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December 1, 2008 06:58 - December Highland Games

The pickings for events are really slim for December.

  • December 4 to 6, Scottish Christmas Walk ~ Alexandria, Virginia
  • December 6, Garland, Texas ~ Celtic Christmas
  • December 6, Daylesford Highland Gathering ~ Daylesford, Victoria, Australia
  • December 6 to 7, Port Adelaide, South Australia ~ Celtica Festival
  • December 13 to 14, Ingleside, Texas ~ Enchanted Forest Renaissance Faire
  • December 18 to 22, Arcadia, Punta Gorda, Orlando, and The Villages, Florida ~ 9th Annual Christmas With the Celts Concert Series

The Rotonda Elks in Port Charlotte, Florida has had a Gaelic & Celtic Christmas Festival. I've found no information for this years festival. The contact information is gregmcgrath@embarqmail.com or phone 941-625-8544

For more detailed information about the listed events, go to

Coming tomorrow, a continuation of Beatrix Potter and friggle-fraggles for her little friends…

December 2, 2008 07:01 - Beatrix Potter Friggle-Fraggles

Going back to Beatrix in Scotland, the city of Birnam has a Beatrix Potter Garden, which combines bronze sculptures of her famous characters in a nicely landscaped garden.

More information about the gardens can be found at The Beatrix Potter Society. Other listings of place to go include

  • Birnham Institute which sits next to the gardens and houses an exhibition about Beatrix.
  • In Ambleside, Cumbria, they feature Hill Top Farm which was her primary home and the Armitt Library, which houses her botany illustrations. Both are available to the public.

EHow also finds Beatrix Potter and her furry friends a source of articles.

  • How to Create a Beatrix Potter Garden. Basically it's a kitchen garden that mixes herbs and vegetables, with a blackberry hedge across the back.

    The suggested mix is carrots, lettuce, parsley, rosemary, lavender, thyme, French beans, radishes, potatoes, and chamomile.

  • Just for fun, while you're on EHow, there's also an article on a Beatrix Potter Birthday Party. Sounds silly as the article is aimed at younger girls, but if you're really a fan, you might have a Beatrix Potter Bridal Shower, with some Scottish-ness thrown in for her childhood summers spent in Perthshire.

    A friend of mine, who adored Mickey Mouse collectibles, had a Mickey Mouse Bridal Shower. So, why not a Beatrix Potter party?

There's also scads of Beatrix Potter merchandise being sold on EBay.

Movies and even a ballet have been written from her works. Over the last month, a biographical film, Miss Potter, starring Rene Zellweger, has been showing on cable TV. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I do hope she wasn't quite a priggish as portrayed.

Many of her works can be accessed at Project Gutenberg . They can be downloaded with illustrations and read online.

Tomorrow, the beautiful gardenia as a wedding flower…


December 3, 2008 07:03 - The Gardenia as a Wedding Flower

The Gardenia signifies purity, joy, secret love, and loveliness. A very fragrant flower that's primarily used in bouquets and boutonnieres. Though a very expensive flower, it's available year-round.

Billy Holiday, the famed blues/torch singer from the 1930's until her death in 1959, loved gardenias. As her signature trademark, she usually performed with a cluster of gardenias in her hair. Holiday co-wrote and performed God Bless the Child and Lady Sings the Blues. Another of her standards was Embraceable You.

Etta James, another singer of the blues, recorded an album named Blue Gardenia. A lovely gardenia is shown on the cover. The title song The Blue Gardenia was the theme song from a movie of the same name.


Gardenia image courtesy Wikipedia

The flowers are similar to the magnolia in color and texture, though smaller in size and more fragrant, if possible. The scent is so strong it can cause headaches, asthma, or allergic reactions in some people.

Linneaus named the plant for Charles Garden [1730-1791], a physician, zoologist, and botanist who worked in Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Aberdeenshire, Garden studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He was strongly influenced by Charles Alston, teacher, the King's Botanist, and Keeper of the Garden at Holyrood, where medicinal plants were cultivated.

When leaving the university, Garden followed his father, a clergyman, to Charleston, South Carolina. He sent many specimens back to Linneaus for classification. As a doctor, he used his scientific knowledge during the smallpox epidemic in Charleston in 1760. He inoculated 2000+ people.

During the American War of Independence, he sided with the British. After his property was confiscated, Garden returned to London to live out his years.

