As we enter 2020, it's interesting to look back at the evolution of styles from the 1920s.
The night air was chilly when the baby Jesus was born in the manger, but Mary was too tired and weak to tend the fire. The wind was raw and cold and the fire was beginning to go out. Mary asked the animals in the manger to help her but none responded.
A small Robin was flying by and heard her pleas. She took pity on Mary and her infant and flew into the manger to help. She flapped her wings until the flames rekindled. Some of the sparks seared her breast but she continued to fan the fire to keep it burning throughout the night. The Virgin Mary was so grateful that she blessed the Robin for her kind spirit and since then every robin has had a red breast to remind us of their kindness and love.
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.
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
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, laborers, merchants, pawn brokers, and particularly sailors and those who work near water.
There are many stories describing his generosity. A nobleman who had lost his fortune was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters so planned to sell them into slavery. St. Nicholas galloped by their castle in the dark of night and threw a bag of gold in the window. He did this three nights in a row, providing each daughter with a dowry. Eventually, it was discovered that he had been the generous benefactor. His fame as a gift giver spread through out many lands and he has been credited with the concepts of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
The three bags of gold represent the three golden balls found on the signage outside pawn broker's shops.
In another more gruesome story, he saved three babies, often pictured beside him. During a famine, an inn keeper had no meat to feed his customers so he cut up three children and tossed them into a brine filled pickling tub. Thankfully, St. Nicholas walked in just in time to bless the boys and bring them back to life!
During that same famine, he convinced sailors on a ship filled with grain to unload some of their cargo to feed those who were starving. They were initially reluctant since the grain had been weighed and they wanted to deliver the entire shipment. He assured them that the cargo would weigh exactly the same amount when it was delivered. It did.
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, give a gift from the heart. It doesn't need to be expensive. It could be a kind word, a quote that would make someone feel valued, a thank you. Or is could be a poem, or a recipe! Here's my gift to you!
Golden Bishop's Tea
4 cups black or green tea
4 cups apricot nectar
Serve hot with a honey if desired and a sprig of rosemary
and a sprinkling of nutmeg
Optional: 1 Tablespoon apricot brandy per cup
Golden Apricots, Tansy and Wheat
The Feast of Saint Barbara
She secretly became a Christian, baptized by a priest disguised as a physician. The tower had only two windows, but while her father was away on a journey, she had a third window added to represent the Holy Trinity.
When Dioscuros returned, he asked her about the third window and she told him that she had become a Christian and would no longer practice pagan rituals. The authorities ordered her execution. She escaped from the tower but was caught, tortured and then killed by her own father. Her father was immediately struck to death by lightning.
Barbara protects against fire, storms, lightning, sudden death and is the patron saint of stone masons, firemen, artillerymen, and those working with fireworks.
Herbs Associated with Saint Barbara's Day
Maria von Trapp of the Trapp Family Singers from the Sound of Music wrote in "Around the Year with the Trapp Family" (Pantheon Books, 1955) that the Austrian legend states that if a person's branch blossoms on Christmas Day, he or she will be married in the following year.
Wheat and Roses
Wheat and roses are also associated with St. Barbara.
"Barbara, the Saint, was elected of God,
She gave her bread to the poor,
Her miserly father rebuked her
And threatened her with his sword.
When he caught her with bread in her lap
She cried unto God in her fear,
God turned the sword in his hand
Into a crochet needle.
When here father demanded to see
What she concealed in her lap,
She cried unto God for help
And the bread in her lap turned to roses."
~ Translation from The Syrian
I'm presenting Seeds, Roots and Routes -
Our lives are rich with miraculous seeds - a thought, a smile, a class . . . Roots gather nutrients to help seeds grow. We will explore stories, legends and symbolism, protection and conservation, paintings, songs, short videos to illustrate parallels to our life experiences and journey. Bring a journal to reflect on your life’s seeds, roots and routes - past, present and future.
When I journal, I add seeds at the bottom of the page. A seed may represent a new friend, a class, an idea, etc. When I review my pages at the end of the year it's interesting to see which have flourished, which have remained dormant and may sprout at a later time, and which are best to let fade away.
Decades ago I attended a Brownie registration event in a church basement. I wanted to enroll my oldest daughter, Mycala, in a Girl Scout Brownie troop but they didn't have a leader. I was somehow recruited and loved working with the girls. That led to numerous volunteer positions and I was later hired as a training specialist, then adult education director. The seeds sprouted into numerous friendships that are alive and thriving today!
My training in Girl Scouts was superlative.Francis Hesselbein, our CEO, raised the bar on every aspect of leadership. "Peter F. Drucker, the founding father of management, proclaimed Frances Hesselbein “the best CEO in America.” “She could manage any company in America, even General Motors, and do a great job,” Drucker said." ~ Management Matters Network
When she was called to lead the Girl Scouts, Hesselbein sent all the troop leaders to a leadership training program at Harvard. She believed that it made the leaders feel better about themselves, commenting, “We thought they deserved to go to Harvard that they were the best.”
That seed provided me with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to deliver fun and effective training with SMART goals and objectives, always using the experiential learning cycle as the base.
One unexpected experience in a church basement changed every aspect of my life, leading me to complete my masters in training and become a certified instructor of trainers. It provided me with the opportunity to work with women and girls who were striving to live up to their best potential.
Watching the girls in my Girl Scout Brownie troop, and others in our community, grow into community leaders has been a joy! Continuing friendships and experiences with women of sterling character has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
The seeds of opportunity are everywhere. Have you had an experience that changed every aspect of your life? Please share in the comments below!
A Festival of Light, Music and Innovation!
The videos below are the next best thing to being there,
but it is much more magical in person!
There weren't even any silks available. I purchased a garland of daisies and hurried home to paint the centers with acrylics, thankful that it was a quick drying paint. Next year I'll be prepared, and may even try to force some blossoms for the event.
Even California Chrome, the winning horse, was deprived of the thrill of wearing an authentic garland of the official flower. Instead his 10 foot long, 4,200 bloom blanket was made of golden yellow chrysanthemums with black in the center.
Numerous people, including a local florist, told me as recently as the day of this year's race, May 17, 2014, "the flowers used for the race and the blanket that covers the winning horse are daisies with the centers painted with black lacquer or shoe polish." However, more reliable sources state they haven't used that technique for over fifteen years.
Susan Reimer, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, noted that the archives of the Sun first mentioned the Black Eyed Susan taking the place of the rose blanket for the Maryland Preakness race in the late 1930s. "In 1939 the Sun described what it said was a blanket of black-eyed Susans gracing the neck of Preakness winner Challedon. Racing writer Jesse Linthicum said the change gave the race 'a real Maryland flavor'."
As far as the origin of the daisies with the centers painted black, Reimer reveals the beginning and the end of the mystery. The Black-Eyed Susan, a wild flower too delicate to hold up to the technique of being woven into a blanket and remaining fresh and hardy for a couple of days, doesn't even bloom until late June. "It was Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Price Day, writing in The Sun in 1946, who revealed that florist and devoted horse lover George Cook had been painting the center of yellow daisies with shoe black for years. He'd made every blanket from 1928 to 1953, and he died just days before the 1954 race."
The choice of the Black-Eyed Susan is in honor of it's position as the official flower. The state legislature of Maryland officially endorsed the Black Eyed Susan as the Maryland state flower in 1918. There are thirteen petals, as there were thirteen original colonies which included Maryland, and the black and yellow beautifully represent the colors in the Maryland flag. Admittedly, other than its untimely debut and fragile nature, it is a worthy choice for the official Preakness flower!
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."
Do The Write Thing
Fashion And Fabrics
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!