I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yes, Linda, There Really Is a Santa Claus!

I can remember my Mother telling me that, as I'm sure most of you can too. We all know Santa as the familiar image with his red suit, sled or sleigh, reindeer's, and sacks of toys delivering packages to "all the good girls and boys!" I love the Christmas season and I always have. It is by far one of my favorite times of the year.

The familiar image of Santa Claus is an American invention that first appeared in a drawing by Thomas Nast in Harper's Magazine in 1868 (see picture on the right). Thomas Nast helped create the kinder, more fatherly, plumper Santa as we know him today. But, Thomas Nast wasn't the only person to contribute to this legend. Clement Clarke Moore was a huge contributor as in 1822 he published his poem "A visit From St. Nicholas," bittern known as "The Night Before Christmas." His poem is the first mention of a sleigh powered by "eight tiny reindeer" and mentioning their names.

The legend of Father Christmas, however, is ancient and far more complex. Part of the legend is attributed to St. Nicholas and part to a jovial medieval figure in the "Spirit of Christmas." In Russia, Father Christmas carries a piglet under one arm. St. Nicholas is also know as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Heilige Nikolaus, and Pere Noel.

In the early part of the 19Th century there was a revival of a Viking tradition of a jovial, winter figure who was associated with the winter festival. He was referred to as the "Spirit of Christmas." It was believed that by inviting him in through the "front door" to join in your holiday feasting, that the winter would be kind. The "Spirit of Christmas" was subsequently renamed "Father Christmas". Instead of him visiting through the front door, his visits were to be a surprise, with him arriving during the night and down the chimney. Victorian children would write letters to him and then throw them into the fireplace. Why burn the letters? Because, my dear, Father Christmas can read smoke.

But, where did St. Nicholas really come from? It is said that St. Nicholas was born in 245 A.D. in Patara near Fethiye and died in 326 A.D. having spent his life in Anatolia (which I believe is in Turkey.) St. Nicholas was the son of a wealthy family and had a good education. He became the Bishop of Demur, trying to solve the problems of his people in a most humane way. He devoted himself to mankind. He was known as the protector of children and sailors. In a number of countries the death of St. Nicholas is commemorated by the giving of presents to children.

But, how did the legend really begin? Well, it is said that St. Nicholas heard of a family with three daughters who were unable to wed as they had no dowry. St. Nicholas had come from a wealthy family and had given up all his worldly possessions to become a bishop. He took 3 bags of gold coins and dropped them down the family's chimney. The coins landed in the girls stockings that had been hung to dry on the fireplace (ah, that's where stockings come from!) St. Nicholas was caught in the act by the girls father, but he begged him to keep his secret. Two days later, however the entire village heard of his gift and so the tradition of stockings and St. Nicholas began.

In 1951-1955 St. Nicholas became synonymous with Santa Claus and in 1955 a Father Christmas stamp was issued. St. Nicholas devoted his life to his love of humanity, love for people of all different religions and beliefs. Most of all, his love for peace, friendship, and brotherhood.

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, or St. Nicholas is also a favorite of all crafters and doll makers. Why? Because we can make him anything we want him to be. Jovial, fat, skinny, Victorian, woodland, primitive, ugly. It doesn't matter. We love them all. Well, at least I do.

But, no matter what Santa Claus looks like the message is always the same. "Ho!Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!"

So, this Christmas season when you are hurrying around to get everything done and are fighting the crowd of shoppers just remember that St. Nicholas's message is one of peace, love, and humanity. Slow down, take a breath, and enjoy the season. And, remember these words from a very old, wise, good man: "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!"

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Our Christmas Pin Tradition

If you're a reader of my Linda's Blog then you know that I've been writing a series of Christmas Tradition articles. In light of that I just wanted to share with you a wonderful, sentimental Christmas tradition that my Dad started a long time ago. My Dad wanted to give "his girls" meaning my Mother, myself, and my sister something special for Christmas. Back then the term "his girls" did not imply the possessive chauvinistic implications that it does today. To my Dad it was nothing more then a term of endearment. One that separated us from "his boys", my brothers.

So my Dad decided to buy each of "his girls" a special Christmas pin to wear during the holidays. He bought us pins the first year, and then the second, and so on and so on and so on. My wonderful husband decided to carry my Dad's tradition on after he passed away. So, every year he gives me a Christmas pin. Sometimes he can't decide which one he likes best so I get two special Christmas pins. That's okay with me as I cherish each and every one of them.

Every year I take them all out and look at them. What always amazes me is how they have changed in design from the first pin I received (the little Bambi deer above) to my latest (the candy canes above). And, believe it or not, I don't have any duplicates. Also (and I know this will be hard to believe), I don't have any "dollies." So, a heartfelt thanks to you Dad for starting this tradition and a heartfelt and sentimental thanks to my husband for continuing his pin tradition.

If you don't have your own special tradition, perhaps this little article will inspire you to start one. May each and every one of you have a wonderful holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Caroling, Caroling, Now We Go Christmas Bells Are Ringing.....

Caroling & carolers - another long lost tradition. Unfortunately, I think the lovely Christmas tradition of caroling for your neighbors has been replaced with collecting caroling dolls. Not that I think collecting any kind of doll is bad. It's just that caroling and singing holiday songs is such a lovely way to wish your neighbors a wonderful, holiday season. So, before we lose the tradition I think we need to understand why the tradition began.

Well, what exactly is a "carol." For most, a carol is a song of rejoicing associated with festive occasions and religious celebrations. The word "caroling" originally meant a circle dance accompanied by a song and carols have carried on the glad tidings of Christmas since medieval times. Unlike hymns, carols are often light and gay.

According to one religious legend, the very first carol was sung by the angels announcing Christ's birth to the shepherds. Some say the tradition of caroling began as early as the 1400s when wandering minstrels performed songs in exchange for donations to be given to the needy. Later, the English night watchmen would sing while making their rounds at holiday times. In the United States, until about 100 years ago carols were limited to only being sung in church. At that time, the practice of singing door to door became a popular and joyous Christmas event.

In the mid 17th century when the celebration of Christmas was banned, the carols might have been lost forever. But, the carols were kept alive for almost 200 years by people singing them in private. With the invention of inexpensive printing processes in the 1800s, traditional carols were published in book form.

The origins of many popular carols, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "The First Noel," are unknown. However, one of the most famous carols, "Silent Night," was written in Austria by Josef Mohr and church organist, Franz Gruber when the church organ malfunctioned on Christmas Eve. Hurriedly Mohr wrote the song and asked Gruber to pick out a guitar accompaniment. The rest is history.

I can remember caroling as a child. We'd go out on a cold, windy night with our little caroling books and would stop at each of our neighbors houses. I couldn't sing worth beans, but that didn't seem to matter to me. Maybe that's why some of the neighbors never came out. Sometimes our neighbors would offer us hot cocoa, sometimes candy. Most of our neighbors would come outside while we were singing. Some didn't. In any event, it was a joyous event and one that I've never forgotten.

Well, you might not like caroling, but who doesn't love a Christmas Caroler doll. I've never seen one I didn't want (of course, I've never seen a doll I didn't want either.) That's beside the point. Anyways, I've made many caroler dolls myself either out of wood, cloth, terra cotta, pinecones, etc.

When I was a child every Christmas we'd have a family Christmas craft project. One year my Father and I made a white styrofoam church which housed a lighted angel. Outside it was decorated with wax candles (you remember those, don't you?) of lots and lots of carolers. The light from the angel lit up the church's steeple and was such a beautiful sight for many years. Styrofoam, however, doesn't last forever and neither do wax candles. In any event, the tradition of a family Christmas crafting event can be so much fun for the whole family and provide everyone with a lifetime of memories.

If you decide to get the whole family involved in a Christmas crafting project please make sure that while you're crafting that you're singing Christmas carols and have the hot cocoa waiting.

"Caroling, caroling, now we go Christmas Bells are ringing.................." Linda, when are you going to learn how to sing?

Come on everyone, sing along!

