While many of us choose to celebrate this tradition in the Americas, there is currently much controversy afoot as to the "political correctness" of terms and rituals associated with this Christian tradition. It seems to me, that for most of us, we simply would agree to share a common view that one should be entitled to choose to celebrate... or not celebrate "Christmas" in the manner to which we are accustomed. My choosing to call my own celebration "Christmas"... intact with Christmas card exchange... a Christmas Tree... singing familiar Christmas carols and sharing a Christmas turkey with my family and closest friends is my tradition. I look forward to... and celebrate it quietly within my home with Joy and great pleasure. It is quite simply "High Mass" in the Sherman year of many rituals and traditions. This is not to be seen as a judgement of others... nor is it a manifesto. It is merely intended as another opportunity to share my life and the family blessings that I enjoy with my readers and blogging Friends.
"The Gathering of the Green"
Project One - Christmas Garlands
This tradition created in my childhood home by my Mom remains "ever.... green" in my own Christmas rituals. It was the early precursor that lead us gleefully into our actual Christmas festivities. I am unaware of any evidence that this practice is continued today in the homes and lives of any of my siblings. Here is a brief description of the ritual as it began... and pictures to show how I continue to practise and enjoy the ritual in my own fashion. Even Deb is excluded (by her own choice) in accomplishing the activity. Quite frankly, I enjoy completing this ritual under my own steam. It perhaps is my own version of the Advent Calendar tradition... practised by many children and their family members beginning December 1st in many homes. Mine does not (thankfully) involve chocolate... but derives firstly from my entering the woods to gather two types of specific evergreen species to be used to complete the two pre-Christmas activities. The first species is an evergreen runner which we call creeping cedar. It is found on the floor cool, damp and shade of forested areas... usually in the company of white pines and spruce. Here is a picture of it as it grows in its forest habitat. It too... prefers quiet and solitude!
One must go to gather it before frost has frozen or it cannot be harvested. We usually harvested after church in late November and kept our harvest in black garbage bags in the garage or in a cold storage area. One simply grabs one part of the creeping vine and gently breaks the vine. Little by little, the vine which is lightly embedded just below the surface of the leaf and needle-strewn loamy soil of the forest floor. If one extricates it slowly and methodically... one can create long and unbroken lengths which make perfect real green garlands which remain green throughout the entire Christmas season.
My mother created a challenge for our group to see who could pull the longest chain. She always added more enthusiasm and a creative challenge to us in all things we did together. Later, we would weave these lengths into longer garlands that could be inter woven and used to decorate newel posts and the stairwell... or attractively along the length of the the fireplace mantel. Artificial poinsettia can be interspersed easily and provide that traditional Christmas green and red combination. Here is a picture of our stairwell circa Christmas 1959. Pictured are my beloved maternal Scottish Grandparents... Andrew and Christina Birrell. Don't they look "brolly"... and infinitely... deeply in love? They were generous ... loving souls... and remain much a part of my current life and my Christmas thoughts!
Here is our outside patio staircase railing this season... ready to welcome "Islesview" Christmas visitors
Project Two - Christmas Wreaths
The second evergreen variety we harvested each Christmas... I call "Princess Pine". I learned where to find it and about its decorative use at Christmas from my caretaker friend Bob at Front of Yonge School in nearby Mallorytown. I then brought it into my family's decorating tradition. This wee plant derives its name from the fact that it strongly resembles a miniature version of a favourite and traditionally used scotch pine fir. At its tip it has a greenish-yellow spike when it is fully mature... not unlike the top of most pruned Christmas tree varieties. It can be easily removed and again stored in a cool place in black garbage bags so it doesn't dry out.
The plant is used to create long lasting wreathes. A wire coat hanger is first bent into a completely circular wreath shape and this forms the base for attaching this greenery. Three to four strands of this wee tree are bundled to form a bunch with one common step. It is then wired to the base by wrapping this bundle snugly to the coat hanger using florist's wire, or thin copper wire from electrical motor windings. Either are easily acquired and the green coloured florist's wire is available from most craft shops for a very reasonable price. This act is repeated until the wire coat hanger is completely covered,. Bows and other decorations of choice can be also purchased at most good crating shops at reasonable prices... to fit ones whims and tastes.
Pictured here are the results of this year's foray. I discovered the source while painting en plein air at The Eagle Point Winery at the Harvest Paint Out in early October. I was unable to get sufficient amounts of the Princess Pine to create two entire wreathes from that species alone. So I unincorporated what I had remaining for the second wreath with bundles formed from cuttings taken from the remaining creeping cedar strings. This blend actually created quite a dense and unusually attractive blend for the wreath... so it might well become the new traditional wreath... to be handed on to the Allison to carry forward and teach.
Here is a wreath in progress. Note the coat hanger base and pile of yet to be attached individual strands at the upper left
Here is one of the competed wreaths simply but colourfully decorated. NO real expense... and the joyful experience of creating your very own Cheery Christmas decorations!
This is the view of our deck and bay window. Note my use of one tired single snowshoe... recycled for a "second chance" as a Christmas installation. Check out yard sales and flea markets. These can be found everywhere... in cold...snowy Canada! HA HA!!.... MUSH!!!
Stay tuned! Later in the week I will share further traditional Sherman family Christmas activities as they unfold. Art can be expressed in so many more ways than framed paintings on a wall. In our family... young and old can join in to create the festive fabric of our Christmas celebrations.I am most happy to share it with each of you who might be interested!
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....".... in Rockport Ontario!
Good Painting!... and Season's Greetings to ALL!!!