Ironically, though he submitted many American plants for classification, the Gardenia was originally found in the hot, semitropical areas of southern Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania.

The Garden name was originally Jardine and five tartans, in a variety of colors, are associated with the Jardine family.

Jardine Family Tartan WR 2014


Jardine Family Tartan WR2014

Jardine Family Dress Tartan WR2084


Jardine Family Dress Tartan WR2084

Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1447


Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1447

Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1431


Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1431

Jardine of Castlemilk Family Tartan WR1432


Jardine of Castlemilk Family Tartan WR1432

Coming tomorrow, a Scottish company which features tablet as wedding favors…

December 4, 2008 07:05 - Highland Favours

Imagine my delight when I received an email from a supplier of Scottish Tablet wedding favors.

The company name is Highland Favours. In case you don't know, the closest thing I can liken tablet to is a high quality vanilla fudge.

[Editor's Note, December 13, 2008: Highland Favours has a new landing page. It can be found at Highland Favours.]

The tablet is from the Loch Leven Tablet Company. All premium ingredients from Scotland ~ butter, water, sugar, condensed milk, a secret ingredient, no flavorings or preservatives. (Is that the same pure water used to brew Scotch whisky?)

As well as for wedding favors, serving suggestions are with your after dinner coffee or in bowls for nibbling.

For wedding favors, Highland Favours packages the tablet is a variety of boxes, bags, netting, and envelopes. You can also order it loose in bulk.

Some box shapes are hearts, top hats, pillows, flutes, purses, and a traditional box shape. They also offer handmade boxes and bags.

Pockets (drawstring bags) and boxes can be personalized with your names and wedding date. Ribbons can be clan tartans, plus a variety of wedding theme colors.

As an additional delight, I discovered they have a sister company, which features photographs of Scotland. More about them tomorrow…

December 5, 2008 07:07 - Highland Favours ~ Part II

Highland Scapes

As well as Highland Favours, Donnie Montgomery photographs and sells his Scottish photos as Highland Scapes. There are prints and canvas photographs available in 3 sizes - 8x12, 12x18, 24x36. Greeting card, mouse pad, coaster and placemat photos are also offered.

Most intriguing for me are the cutting boards. Made of tempered glass and dishwasher safe, the photos are printed on the reverse side. Custom photos, as well as their selections, can be ordered.

For less than $30 US, plus shipping, you can select one of Donnie's photos of Scotland to display in the kitchen, as well as enjoying the view in a unique way. This would be a great wedding gift, a thank you for wedding attendants, a surprise thank-you treat for parents…or just for yourself. If the bridal couple are going to Scotland for their honeymoon, an after-wedding gift, with a photo highlighting their tour, would be really nice.

You can also send a free virtual postcard with a photo from Scotland!

Monday, preparing for Robert Burns 250th birthday…

December 8, 2008 07:08 - Dressed In Time

It's always a pleasure to have a vendor contact me with goods from Scotland that can be used in a wedding.

Lydia, with Dressed in Time, is another enjoyable surprise. She is based in Fife.

As a dressmaker, historic garments and bridal wear from the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, plus Regency, categories are featured.
Accoutrements, that is bonnets, hats, lace gloves, and capes are also in her line. Lydia fashions underpinnings ~ corsets from many fashion eras, petticoats, crinolines, panniers, bum-rolls, and bustle pads ~ which aren't easy to find.

My particular favorite is 'Nancy', a Natural Form gown from the late 1870's. It's slim fitting, like the contemporary mermaid styling, with a train. The outfit is designed to be worn over a corset and small bustle pad. [Lydia's site is being updated and refined. The current photo of this outfit does not do it justice.]

Made of cotton, the skirt is purple, while the bodice and skirt trim are purple and white striped ~ like the Gay 90's stripes. I can also see this ensemble using a light-weight wool or silk tartan, with a co-ordinating solid, or two complimentary tartans.

With the right choices, such as these grey and red tartans, even three tartans could be used. One for the bodice, another for the skirt, and a third to trim the bodice sleeves and skirt hem.


Lochcarron Welsh Dragon Emblem Tartan


Wilson Tartan WR448


Mowbray Family Tartan WR565


Auchairne Tartan 2479

Not everyone can carry off a grey and red color theme. But for those who can, especially if you are of Welsh extraction, this would be a great choice. If not, just leave out the Welsh Dragon tartan and go with the other three.

