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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...Four Calling Birds
by Chuck

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On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.




Ok, time for a language update. Today's verse four calling birds is a corruption of the English word colly or collie. So, we are referring to "four colly birds" or four collie birds (the words to the song were probably written before the invention of the dictionary so the spelling of old words tends to be flexible). What is a colly bird? It is a black bird. In England a coal mine is called a colliery and colly or collie is a derivation of this and means black like coal. For a long time in England, blackbirds have been referred to as both blackbirds (as in the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence) and colly birds as in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

In addition to colly birds there is the reference to the five golden rings in tomorrow's verse. The five golden rings are not jewelry for the fingers of the giver's true love, but five golden ring necked pheasants. In other words the five golden rings are five pheasants ring necked pheasants whose golden rings are the ring of gold colored feathers on their necks.

Below is a version of the carol that is much like the one that appeared in the book Mirth Without Mischief which was published for children in 1780. It is in this book, published in England, that the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas first appears in print.

The first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A parteridge in a pear tree.


The second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves
And a parteridge in a pear tree.

The third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French Hens
Two turtle doves
And a parteridge in a pear tree.

The fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Four Colly birds . . .

The fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Five gold rings . . .

The sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying . . .

The seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Seven swans swimming . . .

The eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking . . .

The ninth day of Christmas my true Love sent to me
Nine drummers drumming . . .

The tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Ten pipers piping . . .

The eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eleven ladies dancing . . .

The twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Twelve lords a-leaping,
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four Colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a parteridge in a pear tree.




Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On the Third Day of Christmas...Three French Hens
by Chuck

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On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.



The three French Hens probably refer to a variety of chicken. There are many varieties of chicken and my research has shown that in the period in which this carol developed there were three main varieties of chickens associated with France. These were the Crevecoeur, Houdans and the La Fleche. The fact that they referred to a French rather than an English variety of chicken may be an indication that the carol originated in France or the words French Hens may have just had a good sound.

As mentioned in a an earlier article, many theorize that this carol evolved from an earlier song of French origin. One of the old songs often considered a predecessor to the "Twelve Days of Christmas" was called A New Dial. This song is referred to in records as early as 1625 and probably originated considerably earlier than that date. The New Dial links each of the twelve days of Christmas to a religious concept so that as children sang the song they would be taught the various tenants of their religious faith. Here are one version of the words to A New Dial:

A New Dial*

What are they that are but one?
We have one God alone
In heaven above sits on His throne.

What are they which are by two?
Two testaments, the old and new,
We do acknowledge to be true.

What are they which are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity
Which make one God in unity.

What are they which are but four
Four sweet Evangelists there are,
Christ's birth, life, death which do declare.

What are they which are but five?
Five senses, like five kings, maintain
In every man a several reign.

What are they which are but six?
Six days to labor is not wrong,
For God himself did work so long.
What are they which are but seven?
Seven liberal arts hath God sent down
With divine skill man's soul to crown.

What are they which are but eight?
Eight Beatitudes are there given
Use them right and go to heaven.

What are they which are but nine?
Nine Muses, like the heaven's nine spheres,
With sacred tunes entice our ears.

What are they which are but ten?
Ten statutes God to Moses gave
Which, kept or broke, do spill or save.

What are they which are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus' sake.

What are they which are but twelve?
Twelve are attending on God's son;
Twelve make our creed. The Dial's done.


* Lyrics Source: http://www.new-life.net/chrtms18.htm





Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Monday, December 26, 2005

On the Second Day of Christmas...Two Turtle Doves
by Chuck

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On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.




We have now reached the second day of Christmas. The lover has now given his true love a partridge in a pear tree and two turtle doves.

Partridges are game birds, similar to pheasants or grouse, that are hunted in Europe and the U.S. Partridge hunting has long been a popular sport among the gentry in England and it is not unusual to find it in this song. Pears are also a popular and common fruit in France and England. Some have speculated that the origins of The Twelve Days of Christmas carol are French and this would fit with both the partridge and pear tree. In fact one of the most popular variety of pears is the Anjou pear which appears to have originated near Angers in the Anjou region of France. This variety of pear was brought to England early in the nineteenth century and from there to America in the 1840s. According to some accounts, partridges were also introduced into England by the French, but this was in the seventeenth century. Game birds, such as partridges, pheasants, grouse, etc. would have been served at the holiday feasts hosted by various nobles and rich merchants in medieval England and France.

Doves are a common symbol for love and peace, two Christmas themes. Turtle doves are a common species of dove found in France and England and they were often kept in cages as pets during the Middle Ages and earlier. There are a number of references to doves in the Bible. Turtle doves also migrate to warmer climates in winter and their re-appearance heralds the approach of spring. The turtle dove is species that mates for life, so the giving of two turtle doves could be a way the lover is expressing his intention of love and marriage.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance England it was common to celebrate the full Christmas season with parties, feasts and the giving of gifts during the twelve days of Christmas. In this carol we see the giving of gifts, references to food that would be included in the feasts and the courting that surely went on as the coming together of large groups of people, especially young and single men and women, provided the perfect opportunity to seek one's future mate.



Copyright © by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

On the First Day of Christmas...
by Chuck

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On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.





The Twelve Days of Christmas refer to the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany which is the day the Church celebrates the visit of the Magi or Three Kings to see Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.

The twelve days usually start on Christmas Day and run through January fifth, the eve of Epiphany. However, there are some variations. In times past people calculated the days as running from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight as we so now. In this case the twelve days started on Christmas Eve. Some others have counted the twelve days beginning with December 26th and running through Epiphany itself.

Like other Christmas customs, the twelve days of Christmas evolved from local customs and holidays that often pre-dated Christianity and Christmas. To this day the way we celebrate Christmas is changing and growing as society changes. Some customs and traditions become outdated and disappear, some change with the times and new ones emerge. Modern central heating has eliminated fireplaces making it impossible to burn a log for twelve days but Yule logs today have evolved into a log-shaped cake to be eaten during the holidays. St. Nicholas has become Santa Claus and has moved from Turkey to the North Pole, and so on. As we will see in the coming days the stories and myths surrounding this carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas", have grown and changed as well as the carol itself changing over time.




Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

The Birth of Jesus According to St. Luke

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The following is the account of the birth of Jesus as recorded in Chapter 2, versus 1 - 20 of the Gospel of St. Luke. (Source: "The New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, pages 1109-1110)



Birth of Jesus. In those days Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to David's town of Bethlehm – because he was of the house and lineage of David – to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.

While they were there the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place travelers lodged.

The Shepherds. There were shepherds in that region, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flocks. The angel of the Lord appeared to them as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid. The angel said to them: "You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to your – tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people. This day in David's city a savior has been born to you. The Messiah and Lord. Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes." Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in high heaven,
peace on earth to those on whom
his favor rests."


When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us." They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw, they understood what had been told them concerning this child. All who heard of it were astonished at the report given them by the shepherds.

Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for a ll they had heard and seen, in accord with what had been told them.






Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Clement Clarke Moore



'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 hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

O Holy Night
by Chuck

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Placide Clappeau was a prosperous wine merchant and the mayor of the French city of Roquemaure. In his spare time he enjoyed writing poetry to help him relax.

In 1847 Clappeau's parish priest asked him to write a poem to be read at the mass on Christmas. Clappeau wrote the poem as requested and, when he finished, he liked it so much that he asked his friend Adolphe-Charles Adam (1803-1856), a composer of opera and ballet music in Paris, to compose music for the poem. Adams' is best known for the ballet Giselle which he produced in 1841.

Like other classic carols, the words and music conveyed the spirit of the season and became popular in France. However, a few years later, Clappeau became a socialist and left the church. This, plus the fact that the composer, Adolphe-Charles Adam, was Jewish outraged the authorities in the French Church. Rising anti-semitism in mid-nineteenth century France plus the siege mentality of the Church in France at that time as it saw and feared what it interpreted as a rising tide of atheistic socialism caused the church authorities to turn on the carol and denounce it. Like others before and after, in their zeal to combat what they saw as the enemy, they saw everything as political and attempted to wipe out everything associated with the enemy.

Fortunately, a Unitarian minister and self-styled music critic in Massachusetts, John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893), had discovered the French carol and had translated it into English. He then proceeded to publish it in Dwight's Journal of Music, a magazine that he published himself and used to build his reputation as a music critic. Dwight's Journal of Music was apparently read by many in the music publishing profession because the carol, O Holy Night, was included in many song books published at that time. The carol became a favorite in the Union sates during the Civil War and has continued to be popular to this day.

While O Holy Night is about the only thing Placide Clappeau is remembered for today, John Sullivan Dwight's publication, Dwight's Journal of Music, continues to be studied by musicologists to this day for its information about music in New England before, during and following the Civil War.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!



French Version

Minuit, chrétiens,
C’est l’heure solennelle
Où l’Homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple à genoux,
Attends ta délivrance!
Noël! Noël!
Voici le Rédempteur!
Noël! Noël!
Voici le Rédempteur!

Le Rédempteur
A brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un Frère où n’était qu’un esclave;
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer.
Qui Lui dira notre reconnaissance?
C’est pour nous tous qu’Il naît,
Qu’Il souffre et meurt.
Peuple debout,
Chante ta délivrance!
Noël! Noël!
Chantons le Rédempteur!
Noël! Noël!
Chantons le Rédempteur!




Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Announcement of the Birth of Jesus

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The following is the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary informing her that she is to be the Mother of Jesus as recorded in Chapter 1, versus 26 - 33 of the Gospel of St. Luke. (Source: "The New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, page 11108)

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin' name was Mary. Upon arriving , the angel said to her: Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her: "Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end."

Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know man?" The angel answered her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God. Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God."

Mary said: "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." With that the angel left her.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Strawberry Salad/Desert
by Chuck

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Here is an ideal recipe for holiday meals – it is easy to make, looks great and is very tasty. While the red and white color of the dish make make this a festive looking dish, it can actually be served any time of year. In my family gelatin dishes usually contain fruit and cottage cheese, yogurt or sour cream, and are always served as a salad dish. So we serve this as a salad with the meal. While there are a few exceptions, we generally do not consider things to be a desert unless it contains chocolate. However, this is our personal taste and, if you want, you can also serve this as a light desert.

Ingredients:

2 Three ounce or 1 six ounce package of strawberry gelatin desert mix (Jell-O or other brand)
1 Cup of boiling water
2 Ten ounce packages of sliced frozen strawberries (or one 24 oz package if ten ounce packages are not available in your area) thawed
1 20-ounce (or 1pound, 4 ounce) can of CRUSHED pineapple
3 medium bananas, mashed
1 pint (or similar size container if not sold by liquid weight) of sour cream, low fat or regular (NOTE: sour cream is a cultured cream and is NOT sour. It is similar to yogurt and plain yogurt could be substituted for the sour cream if you so desire).
OPTIONAL – 1 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine the strawberry gelatin and boiling water. Stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Then fold in the strawberries with their juice, the drained pineapple (do NOT include the pineapple juice as it will make the gelatin too watery and it won't set), bananas and nuts.

Put HALF of the mixture in a 12" x 8" x 2" glass or plastic storage pan. Can also place it in one or more decorative Jell-O molds. Place pan or jell mold in the refrigerator until it is firm (about an hour and a half – don't freeze it). Leave the remainder in bowl at room temperature and don't let it set and become firm.

When the mixture in the pan is firm, remove from the refrigerator and spread the sour cream over the firm gelatin. Spoon the remaining gelatin mixture in the bowl over the sour cream and return the pan to the refrigerator for it to set firmly.

Serve when ready and enjoy.


Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Magic Snowmen
by Chuck

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It was winter and Christmas was near. But all was not well in Leprechaun Land. It seems that, in school at least, each little leprechaun felt compelled to torment those younger than himself. On the school playground the sixth graders tormented those in the kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth and fifth grades. The fifth graders tormented those in kindergarten, first, second, third and fourth grades. The fourth graders tormented those in kindergarten, first, second and third grades. The third graders tormented those in kindergarten, first and second grades. The second graders tormented those in kindergarten and first grade. The first graders tormented those in kindergarten. And those in kindergarten tormented those - well they didn’t have anyone to torment and that made them even more frustrated.

Now little leprechauns, like little children everywhere, will have their rivalries and disagreements. But this was becoming more serious as the leprechauns were constantly fighting and tormenting those younger than themselves. Old Father O'Brien, the parish priest, preached every Sunday about how little leprechauns should behave and not fight with each other. The stern young principal, Father FitzHugh, and the teachers spent more and more of their time scolding the fighters and calling their parents. It was so bad that the school's detention room always had more children in it than any other classroom. The parents also were becoming concerned and found themselves spending more time giving their little leprechauns time outs, not buying pizza on Fridays and withholding allowances. But nothing worked.

Being in kindergarten, Sean and McGilicudy found themselves being tormented by all the leprechauns in the grades above them.

Christmas was almost here and all the leprechauns were excited and anxious for both Christmas and the vacation from school. Even better, it had just snowed and everyone was eager to go an play in the snow. When recess came everyone headed to the playground to play in the snow. Sean, McGilicudy and some others from the kindergarten went to a corner and began to build a snowman. But, just as they were finishing their creation, a group of older leprechauns began pelting them with snowballs and, when the little ones sought cover, the older ones pushed their snowman over, destroying it. Just then the bell rang and it was too late to try to fix the snowman. Sean and McGilicudy were both mad.

The next day was Saturday and both Sean and McGilicudy were up early, eager to play in the snow again. As soon as breakfast was over and his chores done, Sean headed for McGilicudy's house. As usual McGilicudy had finished breakfast but, instead of doing his chores quickly as Sean had done, he had concentrated on trying to figure out a way to not do the chores. Of coursel, none of his schemes had worked and Sean ended up helping him to make his bed, pick-up his room and empty the dishwasher. Come to think of it maybe McGilicudy's other little schemes were part of a larger scheme to stall until Sean arrived and did most of the work for him. Hmm!

