Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pope: Epiphany Demonstrates Attraction Of Jesus

After celebrating Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Sunday, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis remarked that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, in his book "The Infancy Narratives", had "magnificently" commented on the episode of the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. "This was the first 'manifestation' of Christ to the people. Therefore, the Epiphany emphasizes the universal openness of the salvation brought by Jesus".

"This festivity shows us a dual movement: on the one hand, the movement of God towards the world, towards humanity - the entire history of salvation, which culminates in Jesus - and on the other, the movement of mankind towards God - religions, the quest for the truth, the path of nations towards peace, justice and freedom. This dual movement is driven by mutual attraction. What attracts God? It is His love for us: we are his children, He loves us, and he wants to liberate us from evil, from disease, from death, and to bring us into His home, His Kingdom".

"On our part, there is also love and desire: goodness and truth attract us, truth, life, happiness and beauty call to us. ... Jesus is the meeting point for this mutual attraction and this dual movement. He is God and man: Jesus. God and man. But God always takes the initiative. God's love always precedes our own!"ˇ

"All the Church is inside this movement of God towards the world; and her joy is the Gospel, which reflects the light of Christ. The Church is made up of those who have experienced this attraction and carry it inside, in the heart of their lives. To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of His people! The Lord calls to you, seeks you and awaits you. The Lord does not proselytise, He gives love, and this love seeks you and awaits you, you who at the moment do not believe or are far from Him. And this is God's love"ˇ.

After the Marian prayer, the Pope gave his good wishes to the brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches, who celebrate Christmas on 7 January, and recalled that the Epiphany is the day of missionary children, as proposed by the Pontifical Association of the Holy Childhood.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pope Equates Jesus' Family With Poor, Migrants

The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas; during the Angelus prayer at midday yesterday, Pope Francis recalled that Jesus had wanted to be born into "a human family, and he wanted to have a mother and a father".

"Today's Gospel tells the story of the Holy Family's painful flight to Egypt in search of exile",ˇ said Pope Francis to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. "Joseph, Mary and Jesus experience the dramatic condition of life as refugees, full of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort. Unfortunately, in our times, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Nearly every day, television and newspapers provide news about refugees fleeing hunger, war, and other serious dangers in search of security and a decent life for themselves and their families. In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed, nor do they find respect and appreciation for the values they bring. Their legitimate expectations clash with complex situations and problems that at times appear insurmountable".

The Holy Father urged those present to contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth when forced to seek refuge, and to consider "the tragedy of migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation ... of human trafficking and forced labour", as well as "those who are exiled within families: the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as a cumbersome presence".

"Jesus wanted to belong to a family that experienced these difficulties, so that no one may be excluded from God's loving closeness. The flight into Egypt due to Herod's threats shows us that God is present wherever man is in danger, where man suffers, where he flees, where he experiences rejection and neglect. But he is also present where man dreams, hopes to return to his homeland in freedom, makes plans for his life and dignity and for that of his family".

Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff noted, "Today our gaze on the Holy Family is also drawn by the simplicity of its life in Nazareth. It is an example that does a lot of good to our families, helping them to become a community of love and reconciliation, in which we experience tenderness, mutual help, and mutual forgiveness".

Pope Francis reminded those present of the "three key words for peace and joy in family life: 'excuse me, thank you, sorry'", explaining that "when we do not want to be intrusive in our family and say 'excuse me!', when we are not selfish and say 'thank you', and when we make mistakes and apologise, then there is peace and joy within a family"ˇ.

Finally he encouraged families to "become aware of their importance in the Church and in society"ˇ, because "the Gospel is proclaimed first within the family, and then in the different spheres of everyday life". He invoked Mary, Joseph and Jesus, to "enlighten, comfort, and guide every family in the world, so that they may fulfil with dignity and serenity the mission God has entrusted to them."

Following the Angelus prayer Pope Francis commented that the next Consistory and the next Synod of Bishops will address the theme of the family and therefore recited the prayer to the Holy Family he had composed, inviting all to join with him spiritually, especially those linked to St. Peter's Square from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the shrine of Loreto:

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God's plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen".