Also check out Lydia's link to other Scottish artisans at Scottish crafts sources .

Tomorrow, getting ready for Robert Burns Dinners…

December 9, 2008 07:11 - Robert Burns 250th Birthday


Big events are happening in Scotland in 2009. It's the anniversary of Robert Burns 250th birthday. Across Scotland many events are being planned. The year long event is called Homecoming Scotland 2009.

The celebrations begin with a Robert Burns weekend. The Friends of Robert Burns are promoting Burns Dinner celebrations around the world. They're promoting his legacy of friendship and Auld Lang Syne.

A new website has been created. They're asking everyone with any kind of Robert Burns Dinner plans to register on the site. They're trying to establish a new world record for the greatest number of Burns suppers. Each supper registered will be flagged on an interactive world map.

There's also information about hosting a Burns Dinner with menu ideas from Scotland's leading chefs, invitation templates, poems, songs, film clips and music downloads.

No matter the size, big or small, please register.

As a special treat, The Famous Grouse has created 250 bottles of a limited edition 37 year old blended malt. These are being offered for charity auctions at Burns Dinners. They're hoping each bottle will raise £400+ for the nominated charity.

Over the next few blogs, more information will be published about The Famous Grouse and Homecoming Scotland 2009 …

December 10, 2008 07:15 - What Is The Famous Grouse?

The Famous Grouse is a blended Scotch Whisky. The blend includes The Glenrothes, Highland Park Single Malt and Macallan Single Malt.

The company story begins with Matthew Gloag, a grocer and wine merchant in Perth. Among his achievements, when Queen Victoria visited Perth in 1842, he supplied the wine for the royal banquet.

In 1860 his son, William, began producing blended whiskies. In 1897, the grandson, Matthew, created The Grouse Brand blend which became known as The Famous Grouse. Highland Distillers bought the company in 1970.

The whisky has a series of award winning TV ads. These feature Gilbert the Grouse. He was named Gilbert for a rugby ball manufacturer. The ads really are great. You can see them at The Famous Grouse website. Simply click on Behind the Label, then select TV Commercials.

When going to their website, prepare to stay awhile. It's extremely well done and very entertaining. You can even book a complete wedding at their facility ~ at the visitor center. Or sign up for a tour. Or register for their cooking school or whisky school.

This year they introduced a new version, the Snow Grouse. The packaging features a ptarmigan. Last year the Black Grouse, a peated version, was introduced for the Swedish market.

Tomorrow, Homecoming Scotland 2009, a year long celebration…


December 11, 2008 07:16 - Homecoming Scotland 2009

Marking Robert Burns 250th birthday, this is a year long celebration of all things Scottish.

Throughout 2009, we're celebrating Scotland
as the home of Robert Burns, Whisky, Golf,
and Great Minds & Innovation.
There are over 100 unique events & festivals to explore --
so, whether you have Scottish roots or
you're simply a Scot at heart, come join us!

There's lots of links for more information ~

Homecoming Scotland 2009 is a Scottish government initiative managed by Event Scotland in partnership with Visit Scotland. It's being partly financed by the European Regional Developement Fund.

The celebration marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's Bard, Robert Burns, who was born at Alloway in the year 1759 and died at Dumfries in 1796.

Come to Scotland is having a "Why am I a Scot" contest. Enter the contest here.

I particularly like this entry

I'm a Scot because my
great-great-grandfather
gave me his kilt - and it fits!
- Jim MacRae, Toronto

Another source of information and entertainment is Visit Scotland. There's a video clip which includes Christmas fireworks over Edinburgh. Be sure to watch their Visitor's guide advert ~ you'll hear Sean Connery, among other notables, singing the theme song.

The band, Albannach, is also featured. Soooo, tomorrow, more on Albannach…

December 12, 2008 07:18 - Albannach

Since first hearing Albannach some years ago, I've been a fan ever since. I usually don't have favorites, but this group is an exception.

Albannach is a Scots-Gaelic word meaning Scottish or Scotsman,
which is fitting as all members of the band were born and raised in Scotland.

Billing themselves as not just another Scottish 'Pipes & Drums' band, they are an exciting, blood pumping tribal drumming band. Their music combines very energetic drumming, enhancing and even sometimes eerie vocals, and over-the-top piping.