Caroling, caroling, now we go
Christmas bells are ringing
Caroling, caroling thru the snow
Christmas bells are ringing
Joyous voices sweet and clear
Sing the sad of heart to cheer
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

Caroling, caroling thru the town
Christmas bells are ringing
Caroling, caroling up and down
Christmas bells are ringing
Mark ye well the song we sing
Gladsome tidings now we bring
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

Caroling, caroling, near and far
Christmas bells are ringing
Following, following yonder star
Christmas bells are ringing
Sing we all this happy morn
"Lo, the King of heaven is born!"
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Who Doesn't Love Christmas Presents!

Who doesn't love Christmas presents? I know I do. I love to receive them, but the best part is in giving a present and watching the delight on the face of the recipient, especially if it is the face of a child. When I was a child, I could hardly wait for Christmas. I used to save my allowance all year so that I could buy Christmas presents for my family. If I didn't have the money to buy presents then I made them.

I can remember one Christmas when I was looking around our house to see if I could find the Christmas presents my Mother had hidden all over the house. In particular, I was looking under the bed in my parents room when my Mother caught me with bedspread in hand. YIKES! Caught red-handed. Well, my Mother decided to teach me a lesson. She opened all the presents and showed me every one of them. She said that my presents would all be wrapped and under the tree on Christmas Day, but the fun would be gone as I would already know what I was getting. That way, she surmised I'd learn my lesson. Well, she was right. I never looked again.

However,my knowing what my presents were that year didn't diminish the enjoyment that I got from the presents that I gave to others. I still love Christmas and it is still a HUGE holiday in my family. My husband and I spend days wrapping presents. He wraps the presents. I decorate them (for a crafter, so much fun). I'm always trying to come up with new ways to decorate them. Sometimes my recipients don't want to open them. They just look too darn pretty.

In any event, where did the idea of giving Christmas presents come from? Well, we have to credit St. Nicholas (you remember my previous post, don't you?) for this. St. Nicholas who was a bishop in Turkey heard of a family with three daughters who were unable to wed as they had no dowry. St. Nicholas had come from a wealthy family and had given up all his worldly possessions to become a bishop. He took 3 bags of gold coins and dropped them down the chimney. The coins landed in the girls stockings that had been hung to dry on the fireplace. St. Nicholas was caught in the act by the girls father, but he begged him to keep his secret. Two days later, however the entire village heard of his gift and so the tradition of stockings and St. Nicholas began.

For me, there is no better present then a "hug!" Especially if it comes from one of my grandchildren. Second to that, however, is a "handmade" present. This tradition we have to credit to the Victorians, once again, as the making of Christmas presents was seen as a way to enliven the long winter evenings leading up to Christmas. The planning and making of gifts started months in advance. Daughters would help their Mothers with sewing and needlework. Family members spent a lot of time designing personal gifts for each other. Long hours were spent together planning and creating their special gifts.

For the Victorians the notion of a homemade gift was more sentimentally appealing then a gift bought at a store. I, for one, couldn't agree with them more.

Images - http://www.ccdsvictoriantubeheaven.com

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Just Hang Us Anywhere!

Why do crafters love wreaths? Because wreaths are inviting and they convey warmth and warm welcomes. Wreaths can be made of real evergreens or made of fabric, wire, bamboo, pinecones, dried florals, wood, grapevine, straw, combination wood and grapevine, etc. They can be created in any shape and can fit any season. Therefore, the possibilities for decorations are endless.

I'm made numerous kinds of wreaths and have them up all year long varying them by the holiday or season. For me, I like the combination of wood, grapevine, floral, and fabric used in one way or another on one wreath. Kind of combines everything I like to do. I've even found ways to combine my love of dolls with my wreaths.

But, my favorite wreath is a Christmas wreath. Why? I'm not sure. There's just something about the Christmas holidays and the bright red and green colors that draws me to it. Something about the endless possibilities for placement. A Christmas wreath can look good just about anywhere.

So, as usual, I got to thinking about the origins of the Christmas wreath and wanted to find out about this tradition.

When you think about Christmas wreaths the Advent Wreath with all its religious significances may come to mind. Or, just a plain evergreen wreath with a red velvet bow hung on a door might be what you think of.

The Christmas Wreath is usually a circle which symbolizes continuance - and is never ending. Christmas wreaths are traditionally made with evergreens, which symbolize life. They are often decorated with other natural plant parts, such as pine cones, red ribbons and holly berries. But, they can be as varied as any other type of wreath.

As with a lot of traditions, the wreath creation and use dates back to a time when warding off evil spirits was paramount. The idea of the wreath dates back to the ancient Germanic custom of a wreath made of straw and/or evergreen boughs, tied with colorful ribbons (but mostly red and gold) which would be hung on doors to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the occupants.

So, if you're looking for something to ward off evil spirits, to convey a warm welcome to your guests, or just for a lovely decoration, then wreaths fit the bill.

"Wreaths can hang inside or outside."
"They don't care."
"They just want to be hung, anywhere."

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Oh, Don't Stand Under The Mistletoe!

I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the long lost Christmas celebration traditions, like mistletoe, to see when and where they started. So, let's begin with bells:

Bells - The ringing of bells originated from pagan mid-winter festivities. They believed that the cold, sunless winters made the evil spirits more powerful. One way to drive the evil spirits away was to make a lot of noise. The bells suited this purpose as you could ring a bell while at the same time you were singing or shouting above it. Believe me, if there were evil spirits near me I'd drop the bells and go running for the hills, yelling at the top of my lungs!
Candles - The Christmas Candle is another tradition which evolved from the pagan mid-winter festivities. It was believed that light was also a way to keep evil spirits away. Those evil spirits just won't go away, will they? It was customary in Victorian England to place lighted candles in the windows during the 12 days of Christmas as a sign to weary travelers that food and shelter could be found here. Also, it was a signal that there were no evil spirits there, or so the wanderer thought.

Holly - Holly was considered magical because of its shiny leaves and its ability to bear fruit during the winter. It was believed that in liquid syrup it would stop coughs and that when hung over one's bed would induce sweet dreams. The prickly holly is called "he" (what a surprise) and the non-prickly holly is called "she" (surprise, surprise). Tradition says that the type of holly which is first brought into the house determines who will rule the household for the coming year. My guess would be that A LOT of non-prickly holly is the first to enter the households.

Christmas Pudding - I can't say as if I've ever had Christmas pudding. The tradition surrounding the Christmas pudding originated in the 14th century. It was actually a porridge made by boiling beef and mutton which was combined with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices (sounds delicious, doesn't it?) It was made in large copper kettles and prepared several weeks before Christmas with all of the household members particitpating.

Each member of the household had to take their turn at stirring the stew and making a wish. By the 1600's the addition of eggs and breadcrumbs, ale and spirits (of course), improved its taste significantly. As with other Christmas traditions, Christmas pudding was banned during the Protestant Reformation, but re-established as part of the traditional Christmas feast by King George I. Tradition calls for a silver coin to be placed in the pudding along with a ring, button and thimble. Somewhat dangerous, I would think, especially for small children. It was believed that the finders of these objects in their Christmas pudding would be given the gift of wealth, be married within the year or be doomed to bachelor or spinsterhood.

First Footing - This tradition sounds a lot like Santa Claus coming to me. In any event, in some countries, first-footing takes place at the New Year. In England, it occurs on Christmas Day. The first-footer is the first person to enter the house and, according to tradition, is said to let in Christmas. In some areas, he is a professionally hired First Footer (try putting that on your resume) to make sure that the tradition is carried out properly. He carries an evergreen twig, and comes in through the front door. He then passes through the house and exits through the rear (sounds like a burglar to me.) According to tradition, you may give him salt or bread or some other small gift as a symbol of your hospitality. Boy, at least Santa Clause gets cookies. This poor man gets salt and bread. Also, according to tradition he has dark hair, not red and is always a male. I'm not sure what to say about that!

