Morning, folks. Just checking in to say Happy Christmas!
I hope you all have a wonderful day!
Morning, folks. Just checking in to say Happy Christmas!
I hope you all have a wonderful day!
Well, we’ve talked about the songs, now I want to talk about the stories. What are your favourite Christmas stories? Are you a die-hard “Night Before Christmas” fanatic? Is yours the sort of family who leaves cheese out on Christmas Eve as a gift for Santa Mouse?
While I am both of those things, I have to say that none of those stories comes close to being my favourite Christmas tale.
We had the Reader’s Digest Christmas Book in our home and I loved the stories found within. There were heartwarming tales, devoted stories and adventures. My favourite was, and remains still, the Raymond MacDonald Alden story, “Why the Chimes Rang”.
I found the whole text available for free online at The Baldwin Project, and have simply transposed the text here for your enjoyment.
Why the Chimes Rang
by Raymond MacDonald Alden
There was once, in a far-away country where few people have ever traveled, a wonderful church. It stood on a high hill in the midst of a great city; and every Sunday, as well as on sacred days like Christmas, thousands of people climbed the hill to its great archways, looking like lines of ants all moving in the same direction.
When you came to the building itself, you found stone columns and dark passages, and a grand entrance leading to the main room of the church. This room was so long that one standing at the doorway could scarcely see to the other end, where the choir stood by the marble altar. In the farthest corner was the organ; and this organ was so loud that sometimes when it played, the people for miles around would close their shutters and prepare for a great thunderstorm. Altogether, no such church as this was ever seen before, especially when it was lighted up for some festival, and crowded with people, young and old.
But the strangest thing about the whole building was the wonderful chime of bells. At one corner of the church was a great gray tower, with ivy growing over it as far up as one could see. I say as far as one could see, because the tower was quite great enough to fit the great church, and it rose so far into the sky that it was only in very fair weather that any one claimed to be able to see the top. Even then one could not be certain that it was in sight. Up, and up, and up climbed the stones and the ivy; and, as the men who built the church had been dead for hundreds of years, every one had forgotten how high the tower was supposed to be.
Now all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of Christmas bells. They had hung there ever since the church had been built, and were the most beautiful bells in the world. Some thought it was because a great musician had cast them and arranged them in their place; others said it was because of the great height, which reached up where the air was clearest and purest: however that might be, no one who had ever heard the chimes denied that they were the sweetest in the world. Some described them as sounding like angels far up in the sky; others, as sounding like strange winds singing through the trees.
But the fact was that no one had heard them for years and years. There was an old man living not far from the church, who said that his mother had spoken of hearing them when she was a little girl, and he was the only one who was sure of as much as that. They were Christmas chimes, you see, and were not meant to be played by men or on common days. It was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ-child; and when the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there used to come sounding through the music of the choir the Christmas chimes far up in the tower. Some said that the wind rang them, and others that they were so high that the angels could set them swinging. But for many long years they had never been heard.
It was said that people had been growing less careful of their gifts for the Christ-child, and that no offering was brought, great enough to deserve the music of the chimes. Every Christmas Eve the rich people still crowded to the altar, each one trying to bring some better gift than any other, without giving anything that he wanted for himself, and the church was crowded with those who thought that perhaps the wonderful bells might be heard again. But although the service was splendid, and the offerings plenty, only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower.
Now, a number of miles from the city, in a little country village, where nothing could be seen of the great church but glimpses of the tower when the weather was fine, lived a boy named Pedro, and his little brother. They knew very little about the Christmas chimes, but they had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve, and had a secret plan, which they had often talked over when by themselves, to go to see the beautiful celebration.
“Nobody can guess, Little Brother,” Pedro would say, “all the fine things there are to see and hear; and I have even heard it said that the Christ-child sometimes comes down to bless the service. What if we could see Him?”
The day before Christmas was bitterly cold, with a few lonely snowflakes flying in the air, and a hard white crust on the ground. Sure enough, Pedro and Little Brother were able to slip quietly away early in the afternoon; and although the walking was hard in the frosty air, before nightfall they had trudged so far, hand in hand, that they saw the lights of the big city just ahead of them. Indeed, they were about to enter one of the great gates in the wall that surrounded it, when they saw something dark on the snow near their path, and stepped aside to look at it.
It was a poor woman, who had fallen just outside the city, too sick and tired to get in where she might have found shelter. The soft snow made of a drift a sort of pillow for her, and she would soon be so sound asleep, in the wintry air, that no one could ever waken her again. All this Pedro saw in a moment, and he knelt down beside her and tried to rouse her, even tugging at her arm a little, as though he would have tried to carry her away. He turned her face toward him, so that he could rub some of the snow on it, and when he had looked at her silently a moment he stood up again, and said:
“It’s no use, Little Brother. You will have to go on alone.”
