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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Donkey – Who hasn’t heard of Mary riding into Bethlehem on a donkey?  Well, before the late 1700’s, no one had.  This word entered our language as slang (ironic since it replaced the word ass, which has come to have quite the list of its own slang definitions since).  Donkey is perhaps a diminutive (smaller or junior version) term for a dun, a small horse. The word dun is an old color word meaning “dull grey-brown”.

 

Ass – Is one of the few words classified as cussing, swearing, profane, or generally “bad” that I will speak, as it is found in the Old King James Bible, and also in “What Child is This?”  Etymologists seem to agree that this name for the animal comes from the Middle East.  Whether the name comes from the word meaning “strong” and a sense of stubbornness or docile patience, or if that word derived from the beast’s behavior, I can’t tell, but they do seem to be related.

 

Oxen – Beside the ass in “What Child Is This?” we find an ox kneeling at the Lord’s manger.  Our language’s history is replete with plurals formed by adding –en, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, this is the only true continuous survival of such a plural into Modern English.  As best I can tell, the early origins of this animal name refer to the male, and mean “to sprinkle”, referring to their fertility.  In some religions, the gods of fertile fields are pictured as bulls or oxen, for this reason. I think the Proto-Indo-European root, *uks-en-, and the Sanskrit attestation, uksa, sound like yak, but no one else has seemed to notice, except the Edenics researchers, who cite Sanskrit gayal; Hebrew ‘agol, “calf”, from a sense of “round” or “going around”; and Hebrew aqqow, translated “wild goat” in KJV, and from a root meaning “to groan” – which I will note is indicative of hard work, which oxen and yaks are more wont to do than goats.

 

Sheep – The animals actually appearing in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth are sheep.  While Scandinavian languages use a word like faar for “sheep”, and Gothic languages use relatives of lamb, and other Indo-European words are similar to ewe, our word sheep has been in the Germanic family for a while.  Wiktionary hints that sheep may be from the same root as shave – referring to the importance of the animal’s sheered wool?  We use the same word for one sheep or many, but in Old Northumbrian, the plural is scipo.

 

Lamb – After consulting multiple etymology dictionaries, and none of them having any insight into the sense of the word lamb, I checked the Edenics sites.  Edenics is somewhat appealing to me in that it credits meaning to sound and spelling, and does a good job compiling words with similar spellings and intriguing analogies in meanings.  They don’t do such a good job tracing transitional words through history in literature, leaving them in a different category from traditional etymologists.  So.  Lekhem is, in Hebrew, “bread, food, flesh” – possibly from a root meaning “to make war”.  It may be a stretch, but by Ezra’s time, Aramaic had ‘immar for “lamb”, the root maybe indicating “something that is called or brought forth, progeny”.  Because L’s and R’s can shift in pronunciations, it is even possible that this and the Hebrew word for wool, tsemer (think Merino) could be related to lamb: swap out the R for the L and reverse the order.  Arabic lahm means “meat”.  Dutch lichaam is “body”.  Finnish has a word for an animal (a sheep?), lammas.  Is this the source of llama, or is it related to our next Christmas animal, the camel?

 

Camel – Traditionally, three wise men arrive in the Christmas story with their caravan of camels bearing gifts to the star-heralded King.  Camel comes from Hebrew gamal (which is even the name of one of their letters), and might be related to Arabic jamala, “to bear”.  Some Edenics writers think that llamas, as the primary beast of burden in South America, may trace their name from a similar source.

 

Besides the animals appearing in the Christian story of the Incarnation, our traditions have come to include several other animals in the seasonal festivities.

 

Reindeer – In some languages, rein or its equivalents stand alone as the word for this animal.  It seems to have to do with the impressive growth of horns on their heads.  The suggested root is PIE base *ker- which would associate it with the Greek for ram, krios.

 

Deer – Before the 1400’s, this word just meant “animal”, a word distinguishing creatures from humans, usually applied only to wild animals.  Its origins are from words that have to do with breathing, thus separating this class of creation out from life which has no breath (a rather biblical concept).  This same thought-pattern is said to have given us the word animal from Latin animus (“breath”).

 

Polar bearPole is from Latin polus, Greek polos, “pivot, axis of a sphere”.  Some say it is from a root meaning “turn round” and having to do with concepts of turning, rolling, and wheels.  An etymology I find less likely suggests a root meaning “stake”, “to nail or fasten”.

 

Bear is one of the most interesting etymologies.  Most etymologists say that it is named for the color brown, which makes it kind of funny that we apply it to so many similar creatures – by class like polar bears, or appearance like koalas and pandas – that have different colors!  Beaver is also said to derive its name from the same color root, *bher-.  And a Greek cognate, phrynos, meaning “brown animal”, applies to toads!