With the chores done, they were off to the big field and hill behind the church. McGilicudy was still mad about the destruction of their snowman yesterday. Today, he told Sean, he had a plan to get even. Turning to Sean he said, "let's build an army of snowmen and attack the big leprechauns. We will show them that they cannot destroy our snowman and get away with it!"

As usual, Sean simply went along with McGilicudy's crazy idea knowing that it was impossible to change a dreamer's mind with logic. Besides, it would be fun to build a lot of snowmen. And, it was Christmas time in Leprechaun Land. A magic time of the year in a magic land. Stranger things have been known to happen and who was Sean to question these things?

It had snowed again the night before blanketing Leprechaun Land. in white. The sky was blue, the sun shining and the air crisp as the two little ones headed for the field behind the church.

Upon arriving at the large empty field behind the church, McGilicudy took a moment to survey the site with the flat field behind the church leading to some gentle hills bordered by the woods in the distance. This was the favorite play area for all the little leprechauns in every season. At this moment on this bright morning, Sean and McGilicudy were the only ones here.

McGilicudy immediately took command. Since it was his idea, he made himself the general and, remembering from movies that armies also had sergeants, he made Sean his sergeant. That done, McGilicudy decided that the small knoll toward the center of the field would be an excellent spot for his army. With McGilicudy in the lead, the two tramped through the snow to the knoll and began building their army of snowmen.

By lunch time the knoll in the middle of the field was occupied by Sean and McGilicudy's army of about a dozen snowmen. They had also built a little snow fort and stocked it with snowballs. "General" McGilicudy was ready for war!




Leaving the snowmen to guard the empty field, Sean and McGilicudy went to Sean's home where his mother fed and warmed them with hot soup and sandwiches.

After lunch they returned to the field to find their snowmen still guarding the knoll. But there were now other little leprechauns playing in the vast field. In one area a number of Sean and McGilicudy's classmates were playing in the snow. Other leprechauns had sleds and were sledding down the big hill at the back end of the field and, off to the right some older leprechauns were having a friendly snowball fight with each other. Other little leprechauns were also drifting in to play in the snow, throw snowballs or ride on their sleds.

Among the newcomers were the ones who had destroyed the snowman they had built on the school playground the day before. Shortly after their arrival one of them spotted the snowmen on the knoll and headed in that direction.

The intentions of the bigger leprechauns were made clear when a couple of them lobbed some snowballs at the knoll. The distance was too far for accuracy and they landed harmlessly on the knoll.

General McGilicudy ordered his men to prepare to return fire and he and Sean took up positions in their snow fort.

As the bigger leprechauns continued to advance, Sean and McGilicudy each threw a snowball at the oncoming forces. The shots fell short but it was suddenly clear to all on the field that a snowball fight was about to take place at the knoll. Leprechauns all over the field stopped what they were doing and turned their sights on the knoll.

The older leprechauns advanced rapidly and snowballs began flying in both directions. Sean and McGilicudy were standing firm and defending their position. But it was clear to all that it was only a matter of a couple of minutes before the attacking leprechauns, who were both bigger and outnumbered the two little defenders of the knoll, would over run them and destroy the army of snowmen just as they had destroyed the one on the playground the day before.

At that moment, Father FitzHugh happened to be driving by and, seeing a fight about to begin, stopped his car and began running across the field in a vain attempt to prevent the impending fight.

But then something strange happened. Just as Fr. FitzHugh started across the field, a cloud drifted in front of the sun plunging the field in shadow. At the same time a small gust of wind blew across the field picking up the loose snow and enveloping the field in a fine cloud of snow dust. It obscured Fr. FitzHugh just enough so that he appeared to be one of the students rather than the principal.

In the dimmed light and blur of the swirling snow dust it appeared to the leprechauns on the sidelines that the snowmen on the knoll were fighting beside Sean and McGilicudy and the attacking leprechauns, who had been slowed down by the blowing snow, were being repulsed.

Suddenly emboldened by the thought that they could even the score with the bigger leprechauns, the classmates of Sean and McGilicudy abandoned their play area and ran up the back side of the knoll to help Sean and McGilicudy. Seeing the little ones joining the fray, and sensing the growing excitement of the fight, others soon joined on both sides.

Within moments every little leprechaun in the area had converged on the knoll. Snowballs were flying everywhere and a free-for-all ensued as everyone threw at everyone else. There were no longer any sides.

McGilicudy attempted to hang on to his anger and concentrate his efforts on his enemies. But the growing excitement of the fight caused him to abandon his anger and just have fun like the others.

Within minutes the pelting of snowballs and rolling in the snow had everyone looking like a snowman and to an observer it appeared that dozens of snowmen were having the time of their life laughing, throwing snowballs and just having fun.

Observing the melee from his study, old Fr. O'Brien panicked and began calling the little leprechaun's fathers to come and help stop the fight. They responded quickly and soon, led by Fr. O'Brien, a group of fathers were running toward the knoll.

Seeing a movement to his left, Fr. FitzHugh fired a snowball at the dark figure, hitting Fr. O'Brien in the head and knocking his hat off. Suddenly realizing who he had hit, Fr. FitzHugh was momentarily stunned, but he was quickly brought out of it when he was hit in the face by a snowball thrown by a somewhat angry Fr. O'Brien.

Fr. O'Brien's anger melted the second the snowball left his hand as his mind was suddenly flooded with memories of the fun snowball fights he had had as a young boy. Similar memories engulfed the accompanying fathers and they quickly joined in the fight.

Fr. O'Brien's panic call had also alerted the mothers and they arrived at the church shortly after the fathers. Seeing the chaos on the field, and their husband's participation in it, the mothers, fearing for the safety of their children, and upset that their husbands were doing nothing to stop it, became mad. But wise old Grandma McGilicudy quickly brought them to their senses by pointing out that they were all having fun on the field. "Boys will be boys" she said, adding "and men are just big boys at heart even if they are fathers."

Grandma McGilicudy then took charge and ordered some of the mothers to go home and prepare soup along with cookies and hot chocolate. Taking the others into the church hall she had them set up tables and chairs and build a warm fire in the little used fireplace in the corner.

Soon the sun began to disappear behind the hill signaling the end of another day. With the sun setting the chill of night began to spread across the field occupied by a hoard of cold, tired, hungry and VERY HAPPY leprechauns.

As the happy leprechauns, both large and small, began trudging off the field, they noticed the warm glow emanating from the church hall and heard the sound of Christmas carols coming from it. Shivering with cold, they headed toward the warm shelter where they were welcomed by the feast prepared by their mothers and wives.

The party that followed was one that will long be remembered in Leprechaun Land. They sang and ate and danced until late in the evening. But what everyone remembered about that memorable Saturday afternoon and evening was the friendship and camaraderie. And, it continued long after Christmas as the teasing and tormenting in school of those smaller then oneself ceased. Oh, there was the occasional spat between two little leprechauns every now and then but the big animosities between groups were no longer there.

