Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Part of this year’s Thanksgiving fun was the two days our eight-year old grandson spent with us. While running last -minute errands with him, he proclaimed, “Gramma, we need an Advent Calendar.” I promptly told him to select one. You know, the ones with a tiny chocolate for each day, when he also proclaimed: “No, I have one. This one’s for Grampa and you.”
Here's what he picked for us.
Advent, based on the Latin word for “coming,” is the religious preparation for the birth of Christ. Technically it begins on the Sunday closest to the birth of Saint Andrew (November 30) and proceeds through the next three Sundays. The observance often includes a wreath of purple candles, and devotions for hope and peace. For any kid, though, “Advent” marks the 24 days before Christmas Day, and they keep track with a calendar. There’s usually a little door to open, and a treat involved. Often, a piece of candy lurks behind that closed door, sometimes a tiny toy. And calendars appear in many shapes and forms.
In the early 1900’s, Gerhard Lang of Germany printed the first paper advent calendars, based on the ones his mother made for him in his childhood when she pasted 24 pictures on a piece of cardboard. Later, he added little doors. A picture or Bible verse would appear.
In America, the advent calendar became commonplace when President Eisenhower was photographed opening one with his grandchildren. Today there are even Advent calendars for computer geeks, featuring 24 hints and helps on web design and coding. I’ve even seen a savoury advent calendar with 24 daily bits of beef jerky! In my little world, two Advent calendars stand out. In my first grade at a Lutheran day school eons ago, our room mother made a chain of walnuts. Inside each empty shell was a tiny treat that varied day to day. We each got a turn. I clearly remember a scarf being pulled out of a shell like a magician. And the horrified little boy who pulled out a tiny pink rubber baby doll. Then...a few years ago, we visited a large Christmas shop in New Hampshire during a leaf-peeper expedition, and I found the best Advent Calendar ever, especially considering I also collect nativity sets. It was win-win. It stands up but I photographed it lying down so you maybe see all the tiny pieces.
The Fontanini set has 24 tiny figures representing the Nativity, from shepherds to animals to the Holy Family. Each has its own little numbered hook. By Christmas Eve, the 24th piece is Baby Jesus.
I've got three Christmas anthologies going on! Wow. When it rains, it pours. And please, God, let it. We’re sick of drought here in California.
My story Canticle appears in the anthology, One Christmas Knight, my very first medieval. Set in the time of King John, Alisoun dreads her upcoming marriage to an old lord when her heart is stolen by a handsome mystery man. I've always wanted to write about a "monk" falling in love, and Prairie Rose Publications gave me the chance. Sigh.
To save her family’s fortunes, Lady Alisoun must wed an elderly earl the day after Christmas. But in the chapel on Christmas Eve, her heart collides with that of an elegant, mysterious stranger. Is he…one of King John’s spies…? Raised in a monastery, Lord Kitt has no experience with love, but finds his heart lost to the lovely lady. Yet he cannot succumb, for he is scheduled to marry the day after Christmas. To a woman he has never met.
Her Holiday Husband (completes the trilogy of my recent SISTERS) comes to life in the A Mail Order Christmas Bride anthology that also features stories by 8 other fine authors including our very own Kathleen Rice Adams and Cheryl Pierson. Secrets and surprises explode when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable...I had a blast with the characters of fictional "East Slope, Colorado." I named my town after my daughter's horrible little "East Slope" dormitory when she did her Study Abroad in Sussex, England. Many of her breezy, I-don-t-have-much-time emails mistyped the place East Slop. I just couldn't resist. Now a respectable rancher, the outlaw formerly known as Black Ankles doubts any decent woman would wed him…hence a mail order bride set up by his well- meaning brother. Indeed, Ronnie Heisler’s whole family expects him to speak vows with an unknown woman come Christmas Eve. Set up by her meddling sister, Phoebe Pierce has fallen in love with the tintype of her intended’s twin brother. But has she too many secrets of her own?
My memoir, Christmas Magic, is my first published non-fiction, and appears in the homespun anthology, Memories from Maple Street U.S.A. The Best Christmas Ever. For me, as a kid, Christmas was magic and sparkles. As a grown up, Christmas is miracles and memories.
When I was a little girl, the glorious Barbie doll I saw one Summer became my Christmas miracle. Other magic moments and grown up miracles happened forever after, but Barbie came to life again, one Christmas a half-century later…