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day - What's It Really All About?

Today is Boxing Day in Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth nations.
The day after Christmas is customarily observed as a legal holiday.
No, the Brits do not all run out to boxing matches.
But they do enjoy soccer games today and they do lots of shopping today as well. The Queen and her entourage (such as they are) engage in fox hunting.
Where did the day get its name?
No one quite knows.
Many think it comes from the idea of boxing up Christmas stuff and/or sorting through your Christmas boxes (your gifts). But history says this is also the day when servants would get their Christmas gifts (cash and/or boxed treats) from their masters -- a sort of littler, humbler Christmas. Here's how it worked: Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.
It was also a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. In England Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest amount of returns. In the UK in 2009 it was estimated that up to 12 million shoppers appeared at the sales, a rise of almost 20% compared to 2008.
So, in the spirit of the day -- box, shop, spend, eat, dink and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

As The Years Go By - The Lessons Of Christmas

It's Christmas, a joyous time of the year.
And here in the northeast, we might even get a Christmas snow shower -- the traditional dream come true Christmas.
Yes, it's Christmas. And I see dead people.
They are all around me and they are here to celebrate Christmas with me.
I turn on the TV and Jimmy Stewart is racing down Main Street in Bedford Falls hoping to escape the confines of a small town but knowing that he never will.
And Alastair Sim, the quintessential Scrooge, is grimacing in the classic black-and-white version of everyone's favorite Christmas tale.
And in living color I still see Judy Garland and Bing Crosby and Perry Como and Dinah Shore and Andy Williams singing Christmas songs. Judy's still full of pathos as she tenderly sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Jack Benny is here too and so is Lucy in a tender episode that ends with two Santas where there should be only one. One of the Santas is clearly Fred (William Frawley) but who's that other guy?
And when I turn on the radio I hear Christmas carols by Luciano Pavarotti and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Mahalia Jackson and Mario Lanza.
On You Tube I watch President Reagan deliver a Christmas message from the White House. The President is warm and reassuring and he speaks confidently of faith in God and our Judeo-Christian heritage.
My mind tumbles back to the gritty, industrial city that I grew up in -- a riverfront city that didn't realize back then that its glory days were already behind it. It's a bleak, damp, gray December day but I'm warm and secure in the confines of my father's old Plymouth as we rush from place to place through narrow city streets marked by row houses and the occasional corner store.
We don't speak very much but I'm so happy to be with him. He's making lots of stops, picking up small treats and gifts from a variety of friends and businesspeople for whom he may have done odd jobs during the year. Whatever he manages to gather will help to make our Christmas a bit happier.
Even in the run up to Christmas, he's a tough negotiator. He barters with merchants and grocers. as he tries to select just the right provisions for our Christmas feast.
He maneuvers through and around streets, neighborhoods and landmarks with the swiftness of a true native.
His energy fills the room wherever he goes. He's not a big guy but he makes a huge impact. And I know that as long as I'm by his side, no harm can come to me.
On Christmas eve aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors come and go as the all-night feast of the fishes drifts into the wee hours of Christmas day.
On Christmas morning the uncles begin their ritual home visitations, gathering more participants as they move from house to house. Loud, boisterous and well-lubricated, they pass out silver dollars to the children. These will be accepted as treasured tokens and saved in a safe place.
Through it all I see my mother, full of wry wit, optimism and just a the right perspective on the whole panoply. She's got a sharp eye and she's a great mimic as she jokes about people, places and personalities.
If you press her, she may even remember some of the people from her own earlier Christmases but she'd rather dwell in the present. She's very much about her own family, right here, right now.
Of course, now I understand why she took that approach.
As you get older, this is what happens.
Christmas isn't totally joyous. It isn't always candy canes and sugar plums.
So many Christmas memories; so many Christmases past.
Christmas with dead people is bittersweet.
Not to worry, though.
The memories are good. And the sights, sounds and glad tidings live within me.
Plus, at this time of year all of these people seem to come alive once again -- alive in a very special way. They are with me. They are part of me. And I treasure them.
And I suppose that's one of the lessons of Christmas: Let all the people and the events and the memories of the Christmases past deepen and enrich your understanding of this wonderful holiday. Savor it all.
Bring them along with you. Let them walk by your side. Be strengthened by their presence and pass on what you know, who you are, how you feel, what you have learned.
And be proud, strong and tender -- especially for the children who watch you more closely now than at any other time of the year.
In that way, you'll keep the true spirit of Christmas.

