It is told that from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were discouraged from practicing their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholic children. The words of the carol hold two levels of meaning; the surface meaning, plus a hidden meaning known only to the members of the church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
-The partridge in a pear tree represented Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
-Four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
-Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
-Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit - prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy.
-Eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing represented the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
-Ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
-Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.
I am sure there are many such stories of how this carol came about, but I find this to be the one I want to believe.
Last week I made my annual trip to one of my favorite places - Westwood Gardens in northwest Arkansas. As you can see, they have almost every color and variety of poinsettia grown.
It's fun to see what's being planted for spring. The first plantings of geraniums were almost ready to transplant into display baskets. Along with the larger plants, I like to purchase a few of the small 4" pots for arrangements that I can place around my house. I add sprigs of greenery and berries from my backyard plants.
Although I've never used my plants as cut flowers, Southern Living offers some great ideas. An important step - the tips must be seared immediately after cutting to keep the sap in the stem.
I love the sound of bells at Christmas - the carols played on beautiful brass bells by a handbell choir, the chiming of carols from the bell tower of an old church, the tiny jingle of little tin bells tied to shoelaces, and the rhythmic clatter of bells that hang on the harness of horses walking in side-by-side pulling a wagon.
These various sounds of bells during the Christmas season are the sounds that have marked and created some of my favorite Christmas memories. My church has a wonderful handbell choir. Although they play during services periodically throughout the year, there is something special about listening to the carols played in a candlelit church on Christmas Eve night. The same is true for the old historic church bells when they play the carols during the Christmas season. I'm not sure very many children wear shoes with laces anymore, but when I was in grade school, we were allowed to wear jingle bells on our shoelaces the last day of classes before the Christmas vacation began - that must has driven the teachers crazy! And my favorite of all of these are the bells that were on the long leather strap that hung on my grandfather's horses (Duke and Dan) when he got them decked out for the annual Christmas parade.
After my grandfather's days of having horses were long gone, my father ended up with the bells. Every Christmas Eve, just after dark, my father began making telephone calls to children (nieces, nephews, and neighbors), pretending to be Santa. He held the sleigh bells and jingled them occasionally as he talked, making it sound as through he (Santa) was getting the reindeer and the sleigh ready to leave the North Pole. The vision he created during those two minute telephone calls was amazing, and I'm sure mesmerizing for the children. I was a teenager, and I almost believed that Santa and his reindeer were sitting in my living room. The tradition began with one call, but the list of requested calls grew through the years.
I now have the sleigh bells and keep them draped over my piano during the Christmas season. I find that I sometimes just walk by and jingle them. The clatter of those old bells still make me smile.
Add a little 'jingle' to your holiday fun.
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Pearls are simple, elegant and timeless. Best of all, pearls are a hot fashion accessory most of us already have...somewhere.
After a couple of mentions of pearls by Tish Jett(A Femme d'un Certain Age - one of my favorite fashion and lifestyle blogs), I rounded up all of the strands I'd had stashed in various boxes and put them back in my jewelry drawer. They have once again become one of my favorite accessories.
My granddaughters have already started their collection (see last two pictures).
"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity." ~Margaret D. Nadauld
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