Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton – Day 14 Advent 2017

Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton

Day 14 Advent 2017

Christmas is the one holiday I look forward to all year round. I see some shops have started advertising Christmas Specials, so it’s not too early to talk about the festive season………

You know it’s almost Christmas when you walk into a shop and they are playing carols and of course a Santa Claus Station where you get your photo taken, sitting on s red suited guy’s lap. This is mostly kids’ stuff. I don’t think have had my photo taken with Father Christmas since I was in kindergarten. It used to be such a big deal and you would get a gift box too, I don’t remember if our parents paid for it, if they did they never said and we never thanked them for it.

Note to myself: This year I am definitely having my photo taken with Santa or I just might be Santa my beard is practically all white I could pull off the look.

Its weird how we grow up and things that seemed to be super important when we were toddlers suddenly have less significance. All the thoughts we lose on our way to becoming adults. I can remember past Christmas holidays from my childhood as if they happened just yesterday but I can hardly remember my last Christmas.

Growing every Christmas we got new clothes, new shoes and then a gift probably a toy or board game. You would wake up on Christmas morning and you could practically smell Christmas. Christmas smells like my mum’s baking, a multi coloured cake we called The Rainbow cake. I thought it looked a touch hideous but my grandmother loved it to so every Christmas it showed up it was tradition.

I remember grandma telling me the story of how a saviour was born in a stable and lay in manger and how we must not forget the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas, if it was not true why do all the cows and goats wake up facing east, to watch the sunrise; to honour a king. I never saw them actually do this and grandma used to laugh when I asked and told me I was not waking up early enough…. I haven’t seen them do it but I tell the story anyway….

What’s Christmas without a tree

What’s a Christmas tree without decorations

What’s Christmas breakfast without bread and jam and cake

What’s Christmas without memories like these

Christmas seems like an affair for children but don’t be fooled, the older generation are moved beyond words at a chance to see their children with their children’s children and possibly their children’s children’s children since it now seems we only ever gather like this at funerals….

Writing this post has put me in the festive spirit and this Christmas I will definitely put in the effort, I’ll even buy cards and post them, I’ll dress up in a red jump suit and give gifts, I will tell stories and create timeless memories……

Stay festive


This post was originally published on Beaton’s blog on the 25th of September 2017, check it out for some pictures.



I am an analogue man in a digital world….. Evolved to tell tales and start fires, my spirit an


imal is a dragon, and I am mastering digital storytelling…

You can read me on my blog

Facebook www. facebook.com/BecomingTheMuse

Or find me tweeting my life away 280 characters at a time on twitter @beatonm5



Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry – Day 13 Advent 2017

Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry

Day 13 Advent 2017


TODAY in Sweden nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head. As the wax melted onto the damp fabric, a sizzling sound could be heard by those closest.

As well as Lucia there are her attendants, tärnor, who are dressed in white gowns with a silver glitter circle on their heads and carrying a lit candle.

In the later years a place was also made for boys, mainly as Star boys, stjärngossar, wearing a white gown, a pointed conic hat with a star and carrying a silver star stave. Recently younger boys are also dressed as gingerbread men.

The hushed bustle of the waiting crowd falls to stillness and into the darkness comes Lucia and her train, the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness.

At this point both men and women are tear-eyed.

As the Lucia train approaches the songs ring light and clear. One is ‘Sankta Lucia’, which is the song that epitomises Lucia. Its evocative tones weave their way into my soul. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this.

Here is the translation of the first verse:

‘The darkness lies weightily
on fields and cottages
in places forgotten by the sun
the shadows brood.
Into our dark homes She steps
with lighted candles on her head
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.’

The spirits continue to soar as Lucia and her attendants come to a halt, either at the front of a larger gathering or if at a home in front of the rest of the family.

Now other festive songs lilt their way across the break of morning, the star boys even having their own solo performance. The mystical magical aura shimmers in the candlelight, spreading across the nation.

Being Sweden no festive occasion would be complete without its own traditional fare. Particular for this day are Lussekatter (Lucia Kitten Buns), which are made with saffron. Also on offer are pepparkakor, cinnamon/ginger biscuits. Although many in Sweden now buy theirs. To drink there is either coffee, milk or for the more daring a cup of julglögg. Please, join me today, on this special Lucia day for a cup of coffee or glögg. Help yourself to Pepparkakor. Enjoy the song below whilst you nibble away. Happy Lucia to you all!

This was originally posted on Annika’s Blog on the 13th of December 2015, find the original, with pictures here.

