Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Giveaway!

I have been far more cheerful since writing my last entry on Advent as a season of waiting, thanks in large part to all the kind words I received from my friends and readers. Cozy sentiment can obscure the fundamental strangeness of Advent and Incarnation, and the fact that circumstances are challenging the "mood" I expect from Christmas is medicinal. Waiting in hope should be one of the ways Christians bear witness to the Gospel, and I am determined to be defiant once again: I will be merry, I will shout "tidings of comfort and joy" even if  I don't always feel that comfort myself.

Today's entry is a very little (but very happy) way of indulging that defiance. To one reader, I will give away a copy of A Foxfire Christmas: Appalachian Memories and Traditions. This little book is dear to me for several reasons. First, although a Texan and a Midwesterner by birth and upbringing, yearly trips to North Carolina instilled in me an early love of Appalachia. Attending college in East Tennessee deepened this love, and when I am weary or tired, the retreat I imagine is usually a cabin hidden somewhere in the Smoky Mountains.

The Foxfire series began as an effort to preserve the folkways of Appalachia, and to bring students into contact with the resources and stories of the past. According to the series website
"Foxfire" is the name that an English class picked, in 1966, for a student-produced magazine they chose to create, containing stories and interviews gathered from elders in their rural Southern Appalachian community. [...]

 "Foxfire" is the name of a series of books which are anthology collections of material from The Foxfire Magazine. The students' portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith shattered most of the world-at-large's misconceptions about these "hillbillies.

I have two Foxfire books, and they delight me. Not only do I love "hearing" the voices of the men and women interviewed for the project, I take a comfort in knowing that in the event of some apocalyptic, survivalist kind of emergency, I have a book on my shelf with instructions for building a spinning wheel and butchering a hog. A Foxfire Christmas selects the best Christmas stories, recipes, and ideas from the Foxfire series and compiles them into a little compendium of traditions and tales. In it you can find plans for a pine-wood race car and cloth doll; recipes for gingerbread, dumplings, and popcorn balls;  and recollections about traditions of Christmas past. Because so many Appalachian families celebrated Christmas in spite of extreme poverty, many of these traditions provide simple and beautiful alternatives to big Christmas productions and high-cost gifts.

Home is a place we create and sustain traditions, and Christmas is one of the best times for renewing our holy-day (holiday) habits. If you would like to be entered to win a copy of A Foxfire Christmas, leave a comment below that answers this question: What are some Christmas traditions that help you experience the joy of Christmas? Are there any new traditions you would like to start with your friends and family this year?

Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner. Contest ends on Wednesday, December 7 at 11 PM.


  1. I have two favorite Palmer family Christmas traditions. The first is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol and making Christmas cookies with my grandma's recipe. The other is Christmas eve when we sit in the living room, lights down low, and talk about the wonderful things that God has done over the previous year. We then each pray and give thanks, before leaving cookies and Dr. Pepper out for Santa. :)

  2. We didn't really celebrate Advent at home during the Christmas season because it was always done at church. Last year, for the first time, I created an advent centerpiece so we could bring the anticipation home. Our German relatives shared some of their Advent traditions with us when we visited a few years ago, so I am trying to incorporate those.

    But my favorite Christmas tradition was that Papaw would take out his worn and well-loved Bible and read the Christmas story. It's now been many years since his passing, and the reading of the story looks very different each year, but I treasure those quiet moments sitting with family around the tree and celebrating Christ's birth.

  3. A few of our traditions...We wait until Christmas morning to open gifts. Before the first gift is opened, we gather around the tree and listen to the Christmas Story which is read aloud from the Bible. It reminds us of the first Christmas morning and that God gave us the VERY BEST GIFT OF ALL... His Son, JESUS! "Happy Birthday, Jesus".

    Each year, we look for opportunities to share with others at Christmas...Sing Christmas Carols to our neighbors and deliver cookies, send money to sponsor Children locally and internationally, invite those without a place to go for Christmas to share our meal and home for the day.

    On Christmas Eve, we attend the candle light service at First Southern and close out the service by singing, "Silent Night". We then head home to eat "Lucy's chili" and begin watching our "must see" Christmas movies such as, "White Christmas, A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim as Scrooge), and Miracle on 34th Street.

    Each year, I work at getting my sweet sister-in-law, Patty to hand over one of her famous sugar cookies. It is work, but worth it...YUM

    I love traditions and love you, Miss Bethany.

  4. Traditions are my favorite: no matter what craziness is going on in my life, I know traditions will be around and something, no matter how small, will be the same as it was next year.
    One of my favorite traditions is watching a Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve: "After all, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas!" I also am very dedicated to the traditions from my childhood involving food, particular Christmas music albums, and my ornaments on the tree.
    I am excited about starting new traditions this year with my husband. So far we have a real tree, started decorating on the day after Thanksgiving, and are doing as many handmade gifts as possible. Who knows what we'll come up with next?

