A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Friday, 13 January 2017

When Christmas carolling "means a little bit more"

Have you ever thrown a wish out into the universe and then been surprised at how it came true?

I'd been saying for years that I want to go Christmas carolling but never seemed to get it organized - and of course beating myself up about it, aka "shoulding" all over myself. But I bought the carollers charm last year and put it on my Christmas bracelet this year, and, low and behold, my wish came true. But not at all in the way that I expected it to.

Now let me digress, or more accurately, start out, with one of my favourite stories about my husband's family, the Haydens. When Mike and I first started dating, and then living together, we would go "home" to Nova Scotia (our home province on the east coast of Canada) at Christmas. At that time, Mike's grandparents were still living but my mother-in-law Dede's parents needed to move to a nursing home. When clearing out her parents' apartment, Dede found out that her father, who had lived through the Depression, never threw anything out and had a huge collection of paperclips, of all things. The good thing about this (besides the plethora of paperclips) was that he kept old correspondence.

When the Hayden kids were young (Mike's the oldest of four), they would make audiotapes to send to the grandparents who spent their winters in Florida. I happened to be there when they found these tapes in grandfather Ray's desk. There were some great stories that came from listening to those tapes, but something on one tape, clearly made at Christmas, is a story we still repeat.

Mike's dad Dick played the guitar. So the family sat down to sing songs for this audio tape. And they started with "Frosty the Snowman." And it went something like this: "Frosty the Snowman, na na na na na na na..." The voices faded away but Dick kept playing. Let's just say it became an "instrumental" version of Frosty. We laughed so hard when we heard it!

OK back to planning the carolling. I thought we should ask people in the neighbourhood or the kids' friends if they would be interested. But when would we schedule it? Because of course lots of people have so many parties and commitments in the weeks leading up to the big day. Oh dear, we'd need to clean the house because we would have to invite people over to our house afterwards. Of course we'd offer hot chocolate and cookies. I'd need to buy hot chocolate because no one in our family really likes it. And we would need mini marshmallows because they look so cute floating on top of hot chocolate. Hmm the cookies were going to be another problem. In the rush leading up to Christmas I never seem to get baking done so where would I squeeze that it? There was also my concern that nobody would remember the second verse of "Jingle Bells" or the first line of Frosty (see how I made that connection there?). Therefore I'd need to print the lyrics to a number of favourite carols so everyone had a copy. You can see why this never happened! I was over-thinking it.

And then a friend invited me to an event on Facebook. To go carolling. In our neighbourhood.

My neighbourhood friend, who was there for me when my mother died, lost her husband suddenly when her two girls were eight and five years old. Now her girls are teenagers and their mom has cancer.

This friend has always been involved in our community of Hintonburg, particularly in the Arts community. So when the owner of a local store, that sells the work of local artists, heard the news about the cancer they wanted to help, particularly at Christmas. And so did my daughter Taylor and I.

Group selfie of the carollers; this was taken just before we went into the Hintonburg Public House.
Taylor is in the back with the Santa hat and I'm the hatless one just behind her.

To bring Christmas cheer to our neighbourhood, and raise money for our friend and her two daughters, Maker House organized what they called "Community Carolling." There was no hot chocolate but there was mulled cider. And there were marshmallows, but the big kind, dipped in chocolate and crushed candy cane! They even made up little packages with pretzels dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. They gave out little ribbons with jingle bells on them. And they printed up booklets with lyrics - including Frosty! (Taylor, by the way, was very excited to find out that she could keep the songbook afterwards.)

Carolling in the Hintonburg Public House.
(that's Taylor in the Santa hat)

I recently read the book The Tao of Pooh, and learned that sometimes we have to not try so hard! "Tao doesn't force or interfere with things, but let's them work in their own way, to produce results naturally. Then whatever needs to be done is done." The book further explained, "Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, 'This isn't supposed to be happening this way,' and trying hard to make it happen in another way."

So now, on my "A Victorian Christmas" bracelet, I have this little charm, with two carollers dressed warmly for this winter activity, and holding a songbook - hopefully with lyrics for Frosty. But now this charm isn't just about singing Christmas carols, or making it a perfect social event. As Scrooge learned in A Christmas Carol, the Christmas "spirit" is about family and community, and hope and generosity. "Perhaps," to quote The Grinch and Dr. Seuss, this Christmas charm now "means a little bit more."

Mike gave me this book for Christmas after I mentioned I'd never read it before.
"A Christmas Carol: the original manuscript edition."

