Category Archives: Holidays

Merry Christmas One and All!

It’s the time of year when we are all looking around and saying “Bless it, I forgot to get a gift for… (insert name here)!

Yeah, we all do it and more often than we want to. I’m doing it right now and trust me it’s a total panic attack since I have a pretty big family. I’d love to lavish them all with whatever their little heart’s desire, but that just isn’t possible until I win that darn lottery. Then you’ll see some Christmas presents, I tell ya!

So here are some ideas to take some of the fear out of forgetting a special someone, or at least to let them know you actually did think of them, even if it was at the last minute. The craft store is your best friend right now, so here are some ideas before you jump in the car.

For the thinker in your circle: make them a PDA! Not the electronic kind, this one fits in the back pocket and uses a more traditional interface. Get a small notebook that will fit in a pocket and a small craft pencil. Wind ribbon in a bright color around the pen and glue in place, leaving two lengths about 4” long to attach to the notebook. The tails can be used to tie the book shut. Now they can keep their day organized. You can decorate the book as well with fancy inks or stamps. Make a few, since these are good for men or women.

Decorate a pen for your favorite writer: Choose a pen that is a little thicker than normal. You can wrap it in fancy ribbon or fabric trim (check out the remnants sections of your nearest craft store for some good deals) hang chains with charms from the top, strings of beads or pearls, or paint the barrel of the pen with glue and roll in seed beads for a mosaic effect.

Make a necklace for your beloved fashionista: Mix and match different sized chains from thin to thick and add chunky beads, sea glass pendants, wood and ceramic to create a drape she’ll be proud to wear.

Bracelets: These can be done with leather thongs, chains, braided colored cords, you name it. If you can tie a knot in it, you can make a bracelet out of it. Add steam punk charms, lockets, watches, dog tags, mini bird cages, whatever looks fun and wild. Great for the teen emo in the family!

If you can sew or know someone who can, get a plain rayon scarf in their favorite color. To this you can add coin or bead trim, fringe in the same or a contrasting color (black and white is always good).

A custom T-shirt: stamp it with fabric paint in a cool design or use a bleach pen to write their name on it over and over again (works better on cotton fabric, and remember to rinse with a vinegar solution to stop the bleach from eating the fabric)

We love Christmas and we love our families, but sometimes life just gets in the way of showing that. None of these quick crafts require a lot of time and all will be appreciated! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hannuka, and a Blessed Winter Solstice to everyone out there!

Rev Zita.

A Few Thoughts on Samhain and Halloween

It is October, the wonderful month of color and spooky events. Winter is coming and we are getting ready for our long cold months by insulating the house, covering windows, getting our cars serviced, etc. Samhain is coming, too.  Most people call it Halloween and celebrate by buying candy and costumes and going to bars and parties.

I loved Halloween as a child; what kid doesn’t? I would agonize over my costume and wonder how much candy I was going to get and be annoyed when my brothers made me go home after a couple of hours of raiding the neighborhood for goodies. C’mon, there are lots of houses we haven’t hit yet!

When I got older I envied the little kids who still got to go Trick-or-treating. It didn’t seem fair that they could do it and I couldn’t just because I was taller than they were. To add to my dissatisfaction, I was a tall kid; I got my growth spurt early and it never let up. It may have saved my teeth from all that sugar, but it definitely messed with my morale.

To soothe my angst, I started to look into All Hallows Eve. I learned the history. I studied the myths and the social meanings and the religious significance of the holiday. I discovered the thrill of ghost stories and a love of low-budget horror movies. OK, I watched them from behind the couch because it was past my bedtime, but Vincent Price was my favorite actor almost until puberty was over.

I loved the idea that Samhain or Halloween was when the veil between the worlds thinned and the spirits could visit again, if only for a little while. The idea that those who loved us might pay a visit made me happy, it made me feel that someone was keeping an eye on me in a good way. I felt connected to family who had passed long before I was born. The Celtic custom of leaving food out for the ‘visitors’ made perfect sense to me. You should always offer your guests refreshment; that is what a good hostess does, after all. My mother didn’t agree and I had to settle for hiding cookies on the porch with a note. The cookies were always gone in the morning, though and I hoped that they understood.