Outside as the moon rose and began casting its eerie light over the now abandoned field, all that remained of the day's activities were the snowmen on the knoll. A couple were still standing and the others were in pieces. But if one were to look closer, one would notice that on the face of each snowman, both the standing and the fallen, was a big smile. All of which leaves one wondering. Was that gust of wind that first engulfed the field with a cloud of snow just a chance gust or was some Christmas magic involved? And, did the snowmen remain frozen in their places during the afternoon's melee or did they participate in the fun along with the snow covered leprechauns?




Copyright © 2005 by Charles J. Nugent Jr.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Santa Lucia and the Festival of Lights

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Today, December 13th is the feast of St. Lucia (Lucy). In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries the feast of St. Lucia marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations.

Like St. Stephen, whose feast day is celebrated on December 26 and has become associated with the after Christmas celebration of Boxing Day on the same date, St. Lucia was an early martyr in the Christian Church. St. Lucia was born in the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in 283 A.D. Her family was wealthy with her father being Roman and her mother Greek. St. Lucia was raised a Christian and, despite her great beauty and horde of admirers, chose to dedicate her life to the Church and remain a virgin. Her father, who had a strong Christian faith died when she was young and, as St. Lucia entered adulthood, her mother, who lacked her husband's Christian faith, tried to force St. Lucia into a marriage with a wealthy non-believer. Lucia resisted all attempts to marry her off.

At the same time the Roman authorities, under the rule of the Emperor Diocletian, began stepping up their persecutions of Christians. Despite the danger, Lucia began secretly helping Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels from the Romans by bringing them food. According to legend, Lucia would wear a candle on her head to light her way and free her hands to carry bread to those in the tunnels. This continued for about three years until Lucia herself was exposed as a Christian and arrested. Some stories say that a suitor she had rejected got his revenge by turning her in to the authorities. On December 13th in 303 A.D. Lucia, after refusing to renounce her faith, died for that faith at the hands of her Roman executioners. Some stories say she was beheaded while others claim she suffered a more gruesome death. In either case, she joined the ranks of the early Christian martyrs and was soon proclaimed a saint.

Lucia means "light" and, a few centuries after her death, Vikings from the north managed to extend the radius of their trade and warfare to Sicily where they encountered the story of St. Lucia. The tradition of celebrating the feast of St. Lucia was carried back to Scandinavia by missionaries who followed the Vikings back home and began converting the Viking population to Christianity.

Under the old Julian calendar December 13th was the date of the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. St. Lucia, the saint associated with light, became a logical replacement for the old Norse goddesses who were revered for bringing the world back to light following the solstice.

A millennia ago, the Norse King Canute of England decreed that the celebration of the Christmas season would begin with the Feast of St. Lucia. Today, on December 13th, the Festival of Lights is celebrated in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries with young girls dressing in a white dress, a crown of battery operated artificial candles (which have replaced the more dangerous candles of old) and carrying a plate of sweet breads. In times past the young women would go door to door in the villages offering bread to the neighbors. Today families celebrate with the young girls dressing up as described above and young boys in a white outfit and carrying a candle. There is singing of St. Lucia's song and feasting on traditional sweet breads, cakes and cookies. In the larger cities in Sweden there are contests with young women competing for the title of the Santa Lucia for the coming year.

Gingerbread

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Ginger is a spice grown in south Asia. It was a popular spice used in cooking around the Mediterranean and Europe in ancient times but, following the fall of the Roman Empire, it disappeared from Europe. Ginger was re-introduced into Europe in the Middle Ages either by the Crusaders returning from fighting in the the Holy Land and/or by Marco Polo following his trips to China and east Asia.

It again became a popular spice throughout Europe although it was usually used in the making of candies and, later cookies both of which were referred to as gingerbread. In fact it became so closely associated with cookies and candies made with spices that in Medieval times cookies and candies were often referred to as gingerbread even if they contained no ginger. Gingerbread man cookies became so popular that folk tales were told about the Gingerbread Man.

For some excellent Medieval English gingerbread recipes visit Gode Cookery.Com on the web.

During the colonial period, settlers from all over Europe brought their gingerbread recipes with them so that today there are literally thousands of variations of gingerbread and gingerbread cookie recipes available. Despite the "bread" in the name, gingerbread is really a cake to be served as a sweet desert rather than as bread during a meal. Even most of the recipes call for it to be baked in a flat cake pan rather than loaf pans used for bread. Either way, gingerbread makes an excellent addition to holiday meals and snacks.

Below is our Shamrocks recipe for gingerbread.

INGREDIENTS:

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/3 cup brown sugar (can substitute regular white sugar)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
* 1/2 cup cooking oil (can substitute melted butter)
* 1 cup molasses
* 1 egg
* 1/2 cup sour milk (add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to milk and let stand until milk coagulates)
* 1/4 cup hot water

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift or mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Stir in melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, egg, and milk. Beat in the hot water.

Pour batter into a generously greased and floured 8-inch square pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched with finger.
Serve gingerbread with whipped cream (Cool-Whip ® or similar commercial toppings are an excellent substitute for do-it-yourself whipped cream) or lemon sauce.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December 12th Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Our Lady of Guadalupe - Mosaic in San Xavier Mission Church in Tucson, Arizona


Today we celebrate the appearance of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to a poor indian named Juan Diego at Tepeyac, a hill in northwestern Mexico City. Her clothing and complexion resembled that of the local indians than the conquering Spanish overlords.

Mary instructed Juan Diego to go to the bishop and instruct him to build a church on the site. Of course the bishop ignored the ignorant peasant, Juan Diego. To convince the bishop that Juan Diego was carrying her instructions, Mary gave Juan Diego a bundle of roses, which normally could not be found at that time of year. Juan Diego dutifully wraped the roses in his flimsy cloth cloak and returned to the bishop.

When Juan Diego unwrapped his cloak the bishop saw not only the roses but the perfect impression of the image of Mary as she appeared before Juan Diego. The bishop then believed and had the church built.

Today, almost 500 years later, the cloak is on display in the church - a miracle in itself since it is perfectly preserved despite the fact that the flimsy material should have deteriorated within a few years.

Good King Wenceslas

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Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

This Christmas, actually Boxing or St. Stephen's Day, carol was written by John Mason Neale in 1853 and set to the melody of a 13th century song called Tempus Adest Floridum (Spring Has Unwrapped Her Flowers).

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Birth of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Matthew

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The following is the birth of Jesus as recorded in Chapter 1 of the Gospel of St. Matthew. (Source: "The New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, pages 1049)


The Birth of Jesus. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joseph her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to him: "Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

"The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel,"

a name which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had directed him and received her into his home as his wife. He had no relationships with her at any time before she bore a son, whom he named Jesus.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Boxing Day

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Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in England and Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It officially falls on December 26th, the day after Christmas, or the first weekday following Christmas if Christmas falls on a weekend. The nice part about this holiday is that people are able to continue the Christmas holiday festivities for another day rather than having to return to work the day after Christmas.

