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photo credit: Alex Grichenko
This December, would you like a daily thought, song, scripture, story, and/or activity to help you feel more of the calm spirit of Christmas?  My friend Amy over at LDS Holistic Living has a Christmas Advent Calendar you can use or download for free.  It's designed specifically with members of the LDS faith in mind, but anyone can find great things in it.  If you're interested, you can get the calendar here.

Meanwhile, here's a sample:

The Real Story Behind the 12 Days of Christmas


Catholics in England were prohibited by law from practicing their faith, both in private and in public from 1558 to 1829. Being a Catholic was treated as a crime. There was no restored gospel at the time, however there were good Christians who knew without doubt the true church was not one that was mainly created merely for the convenience of King Henry the Eighth who wanted to sin and have a church justify his actions. So in secret they continued to teach their children their  religion. 

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England during this time frame. It was written to help children learn about their religion. The entire song is writing in symbolism and hidden meanings because it was illegal to have anything in writing that would indicate adherence to the Catholic faith. To be caught could mean imprisonment, hanging, or drawn and quartered.
Christmas referred to a twelve day period that starts with Christmas day. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" referred to a twelve day period that began Christmas day. While the world may have celebrated Christmas for about twelve hours, these Christians celebrated it for twelve days as a reminder that the gifts of God are with us for twelve months of the year. It also represented the idea that we should be thankful for the gifts of God and follow His teachings for all twelve months of the year and not just one day a year. 

The song begins, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." The "true love" represents God, as our greatest love should be for Him. The word worship means that which we love the most. The "me" who receives these presents is the Christian man or woman.

1. The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a structure made from the wood of a tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as mythological symbol of a divine, sacred king.

2. The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments - another gift from God. Doves symbolize peace and the Gospel contained in these scriptures, when practiced, brings peace.

3. The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love - the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I
Corinthians 13). The French hens can also represent God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

4. The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5. The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Books of Moses."

6. The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.

7. The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

8. The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.

9. The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

10. The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.

11. The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.

12. The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.
 
 
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"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth", 1914, Jennie A. Brownscombe, public domain
First, a bit of trivia:  
Did you know? While pumpkins were certainly a part of the first feast of thanks-giving,  they were usually roasted or stewed.  And eaten very, very often!

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."


Pilgrim verse, circa 1633
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Please take some time this week to gather your children, grandchildren, neighbors, or whomever you care about, and teach them of our nation's heritage of gratitude.  Some great resources are below, including what George Washington said in his Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving.  Each generation must learn this, or it dies out, leaving a gaping hole that entitlement and selfishness rush in to fill.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), Pro Plancio (54 BC)




The following is from the Providence Foundation's Nov. 2013 newsletter.  (Thank you to them!)

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an uniquely American holiday. We have been giving thanks to God in private and public from the foundation of the nation. In fact, governments regularly issued official days of Prayer and Thanksgiving from the planting of the first colonies up until the present. Over 1400 Days of Prayer, Thanksgiving, and Fasting were proclaimed by colonial, state, and national governments from 1620-1815, and hundreds more have been issued since then.  

A few items to help you remember and pass on our heritage of thanking God include:

Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

You can use this article to share with your family the origins of Thanksgiving Day.

Some Early Government Thanksgiving Proclamations

1.       President George Washington, Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 26, 1789

2.       Governor Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Thanksgiving Proclamation, December 9, 1779

3.       Proclamation for a Public Thanksgiving, New Hampshire, December 10, 1778

4.       Proclamation for Thanksgiving Day, Continental Congress, December 18, 1777
Issued during the American Revolutionary War by the Continental Congress, this was the first national Thanksgiving Day in America. The explanation of the proclamation is from W. DeLoss Love, The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England (1895). Love lists over 1400 days of prayer and fasting and prayer and thanksgiving observed by civil governments (colonial, state, and national) from 1620-1815.

5.       Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, Massachusetts, June 29, 1676
On June 20, 1676, the Council of Massachusetts appointed June 29 as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in response to the colonists’ victory in King Philip’s War. The broadside of this proclamation is the earliest printed thanksgiving broadside known. At the top is the seal of Massachusetts, which shows an Indian speaking the words, “Come Over and Help Us.”

 
 
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God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

-William Cowper

See here to listen to a simple version of this, with the lyrics.

With the attacks all around us on family, morals, and religion, I want to share where my hope and determination come from: 

The Father to whom we pray is the glorious God who created worlds through His Beloved Son. He hears our prayers as He heard Joseph’s prayer—as clearly as if they were being offered in His presence. He loves us enough that He gave His Son as our Savior. By that gift He made it possible for us to gain immortality and eternal life. And He offers us, through prayer in the name of His Son, the opportunity to commune with Him in this life as often as we choose.

We gain a testimony of any commandment of God by keeping that commandment (see
John 7:17). This is true of the command that we pray always vocally and in secret. As your teacher and your friend, I promise that God will answer your prayers and that by the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know for yourself that the answers are from Him.
- President Henry B. Eyring, “Exhort Them To Pray”, Feb. 2012

I know that God is real, that his purposes will be fulfilled, and that he has a hand in our lives.  Things that were hard, difficult, or unfair in my life, have helped me be a better, more loving person, because of his healing grace.  He helps me learn what is right, stand bravely for it, and have confidence in his ability to help me become what he needs me to be.  “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”


Have you heard about the new federal health mandate?  It requires all religious organizations- including schools- to provide not only contraception, but also abortion services.  Read Tim Dolan's article on it and think what you can do.  One really good option is to contact your friends or neighbors who are Catholic, see what you can do to help, and/or visit
http://join.catholicadvocate.com/hhs/