  5. In my family, as with many I am sure, we always waited until at least the day after Thanksgiving to put up a tree.

    Every year we get matching Christmas ornaments with our names and the year written on them. It's interesting that for some of these, I can look at a particular ornament and tell you a story corresponding to it but for the majority of these, however, 2001 has no more meaning than 2002.

    Some might think this is a sad thing that I have no corresponding memory to a given year and ornament. But I think in not remembering every year, there is a sense of mystery and magic. I cannot tell you why I have a gingerbread man from 1998 with my name on it. But the simple fact the the gingerbread man exists is a testament to that year's passing. It is an assertion of the space between memories.

    As far as advent goes, my family nor my church ever really observed Advent. I have been going through the book on Advent that you gave me, Bethany, and I am struck by the intentionality of it. A sense of purposeful meditation and reflection leading up to Christmas of course, but more than that, I find myself so caught up in mindfulness that I have recently caught myself entertaining the idea that just as much meaning lies in the act of observant anticipation as in the actual birth of Christ. Observing advent has been such a centering event for me this yuletide season that I see this as a tradition in the making.

  6. One Christmas tradition that I love is the Wiedeman Family Talent Show we have with my extended family. Everyone is encouraged to participate -- sometimes the family members sing, dance, play a musical instrument, some tell jokes, others recite Scripture, and then some host a game show. It's a great way for family members of all ages to share their God-given talents and entertain their relatives. Each year we continue to make marvelous Christmas memories! God is good!

  7. Hey Bethany! I am so glad I checked your new post on the blog. I would really like this book - so anyway, one tradition I would like to start and i guess re-start is to read the Christmas story from the book of Luke again.

    When I was younger, our family used to have an advent calendar and read the Scripture that went with that particular day, and then on Christmas Eve we would read the entire Christmas story according to Luke's gospel.

    I want to start this up again, because it is important to me that myself and my future family be reminded what Christmas is all about and keep it in perspective!

  8. I love Christmas traditions. Now that I have three little children of my own, I'm enjoying passing on some of the ones my parents started. One of those is reading the Christmas story from Luke often throughout the month. (I aim for daily, sometimes it's twice in a day, sometimes not at all.) Last year my 3 1/2 year old could quote the Luke 2:1-20 by Christmas day.

    I collect Nativities and just set mine out last Saturday. They are decorations that keep me remembering what this season is about.

    And I love making Christmas gifts. It is part of the fun of the holiday to me.

    There are many more, but that's probably enough for now.

    (PS - I'm Jeff Bilbro's sister.)

  9. At some point, my family decided that since nobody believed in Santa anymore (wink), we would just as soon open our presents on Christmas Eve than Christmas morning. This has several advantages that I hope you will all consider:

    1. Instead of waiting all night to get-up and open presents, you just have to get through the 1 hour tops Christmas eve service, you go ahead and open presents then spend your time playing with your new things until you fall asleep only to wake-up to the smell of sausage gravy and biscuits the next morning no earlier than 10am.

    2. You get to seriously sleep off the inevitably calorie-packed dinner the night before (clearing the necessary space for the gravy & biscuits).

    3. There's just something about opening up presents at night and spending that time with your family. We are not morning people, and I will generally sneak outside for at least a minute and look at the stars with my eggnog and reflect a moment...awesome.

    4. We ALWAYS put all the sticker bows on my dad while unwrapping, and there's a slight chance that he'll nod-off with the bows all over him and we can grab a picture. Depending on his mood, we will then post it on the internet.

    5. The last few years, we've done some singing, and my voice sucks in the morning.

    6. Mom, more than the rest of us, is DEFINITELY not a morning person, and it is best to enact the annual Cheney egg nog taste test to prove or disprove the validity of her devotion to Mayfield brand egg nog or the cheapo Sealtest brand, which Dad bought one year resulting in a tense scandal.

    7. Just in case Santa is real, we get presents both at night and the next morning.

    Marry Christmas,

  10. My parents traditionally put a limit on how early my brothers and I could get up on Christmas morning. Eventually it was set at 6 a.m. after we tried to get them up at 4 a.m. one year. We would always have a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve--being Santa skeptics, we boys relished the thought of smoking portly intruders out of the chimney. Boys just love fire, I think.

    We would always take our sleeping bags out and sleep on the floor in front of the fireplace, in sight of the tree. Lying in front of a dying fire always made it a little easier to go to sleep, somehow. In the morning we would stoke up the fire and open presents after reading the Christmas story aloud. The wrapping paper always ended up in the fireplace.

    Mom would always make a big brunch with bacon, sausage, and sweet breads, and we would set the table with our real silverware (silver, not steel) and cloth napkins. It was special not only because we almost never used our good place settings, but because breakfasts were usually quick and utilitarian on other days of the year.

    -Steve S.

  11. Dear Bethany,

    I just want to say Happy Advent, and Merry Christmas, As time has gone by for me and I watched you grow from afar, I have always marveled at what a wonderful bright loving young lady you have become, It is no surprise as your parents hold much esteem in my heart, as I will always consider your dad my "Big" brother in Christ.

    May this season of reflection and merriment be a good one for you and for your mom and dad, Please give then bothb my love