Category Archives: Holidays

Chreaster Really is a Word

One year when we were living in Hong Kong we didn’t come home to Canada at Christmas time but decided to fly back at Easter instead because our son was going to have a leading role in a Winnipeg production of Jesus Christ Super Star and we really wanted to see him perform.  Since we hadn’t been here for Christmas we got together with our family for what I dubbed a Chreaster celebration.  We marked Christmas and Easter at the same time.  I gave the children and their partners both a stocking and an Easter basket filled with gifts.  I even wrote a newspaper column about our Chreaster celebrations. 

poinsettia-and-lilies-sandy-keeton

Poinsettia and Lily photo by Sandy Keeton from the blog of the Saint John XXIII Catholic Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio.

I thought I had invented the word Chreaster but to my surprise I saw it in the headline of an article in The Washington Post this past week.  The columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. refers to Chreasters as people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter.  

Dionne says probably the Chreasters show up at church on holidays because they enjoy listening to familiar Christmas music and perhaps want to rekindle memories of their childhood.

He’d prefer to think they are people who have given up on the institutionalized church but still want to believe there is a transcendent being who creates beauty.  They still hope for a world where love and justice are the norm.  

I think a belief in a creative spirit and a hope for a better world is what motivates most good people in their daily life whether they never attend church, attend every Sunday or are Chreasters. 

Other posts…….

Indoctrination or Teaching? 

I Want To Be Like Anna

Violence in Christian Families

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays, Religion

Finding The Magi Around The World

Magi I photographed on the streets of Frankfurt Germany. magi denny bond0001
The Magi by Denny Bond. This illustration was for a curriculum I wrote for Faith and Life Press. I love it that there are more than three magi, they are of different races and some are women.

Magi photographed on a front yard in Gold Canyon Arizona.

The Magi photographed on a tour in Nuremburg Germany. three wise men by linda syddick offering billy tea as gifts to mary and joseph pintupi people

The Three Wise Men artwork by Linda Syddick. The magi are offering billy tea as gifts to Mary and Joseph. I photographed this while visiting a museum in Sydney Australia. 

Magi photographed on the mantlepiece at my friend Debbie’s home.

Magi made of straw.  Photographed in Prague. the magi sagrada familiaThe Magi photographed on the outside of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.


Program cover colored and illustrated by a student at Elmdale School in 1994( check out the Magi and star at the top of the program) . The program was for a Christmas drama written by my husband Dave. It told the story of two Magi named Henry and Gertrude who never got to Bethlehem. Music for the drama was directed by Craig Cassils and every child in the school had made a puppet to use in the production. 

Magi I photographed in the airport in Frankfurt Germany  Illustrations from the beautiful book I found to give my grandson for advent called Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas by Patti RokusYesterday on a snowy grey afternoon I stopped to take a photo of the Magi atop the Great West Life Building on Osborne Street in Winnipeg.  Apparently they have been adorning the building every holiday season since 1973. 

Other posts………..

The Magi Once Got Me Into Trouble

4 Comments

Filed under Art, Holidays

Party On

One of the things I love about the holiday season is the many festive gatherings that are part of the celebrations.  All those good times with friends and family are an important reminder of the way our lives are enriched by relationships but they can also be tiring.t-4s christmasOne of my first Christmas celebrations was with a group of wonderful women who are former teaching colleagues of mine.  We meet regularly to visit and have good times together. Here we are in my friend Debbie’s lovely heritage home in Steinbach which she had beautifully decorated for the season. 

We also had a delicious supper of avocado salad, salmon in puff pastry and decadent chocolate cake courtesy of our friends Bonny and Jim. They hosted a Christmas evening for a group of five couples from our former church in Steinbach that has met for more than two decades. We always have a delightful time catching up on our lives during our regular get togethers. golf group christmasThis may look like a musical band to you but it is really a crew of eight men who hit the links with my husband once a week during the golf season. Just so happens there are lots of talented artistic types in the group so our annual Christmas parties to which partners are invited include a sing a long and dramatic readings penned by some of the golfers. Another musical party happened as a part of my husband’s Men of Song concert a week ago.  He is a member of a male choir at our church and after their annual Christmas performance we had a party that included partners and a potluck of delicious Christmas nibbles brought by the choir members. writing groupMy writers’ group had our holiday bash at Jodi’s festive home with Christmas treasures waiting to be discovered in every corner, one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen, and a charming miniature winter village twinkling in the candlelight.  These talented and generous people have taught me soooooo much about writing for children. I admire each and every one and am so fortunate to be part of their group. Here we are ‘hamming it up’ for the camera in the photo booth at the Christmas party for Birchwood Motors where my husband is a part time employee.  The party was at the Winnipeg Convention Centre and over a thousand people were in attendance. 

I had a fun time with my work colleagues in the education department at the Winnipeg Art Gallery at our holiday party.  We exchanged gifts of things that we no longer needed in our homes, had pizza and salad courtesy of our department administration and enjoyed sweet treats we had all brought to share. 

A Christmas gathering with friends young and old at our house last Sunday.

Now that Christmas is almost here the number of holiday events will intensify. We have guests coming over or we are going somewhere every day for the next two weeks.    I’m taking a deep breath and getting ready to enjoy each day and each person, trying to remember in the hustle and bustle of it all that I am blessed beyond measure to have so many people in my life to care about and who care about me.    

Other posts……….

