This comes from Merry Christmas from Valley Rural Electric Co-op, Inc., a 32 page booklet celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt's introduction of the signing of executive order 7057. The booklet is filled with crafts, decorations, recipes, stories and gift ideas.
The Legend of the Spider
Once upon a time, long ago on Christmas Eve, a mother and her children prepared their home for the visit of the Christ Child. Everything was scrubbed and cleaned, and when the tree was beautifully decorated, the family went to bed. While they were sleeping, the spiders, who had been chased from their favorite nooks and crannies, crept back to view the lovely preparations. They were filled with wonder at the tree's glittering beauty and crawled on every branch to see each shining ornament, but alas, after their inspection, the tree was shrouded with cobwebs.
When the Christ Child came and saw what had happened, he smiled at the thought of the spider's wanting to see his tree and he blessed it as he touched each web to turn it into gold and the tree glistened with beauty even greater than before.
This is how it happened that in so many parts of the world, it is a custom to have a spider web on every tree.
2 silver tinsel pipe cleaners
1 inch styrofoam balls
black pipe cleaner
black chenille bumps (small)
eyes (wiggle eyes or silver sequins
Cut the tinsel pipe cleaners in half and space three of the pieces evenly apart to make the frame of the web. Tie with silver thread at the center to keep them in place. Then, using the silver thread, circle around the spokes, wrapping around each stem and tie at the last connection. About three or four concentric circles make it look like a spider web.
Cut the styrofoam ball in half, cover with black bumps and glue on eyes. Cut the black pipe cleaner into eight sec ions, insert into flat side of the spider's body, and bend feet to fasten to the spider web.
A friend asked where I find my information on herbal legends and lore. I'be been collecting for decades, following my grandmother's example. Her journals are filled with articles, recipes, and notes. She was born in 1900 and there are pages dated from 1918 forward. Many of her notes are stained from use and the journals are falling apart, but they are priceless treasures to me!
She also gathered cards, booklets, etc, including give aways from stores. One of my favorites is a 50th anniversary edition from the Valley Rural Electric Co-op, Inc., celebrating President Franklin's Rural Electrification Order 7050.
I started collecting longer ago than I care to admit, and have 3 ring binders and journals filled with hundreds of articles, notes, and sketches. And now the internet is brimming with information, though a lot of what I've collected isn't on line - yet! I'm continuing to sketch almost every day and so on it goes!
The Three Wise Men presented the baby Jesus with frankincense, myrrh, and 'gold', which may not have been the metal that we most often assume, but another incense, possibly aloeswood (Aquileria spec.) and referred to as 'gold' at times, Aloeswood is a hardwood, not to be confused with aloe vera, and is the most expensive wood in the world, valued at up to a hundreds of dollars an ounce. It was extremely rare at the time of Christ's birth. It is thought to result from an injury to the tree that creates an infection resulting in the oleoresin to grow inside the heartwood of the tree. The only way to discover if a tree contained the resin was to cut it down, and many healthy trees were sacrificed in an attempt to gain wealth.
Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) and Myrrh (Commiphora erythraea) have been used to purify the air for over 2,000 years. They are still used as incense today.
Frankincense refers to Christ the priest, myrrh is for Christ the healer, and gold is for Christ the King. Is the 'gold' another incense, or a metal? You decide!
Ah ginger! From sweet to savory, candied, fresh, or dried and powdered, ginger ale, ginger wine, ginger tea - the possibilities are endless! At Christmas time, we think of gingerbread.
The crusaders are credited with bringing gingerbread to England in the Middle Ages. The first recorded recipe is dated 1390, with instructions to soak ginger, honey and breadcrumbs to produce a 'bread'.
Queen Elizabeth 1 was the first to shape them into the image of 'gingerbread men' to please her court and dignitaries. They were often elaborate with intricate design and gold leaf.
Their popularity grew and the were sold at fairs throughout the mid 17th century. A gingerbread seller is featured in Ben Johnson's play, St. Bartholomew's Fair.
The Gingerbread Boy was immortalized in St. Nicholas Magazine in May, 1875 when a childless woman baked a gingerbread boy for her husband, but he runs away saying,
"Run, run, as fast as you can.
You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."
Gingerbread men are still popular today and the dough has been used to bake almost everything imaginable, with a few examples below.
"As for rosemary, it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship." Sir Thomas More
When Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus fled through the Egyptian desert from King Herod's soldiers, they found shelter in a rosemary grove. Mary draped her blue shawl over one of the white flowered bushes before she retired for the night.
The next morning when Joseph removed the shawl, they found that the white flowers had changed to the shade of blue of Mary's shawl. Since then, most rosemary blossoms are blue and traditionally flower in December around the time of the celebration of Christ's birth.
