Tag Archives: Christmas

9 Holidays Celebrated Throughout December and January

Canada is a country that is proud of and thrives on diversity. To celebrate and highlight this I have put together a list of holidays that happen throughout December and the beginning of January.

Saint Nicholas Day

Date: December 6th

The legendary figure of St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he developed a reputation for gift-giving by putting coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots.”

Read more here.

 Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Date: December 12th

 It is believed that a man named Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary twice in Mexico City, on December 9 and December 12 in 1531. According to legend, Mary told Juan to ask the bishop to build a church on Tepeyac Hill. However, the bishop needed proof of Juan’s encounter and asked for a miracle. Juan returned to the hill to see roses in a spot where there were previously cacti. When Juan Diego returned, he showed the roses to the archbishop and also revealed an image on his cloak of the Lady of Guadalupe. The bishop was convinced of the miracle and built a church in honor of the event.”

 Read more here.

Saint Lucia’s Day

Date: December 13th

A festival of lights is held in honour of St.Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs who was killed by the Romans in 304CE because of her religious beliefs.

 “In Scandinavian countries each town elects its own St. Lucia. The festival begins with a procession led by the St. Lucia designee, who is followed by young girls dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads and boys dressed in white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia, and it is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.”

Read more here.

 Hanukkah

Date: December 12th to 20th

“Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is the Jewish Festival Of Lights. The date it’s celebrated changes each year, depending on the Western calendar, but it usually falls in November or December. The celebration dates back to two centuries before Christianity began, and lasts for eight days. The word ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication, and honours one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.”

 Read more here.

Yule

Date: December 21st to January 1st

“The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21 in the northern hemisphere (below the equator, the winter solstice falls around June 21). On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane.“

 Read more here.

Christmas Day

Date: December 25th

“The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day). Thus, we get the name Christ-Mass shortened to Christmas. Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world. It is a time when family and friends come together and remember good things they have. People and especially children also like Christmas as it’s a time you give and receive presents.”

 Read more here.

Kwanzaa

Date: December 26th to January 1st

“The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.”

 Read more here.

Omisoka

Date: December 31st

“Omisoka is the last day of the year(New Year’s eve) in Japanese. Its origin is Misoka which is the last of the month, Omisoka consist Misoka and “O” which means big. There are many customs for Omisoka in Japan, Toshikoshi-soba, Osouji, Toshinoyu and more.”

 Read more here.

Three Kings Day/Epiphany

Date: January 6th

“Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.”

 Read more here. 

This list, I’m sure barely scrapes the surface of the multitude of national and international holidays celebrated throughout December. We live in a community, province and country that has people from all over the world. This holiday season ask your friends or co-workers what they celebrate this time of year and what their traditions are.

Written by Valerie Chalmers

www.valeriechalmers.com

Co Chair of Promotions & Marketing Committee, Niagara Leadership Summit for Women
Co Host of The Empowered Millennials Podcast
Member of Promotions & Marketing Committee, No Fixed Address

Member of the St.Catharines Culture Plan Sub Committee

Sources:
http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson246.shtml

http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/23/what-is-hanukkah-and-why-is-it-celebrated-6341546/

Blogger Talk: Christmas Edition

Can you share a favourite holiday memory?

Dana

Is it weird to say that I have so many horrible holiday memories? My sister was kind of a brat growing up and she would always freak out on Christmas morning over presents. All because of PRESENTS! That’s why I am so scared of gift giving. One of my positive memories is the first Christmas my boyfriend and I spent together. I honestly had no idea what to get him because I had only known him for a month and a half; so I got him a really big fuzzy brown blanket for his house. He didn’t have any blankets at all, which I thought was weird, so really it was like a gift for me too. I had NO idea what he was going to get me either, I was honestly hoping for candy. When I opened my gift, it was a really big fuzzy brown blanket! We each got each other the same thing! It was so funny; we loved our brown blankets. We still have them to this day (4 years later)– they are slightly less fuzzy but still just as warm and cuddly.

Valerie

I have so many favourite holiday memories. I literally think that every holiday season is my favourite. The older I get the more memories I make and the more friends I have to share these times with. Any moment spent with family or friends throughout the season laughing, creating memories and eating good food are my favourite.

What was your most memorable gift? Why?

Dana

I’m one of those people where gifts have little to no meaning to me; I’m a horrible gift giver myself and would rather just skip gifts all together and instead spend the money on a cheese platter to talk and hang out over. But one year my parents paid for a new set of tires for my car, and they told me that would be my only gift and not to be upset on Christmas morning when I didn’t have any presents. I told them I wouldn’t be upset; but as Christmas approached I was wondering if I would feel a little left out as my sister and parents opened up gifts. Christmas morning came around, and I felt really happy. I didn’t feel left out at all, it was awesome watching other people open their gifts! I also felt extremely thankful every time I drove my car and didn’t slip on snow or ice because of my spiffy new tires. Thanks mom and dad!

