Christmas Stories | Pranking Pastors

by CSweeney on June 28, 2014

in Christmas

prank-your-kidsHaving raised three beautiful but rambunctious sons, I know that the repertoire of pranks that dwell in a young boys heart are without limit and always in motion! And we had our own share of high school pranks, which when compared with some of the pranks that teens play now seem quite mild.

Nonetheless, at the time we had to come up with creative ways of dealing with toilet paper all over the yard, and phone calls asking if our refrigerator was running. So annoying at the time, but so funny now. Ah perspective!

Today’s Christmas story tells a tale of one such innocent prank, with the assistance of none other than the pastor of the local church!

Pastor Tony is walking down the street on Christmas eve when he notices Larry, a small boy, trying to ring the doorbell of a house across the street.  However, Larry is very small and the doorbell is too high for him to reach.

After watching the boy’s efforts for some time, Pastor Tony moves closer to Larry’s position. He steps smartly across the street, walks up behind the little fellow and, placing his hand kindly on the child’s shoulder, leans over and gives the doorbell a solid ring.

Crouching down to Larry’s level, Pastor Tony smiles benevolently and asks, ‘And now what, my little man?’

To which Larry replies with a beaming grin,

‘Now we run!’

Photo and story courtesy

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Christmas Stories | Going For A Ride

by CSweeney on June 27, 2014

in Christmas

little red wagonThe infamous little red wagon has stirred up more stories than nearly any other childhood toy. And, it’s not just a toy, or even considered a toy by a child. It is more a tool, their primary mode of transporting goods.

Depending on the gender of the child, the items carried in the red wagon will vary, anything from a harvest of applies or a pile of rocks to captured creatures to a little brother or sister.

Today’s Christmas story reveals the heart of a child, so tender and playful. It goes like this:

It was the day after Christmas at St. Peter and St. Paul’s church in Borden, Kent, England. Father John, the vicar, was looking at the nativity scene outside when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the figures.

Immediately, Father John’s thoughts turned to calling in the local policeman but as he was about to do so, he saw little Nathan with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus.

Father John approached Nathan and asked him, ‘Well, Nathan, where did you get the little infant?’

Nathan looked up, smiled and replied, ‘I took him from the church.’

‘And why did you take him?’

With a sheepish grin, Nathan said, ‘Well, Father John, about a week before Christmas I prayed to Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.’

A little boy just keeping his promise. :)

Credits:  Story source, red wagon

 

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bedtime storiesReading bedtime stories is a favorite, universal tradition. And, if your kids are anything like mine, they definitely have their favorites. I could read one of those favored stories every night for a month, and they’d never grow tired of it! There is something about hearing a familiar story that calms their little hearts and gives them permission to drop off to sleep.

Apparently there are a few rather well known Christmas stories that have circulated, and have become very helpful in helping the kids settle down, especially on the nights leading up to Christmas! Their little bodies just have the hardest time giving it up for another day, hahahaa! I thought it’d be fun to share a few of these stories with you over the next few posts.

Today’s story comes from England, and is entitled The Missing Five Pound Note. It goes like this:

Chippenham George worked for the Post Office and his job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses.  One day just before Christmas, a letter landed on his desk simply addressed in shaky handwriting: ‘To God’.  With no other clue on the envelope, George opened the letter and read:

Dear God,

I am an 93 year old widow living on the State pension.  Yesterday someone stole my purse.  It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world and no pension due until after Christmas.  Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas lunch.  Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with.  I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope.  God; can you please help me?

Chippenham George was really touched, and being kind hearted, he put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board at the main Fareham sorting office where he worked.  The letter touched the other postmen and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip round.  Between them they raised £95.  [$170 USD] Using an officially franked Post Office envelope, they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done.

Christmas came and went.  A few days later, another letter simply addressed to ‘God’ landed in the Sorting Office.  Many of the postmen gathered around while George opened the letter.  It read,

Dear God,Christmas Stories

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely luncheon for my friends.  We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift – in fact we haven’t gotten over it and even Father John, our parish priest, is beside himself with joy.  By the way, there was £5 [$10 USD] missing.  I think it must have been those thieving fellows at the Post Office.

