Posted in Christian, Family and Society, Stories Around the World

String the Holly

Very gay they were with snow and sleigh-bells, holly-boughs, and garlands, below, and Christmas sunshine in the winter sky above. All faces shone, all voices had a cheery ring, and everybody stepped briskly on errands of good-will. ~Louisa May Alcott, “Seamstress,” Work: A Story of Experience, 1873

Although December signifies the beginning of Christmas festive; the setting of the holly boughs or wreaths on the door and the Christmas star on the porch signals the start of the season of love, joy and hope. The word ‘wreath’ is derived from the Old English word ‘writhen’ meaning to writhe or twist. The Romans used to hang them on their doors as sign of status or victory, or awarded during events like the Original Olympics held in Greece or worn by women at special occasions like weddings as headdresses. However the Christmas Wreaths of today may have started life as Kissing Boughs.

Before Christmas trees became popular, a more common mode of decoration at homes was “the kissing bough”. Made of five wooden hoops that made the shape like a ball ( four vertical hoops for the ball with one horizontal round the middle) were covered with holly, ivy, rosemary, bay, fir or other evergreen plants. Red apples from strings or red ribbons were hung from inside the hoop, with a candle inside the ball and a large bunch of mistletoe from the bottom of the ball.

Interestingly holly, ivy, mistletoe and the like were used in the pre-Christian era to celebrate the Winter Solstice Festival as well as ward off evil spirits. As Christianity came into Western Europe, Christian meanings were given to the “greenery”.

The prickly leaves of holly represent the crown of thorns f Christ with the red berries symbolized as drops of blood. The clinging nature of ivy to something in order to support itself signifies our need to lean on God for support at all times. In fact, sometimes a piece of ivy tied outside the church is supposed to protect the church from lightening.

Laurel worn as a wreath on the head symbolizes success and victory of God over the Devil. The evergreen of fir as well yew trees symbolize everlasting life . Rosemary also known as remembrance herb was connected with the Virgin Mary and believed to protect one from evil spirits.

Traditionally, the greenery is taken down after the Twelfth Night on Epiphany, to be packed and stored safely for the next year. Yet some homes keep it up till Candle-mas. While these traditions may not be significant for some, putting up these decorations bring a lot of cheer as well as welcoming Christmas time with a warm feeling.

“When the holly’s in the red
And the pine is in the green,
When the mornings all are frosty,
In a brilliant silver sheen
Then I love to go a’ walking
Rambling here and there, quite slow,
Plucking greenery and berries;
Wishing for a Christmas snow”
Rachel Heffington

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Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, Quotes, Stories Around the World

Driving Force of Love

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Victor Hugo

It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 am, when an elderly gentleman, in his 80s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry and that he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs, and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On examination, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redressed his wound. While taking care of him, we began to engage in conversation. I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for awhile and was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. As we talked and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, and hadn’t recognized him in five years. I was surprised, and asked him, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?” He smiled and patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu

When a couple starts off in their journey in life together, they slowly learn about each other, work through difficulties and despite the faults that each has, they overlook them because of love, as the latter has no limits, tally marks, check posts or boundaries. As time progresses and disease catches up with age, losing the treasured moments is disheartening for all. Yet despite the disease that strikes, the bonds of true love of one is strong enough to hold both. This story that I had read exemplifies the fact that whether true love has no time limit.

“The most desired gift of love is not diamonds or roses or chocolate. It is focused attention.” Richard Warren

The art of love doesn’t lie in the lone act of giving gifts or worldly pleasures. It lies in giving your time to understand the other person, what they are going through whether it be joy or sorrow, triumphs or difficulties. For the strings of love will be strong to bind both through trying times when the love grows and strengthens over time. In fact our actions speak louder than the words that we say or the words that we write, although they are important as well. Amidst the daily schedule, take out some time for each other so that you learn about each other and find some quiet time to rejuvenate, find peace and share moments as well as memories for later.

“Love is not only something you feel, it is something you do.” David Wilkerson