The first time I saw them perform, my first reaction was let me out of here. But as I was with others, I had to stay and I'm so glad I did. As I listened and watched, I began to feel the rhythms interplaying. Looking around at the crowd, even the staunch little old ladies (of which I am one) began tapping their toes, then a little later their whole foot would be moving to the music. Soon they added a little hip swinging. By the time the performance was over, everyone was moving to the music and having a darned good time ~ and I became a fan.

Their website at Albannach Music includes a link to Albannach Radio listed as Listen Now!

If you are planning a Grand March at your wedding reception, this would be a great place to use Scottish music with the pipes and drums. Listen to Unleash the Albannach and Burlin on their radio. These are the first two songs on their Albannach CD. Their combined time is over 9 minutes.

Unleash the Albannach starts out quietly and builds until the song bursts forth. As a lead in to the Grand March, this would be when the DJ or someone is encouraging everyone, young and old, to join in. When the full force of the music begins, the Marshals would start the march.

After these two songs, others could be added if you need a longer grand march.

Coming Monday, how to perform a grand march…

December 15, 2008 07:23 - How To Conduct a Grand March

But how do you do a grand march and who would lead it? Traditionally the 4 parents would lead the march. But so few people today know how to perform a grand march that another 4 people might be a better choice. Perhaps 2 couples from your attendants or grandparents who remember when…

You also need to place couples who have learned the basic maneuvers in the middle and at the end of the line. I"ve seen many a grand march salvaged because a couple who knew what they were doing were at the end of the lines and were willing to give directions to those around them. If something goes amiss, by the time it filters back to the end, the people are totally lost and have no idea what to do.

Another idea is to have someone sitting on the sidelines on both sides, with printed directions they can follow to get people back on track if things to awry.

To get some fairly good directions, go to EHow. The directions have the bride and groom leading the march. But why put this extra burden of learning, then leading, the Grand March. There's always friends or family who would jump at the change to learn and lead the march. That gives them a way to participate in your wedding.

Tomorrow, a little more about the Grand March…

December 16, 2008 07:24 - More About the Grand March

Something new I learned was that The Triumphal March, which is the traditional song for a Grand March is from the opera Aida. It lasts over 11 minutes. In Italian the name is Patria Mia.

There's a rendition on YouTube where you can hear the original. The part I've always known as the Grand March begins at 3 minutes in, after a prelude.

Across Europe, the Triumphal March is sung/played in their football stadiums before games, but in many different renditions, just like our Star Spangled Banner is performed in every genre from classical to hip-hop.


European Football Stadium

image courtesy Wikipedia

Verdi wrote Aida about the tragic love between an Arabic slave and an Egyptian commander who, in turn is loved by the Pharaoh's daughter. It was first performed in 1871 in Cairo. Some people think it was written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Verdi denied this. But the work was commissioned by the Khedive Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt and Sudan.


Khedive Muhamad Ali Pasha

image courtesy Wikipedia

Going back to the Grand March, in Scotland a Grand March was a grand occasion. The men traditionally wore their kilts while the women would don a bridesmaid dress from their past or their own wedding dress to participate in a Grand March.

So join in the fun, introduce your guest to Albannach, and continue the tradition that's being lost not only in Scotland but in the U.S. as well.

Tomorrow, Scottish Christmas greetings…


December 17, 2008 07:27 - A Scottish Merry Christmas

Scottish Christmas ornaments are always fun to give or get. Of all places, The Irish Jewelry Company has a Scottish Blessing Ornament. The Scottish blessing on the ornament reads ~

If there is righteousness in the heart,

there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character,

there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home,

there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation,

there will be peace in the world.

So let it be.

Bronner's, a Christmas company in Frankenmuth, Michigan, also offers this ornament, along with many others.

But how do you say Merry Christmas
in Gaelic or Scottish?

In Scottish Gaelic, it's Nollaig chridheil, which translates as Christmas hearty.

In Scottish,

  • Christmas is Christenmas or Yuil
  • Christmas Eve is Sowans Nicht
  • Blythesome means cheerful, merry, gay
  • Cantie means merry, cheerful, pleasant, happy, comfortable
  • Crouse means, among other things, spirited, cosy, comfortable
  • Merry means merry
  • Mirkie means merry, cheerful, mischievous
  • Shortsome means lively and entertaining, cheerful, merry, livelySo, it seem you can take your pick and add Christenmas or Yuil to it for what we call a Christmas greeting.