George could not help musing on Oscar Wilde’s quote:  ’A good deed never goes unpunished’

Credits:  Bedtime Stories, Photo and story courtesy

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christmas exerciseYesterday I talked about my meeting with my health coach a little, and shared some insights about how to stay the course of healthy habits over the holidays. Now, having said that, I recognize that it’s much easier said than done. There are a lot of additional to-do’s we are squeezing into our schedules in a few short weeks, and so it would seem that something has to give. So often it’s our exercise program or specific diet we’ve decided on. But, what if you didn’t have to give that up, and yet could still fully participate in all the fun of the holidays?

I submit to you that we can! Here are a few great options for quick workouts that keep that momentum going and actually get you out ahead of the crowd come January:

  1. Yoga. Get some stretching and mind focus work done in just 8 short minutes! The trick with this one will be finding a spot for it, but the “what to do” part is easy. Just download this app and you’ll be downward dogging it all the way to New Year’s.
  2. HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training workouts are considered the gold standard for not only raising metabolism and burning fat, but for being super fast. Here’s another link for you for a 7 minute workout that comes complete with what exercises to do and for how long. You’ll be sweating, but that’s how you know it’s good. :)
  3. CrossFit. Another version of HIIT, but with so many variation you just have to check it out. I was introduced to Tabata workouts which are basically HIIT in reverse. Usually with HIIT you go hard for 30 seconds, then easy for 90 seconds and repeat. With Tabata, you shorten the time of your workout by going hard for 20 seconds, easy for 10, and complete anywhere from 2 to 8 sets depending on your fitness level. Using just your body weight or typical cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, this workout will have you in and out in no time.

So, really, there’s no excuse is there? Get those workouts in even in December! You will be so glad you did, not just in January when everyone else is resolving to lose their holiday weight, but also during the holiday…you’ll have energy and stamina to spare!

Photo credit:  Santas exercising,

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health coachThe plan today was to finish up our series on Christmas Traditions in other parts of the world. However, I had a meeting this morning with Melissa, my health coach, and now my mind and heart are reeling from our talk . . . so much so that I’m having a hard time thinking about anything else! I do love switching things up around here, so here we are, discussing staying lean at Christmas!

Melissa and I were talking specifically about my journey and what is next on our long list of things to work on, and maybe sometime I’ll share some specifics about that. But for today, this whole process I’m in got me thinking too about the holidays and weight gain and the aftermath of all that. For a couple years now I have been a part of a Facebook group whose goal is to maintain our healthy habits throughout the holidays without deprivation. Say what?

snowmenIt seems almost impossible what with all the extra sugary treats, rich foods, parties to go to, cookie exchanges, etc. to emerge none worse for the wear.  And, even tho some studies show that we, on average, gain only about 1 pound over the Christmas holiday, so often momentum that was hard won prior to the holidays is lost, and that takes much longer to recover.  I’m going to share with you some of the things I have learned, both through that group and from my health coach that can help to avert that crisis.

We_Can_Do_It!

Keep that momentum going while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year! Here’s how:

  1. Set your mind. Once we set our minds to accomplish something, to do something, to be something, it is often very difficult to change, good or bad! Decide ahead of time what you want, what you really want. You don’t want extra pounds in January, right? You don’t want a foggy brain or an energy sap, right? Then, adjust your plans. Decide. Then, when it comes time to make choices at the party or the family dinner or the cookie table at work, you’ll intuitively know what will and what won’t serve you best.
  2. Maintain your healthy diet and exercise regimen. Many people use the holidays as an excuse to take a holiday from how they know they should eat. The trick is turning that “shoulda” into something that you want to do. Once you find what’s right for you and your body and you don’t feel deprived, stick with it. You will enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas far more and feel so much better about yourself. And, who knows, your good habits may just rub off.
  3. Go for a walk. After that family dinner, enlist others to go for a walk. I know I know, sometimes all you wanna do is lay on the couch. But, just a short 20  minute walk about 15 minutes after eating a large meal burns more calories, plus aids your digestion. It doesn’t even have to be a fast walk. Take a stroll in the snow or at the park or wherever you want.
  4. Choose your indulgences wisely. Some people decide ahead of time they’ll enjoy just one very decadent treat, so that means they are constantly on the lookout for what that’ll be. Once you find it, have a small piece, or even just a bite. Often that’s all our taste buds really need to feel satisfied.

