Category Archives: Holiday

The Elves and the Shoemaker

Written in 1804 by the brothers Grimm.  Published as entry 39 in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Translated in 1884 by Margaret Hunt in which she titled the piece, “The Elves.”

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A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes. So in the evening, he cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning, and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep. In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and did not know what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a master- piece. Soon after, too, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man. Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, “What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?” The woman liked the idea, and lighted a candle, and then they hid them- selves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging up there, and watched. When it was midnight, two pretty little naked men came, sat down by the shoemaker’s table, took all the work which was cut out before them and began to stitch, and sew, and hammer so skilfully and so quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker could not turn away his eyes for astonishment. They did not stop until all was done, and stood finished on the table, and then they ran quickly away.

Next morning the woman said, “The little men have made us rich, and we really must show that we are grateful for it. They run about so, and have nothing on, and must be cold. I’ll tell thee what I’ll do: I will make them little shirts, and coats, and vests, and trousers, and knit both of them a pair of stockings, and do thou, too, make them two little pairs of shoes.” The man said, “I shall be very glad to do it;” and one night, when everything was ready, they laid their presents all together on the table instead of the cut-out work, and then concealed themselves to see how the little men would behave.

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At midnight they came bounding in, and wanted to get to work at once, but as they did not find any leather cut out, but only the pretty little articles of clothing, they were at first astonished, and then they showed intense delight.They dressed themselves with the greatest rapidity, putting the pretty clothes on, and singing,

“Now we are boys so fine to see,
Why should we longer cobblers be?”

Then they danced and skipped and leapt over chairs and benches. At last they danced out of doors. From that time forth they came no more, but as long as the shoemaker lived all went well with him, and all his undertakings prospered.

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The Little Match Girl

by Hans Christian Anderson; published in 1845

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Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening– the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.

One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.

She crept along trembling with cold and hunger–a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!

The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year’s Eve; yes, of that she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.

Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. “Rischt!” how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but–the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.

She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when–the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant’s house.

Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when–the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.

“Someone is just dead!” said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.

She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.

“Grandmother!” cried the little one. “Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!” And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.

But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall–frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. “She wanted to warm herself,” people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.

The Christmas Tree

Over the weeks leading up to Christmas I’m posting old stories related to Christmas.  The first one is called, The Christmas Tree, written in 1799 by Samuel T. Coleridge, Ratzeburg, Germany.

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There is a Christmas custom here, which pleased and interested me. The children make little presents to their parents, and to each other; and the parents to the children. For three or four months before Christmas the girls are all busy; and the boys save up their pocket money, to make or purchase these presents. What the present is to be is cautiously kept secret, and the girls have a world of contrivances to conceal it — such as working when they are out on visits, and the others are not with them; getting up in the morning before daylight; and the like. Then, on the evening before Christmas day, one of the parlors is lighted up by the children, into which the parents must not go.

A great yew bough is fastened on the table at a little distance from the wall, a multitude of little tapers [slender candles] are fastened in the bough, but so as not to catch it till they are nearly burnt out, and colored paper hangs and flutters from the twings. Under this bough, the children lay out in great order the presents they mean for their parents, still concealing in their pockets what they intend for each other. Then, the parents are introduced and each presents his little gift, and then brings out the rest one by one from their pockets, and present them with kisses and embraces. Where I witnessed this scene there were eight or nine children, and the eldest daughter and the mother wept aloud for joy and tenderness; and the tears ran down the face of the father, and he clasped all his children so tight to his breast, it seemed as if he did it to stifle the sob that was rising within him. I was very much affected.

The shadow of the bough and its appendages on the wall, and arching over on the ceiling, made a pretty picture, and then the raptures of the very little ones, when at last the twings and their needles began to take fire and snap! — Oh, it was a delight for them! On the next day, in the great parlour, the parents lay out on the table the presents for the children; a scene of more sober joy success, as on this day, after an old custom, the mother says privately to each of her daughters, and the father to his sons, that which he has observed most praiseworthy, and that which was most faulty in their conduct.