The Kissing Bough (or the Kissing Ball) - Ah! Now this seems like a nice tradition. Until the introduction of the Christmas tree, the kissing bough was the primary piece of decorative greenery in the English Christmas. It was formed in the shape of a double hoop with streamers going up to a central point and was made up of evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, apples, pears, ribbons and other ornaments along with lighted candles. A sprig of mistletoe was hung from its center (wonder what that's for?) As the name implies, any lady who accidentally (yeah, accidentally, like we'd believe that) wanders under the kissing bough has to pay the price and allows herself to be kissed. That's okay as long as you're kissing a prince. With my luck, I'd probably end up kissing a frog. Maybe he'd turn into a prince.
Wassail - The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon term was hale, which means be well. It means to drink a toast to one's health or to express good will at a festive event. The tradition of wassailing, as with a lot of traditions, started as a pagan agricultural festival. In order to increase the yield of the apple orchards, the pagans believed that the trees needed to be toasted in the winter. So, during the twelve days of Christmas, the pagans would visit selected trees from various orchards which were either sprinkled with the wassail mixture, or had a bottle of wassail broken against their trunk. The wassail mixture consisted of mulled ale, cider or wine with sugar, roasted apples or eggs in it.

The Yule Log - We touched on this briefly in another of my Linda's Blog articles. After Christmas all the branches of the tree are removed and the trunk is saved to be decorated in the spring as a "May Pole." After the May Pole ceremonies are finished the decorations are removed and the trunk is cut into pieces. The largest log is then saved for the following Christmas to become the Yule Log.

The tradition of the Yule log has very deep pagan roots, as well. Surprise! Surprise! It stemmed from the Celtic, Teutons, and Druids burning the logs in their winter ceremonies in celebration of the sun. The selection of the log took on the utmost of importance and was surrounded by a ceremony. According to tradition, the largest end of the log is placed into the hearth while the rest of the tree trunk sticks out into the room. The new log is lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away.

Many superstitions surround the Yule Log. It had to be ignited the first time a flame was put to it or bad luck would surely follow. Also, it had to be lit with a stick saved from the fire from the year before or the house would burn down. And, unless charcoal from the great fire was kept under the family beds for the following year (what fun), the house might be struck by lightning. Burning the log was said to bring good luck in the new year, as well as protection from fire in the home from which it is burned.

Fruitcake - Ah, fruitcakes! Who doesn't love a fruitcake? I for one have never had one. Don't know why. It just never appealed to me to eat something that was over a year old. Plus, I just never really liked the looks of them.

In any event, fruitcakes started with the Romans who needed to find a way to sustain their armies in faraway lands. Lucky Romans! The fruitcake became so popular in Europe that it was a law that fruitcake (also known as plum cake) could only be served on certain holidays and only on the most important milestones (e.g., weddings and funerals). Boy, they must have really loved their fruitcakes!

Prior to the 1700's, crusaders and hunters carried fruitcakes to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home. Nowadays fruitcake is generally associated with Christmas. It has, however, since the 1700's been used in ceremonial celebrations of all kinds throughout Europe, including religious holidays, harvest celebrations, birthdays and weddings.

Traditionally, the top layer of the wedding cake called the "Bride's Cake", was a dark fruitcake that was removed and stored for the bridal couple to savor on their anniversaries. Oh, Boy! Lucky couple! A separate piece of fruitcake from the "Groom's cake" was wrapped in a wedding napkin, tied with a white ribbon and put at each guest's place at the table. Single women would put it under their pillow to dream of a groom of their own (I'm not sure I'd want to sleep with fruitcake under my pillow.)
Most people today feel that fruitcake is best used as a doorstop, as a gift for someone else, or just plain thrown away. I don't even know anyone who has ever baked a fruitcake. Do you?
This tradition can definitely become a long long tradition from which it is never to return.

Mistletoe - We touched on mistletoe a little in the paragraph above under the Kissing Bough. Mistletoe is a plant with white berries and has been used as a decoration in houses for thousands of years. It's also associated with many pagan rituals. Marriage ceremonies always included kissing under mistletoe. For Scandinavians, the goddess of love (Frigga) is strongly associated with mistletoe. The early church viewed this as a pagan ceremony and tried to stamp it out. In spite of this attempt the mistletoe survived as a Yuletide symbol. The practice of kissing under the mistletoe has persisted, even in song. Hey! People just love to kiss!

Poinsettias - Poinsettas were added to Christmas tradition starting in 1828. According to tradition, Joel Roberts Poinsett, then the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, imported the plant from Mexico, which had a Christmas "miracle" story about how the plants leaves became red. The Mexicans in the eighteenth century thought the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem. Thus the Poinsettia became associated with the Christmas season. Personally, I love poinsetta's. I love to put a bunches of different colored small poinsetta plants together in a group and place several groups around the house.

So, now you know where some of these long lost Christmas traditions began. Personally, I think we can all do without the fruitcake, but that's me. Maybe you like your fruitcake. I'll take the Kissing Bough and mistletoe!

"Oh, don't stand under the mistletoe with anyone else but me,"
" anyone else but me! Anyone else but me!"
"Don't stand under the mistletoe with anyone else but me,"
"anyone else but me......."
Come on. Sing along....

Christmas Cards! A Wonderful Tradition!

Christmas Cards are such a wonderful tradition. They allow you to wish your friends and family a happy holiday season. They also provide a way to catch up on what is happening with everyone.

Sadly, however, Christmas Cards are becoming a long lost tradition. People just don't want or have the time anymore to send you a card.

I love Christmas Cards, especially if they contain a handwritten note or handwritten letter. The handwritten note signifies that the person actually stopped to write something to you. In this fast paced, no time for anything world that is important. Some Christmas Cards contain computerized notes informing everyone of what is happening with them and their families. In a computerized world this was bound to happen. This is fine as well.

Why do I love sending and receiving Christmas Cards? Because I love catching up with what is going on whether it's a handwritten note or a computerized letter. I cherish all the Christmas Cards that I have ever received with handwritten notes or computerized letters. For some of my friends this is the only correspondence that we have every year and provides a way for both of us to stay in touch. In fact, I have never thrown a Christmas Card with a handwritten note or computerized letter away. All of them are in my memory books (albeit I'm on Volume #32 now, but...). For someone like me who is getting older my memory books provide a means of looking back and remembering. The Christmas Cards provide the time frame.

I know my family would be astonished by this, too. I have kept every single Birthday card, Valentine's Day card, Anniversary card, Christmas card, etc. that I have ever received from anyone since I was about 7 years old. It's so nice to be able to go back and look at the cards I received and what was said by my beautiful Step-Daughter, Grandmothers, Grandfather, Old Family Friends, and my Father, all of whom are no longer with us. Re-reading them always brings back such warm and cherished memories for me. I know, call me an old softy. I admit it.

Okay, Linda, let's get back on track. Since, we're coming into the Christmas Card giving season I thought it would be a nice idea to take a look at this Christmas tradition for my Linda's Blog. So, where did the tradition of giving Christmas Cards begin?

Well (surprise, surprise), it began in Victorian England in 1843, the same year that Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol." John C. Horsley is actually credited with this, but it was actually at the suggestion of his friend, Sir Henry Cole, that the first Christmas Card was created and published.

It seems that Sir Henry Cole was caught in the mad holiday rush (sound familiar) and was unable to send the traditional written Christmas message to his friends and associates. Instead he sent them an illustrated holiday greeting. The card was divided into three panels and was designed by his friend John C. Horsley. The main illustration showed the three elders at a party raising wine glasses in a toast the side panels showed two Yuletide traditions - feeding the hungry and clothing the needy. The message inside 150 years later is still the most popular greeting of all: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you." Henry Cole's cards caused quite a stir. Back then you could send letters for just a penny each (can you imagine 1 penny!)

In the 1860's greeting card companies began appearing all over England. In 1846 Christmas Cards started in America, but didn't really take off until 1920 when advances in printing technology added to the popularity of Christmas Cards. That's also when the color red started being associated with Christmas.

Christmas Cards started due to a mad rush and sadly, their decline may be due to a lack of time during the mad rush of the holiday season. I sincerely hope not. It is such a wonderful and lovely tradition. Sending warm holiday greetings is such a beautiful way to say "A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You!"

Have a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year.

image -http://www.ccdsvictoriantubeheaven.com/

Christmas Means Presents! Doesn't It?