 

An alternative etymology for bear is one that relates it to words meaning “wild”, like Latin ferus.  The Proto-Indo-European root would then be *ǵʰwer-.  If you follow Edenics, you might be interested in their similar etymology of bear (and boar) to roots B-R, F-R, and P-R all associated with wilderness and lawlessness – the outskirts of civilization.

 

Bears are classically associated with the poles (which are also on the outskirts of civilization, unless you heed the rumors about an elvish toy workshop), especially the north, because of the constellation Ursa Major.  Ursa is from the Latin for bear.  The Greek for bear is arktos, from whence we get our word arctic.
Boar – There is a carol introduced to me by Archibald Asparagus from Veggie Tales, called “The Boar’s Head Carol”.  Apparently it is also on Josh Garrels’ new Christmas album.  It’s the only reason I know to connect boars with Christmas, and it is probably more accurately derived from Yule traditions, but I can’t have mere boring things like sheep and donkeys in my list!  The origin of this word is unclear, probably because, like most animal names, for a very long time it has just referred to the creature we know by this name.  All sorts of Germanic peoples have basically called it the same thing.  One not-well established hypothesis associates this word with Lithuanian baĩsas , “terrible apparition” and Old Church Slavonic běsŭ, “demon”.  As I mentioned above, it might actually come from a word meaning “wild”.  Demons are also rebels, exiles from the holy forces of God, and capable of appearing as “terrible apparitions”.  Boars, apart from any spiritual creepiness, are pretty terrifying themselves.  I think of the kid from Old Yeller hiding in a tree while ravenous wild pigs bite at his leg.

 

Goose – In the old days, goose was a favorite Christmas entrée.  Before goose, it was gos, like gosling, and before that it was gans, like gander.  The theory is that gans and similar words for geese and swans in other languages are imitative of the honking these birds make.

 

Puppy – Finally, puppies have begun to appear under Christmas trees with big red bows around their necks, calculated to bless the hearts of small children. The word came into our language in the late 15th Century, applied to a woman’s small pet dog, instead of the larger and fiercer breeds kept by men for shepherding or hunting.  In the Middle French, whence we get the word, it was a toy or a doll, sharing its ancestry with puppet.  Original root words had to do with children and smallness.

 

Credits to

The Online Etymology Dictionary

Wiktionary

Edenics

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend recently asked me what are my family’s traditions for Christmas.  Besides a formal meal, we also purchase and decorate a Christmas tree, the latter usually to the backdrop of nostalgic Christmas songs and candlelight.  But the most familiar tradition, even an oft-lamented one in our materialism-saturated society, is the exchanging of gifts.  But I am convinced there is nothing inherently wicked with either the getting or the giving of presents.

Gift and give are newer forms of a presumed old, old root, the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *ghabh- meaning “to give or receive”.  Before it reached English, it appeared in the Old Norse with a definition “gift, good luck”.  For a while it was pronounced yiven, before the guttural ‘g’ resurfaced.  An initial ‘h’ sound is also associated with the root, developing into the somewhat opposite word have.  Isn’t it interesting that giving and receiving are so closely linked that they’re all mixed up with the same family of words?

Present specifically carries the notion of something offered, freely, but before it is received.  It is set in the presence of one, placed “before their face”.

The word receive has a more Latin than Germanic heritage, entering English c. 1300, about 200 years after the Norman French conquest of England, from the Old North French, meaning at that time “seize, take hold of, accept”.  I like the emphasis on the fact that a gift cannot simply be thrust on someone; the action is interactive, with the receiver willingly taking the gift.  In earlier forms, found in Latin, the word meant “regain, take back, recover, take in, or admit”.  There’s a sense of vengeance contrasted with the sense of hospitality.

Hospitality is, in Greek, xenia, especially referring to the “rights of a guest or stranger”.  There is a city in Ohio named for this word.  I think that is a lovely motto of which to be reminded every time one’s city is mentioned.  It is not so much seen in our country as in many other nations, including the Israelite tribe whose generosity to the poor and stranger in the land was mandated by the Mosaic Law (see also this passage).

Hospitality is also a French/Latin borrowing, also since the 1300’s.  It comes from a word meaning “friendliness to guests”.  Compare this to the word host, whose entry at Etymonline.com goes further than the longer form hospitalityHost goes back to the PIE *ghostis- which is supposed to have referred to both the host and the guest, with an original sense of referring to strangers, on whichever side.