In one form or anther, this Christmas memory has appeared on this site at Christmastime since 2009.

Images Od Christmas - Joy To The World!

All photos copyright 2013 by Dan Cirucci.

Video: President Reagan's Christmas Message

Twenty-Five Reasons To Love Christmas

Caravaggio's Nativity.
In recent years Christmas has gotten a bum rap.
It's become cheapened, materialized, even defamed. And too many people have tried to secularize the holiday as well. They've wanted to take the "Christmas" out of December 25.
Perhaps the greatest horror is that Halloween has grown in popularity and, but some accounts, now seems to rival Christmas.
But Christmas has a stubborn way of re-emerging -- not just because we need it but because it really is deeply meaningful. Still, we must all do our part to continue to refocus on Christmas and nurture this glorious celebration.
With that in mind, here are our 25 Reasons To Love Christmas:

1) The Nativity. Mary, Joseph and the Christ child. The true meaning of the day and the rightful center of our focus.
2) Fresh Christmas greens. Fragrant, vivid and constant, evergreens help us look forward to the seasons ahead.
3) Christmas trees. A link to the natural world that we enhance during the Christmas season.
4) Angels we have heard on high. To quote Chekov: "We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds."
5) Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and all the other books and stories about Christmas.
6) Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life" and all the other classic Christmas movies that have become treasured traditions.
7) Christmas lights. From the ones in your window or on your lawn to the department store spectacles, they all shine brightly and send a shimmering message of hope.
8) Snow. Or ant least the thought of snow. It's the one time of the year that many of us can tolerate the white stiff. And ohhhhh, those snowflakes!
9) Silent Night and all the other Christmas carols as well as more modern, popular Christmas songs.
10) Christmas around the world. Joyeux Noel. Feliz Navidad. Buon Natale. Mele Kalikimaka. God Jul.
11) Christmas with our troops. Let's not forget them as they protect us while everyone else celebrates.
12) Christmas Eve. A night for reflection and high anticipation.
13) The march of the wooden soldiers and all those other wonderful Christmas toys.
14) Jingle Bells. The sound of these festive bells is the sound of Christmas calling.
15) Christmas morning. The fulfillment of wonder.
16) Christmas scents: Gingerbread, evergreens, panettone, roast turkey, sugar 'n spice.
17) Mistletoe. Still a great excuse for kissing, IF you need one.
18) The Italian Seven Fishes Feast. If you haven't enjoyed it, you haven't known Christmas Eve.
19) Christmas cookies. The sweetest annual indulgence.
20) Family. As much as we sometimes complain, we're grateful for all of them, right?
21) Country Christmas. If you haven't been to Nashville or Branson at Christmas, well . . . . 
22) Silver Bells. Especially the ones that the Salvation Army rings. Have you given this year?
23) Christmas excess. C'mon, it only happens once a year.
24) Christmas candy. You can always start your diet on January 2.
25) Christmas in your heart. Treasure it!

Remember Them, Always . . . Especially Now!

The Reason For The Season . . . .

Monday, December 23, 2013

Multi-Color Lights, White Lights, Both? You Choose!

Natural daylight - no lights.

Multi-color lights only.

White lights only.

The Grand Finale - white and multi-color together!

