Winter Blog Hop – Merry Christmas!!

Wow–this Christmas season has been a bit of a whirlwind. Over the last 24 days of the Winter Blog Hop, we’ve seen new books and Christmas traditions, cat-butt coasters and ornaments, cookies and mince pies, buxom snow-women and silver bells. It’s been a blast and I thank all of my guests and my readers for joining me.

I’ll be taking the next week or two off of blogging but will (I hope) be rested and ready to start a fabulous 2017 full of new words and new challenges.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season full of love, laughter, food, and family, and a healthy, happy New Year.

 

Happy New Year!

Christmas is over, the presents have been opened, and soon the winter holiday break will give way to the resumption of the normalcy denied us for the past month. For many people, the new year brings contemplation and resolutions, such as pledges to oneself: eat fewer sweets, exercise more, be nicer, write a novel, read more books, watch less television.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but as I sip my New Year’s champagne (never optional) I am sometimes contemplative. I’ll post later on my goals for the new year (far different from resolutions), but for now, 2016 finds me thinking about the origins of our New Year’s celebrations.

January 1 hasn’t always been the start of the new year. The Babylonians started the new year on the first new moon following the vernal equinox, in March. The ancient Egyptians began a new year with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Siriusin August. In Chinese culture, the traditional new year still begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice. In Jewish tradition, the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, takes place in the autumn, 163 days after the first day of Passover.

The January New Year we celebrate today is the creation of the Romans. According to History.com, “in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar … introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today. … Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties.” Not too many laurel branches any more, but I think we’ve got the raucous party part nailed down.

Many New Year’s traditions are associated with foods that are thought to bring luck in the new year. In the southern United States (and my house, because I like them), it’s customary to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens.  In Spain, people eat a dozen grapes in the twelve seconds immediately before midnight (never heard of this one before, but I look forward to watching the kid try it next year–I think I’ll stick to fermented grapes). Again according to History.com, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served in Sweden on New Year’s Eve; whoever finds the nut will have good fortune in the following year. Of course, other sources say it’s served on Christmas eve, and whoever finds the almond will get married.  Whichever is true, it occurs to me that this is likely the origin of my Swedish mother-in-law’s Christmas eve menu: rice pudding (sans almond) and Swedish meatballs (without gravy, thank you very much).

In Britain, the New Year is also known as Hogmanay, particularly in Scotland, and involves singing Auld Lang Syne (written by Scottish poet Robert Burns) at midnight, and partying to the wee hours. The “first footing” (the first foot across the threshold on New Year’s Day) was said to have indicated how one’s luck would go in the next year. The luckiest visitor would be a dark-haired male, carrying coal, shortbread, salt, black bun, and whisky. Women and blond-haired men could stay home.

Whatever your traditions may be, I wish you and yours a happy, healthy New Year, filled with love, romance, and lots of great books.

 

 

 

End of Year Reflections

“Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.”
Dave Barry

So it’s that time of year again. I don’t particularly like resolutions, since I usually blow them off, but I do like to reflect on the year past. This holiday season I have been thinking a lot about time.  Time is a slippery thing. You can have too little of it, of course. For example, I didn’t have enough time (or energy) to write for this blog in the last two months (sorry!). You can have too much of it: 13 hours in the car to and from my in-laws’ house in Missouri is way too much time. You can waste time (two words: Candy Crush), or you can spend it wisely, doing things you value.

You can run out of time, too. My mother-in-law is 81 and in good health, but more than once this past week she hinted at her own mortality. She made sure my son had her recipe for Gingersnaps, and she gave me a pile of old photos she said she wouldn’t need any more. We spent the afternoon happily going over each one, identifying all the people in them, so that the information wouldn’t be lost.

I should say that she’s been doing this sort of thing for a couple of years now–all the grandkids received recipe boxes last year, and books of family history a year or two before that. Her mother lived to age 96, so I certainly hope we will be enjoying her snappy wit for many more years to come. But all this talk about time and the past put me in a reflective mood, and gave me a new determination to do the things I want to do before time runs out for me, too.

This past year was great for me in many ways. Everyone I love is reasonably healthy and happy. My day job has been very successful–I am busier than I have ever been. I had a marvelous vacation in Italy with my family. My writing has received some marvelous strokes–I won two contests, and had two requests, which I will send out next week, since I have finally finished the darn synopsis. I was elected Co-Secretary of my RWA chapter. (This kind of amazes me. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that anyone actually remembers who I am, let alone will vote for me.) I joined a critique group of fabulous lady writers, which promises to be fun and rewarding on several levels.

2013 may be hard to top, but I will try. I will send out my queries and finish writing my second book. (Which may require trashing the 32K words I have already written, but that’s probably the subject of another post.) I will attend the NEORWA conference in May and present a pitch to an agent (this is major–the very thought scares the crap out of me). I will post here more regularly this year. Maybe. I will upload that pile of old photos into Ancestry.com. And exercise. I should probably exercise.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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