In the 1993 movie, “Shadowlands”, based on the life of C.S. Lewis, there is a scene about Christmas in which he is discussing the fate of the season in their mid-century culture:

One [Inkling] laments, “I’m afraid Christmas, as I remember it, is rather a lost cause.”

Jack, as his friends call him, and sounding rather like his voice is echoing out of far-away winter-bound Narnia whispers, “It’s because we’ve lost the magic… You tell people it’s about taking care of the poor and needy, and naturally they don’t even miss it.”

To which his friend, a Roman Catholic priest, responds, “The needy do come into it: ‘no room at the inn,’ remember?  The mother and child?”

I do like to remember that.  I like that older songs remember that.  I like that my friend this year asked for suggestions of how to make our holiday reflect the truth of this verse, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” She wanted to know how to celebrate being made rich and to imitate Christ’s poverty-bearing, rich-making love.

There is a tradition of being charitable particularly at Christmas.  (This is in the line of other, biblical feast-days, during which kindness to the poor was encouraged in response to God’s blessings of abundance that were being celebrated, especially in the harvest-feasts of Firstfruits and Tabernacles.  It is a way to recognize that it is God’s undeserved blessing that provides enough to survive or feast.  If we, by pleasing Him, do not relinquish His grace, we are to expect His continued blessings.  And He is pleased when we remember the poor and have charity towards them.  We can give like the saints in Philippi, depleting our own storehouses, knowing that the God who is using us to care for the poor will faithfully provide for us as well.)

This responsibility to the poor is communicated by the history of the word generous, which originally meant “of noble birth” (same root as genus, referring to biological descent and classification into kinds or races or families) and only by implications of the duty, of those blessed with more, to share with those who have less did it come to mean “magnanimous”.

Benevolence, “disposition to do good”, is a compound word, from the Latin bene “well” and volantem “to wish”.

Alms is another term for this benevolence.   In Old English it was ælmesse, occurring also in German, and Latin, where it is spelled eleemosyna.  This was, in turn, borrowed from the Greek eleemosyne, referring to “pity, mercy”.  In modern English, though rare, it means a gift, especially of money or food, given out to the needy.

Charity is from the Old French, “charity, mercy, compassion; alms” from Latin, “costliness, esteem, affection”.  Isn’t it instructive, the impulse of expressing love by costly, sacrificial giving?  It can be satisfying, and blessed, to give.

Love is, by own definition, the giving of a treasure.  Treasure comes from the same Greek root as thesaurus, and it means “hoard, storehouse, treasury” – presumably of something worth enough to be collected and kept safe.  Can stores be shared?  What does it say when one is willing to disperse a hoard?

Donation is attested in Latin, donum, “gift”, from the PIE *donum.  The same word is found in Sanskrit: danam “offering, present” and in Old Irish dan, “gift, endowment, talent”.

In my family’s tradition, the focus is more on expressing love to one another than to those less fortunate.  Our gifts are an exchange, late 1300’s, “act of reciprocal giving and receiving”, from the Latin ex- “out” and cambire “barter”.  Cambire is supposed to be of Celtic origin, the PIE *kemb- “to bend”, developing in the sense of altering the current state, then specifically changing something by putting something else in its place.

At Christmas especially, the packages under the tree are almost always wrapped, so as to be a surprise.  Unexpectedly, this word used to mean only “a taking unawares; unexpected attack or capture”.  The roots are sur- “over” and prendre “to take, grasp, seize”.  It might be ironic that though we think of thinly cloaked gifts as surprises, at Christmas they are not always unforeseen or unexpected; who hasn’t made a Christmas wish list?  In fact, it is perhaps a disadvantage of our custom: that gifts come to be expected, or even demanded, by the recipients.

When the word wrap appeared in English around AD 1300, it meant “to wind, cover, conceal, bind up, swaddle”.  I think we do this to increase the ornamental feeling of festivity, not as a symbol of the baby Jesus being similarly wrapped before being placed in a manger.

Swaddle seems to come from a word meaning a slice or strip.

Ribbon, which often adorns our gifts, might have a similar historic meaning, if it is related to band, “a flat strip” and “something that binds”, a rejoining of two divergent threads of Middle English, distinguished at one point by different spellings, band referring to joining together and bande to a strip or even a stripe (where it likely morphed into ribane, a stripe in a material).  The original root of band is, PIE *bendh- “to bind”.

Something else we use to hold things together when we’re wrapping them?  Tape.  My cousin says, “tape, lots of tape.”  This Old English tæppe is a “narrow strip of cloth used for tying or measuring”.  It could be formed from the Latin for “cloth, carpet”, tapete, or it might be related to the Middle Low German tapen, “to pull, pluck, tear”.