As celebrated in England and the English speaking Commonwealth, Boxing Day is a day to visit friends and family, attend sporting events (popular in England and Australia) and go shopping.

Boxing Day originated in the Middle Ages and is generally believed to have begun with the practice of lords of the manor distributing gifts to the servants and other workers on their lands. As the merchant class developed they also joined the practice of giving gifts on December 26th to household servants and tradesmen with whom they dealt. December 26th is also the feast of St. Stephen the martyr, the first disciple of Christ to be martyred following the crucifixion of Christ. On St. Stephen's Day the churches would distribute the money and goods, that had been deposited in their alms boxes by their parishioners, to the poor.

It is not known how the day came to be known as "Boxing Day". We do know that the name has nothing to do with the gathering up and disposing of the boxes which had contained the Christmas presents. It also has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Some have speculated that the name comes from the fact that money in the churches' alms boxes was distributed on this day or referred to the boxing of gifts given by the nobles and merchant class to servants and tradesmen.

It should be noted that Christmas is the day on which people in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand exchange gifts with family and friends. On Boxing Day gifts are not exchanged between people. Rather, gifts are given by upper income people to those who provide services for them and to those in need.

Even though Boxing Day has its roots in the Middle Ages, it did not become an official holiday until the nineteenth century during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was during this period that English power was at its height and the British Empire stretched from one end of the world to the other (which gave rise to the saying that "the sun never sets on the British Empire"). It was during this period that England began to look back upon and celebrate (as well as romanticize) its mediaeval roots. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the leading English speaking states in the British Empire at that time, followed England in formalizing this holiday while their American cousins, who had severed their ties with the British monarchy and empire a century before did not. Of course the retail sector in America has done its part to encourage shopping on this day as has become the custom also in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The difference being that, in America, the day after Christmas has become an unofficial shopping holiday as shoppers rush out to take advantage of after Christmas sales, while their counterparts in Britain and the English part of the Commonwealth have made shopping one of the major ways they celebrate the holiday today.

Links for More Information:

Elaine's rosebriar.uk.com/holidays page

Snopes.com

Canadian Heritage

How the Irish Celebrate Wren (Boxing)Day

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Leprechauns and the Shoemaker
by Chuck

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles Nugent
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Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a poor shoemaker and his wife. They were a hardworking, thrifty couple, but, of late, had been sad.

Business had not been good and, as they were still childless, they were being forced to give up their dream of the patter of little feet in their home.

Things kept getting worse until one day the shoemaker said to his wife "I just sold our last pair of shoes and only received enough money to purchase a little bread and cheese for our dinner and leather to make one more pair of shoes. I don't know what we will do after that."

"Don't worry" said the wife. "Come. Let us say a prayer and thank God for our dinner this evening and our home which protects us from the cold outside."

So, they thanked God for their food, their home and each other then ate their meager meal of bread and cheese. Leaving their plates with the remains of the bread and cheese on the table, they then went to bed.

Shortly after they blew out the candle and the house went dark, two little leprechauns, who had been waiting outside, crept into the house. Hungry and cold, they lit the candle on the table, as much for warmth as light, and quickly devoured the scraps of bread and cheese the couple had left on their plates. They then set about turning the piece of leather the shoemaker had purchased into a most beautiful pair of shoes.

Just before the sky began to turn from black to gray as the sun started to rise, the two little leprechauns blew out the candle and crept out of the house as silently as they had entered.

Shortly after that the shoemaker and his wife woke up and prepared to greet another day. Walking into the shop, they were surprised to see the beautiful pair of shoes.

"It's a miracle" cried the shoemaker. "God has answered our prayers" said the wife.

As the shoemaker was putting the shoes in the window, a rich merchant rode by on his horse. Seeing the shoes he quickly dismounted and offered the shoemaker two gold pieces for the shoes. This was far more than the shoemaker had ever received for any of his shoes and he readily accepted the payment in exchange for the shoes.

Taking the money, the shoemaker went out and brought some more food and leather to make two more pairs of shoes.

That night, after a good supper, the shoemaker again laid out the leather to work on the next day and he and his wife went off to bed leaving their plates with scraps of food on them.

Again the two little leprechauns crept into the house, lit the candle, cleaned the more numerous scraps of food off the plates and set about making two pair of shoes out of the leather the shoemaker had purchased.

Waking up the next morning the shoemaker and his wife were again surprised by the new shoes. The shoemaker placed the shoes in his window and again they were sold almost immediately.

"Another miracle!" said the shoemaker. But his wife was a little more skeptical.

"Darling" she said, "did you notice that, in addition to the new shoes, all the scraps of food we left on our plates was gone both mornings?"

"I think we have had visitors the past two nights".

"Well, we must find them and thank them" said the shoemaker.

"I have a better idea" said his wife. "Let us buy some more leather and leave some more scraps on our plates and then hide and see what happens". "Good idea", said her husband.

So the shoemaker went out and brought leather to make four pairs of shoes plus more bread, cheese, some meat and vegetables for stew and a little jug of wine. After a hearty meal of stew with bread and cheese the wife cut a thick slice of bread and a thick slice of cheese and broke both of them in half leaving half on one plate and half on the other. Then she put a spoonful of stew in each bowl and poured a little wine in each glass making it look like she and her husband had had too much to eat and had left plentiful scraps.

They then blew out the candle and hid, waiting to see what would happen. They didn't have to wait long before they saw the two little leprechauns creep in shivering from the cold. And shiver they should as they were barefoot and dressed in thin cotton shirts and trousers both of which were well worn.

After warming themselves by the candle for a few minutes, the two leprechauns greedily devoured the small feast that the couple had left them and then set about making four pairs of shoes.

Just before morning the leprechauns left and the couple emerged from hiding.

"Oh! Those poor little men" said the wife. "They have no jackets or hats to protect them from the cold." "And, no boots to keep their feet dry" added the shoemaker.

The shoes were placed in the window and quickly sold leaving the shoemaker with a tidy sum of money.

"Husband" said the wife, when you go to buy more leather and food also buy some warm cloth and I will make the two little leprechauns a new shirt and trousers along with a coat, hat, mittens and scarf."

"Yes", said the shoemaker. "And I will make them each a nice pair of boots".

After working all day, the shoemaker and his wife carefully laid out the two sets of new clothes. The shoemaker's wife then made a delicious dinner and set out four plates and cups. Then they blew out the candle and hid again.

Soon the two leprechauns came in but, instead of more leather they saw the two sets of clothes. Oh, they were so happy. They quickly dressed in their new clothes and began dancing around the candle and singing happily.

At that moment the shoemaker and his wife emerged from their hiding and greeted the leprechauns. At first the leprechauns were scared and prepared to run away.

"Wait!" cried the shoemaker and his wife together. "We want to thank you for your wonderful help and have you join us for dinner" continued the shoemaker. "Please stay and let us show our appreciation" pleaded the wife.

So the leprechauns stayed and all four of them sat down to the sumptuous dinner the wife had prepared.