Valerie

The most memorable gift I have ever received was a toaster. When I was a kid we had an awful toaster. It didn’t matter what setting I used, my toast was always burnt. I relentlessly bugged my parents about getting a new toaster for months and they never caved. Christmas rolls around and nine year old me knows there is something fantastic in that large box with my name on it. I had no idea what was in it. I imagined it was a Barbie car or dollhouse and I could hardly wait to see what treasure was beneath the wrapping paper. To my dismay, it was a new toaster. I knew we needed one and that I had repeatedly asked for one but surely this wasn’t one of my presents. I was a dramatic child and was quite taken aback and disappointed that my imagination had lead me astray. As time went on I grew to appreciate and love the toaster, for it made perfect toast every time.

 Not in a festive mood, what are some coping strategies that have worked for you?

Dana

I am the definition of NOT festive. All my friend and coworkers are absolutely obsessed with Christmas. Then they find out I am kind of anti-Christmas. I blame my years of working in retail witnessing the worst of humanity and the constant blaring of Christmas music. I put up our tree maybe 10 days before Christmas; 2 years ago we realized we accidentally threw out our Christmas lights, so we went out to get more. IMPOSSIBLE! We went to every store that sold lights in the Niagara region, and because it was so close to Christmas, no one had lights (okay, they had the colourful lights but I only wanted white). So, I simply told my boyfriend we were not decorating for Christmas this year. He said okay. We didn’t decorate and it was awesome. Honestly the only thing I really like about Christmas is all of the food and it being more acceptable to drink Bailey’s in your coffee every day.

What is the one tradition from your childhood that you continue to do each holiday season?

Dana

My parents, sister and I always read “The Night Before Christmas” book before we go to bed on Christmas Eve. I typically don’t see my parents on Christmas Eve anymore because they live an hour away. I think they brought the book to our house on Christmas day and made my boyfriend and I read it out loud with them. We all take turns reading a page, and randomly my dad talks in a weird accent during his turn. Now I also read it out loud in a weird accent.

Valerie

I watch the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every single year without fail. I remember having to look it up in the TV guide when I was a kid. My mom, dad and I would watch it together with delicious cookies and treats. I now get to do the same thing with my son and husband and it is one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

The Holiday Aftermath

“These are but shadows of things that have been.” ~ The Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

This timeless story has been a favourite of mine for over thirty years.

Every year I revisit it and, each time, I have seen Scrooge as a miserly, miserable and embittered man who avoided Christmas and people, then was transformed by the visitations of the three spirits. Continue reading

Memories of Christmas in Palliative Care

As I write this, I look around and see that the Christmas season is in full swing. Christmas has exploded everywhere. Everywhere you look Christmas decorations are on display and all of the shops are competing for your Christmas dollars. The media is working overtime trying to convince you of all the things that you just can’t live without this year.The perfect gift for the perfect Christmas is achievable, according to all the retail outlets. That’s the message that bombards us from everywhere for so many weeks. It’s no wonder that Christmas can be so overwhelming and stressful. Continue reading

Starting a New Holiday Tradition

There is just something magical about this time of year. For most people, holidays are
wonderful! Whether you’re a teenager still benefiting from the joys of opening presents, a young adult just starting out on your own, a young family creating new memories, or a group that has been celebrating your same favourite traditions year after year. One thing that stands important for folks around the holidays is that very thing: tradition.

When I did a bit of research on holiday
traditions, one event was missing from many lists: volunteering. And I don’t call it “helping the needy” or use that language for a reason. Not only does using phrasing like “the poor” or “the unfortunate” lump a whole population of people together – who are each unique individuals with hopes and dreams and stories – it also creates the illusion that “these people” are somehow essentially different from “us.” They’re not. Continue reading

Letters to Santa-They Want What?

METhey’re heeeeeeere! The lists that so many parents face with equal parts interest and dread. The letters to Santa. As my seven-year-old son sat down to compose his this year, I watched him struggle with what to write. First, he couldn’t think of anything to ask for and then, after a little consideration, he just started listing things from a toy catalogue that had come in the mail.

That’s when I stepped in.

We had a chat about not abusing the privilege, and to perhaps just ask Santa to surprise him. But I realized the problem really lay with me. I have become so accustomed to doing what is considered traditional, that I never even considered telling him to not bother writing one. Why is that exactly? Why, when so many in this world can’t afford to buy their children the basics, never mind random material junk, do we, as a society, feel the need to perpetuate this ceremony? Continue reading

The Many Ways of Christmas Giving

During Thanksgiving, I was talking with my friend who lives in Kelowna, BC with her boyfriend. They moved out there in April and the two of them have been living together and trying to make new friends, but both of their families are still in Ontario. She told me she bought a turkey so she and her boyfriend could make themselves a Thanksgiving dinner, but then decided that they didn’t need all that food between two people. I asked her what she was going to do with the turkey, and she said she was going to donate it one of the homeless shelters or food banks. What a great idea, I thought!
I never thought about donating a turkey before. But, that’s probably the most expensive item to buy for holiday dinners. I thought that was a great idea, and that got me thinking about what I can do to make a little bit of a difference during the holidays for others. I think I’ve hit that age where, I don’t really need anything for Christmas (of course, I want things, but I don’t need anything, and for that I feel very lucky), but definitely could be using my time or a little extra cash for people who do need it. Continue reading