I am not a health coach or a personal trainer or anything like that. I’m just a person who strives every day for good health. And, I’m wondering why it should be any different at Christmas. :)

Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Photo credit:  Tape measure, Snowmen, We Can Do It

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PolandMost, if not all, of the Christmas traditions in other cultures that we’ve explored over the last couple of weeks are grand celebrations of one kind or another. There are parties, there is singing and dancing, festivals and much merry making for all.  And, of course, in this way they are quite similar to the American way of celebrating Christmas. Lots of preparation and anticipation for both young and old, most definitely!

Today, however, we take a peek inside of a country that has a bit more of a somber note to it. In Poland, the Christmas holidays are a time to be very peaceful and to avoid the excess of anything. While feasts and parties and boisterous celebrations are going on in other parts of the world, Poland can often be found fasting, giving up their favorite food or beverage, and great effort is spent on remembering the real reason for the season.

Advent is a very busy time, tho! Lots of time is spent cleaning the house from top to bottom, washing windows and floors and carpets. It’s like spring cleaning! Everything must be clean for Christmas Day. This is common also where parties are held, but in Poland, there are no parties. It leaves one to wonder if perhaps the reason for the spic ‘n span home is to honor the Christ child himself.

Polish mealChristmas Eve day is a very important day. Traditionally it’s a day of abstaining from meat. If the Christmas tree hasn’t been put up yet, it is brought in and decked out with lights, tinsel and glass bulbs. And mistletoe! The Polish LOVE their mistletoe and love even more kissing beneath it! Overall, it’s a pretty quiet day…that is until night time.

Everyone is pretty hungry by now, and in order for their fasts to be broken, someone, anyone, must spot the first star in the night sky. You can bet the kids are out there, tummy’s growling! Once the first star has been spotted, a big meal is served and enjoyed by all. A place is often left open at the table, presumably for the Christ child.  The evening ends with attending a midnite mass.

At dawn on Christmas Day, it’s back to church for an early morning mass with special communion, a mass that honors Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Photo credit:  Flag, Table,

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summer campSummer camp was a regular thing for me as a kid growing up. The church camp I attended was about 3 1/2 hours from home, and I still remember riding in the back of the station wagon with my feet dangling out the back window, knowing that when we hit the dirt road we’d be almost there. The week ahead would include swimming, horse back riding, box hockey and of course mess hall.

There were also required services, and I remember many sweltering nights in the tent listening to the speaker. It seemed as though it would never end sometimes, and the heat and humidity made many young bodies restless. All we could think about in those moments was cooling off in the pool! It would last probably a little over an hour, but honestly it felt like 6 times that long.

church serviceThe people of Madagascar would have felt right at home. Living on an island located off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar people never experience cold or snow at Christmas. Instead, it would be more like my summer camp experience. And since Christmas is far less about gifts exchanged and more about being in church there, nobody would become restless, not even the children. Their typical Christmas service starts at 5pm and goes until well after midnite! I guess we were just a bunch of whiners, haha!

pointsettiaAnother interesting fact about Madagascar is that pointsettias, a holiday plant here in the U.S., are not these small little indoor plants that only flower at Christmas. Nope. In Madagascar, they are extremely large outdoor shrubs that flower year round! In fact the pointsettia is their national emblem!

Photo credit:  Camp, Christmas Service, Pointsettia

 

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Minn NiceIt is a little known fact that the people are so polite, so nice in Minnesota that they have earned the title,”Minnesota Nice.”  Their politeness and willingness to go out of their way for others isn’t isolated in practice toward tourists either, even though the more industrious Minnesotans have created tshirts, mugs, key chains, etc. with the slogan on it.