The two leprechauns told them how they had no job and no place to live so they were forced to wander the countryside doing what they could. The shoemaker and his wife told them how they had been struggling to sell shoes and how they had had to give up their dream of children and a family.

It was at this moment that the wife had an idea. Turning to the leprechauns she said, "You have no work and no place to stay while we have our shop and the extra room we have been saving for the child we never had. Why don't the two of you move into our extra room and join my husband in his business?"

The two leprechauns thought for a moment and then quickly accepted the offer

The leprechauns moved into the home and joined the business and all four of them prospered and lived happily ever after.


Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Leprechaun Christmas
by Chuck

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Patty and her brother Padric were sad. They had lost their parents and had been sent away to another city to live with their Grandmother and Grandfather. Their grandparents were kindly, but poor. Now it was Christmas and times were hard. First the car broke down making it difficult for Grandpa to get much work. Next, the oven broke and Grandma had to make due with the microwave. It was OK but she could no longer cook the tasty food that Patty and Padric loved so much and, worst of all she could not bake her famous Christmas cookies.

It was going to be a very bleak Christmas and Patty and Padric were very sad. Worst of all, Santa Claus did not know where they had moved to so even he wouldn't be coming this year.

But Grandpa had never been one to despair. As tough as things became he would always quote one of his famous sayings like "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" or, another favorite, "count your blessings and be thankful you don't have the problems that other people have to face". And, when things were really bad he would always smile and say, "don't worry, things have to get better tomorrow". But Patty and Padric were still sad.

So, one morning shortly before Christmas Grandpa announced at breakfast that they must begin preparing for Christmas. Patty and Padric didn't believe anything could be done but had no choice but to follow him. They went first to the nearby park where the caretakers were cutting branches off some trees. Grandpa wished them a good day and asked if he could take a branch. They said "OK" and he selected a branch from an evergreen for their Christmas tree.

Patty and Padric were not impressed but had no choice but to follow Grandpa on his next quest. They continued through the park as he had them look for bottle caps and other shiny items to trim the tree with. It soon became an adventure as Patty and Padric began scampering around seeking shiny things to trim their tree with. Meanwhile, Grandpa began picking up old soda bottles and cans.

When they got home they set up their pathetic little tree in the living room and decorated it. It wasn't much but Patty and Padric felt a feeling of pride in their accomplishment and a growing confidence that maybe Grandpa was right that things would get better. Grandpa then took them to the store where they turned in the cans and bottles for the refund which gave them the extra money needed to buy a box of animal shaped cookies along with the rest of the groceries. Patty and Padric did not know what Grandpa planned to do with the cookies but were now certain that it would be fun.

While the three were in the park looking for their pathetic little Christmas tree, they were spotted by O'Rourke, the leprechaun who lived in the park. He observed them and was impressed with the way the grandfather was inspiring the children to look at the possibilities rather than despairing. Being a busy leprechaun, O'Rourke decided to dispatch one of his lazier assistants, Barou, to follow the three and find out more.

Barou, did as he was told and followed them. At the end of the day he reported back to O'Rourke about how the family's stove and car were broken and how they had no money for Christmas but were still happy and optimistic. O'Rourke called the Leprechaun king who said he would call Santa Claus and get the family taken care of. But when the Leprechaun king called the North Pole the phone was answered by a surely elf who told him that Santa was too busy to talk with the king and that Santa's trip was all planned and it was too late to make any changes.

Well, the Leprechaun King did not like this one bit. So he called O'Rourke back and told him to call as many leprechauns as possible to help this family.

That night the O'Rourke and a dozen leprechauns sprang into action. Since tomorrow was Christmas Eve they had to work fast. They first went to the country and found a nice big tree which they cut down and brought back. Then two leprechauns crept into Grandma and Grandpa's house to check on the stove while two other leprechauns checked out the car. They soon determined what was wrong with both of them and promptly fixed them. They then went to the store and brought food and presents for Christmas and found some ornaments to trim the tree.

As Grandma, Grandpa, Patty and Padric spent the day preparing for their meager Christmas celebration, the leprechauns worked furiously getting everything ready for a big Christmas surprise. By lunchtime the leprechauns had everything ready so they had lunch.

Back at the house Patty and Padric were becoming more and more excited as Christmas Eve approached. They were still sad that Santa would not be coming but they were sure things would be just fine for Christmas as Grandpa had promised. But they would miss the Christmas cookies. Just then Grandma called them to the kitchen and gave them each a butter knife and a plate. She then put three little bowls, one containing red frosting, one green and the third white, in front of them. Grandpa then brought out the animal crackers and Patty and Padric soon were engrossed in spreading different colors of frosting on the cookies. It was so much fun that they forgot all of their problems and began to feel that this was turning out to be their best Christmas ever.

Soon it was dark and after their meager supper of boiled potatoes and bread Grandpa announced that since it was Christmas Eve they should go to bed early. Patty and Padric started to complain that since Santa was not coming there was no need to go to bed early, but they saw a gleam in Grandpa's eye and scampered off to bed quickly. Grandpa followed them into the bedroom with a book under his arm. Once they were tucked in under the warm feather comforters Grandma had brought down from the attic, Grandpa opened the book and read them the story of baby Jesus being born in the manger on this night. Snuggled under their warm comforters, each thought about how fortunate they were to have their nice warm beds when the baby Jesus had to sleep in straw. As Grandpa continued to read they tried to picture in their minds the bright star, the angles singing in the heavens, the shepherds making their way to the manger with their little gifts and the Three Wise Men coming with their rich gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Before Grandpa finished reading both were sound asleep, dreaming of the marvelous day they would have tomorrow.

As Grandpa turned out the light and went to get Grandma to take her to bed. But Grandma was concerned that he had raised the children's hopes for the next day too much – they were so poor and a small plate of frosted animal crackers and evergreen branch would not make for much of a Christmas no matter what Grandpa said about things being better tomorrow. But Grandpa smiled and told her that if she had faith and believed things would be better they would. But she just gave a weary shake of her head and headed toward the bedroom.

As soon as the lights went out in the house, Barou pulled out his cell phone and called O'Rourkee and the others who immediately came over and went to work. The little evergreen branch was moved to the back porch and the big tree brought in and decorated. Barou was dispatched to the roof of the O'Malley home two blocks away where he was told to sit and wait for Santa. Two leprechauns went to work on fixing the oven while two others worked on the car. Others brought in presents, decorated or worked on preparing the dinner.

It was a cold, clear night as the shivering Barou sat on the roof top waiting for Santa. He found a sheltered spot next to the chimney and fell asleep. While dreaming of his warm bed and tomorrow's Christmas feast, he was suddenly awakened by the jingling of bells. Awaking with a start he saw a sleigh full of toys and eight tiny reindeer flying toward the roof. In a moment he was face to face with Santa Claus himself. Barou told Santa about Patty and Padric and asked him to take them some presents. Santa was upset that his elf had not updated the records about where Patty and Padric had moved and very upset that this cranky elf had refused to take the Leprechaun King's message. But poor Santa, was on a tight schedule and he did not have time to go over to Patty and Padric's home. But he said that he always carried extra toys in the bottom of his bag for emergencies like this and would try to stop by on his way back to the North Pole.