Midwinter by Holly Geely – Day 12 Advent 2017

Midwinter by Holly Geely

Day 12 Advent 2017




‘Tis early on midwinter’s day

And Nature is in all her glory

Never was a day more perfect

Not in any rhyme, or story.


Her beauty is beyond compare.


O see. the sparkling winter morn

With blanket white upon the ground!

Fresh footprints trail across the lawn,

And I, well…I’m still laying down.


It’s really freakin’ cold out there.

Frozen Garden by E.E. Rawls – Day 11 Advent 2017 

Frozen Garden by E.E. Rawls

Day 11 Advent 2017


“Frozen Garden”

I stand in the snow
In the garden that has turned into a world of white.
All is silent
No birds, no singing crickets
Nothing but the tiny bubbling of a frozen creak
As its waters battle to flow beneath the ice.
There are no colors around me but white
And the dark bark of trees that have fallen into slumber.
I feel alone in the silence, the stillness, the colorlessness
As if I am the only living thing that remains
As if death has taken away everyone and everything I’ve known.
The cold air bites at my skin
And I pull my scarf closer.
Winter reminds me of solitude, a beautiful sadness
And the inevitability of death
The ice freezing over living things until they surrender.
I shudder, and my exhale is like a puff of smoke in the air.
I hear a chirp sound suddenly
And I crane my neck to look up.
There before me stands a pine tree, alive and ever green
And pecking about its branches a chickadee, who merrily chirps at me.
There are deer tracks in the snow at the tree’s base
And the remnants of a pinecone decimated by squirrels.
Something is still living, I realize, still surviving despite this frozen world
And my loneliness begins to melt.
This ever green is like a symbol…
In the midst of cold, the warmth of life can be found,
In the midst of silence, the rhythm of beating hearts can be heard,
In the midst of darkness, a saving light can be seen,
In the midst of lonely winter, there is companionship with God.
Winter is silent and deadly, but Christmas is merry and alive,
It is a reminder of both, that where there is death there is also new life,
Jesus died with our sins, and rose alive from the dead.
This frigid season is not as desolate as I had thought
Even if it lacks the thrill and vibrancy of summer
Winter has its own different kind of life.
My footsteps crunch in the snow as I turn and exit the frozen garden
A garden that is still alive under the layers of snow
Waiting beneath my shoes for spring.
I smile, and know that I will view winter differently from now on.

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Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein by Jemima Pett – Day 10 Advent 2017, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein by Jemima Pett

Day 10 Advent 2017, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Jemima Pett offers Solveig’s readers a glimpse into the society of her Princelings of the East series this Advent.  The books feature two princelings who leave their home castle, Castle Marsh, to have many mysterious adventures, mostly involving time travel, pirates, and new inventions.

All seven books in the series are on sale during the December-January period, leading up to the publication of book 8 on 30th January. For details see the series on the Princelings website.

The first piece (2nd December) is by Queen Kira, who plays a major part in books 2 and 3 of the series. George and Fred are the original Princelings of the East.  Fred is now King, and George is an engineer, flying ace, and inventor of new machines.

The second piece (10th December) is by Sir Pogo, who lives in a very different castle, Castle Vexstein.  Their main industry is brewing the drink Vex, which has a monopoly in brewed drinks throughout the country. It’s a complete contrast from Castle Marsh, the focus of the Princelings series, and increasingly the source of most of the troubles that are brewing.

Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein,by Sir Pogo

Castle Vexstein.jpegThe Yuletide season is one of relaxation and happiness for all who belong to Vexstein, from the lowliest to the highest, currently my uncle, Baron Smallweed, who succeeded a few years ago following the death of my other uncle, the late Baron Darcy.

The relaxation stems in part to the fact that we close down production at the brewery for the ten day holiday.  This allows everyone to have a good break and for all the equipment to be thoroughly cleaned and overhauled.   So Solstice really starts with the end of the last shift, and to mark that, we have a firework display over the brewery, and a street market with vendors selling hot drinks and snacks, playing music and dancing, on the streets outside the castle walls.

The next morning we have our formal ceremony to mark Solstice, with the elders of the family processing in their correct order through the streets of the second level to the Great Hall.  We invite our best workers to the event and also, to be democratic about it, hold a lottery for the rest of the tickets among the castle inhabitants.  I have heard that these tickets are sold to others wanting to attend, but we encourage free enterprise so do nothing to spoil our citizens’ enjoyment.  It’s good to know that people are willing to pay to attend, but I dissuaded Lord Smallweed from making it a pay-to-attend event some years back.

