Sunday, 21 December 2014

Happy Elbow


For a few years now, I have been struggling to come up with a name for what we, as a family, celebrate at this time of year. I mostly stick to the word Christmas though I have, in the past, tried Yule on for size. I always feel slightly odd calling it Christmas, because we are not a Christian family and Yule never sat right either because we aren't a Scandinavian/Germanic family. Pretending Christmas day is the Solstice has always felt a bit silly too, even though it really is mid-Winter that we celebrate. The Gregorian calendar went and messed that one up on me.

As it turns out, the answer was always right under my nose. It's a word I have used my whole life and not given a second thought to. I always just accepted it as as the Irish word for Christmas - but I recently discovered it is exactly the word I've been searching for this entire time. 

Nollaig



I've been doing a little research and apparently the word Nollaig is not just the word for December or indeed the Irish word for Christmas - which it also signifies. In fact it's not even vaguely related to Christmas. As usual with these things it has a far more ancient meaning, that actually makes sense.

In the olden days - the really, really olden days, before the calendar changed to what it is now - the Winter Solstice would have fallen closer to the 25th of December and a huge party that lasted five or six days would have celebrated the end of the year and the beginning of the new.

The word Nollaig literally translates as 'hinge' or 'elbow' and refers precisely to the turning of the year.



Humans are hard-wired to celebrate the end of the dark days and the return of the sun at this time of year. Even though we are so much further removed from nature than any of the generations that came before us, we still feel this shift and long for the 'stretch in the evenings' again. It's the perfect time to be cosy indoors, to eat and be merry but to know in our hearts that the light has conquered the dark again. Another year, another triumph.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever your background. You are human - and humans have been making merry at this time of year since humans began. So enjoy this festive season and from all of us here at Where Wishes Come From HQ, on this Mid-Winter Day - NOLLAIG SHONA!!

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The original site I found with the essays referencing the translation of Nollaig has since,unfortunately, disappeared but these two articles on the subject aren't bad for a general bit of information on how and why the world celebrates at this time of year. Click HERE and HERE.

You can also see my previous posts on this topic here:
The Shortest Day of the Year
Yule-Tide Greetings

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Reindeer Rampage

You know when you come up with an idea for a simple Christmas craft and you're a bit under pressure for time and your other half isn't terribly impressed with it and says it looks too much like a sheep, but it's too late by then anyway so you just go ahead and do it and then it ends up being a great success? (No? Just me then...)

Well, in a nutshell - that's what happened with this Wooly Reindeer tutorial.


I put it together very quickly one afternoon and sent it to Emily as my contribution to her, absolutely gorgeous, Craft Advent series. (Do pop over for a browse) Since then I've had lots of feedback from people who've only gone and actually MADE some Reindeer.

I can't tell you how excited I get when people actually make the crafts I share here. It's just so amazing to see an idea taken by others and developed and made their own. It's also fantastic to see herds of wooly Reindeer taking over the country! (Slight exaggeration.)

I've shared a few of the fabulous creations on my Facebook page, but I thought it would be nice to gather them all here too.

Sinéad from Bumbles of Rice and her boys were the first to show me their little herd. I was extra impressed because Sinéad told me that her printer was broken and she had to make her own template from scratch - so these guys are definitely unique! Top marks also go to her son Ciarán who brought his Reindeer to school as his entry in the 'Home-made Christmas Decoration' competition and WON! Well done Ciarán!

Two of Lile and Sábha's little cousins also got in on the action and made the cutest, fluffiest Reindeer I've ever seen. The yarn they used also shimmers under the lights and they put adorable little red bows around their necks. Perfectly Christmassy.

Naomi from Dr. How's Science Wows and her team of junior scientists also gave this craft a try with some beautiful results. I love how each reindeer is completely different and I especially love the one made with rainbow yarn. A Rainbow Reindeer! I'm sure Santa would approve wholeheartedly.

