Revisiting the colors of Christmas: Green

I’m super late this year in getting a tree and other decorations put up, almost to the point that I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort (though I know the answer to that is, “Yes!”).

I originally wrote this post right after the shootings at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn. I needed to read this one again as we reach the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Perhaps you, too, need to hear the words again?

The color green, especially in winter when so much is gray and brown, reminds us of this jumble of emotions and helps bring us hope that life will bloom again.

Continue reading

The colors of Christmas: green

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches!” If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, you can go back and read all about white Christmases and red poinsettias. But today’s color is one of my favorites: green.

This little green tree decorates the table where we put all our Christmas cards.

This little green tree decorates the table where we put all our Christmas cards.

That green is one of my favorite colors shouldn’t surprise you, given the title of my blog and the fact that I write so frequently about trees. And unless you walk around with blinders on these days, you can’t go far without seeing some green of Christmas: trees, elf costumes, candy wrappers.

There are many conjectures about why green is one of the traditional colors of Christmas. Perhaps it’s because Italy’s flag had green in it. Or maybe the church set Christmas to coincide with pagan winter solstice celebrations, complete with their evergreen trees. Some sources suggest we celebrate with green trees because the German church in the 1300s used pines decorated with red apples to suggest a “paradise tree” in plays about Adam and Eve and the tree in the garden of Eden. Or maybe green is so popularly associated with Christmas because of holly plants, with their green, waxy leaves and bright red berries: Continue reading

When being an aunt isn’t all sunshine and roses

In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert writes of aunts:

Often able to accrue education and resources precisely because
they were childless, these women had spare income and compassion
to pay for lifesaving operations, or to rescue the family farm, or to take
in a child whose mother had fallen gravely ill. I have a friend who calls
these sorts of child-rescuing aunties “sparents”—”spare parents”—
and the world is filled with them.

Even within my own community, I can see where I have been vital
sometimes as a member of the Auntie Brigade. My job is not merely to
spoil and indulge my niece and nephew (though I do take that assignment
to heart) but also to be a roving auntie to the world—an ambassador
auntie—who is on hand wherever help is needed, in anybody’s family whatsoever. … In this way, I, too, foster life. There are many, many ways
to foster life. And believe me, every single one of them is essential.

Gilbert’s discussion of “sparents” and their ways of fostering life reminds me of a story I heard on NPR’s StoryCorps back in March. Abby Libman’s life changed forever when her brother-in-law killed Abby’s twin sister, leaving behind two children (ages 7 and 4), whom Abby took in and raised. I encourage you to listen to the brief interview between Libman and her now 23-year-old nephew. For Libman, her role shifted from aunt to mother, and as she navigated through that difficult time, she was most importantly fostering the lives of those two precious young children who would grow up to think of her as “mom.” She was the ultimate “good aunt” to her sister’s children. Continue reading