“Alone?” cried Little Brother. “And you not see the Christmas festival?”
“No,” said Pedro, and he could not keep back a bit of a choking sound in his throat. “See this poor woman. Her face looks like the Madonna in the chapel window, and she will freeze to death if nobody cares for her. Every one has gone to the church now, but when you come back you can bring some one to help her. I will rub her to keep her from freezing, and perhaps get her to eat the bun that is left in my pocket.”
“But I can not bear to leave you, and go on alone,” said Little Brother.
“Both of us need not miss the service,” said Pedro, “and it had better be I than you. You can easily find your way to the church; and you must see and hear everything twice, Little Brother—once for you and once for me. I am sure the Christ-child must know how I should love to come with you and worship Him; and oh! if you get a chance, Little Brother, to slip up to the altar without getting in any one’s way, take this little silver piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering, when no one is looking. Do not forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not going with you.”
In this way he hurried Little Brother off to the city, and winked hard to keep back the tears, as he heard the crunching footsteps sounding farther and farther away in the twilight. It was pretty hard to lose the music and splendor of the Christmas celebration that he had been planning for so long, and spend the time instead in that lonely place in the snow.
The great church was a wonderful place that night. Every one said that it had never looked so bright and beautiful before. When the organ played and the thousands of people sang, the walls shook with the sound, and little Pedro, away outside the city wall, felt the earth tremble around him.
At the close of the service came the procession with the offerings to be laid on the altar. Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay down their gifts to the Christ-child. Some brought wonderful jewels, some baskets of gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down the aisle. A great writer laid down a book that he had been making for years and years. And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells. There went a great murmur through the church, as the people saw the king take from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and lay it gleaming on the altar, as his offering to the holy Child. “Surely,” every one said, “we shall hear the bells now, for nothing like this has ever happened before.”
But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower, and the people shook their heads; and some of them said, as they had before, that they never really believed the story of the chimes, and doubted if they ever rang at all.
The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn. Suddenly the organist stopped playing as though he had been shot, and every one looked at the old minister, who was standing by the altar, holding up his hand for silence. Not a sound could be heard from any one in the church, but as all the people strained their ears to listen, there came softly, but distinctly, swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower. So far away, and yet so clear the music seemed—so much sweeter were the notes than anything that had been heard before, rising and falling away up there in the sky, that the people in the church sat for a moment as still as though something held each of them by the shoulders. Then they all stood up together and stared straight at the altar, to see what great gift had awakened the long-silent bells.
But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking, and had laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar.
That is my favourite Christmas story. For whatever reason it has stayed with me all of these years. I think it has an excellent message, don’t you? Even if you aren’t religious, the story can be stripped down to a good moral either way.
Do you have a favourite Christmas story? Or a winter story of another religion? Please share!
***All text copyright the author, Raymond MacDonald Alden, and taken word-for-word from The Baldwin Project.
It is not a secret that I love Christmas carols. In fact, those I live/work with would probably protest that I like them a little too much. Be that as it may, I thought I would take a moment to list my absolute favourites. For no other reason than to give me something to post about, which is tough at the moment because I am so busy that I have nothing to actually talk about!
My very favourite religious Christmas song is “Oh, Holy Night”. There are many ways this song can be sung however I happen to appreciate a candlelit church at midnight on Christmas Eve. Perhaps tied with “Silent Night”.
My favourite traditional Christmas carol is “Good King Wenceslas”. This must be sung with gusto and fervour. The best version is by The Cleveland Orchestra, although if you are willing to channel the spirit of Bean Bunny from The Muppet Christmas Carol then be my guest (at about 3:45 on this video).
My favourite religious popular culture Christmas song is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, which will forever remind me of Mickey Rooney in the film of the same name. Fabulous.
My favourite non-religious popular culture Christmas song is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues I probably hear this song upwards of 100 times a season, but it still gives me goose bumps. If you have never heard it before then go and listen right away. Be warned, though, it’s not safe for work!
The saddest Christmas song of all time is “Christmas Shoes”. I think I may only have heard it once, but much like Marley’s ghost, it haunts me to the core. Whose idea was it to write such an awful, depressing song for Christmas? Sheesh!
My favourite comedic Christmas song is “A Christmas Carol” by Tom Lehrer. “It doesn’t matter how sincere it is, nor how heart-felt the spirit, sentiment will not endear it, what’s important is The PRICE!”
