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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

I is for Inspiration

Friday, November 17, 2023

A tradition during the Christmas season for many is to be inspired by familiar annual events. I is for Inspiration is the ninth post in a special series from A to Z identifying Christmas traditions. 

If you are just discovering the series and want to read the previous posts, see the Blog Archive in the right hand column for a list of all previous posts. November 1 was the date the series began. Click on the title of the post you want to read. 

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During the holidays, inspiration is easily found with several annually occurring events with multiple venues. Many family Christmas traditions are to participate in the same events each year, and families often mark their calendars to insure they do not miss their favorite Christmas activities. 

Inspiration comes from different places for different people, but during the holidays there are three categories of kinds of inspiration we seek. 

Inspiration of the soul, inspiration of the spirit, and inspiration of the heart. 

Inspiration of the Soul

Each year churches and religious groups have very special services and activities to mark the story of the birth of Christ. Different faiths have special services unique to their traditions; some steeped in religion, some steeped in local culture. One special Christmas tradition is to display nativity scenes outside homes, inside and outside churches, and in open fields. Some communities have performances of a live nativity with animals and people instead of statues. 

In Provence France, the tradition to display Mary, Joesph, and Jesus with local townspeople began during the French Revolution when churches were closed, and traditional nativity scenes in churches were prohibited. During the Revolution, statues of local townspeople were displayed without the prohibited Mary, Joesph, and Jesus. Instead, local craftsmen in Provence made clay statues, known as santons, of the different people in their towns to display, and a tradition was born. Once the ban of traditional nativities was lifted in France, towns in Provence added the santons to the more traditional nativity with the Holy Family. The French nativity (crèche) in southeastern France continues today with a baker, fisherman, butcher, washer woman, and vintner popular figures in each town. 

Inspiration of the Spirit 

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year when the general interaction between friends and strangers takes on a special level of good natured friendliness. We seek ways to uplift our spirits and the spirits of others. One traditional way of embarking on this season of good will is to listen to inspiring Christmas music or to be part of community groups performing Christmas music.  

My sister played flute and piccolo in a volunteer town orchestra in New Hampshire when she lived there.

Christmas is the only holiday in which there is an extended period of listening to seasonal music. The songs and music are both secular and religious, lyrical and instrumental, comical and serious, upbeat and solemn. The tradition is to begin Christmas music in stores, on the radio, and in churches after Thanksgiving, but feel free to start playing Christmas music whenever you want! 

Some Christmas music traditions are to attend local school performances of holiday music by choirs and orchestras. In my area, one local high school has three graduates who formed the highly popular group Pentatonix right after graduation. They recruited two other talented young singers in a nation-wide search to join them, and the five won the The Sing-Off, a major network television contest show for a cappella groups, in 2011. The performing arts department in the high school from which three of the Pentatonix group graduated is so outstanding the department was named the 2009 Grammy Foundation National winner and was awarded a $10,000 grant and a GRAMMY. 

A Christmas tradition is for the school's choirs to perform Holiday Dinner Shows to raise money in addition to offering the traditional free school holiday concerts. Many people attend the Dinner Shows even though their children have graduated. It is a tradition for families to attend every year for inspiring holiday music. 

Inspiration of the Heart 

Do you have the dates for all the Hallmark Christmas movies? Watching uplifting Hallmark Christmas movies is a tradition for many of my friends... and millions of others in the United States. Stories filled with romantic love, family love, and community love fulfill our wish for inspiration of the heart. 

Mother-Daughter watch nights with both dressed in warm cozy gowns and slippers while drinking hot cocoa and and eating cookies is planned weeks in advance.  Girls' nights parties with Bingo cards listing Hallmark Christmas movie phrases and events makes for an interactive fun tradition. And, binge watching while wrapping presents is another must-do tradition for many. 

Search online for this year's Hallmark Christmas movie list and for Hallmark Christmas movie Bingo cards to get started on the tradition of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. 

Christmas is the time for inspiring our Soul, Spirit, and Heart.