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." - Dr. Seuss

If you ask any child, "What does Christmas Mean?" they'd probably reply, "Christmas Means Presents!" But, is that really true? Besides the religious significance of Christmas, what does Christmas really mean? Where did all the Christmas traditions come from?

Christmas Day didn't become official until 354 when Pope Gregory proclaimed December 25th as the date of the Nativity. Pope Gregory was following an early church policy of absorbing pagan rituals into Christian beliefs. So, he incorporated the December 19th Roman Saturnalia celebration of the winter solstice and the coming of spring and the winter festival of Yule into the Christian Church. The Roman Saturnalia honored the God of Harvest and had seven days of riotous merrymaking and feasting. The Yule celebration incorporated giant logs, trimmed with greenery & ribbons, which were burnt in honor of the Gods so the sun would shine brightly.

In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church added the Nativity Crib and Christmas Carols to its customs. Lavish feasting was the highlight of the festivities. However, all the celebration came to an abrupt end in 1652 when the Puritans banned Christmas in England, which was followed seven years later in Massachusetts. Christmas returned to England in 1660, but a lot of the traditions didn't return until they were revived by the Victorians. The Victorians turned what was once a riotous free-for-all celebration into a family-oriented celebration. So, we can thank the Victorians for a lot of the Christmas family traditions that we have today. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

So, I thought it would be fun between now and Christmas to post some articles on my Linda's Blog about the various Christmas traditions and where they came from. So, let's start with one of my favorites "The Christmas Tree":

Christmas trees originated in Germany from an ancient pagan custom of bringing evergreens into your home. Evergreens were a symbol of life. It is said that Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546)was the first to use the Christmas Tree as a home decoration in Germany. While on a walk one Christmas Eve he noticed an evergreen tree shining in the moonlight. He couldn't forget this beautiful picture so he cut the tree down and returned home with it an decorated it with candles. He told his children that the tree should remind them of the brightness of Christmas and its message of the Savior's birth.

In Germany and in ancient northern cultures, after the December festivities, the branches of the evergreen were removed and the trunk was decorated on May 1st as a May Pole, celebrating a rebirth of spring. The tree was then cut up and the largest log was used the next December as the "Yule Log."

The Christmas Tree was introduced into England in the in 1841 by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who brought one into his house for his family. The tradition soon spread throughout England and then to America. However, as with a lot of traditions, the use of Christmas trees also caused an uproar. Some thought it was pagan idol. Eventually, it became acceptable to all.

So, it became fashionable to set up a large tree at Christmas and decorate it with lighted candles (far too dangerous today), candies, and fancy cakes hung from the branches by ribbons and paper chains. Just think, the ants and/or rats would have a field day if we did this today. All of the earliest Christmas tree ornaments were handmade.

The kinds of trees the Victorians chose would surprise you. They were not the fat, wonderfully full trees that we think of today. The first trees were small trees that could be placed on tabletops with a lot of room between the branches. Personally, I think this is kind of nice. In fact, I decided this year to forego the big 7' tree in favor of a 4' pre-lit tree that I'm going to place on a small table covered with a tree skirt. Hopefully, I'll like this smaller tradition and will continue it for years to come.

Most of the early Victorian ornaments were homemade. Homemade paper cornucopias filled with sweets, nuts and popcorn hung on many Victorian Christmas trees. Gingerbread men, popcorn strings (you remember those don't you), gilded nuts, paper ornaments, Paper chains (you remember those, too, don't you) and ribbons. Handmade paper toys and dolls hung from the branches.

Glass ornaments made their appearance in the 1860's, primarily in the homes of German immigrants. Other early ornaments were made of lead, like stars and crosses. Around 1870 "store bought" Christmas ornaments began to replace the homemade decorations. From the 1870's to the 1890's Victorian Christmas trees were trimmed with little dolls (my favorites), wax ornaments, shaped like angels or children. Cotton and wool ornaments were also used and decorated with paper faces, buttons, and paper wings.

In the 1890's technology and consumerism greatly contributed to the way in which Christmas trees were decorated. Many families still used handmade ornaments and made it a tradition with their children to make ornaments every year (a lovely tradition which some families still do today.) In 1903 the first strings of electric lights were invented and in the 1960's the artificial Christmas tree came to be.

For me, I prefer the smell of a real Christmas tree and homemade ornaments. However, real trees are far too dangerous (and too much work) and I too succumbed to using an artificial Christmas tree (very nice, but still artificial.) My ornaments, on the other hand, are all handmade. And, guess what? Yes, (this will come as a surprise to most of you) they are mainly dolls or florals. So, enjoy your Christmas tree however you decorate it and remember the words of these famous quotes:

"I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects." - Charles Dickens

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall." Larry Wilde

Animated Tree Graphics by Victoriana.com, The Victorian Era Online

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shop Till You Drop!

Tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year. The day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Plus, Monday is the biggest shopping day of the year for internet sales. Given that,I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the Victorian rules of etiquette for shopping to see if they could be applied to today.

According to the Logicmgmt.com website Victorian Shopping Etiquette is as follows:

1) In visiting a store for the purpose of examining the goods or making purchases, conduct yourself with courtesy and amiability. That's always a good idea. Not always practical. Especially when there only 5 of the latest toy and 100 parents waiting in line for hours.

2) Never look over goods without any intention of buying them. Are you kidding? That's the only way to tell if there's an imperfection.

3) Speak to the clerks and employees of the store with courtesy and kindness. Do not order them to show you anything. Request them to do so in a polite manner. In leaving their counter, say pleasantly "Good morning" or "Good Day". It's always a good idea to have manners and treat others with respect. However, if the store clerk is not paying attention to their job or is yacking on the phone with a friend you have the right to speak up.

4) Never take a costly piece of goods -- nor any piece -- into a better light without first asking the clerk's permission to do so. This rule has been changed to "IF YOU BREAK IT-IT'S YOURS!"

5) Should you find another person examining a piece of goods, do not take hold of it. Wait until it is laid down, and then make your examination. This rule definitely was written before they started having the mad rush of bridal gowns on sale at "Filene's" or the last minute rush at Christmas by the parents trying to get their child the "IT" toy of the season.

6) To attempt to "beat down" the price of an article is rude. In the best conducted stores the price of the goods is "fixed", and the salesmen are not allowed to change it. If the price does not suit you, you are not obliged to buy, but can go elsewhere. Didn't the Victorians barter? I bet car salesmen would love to have this rule nowadays.

7) Pushing or crowding at a counter, or the indulgence in personal remarks, handling the goods in a careless manner, or so roughly as to injure them, lounging upon the counter, or talking in a loud voice, are marks of bad breeding. What? The Victorians never experienced the mad rush of last minute shoppers. That's part of the fun.

8) Never let the door of a shop slam in the face of any person, nor permit a stranger to hold it open without any acknowledgement of courtesy. That's just plain rude, but I've seen it happen.

9) Never express your opinion about an article another is purchasing, unless asked to do so. If an item is defective and you know it, then I would think someone would appreciate knowing it. However, don't be surprised if you hear "Who asked you?"

10) You should never ask or expect a clerk waiting upon a customer to leave that person and attend to you. Wait patiently for your turn. A universal rule of shopping that some people do ignore. When they do look out. Talk about "road rage." That's nothing compared to "shopping rage!"

11) It is rude to make unfavorable comparisons between the goods you are examining, and those of another store. Doesn't apply to today. Nowadays with stores all matching their competitors lowest price you'd be a fool not to speak up.

12) Have your parcels sent and so avoid the fatigue of carrying them. Ah, there was a time when stores did this for you. Not anymore. Here's where a foldable shopping carts comes in handy.

I think they forgot a rule. Rule #13) Always let you personal shopper do the walking. You've got better things to do. If you don't have a personal shopper then go on to Rule #14) Always do your shopping in your jammies. Let your fingers do the walking over your keyboard and let the internet be your guide. Personally, the latter is the best wait to shop.