Ghost stories always got my full attention. After a while, though, I realized that all too often the people who got hurt in those stories generally brought it on themselves. If you know an old building has a history of strange and bizarre events, why would you deliberately go there? Doesn’t that seem as if you are giving the disembodied occupants permission to hurt you? If there is an old asylum where people died and investigators have been injured, it seems pretty stupid to hold an all-night party there. So I tend not to watch those cheesy teen horror movies any more—after all, most of them don’t have much of a plot these days and they do seem to be what Stephen King called ‘torture porn’. Yuck.

But I still love Samhain. This Halloween I will light candles and pray for those who have passed on. I will make dinner and leave flowers and food out on the porch for them, even though I know that the food will be eaten by stray animals and the flowers will freeze. I will give candy to the little monsters and Disney characters that come to my door and I will decorate with pumpkins and spider webs and severed plastic body parts.  I will love every minute of it.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

Merry Christmas!

(The fact that there is no picture to go with this post is my fault. Rev Zita asked me to take a picture of this amazing light display in town and I forgot my camera. I am really sorry, but hope the spirit of this post shines through. Love ya all. Rev. Kelly)

Christmas is a big deal in my part of the world, whether you are a Christian or not. You get together with family and invite the friends, talk and laugh, and yeah, sometimes fight, but it’s all a part of being family.

Here in the USA, we hang lights, buy presents and eat way too much while sharing our stories and reconnecting with those we love. It’s a time for those warm and happy feelings to be expressed, so don’t be shy about it.

Here’s some ideas to get you going, even if it is a little late:

Send Christmas cards and let your loved ones know you are thinking about them. We all love getting something pretty in the mail, but don’t add glitter or confetti! It gets everywhere and is hard to clean up.

Put a nice message on your Facebook page to let your online friends know you wish them well. Add a cute picture or cartoon to spruce it up a bit, or include a link to a fun video or song!

Go Caroling! It’s fun even if you can’t sing, and nobody will criticize your performance because it’s Christmas! (Trust me on this) You can get the lyrics and music online to make it easy.

Go sledding. If you’re not a kid, who cares?

Build a snowman! You can even start a snowball fight.

Wait until dark and then go for a drive to see all the pretty lights on the houses. Lots of communities have competitions for this, so some of the displays are pretty amazing! Take pictures and send them to your friends.

Call your Mom. ‘Nuff said.

Wrap your gifts. Don’t use those nasty gift bags, even if you can’t make a square corner and it looks messy. Use lots of ribbon and tape so you can have fun watching them try to get it open! Wrapping shows you took the time to make it special, all jokes aside.

Be nice to strangers. You don’t know what kind of day someone else may be having, so a cheery ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ could be the high point of their day. Open doors for shoppers and smile!

Bake cookies! Eat them with friends and lots of milk or cocoa.

Watch a holiday movie like ‘Miracle on 42nd street’ or ‘The Santa Clause” (a fave of mine). If you love the classics, there’s always ‘Santa Claus conquers the Martians’ for a laugh!

Whatever you decide to do, do it with people you care about and who care about you. This time of year it’s important to reconnect with one another, at least for a while. You can always fight later; but for now, this is a time of year to put aside the petty things and remember that we are all in this together. Love one another and it will be all right.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Yule…from all of us at Heartfelt Ministries: Rev. Kelly, Rev Zita (the author), Rev. Tamara, and Zachary (our tech assistant).

 

Happy Solstice 2011!

Today is the Winter Solstice, an important holiday for many pagans and non-christian groups throughout the world. There will be feasting and music and merriment and a general celebration of the slow, gradual return of the sun to our lives. This may not mean much to those of us living in, say, Florida, but if you’ve ever lived a Wisconsin winter, the return of the Sun is a really big deal.

In past times, this was known as Midwinter among the Anglo-Saxons and generally was the last great feast for the year. The cattle were slaughtered at this time, so it was often one of the few times in the year that fresh meat was available as well. That’s a good reason to celebrate! Gifts were given to strengthen family and clan bonds and to show appreciation for a year of service to the village or to the local ruler. The mead had finally matured and with fields covered in snow, folks had some time to party with their friends. Sweet! Everybody dance!

 The village shaman has already concluded ceremonies for the day to welcome the sun’s rebirth and now it’s time for fun. Anyone who can play an instrument picks it up and after a brief debate on what song to start, they get the party rockin! It’s the Eleventh Century and we’re gonna party like it’s 999!