When Christianity arrived in northern Europe and the legend of the Christmas tree became known, three angels, Faith, Hope and Charity were sent from the heavens to find the perfect tree!
The perfect tree was to be as
Great as Faith
High as Hope
Sweet as Charity
It was also to have a cross on every bough.
The search ended when they found the fir tree.
They lighted it with stars and it became the first Christmas Tree.
You can find more about holiday legends here.
Ivy is another herb frequently associated with Christmas. It is most often mentioned in association with holly, its male counterpart. Ivy is the feminine, a plant of the planet Saturn.
The three points of ivy remind us of the Holy Trinity. She is an herb of protection and healing, often seen in bridal bouquets, providing good luck, fidelity and health.
The traditional English Christmas carol (carol translates to "a dance of celebration"), The Holly and the Ivy, dates back to 15 or 16th century. It was re-introduced by Cecil J. Sharp (1859-1924) in his collection of hymns and carols, in 1911.
There was a contest between the holly and the ivy to determine which should be the 'best in the hall.' I'll let you decide who took the prize!
The Holly and the Ivy
The holly and the ivy,
when they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
the holly bears the crown.
Chorus:Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet savior.
The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
St. Lucy's Day is currently most often associated with Sweden, one of the celebrations of light in the midst of winter's darkness. Little Christmas, or the Feats of Saint Lucy, is a favorite advent celebration. In the early morning, the Lucia Bride, usually the youngest daughter, is dressed in a long white gown with a myrtle or bilberry crown and lighted candles. She awakens the family, often bringing coffee and tea, and braided Lucia twists, flavored with saffron and cardamon. After the family is served, she visits the barns, taking food to the animals.
In addition to the home celebration, the young girls attend services at the church dressed in their lighted crowns. St. Lucy represents the promise of the light in the darkness and the sun's return.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with visual challenges. Lucy was born in Syracuse, Sicily in the 3rd century. She was born to wealthy Christian parents and at an early age she secretly vowed to remain a virgin and serve God by helping others.
Her father died when she was young. When she came of age, her mother arranged her marriage to a pagan but Lucy rejected him. It was the time of the Diocletian persecutions and when her suitor denounced her as a Christian, she seemed destined to death by burning or life in the brothels. Her fate was to be martyred by a sword through her throat.
In another story she escapes the marriage by tearing her eyes out in frightful desperation. She is often depicted carrying her eyes on a tray.
Miraculously, her sight was restored and she was able to serve God and mankind as she has intended. She is celebrated for giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and light to the darkness. The name Lucy comes from the root word Lux, meaning light.
Herbs associated with St. Lucy's Day
Saffron Myrtle Dill Goldenrod Bilberry
St. Lucia's Saffron Braided Bread
I teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 T softened butter
3 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
I cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried bilberries (blueberries) or raisins
5 to 6 cups unbleached flour
1. Prepare saffron.
2. Dissolve yeast in water.
3. Mix the butter with eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add milk to butter and eggs.
5. Add almonds and dried fruit
6. Stir in saffron mixture.
7. Add flour gradually and stir with wooden spoon until it is is smooth and forms a ball.
8. Place on floured board or counter and knead until smooth - about 5 minutes.
9.Put into a greased bowl, turn it over and cover with a towel in a warm place until double, about an hour and a half.
10. Punch down dough, divide into 3 sections. Braid and form into a circle shape.
11. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double - about 30 minutes.
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
13. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
14. Remove from oven, cool and ice.
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Combine and gradually add water until it is the consistency of icing.
Drizzle on to bread.
Decorate with slivered toasted almonds and/or dried fruit if desired.
Top with candles
Holly has no rivals as a protective plant! It guards against poisons, evil spirits, lightning, and theft. Carry it with you if you are expecting to see any lions or tigers or bears - oh my! All you have to do is throw it in their direction and they will immediately stop their attack, lie down and take a nap! Handy!
Holly is a masculine plant, an herb of the planet Mars, so men will find it particularly useful in promoting good luck and protecting them from witches!
For centuries, holly, also called Holm, Hover Bush or Bat's Wings, was a pagan plant.The name holly means 'prickly'. After the birth of Christ, it began to be associated with Christianity. One legend states that the holly plant sprang up under the footprints of Jesus. Another states that at one time the berries were white, but after Christ's death, they turned red from the blood he shed for all mankind. The prickly leaves are associated with the crown of thorns, and the white blossoms symbolize purity.
It is one of the most often used greens of the holiday season. Whether you need protection, a splash of color or both, it is an ideal decoration. It will also determine who will rule the house for the coming year. If the leaves are prickly, the man will be in charge, and if it is of a variety with smooth leaves, the woman will rule the home.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
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