If you decide to venture out into the wide, mad rush of holiday shoppers please BE SAFE! Happy shopping to all. And, remember the most important rule of shopping is - SHOP TIL YOU DROP!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Thursday when we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner we will give thanks for all we have, remembrances of our dear and departed loved ones, and prayers of good health for our families and friends. There are so many ways to says thanks and express gratitude for all we have. Below are a few famous Thanksgiving quotes:

Theodore Roosevelt said: "Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."—1901

John Fitzgerald Kennedy said: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Johannes A. Gaertner said: "To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."

And for my Father in rememberance of his Father and my Grandfather, John, who came from Estonia, an Estonian proverb: Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble! Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

Boy, time really does fly when you're having fun. It's almost November 24Th, 2005 - Thanksgiving Day. Soon, gobble, gobble, gobble day will be upon us and we'll all be feasting until are stomachs are bulging (at least some of us will). I think we should call it calories, gobble, gobble day! Don't you?

Thanksgiving Day is a huge holiday in the United States. Families and friends get together. We have football games, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. And, the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season (black Friday) which is, generally, the busiest shopping day of the year. We've been celebrating gobble, gobble, gobble day for a long time. We've been eating and shopping, then eating, eating and eating. And,finally, gaining weight. So, why do we do this?

Well, we seem to think Thanksgiving was a day of observance for the Pilgrims. A day for them and us to give thanks for all we have and all we enjoy. But, the Pilgrims never held customary Thanksgiving Days in the fall. In fact, the Pilgrims only had one feast in 1621, after their very first harvest and this was NEVER repeated. The pilgrims were deeply religious people. A day of thanksgiving to them was a day for prayers and fasting.

However, when we think of Thanksgiving we think of the one Harvest Feast that the Pilgrims did have with 90 people, including their Indian friends. The Pilgrims had landed December 11, 1620 and lost many of their group during the cold, harsh winter. Their first harvest in the fall was bountiful so they celebrated the harvest with the Indians who had helped them survive. The feast lasted three days.

How did it turn into a national tradition? That didn't happen until 169 years later when George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. As is usually the case, some people wanted it, some (like Thomas Jefferson) did not. So, between 1789 and 1863 Thanksgiving was dependent upon whether the President proclaimed it as a National Day or not.

During the Civil War Sarah Hale, a magazine editor, urged President Abraham Lincoln to reinstate Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a National Day of Thanksgiving. It was still dependent upon the President, however, to proclaim the day as a National Day every year. Every President since Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as the 4Th Thursday in November.

Seventy-six years later in 1939 Franklin Roosevelt, however, proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the 3rd Thursday in November to lengthen the holiday shopping season. He did this in 1940 and 1941, too. Doing so, however, upset many people. So, we have President Roosevelt to thank for linking SHOPPING to Thanksgiving.

It wasn't until 1941 that congress declared Thanksgiving as a National Holiday. However, they changed it back to the 4Th Thursday in November. Why the 4Th? Who knows. Political pandering, probably. Payback for something? Who knows. We're talking about politicians here.

In any event, Thanksgiving has remained the 4Th Thursday in November and is inexplicably linked with shopping, parades, football games, feasting(and gorging, perhaps), Pepto Bismol (definitely after the gorging), and the winter dieting frenzy. After all when you eat, shop, eat, eat, and eat you're going to gain weight.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all. When you sit down on the 4Th Thursday of November just remember these words "Gobble, gobble, gobble. Oh, how we love to Gobble. Eat, eat, and eat! Oh, what a wonderful treat! Gobble, gobble, gobble. Oh, how we love to eat! Diet, diet, diet! Oh, NO I will NOT try it!"

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Snow, Snow! Go Away! Don't Return Another Day!

It's hard to believe that we are already at the time of year when it will be snowing once again. In fact, it has already snowed an inch here and they are predicting snow for Thanksgiving Day. The good news is that it will melt quickly. The bad news is we're just at the start of the season. Oh, joy!

Something has happened to me over the years. Aging has definitely changed my attitude towards snow. When I was a kid I LOVED the snow, mainly because it meant no school. I loved playing in it, making snow angels all over the lawn, building forts at the end of our driveway, making snowmen, throwing snowballs, etc. To me there was always something magical and mystical about snowflakes and snow.

Of course, snow also meant shoveling the driveway, which I hated. It wasn't the act of shoveling that bothered me. It was the fact that I had to help my brother shovel the driveway when his chores were outside and mine were inside the house. This was a long time ago when women had household chores inside the house and the men had household chores outside the house. My brother didn't help me with the laundry, dusting, washing the dishes, etc. Why did I have to help him shovel, rake the leaves, mow the lawn, etc.?

When I questioned this , my Mother would say, "Just help your brother!" I'd reply, "Aw, MA!!!" She'd look at me with one of those Mother looks (you know what I mean) and say, "Linda, just do it!" So, being the dutiful daughter that I was, I did it. However, just because I did it, it didn't mean I liked it or agreed with it.

I'm always getting side tracked, aren't I? In any event, back to the aging! I think that as you get older, and older, and older (like me) you prefer looking at pictures of snow in a magazine, not at snowflakes falling on your lawn, or on your driveway. An accumulation of 189" of snowflakes in a winters season can change ones childhood view of snowflakes being magical and mystical. With age snow becomes much more of a nuisance. It's hard to walk in, hard to drive in, and, most certainly, a pain to shovel. Isn't aging grand? To quote Doug Larson, "The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball."

But, it's not just what I have to do with the snow, it's even annoying with regards to my wonderful dog. Don't get me wrong. He just loves the snow. In fact his middle name is "Snow Doggie!" He just loves to run and jump in it. He could stay out for hours. It's baffling that he just loves the snow, for he HATES the rain with a passion. That is truly mystifying because in both instances he gets wet. What's the difference between being wet with snow and wet with rain?Must be a doggie thing!

In any event, the problem with the snow is that after he's had all his fun he comes back in the house with snowballs all frozen and caught in his fur. The snowballs get all over the floor and the furniture. Ah, man! You have to drag out the "doggie blow-dryer" (of course he has his own blow dryer!) to melt the snowballs and dry his fur (which, of course, he just LOVES!!!) And, all the time all you can think about is "Snow, snow! Go away! Don't return another day!"

So, given that aging has dampered my childhood love of snow, you might wonder how can I possibly love snowmen and snowladies as much as I do? Why would you want to design a doll based on something that, in it's natural state, is so annoying to me? Well, possibly because snowmen and snowladies are dolls (which we all know I love) and as dolls they don't make a mess. They can't melt all over your floor. You don't have to shovel them and throw your back out. They just sit there very lovely, allowing you to enjoy them, and to recall your wonderful childhood memories of mystical snowflakes and magical snowmen, snow angels, and snow castles.

So, like most crafters I just adore making snowmen and snowladies. Why? Because you can do so much with them. They can be Victorian, primitive, modern, grungy, raggedy, shabby chic, etc. They can be made of cloth, Styrofoam, Warm & Natural, felt, wool, terry cloth, cotton, corduroy, wood, clay, terra cotta, etc. Just about anything. They can be happy. They can be sad. They can be partially melting or three levels full. They can be skinny or fat. Large or small. Ornaments or full size dolls. They can be added to wreaths or hung from garland. The possibilities are endless. How could you not love them so?

If you've never made a snowman, you should. They're so enjoyable to make and such a pleasure to display. You can display just one or a whole bunch together, or various clusters all around the house. Just let you imagination be your guide. Display them inside, all around, or upside down. Put then on your door, on your walls, on your shelves. Put them inside, put them outside, put them anywhere. Make them, decorate them, and then relax and enjoy them. For to be sure. In a few short weeks they may be watching you as you bend your knees, lift and throw (there goes my back!) all that snow. SNOW, SNOW! GO AWAY! DON'T RETURN ANOTHER DAY!

Here's a few "snowman" riddles for you:

Q. What is a snowman's favorite lunch?
A. An Iceberger!

Q. What does a snowman take when he's sick?
A. A Chill Pill!

Q. What kind of hat does a snowman wear?
A. An Ice Cap!

Q. What do you call a snow party?
A. A Snow Ball!

And the best snowman riddle:

Q. What happened when the snowlady got angry at the snowman?
A. She gave him the cold shoulder!

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Hey, Mom, Fix My Toy! Woof! Woof!