    Tomorrow, more Christmas ornament sources…

December 18, 2008 07:30 - Christmas Ornaments

Christmas is such a fun time of the year, when we can all let at least a little of the child sneak out for an annual breath of fresh air. Part of that child-like fun is Christmas ornaments and decorating the tree.

If you'd like some Scottish touches for your tree, or if you're planning a Christmas wedding in 2009, there's plenty of ornaments available.

Bronners also has a Yule Log ornament , with the traditions of Hogmanay (New Years) on the back.

They also have a section that's just wedding and anniversary ornaments. Did you read the blogs about Heraldic Flamingos around the time of Hurricane Ike? They were posted in, September, from the 12th through the 30th. Well, Bronners has a Flamingo Wedding ornament and an Italian Flamingo ornament.

Over the Autumn, there's been posts about heraldry and heraldic symbols, with more to come in the year ahead. Also many of these have come to be symbols of Christmas, some with legends attached to them.

Tomorrow, heraldic symbols as Christmas ornaments…


December 19, 2008 07:33 - Heraldic Symbol Christmas Ornaments

Among those offered by Bronners are ~
  • Birds including 5 more flamingo ornaments. Other heraldic birds as Christmas ornaments are the bluebird, blue jay, dove, duck, eagle, hummingbird, ostrich, parrot, peacock, penguin, pheasant, rooster, and sparrow.

  • Aquatic heraldic animals as Christmas ornaments include the alligator, dolphin, frog, heron, lobster, manatee, octopus, sea horse, seal, starfish, toad, trout, turtle, whale, and, of course, fish in a creel.

  • Other heraldic animals as Christmas ornaments include the bear, beaver, bison, buffalo, camel, cow, deer, donkey, dragonfly, elephant, gecko [lizard], fox, giraffe, hippo, horse, kangaroo, ladybug, lion, moose, pig, rabbit, sheep, squirrel, tiger, wolf, and zebra.

  • Dogs of heraldry, or Scottish roots, as Christmas ornaments include the Cairn Terrier, Border Collie, Collie, Golden Retriever, Rough Collie, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, and West Highland Terrier.

  • Other heraldic symbols as Christmas ornaments include the acorn, apple, butterfly, cherries, harp, holly, lantern, lighthouse, maple leaf, palm tree, pear, pine, pinecone, rainbow, rose, snowflake, strawberry, wheat sheaf, and wreath.

  • Wedding Day Good Luck symbols from the traditions of Scotland that Bronners offers as Christmas ornaments are a black cat, chimney sweep, horse, horseshoe, lamb, rainbow, spider, and toad.

Celtic Art also has

Monday, heraldic animals and Christmas legends…

December 22, 2008 07:34 - Animal Heraldic Symbols as Christmas Legends

Some heraldic symbols also have meaning as Christmas ornaments. Of those I've found, they are divided into three categories ~ fauna, flora, and others.

