Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Would the real Santa Claus please stand up

This year my boys decided to corner me on the Santa Claus issue. They know that Christmas is about the birth of Christ not a man in a red suit, but they asked the tough questions like who is Santa Claus and where did he come from. So this year I did a little research and answered the tough questions for them.

Santa Claus

a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 AD and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 AD on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and created the New Testament.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children's stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born.

So now I can confidently point to a holiday can of coca-cola and say, "Kids, this is Santa Claus."

At the end of the day after all the presents were opened, we all agreed that the best present was still under the tree.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Starbucks everywhere?

Dominic has come to the conclusion that there must be a Starbucks everywhere or atleast one place in every city where you can buy a Starbucks product. He asked that we document his findings with photos.

In the Space Needle in Seattle,

In Leavenworth, WA,

And on the streets of Vancouver, BC Canada.

Sleds, Sleighs, and Carriages

No matter where we went in Leavenworth, there always seemed to be some type of ride you could take. They actually had a horse drawn open sleigh.

The boys and I went looking for the sleigh ride and we stumbled on to a bridge that went to an island. We discovered three dog sled teams on the island and the owners were happy to let the boys play with the dogs when they weren't working.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Leavenworth, WA

We just got back from an action packed weekend. I'm still not sure how we crammed all the things we did into just a few days. Just yesterday we were sitting in Starbucks in Vancouver, BC sipping hot beverages. None of us had ever been to Canada, so we decided to drive there for lunch, but I should start from the beginning.

We drove up to Leavenworth, WA to meet with Steve Cassidy, the founder of Orphan's Hope. We met to discuss possible partnerships and ways to reach more of the orphans in Ukraine. We were very excited with all the possibilities that God could be leading us to.

An added bonus to the meeting was that we were in town for the Lighting Festival. Leavenworth is a Bavarian Village that pulls out all the stops for Christmas. We were blessed by all the family activities they offered. Sleigh rides, dog sled rides, sledding for the kids, chestnuts roasted over open fires, Bavarian music and costumes, lots and lots of German cuisine, and much more were all there to the delight of Dominic and Joshua.

The lights for the buildings came on as a shining star passed them while being carried down the street as the entire town sang "Silent Night". It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Edna sporting her new winter hat. It was a little chilly, dipping down to 19 degrees.

Of course Joshua was out making new friends with one of the town characters.

Over the next few days I'll post more pictures including the ones of Seattle and Vancouver. We all had an amazing time, (except for the marathon drive there and back, 48 hours and 46 minutes of total driving and 2625 total miles!), and the boys will never forget it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Lights

I finally got all the Christmas lights and decorations up. Edna was surprised to come home to all the lights and a tree all decorated. I figured it was time to throw out the pumpkins and put away the fall decorations.

I took a picture of this cross at the Benedict Castle. I liked the way it came out. I think it captures the true meaning of Christmas better than any tree or wreath.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Benedict Castle

We had a very busy weekend of traveling and speaking. I was asked by Joshua's school to represent the military as they remembered Pearl Harbor. So, I started off Friday morning by saying a few words about why we remember Pearl Harbor. All the children met at the flag pole to raise the flag, say the pledge of allegiance, sing the Star Spangled Banner, and hear a little about Pearl Harbor. It was an honor to explain the price of Freedom to all the children at Hawthorne Elementary.
After that we drove down to Riverside to speak at a volunteer appreciation dinner hosted by Teen Challenge. It was held at the Benedict Castle on Friday and Saturday night. Edna and I gave our testimonies and shared how God had blessed our lives. We spoke both nights and were blessed to meet so many wonderful people. The Castle itself was like something out of a fairy tale. The pictures don't do justice to all the work the men at Teen Challenge put into all the Christmas lighting and decorations. But, by far the most beautiful thing was the change that God has made in the lives of the men going through the Teen Challenge program. I was touched by their stories and the new hope that was in their eyes.

Everything was so beautiful and we felt really blessed to be there.

Sunday morning we started our trip back home. We knew we wouldn't make it back in time for church at Calvary SLO, so we stopped by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
We enjoyed hearing Pastor Chuck and Edna was mesmerized by all the selections in their book store, but we missed home. The four of us soon piled back into the car for the trip home. We finished our weekend by making it back in time to see the Christmas performance at Calvary SLO. It was a beautiful celebration of God's love and a perfect ending to our weekend travels.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

December Sunset

Today we watched the sunset at Port San Luis and then enjoyed dinner together as a family. We could see the twinkle of lights from Pismo Beach as the moon glistened off the water. A beautiful ending to a warm December day.

I told Dominic that he should have ordered from the kid's menu. "It hurts. I can't eat anymore. I didn't know it would be so much."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Photo

How hard can it be to get a family photo? It turns out that it's harder than we thought it would be. Our dog, Spencer, was able to hold a better pose than the boys. Dominic and Joshua were trying to see who could make the funniest faces without mom or dad noticing. We took about thirty pictures before we got one that was "good enough". To give you an idea of our frustration, it was bright and sunny when we started and almost dark by the time we snapped the last shot. We might try again tomorrow, or not.

Just a few of the many faces of Joshua and Dominic.