Can’t you picture it? The long, smoky feasting hall with everyone you know gathered together. They’re singing songs, telling stories, and playing games. The village kids are running around screaming with laughter and chasing the dogs. The warriors are bragging and trying to catch the eye of some pretty girl who is pretending she doesn’t notice. Some things never change, hey?

While the men and the village leaders talk politics and the grandmas gossip, the women are pouring out the mead and beer and tending to the feast, roasting meat and cooking vegetables, keeping the kids out of the sweets and the teens out of dark corners.

Fast forward a thousand years: Everybody is gathered for the celebration. The Moms are in the kitchen, checking turkeys and roasts in the ovens and making sure Sue isn’t on the back porch with that boy with all the piercings. The kids are playing Xbox and yelling, the Dads are drinking beer and arguing politics. The soldiers home on leave are comparing duty stories and grinning at the pretty girls giggling back at them. Somebody throws in a CD and starts the boombox.

And the next morning the sun comes up just a little earlier, making the world a little warmer. It’s all about family, people, no matter what time or place you’re in.  To all of our Pagan readers out there, at this turning of the year, a happy Solstice to you all, and a joyous Yuletide from us here at Heartfelt!

Happy Memorial Day!

This weekend is memorial day. For most of us it is a day off of work and additional time that we can spend with family and friends. While you are enjoying the holiday, please do not forget to thank those you know who have served or are serving this country in the military. At a moment’s notice, these brave men and women will put their lives on the line to protect this country, its citizens, and our freedoms and way of life.

I am not sure where they found it, but one of our past couples shared this prayer with us a few years ago, and I really like it. If it is in your belief system to join us, please do.

Dear God,

As we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, we are reminded that freedom is not free. Please hold our service men and women in your strong embrace. Cover them with your sheltering grace and protection as they stand in the gap for our protection.

We also remember the families of our troops, and ask for your unique blessings to fill their homes and your peace, provision and strength to fill their lives.

May the members of our armed forces be filled with courage to face each day and the bravery they need to accomplish their mission.

Let our military brothers and sisters feel our support.

Amen.

While we are on the thought of thanking people. Let’s remember to take the time to thank those who work in our communities and neighborhoods every day and may be working on the holiday as well. Those who work with our police, fire departments, and in our hospitals and in our ambulances. They keep working tirelessly even on holidays to ensure that we remain safe and have access to help when we need it.

Please have a happy and safe Memorial Day!

Happy Easter

Easter basketThis weekend our Christian friends celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ which starts tomorrow with Good Friday. Most of us are very familiar with the story of the Last Supper, Christ’s Crucifiction, and his resurrection from the dead three days later. So, if Easter is supposed to be about the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ, then how did we get bunnies, chickies, and colored eggs mixed in.

Well, there is some debate, but the theory that I tend to believe is that the church had a hard time converting pagans from their familiar and from what I know of them, fun, traditions of celebrating the spring and its triumph of life over death, read spring over winter, and the renewal of life in the world. Old Christians observed this and slowly started incorporating the pagan celebrations into the Easter story to get pagans to relate better to the new religion.

Fast forward to Medieval times, and the church forbids the use of eggs during Lent. So to preserve the eggs, they were boiled. To make them a nice treat for children and servants, they were dyed bright colors and given as gifts, hidden to be searched for, or used as parts of games. These traditions live on today in the dying of Easter eggs, Easter egg hunts, and egg rolls. Easter marks the end of Lent.

So, where did the Bunny come in? Well, lets fast forward to the settling of Pennsylvania and the German families there. In Germany, and elsewhere in Europe as well, the rabbit was associated with spring and is considered a fertility symbol. In the spring, the bunny was supposed to lay eggs for children to find which would help bring abundance and prosperity back to the land. Those early German families brought the Easter bunny with them and spread it to a wider audience in the new land.

Why is Easter on a different day every year? Well, let’s take the trip back to the era of Constantine and the council of Nicaea. During this time, the new bigwigs of the newly recognized Christian religion decided that Easter would not be celebrated on a certain date, but instead on the first Sunday either on or following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Which, by the way, many modern pagans consider to be Ostara or Eostare, the celebration of spring and the honoring of an old Anglo-Saxon goddess which brings us back around to where the traditions of Easter started. Some believe that the name of Easter evolved from the spring equinox.