Fauna ~

  • Butterfly ~ symbolic of resurrection and eternal life, the butterfly emerging from its cocoon represents the resurrection of Christ from the tomb. Just as the butterfly comes forth with a new body, those who trust in Christ come forth with new life. The butterfly also represents flight, freedom, and creative thinking. A symbol of spring, the butterfly truly reflects the beauty of nature.
  • Dolphin ~ because of their intelligence and playful ways, dolphins are one of Mother Nature's most fascinating creatures. Romans, Greek, and Celtic stories feature their amazing ability to communicate with each other and tell miraculous tales of dolphins rescuing drowning humans. Because of this friendliness to man, dolphins represent the peace, harmony, and tranquility that can be achieved in life.
  • Donkey's Cross ~ legend tells us the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday followed Him to Calvary. Appalled by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but could not leave. It is said that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey. A cross marking found on many donkeys today remains a testimony of the love and devotion of a humble, little donkey.
  • Dove ~ a universal symbol of peace and love, the dove has long held significance for man. Noah sent forth from the ark a dove that returned with an olive branch, indicating the end of the flood and the beginning of God's covenant with man. The dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit and signifies marriage and lifelong love. The pristine whiteness of the dove represents purity, hope for peace and the forgiveness we obtain from God and each other.
  • Dragonfly ~ the colors of the dragonfly sparkle with iridescence in the sunlight. Their jewel-like tones take time to develop, reflecting the idea that our own true colors only come forth with maturity. The dragonfly is found worldwide and in some cultures symbolizes new light and joy. Dragonflies are viewed as a representation of renewal.
  • Elephant ~ the familiar phrase n elephant never forgets refers to the animal's alleged intelligence, memory, and longevity. The peaceful elephant is also a symbol of gentle and reposing strength. The social nature of elephants allows us to view their amazing sensitivity to their group and family members, helping each other when hurt and mourning the loss of their loved ones.
  • Hummingbird ~ a symbol of love, joy and beauty. The hummingbird is unique in that it can also fly backwards, teaching us that we can look back at our past, but not dwell there, and continue to go forward. Its ability to hover while drinking nectar is a lesson for us to savor each moment, while appreciating its sweetness.
  • Ladybug ~ according to European folklore, ladybugs symbolize good luck. Many, many years ago, aphids invaded the fields of farmers. When the farmers prayed for help to the Virgin Mary, legend tells us that swarms of little red beetles appeared. They proceeded to eat the aphids and save the crops. The farmers named the beetles ladybugs in appreciation of Mary, Our Lady.
  • Lion ~ with its majestic manner the lion is an emblem of power, strength, dignity and courage. The lion's yellow fur once symbolized the sun and like most sun symbols, the lion came to represent Christ, the Light of the World. Referred to as the "king of the beasts" the lion continues as a symbol of might, justice, protection and conquest.
  • Peacock ~ the distinctive eye-like pattern of the peacocks regal tail feathers symbolizes the all-seeing power of God to many Christians. The peacock is also a symbol of immortality and resurrection, for it was believed that the flesh of the peacock never spoiled, and the fact that old feathers were replaced with even more colorful plumage.
  • Rooster ~ legend states that the only time the rooster crowed at midnight was the night that Jesus was born. In Spanish and Latin American countries "Misa del Gallo," the Mass of the Rooster, is celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve. The crowning of the rooster at the dawn of each morning symbolizes the daily triumph of light over darkness and the victory of good over evil.
  • Sea Horse ~ enchanting, almost magical in appearance, the sea horse has long inspired myth and legend. In Greek mythology, the sea horse pulled the chariot of Poseidon, god of the seas. This unusual fish has served as a traditional Chinese medicine for 500 years and is considered a love charm and cooking delicacy. The sea horse possesses a truly magical trait, for unlike other fish, it's the male who gives birth to the young.
  • Spider ~ a poor woman was unable to provide the traditional decorations for the Christmas holiday. A spider, who had narrowly escaped the dust mop, made his home in her tree and began to spin beautiful webs. On Christmas morning, the first light of sun struck the cobwebs, turning them to silver. When the woman awoke, she found the tree covered with silver treasure - the spider had brought good fortune!
  • Starfish ~ according to legend, starfish are reflections of stars in the sky inhabiting the ocean floor. Symbolizing rebirth, starfish have a remarkable ability for regeneration. If a starfish is cut in half, two starfish will grow. As an illustration of equality and teamwork, each of the starfish limbs work together for the benefit of the whole.
  • Turtle ~ taking their homes with them wherever they go, turtles remind us to remember our roots while still welcoming new places and phases in life. They teach us to appreciate life's simple, true necessities: shelter, food, drink, and most importantly, faith. The turtle's slow gait requires the animal to have faith that it will eventually get where it's going and that its needs will be satisfied along the way.

Tomorrow, heraldic flora as Christmas legends ~

December 23, 2008 07:36 - Heraldic Flowers & Trees as Christmas Legends

Continuing the heraldic symbols that are also Christmas legends and ornaments ~ we all love flowers at Christmas. When they take a special meaning, it's even better.