The most sizable herd, however, has come about thanks to my sister, who is a Primary School teacher, and made these with her class of 7-year-olds. The googly eyes give them such a comical look, I think, and the use of a scrunched up bit of red tissue paper for the nose is a great alternative if you're short a few pom-poms!

My favourite Reindeer of all though (and I'm totally biased here) is the one Lile made, sitting beside me, as I was putting the one for the tutorial together. She gathered all the bits herself from the craft box. The 'body' is an upside down 'sheep' left over from my Wooly Sheep craft tutorial and it's all, bar a bit of help with the antlers, her own work. His little smile just makes me melt and it's my favourite of this years decorations.



Thursday, 11 December 2014

Best Wishes From Minted

I was contacted recently by www.minted.com and asked if I would like to review their Holiday Card Collection. As my regular readers will know, I am a total stationery addict and I have a special place in my heart for greeting cards. I ran my own greeting card company for several years and I am still pretty much obsessed with finding 'the perfect card' for every occasion.

The one thing I miss about owning my greeting card company, is no longer having cards for all occasions, on tap. I never had to plan ahead for anything. A last minute birthday party - no problem. I had a selection of suitable cards at the ready. A new baby? Boy, girl or twins, it didn't matter - I had a card for it. Weddings, anniversaries, and all of the seasonal festivals - I was always sorted. Having a home office full of cards was especially useful at this time of year and - because I had designed all of the cards - they had that personal touch I love so much in a greeting card.

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But, I don't own that company anymore and my home office has been taken over by fairies and unicorns and random crafty odds and ends. These days I always seem to be scrambling at the last minute to find cards. I do utilise my creative children quite a lot and get them to make cards for birthdays and things but Christmas is another story entirely. I would ask the girls to make those too, but with the size of our family, the production line might begin to look a bit like child labour... and I know if I decided to make the cards myself they'd just never get done.

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It's time for Plan B.

I really like the idea of getting some personalised Christmas cards made. I know this is popular in the US, but I haven't seen it very often here. In a way it reminds me of the cards my Mama always posted to far-flung family at Christmas years ago and of the cards we would receive in return. The cards themselves were never personalised, but there were always a few photos tucked inside them which were always more interesting to me than the cards they accompanied!

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Pictures of the dimple-cheeked babies born that year, children dressed in their best for a special occasion, or gawky teenage cousins skulking behind a row of smiling siblings. My Mama would ooh and aah about how much each child had grown since the previous year and tell us again who each one was and how we were related. It was a way to 'see' them. To know them. Even though they were far away. There are still a stack of those photos to be found today, in my Mama's house.

Things have changed so much since then. Because we can share photos so easily and quickly on social media we 'see' our far-flung family a  lot more often, so sending a physical copy of a photo doesn't seem necessary. Also, and this might just be me, people don't seem to get photos printed as often anymore. Despite me taking so many photos of my girls (or perhaps because of it) I never actually get around to printing them out.

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I think designing a personalised Christmas card appeals to me so much because it would mean actually printing out a nice photo of my family! Sharing it with loved ones, especially older relatives that do not use social media, will in some way carry on a fond tradition from my childhood too.

Of course, that would mean I'd also have to actually take a family photo. Which is something we are notoriously bad at in my family! As you can see from the above images, the ONLY family photo we have is sadly out of date and of very low resolution. If designing some personalised cards changes that I'll be a very happy girl this Christmas.

All of the above images were made on www.minted.com and show just a small selection of their holiday photo-card selection. Minted showcase independent designers worldwide. All of the cards are beautifully designed and come in a vast range of styles. There are die-cut options and the text is all fully customisable. I haven't seen their cards 'in the flesh' yet, but they claim to have an "obsession with quality" so I imagine they are as lovely in real life as they look on screen.

So what about you? What kind of cards do you send at Christmas? Home made? Charity cards? Or have you ever sent a personalised card? Or do you avoid the whole card thing altogether?!

Disclosure: I was offered a $75 voucher by www.minted.com in return for a review of their Holiday Photo Cards. All opinions are my own. Thank you, dear reader, for checking out one of the companies that helps to support this blog.

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