We have a formal dinner in the evening of Solstice with Family and any visiting dignitaries, together with the Marshals of the Castle.  Marshals are the order of people who deal with the day to day running of the castle, under Lord Smallweed’s direction, of course.  It is our main way of thanking the Marshals for their hard work during the year.

Over the next few days we have a number of family get-togethers, usually involving food and wine, and some entertainments, often encouraging talent from our citizens to show their skills.  We also have a narrating competition that is held somewhere in the first or second level for the citizens who wish to attend.  I gather it’s quite popular. Actually, it is very popular, or at least it was when I slipped away from my family duties to watch it when I was much younger.  But I don’t know that officially, you understand.

When the cleaning of the brewery is finished, we inspect it and congratulate the workers with a special party for them and an extra pack of Vex to take home to their families.  Oh, I forgot to mention the children’s party we arrange for the families of all the citizens on one of the days between Solstice and Green Willow Day.

Finally we get to Green Willow Day.  We walk the circuit of every level of the castle accompanied by all those who live on it, and those above, until we have the entire castle population walking round the lowest level. Well, not the slums outside the castle but inside the walls, obviously. I’d like to clear those out and get everyone decent accommodation, but my uncle says it’s a waste of time. The walk around the castle levels is fun, though. We finish with an open air fire and hot drinks and some food, and speeches to remind people of their duty in the new year, and everyone renews their oath to serve the Baron.  Then we go back upstairs for our formal meal and a ball, and I believe the citizens have a party too.  Then we start up production at 6 am on new year’s day and get back to normal.

Christmas Mash-Up by Stephanie Ascough – Day 9 Advent 2017

Christmas Mash-Up by Stephanie Ascough

Day 9 Advent 2017

I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season! Building holiday traditions with my family makes me happy. We may be slow to decorate, but the handmade ornaments, Christmas candles and fragrant evergreen tree delight us all nonetheless. We’ll enjoy looking at Christmas lights and singing carols at our church.
What has fascinated me for several years now are the many origins of Christmas celebrations. Refill your cocoa mug and light an evergreen candle, because this is gonna be fun.

IMG_1453As with most everything, most of the traditions we enjoy today during Christmas come from a variety of sources. A Christmas mash-up, in fact. Saturnalia, an ancient Roman winter celebration, is one of the biggest contributors, from which we generally acknowledge that feasting with friends and family, gift-giving and revelry started out. During these celebrations, children would be given some adult freedoms (like being served at the table) and servants and noblemen traded places. Evergreen boughs were decorated with gold ornaments, since gold represented the sun god Saturn, the festival’s namesake.
I found this one piece of information that I haven’t been able to turn up anywhere else, so take this with a grain of salt: one ancient culture believed that in order to secure their gods’ favor for another year, their king had to die. Every year, in the darkest of winter, a prisoner was chosen to act on behalf of the king-you know, to save on yearly coronation costs. The prisoner would be dressed and treated as the king. At the end of the ceremony, he would be killed instead of the king. (I kind of got chills just writing that.). Thus, it was believed that the god would hold off the powers of darkness, keeping the people safe for another year.
Anyone know anything else about this? And anyone else kind of glad we don’t celebrate winter traditions this way any more? Me too.
Then there are the German and Celtic origins of the Christmas tree. Take Krampus, Santa Claus’s evil counterpart, who appears to have been stripped of his evil behavior and absorbed by Santa in most of the Western world. Before there was Elf on the Shelf, there was Bundle of Sticks in the House, by which children were motivated to good behavior for fear of being beaten by the demon-like creature who shimmied down chimneys during Christmas time. Although, he does appear to be making a bit of a comeback. My sister saw him in a street parade.
The early church seemed to think that if they overtook Saturnalia, traditional things like orgies would disappear completely. They decided to change the date of Jesus’ birthday to December 25th, the day Saturnalia had been celebrated. The Romans could now completely stop all their festivities and gift-giving, thank you very much. (Never mind that Jesus’ birth had originally been celebrated on January 6th, and that it likely took place in the summer anyway!)
And here we are today. I celebrate Christ’s birth and sing carols that remind me of his incarnation. That’s very important to me, and it is year-round too. I’m glad that the early demands to stop gift-giving didn’t stick, that I don’t *have* to tie up bundles of sticks to scare my children into good behavior, and that prisoners are not killed for the sake of winter festivals. It certainly doesn’t hurt to take a look at holiday origins and remember that all is definitely not as 21st century America paints it to be.
Ah, Christmas. It is what you make it. How do you celebrate?