Don't you just love this picture. I do. It reminds me of the countless times I had to mend my doll and/or their clothes. This picture was part of the Vintage Workshop package of FREE Holiday Art Download made available to subscribers of Country Marketplace magazine in their October 2005 issue.

It also reminds me of what I'm doing today which is fixing an electronic plush doll that my dog has broken. My guy doesn't like plain old plush toys. Nope. Not him. His have to be electronic toys. The kind that say something, move, vibrate, sing, or dance. You know, the kind of toy you might buy for your children to play with.

You see, he thinks he's human. I actually have to go to the toy store to buy electronic toys for him. Usually the clerk will say "Oh, who's having a birthday." I respond "They're for my dog!" They, of course, look at me like I'm crazy.

So, I take the toys home and he bites at them until he bites thru the little wire that is connected to the area on their arm or leg that you press to turn them on. Then he brings them over to me and dumps them in my lap. He looks up at me with his little eyes as if to say "Hey, Mom, fix em! He won't work!" Then I have to cut them open and fix them for him.

He sits patiently next to my sewing chair until I do. Then he's off to the races, barking and biting at the toy until he breaks it again. Oh, well. He loves his electronic toys. Woof! Woof! "Hey, Mom, fix my toy! He won't work!" Kids! Make that dogs!

I Am All That and More!

When I think of a "Lady" either I picture someone like Audrey Hepburns' character in "My Fair Lady" or I picture a Victorian woman like the picture to the left. Someone refined and dignified. Someone who has good manners and who also just happens to be wearing a beautiful Victorian dress. I always seem to get back to the Victorian dresses, don't I? Must be an obsession. Yah think? In my mind, a "Lady" is the ultimate perfect female. But, is she really?

So, let's take a good look at what constitutes a "Lady." According to the American Heritage Dictionary a "Lady" is a woman having the refined habits, gentle manners, and sense of responsibility often associated with breeding, culture, and high station; the feminine equivalent of a gentleman.

Hmmm! That definition is too narrow minded and socially conscious. Not exactly the definition I had in mind. So, maybe we should take a look at the qualities of a "Lady" in her home and on the street as defined by the dictionary, Victorianstation.com and others:

1) A Lady should be quiet in her manners. Okay, easy enough. But, not to the point of being invisible.

2) A Lady should speak in a gentle tone of voice. Even when scolding your children? Hmmm! Or someone who is picking on someone else. Hmmm!

3) A Lady should be careful to wound no ones feelings. This is not always possible.

4) A Lady should give generously and freely from the treasures of her pure mind to her friends. Generously and freely, yes. Purely! I don't know about that.

5) A Lady should scorn no one openly. Sometimes this is exactly what is required.

6) A Lady should should feel gentle pity for the unfortunate, the inferior and the ignorant. A "Lady" should do everything she can to help others in need, but NOT to judge anyone as inferior or ignorant. That would be placing herself above others and smacks of a "caste" system.

7) A Lady should carry herself with an innocence and single heartiness which disarms ill nature, and wins respect and love from all. Couldn't agree more.

8) A true Lady walks the street, wrapped in a mantle of proper reserve, so impenetrable that insult and coarse familiarity shrink from her. Some would confuse this with being a snob and looking down one's nose at others.

9) A true Lady carries with her a congenial atmosphere which attracts all, and puts all at their ease. I think everyone should act this way, not just a "Lady."

10) A Lady walks quietly through the streets, seeing and hearing nothing that she ought not to. Not a good idea to walk through the city streets with blindfolds on. You need to be aware of everything that is going on around you. Also, who determines what a "Lady" should or should not see? Doesn't she have a mind of her own?

11) A Lady walks through the streets recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow, and friends with words of greeting. Manners are always a good thing.

12) A Lady is always unobtrusive, never talks loudly, or laughs boisterously, or does anything to attract the attention of the passers-by. Don't draw attention to yourself. Come on? Is she never supposed to have a good laugh?

13) A Lady walks along in her own quiet, lady-like way, and by her preoccupation is secure from any annoyance. What do you want her to do scurry along the street like a mouse? Don't be noticed and definitely don't mingle with the "common" folk. They might annoy you.

14) A true lady in the street, as in the parlor is modest, discreet, kind and obliging. This rule was definitely made up by a "man" or should I say "Gentleman."

15) A Lady never speaks or acts in anger. Sometimes this can't be helped. Generally, it's not a good idea to speak or act when angry whether you're a male or a female.

16) A Lady learns to govern herself and to be gentle and patient. Self control, self discipline, and patience are good qualities.

17) A true Lady always remembers that, valuable as the gift of speech is, silence is often more valuable. A truly intelligent person knows this, not just a "Lady."

18) A true Lady does not neglect the little things as they can affect the comfort of others. We should always think of others first.

19) A true Lady learns to deny herself and prefers others. Not sure I agree.

Well, now we know what a true "Lady" is. Not exactly my idea of the ultimate female. I think the definition and qualities of a "Lady" if she is to be the ultimate female needs to be redefined to fit the modern woman of today.

I think a true "Lady" should be defined as someone who is confident in herself and her capabilities. Someone who has goals and aspirations and isn't afraid to pursue them. Someone who isn't afraid to speak her mind and reprimand someone when that is what is required. Someone who can lead and command respect. Someone who is loyal to her family and friends. Someone who inspires others to always strive for the best in themselves in in others. Someone who has the courage of her convictions. Someone who can use her authority when it is required. Someone who can caress and comfort anyone who is in distress. Someone who can laugh with children and lose herself in their imagination once in awhile. Someone who isn't afraid to get her hands "dirty." Someone with skills who is willing to try anything, at least once. Someone who loves and respects others and wants nothing but the best for them. Someone who tries to see the good in others. Someone who will try her best to help others succeed. Someone who will accept others with all their faults and love them just the same. Someone who always tries to put her best foot forward, but isn't afraid to fail. Someone who can see the beauty in life. Someone who doesn't judge others by their pocketbook or social standing. Someone who can stand tall and be dignified at the same time. Someone who allows herself to be "human." Someone who doesn't define herself by her gender and doesn't allow others to do so either. A "Lady" is someone who is proud to say "I am all that and more." Bring the Victorian dress on!!"

images http://www.ccdsvictoriantubeheaven.com/

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Grandma, Will You Read Me A Story?

Don't you just love this quote from Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you'll go.
~ Dr. Seuss ~

A verse so simple yet so very true. Children learn to read from their parents or as Emilie Buchwald said in 1994, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." So, it is vitally important for parents to read to their children from infancy. The more children read, the better they become at reading. And, the more young children are read to, the greater their interest in reading. Reading out loud to children helps them with their verbal skills, enhances their development and teaches them how to express themselves verbally.

Other people have also stated this so eloquently:

Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books -- they
are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past.(1940)
~ Esther Meynell ~

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. (1952)
~ Mary Ellen Chase ~

It is not enough to simply teach children to read;
we have to give them something worth reading.
Something that will stretch their imaginations-
something that will help them make sense of their own
lives and encourage them to reach out toward people
whose lives are quite different from their own.
~ Katherine Paterson ~

If you've been a reader of my Linda's Blog you know that I've had a long term love affair with dolls, doll patterns, the Victorian era, floral design, and genealogy. You also know that I love research and history. What you don't know until now is that I have always LOVED books and reading, too. As far as I'm concerned you can never have enough dolls and you can never have enough books.

My house is filled with them. Books of all kinds. My love affair with books began very early on. My Mother is an avid reader, my Father was an avid reader, my Grandmother and Great-Aunt were avid readers, and so it was passed down to my siblings and I.

I can remember sitting in my Grandmother's rocking chair (which I still have) and having her read me a story. Sometimes we would sit there while she was watching her soap opera's and then she would read me my story. I never minded just sitting there with her. I always knew there would be a story. And, I always felt safe in her arms.

Now, when I read I think about sitting with my Grandmother or listening to my Mom and Dad talk about their love of reading and it brings back warm and pleasant feelings for me.