As we walked home after carolling, Taylor said, "That was fun! That was my first time carolling." And so this year, Taylor's Christmas ornament was a snowman in a choir ruff, to represent not just her performances with her school vocal class, and being asked to join the Chamber Choir this year, but also so she can remember her first time carolling.

(Mitchell's ornament, in case you're wondering, is this silly Santa/elf because the highest mark on his report card this year was drama, and he tried out for the part of an elf in his class play - I told you he's a clown!)

Related Posts:

Sending Love and Christmas cheer around the world - a story about an unforgettable moment in 2016 when one of Taylor's choir concerts had me thinking about my Pandora friends around the world.

Forever Paris Contest: Pandora fans are not Grinches - a story about all the fans of Pandora promotional items and my definition of "a true Pandora fan" with a little poem inspired by Dr. Seuss.

Sing. Sing out loud... - a story about how Taylor came to love singing (no thanks to me!) and an important lesson she taught me about learning to be myself.

A tale of two cities... and a Christmas tree - a story that will give you goose-bumps and is a reminder that the Christmas spirit is about gratitude and generosity, and thinking of others in our hometowns, our countries, and around the world.

Let there be peace on earth - a story about choir performances on Remembrance Day after a terrorist act in our city, and the charm I have to represent my hope for peace.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Sending love and Christmas cheer around the world

You may recognize some of the faces and names in today's blog post. Read on to see the charm I chose to represent these friends, and you, my readers around the world - and my favourite moment of 2016. There's a contest running, asking about favourite moments in 2016 (see details below). Please add a comment and let me know what country you're from.

One of my favourite moments in 2016 was seeing my 15-year-old daughter singing with her vocal class at the European Union Christmas Concert, just 10 days ago, in front of an audience of 1200 people.

The crumpled program (which they ran out of) and my two red leathers bracelets with the bracelet I call "A Victorian Christmas."

The Nepean High School Choir
Taylor is on bottom right with the long braid.

I hadn't anticipated seeing the beautiful sight of the steeples glowing in the dark winter sky as we approached the Basilica in the evening.
(not my photo)

We live in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, so of course there are many embassies here. Every year the Embassy of the European Union hosts a Christmas Concert in the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica. Apparently the concert is a very popular Christmas tradition for many people in the city - and based on the line outside the church, I'd say that's true!

My attempt to capture the interior and the standing-room-only audience.
A photo from last year's concert, showing a packed house.
(not my photo)

My daughter's vocal class and the school's Chamber Choir, as well as two other children's choirs, sang songs from all 28 member countries in the European Union, in their original language. How moving it must have been for people to hear traditional songs from their childhood, sung by children, in such a magnificent church.

The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is across from the National Gallery of Canada and this spider sculpture called "Maman." Built between 1840 and 1870, the exterior of the Basilica is fairly reserved, especially compared to the ornate interior. (not my photos)
The extraordinary interior of the Basilica.
(not my photos)

I recently had a woman send me a long note about reading the stories on my blog. At the end she said, "Keep your chin up and keep persevering. You are stronger than you think and mean a lot to many people in the world and are making positive change in the lives of many." It means so much to me that by sharing my stories I might actually make a difference in the life of someone else - to think that I might somehow help people, somewhere in the world.

As I sat listening to all of those beautiful Christmas songs, many that I could not understand, I kept thinking of all of those people from around the world - my readers and followers, as well as the friends I've made through Pandora. And I had this wonderful warm sparkly feeling come over me. Listen to this three-minute video of "Still, still, still," a traditional Austrian lullaby and see if it touches you, as it did me. (Yes, they could have done without the squeaky clarinet solo.)

(not my photo)

As the three children's choirs entered, coming down this long centre aisle of the church, and singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," with the participation of the audience, I thought of the countless friends I now have in the UK: Mandy and Laura in England and Catrin and Mandy in Wales, to name just a few of the first UK ladies I met when I started to collect Pandora. In this three-minute video you can see Taylor as the second person to enter; and I've tried to videotape some of the interior.

The Spanish song "A La Nanita Nana" made me think of Thais and Punita and how much I've enjoyed seeing photos of their travels. When one of the choirs sang "O Tannenbaum" I thought of Riki in Germany. To represent the Czech Republic, there was "Hayek, nynej, Jesisku" (A Rocking Carol) which seemed appropriate for Veronika of Mii bracelets who has two young boys. Listening to "Nu is die roe van jesse" (A New Branch on the Christmas Tree) reminded me that my friend Ellen in Belgium showed me photos of her upside down Christmas tree. When I saw that the song "Jul, jul, stralande jul" (Christmas, Christmas, Glorious Christmas) was from Sweden it made me realize how much I missed seeing photos of Linda's kids and chatting with her about crafts and cats. Most of these ladies I've known for five years now.