Stephanie Ascough is a writer, wife, and mother, though not exactly in that order. She loves to write children’s fiction, flash fiction, fantasy, and anything that comes from the heart. You can find her at her blog, stephanieascough.wordpress.com.


Celebrating Gratefulness during the holiday season by D.E. Haggerty – Day 8 Advent 2017

Celebrating Gratefulness during the holiday season by D.E. Haggerty

Day 8 Advent 2017


I had an entire blog post planned out in my head about Christmas traditions and how my husband and I had developed our own as he’s often in foreign lands far away from either one of our families during the Christmas holidays. But then I went to a BusinessBoost event and heard a talk from Mo Gawdat. This evening was supposed to be about entrepreneurship and risk-taking. Mr. Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer of the futuristic dream factory Google X. I expected him to talk about Google and taking risks in the IT industry. That is definitely not what I got.

Instead, Gawdat talked about his novel, Solve for Happy, and his happiness formula. I haven’t read the book, and Gawdat only had twenty-five minutes to portray his ideas to us, but this is what I got out of his talk. Career success does not equal happiness. We need to stop seeing success as a monetary goal. Mr. Gawdat wants us to try and achieve happiness instead. How do we do that? We need to stop being individualistic and materialistic. We need to appreciate what we have.

What Mr. Gawdat said is not revolutionary. It’s one of the life lessons/affirmations we hear all the time – appreciate what you have and all that. One thing he did say resonated with me, however. The Netherlands has one of the happiest populations in the world yet the Dutch claim they have a ‘klacht cultuur’ – a complaining culture. Mr. Gawdat responded with the wise words What are you complaining about? This reminded me of a Christmas with my family two years back.

My husband hasn’t celebrated Christmas with my family in this millennium. It’s impossible. He’s a pilot, and planes keep on flying on Christmas. Mostly, airliners are sympathetic and offer pilots the opportunity to have either Christmas or New Year’s off. My husband never asks for Christmas off as we don’t have children, and we only feel it’s fair those with children get the holiday off.

So, it wasn’t unusual that I was celebrating Christmas with my family in Wisconsin while my husband was flying in Istanbul. I hadn’t seen my nieces and nephews for a few years and I was not only surprised by how tall they’d grown – when did that happen? – but by how whiney they’d become. Now, I know all teenagers can whine like champions, but it was Christmas! What was there to complain about?

My patience – always in short supply – snapped. While I was partaking in an abundance of Christmas wine and opening presents with my family, a mortar attack happened at the airport where my husband is based and two cleaning personnel were killed. Fortunately, the attack happened after the passengers had disembarked. Then, during my Christmas call to the husband, I learned he was flying to the Syrian border to transport military troops.

I lost my ever-loving mind and decided it was time to bring a little perspective to my whiney nieces and nephews. I asked them if they had the first clue where their uncle was while they were sitting around opening presents and complaining about them? No? I told them in a voice laced with fear and language liberally sprinkled with profanities exactly what he was enduring and the danger he was in while they were safe and warm with their families.

What’s the purpose of me telling you this story? Except to prove that I can be a big ‘ol meanie when I want to be and am therefore not the most favorite aunt in the world (although I’m totally the coolest, right?). It’s exactly what Mr. Gawdat was trying to tell the audience about being happy. What are you complaining about? Is it that you haven’t got clean water to drink? Or a toilet in your house and you’ve got to walk in the dark to a communal toilet during which time the chance of being raped is frighteningly high? No? Then, maybe you should be grateful for all you have. And what better time of the year is there to be grateful than at Christmas.

I will be celebrating an Orphan Christmas this year on Christmas Eve with several friends who are also away from their families while my husband flies wherever it is he’s flying. But I’m still grateful that I have those friends and in-laws with whom to celebrate. Besides, I’ll see the hubby on New Year’s Eve and who knows what trouble I can get into then?

D.E. Haggerty (aka Dena) grew-up reading everything she could get her grubby little hands on, from her mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When she wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, she was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing her of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion she did manage to sneak a book into her rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, she went back to school and got her law degree. She jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into her legal career, she was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. She quit her job and sat down to write a manuscript, which she promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t her thing, so she quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t her thing either. She polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where she decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from her adopted home. She packed up again and moved to The Hague where she’s currently working on her next book. She hopes she’ll always be working on her next book. Her twelfth book, Searching for Gertrude, will be hitting (virtual) bookshelves on January 22nd.
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The Small Dog’s Christmas by Sue Vincent – Day 7 Advent 2017

The Small Dog’s Christmas by Sue Vincent

Day 7 Advent 2017

Ani 2 (1).jpg


The Small Dog’s Christmas

If the dog had more turkey that Christmas than me
Then that, she informs me, is how it should be;
While I can have chocolate, mince pies and cake,
(And any more naughtiness that I can bake)
She’s not allowed half the best of the stuff,
Which, as a deal, she considers quite tough.