Reading is such an escape. You can literally get lost in a book. The book for a brief moment becomes your life and you can imagine that you're experiencing it. There is nothing more powerful then your imagination. Even the most spectacular movie with all its wonderful special effects and cinematography cannot compare to what you own imagination can create. There are no limits, no boundaries to your imagination when you are reading. Reading can take you anywhere. If you know how to read you can do anything because there isn't anything you can't do if you put your mind to it.

I am a firm believer in books and reading as a way of teaching children. And it must be taught at a very young age, on the laps of our parents, as the graphic above nicely conveys. As Mccosh quoted, "The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think."

In fact, my Grandchildren can attest to the fact that every Christmas or Birthday they know what at least one of their presents will be from their Grandmother: books. To me, that is one of the best presents I could give them. By giving them books all the time, I hope somehow I'm conveying a love of reading to them. Reinforcing the value of reading time and time again. Making them think. Hopefully, by developing good reading skills they learn how to think for themselves.

For I firmly believe in the following quote:

To read is to empower
To empower is to write
To write is to influence
To Influence is to change
To change is to live.
~ Jane Evershed ~
More than a Tea Party

In fact, I was watching a show on one of the cable channels about the greatest invention mankind has ever seen. They counted down through hundreds of inventions until they got to #1. Do you know what it was? The greatest invention mankind has ever seen was the invention of the printing press. Why, because it opened the whole world up to everyone and mankind was never the same again.

So, grab a book. Take it to a quiet place and get lost in your own imagination. And the next time your Grandchildren come to visit spend the weekend reading to them, not watching T.V. or playing video games. Just reading from books. Your Grandchildren may surprise you and love it. And, you will open up a magical world to them from which they will never return.

I did it!
Come and look
At what I've done!
I read a book!
When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I'd take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?
I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!
I'm sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I've ever read!
~ David L. Harrison ~
(from Somebody Catch My Homework)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Let's Play Dress-Up!

"What do you want to do?" "I don't know. What do you want to do?" "Hey, I know. Let's play dress-up." "Yeah! Let's play dress-up." "I'll be mommy." "No, I want to be mommy." "Mom, Linda won't let me be you." "Linda, let your sister be me."

I can remember playing "dress-up" as a child. Can't you? What girl hasn't played "dress-up" once in her life? It's one of the most delightful escapes that "little girls" can have.

I loved putting on my Mother's clothes and imagining that I was her. Playing dress-up for a day. Every little girl does it. Whether you imagine being your Mother, or a famous movie star, or someone else. It doesn't matter. What matters is the delightful childhood fantasy. The pure enjoyment of living in your imagination for the briefest of times. Playing dress-up. Make believe. Making yourself into a beautiful doll.

Is it any wonder then that I love and design dolls for. Designing is the ultimate "dress-up" as the dolls can be anything I want them to be. Frilly, frumpy, beautiful, ugly, Victorian, and modern. Classy, regal, elegant, refined. Anything at all. I can play "dress-up" any time I want. I guess you could say that I just never grew up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ghosts, Goblins, and Witches, Oh My!

Well there's only 20 days to go until Halloween, or what's formerly known as "All Hallows Eve." Halloween has also become a favorite of doll makers and crafters because there are so many different types of dolls, doll patterns and crafts that you can make for this one holiday. Ghosts, goblins, and witches. Oh my! Frankensteins, Dracula, and vampires. Oh,my! Bats, pumpkins, and skulls. Oh my! Skeletons, monsters, and witches brew. Oh,my! Candy corn, costumes, and haunted houses. Oh my! What a wondrous holiday for crafting.

But, where did this and why did this all start? The answer lies in the true origins of Halloween and the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. November 1st for the Celts marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. So the night before the new year the Celts celebrated the Festival of Samhain, who was the Lord of the Dead. The Celts believed that during this festival the souls of the dead (including ghosts, goblins, and witches, oh my!) returned to mingle with the living.

In the Druidic, religion of the ancient Celts, the Druids would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops, animals and sometimes humans, as they danced around the fires. The season of the sun would pass and the season of darkness would begin, oh my! On the morning of November 1st, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take it home to start a new cooking fire. The fires were intended to keep the homes warm and free of evil spirits such as banshees, oh my! It was believed that at this time of the year invisible "gates" would open between the real world and the spirit world, oh my! Movement between both worlds was possible, oh my!

In order to scare away the evil spirits the Celts would wear masks and the children would wear costumes. Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils, oh my! Why? In 19Th century Scotland and Ireland the reason the children wore such fearsome costumes was the belief that since the spirits of the dead were intent on doing harm that night, the best way to avoid this was to fool the dead spirits into thinking you were one of them. Monsters, vampires, and skeletons, oh my!

So, we know the reason for the costumes. Why carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns? Scary faces on pumpkins to boot, oh my! Why do we put candles in them and set them on the porch, oh my? This tradition is also derived from ancient celebrations and actually began with a turnip. The Celts would hollow out the turnips and place lighted candles inside to scare off the evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, they discovered that the pumpkin was a much larger substitute for the turnip. If it's larger, it's scarier. If it's scarier it will ward off evil spirits.

But, why are they called jack-o-lanterns? It all started with an Irishman (of course) named Jack who was forced to roam the earth with just a burning coal inside his pumpkin to light the way for him. He had to roam the earth forever because he had never performed a single selfless act his whole life, oh my!

But, why the door-to-door trick-or-treating you ask? Once, again we go back to Ireland where there was a custom of farmers going door-to-door to collect food and materials for the Festival of Samhain and the bonfire. Those who gave were promised prosperity; those who didn't received bad luck, oh my! When the Irish immigrants came to America the door-to-door trick-or-treating came with them and thus the traditions began.

So, once again crafters and doll makers have tradition and folklore to credit for a slew of wondrous crafts and dolls to make for Halloween, oh my! It's one of my favorite times of the year and I have made many, many of all these different figures over the years and have designed several witches, ghosts, and Frankenstein's.

So, enjoy the trick-or-treating, but don't forget that evil spirits are roaming about on "All Hallows Eve." You might see ghosts, goblins, and witches. Oh my! Frankensteins, Dracula, and vampires. Oh my! Bats, pumpkins, and skulls. Oh my! Skeletons, monsters, and witches brew. Oh my! Candy corn, costumes, and haunted houses. Oh my! What a wondrous day to be alive!

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Teddy Bear As A Scarecrow!

You can't be a doll designer or doll pattern designer and not have one, two, three, four or more scarecrow dolls. They can be primitive, classic, scary, well-dressed, tattered, large or small bodied, cheerful, scary, etc. It doesn't matter. They're a staple of every crafter. Why is that? Why are we so enthralled with them? I'm not sure, but I'd like to find out.

That got to me thinking about scarecrows and their history. Oh, boy! Another research project. For all my blog readers you know how I HATE research projects!

The definition of a scarecrow is 1) an object for scaring birds away (i.e. an object in the shape of a person dressed in old clothes, set up in a field to scare birds away), 2) a poorly dressed person (i.e. somebody who wears ragged clothes) , and 3) something frightening, but not dangerous.

They say that farmers have been making scarecrows for more than 3,000 years with the earliest know written fact being written in 1592. In the 1700's the farmers in the American colonies needed more and more grain. The farmers decided that neither they nor the scarecrows were sufficiently protecting the crops so the towns started to offer bounties for dead crows. Well, things went too far (which is what usually happens) and so many crows were killed that in the 1800's the colonies had a severe problem with an over population of worms and insects that had previously been eaten by the crows. The worms and insects were destroying more crops than the crows had (that figures). So the farmers took to making scarecrows again.

While they have traditionally been known as scarecrows they have had several names and have taken on several forms. In Pennsylvania the German farmers built human looking scarecrows called "bootzamon" or bogeyman. The "Bootzamon's" body was a wooden cross and his head was a broom, mop top, or piece of cloth stuffed with straw. He usually wore old overalls, shirt, straw hat, and red handkerchief around his neck. Sometimes more than one was built (everybody needs a little company, even scarecrows). The German farmers even had a "bootzafrau" or bogeywife. After all, every scarecrow needs a partner, don't they? The "bootzafrau" was usually dressed in a long dress or coat, wearing a hat or sunbonnet, and was placed in the opposite end of the field. So, you had a "bootzamon" on one end and a "bootzafrau" on the other end. Wonder which one really wore the pants in that family!