I seem to have a number of friends in Portugal: Marta, Andreia, Celina, Ana, and Cristina. And I thought of them fondly when one of the choirs sang "Natal de Elvas" (Noel de Elvas). Those ladies probably have no idea how much it meant to me that they offered to help me purchase charms that were long-retired in Canada; it gave me something to look forward to and gave me hope when I needed it. As the Nepean High School choir sang the "Wexford Carol," a traditional Irish Christmas carol, I recalled meeting Geraldine on the Pandora pages. In this three minute video you can see why Taylor asked me to videotape this lovely song; it was one of her favourite pieces in their performance. When another choir sang "Quelle est cette odeur agreeable" I thought of my friend Anabela in France, one of the European Pandora fans that I got to know quite well in a photography group. I have to admit, that song had us giggling because my husband translated it directly to mean, "What is that agreeable odour?" and in English we don't usually use the word "odour" to mean anything pleasant or agreeable.

A photo I took for our photography group. The steeples of the Notre Dame Basilica are covered with tin, typical in French-Canadian churches.
We were sitting in the very last row in the pews on the sides of the church so we couldn't see the choir at all.
(not my photo)

As we sat in that enormous church, I closed my eyes, and just listened to the voices rising up and reaching out to all those people. And I imagined my love and Christmas cheer traveling across the globe. I leaned over and whispered to my husband that I had decided that I need a charm to represent those glittering hearts of my friends and readers around the world. The pink "glittering heart" charm seemed to be a good way to remember this special occasion. I hope we make this an annual tradition, even if Taylor's choir is not performing.

P.S.  The vocal teacher recently asked Taylor to join the Chamber Choir, without having to audition, because they needed more "strong altos." Just goes to show how wrong I was when I thought my daughter was not a good singer. (see the link to "Sing. Sing out loud..." below)

The pink enamel "glittering heart" charm (bottom right) on my latest work-in-progress Pandora Rose bracelet/bangle.

Today's blog post is an expanded version of a piece I wrote for a competition on Instagram, before I even purchased the pink glittering heart charm. I submitted the photo below from my post "Sing. Sing out loud..." (see link in Related Posts below). Please take a moment to pop over to the Facebook page to see the album of contest submissions. There are pictures and stories of special moments like vacations, engagements, birthdays and more. Have a look and vote for your favourite. The photo with the most "Likes" will win a PANDORA 2016 Club Charm. Voting ends December 31. It's not a popularity contest and I'm not asking you to vote for MY photo (I've won my share of Pandora prizes in the last few years) but I hope to support Hazel in her new endeavour.

Here is The Art of Pandora's description of the contest:
"This year has flown by and it is hard to believe we are in December already. Hopefully as you ponder over the past year you are able [to] remember some beautiful moments that you captured with PANDORA. For this month's competition we would like you to choose your favourite PANDORA moment and share it with us."

The contest is put on by a wonderful new blog called The Art of Pandora. I'm not even sure if "blog" is the right thing to call it because it's so much more than just a blog: you will find tabs for a Magazine (one article has interviews with many of the winners of the Paris Forever contest, including yours truly), Reviews of Pandora charms, and a Pinboard with the latest news on releases, sales, promos and more. There is also a gallery of photos called Inspiration, still a work-in-progress. And there is a Catalog, also a work-in-progress; the intention is to be able to find stock photos of all current and retired charms as well as country exclusives. I know I'll be using it frequently; it's much easier to search and find photos than the Pandora iPhone app. While you are on Facebook make sure to "Like" The Art of Pandora page and check out a special Christmas competition (ending December 31) where you nominate someone else to win a charm.

Related Posts:

Forever Paris Contest: the meaning of Pandora's box - a story about the ancient Greek myth and how Pandora jewellery - and my international friends - have given me the gift of hope.

Forever Paris Contest: Pandora fans are not Grinches - a story about all the fans of Pandora promotional items and my definition of a "true Pandora fan" with a little poem inspired by Dr. Seuss.

Sing. Sing out loud... - a story about how Taylor came to love singing (no thanks to me!) and an important lesson she taught me about learning to be myself.

With a little help from my-friends - a heart-warming war-time story about the Princess and the... not the pea... the tulip, and its symbolism - and how I tried to be a good friend to my international friends.

The countdown begins... on first day of Christmas - a story about how my Pandora friends helped me through the first winter of my recovery from my eating disorder and depression.