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Formerly, and still in all the smaller towns and villages throughout North Germany, these presents were sent by all the parents to some one fellow, who in high buskins, a white robe, a mask, and an enormous flax wig, personate Knecht Rupert, the servant Rupert. On Christmas night he goes round to every house, and says that Jesus Christ his master sent him thither, the parents and elder children receive him with great pomp of reverence, while the little ones are most terribly frightened. He then inquires for the children, and, according to the character, which he hears from the parent, he gives them the intended presents, as if they came out of heaven from Jesus Christ. Or, if they should have been bad children, he gives the parents a rod, and in the name of his master recommends them to use it frequently. About seven or eight years old the children are let into the secret, and it is curious to observe how faithfully they keep it.

Making a New’s Year Resolution

new year'sresolution2016Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This is my final installment of the series entitled, “table scraps” (words likely to be used at family gatherings over the holidays). As you might expect, I chose a word closely associated with this time of year: “resolution.”

In 2013, Dan Diamond, a blogger and contributor to //onforb.es (www.Forbes.com), states that 40% of Americans are likely to make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% of them will achieve their goal. According to Diamond, “More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower.” He cites a desire for self-improvement as the leading factor in making resolutions.

My reasons for making a resolution would include, a desire to act on something that’s been bothering me, whether it is guilt from neglecting something or someone, or inaction (not doing something I feel I should be doing). Like many other people, I would include health related reasons; two of my favorites are losing some weight and exercising more.

Our culture has adopted the practice of making our resolutions at the start of a New Year. I guess the new calendar symbolizes a fresh start and makes the starting date easier to recall. Add to that the social buzz created by a host of others also making resolutions and you have a strength in numbers kind of thing going on. For people of faith, having just celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas, a new calendar year offers a convenient starting point to resolutely draw closer to God.

This year, before you jump on the bandwagon and vow to make a resolution, you may want to give more thought to the word’s meaning. Google defines “resolution” as “a firm decision to do or not do something.” Synonyms include: intention, decision, commitment, pledge, and promise. Words closely related to resolution are: “resolute,” (purposeful, determined, and unwavering) and “resolve” (defined as a “firm determination to do something”).  Making a resolution, then, can be likened to drawing a line in the sand, and vowing not to cross it.

Returning to Dan Diamond’s piece for a moment, he gives the following advice for making a resolution: (1) keep it simple (small, obtainable), (2) make it tangible (eliminate vagueness), (3) make it obvious (have visual reminders), and (4) keep believing you can do it (have willpower).

If you are a Christian you can add a fifth point: involve God in your resolution making decision and seek out His help in seeing it through. He is very much interested in the little details in our lives. Take Romans 8:28 for example, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A quick peek at my Bible concordance (TNIV translation) yielded two scripture passages using the word “resolved,” Daniel 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 2:2. Since the book of Daniel is one of my favorite books, I decided to check that verse out.

“But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” (TNIV translation)

Here Daniel resolved not to do something – not to eat of the king’s delicacies. He was a prisoner of war taken to a foreign land, to be assimilated into a pagan Babylonian culture. To resist assimilation meant facing the possibility of being killed. Many scholars feel he was a young teen when he was taken to Babylon and made this resolution.

As a true believer in God, Daniel believed there was no separation between his religious beliefs new year's resolution 2016and the world he functioned in. (Many of us need reminding of this fact on a regular basis.) The former (his faith) governed the latter (his work). His resolve to resist defiling himself came from within; he purposed not to do this in his heart. His decision was an act of worship, not one of self-affirmation or self-improvement.

On the surface the resolution seems trivial until you look at its broader implications. Daniel was being asked to abandon his devout faith in God and adopt a pagan way of life. He made the resolution out of a need to preserve his relationship with God.   God honored Daniel by working on his behalf and making it possible for Daniel to eat the food and water of his choosing. By keeping the resolution he made, Daniel’s life became a conduit for the miraculous workings of God.

What, if any, resolution will you make this year? Will you be including God in your plans?

