A May Day Posey for Your Virtual Doorknob

There’s an old-time tradition of hanging May baskets on people’s doors on the first day of May (May Day). Small paper cones or other containers would be filled with candy, small gifts, or flowers, then hung–anonymously–on someone’s door. Of course, hanging a May basket on the door of someone you admired romantically was a common twist.

I think this is an utterly charming tradition and wish we still did it. Sort of a spring Valentine’s Day that hasn’t been taken over by the greeting card companies and commercial businesses looking to mass produce plastic May baskets.

And since tracking all my readers down to hang a basket on their front doorknob is impractical, I thought I’d send you a virtual basket of flowers courtesy of my April hikes. I wish I could present you with an actual bouquet, but hope this virtual one will bring you the joy of spring just the same.

Song of Songs 2:10-11 – See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

A Palm Sunday Memory

Easter eggsI spent Palm Sunday at a friend’s church. It was a lovely service with lots of joy, but I’ll confess I missed the children’s processional of little ones waving palm branches that’s a tradition at my own church.

Which got me to thinking about a Palm Sunday back in 2011 . . .

That year, the children not only came down the aisle waving palm branches, they also offered up a series of songs and readings. It was alternately moving and, well, funny.

Three of the children performed solos, each taking a verse of a song. Camden went first. He was five at the time and very poised for one so young. When he began singing, clutching that microphone and pouring his whole heart into the song, I got a little teary. He was trying so hard and obviously wanted to do his very best. He finished his section and handed the mic off to the girl next to him.

And then . . . he heaved a sigh and began untucking his shirt from his pants. It was like the tired executive at the end of a long day loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar. But then a look came over Camden’s face. I’m guessing he realized that this might not be the time or place for getting comfortable. So he began stuffing his shirt back into his pants–largely without success. Finally, with half of his shirt tucked in too deep and the other half flopped over his belt he stood up straight, thrust his chest out and looked like he was well-satisfied with himself.

I think when Camden began  singing, many of us got a little dewy-eyed. But now, looking around the congregation, I suspected the tears were from suppressed (mostly) laughter. I’ve never laughed so hard without making noise.

And I think that’s what Jesus might have been getting at in Matthew 18 when he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Camden did his VERY best. He sang with all his heart and he remembered his manners if a little late. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t worrying about what the congregation thought as we giggled through his antics. He just knew what was expected and he did his best to meet those expectations.

God knows we’re not going to get it right. I think He loves it when we do our fallible, human best. He sent His son to die so we could keep trying to get it right every day. Whether it’s the start of Holy Week or just another Monday.

Appalachian Thursday – Old Christmas

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAs the year draws to a close, I thought I’d ease through this in-between the holidays time by revisiting a previous post about Old Christmas. I mention the holiday in my upcoming novel, The Sound of Rain. It’s a sort of contrarian celebration of Christmas Day that’s fast fading away. Here’s hoping we can keep the memory alive another generation or two!

Old Christmas is celebrated on January 6, which originally made me think it had something to do with Epiphany.

Nope.

Even into the 20th century, some folks in the mountains still celebrated January 6 as Christmas Day. Why? Well, mostly out of pure stubbornness which is a familiar character trait in the Appalachian Mountains.

It seems Julius Caesar used to organize the year around the moon–which never quite worked out. So he took the advice of his astronomers and changed over to a sun-based calendar that turned out to be a mere 11 minutes and some change off each year. The Julian calendar.

No big deal–right?

Well, by 1582, the calendar was a whopping 10 days off. So Pope Gregory XIII lopped off the extra minutes, turned the calendar back ten days, and instituted the Gregorian calendar.

Except the Protestants pretty much ignored the new calendar set by, gasp, a Catholic, so different parts of Europe were using different calendars. It might be February 11 in London, but February 1 in Paris.

Confusing.

So in 1751 a calendar act was passed to set things straight (the calendar now being off eleven days). September 2, 1752, would be followed by, of all things, September 14, 1752.

Just imagine how you would feel if I told you tomorrow is January 8, 2017. There were riots. People thought the government had stolen eleven days of their lives.

And so, some people simply refused to go along. And they continued to celebrate Christmas on the same old day–which now happened to fall on January 6 for anyone who was paying attention to the Gregorian calendar.

The tradition was carried over to America, and in some parts of Appalachia and the South folks still remember celebrating Old Christmas. If you want to read an account of a celebration in Rodanthe, NC, click here.

Eight ways to battle the post-holiday blues

church-doorsI have a day-after-Christmas tradition to fight those post-holiday blues. Good King Wenceslas.

Wenceslas was the king of Bohemia during the 10th century. You’ve probably heard his song–a Christmas carol. Except there’s no mention of Christ and the song is about the day after Christmas, also know as the Feast of St. Stephen. It’s about a king, a rich ruler, seeing a poor man and reaching out to help him.

Sounds like a lovely way to spend the days after Christmas–reaching out to help someone. Here are ideas to get you started:

  1. Clean out your closets and donate good, gently used items to a charity.
  2. Speaking of charities–there’s still time to give financially and get a credit for your 2016 taxes.
  3. Volunteer–at the animal shelter, a nursing home, a children’s home, a food pantry, your church–options are plentiful!
  4. Write a note to someone . . . on paper . . . and mail it.
  5. We’ve all eaten too many sweets–make a pot of chicken soup and take it to someone who could use a pick-me-up.
  6. Call your grandmother, or mother, or uncle, or cousin, or–well–you get the idea.
  7. Write a book review to cheer your favorite author (really, these are HUGELY cheering!).
  8. Tell someone you love them. Maybe several someone’s.

And just in case you don’t know all the lyrics to the song, here’s your post-Christmas inspiration:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.