Journeys of the Heart

An author's journey

A Few of My Favorite Things

Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string…so the song goes.  Add to that list anything having to do with Christmas—the music, the food, the scent of fresh greens, candles in the window, Christmas trees with their sparkling lights, spending time with friends and family. Did I mention the food? 

 As a former school librarian, this was the time of year for my students to research holiday customs from around the world.  Here are a few of my favorites that my students shared with me:

 Spider Ornaments – Normally I’m not a fan of the members of the arachnid family, but I love this custom that is based on a tale about a poor woman who brings in a tree for her children but then has nothing to decorate it with.  Later, that night a kindly spider hiding in the corner, spins a web over the tree.   The weather was so cold frost covered the strands. In the morning, the woman and her children wake to the wonder of their tiny tree covered with glistening silver threads.  Hence the tradition that brings us tinsel. 

Sheaf of Grain for the birds – In Scandinavian countries, families set out a sheave of grain for the birds during this time of the year.   The Christmas feast is eaten after the birds are fed. 

Holly and Ivy – Using these greens goes back to pagan England.  When Christianity came to the isle they were transformed into new symbols.  The holly’s jagged edges represent the crown of thorns Christ is fated to wear, the berries represent his blood and the clinging ivy represents unswerving faith and fidelity. 

Burning the greens – The 12 days of Christmas officially end on Epiphany, January 6, also known as 12th Night.  In Medieval England, the revelry ended at midnight when all the greens in the castle, manor or home were gathered and burned for luck in the New Year. 

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may you and yours enjoy all of your favorite things.  Oh, and a quick reminder.  The Solstice edition of my newsletter, Hopeless Romantic is now available.  For more interesting customs and a fabulous recipe for plum pudding, subscribe at


December 20, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hi, Kathleen! I love it that your students shared these holiday customs with you. I recently did a blog post on how much it breaks my heart that some schools are banning anything whatsoever to do with Christmas. Some of my best childhood Christmas memories are those I experienced in my grade school classrooms, and they’re mostly due to teachers and librarians like you. 🙂

    Merry Christmas and Happy 2010 to you and yours!


    Comment by Titania Ladley | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi, Kathleen. Mince pie, Phyllis’ sweet potato pie, Dutch apple pie, Sicilian wheat pie… Hmmm, do I see a pattern developing here?

    And those old Christmas songs, “Silver Bells,” “Christmas in Killarney,” and the one that goes, “Sleigh bells ring, are ya listenin?”

    Oh, and chocolate mousse.

    Comment by Bart Palamaro | December 23, 2009 | Reply

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