celebration

Most of us think of Saint Patrick’s day as a day to celebrate being Irish, and to celebrate even if you aren’t Irish. But this day is actually dedicated to a man who was considered legendary by the Irish people. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.

Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from a book he wrote during his last years, called the Confessio. According to the Confessio, while in Britain, Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter. The letter was entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling, and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.

Since Patrick’s passing, countless legends have grown up around him. The Irish made him the patron saint of Ireland. They say he baptized hundreds of people on a single day, and that he used a three-leaf clover…the famous shamrock…to describe the Holy Trinity. He is often portrayed in art as trampling on snakes, a picture that came with the belief that he drove those reptiles out of Ireland. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. It was a day to be thankful for the man who bought them to the Lord. As holidays often do, the ways of celebrating changed over the years. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. I’m sure they were doing their best to keep with the tradition of their country. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage.

The rest of the world observed it differently…probably due to the Irish tourism’s efforts to promote their country. The party went global in 1995, when the Irish government began a large-scale campaign to market Saint Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourism and showcasing Ireland’s many charms to the rest of the world. Today, March 17 is a day of international celebration, as millions of people around the globe put on their best green clothing to drink beer, watch parades and toast the luck of the Irish, but it was never really about luck, you know…it was about blessing. Happy Saint Patrick’s day…and cheers!!

Christmas PastBrenda by the Christmas treeAs I was contemplating the Christmas Day activities to come, my mind wandered back to Christmases of my past. As a child, I remember waking up very early, with struck orders not to go out into the living room until our parents were awake. It seemed like a lifetime before they woke up. It wasn’t, of course, but in my youthful mind, it felt that way nevertheless. Christmas was a day to stay home. After the presents were opened, the cooking began. Of course, the turkey had been cooking for a while by then…another sign that Mom and Dad weren’t really still sleeping when we were trying to wake them up. My sisters and I had the rest of the morning to play with our new toys, and help out in the kitchen. It didn’t matter if it was snowing outside or not, because we had no place to go…the day was ours. I miss those carefree, slowed down, stay-at-home Christmases sometimes.

When I got married, there were suddenly two families to spend Christmas…and every other holiday, with. Things got hectic very fast. We found ourselves running from one house to the other in celebration of the day. Yes, there was plenty of stress, but there really was celebration too, because Christmas is a day of celebration, both in the spiritual and secular versions. Families worked together to make for an easy transition from one house to the other, even though each one wished they could have had a little bit more time with us. Finally, at the end of a very long day, wonderful as it was, we dragged ourselves back home, and figured that there was always tomorrow to stay home and let the kids play with all of their new things.

When our girls got married a whole new facet was added to the Christmas/holiday mix. Not only was there still NativityAmy & Corrie Christmas dollhousemy family and Bob’s, but now we had Kevin’s and Travis’ families. The holidays became almost chaotic. Still, it was about family, and that was what mattered. Our families, their families, one big happy family. What I learned from this time spent reminiscing is that whatever Christmas or the other holidays are to your family, that is the thing that matters, because after the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ…family is the next thing in the line of the most important things in life. Merry Christmas to all of my dear family, and everyone everywhere.

Grandpa & Grandma Byer as a young coupleEvery year, as Christmas approaches, people head out in search of the perfect gift for those they love. Sometimes the hunt can be brutal. You have asked for a list, but they can’t come up with anything, or you don’t ask for a list, and simply hope you know them well enough to know what they would like. Either way, there are times that you just can’t find something you are satisfied with. Other years you are a shopping guru. You fly through your list with ease, and before you know it you are done.

That is kind of how things were for my grandparents, when they were courting. They seriously found the best Christmas gift for each other…a honeymoon. Now, I don’t know if they got to got on any kind of a trip, but getting married on Christmas Eve meant that they got to start their life together for Christmas. Their first full day as husband and wife was Christmas Day. Not everyone would consider Christmas Eve to be the best day for a wedding, and I can understand that, with everything else that is going on during the Christmas season. My grandparents were of a different mind on that. For them, as for many people in those days, weddings tended to take place when the family was all gathered together. Christmas was a perfect time for that. So, since they wanted to get married anyway, they set it for Christmas Eve, so it didn’t interfere with Christmas Day.

It all seemed very practical I’m sure, but for my grandparents, I’m sure it felt quite different. Excitement over starting their new life together must have completely overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations. Waking up next to each other on that first Christmas morning, must have been like being a little kid rushing downstairs to see what Santa Clause brought them for Christmas…except you already knew. They gave each other a honeymoon for Christmas, as well as a whole new life. in that way, I can understand their decision to marry on Christmas Eve. And they aren’t alone in that choice either. My cousin Raylynn Richards Williams and Grandpa and Grandma her husband Doug felt the same way about a Christmas Eve wedding as our grandparents did so many years ago.

Maybe Raylynn and Doug chose Christmas Eve because Grandma and Grandpa did, or maybe they chose Christmas Eve because they liked that time of year. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that no matter the reason, if you choose to marry on Christmas Eve, you will have, as part of your honeymoon, the Christmas Day celebration, and that has to be special. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, who found each other, and started this wonderful family, of which I am a part. And for Raylynn and Doug, Happy Anniversary, and Merry Christmas, both Eve and Day.

My dad never was a man to wear a beard. In fact, he didn’t like how they looked. He always wore a moustache, and we always thought he looked very handsome. In fact, I think that is probably why I like moustaches today, but I don’t ever remember my dad wearing a beard.

He did wear one however…once. It was during the Minnesota State Centennial, and my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin, which is just across the bridge from Duluth, Minnesota. One of the event of that celebration was a beard competition, and my dad decided to join in the fun. I don’t know if there was an actual contest or not, but there were a lot of men who were competing. Dad reminds me of a thinner Sebastian Cabot, who played Mr French on the old television show, “A Family Affair.” I always liked Mr French, I guess in many ways, his protectiveness reminded me of my dad.

I think I would like to have seen that, because my parents were dressed up as pioneers. Mom wore a long skirt and Dad a suit. Dad carried a cane. They looked very distinguished. They didn’t really tell me much about the celebration, but I have checked into it, and there was a parade…of course, there is always a parade, isn’t there. They also had a Centennial Train, which was fashioned after the Freedom Train that had transported the Declaration of Independence and other important documents around America after World War II ended. And of course, there was a beauty pageant. But to me, the Centennial will always mean the time that my dad grew a beard and my parents dressed up like pioneers, in celebration of 100 years of statehood for Minnesota.

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