Minnesota Nice is really just common courtesies in every day life extended  to anyone you might happen to meet without expecting anything in return. While this kind way of living has been lost in many other parts of the U.S., Minnesota has managed to retain it. It really is remarkable.

But, as it turns out, Minnesota is not the only state in the union that knows a thing or two about this. On December 6th, 1917, a massive explosion rocked the City of Halifax, destroying 1600 homes, killing close to 2000 people and injuring hundreds. Within hours, help came from across the border, a most unlikely place. The people of Boston, upon hearing the devastating news, were on the scene to lend a hand. A relief train with food, water, medical supplies, and workers to distribute them was dispatched, arriving on December 8 only slowed by a massive snow storm.

boston tree

Food and water were distributed, and medical workers relieved the Nova Scotia team, many of whom had been on duty since the explosion. Bostonians continued helping throughout the rebuilding process, forming an enduring bond between the two cities that still exists today!

That year, as a small gesture of their gratitude, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to Boston. Decades later someone decided that once wasn’t enough, and so since 1971 Halifax has sent a Christmas tree to Boston every year! Talk about Minnesota nice. And, being neighborly and grateful. This definitely gives Minnesota a run for their money in the nice category!

I’d love to see other cities trying to outdo the people in Boston, Minnesota and Halifax. That would put a whole new face on Christmas!

Photo credit:  MN Nice, Christmas Tree

 

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christmas loveI’ve been taking a look over the last couple of weeks at Christmas traditions in other cultures, and I hope you have found it as interesting as I have! I think my favorite ones have been those that, no matter what they do, there is a sense of community. While it is true that numerous countries believe that Christmas is a stay-at-home, private celebration, even those places have gatherings and visit family and friends and participate in community events either in the days preceding Christmas or the days following. It’s all about the love!

The Finns have one of THE best Christmas traditions that I have read so far, tho. Being one of those countries that holds fast to Christmas being a private, family, stay-at-home event, there is something that many Finns do after a light Christmas Eve lunch. They go to the spa! Since the weather is so frigid in Finland, I think we can

finnland saunasafely assume that these spas are not what we think of in the U.S. More than likely, they are something of a hot house in the backyard. The Finns, perhaps in order to prepare themselves for the busyness of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, decide there is no better way to spend Christmas Eve afternoon that in the sauna. Whatever the reason, the practice is significant enough that a stamp was created in its honor!

When I was in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, I did something similar. Many of my team members wanted to walk down the strip, see the sights. It was nearly 100 degrees, and since I’m from Minnesota all I could think about was sitting at the edge of the pool! So, I stayed back while the others did the traditional Vegas thing, sunbathed and scheduled a Swedish massage! By the time my work event started that evening, I was rested, relaxed and ready to learn!

I think sitting in a sauna with the people I am closest to on Christmas Eve afternoon sounds like one of the most relaxing, refreshing ideas I’ve ever heard.

 

Photo credit:  Heart, Sauna

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massIt’s been fun discovering the interesting ways that other cultures celebrate Christmas and what traditions they hold to. If you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, take a look back…some of them will definitely bring a smile to your face. :) We’ve looked at Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Japan. Today we’re moving to the country of Venezuela in South America to see their unique ways.

Venezuela, like most of the rest of South America, is largely Catholic, and so going to mass on Christmas morning would be very customary. Church goers, and even those who don’t attend regularly, would go very early in the morning. Nothing really unique about that. But, what is rather striking is the mode of transportation used to get to mass. The streets are even closed down to vehicles the night before in order to ensure safety. You see, everyone gets to mass on . . . roller skates!

Rollerskating-Venezuela

And, that’s not all. The night before, children tie a piece of string to their big toes and hang the other end out the window. As the roller skates go by the next morning on their way to mass, they yank on all the strings hanging out the window! You know this would never work in America because children are typically up before anyone on Christmas morning!

There is still more. On Christmas Eve, instead of the usual caroling from house to house, the people beat drums….and, at the stroke of midnight, people shout “Jesus is born!” Firecrackers set the sky ablaze, too. I like that!

 

Photo credit:  Church, Skating

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