During the Middle Ages the German farmers made wooden witches and put them in the fields at the end of the winter. They believed that the witches would draw the evil spirit of winter into their bodies (which is why they were so ugly) so spring would come.

In Egypt, scarecrows were used to protect the fields along the Nile River from quail. The farmers would put wooden frames up with nets and would hide in the fields to scare the quail in to the nets. Once captured they, of course, would take them home and eat them.

They say that in Greece 2,500 years ago that wooden scarecrows were made to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite. According to legend Priapus lived with vineyard keepers and was very ugly. When he played in the fields he was so ugly the birds were frightened away. Maybe it's me, but if Priapus was the son of Aphrodite (wasn't she the goddess of love and beauty) I would think the crows would have flocked to him.

Japanese farmers hung old rags, meat, fish bones, etc. from bamboo poles in their rice fields. They named their scarecrows "kakashis" which means smells badly because they would set the sticks on fire and the smell was so bad that it drove the birds away. Of course, it probably drove the neighbors away, but that's a different story.

In Medieval Britain the scarecrows known as "bird shooers" were live boys 9 years old or older. I bet you're thinking I'm going to tell you that they were tied to the wooden crosses and hung in the fields. The young boys patrolled the fields carrying bags of stones which they would throw at the birds to chase them away. After the Great Plague in 1348, when approximately half the population was killed, the farmers started to stuff sacks with straw and hung these in the fields as there were not enough little boys around to scare the birds away. They would stuff the sacks with straw and make carved heads out of gourds.

Most of the Native American Indian scarecrows were adult men. They would sit on raised platforms and would howl and shout at the crows if they came near the corn. Creek Indian families actually moved into huts within the corn fields during the growing season to protect the crops from birds and other prey. In New York, the Seneca Indians soaked their corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that would make the crows fly around like crazy and scare the other birds away. It's been reported that one of the scarecrows used by the Navajo took the form of a teddy bear, which was hung from the top of a pole. That's a new one for me. A teddy bear as a scarecrow. You'd think the crows would want to cuddle the bear not fly away from it. Could be a new doll line. Hmmm.

In any event, the scarecrow has clearly been around a very long time and clearly has taken many forms. Whether you believe in the tradition or not scarecrows are loved by artists, crafters, writers, and children the world over. For doll designers and crafters we just can't have enough of them. I know, I can't.

For crafters it really doesn't matter whether you are a crafter of primitive crafts, Victorian crafts, country crafts, etc. No matter what type of crafter or designer you are we all still have one thing in common: we are all still in love with scarecrows. I know I am and I suspect you are as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

How Can I Be A Feminist Victorian???

I have to wonder sometimes why I have such a fascination or passion for the fashions of the Victorian Era when I am clearly a feminist (the ultimate feminist according to my son-in-law).

My inner self seems to be fighting with itself. Women's rights versus love of a time when women had, basically, no rights, but, wore the most beautiful dresses.

So, I thought that maybe I should investigate this further. What is it that draws me to the era when it is so contrary to my basic beliefs.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary feminism is "a doctrine that advocates or demands for women the same rights granted to men, as in political or economic status."

Feminists clearly believe in this, so therefore I clearly am a feminist (and PROUD of it to boot). In fact, make that VERY PROUD.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a Victorian is defined as "Pertaining or belonging to the period of Queen Victoria's reign. Exhibiting qualities usually associated with the time of Queen Victoria, as moral severity or hypocrisy, middle-class stuffiness, and pompous conservationism. A person belonging to or exhibiting characteristics typical of the period of Queen Victoria."

Clearly, I am not Victorian.

Clearly, their attitudes towards women and society is for the BIRDS (maybe they don't even want to be associated with it).

Yet, I am drawn to their fashions. Drawn to their style. Why?

Why do I love to make Victorian dolls when I clearly am not Victorian? I am as perplexed as you are.

Perhaps, I should explore this further and delve a little more into the rights of women during the Victorian Era.

Maybe if I get so disgusted with their lack of rights I'll stop loving the Victorian Era and Victorian Fashion.

Maybe, I'll stop designing Victorian dolls? Maybe, I'll stop designing dolls all together. Maybe, I'll stop loving dolls. Maybe, I'll stop loving history and genealogy.

Maybe, I'll turn into a Victorian and start to believe their treatment of women was right. Yeah! Right!

In your dreams Queen Victoria!

You've Got To Be Kidding!

If you're been reading my Linda's Blog for awhile then you know I love history, research, and that I'm a big advocate for women's rights. You also know that I love the Victorian period and love to design Victorian dolls.

So, I decided to do a little research on Women's Rights (or I should say lack of women's rights) in the Victorian Era and my fascination for that period. I quickly came to the conclusion that while I love the fashions of the Victorian period, I clearly could never have been a Victorian woman and here's why.

The following excerpts were taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "The Victorian Era (1837 to 1901) symbolized by the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria was a very difficult period for women, because of the vision of the "ideal women" shared by most in the society."

"The legal rights of married women were similar to those of children. They could not vote or sue or even own property. Also, they were seen as pure and clean. Because of this view, their bodies were seen as temples which should not be adorned with makeup nor should they be used for such pleasurable things as sex. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house. They could not hold jobs unless they were those of a teacher nor were they allowed to have their own checking accounts or savings accounts. In the end, they were to be treated as saints, but saints that had no legal rights. "

Does this sound like "women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen" or what? I can't see a modern day woman wanting to tolerate that. No voting, no suing, no property. Must remain pure and clean in body and soul. I don't think so.

"In the Victorian Era the law regarded a married couple as one person. The husband was responsible for his wife and bound by law to protect her. She was supposed to obey him and he had the right to enforce this. The personal property the wife brought into the marriage was then owned by the husband, even in case of a divorce. The income of the wife belonged completely to her husband and the custody of children belonged to the father as well. He was able to refuse any contact between the mother and her children. The wife was not able to conclude a contract on her own. She needed her husband’s agreement. In addition, the married woman could not be punished for certain offences, such as theft or burglary if she acted under the command of her husband. It was impossible to charge the wife for concealing her husband and for stealing from her husband as they were one person in law. "

I can't possibly imagine that any female in her right mind would think that this made sense. Is it any wonder that they wrote "obey" out of the marriage vows of today? Personal property of the wife became the husband's. Can you imagine a husband saying to his wife "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too." And, the wife saying, "Yes, of course, dear!"

During this time women had no legal say in how many children they would have nor would they get custody of children if the marriage ended in divorce. You have to say to yourself, "Were they out of their minds!" No say in how many children you're going to have? I just shake my head.

"A very special connection existed between women and their brothers. Sisters had to treat their brothers as they would treat their future husbands. They were dependent on their male family members as the brother’s affection might secure their future in case their husband treated them badly or they did not get married at all. "

The Victorian men had the Victorian women trapped. If you didn't get married, basically, your brother owned you. If you did get married then your husband owned you.

At that time educated women working in academic jobs were considered abnormal and monstrous. ABNORMAL and MONSTROUS! I bet all the women professors of today would just love to hear this. The only jobs open to women were governess, servant, teacher at boarding school, nurse or author.

"The attitude towards women and education was that education of women needn't be the same as that of men. Women were supposed to know the things necessary to bring up their children and to keep house. That’s why subjects as history, geography and general literature were of extreme importance, whereas Latin and Greek were of little importance. Woman who wanted to study something like law, physics, engineering, science or art were satirized and dismissed. People thought that it was unnecessary for women to go to a university. It was even said that studying was against their nature and that it could make them ill. They should stay more or less an “Ornament of Society” and be subordinate to their husbands. Obedience was the only requirement. "

Studying was against their nature and could make them ill. I MUST be very sick then. Ornament of society - NEVER. No wonder the women revolted. No wonder the feminist movement was born out of this period?

But, best of all Victorian women had to be SUBORDINATE to their husbands. All I can say to that is, "You've got to be kidding! My husband would hate that."