We just couldn't agree this year.
One of us wanted a tree with multi-color lights.
The other wanted white lights - only white lights.
It was a real quandary.
But we finally found the tree that satisfied everyone - a beautiful tree purchased online from Balsam Hill. This tree actually does it all, and with just a flick of a remote button.
At the top, the tree without lights. Then, with its multi-color lights only. Then, in the third photo, only white lights. And finally, in all its splendor -- white and multi-color all together with 400 beautiful lights.
Now,  answer our poll (top right, above) and tell us your preference: White only? Multi-color only? Both? We want to hear from you!

Pope Francis: Follow The Example Of Joseph

At midday the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, and reflected on the Gospel reading of this fourth Sunday of Advent, which relates the events preceding the birth of Jesus from the point of view of St. Joseph.
Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth but they did not live together, as they had not yet celebrated marriage. However Mary, after receiving the annunciation from the Angel, was with child through the work of the Holy Spirit, and when Joseph discovered this, he was perplexed.
The Gospel does not explain his thoughts, but it tells us the basics: he seeks to do God's will and is ready to make a radical renunciation. Instead of defending himself and asserting his rights, Joseph chooses a solution that represents, for him, a great sacrifice. And the Gospel tells us that Joseph, 'being a righteous man and unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her secretly'. This short sentence encapsulates a real inner drama, if we consider Joseph's love for Mary. But, as in the case of Abraham, the Lord intervenes: 'Joseph, son of David', he said, 'don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit'.
The text, continued the Pope, shows us the greatness of St. Joseph's soul. He was leading a good life and had plans, but God had other plans for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to God's voice attentive to the messages that came from the heart and from on high. He did not insist on pursuing his life's plans, or to allow resentment to poison his soul, but rather was willing to place himself at the service of the novelty presented to him in this troubling way. He did not hate, and he did not allow resentment to poison his soul.
“But how often do hate, antipathy and resentment contaminate our souls! Never allow this to happen!‡ exclaimed the Holy Father. Joseph is an example of this. And in this way, he became even freer and greater. Accepting himself in accordance with the Lord's plan, Joseph finds himself fully, and goes beyond himself. This freedom of his, to give up all that he has and to renounce his own existence, and his full inner openness to the will of God, challenges us and shows us the way.

We therefore celebrate Christmas contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself totally to God's word; Joseph, the faithful and just man who preferred to believe in the Lord instead of listening to the voices of doubt and human pride. With them, we walk together towards Bethlehem.

A group of demonstrators protesting to the Italian authorities about the difficult current economic situation was also present in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis noticed the large banner they were carrying, and commented, following the Angelus prayer, I see there, written in large letters, 'The poor cannot wait'. That's nice! And this makes me think that Jesus was born in a stable, not in a house. Afterwards he had to flee to Egypt to save his life. At the end, he returned to his own home, in Nazareth.
And I also think, today, reading this banner, of the many families who are without a home, either because they have never had one, or because they have lost it, for various reasons. Family and home go hand in hand. It is very difficult to raise a family without a home. In this Christmas period I invite all
“ individuals, social organisations, authorities “ to do everything possible to enable every family to have a home.
To those from Italy who are gathered today to demonstrate their social commitment, may you offer a constructive contribution, rejecting the temptations of conflict and violence, and may you always choose the path of dialogue, in defending rights.

I wish you all a good Sunday and a Christmas of hope, justice and fraternity, concluded the Pontiff.

I Wanna Hippopotamus For Christmas!

Have you heard this one?
It's really a lotta fun!

The Story Behind 'Dominick, The Christmas Donkey'

Have you heard the song "Dominick The Donkey" also known as "Dominick The Christmas Donkey" or "Dominick The Italian Donkey"? You can listen to the song here.
This song, recorded in the 1960s by Lou Monte is one of those ethnic, holiday, novelty songs that people have long since forgotten about. The song was written by Raymond J. Albanese, known professionally as Ray Allen. Among his other hits was "Peppino The Italian Mouse."
Many of these types of songs were full of stereotypes but this was in an era that predated political correctness.
The lyrics include these lines: "When Santa visits his paisons, With Dominick he'll be. Because the reindeer cannot, Climb the hills of Italy. "
Thank goodness, Americans of Italian descent have moved well beyond Dominick The Donkey and similar creations. But today, even though we boast two members of the United States Supreme Court, we sometimes seem to be stuck with far worse stereotypes, such as those in "The Sopranos" or (dare I mention it?) Jersey Shore.
So, looking back on it, Dominick was really rather innocent -- especially in today's world where the culture has been so coarsened.