Barou scampered back to Patty and Padric's home and told O'Rourkee. For the rest of the night O'Rourkee and his team of leprechauns worked furiously getting everything ready. The sky was still dark when they finished but Santa had not yet come. As the leprechauns anxiously waited the sky began to turn gray. The sun would soon appear and then Santa could not stop since children would be getting up then. Just as it appeared the sun would arise from its slumber the leprechauns heard a faint jingling of bells in the distance. Seconds latter eight reindeer pulling Santa in a nearly empty sleigh flew toward the roof.

With minutes to spare, Santa jumped out of the sleigh and dove toward the chimney motioning for O'Rourkee and Barou to follow. Quick as a wink they flew across the room to the tree and the three of them pulled out presents to put under the tree. Then back to the chimney went Santa with O'Rourkee and Barou rushing to keep up.

As Patty and Padric slept they dreamed of Santa landing on the roof. They could hear the jingle of his bells and the sound of the reindeer's hooves on the roof. Then there was a loud THUMP as Barou landed hard. Was this a dream or was it real? As they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and tried to determine what was dream and what was real they heard more little noises from the living room. Out of bed they went and flew toward the dark living room. They arrived just in time to see Barou scramble up the chimney. As they were pondering this strange sight they again heard the jingling of bells and the prancing of hooves'.

Meanwhile, on the roof Santa was preparing to leave with his now empty sack and sleigh. Turning to O'Rourkee and his team, Santa invited them to join him in the sleigh and come to the North Pole to celebrate Christmas with him and Mrs. Claus. They quickly jumped in the sleigh and started off. All except for poor Barou who was still struggling up the chimney. Climbing out of the chimney, Barou saw the sleigh heading across the roof. He made a mad dash for it and, just as the sleigh reached the end of the roof and lifted into the air, he jumped, grabbed the rung of the sleigh and hung on for dear life as they flew toward the North Pole.

Hearing the Patty and Padric in the living room and the commotion on the roof, Grandpa jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Throwing open the window he stuck his head out just in time to catch a glimpse of a sleigh, drawn by eight tiny reindeer and with a leprechaun hanging from the rear like a flag, vanish into the northern sky.

With the children and Grandpa running around the house, Grandma was soon awake and, smelling the delicious smells of food cooking, flew to the kitchen and discovered her oven full of freshly cooked food.

As Grandma, Grandpa and the children sat in the living room opening presents, eating the cookies and hot chocolate made by the leprechauns the leprechauns were landing at the North Pole where Mrs. Claus and the elves had a huge Christmas feast awaiting for them.

An it was a very Merry Christmas for all as both leprechauns and the children enjoyed the day and learned that hope is the most precious of possessions.

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Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Genealogy of Jesus – From the Gospel of St. Matthew

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The following is the lineage of Jesus from Abraham to his father, Joseph as recorded in Chapter 1 of the Gospel of St. Matthew. (Source: "The New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, pages 1048 – 1049)

A family record of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.
Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz was the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah,
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
After the Babylonian exile
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel, the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor.
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud.
Eliud was the of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph the
husband of Mary.

It was of her that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born.

Thus, the total number of generations is:
from Abraham to David, fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian
captivity, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian captivity to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Gingerbread Man Cookies

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Ginger, a spice grown in southeast Asia, has long been a popular seasoning for food. Ginger was a common spice in the ancient Roman world but its use in Europe declined after the fall of Rome. Marco Polo is generally credited with re-introducing it to Europe where it again became popular during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Numerous breads were seasoned with ginger and in many countries, including England and Germany, it became fashionable to bake gingerbread cookies in different shapes or figures of saints for various holidays. Gingerbread and gingerbread cookies, especially the gingerbread man, were brought to America by the English and Germans. Literally thousands of of gingerbread man cookie recipes have been created in America alone over the past couple of centuries.

Gingerbread man cookie cutters can usually be found in most department and other stores or on-line. AllTheBrands.com has links to a number sites selling gingerbread man and other cookie cutters.

Making gingerbread men and other Christmas cookies is always a fun activity to do with young children – and the results can be deliciously enjoyed by young and old alike.

Below are two recipes for gingerbread men cookies. Feel free to try them, experiment by varying the ingredients or click here for one of many sites containing numerous gingerbread man and other recipes.

Gingerbread Man Cookies 1:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
1 cup shortening
1 egg
5 cups flour
1-2 teaspoons of ginger (depending upon taste)
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (depending upon taste)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water
1 cup molasses

Cream molasses, sugar and shortening together.
Add egg; beat in a little.
Combine ginger, cinnamon, salt and 1 cup of the flour.
Mix soda and hot water and add alternately with dry mixture.
Then add the rest of the flour or enough to roll and cut with a gingerbread man cutter.

Decorate each cookie as desired with raisins and candies (baking candies, M & M's – your choice).

Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven about 7 minutes or until done with the touch of a finger.

Gingerbread Man Cookies 2:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup shortening
1/2 c brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
3/4 cup molasses
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream together the shortening, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger and salt.
Add egg and mix.
Add molasses and mix again.
Mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.
Sift and add to the creamed mixture. and stir until well blended. Chill for 1 hour.
Roll out dough 1/4 at a time to 1/8" thickness or slightly thicker on a lightly floured board
Cut with a cookie cutter and transfer to a greased (or non stick) cookie sheet
Repeat with remaining dough.

Before baking, decorate with raisins and/or candies as you like.

Place in oven for 8 - 10 minutes

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Gingerbread Man

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An old folktale about a favorite cookie coming to life.


Once upon a time a little old woman and a little old man lived in a cottage. One day the little old woman made a gingerbread man. She gave him raisins for eyes and bright red candy buttons. She then put him in the oven to bake.

The sweet aroma flowing from the oven made the little old woman and little old man very hungry and they were eager to eat him. Soon the baking was complete and the little old woman opened the oven door. But, she removed the pan from the oven the gingerbread man jumped out and ran out the open door shouting, "Don't eat me!"

The little old woman and little old man ran after the gingerbread man.
"Stop! Stop!" they shouted. Without looking back, the gingerbread man ran on saying,
"Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

Down the path he sped when he came to a pig. "Stop! Stop! I would like to eat you," shouted the pig. But the gingerbread man was too fast and he ran on saying
"Run, run as fast as you can. You can"t catch me,
I'm the gingerbread man."

A little further on he met a cow. "Stop! Stop! little man," called the hungry cow, "I want to eat you." Again the gingerbread man was too fast. He sped on down the road saying, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can"t catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."

The cow began to chase the gingerbread man along with the pig, the little old man and the little old woman. But the gingerbread man was too fast for them.

Soon the gingerbread man came to a horse. "Stop! Stop!" shouted the horse. "I want to eat you, little man." But the gingerbread man did not stop. He said,"Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."