My favourite parody is “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” by Bob Rivers – “One light goes out they ALL go out!!!” Cracks me up.
And, of course, I would be crazy to end a post about Christmas songs without mentioning my love of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” (The Irish Rovers, please) and, the most annoying Christmas song that somehow doesn’t annoy me, “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas”.
So, let’s have it, then. Which songs get you humming along? Which tunes get your toes tapping? Is there a carol that causes you to lunge for the radio to switch stations the second it comes on? Do you feel your holiday season is incomplete without listening to any one particular song?
Here’s wishing you a melodious holiday season!
We’re having a Christmas lunch at work today and I made goodies. I made chocolate cupcakes with lovely buttercream frosting:
And I made gingerbread cookies and decorated them with Royal Icing. This was my first foray into the world of Royal Icing and I have to say that, while I was terrified, I am so pleased with the results that I know I will be using it more and more often. The one thing is that this batch was made with real raw egg whites because they don’t sell Meringue Powder in the UK. Next time I will plan ahead and buy some from Amazon to have shipped here in time to decorate. Raw eggs don’t frighten me for health reasons, I just think they’re gross!!
So, here you go, my first ever Royal Icing decorated cookies:
They are SUPPOSED to look like melted snowmen. If you tell me they look like fried eggs or wonky teddy bears/owls I am going to be very upset. That is very obviously a melted snowman. (If only the nose looked more like a carrot, right!?)
Anyway, that is what I am bringing to both of my Christmas parties today. I hope people like them!!
Hello folks! I had plans to go to a gig in Glasgow tonight but because of the snow I’m stuck at home. It’s not much snow but it all fell very quickly and the traffic was, apparently, astounding. Most public transport was cancelled, etc. Glad I only work 4 miles from home!!
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to put a post up about the Christmas crafting I’ve been doing. I am not sure what it is about the holidays but they make me want to hot glue gun and glitter out. So I have been hard at work. Mostly I browse the internet and find something I want for the house and then try to make it myself. I enjoy the mystery involved because it could turn out wonderfully or it could be a complete waste of my time!!
Luckily the projects I have been working on over the past week or so have all turned out perfectly. Well, mostly!! 🙂
First, and I have to give half the credit to my patient, wonderful husband, I saw this Wooden Christmas Tree on Apartment Therapy, found out if I wanted to buy it from the Etsy seller it would cost me over £100 and decided “I can do that!”. It took a LOT of sawing and drilling, sanding and staining and also about seven coats of varnish, but I could not be more pleased with the final result. I love our new Christmas Tree SO MUCH! It sits about 2 feet high, is made of pine stripping, took us about 24 hours to do all told but only cost us around £10 (if you include the fact that we had to buy an electric sander it’s closer to £25!). Tell me what you think!
Next I decided to take it a bit (a LOT) easier and made these adorable glitter “trees” out of florist foam cores. I got the idea from eighteen25 and adapted it for myself. As you can see in the photo below I do not have lovely fancy candlesticks as “trunks” for mine, just tiny ceramic flower pots turned upside down. I love the way they look on our table and they were so easy! If I had more time I would probably make more and more and more of them until we’re buried in glitter trees! I would love to know what you think of them!
After scrolling through Under the Table and Dreaming’s fantastic website I was inspired to copycat her gorgeous reindeer. I did the best I could, being both new at this whole crafting craziness and also short on supplies. I love my little reindeer and I plan to make another one tomorrow. I would have made it tonight but I can’t decided to make the new one smaller or bigger than the one I already have.
On top of all of that I have also turned our cut-crystal centrepiece bowl into a Christmas Baubles Bowl and made my own potpourri:
The ceramic bowl contains nuts (in shell), chestnuts, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise and smells of cinnamon and clove essential oils. I also have one (not pictured) that contains little sprigs of pine and smells of pine (duh!) and cedar. Neither of them are overpowering, but the whole house smells like Christmas. Over the past few years I expect I have spent about £1,000 on scented Christmas candles and this year I said NO MORE!, went to the local health food store, bought some essential oils (enough to last forever!) and made my own.
Together with the Christmas tree and other various decorations I should think our house is properly decked out for the holidays this year. I have cooled my hot glue gun and stowed my crafting box away until I am overcome with the need to make more goodies (tomorrow-reindeer!).
I really would like to know what you all think of our new decorations. I am very happy with them and, considering they cost very little and too even less time to make, I can see myself concocting a home-made Christmas every year!
I love Glasgow in the winter when it snows.