  • Acorn ~ long considered a symbol of good luck in Germany where oak trees are considered sacred. The rebirth of life in the coming of the Christ child is also represented in the acorn. Bearing a tiny seed that will produce a mighty oak, the acorn reminds us that great results can be born of humble beginnings.
  • Apple ~ played an important role in traditional European Christmas Eve celebrations. Following dinner, the head of the family would slice an apple crosswise. If there was the image of a perfect star inside and the seeds were plump, it was believed that a peaceful year of good fortune and health awaited the family. Each member of the family then ate a piece of the apple.
  • Holly ~ the sharply pointed leaves symbolize the foretold thorns in Christ's crown while the red berries foretold the drops of His blood.
  • Pine Tree or Christmas Tree ~ because it stays green all through the year, the evergreen tree is symbolic of the eternal life offered to Christians through faith in Christ. The treetop points heavenward. A star signifies the special star, which guided the wise men to Bethlehem. Lights represent Christ, the Light of the World. Gifts beneath the tree are representative of God's gift of His only begotten Son, who brings Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.
  • Pineapple ~ a symbol of hospitality. When sea captains returned from their tropical voyages, they would take pineapples from their cargo and hang them on their front door or gate post as a sign of welcome and hospitality. Later, people began using the design on doorways and gate posts, then floorcloths and interior woodwork. Pineapples are still given today as a token of welcome or friendship.
  • Pomegranate ~ throughout the ages, the pomegranate with its abundant seeds has represented fertility, health and rebirth. A symbol of resurrection and everlasting life, the pomegranate is often pictured in Christian art with Virgin Mary and infant Jesus. Various parts of the plant have been used medicinally, and the pomegranate is featured in the coat of arms of several medical associations.
  • Rose ~ as a Christmas ornament, it symbolizes beauty and an expression of affection and love. The legend behind the rose tells that a poor shepheress knelt at the manger of Jesus, weeping as she no gift for the newborn King. As her tears fell to the ground, a rosebush sprang into bloom. The shepherdess picked a bouquet for the baby Jesus.
  • Shamrock ~ one of the most widely recognized symbols of Ireland, has been considered good luck since the earliest of times. Legend says St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach pagans the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Just as three leaves make up one shamrock, the three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are in one God.
  • Sunflower ~ at one time, the sunflower was considered to be a symbol of adoration, possibly because it follows the path of the sun as it travels across the sky. The yellow petals of the sunflower imitate the sun's rays and the heart-shaped leaves on the strong stalk help to absorb the sun's light. The sunflower is the perfect example for us to follow the Son of Man and to grow in His love and presence.

Tomorrow, other heraldic symbols as Christmas legends…

December 24, 2008 07:38 - Other Heraldic Symbols as Christmas Legends

The last category of Christmas legends that are also heraldic symbols are ~

  • Bagpipes ~ among the oldest musical instruments. There are hundreds of types of bagpipes, each with a unique design and sound. Strongly associated with Scotland, the bagpipes play a traditional role in modern Gaelic culture, and are often played at military funerals and memorials. Weddings, parties and many social events are given a lift by the sound of this unique musical instrument
  • Beer ~ originating in ancient Egypt, beer is almost as old as civilization itself. In medieval times, monks brewed beer for nourishing drink, which was permitted while fasting. Considered a valuable source of nutrition, beer played an important role in daily lives and workers were often paid with jugs of beer. The brewing of beer is considered by many to be the oldest manufacturing art practiced by man.
  • Candle ~ before electric Christmas lights were invented, candles adorned the Christmas tree, sparkling like starlight against the dark green boughs.
    The candle reminds us that Christ is the light of the world. Many European families still decorate their Christmas tree with candles which are burned on Christmas eve.
  • Chimney Sweep ~ if you are touched by a chimney sweep and he leaves you with a black smudge of soot, it will bring you good luck.
  • Christmas Bells ~ according to early legend, bells rang throughout the world announcing the birth of Christ. The ringing of bells during the joyous holiday season still adds delightful accompaniment to favorite carols and is a significant part of the Christmas celebration. High in their towers, suspended between heaven and earth, church bells have called the faithful to worship for centuries.
  • Cross ~ to Christians, the cross symbolizes faith and salvation. Christians were granted the gift of eternal life in Heaven when Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of mankind, and arose from the dead. Because Christ suffered pain and death on the cross, this divine and humbling symbol helps us to be mindful of our beliefs and duties as Christians. Faith in Christ helps us cope with the burden of the crosses we bear.
  • Heart ~ for many centuries a symbol of love. Throughout pre-Christian and early Christian eras, it was believed to be the center of emotion. During the 16th century and the Baroque period (1600-1750), the heart was recognized as a sign of sincerity and devotion. In many nations around the world today the heart is the primary symbol of St. Valentine's Day, a holiday celebrating love.
  • Lighthouse ~ lighthouses lift up our spirits and inspire us. Just as the bright beacon of light guides the ships along their route, directing them away from danger, the lighthouse symbolizes guidance through life. The lighthouse also serves as a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path [Psalm 119:105].
  • Seashell ~ The carocol or seashell played an important part in the religious symbolism of the early inhabitants of Mexico, where it symbolized birth and life itself. Some baptismal fonts are carved in marble in imitation of a giant shell, symbolizing Christian rebirth. Its use as a trumpet since time immemorial also symbolizes power and authority.
  • Yule Log ~ an ancient tradition originating in Europe, a Yule log warmed the house during the cold Christmas night. It was ceremoniously brought to the fireplace and lit with the remnants of the log from the previous year. This was to erase trouble from the past and bring good fortune and protection from fire. Today, the Yule log takes the form of a traditional French cake shaped like a log, a perfect finish to a Christmas feast.