We survived Christmas with Brody

IMG_1548Brody was definitely a challenge this Christmas.  Puppy crazies were not the issue.  He took a great interest in all the trimmings and trappings this wonderful holiday presents.  His idea of fun included shredding any wrapping paper within reach, chewing the bottom boughs of the tree and turning gift tag labels into spit wads.  Some of his less harmful antics included wadding  up the tree skirt into a bed (each night) and snagging ornaments from the tote that weren’t on the tree.

We grew wise to his antics and wrapped presents in high places, stowing them in dresser drawers, under the desk, in the basement and in the upper reaches of our closets.  There’s a possibility that not all the presents were distributed on Christmas morning.  Time will tell.

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Brody and Jake enjoyed ripping their stuffed animal presents to shreds and eating dog chews.

From our house to yours we hope you had a blessed Christmas and wish you good health, peace and prosperity in 2018!!

Table Scraps – “The Christmas List” (2015)

IMG_0542I am posting a series of “table scraps,” highlighting words likely used in family gatherings connected with the holiday season. This week I thought I’d take a satirical look at “the Christmas list.”

We are rapidly moving through the month of December and Christmas morning looms larger on the horizon with each passing day. Your Christmas list, once an inspiring collection of vagueness, is quickly turning into an obsession, dictating how you will use your remaining time before that great day of merriment and gift-giving.

The stakes are high in this season of giving.  Money is an object and it’s in limited supply, so you find yourself scrutinizing everyone connected to you.   With so little time remaining, you’ll need to determine the extent of your list this year.  As part of the process, you can’t forget to take into consideration the gift transactions that occurred last Christmas. No doubt there were individuals who you gave gifts to that did not reciprocate. Likewise, persons who were not on your gift list blindsided you with one.

As if scrutinizing the people on your list wasn’t enough, you must also determine the methodology you plan to use for gift selection, especially for that special someone in your life. Do you get him or her exactly what they asked for? That is certainly the easiest and least stressful approach. Hopefully, you’ll consider wrapping it instead of handing over the gift in the shopping bag it came in. Maybe you’ll go the extra mile to disguise the item first, making it less recognizable before you distribute it. Have you considered this approach:  send the person you are buying for out to buy their own gift?IMG_0260

Perhaps it’s more your style to weigh what a person asks for against a gift you think they’d like better. You can develop a reputation as a poor gift giver in a hurry, if you don’t put a lot of thought into your substitute gift. As a parent I learned that substituting a knock-off copy of the toy being asked for made me appear uncaring and out of touch. You could always give the universal gift, good old American dollars, a viable compromise for many gift-givers.

The most risky giving strategy of them all is to give someone a gift that is completely foreign to them. One that they would never have asked for but introduces them to something they have yet to experience. For this strategy to be successful you must really know the person well; their likes and dislikes, personality, interests, etc. A successful gift using this strategy can result in a lifetime of satisfaction or pleasure, particularly if it involves the start of a new hobby, gives birth to a hidden talent or develops a new or different career path.  Some conjecture that only God could give the perfect gift using this strategy (and they would be more right then they could possibly imagine).

So, once you think you’ve got your Christmas list together and you’re about to do that Santa Claus thing: making a list and checking it twice… there are a couple more things I’d ask you to seriously consider.

Does God appear anywhere on your Christmas list? Certainly, He has done something meaningful on your behalf this year. The birth of his son, Jesus, is “the reason for the season.”   But what kind of gift can you give to God? Will you consider your indebtedness settled by simply throwing money in the offering plate this Christmas?

IMG_0548Have you considered giving God the gift of your time? It’s probably the greatest gift you can give to anyone. When you give the gift of your time you are giving away a piece of yourself. God would love you to spend time with him in prayer, hear you sing a song from your heart or read from the Bible He authored. You can give God your time in other ways,too. You can be God’s ambassador by spending some of your time serving others. God is also looking for messengers who are willing to spend a moment telling others what God has done for them. Perhaps you will be given an opportunity this Christmas season to tell someone, “God loves you.”

Well, there you have it. I hope I’ve given you something to think about as you finish off your Christmas shopping. Will you join me in taking a moment to step away from the commercialism our culture so tightly embraces and reflect on the gift that God has given us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NIV