmas trees and fresh wreaths in honor of the victims.

Mr. Rogers said it best

A quote many in the media are turning to at this time of need is one from an old friend. Mr. Rogers was every kid’s friend and teacher and it is appropriate that we should turn to him for guidance during a time of tragedy involving so many children. Mr. Rogers said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Let us look past this horror and take a cue from the helpers in Newtown. Take time to hug someone, or sit down and listen to what a troubled child is trying to tell you, or give a stranger a smile. You never know how far that smile will go.

And, finally, let us join hands and pray we find a way to stop the insanity.

Christmas decorating tips


I enjoy decorating for the seasons. I often change decorative pillows and linens throughout the house to seasonal colors to make the house look fresh and new. I especially like decorating for the holidays.

I have never decorated the same way two years in a row, every year I find something to change. The mantle over the fireplace has had many different incarnations from angels floating among white lights and cotton clouds to more down to earth scenes with folk art characters. I even created a woodland scene complete with winding grapevines, apples hollowed out to serve as votives, and oranges studded with cloves for color and scent. That was a beautiful focal point but a mess to clean up.

This year I didn’t want to drag out all the boxes and other Christmas stuff so I went more minimalistic with my choices. We have a small 4.5 ft. pre-lit Christmas tree that is a nice fit for our condo. My husband said he didn’t want to put any ornaments on it but I felt this was going too far with the minimal theme. I added some bows, wrapped a large ribbon around it and hung candy canes from the branches. I then topped the tree with two large bows and decided the tree was beautiful in its simplicity. I added a few more festive touches around the house and decided I had done enough.

I then turned my attention to the front door. I like a pretty wreath on the door but was tired of the ones I have. Not wanting to spend any money on a new one I chose to give a new twist to an old wreath. I wove a large ribbon around it, tucked in some of the candy canes left over from the tree, and added two special large canes for emphasis. I was very proud of my Martha Stewart handiwork.

That is until a few days later when I looked at the door and to my horror it looked like a crime scene. There were huge red splatters against the storm door which then ran in red streaks down the entire length of the door.

My masterpiece was melting! When I put the candy canes on the wreath I removed the protective cellophane because I couldn’t place it without the writing showing. No matter how hard I tried the brand name and ingredients were visible. Now those ingredients were running down the door in the form of a red syrup.

I did give it some thought when I made the decision to remove the cellophane but I felt it would be sufficiently protected behind the glass storm door to keep the rain from hitting it and melting the canes. What I didn’t consider was what would happen when the sun hit it.

To my humble surprise, I guess I’m not Martha Stewart. The next time I decide to deck the halls with sugar plums and candy canes you can bet on it I will keep the wrappings on.

A Christmas Poem

Below is a reprint from the blog This is written by my creative friend, Anne Voight.

Holiday Wishes  

by Anne Voight

My “wish for you” this Holiday and into the New Year–

Peace of mind,
Knowledge in lessons learned,
Treasured memories,
Love of family & friends,
A joyful heart,

May the angels protect and guide you, and the Holiday Spirit remain close in your heart throughout the coming year.



From heartfelt sentiments by Anne

Skyfall is a visit with an old friend and a glimpse into the future


The latest installment of the James Bond series, Skyfall, is a perfect piece to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series. It looks back to established characters and gadgets and forward to the future with new characters and more state-of-the-art gadgets.

The movie also gives us more background information on the James Bond character by taking us to the estate, Skyfall, where Bond grew up. Skyfall is a transition piece where we pay homage to and bid farewell to the past and are introduced to new characters. This reassures us that those behind the Bond franchise intend to keep it going even though the studio and others have had some rocky times.

The tone of Skyfall is a little different from other Bond movies in the past but it has enough of the familiar elements to make us feel comfortable with the new format. Bond still has the quiet sophistication and exotic locations we have come to love; and, the movie has the thrilling chases and explosions that always mark a Bond film. And, of course, there are the Bond girls and sex. Oh yes, and he still looks great in his tux.

Daniel Craig as agent 007, James Bond, is every woman’s dream—a handsome, tough but sensitive guy. This is Craig’s third time to play Bond and I find he adds believability to the character that was missing from the previous Bonds.

Javier Bardem is the villain in Skyfall. He plays a former MI6 agent who has become a cyber terrorist and is seeking revenge against those he thinks betrayed him. Bardem once again turns in an excellent performance as a villain and is downright creepy with his bleached blond hair.

Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory is a former lieutenant colonel in the British Army and is a character we will be seeing in the future.

Judi Dench as M makes her seventh appearance in the role and, as always, is stern but concerned about her agents. This time she seems to have the pressure of the world on her shoulders.

Skyfall is a delight for us old-timers who were around for the first Bond 50 years ago and it should pick up some of the younger generation at the same time.

For a fun time with an old friend see Bond, James Bond, in Skyfall.

I give Skyfall an A.