It’s Beginning To Feel Like Christmas

Dave’s Christmas Present

Christmas Poker

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays

A Cumulative Christmas Story By My Hong Kong Grade Five Students

In 2004 my fifth grade students in Hong Kong created this illustrated story for the school Christmas concert. We had been writing poetry based on The House That Jack Built poem pattern. A student Charissa Chan wrote the poem and all the students helped illustrate it.

This is the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God

This is the young faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted dutiful angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
This is Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
These are the tired, hungry people who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God.
This is the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted angel Gabriel, who delivers messages from God.
This is the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages from God.
This is the tiny, but warm manger that was in the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem, with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful, virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
This is the beautiful, loving baby Jesus, who slept in the tiny, but warm manger that was in the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper, who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God.
And that baby grew up and became a Light to the World!

Other posts……….

Five Star Hotels For The Holy Family

Christmas in Hong Kong

Puzzling- A Christmas Family Tradition

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Holidays, Hong Kong

Music From Young Men to Lift Your Heart

Last weekend I was privileged to hear a program of  music at the First Presbyterian Church here in Winnipeg that featured four outstanding boys’ choirs. 

The first was Ecole Sisler Boys Choir conducted by Carolyn Boyes. I was moved by their beautiful rendition of He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother made popular in the 1970s by The Hollies and Neal Diamond. The lyrics apply to each one of us no matter what stage we are at on our life’s journey.

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way there
Why not share?

The second male music group was the Pembina Trails Boys Choir conducted by my talented daughter-in-law Alisa Wiebe.  What a full rich sound those ten little fellows made! One of their selections was called Walking in the Air.  It was a piece of music from the film version of Raymond Briggs’  classic children’s book The Snowman. The beautiful sound of the choir had me closing my eyes and  floating in the moonlight sky with the flying snowman and his young friend as they surveyed the ground below.  

A Stopping by Woods mural done by some of my elementary students in Mitchell

Next up was the Kelvin Boys Choir conducted by Kimberly Brown. Their outstanding selection had to be the piece by Randall Thompson which set to music the words of Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. It is a poem I memorized as a child and have introduced to nearly every class of students I have taught from nursery school to grade twelve.  As the choir sang I imagined the mural a group of my grade two students once created to illustrate the poem. 

We always sang Ubi Caritas at the end of our meals at Tao Fong Shan our church in Hong Kong

The final group to sing was The Winnipeg Boys Choir conducted by Spencer Duncanson. One of their numbers was Ubi Caritas, a piece that is special to me because our church in Hong Kong always ended our Sunday gatherings with it.  The Winnipeg Boys Choir sang a version by Ola Gjeilo in Latin. The phrase that repeats itself over and over is Ubi caritas et amour, Deus ibi est.Where love and charity are, God is there

My Mom and Dad at Christmas with children from a refugee family from Sierra Leone they sponsored

Those words speak to the true message of the season. God is present wherever and whenever people act in a kind and helpful way. It doesn’t matter if we are Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims or Christians. Whenever we care for others God is present and real.  Regardless of our cultural background or racial identity we invoke God’s presence whenever we open our hearts to those in need.  Regardless of our sexual orientation or gender we are the embodiment of God’s spirit when we touch the lives of others in a positive way. Regardless of our social or economic class when we share our resources with others, God’s love as it is illustrated in the story of the baby born two thousand years ago becomes a reality in 2018. 

Near the end of November I wrote about how a choir of young women had inspired me.  Last weekend it was choirs of young men who did.  The message of their music has infused a real sense of hope and joy into the holiday.
Other posts………

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays, Music

A Christmas Tree For Readers

christmas book tree

Our church Christmas tree made of books. The baskets at the side are for mitts and hats to be donated to charities who distribute clothing to needy people.

Last spring, Lorraine one of the creative and talented women who decorates our church building for the various seasons asked me if I knew where she could get some old books.  I am the church librarian and I told her each year I weed our library collection pulling books off the shelves that are no longer being taken out by patrons to make room for new ones.  She asked me to save the books I was withdrawing from circulation.  In church last Sunday I saw the reason why!

lorraine with her tree

The very talented Lorraine with the tree she created.

Lorraine has taken all those old books and turned them into a beautiful Christmas tree for our church foyer. manger scene book christmas treeShe has thoughtfully arranged children’s books near the bottom of the tree and included a manger scene. 

The tree is outside the door of the church library and it has already drawn any number of new readers into the library because they have questions about the tree.  We celebrate Christmas because of a very special story.  How appropriate to recognize the season with a tree full of stories. 

Other posts…….

A Flood of Books

Children’s Christmas Books – The Classics

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Holidays

The Kitchen Table and Thanksgiving

Perhaps The World Ends Here

 The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it.  Babies teethe at the corners.  They scrape their knees under it. 

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling down-selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table.  It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen  table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

 This poem by Joy Harjo seemed appropriate somehow for this Thanksgiving.

Our sons at the Thanksgiving table in our house in Kykotsmovi Arizona

Making cookies with my cousin at the kitchen table in my grandparents’ farm house

My father in-law serving up gravy for perogies while holding our son at the kitchen table in their home.

My son and his cousins puzzling at their grandparents’ kitchen table

My husband and son playing chess at our kitchen table in Hong Kong

Coloring Easter eggs around the kitchen table with my mom

Celebrating my birthday at the kitchen table with my sister and brother

My husband and our niece at the Thanksgiving table at my brother and sister-in laws’ 

Other posts………

Thanksgiving

Family Thanksgiving

Cooking Together

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Holidays