(These words are so fun, the way they communicate the action by which the thing got to be – or the state that inspired and enabled an action.  What was life like for the people who named a strip of fabric tape?  Well, maybe they were pulling on cloth {reminiscent of one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Little Women”, where the ladies of the house spend time tearing old sheets into strips to be used as bandages for those soldiers wounded in the American Civil War}.  Why would they do that?  To have something with which to bind things together.  It’s a different world from our manufacturing-driven lifestyles, where tape and ribbon and string are purchased in packages off of shelves.  They’re things made originally for their purposes, not improvised from something else.  It’s like a history lesson in a word!)

The other reason we think of gifts during the holiday season in which we remember God’s entry into our world in human flesh is because His birth was honored by gifts from wise visitors from the East.  These men recognized that Jesus was born to be the King, the long-prophesied King of the everlasting kingdom.  And though this God-King could have turned stones into bread, and summoned armies of angels, He chose to experience poverty.  Though He experienced the lowliness of being born to a poor mother and living as a refugee, a stranger, in Egypt, he was honored by costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh when a very young boy.

Such is the nature not only of love, to give sacrificially, but also of worship.  How remiss would any of us be, to overlook the presence of the Highest King?  Not only is His worth expressed by Kings giving Him treasures; it is demonstrated by the “sacrifice of praise” every person can offer:  The Christmas carols sing that the wise men have “come to pay Him homage,” Old French “allegiance or respect for one’s feudal lord”, from Latin homo, “man”.  Or in “What Child Is This?” we are bid to “haste, haste, to bring Him laud”, also Old French, “praise, extol” from Latin laus, “praise, fame, glory”.  A cognate, or brother-word in Old English was leoð, “song, poem, hymn”.  He is worthy of the richest treasures.  We owe Him everything we have, everything that is.  We also owe Him our allegiance, our praise, our songs.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Many thanks and credit to the resources of www.Etymonline.com and www.Dictionary.Reference.com in compiling these definitions and histories.  Also to www.BlueLetterBible.org for Scriptures.

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The weekend before Christmas I attended a holiday concert.  The band leader introduced one song, sung in another language, saying it was so sad he didn’t want to tell us what it was about.  My spirit breathed in the still moment, lullaby melody haunting the sanctuary.  It felt so right, that amid the songs of joy and hope and triumph there would be a few that take time to sense the sadness. 

 

A little girl looks at the wise men figurines from the nativity set, and tells me part of the Christmas story.  She says that the mean king wanted the kings from the East to tell him if they found the star-heralded infant they sought.  He didn’t want to worship the Boy, like he said; he wanted to assassinate Him.  And my little friend and I keep talking about the story, part we usually leave out of advent calendars and candlelight services: that though God’s plan went forward in the family exiled to Egypt, many little boys were slaughtered by Herod.  As prophesied in Jeremiah, Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted. 

 

There is hope.  And hope is terribly needed.  The world is dark.  Kings kill.  Babies die.  Sin persists.  Faith wanes.  The sadness is real.  And hope belongs there.  It doesn’t erase the pain; it sits with it in the dust, and then raises it up. 

 

Jesus weeps outside his friend’s tomb, before He calls him forth. 

 

I spend hours searching for Christmas laments.  I am intentional about seizing the wonder and beauty and joy arising from this Light come into the world.  But I relate to the burdening grief in this fallen place, sympathize with a bereft woman keening beneath the Christmas stars in Bethlehem.  Dear friends suffer also, personal events in their own stories not so far away as the homeland of David.  In Christmas there is a place for them, a place even for their aching.  I want to look at it.  I want to seek the whole truth unshrinking, though on my weary knees – and see the God who belongs there, too. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I don’t know how “tan” developed into “toe” in the name for that plant you kiss under at Christmastide.  But in Old English, “mistletoe” was spelled mistiltan from the root “missel”, basil or the plant we know as mistletoe, and “tan”, which means twig.

Speaking of “Christmastide”, the second half of that compound word is something we usually associate with the ocean and beach.  “Tide” arrived in English, however, associated with time.  In Old English it meant a period of time, from an ancient root having to do with dividing out a portion.  By the 1300’s we were using it to refer to the water levels on the shore, from the idea of “high tide” and “low tide” being at specific times.  Old English had the word heahtid but at that time, it would have referred to a day like Christmas, “festival, high day”.

Tidings“, as in “tidings of comfort and joy“, has a long history, early diverging from the word “tide”.  For a thousand years it has meant an announcement of an event.  It comes from the Old Norse adjective tiðr, “occurring”.  Going just a bit further back, this word joins with the roots of “tide”.  