No matter what you believe, I hope that you and yours have a very happy and safe Easter.

The Summer Solstice is about more than just Picnics

clear skies,daisies,fields,flowers,nature,Photographs,seasons,skies,summers,summertime,weather,wildflowers

The Summer Solstice means more than just a picnic.

 

 

Greetings, one and all! Monday, June 21, 2010 was the date of this year’s summer Solstice. For our Pagan readers, I’m sure you enjoyed celebrating this wonderful halfway point in the year. For the more traditional Roman Catholics, Monday would have been the Feast of St Mary Magdalen, (and of course anyone who has read the Da Vinci Code would have been aware of that). For everyone else, it was just another Monday and the astronomical beginning of Summer.

The Summer Solstice has been an important moment in the lives of Humans for thousands of years. We know this from archeological evidence all over the world—from New Grange in Ireland to Chaco Canyon in the United States. Megalithic sites all over the world have been found to have alignments specifically set up to mark the moment when our planet is neatly aligned with the sun.

Unlike the Vernal Equinox, this is not a time of new beginnings. This is the mid-point, a time of seeing the things we began in progress, of working to an ending we have envisioned, be that in business, our personal lives, friendships, or in the world around us in general. We take a moment to see where we have been and to plan where we are going, to adjust those plans made in the spring and choose our route to the future.

It’s a happy time; the world is exploding with life, exuberantly pulsing with growth and pleasure and yes, with the satisfaction of hard work and knowing we have goals that beckon to us. Like a carpenter building a house, we can see the shape of the finished work. While we may decide to make a few adjustments here and there, the final outcome is not in doubt and we know we will be pleased, like any craftsman.

The Winter Solstice gets more attention, possibly because in winter there is so much less to distract us. The cold forces us into our homes and brings about more introspective thoughts and feelings. We long once again for the bright heat of the sun and eagerly watch for the turning of the world to bring that heat back to us.

It’s here, now, and we revel in it. Summer is an active season in every sense of the word, be it sports, time with family, travelling, or just lolling about getting a tan. The Summer Solstice is about the physical joys in life, just as the Winter Solstice is about the joys of the mind and spirit.

Take this time to get out and spread some of that joy—smile at the girl in the coffee shop, play with your kids, go for a bike ride or pick some flowers from the side of the road for a complete stranger. Crack a joke when it’s unexpected. Do something to make someone’s day in a good way, and be happy when someone does the same for you. Make it good, and good will come back to you. Isn’t that great?

Happy Beltane!

Happy Beltane!

 

For all our Pagan and Wiccan readers, Heartfelt Ministries would like wish you all a Happy Beltane and a productive and joyous spring. May the Goddess bless you all.

For those unfamiliar with this sacred holiday, Beltane (also known as May Eve, May day, Roodmas and sometimes mistakenly as Lady Day) is a spring festival devoted to dancing, the celebration of the turning of spring to summer and the Goddess taking her consort as lover. Sacred bonfires would be lit and there would be a great deal of music and feasting, as well as more, shall we say, carnal celebrations of fertility?

Yes, this is a fertility holiday, so sex was considered as a holy act, an imitation of the love between the Goddess and the God. A bit different from most religious celebrations, I must say and quite nice.

The maypole is a survivor of this festival, with its ribbons and drumming; one more honored in Great Britain than in the United States, where I happen to reside. A dream of mine is to someday be able to attend the Edinburgh Fire Festival—now that’s what I call a party! Check that out on the BBC; the pictures are amazing.

We can all take joy in the fact that the long dark days of winter are far in the past, that the world is renewing itself once again, and bask in the warmth of the spring sunshine. Enjoy the green grass and watch the flowers. Plant some, even if it is only in a window box or pot. Give yourself a sense of participation in this process, it only comes once a year.

I know the posting today is a little short, but I’m going outside and inhale the scent from the blooming apple tree in our yard. Beltane is meant to be experienced, and that is what I’m going to do. May you all take a walk in the park, turn your faces to the sun or have a romantic picnic with someone you love.

 

Find your peace and enjoy the beauty.
(for the record, I don’t know to whom that wonderful garden picture belongs; a friend sent it to me. If anyone does know, please email me and I will be most happy to give them full credit.)