For a special Christmas treat, tomorrow will feature Scottish Christmas traditions…

December 25, 2008 07:40 - Today In Scotland

One thing most Scots can tell you about their Christmas traditions is that they don't have many Christmas traditions. Many laughingly say their biggest Christmas tradition is the lack of Christmas traditions.

Due to the conflicting beliefs of the Protestants and Catholics, Christmas celebrations were basically forbidden and for years Christmas was just another work day. Yet, when you read through this list of their traditions, they have quite a few ~

  • Athol Brose ~ made from oats and whisky, which is served as a drink! The legends surrounding Atholl Brose go back to the English/Scottish conflicts. But I have come across several old recipes which are just an alcohol-free gruel. Such dishes were a very practical stomach liner after a long fast and before the celebrations begin.

  • Bees About on Christmas Morning ~ an old belief that early on Christmas Morning all bees will leave their hives, swarm, and then return. Many old Scots tell tales of having witnessed this happening, with no explanations as to why. One thought is that bees get curious about their surroundings, and when there is unexpected activity, they will come out to check for danger. On Christmas Eve, the annual unusual activity would draw the bees out to check their own safety.

  • Black Bun ~ originally a Twelfth Night Cake, this is a very rich fruit cake crammed full of fruit, almonds, and spices, then bound together with plenty of Whisky. This mixture is poured into a cake tin lined with a rich short pastry and baked. See Sun cakes for an even older tradition.

  • Candlelight ~ all Celtic countries have a similar custom of lighting a candle at Christmastime to light the way of a stranger. (See LIGHT IN THE WINDOW IRISH CUSTOMS)
    Scotland also celebrated Oidche Choinnle, also known as the Night of Candles. A candle in every window symbolically lit the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Also for First Footers at Hogmanny. [see First Footers below] as a symbol of goodwill , shopkeepers often gave their customers Yule Candles, accompanied by the wish of "a fire to warm you by and a light to guide you".

  • Cream of the Water ~ the first water drawn from the well on New Year's morning.

  • Daft Days ~ the entire festive season from Christmas Eve to New Years Day.

  • First Footing ~ immediately after midnight on New Year's Eve, friends and relatives came visiting. Tradition demanded each visitor bring a lump of coal for the fire, oatcakes and a quantity of whisky. The preferred first foot was "tall, dark and handsome".

    Due to animosity between the Scots and their fair-haired Norse invaders, a fair-haired First Footer was considered bad luck. As Christianity moved into Scotland, a fair-Andrew was the patron saint of Scotland. In some areas of Scotland a woman First Footers is still considered a taboo.

  • Handsel ~ the First Footer had to bring an offering, or Handsel. Food, drink, and fuel were all important to each family, so these were the traditional gifts. The food and drink would be shared with all present. The fuel would be placed on the fire by the First Footer, while he repeated the traditional blessing of "A Good New Year to one and all and many may you see". In modern society a lump of polish coal or wood is brought. Often, it's kept for the year as an ornament.

  • Handsel Monday ~ the first Monday of the New Year on which handsel [presents] were given.

  • Hogmanay ~ the New Year's Eve celebration. Everyone comes out, culminating at midnight with the chiming of The Bells and everyone singing Robert Burns' song Auld Lang Syne.

  • Scottish Shortbread ~ a must on your table.

  • Sun Cakes ~ which came to Scotland from Scandinavia. These were baked with a hole in the middle and line which symbolized the rays of the sun around the cake. The same design is now found today on Scottish shortbread. Many people think the lines are convenient markers for slicing the shortbread.

      Christmas Sayings ~
      Is blianach Nollaid gun sneachd ~ Christmas without snow is poor fare.

      Nollaig chridheil, or a very Merry Christmas to one and all!

      Scottish Wedding Theme Newsroom will begin publishing again on January 5, 2009.

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