The debate rages about celebrating Christ’s birth near the solstice, when the Northern hemisphere has the shortest day of the year.  Pagan observances of this event involved the expectation for the winter to end and life to begin again.  Israel, where Jesus was born, is in the Northern Hemisphere, but that is no proof that his birthday was in that season.  Regardless of the actual event, we have placed Christmas at what is considered by astronomers to be the beginning of winter.  In Celtic nations and Scandinavia, the solstice is considered to be “midwinter”, an interpretation I prefer, agreeing with meteorologists’ definition of winter as the coldest months, normally all of December, January, and February here on this half of the globe.  Etymologists don’t know where the word “winter” comes from, but they have a couple ideas.  One is that it comes from a word for “wet”, *wed-/*wod-/*ud-which makes sense in more temperate climates.  Or it might be from the word for “white”, *wind-.  Obviously this latter is more relevant to the ice and snow of the cold season.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol written by Christina Rosetti by 1872, celebrating Jesus’ humbling Himself:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

The word “bleak” meant “pale, whitish, blonde” in the Old Norse whence it arrived in English circa A.D. 1300.  Before that, the words origins meant “shining, white” or “burning”.  The same root gave us the word “black”, from the color things get after they have been burned.  By 1530 it also carried the meaning “windswept, bare”.

Such conditions alongside the green of fir trees, or the geothermal fields of Iceland are signature beauties of Scandinavia, and even the northeast coast of the United States.  There is something wonderful about life continuing amid hostility, be it from weather, self-righteous religious leaders, or power-paranoid kings like Herod.  Winters, and birthing in a stable when You’re really King of Heaven and Earth, can be harsh.  “Stark” is an Old English word stearc with an extensive definition: “stiff, strong, rigid, obstinate; stern, severe, hard; harsh, rough, violent”.  One of the things I love about places like Iceland is how the difficult climate and landscape have revealed the stern character of the people who live there.  But how do you embrace strength in hardship without losing tenderness and humility?

Jesus, the mighty Son of God, gave us an example when He was born a needy babe, pursuing with perfect resolution His cause of love, though He walked through the wilderness and built a whip to drive money-changers out of the temple, and though He submitted Himself to face a severe death by crucifixion.  “Babe” was likely imitative of infants babbling, though in most cases this became a word like baba for “peasant woman” or “mother”, as Etymonline.com cites John Audelay, c. 1426: “Crist crid in cradil, ‘Moder, Baba!‘ ”  Old English used the word “child” to refer to infants.  It seems originally to refer to the relation between the little one and his or her mother, as the “fruit of her womb”.  The significance of the mother’s role in bearing the child is also seen in surviving Scottish “bairn“, Old English bearn, from a root meaning “carry”.

Incarnation” is not an English word; it has it’s roots in Latin: caro or carnis means “flesh”, so it is litearally “being made flesh”.  This is the mysterious truth described by the Apostle Paul:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One wonderful thing about celebrating Christmas it that it connects us to the past. Not only are we celebrating an event that happened 2000 years ago; we are also joining all the people in 2000 years of history who celebrated Jesus’ birth. That we do the same thing every year, generation after generation, preserves words and traditions and thoughts and art that would otherwise have been lost. Can you think of any other contemporary music that becomes timeless so universally?

Words we use at Christmas tend, then, to be relics from the past, captivatingly delivered to the present still speaking of the foreign mystery of the time whence they come. Today I’m going to talk about two of those words. The first is holiday.

There has been much controversy the last few years concerning those who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Some stores forbid the mention of Christmas, because it was too religious. Christians object to the minute supply of cards that mention Christmas. “Season’s Greetings,” “Peace on Earth,” and “Happy Holidays,” are not the most expressive phrases. While I love to say “Merry Christmas,” and don’t think it should be forbidden, I appreciate – and sometimes use – “Happy Holidays” as well.

Holiday is a compound word. It comes from “holy” and “day.” If that is not the point of celebrating, I don’t know what is. The word holy is an old word meaning “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.” A synonym is sacred. Keeping the day intact with its meaning, unviolated by the secular world, is what I’m all about. It is a day to worship my holy Savior, in a holy way.

My second word is Carol. At Christmas the songs everyone knows are carols. This word is from Greek originally, and refers to a song that is danced to. Originally the word implied that the tune was played by a flute, and the dance performed in a circular formation. Random House suggests that the etymology might also include a word for garlands worn in the hair. There is some suggestion that it is related to chara, the Greek word for joy. Related words may include: chorus, choir, carrel (meaning “cubicle” or enclosed place for study), coronation, charisma. For more information: http://www.baronyofvatavia.org/articles/medcul/carols112001as36.php

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=carol

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/carol

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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