Ten Best US Cities For Shopping

Still searching for Christmas gifts?
You'd better hurry.
But if you happen to be in one of these cities you may already have a leg up on last minute shopping. These are the ten best cities for shopping as selected by the readers of USA Today.
You might be surprised at the city that topped the list, but it is known for unusual, one-of-a-kind gifts.

10. Washington, D.C.

9. Seattle

8. Orlando

7. Dallas

6. Atlanta

5. Las Vegas

4. Nashville

3. Chicago

2. New York

1. Santa Fe

Christmas In Italy: Buon Natale, E Tutti!

On Christmas Eve in Italy, Christmas trees are decorated, but the focal point of decoration is the Nativity scene.
Italians take great pride in the creation of the manger, which was thought up in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to involve the peasants in celebrating the life of Jesus.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City possesses a presepio from Naples that contains figurines carved from wood and dressed in garments of satin, along with 30 gold-trimmed angels of the Magi, all framed by majestic columns.
Bagpipes are the most common Italian Christmas sound. The zampognari, the shepherds who play the bagpipes, come down from their mountain homes at Christmas time and perform in the market squares. The playing of bagpipes is popular in the regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, and in the piazzas of Rome.
The melodies played are adapted from old hill tunes. Modern zampognari wear the traditional outfits of sheepskin vests, leather breeches, and a woolen cloak.
The tradition of bagpipes goes back to ancient Roman times. Legend says that the shepherds entertained the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
On Christmas, the zampognari perform their own private pilgrimage, stopping before every shrine to the Madonna and every Nativity scene.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents.
According to Italian legend, Three Wise Men asked La Befana for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them but declined three times. It took an unusually bright light and a band of angels to convince La Befana that she must join the Wise Men, but she was too late.
She never found the Christ child and has been searching ever since.
On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy.
Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
Buon Natale e tutti!

Three Most Annoying Christmas Songs

Not all Christmas songs are welcomed this time of the year.
Here are the three most annoying in the classic category:
3. Do You Hear What I Hear?
2. The Little Drummer Boy
1. The 12 Days of Christmas
The repetitiveness of these three songs makes them absolutely intolerable.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ten Ways To Feel The Spirit Of Christmas

Especially now in its final days, the Christmas season can become particularly hectic and stressful.
Before you know it, you've lost any sense of what Christmas was meant to be.
But you can turn all that around.
And you can do it quickly and simply.
In no particular order, here are ten suggestions for finding the simple joy of Christmas.

1) Go to the nearest shipping mall. Yes, we did say the mall. But don't go to shop. Instead, hurry on over to Santa's corner and simply watch the faces of the children as they chat with the Jolly Old Man in Red.

2) Take a slow walk through the woods and smell the evergreens. Search out a pine tree. They're particularly fragrant. Inhale!

3) Visit a live nativity display at any one of a number of nearby churches.

4) Play hooky from work. Take lots of time to simply stay home and do something nice for someone else. Make something. Cook something. Create something. Bake something. And then give it away.

5) Volunteer your services to a local charity or community agency. Don't tell us you don't have the time. Find the time -- even if it's just a bit of time.

6) After you've finished putting up your own tree, visit a nearby tree and/or light display. Then, just enjoy!

7) Go anywhere where children are singing Christmas songs. Listen.

8) Open an anthology of Christmas stories and verses. Quietly read the first one you come to. If possible, read by the light of your Christmas tree.

9) If you're in the city, take a walk through the sidewalks and donate to the nearest Salvation Army bell ringer that you encounter. Give generously!

10) Contact an old friend that you haven't seen in ages. Tell that person that he or she is in your thoughts. Let him or her know that you care and extend Christmas greetings. If possible, make plans to meet.