“I, O great writer,” I heard the dog quote,
(As she choked on the sarcasm stuck in her throat)
“Am also omnivorous, rather like you,
It is only fair I have something to chew.”
And she sucked in her cheeks, looking all starved and thin,
Knowing only too well that I always give in.

She turned up her nose at a nice Brussels sprout,
(Though she licked off the gravy and pushed it about)
But she seemed to approve of the crisp Yorkshire pud,
‘Cause it went down so fast that it had to be good.
But it wasn’t the grail at the end of her quest,
“Get with it, O writer, and serve up the rest.”

She watched every sliver and morsel I carved
Determined the portions should fairly be halved,
Though her maths are not good and in her mind at least
Means a quarter for me and the rest for the beast.
“I’ll have some of that bacon, a sausage or two,
That should be me sorted… now how about you?”

I turn from the counter to get out my plate…
Realise my mistake… but by then it’s too late,
She’s wolfed down her own and my Boxing Day dinner
Was neatly disposed of and vanished within her!
She is licking her lips as she heads for the table
And dives underneath just as fast as she’s able.

It doesn’t take long though before she comes out
To investigate what the laughter’s about;
Fearing no retribution, she prances with cheek
Having eaten my meals for the rest of the week.
I still had the last of the nice Christmas pud…
“Are you making custard?” says she. “Custard’s good….”

“Now small dog, I ask you, is this really wise?
You won’t be so small in a heavier size.
I have not overeaten this Christmas at all
And I’ve worked off the cake playing fetch with the ball,
You’re not allowed raisins, the custard is mine.”
The small dog just laughed and said, “Have some more wine.”

“Now let me explain,” she said, “O writer dear;
It’s all about sharing at this time of year.
We’ve just shared the turkey,” (I said not a word),
“And given a good resting place to the bird.
If you don’t share custard, I’ll really be hurt,”
She grinned and continued, “Call it ‘just dessert’.”

And so we had custard the small dog and I,
And she had the top off the final mince pie
Then she made puppy eyes, and I answered her pleas
To finish her meal with a morsel of cheese.
And then I got cuddles, so how can I moan?
It’s better to share than be dining alone.

Ani 1.jpg

PANETTONE SEASON! by Judith Works – Day 6 Advent 2017


Day 6 Advent 2017

Actually, it’s the holiday season. In the US this means from Thanksgiving to New Year’s day. So I have about five weeks to indulge in my favorite treat: panettone, that traditional sweet and oh-so-delicious Italian Christmas bread. About the first of November the stores, even in my corner of Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, begin stacking up the colorful boxes in windows and shelves and I begin loading up the shopping cart. The bread is distinctive – tall and domed and nestled in a paper cuff. The height comes from letting the dough rise three times over a period of 20 hours. It usually weighs a kilo and is sturdy enough to last for days without going stale (although it seldom lasts long in our household). The packaging, which gets ever-more elaborate, almost always features a ribbon handle all the better to carry it home and many times in Italy I’ve seen people carrying them home on the bus and Metro.

Ideal for hostess gifts, I also use it for non-traditional recipes like bread pudding and French toast (I should call it Italian toast) although there’s nothing better than a simple wedge served with orange juice and coffee on a Christmas morning in front of the fireplace.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the bread: The current iteration originated in Milan in the early 20th century but it has ancient origins, possibly back to Roman times when the aristocrats dined on a leavened bread sweetened with honey. A slightly more plausible origin is a story about a cake flavored with lime zest and raisins served at the Duke of Milan’s table in the 15th century. Attesting to its popularity, it soon began to be depicted in paintings, and in the 18th century a “Pane di Tono” or luxury cake was mentioned by an Italian writer, Pietro Verri. Whatever the earlier varieties contained, modern bakers can’t resist experimenting with additions beyond raisins such as chocolate, dried figs, pears, orange or citron peel, mascarpone, or sweet liqueur to tempt the shopper.

How could anyone resist?  Not me!

Judith Works is the author of a memoir recounting ten years of food and frolic in Rome. Coins in the Fountain is available on Amazon.