Christmas, “The Season of Giving”

Written by our blogger Irene Motz

The business  of the season begins  the  day after Thanksgiving. The signs are everywhere that Christmas is just around the corner. It becomes almost impossible to escape the pressures and expectations  to find the perfect gifts to put underneath the tree. The season for me has  always been a thoughtful and reflective time. A time of year that evokes memories of Christmases past and brings  me face to face with the present. I try to remember not to get caught up with the materialism of Christmas and remember more the Christmases of my childhood. Even more so this coming Christmas as I watch my mother sitting in her chair in a long term care facility.

I remember the
Christmases  she orchestrated for her children. The traditions of an Advent Calendar was the first sign that Christmas was coming. The oranges and nuts in our stockings. Baking cookies and hanging them on the Christmas tree. Making ice chocolates and putting the moulds outside in the snow. Finally, the gathering of family around a huge table  that was covered with food and pastries  enough to feed us all for days. There was no price tag on the anticipation and wonder I remember feeling, and can still draw on to this day. I always had the sense that Christmas was more than what was under the tree. It was the feeling and  the aromas of Christmas that I remember and the people that sat around that table.

I always had the sense that Christmas was more than what was under the tree.

To this day if I close my eyes, my memories transport me back to a Christmas of my childhood. The Christmases in my heart were wrapped in the memories created by my mother. As a young mother I re-created  those memories for my own three children. The season began with the Advent Calendars to begin the countdown. The excitement of my children opening each window to find the chocolate behind it. The dozens of cookies we baked as a family. Some given as gifts, some hung on the Christmas tree, others shared with family and friends.

It was always a family event picking out the tree. We always found the perfect tree that seemed to have been waiting just for us. I began new traditions and incorporated those traditions of my own childhood. New pajamas every Christmas Eve. I stuffed the stockings with oranges and nuts. The table on Christmas Day was surrounded by family who filled the table with food and pastries…and the house burst at the seams with laughter and love of not only that Christmas day, but echoed with the sounds of Christmases past.

As I watch my own children with my grandchildren, I see glimpses of the same traditions, the Advent calendars , baking cookies, decorating the tree , family gathering together, laughter … Three generations of traditions stemming not from material wealth …but from the scarcity of it. It was the gift of family.

The traditions  of  Family, Love and Laughter are the gifts we pass on to the next generation. These gifts do not have a price tag. They cannot be found on the department store shelves. They  are gifts from our heart that will resonate in the hearts of our children and our  grandchildren.

Christmas Spirit at the YWCA

As a new front-desk volunteer this year, I discovered quickly that it was very easy to discern which holidays were approaching simply based off the décor in the YWCA. I saw the YWCA change from cozy to spooky when Halloween approached and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. However, nothing could compare to the Christmas spirit that I felt this December.

I entered my first December volunteer shift feeling the stress from impending exams and last minute assignments to find the YWCA transformed overnight to something seemingly decorated by Cindy Lou Who herself. My senses were immediately bombarded with sparkle and the smell of peppermint making it impossible to feel anything but absolute joy. It was amazing to see how the presence of a Christmas tree and a few other decorations seemed to change the entire morale within the shelter. It seemed as if the happiness was contagious as many of the guests began discussing how grateful they were for being able to stay in the shelter over the holiday season, a time when so many struggle to find shelter and food.

The Christmas spirit seemed to continually infect everyone in the shelter as mid-December approached. The willingness of the guests to help one another within the shelter was very inspiring as they offered their time and advice to others. Most touching was watching one guest help another guest, an older woman who was unable to speak English, call landlords and visit prospective rental properties. This guest also took it upon herself to help this older woman learn the bus system in St. Catharines and showed her around the area. The older woman was so grateful that she began to cry (I might have been crying by this point too) and described how the YWCA was her Christmas miracle.

The Christmas spirit, however, did not end at the confines of the YWCA property. It rather seemed as if all of St. Catharines was in the giving mood, providing the YWCA with very generous donations. The previously barren Kate Leonard room became piled high with donations including personal care products and winter jackets. I was also finally forced able to learn how to fill out a donation receipt as generous people flooded the YWCA with monetary donations. I also saw numerous students finish off exams and immediately come in to inquire about volunteer opportunities within the shelter.

Perhaps it was a sugar high from helping myself to a bucket of candy canes at the front desk, but I really felt more in the Christmas spirit during these days volunteering than I could after any Christmas movie marathon. And while the importance of decorations can seem very miniscule in the grand scheme of things, their ability to awaken the holiday spirit cannot be taken lightly. Also, the importance of donating even something as simple as time (especially if you’re a broke student like me) is crucial to the running of community organizations who rely on volunteers to function. It also allows us to remember how lucky we are to have shelter, food, family and friends in the holiday season.