The horse joined in the chase. The gingerbread man laughed and laughed, until he came to a river. "Oh no!" he cried, "They will catch me. How can I cross the river?"

Just then a sly fox, who had been watching the chase, emerged from behind a tree. "I can help you cross the river," said the fox. "Jump on to my tail and I will swim across."
"You won't eat me, will you?" asked the gingerbread man.
"Of course not!" said the fox. "I just want to help."

The gingerbread man climbed on the fox"s tail. Soon the gingerbread man began to get wet. "Climb onto my back," said the fox. So the gingerbread man did. As he swam the fox said, "You are too heavy. I am tired. Jump onto my nose." So the gingerbread man did as he was told.

As soon as they reached the bank, the fox tossed the gingerbread man up in the air and opened his mouth. "Snap!" went his jaws, and that was the end of the gingerbread man.

From the other side of the river the horse, the cow, the pig, the little old man and the little old woman watched hungrily as the sly old fox devoured his delicious treat.

The little old woman then took the little old man's hand and said "let us go back home and I will bake a new gingerbread man. Only this time we will lock the door and close the windows before we take him out of the oven."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Shamrocks' 2005 Advent Calendar


























































Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Nov 27

Nov 28

Nov 29

Nov 30

Dec 1

Dec 2

Dec 3

Dec 4

Dec 5

Dec 6

Dec 7

Dec 8

Dec 9

Dec 10

Dec 11

Dec 12

Dec 13

Dec 14

Dec 15

Dec 16

Dec 17

Dec 18

Dec 19

Dec 20

Dec 21

Dec 22

Dec 23

Dec 24

Dec 25

Dec 26

Dec 27

Dec 28

Dec 29

Dec 30

Dec 31


Click on a date in the Shamrocks' 2005 Advent Calendar above to see the story, recipe or activity for that date. Each day during the Advent Season a new entry will be posted. Dates in red will link to the entry for that day. Dates in black have not yet arrived so no entry has been posted - thus there is nothing to link to. Come back tomorrow for the new entry. Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day 2005
by Chuck

Audie Murphy – American War Hero


Today is Veteran's Day. A day set aside to honor the veterans of America's wars. It was originally known as Armistice Day to commemorate the official ending of hostilities in World War I - which occurred at "the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918. Following the second major war of the twentieth century, World War II, the name was changed to Veteran's Day so as to include the veterans of World War II and other wars. But the November eleventh date was kept (except for a few years when Congress attempted to assign variable dates to most holidays so that they could fall on Monday in order to create a three-day weekend. However, popular opposition forced them to make an exception for Veteran's Day and the Independence Day back to their original dates.)

On television today there will be a slew of war movies intended to honor the exploits of our veterans. Among these will be the 1955 movie To Hell and Back (which is also available on DVD) staring Audie Murphy. Unlike most of the war movies being shown today in which the exploits of both real and fictional heroes are portrayed by well known movie stars, the hero in "To Hell and Back" is played by himself.

The role movie star Audie Murphy played in front of the cameras in 1955 was the same role that he played as a real combat soldier in North Africa, Italy and France a decade earlier. The big difference was that the first time around the guns were real, there was no script and the ending was not known.

The son of poor Texas cotton farmers with only a grade school education, Audie, like many young men of his generation, was anxious to defend his country. After being rejected by the Marines and the Navy because of his size and youth, he finally convinced the Army to take him. Despite his youth and lack of formal education, he quickly became an expert fighter and respected leader in his unit. During his three years of combat he earned 33 medals and awards, including a Purple Heart, Congressional Medal of Honor and every medal for bravery as well as five medals from France and Belgium. During this same period he rose in rank from Private to Sergeant and ended his military career with a battlefield commission as 2nd Lieutenant.

Despite being a recognized hero after the war, Audie had to struggle to support himself with odd jobs after the war. A break came when actor James Cagney saw Audie's picture on the cover of Life Magazine and invited him into his home. Cagney and others got Audie parts in some movies. Audie never claimed to be an actor, but his fame coupled with his easy manner and outgoing personality made him popular with the American public and he ended up having a successful career in movies and television.

Audie Murphy's career was cut short when, on a foggy Memorial Day 1971, a private plane he was flying in crashed into the side of a mountain in Virginia killing all on board. But his memory lives on the annals of history and in his movies which can still be seen on TV and DVD.


Copyright © 2005 by Charles J. Nugent Jr.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Squire Gabby and the Sheep with the Golden Wool

Conclusion – Where Our Heros Arrive Too Late to Find the Sheep
Continued from Wednesday June 8, 2005) Click Here for Start of Story


Once past the land of the Centeaurs the road climbed sharply toward the sky. Up and up and up our brave Knights and little Squire climbed until they reached the top and would have touched the sky if it wern't for the giant that stood there holding up the sky.

At the top of the mountain the road split and went in three directions.
There was a sign which indicated that one of the three branches led to the end of the world (where one would fall off and never be heard from again), one led to the land of eternal fighting (where one had to fight forever) which was too much even for our brave Knights) and the third led to the land of the Sheep With The Golden Wool. Unfortunatly, the sign had been knocked down and you could not tell which road was which.

So Sir Adan asked the giant which road led to the Land of the Sheep With The Golden Wool. The giant said that he would have to check the map in his pocket and asked them if they would hold up the sky for him while he checked. Each of the four Knights took a corner and, while it was very heavy, managed to take it from the giant. The giant then introduced himself as Atlas and informed the four Knights that he had misbehaved in the past and, as punishment, had been forced to hold up the sky forever. But now, having tricked the four brave Knights into taking over his task, he was free to resume his life of mischief.

Knowing that they had to stall him, Sir Esteban asked if he would please complete his part of the bargain by checking his map and telling which road led to the Land of the Sheep With The Golden Wool. After he told them the correct road Sir Adan told Atlas that the weight of the sky was very uncomfortable pressing against their armour and would he mind taking the sky for a minute while they took off their armour. Taking pity on them, he agreed to assist with that one task. But as soon as Atlas had the sky back on his shoulders the four brave Knights mounted their hourses and, calling for Squire Gabby, took off for the Land of the Sheep With the Golden Wool leaving Atlas to hold the sky forever.

A short time later the trail led into a lush green meadow that matched the description the troubador had given. But, search as they may, there were no sheep, golden or otherwise. After riding around for hours they came to a man with a hammer and Sir Esteban asked where the Sheep With The Golden Wool could be found. He told him that the sheep had been sold after the land had been sold to a developer who was building a new shopping mall in the meadow.

Unable to fufull their quest their quest, the four Knights turned and headed back to Soggy Meadow Castle empty handed. Squire Gabby also returned empty handed - at least as far as the hollow tree in Land of Lazy Soda Drinkers. After retrieving her bags of gold floriens and silver tallers (gained from redeeming the old cans and bottles) she and her mule were so loaded down they almost sunk the boat. But by plodding on, as usual, Squire Gabby and her faithful mule eventually made it back to Soggy Meadow Castle with all of her booty!

Copyright © 2005 by Charles & Victor Nugent