Christmas Traditions

imagesJSXRI824By Tammy Trail

I have the pleasure of kicking off the month of December with our theme of Christmas traditions. I started out by doing a bit of research on different traditions other families participate in to celebrate the season. I read that lots of folks like to ride around the town they live in and enjoy the homes decorated with lights, followed by hot chocolate while wearing their pajamas. Lots of baking of cookies and getting together with friends and family for a decorating day.

There was a very sweet idea I read about involving a brand new tree skirt decorated with a child’s handprint every year to commemorate the season and create a memory. I also found that in the country of Sweden there is a tradition where at 3 pm on Christmas Day the country enjoys old cartoons from Walt Disney with the main character of Donald Duck being the favorite.

It got me thinking if we had any traditions in our family, and I guess we do. I like to find a new angel ornament every year for my tree. I have even received angel ornaments as gifts from friends who know of my collection. I now have a tree almost completely covered in angels. As a child, I remember my mother putting a small manger set under our Christmas tree every year. I now do the same. To me, it signifies the first Christmas gift of the baby Jesus for us all. My family also looks forward to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve every year. My daughter has suggested that we have an Italian style dinner this year after services and everyone should be in charge of one dish. Maybe this will be the start of a new tradition and we can do a new country every year.

One year while visiting my mother in New Mexico during Christmas we noticed many of the sidewalks to the front door of the homes were lighted with what she called, “Limagesuminaria” –a tradition from Mexico–paper sacks with sand in the bottom to support a lighted tea candle. Traditionally used on Christmas Eve to guide the spirit of the Christ child to a home.

Whatever traditions you decide to incorporate into your holiday season, I hope everyone has a blast creating memories you and your children will remember for many years. I have one special memory from childhood that I would like to share. When I was about 11or 12 years old, my mother gathered all of us children together and explained that we would have no Christmas that year. She tearfully told us, because our Dad was spending a year in the Penitentiary, she would not be able to afford to buy gifts. We didn’t even have the heart to put up a tree that year. She promised to make it up to us the next year. So four kids went to bed on Christmas Eve with disappointed hearts, but we knew we would be going to visit my Grandmother later on Christmas day, and she always had something for us under her tree. I don’t know to this day how we slept through the night, but we found a wonderful surprise on Christmas morning. Our tree had been put up and decorated, and under it was enough gifts for three Christmases! Our Aunts and Uncles had all pitched in and made sure we had everything we needed for winter and toys too. I watched grateful tears roll down my mother’s pretty face with each gift we opened. She made sure we said our “Thank you’s” later that day!

I wish everyone a joyous and blessed Christmas season!

Thankful on so Many Levels

By Holly Michael

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t have roast turkey. No stuffing, either. No ham. No mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin pie, either. When we booked flights to India for a follow-up mission trip, the cheapest way to travel back to the US was to leave the day after Thanksgiving.

We went to India again because…

…Ten years ago, on Christmas Day evening, my husband (a pastor) and I relaxed after a long day at church.

Then the phone rang.

A call from South India. My brother-in-law DeCruze urged us to turn on the news. A tsunami had hit the shores of the Indian Ocean and many were feared dead. Thankfully, all family members lived inland and were okay, but my husband had worked and lived in the affected coastal region for years. Friends and children he’d cared for would have been swept out to sea in the early hours of December 26th (our 25th evening).

Just days later, after a major fundraising event, I stood on the shore of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by rows of tiny coconut trees. My husband approached and touched my arm. “Honey, you’re standing in a graveyard.”

I had no idea that the trees marked the graves of the children who died at sea. Tears fell from my eyes. We’d spent a week fundraising before flying to India. In the rush of it all, I’d handled everything well, even arriving in Nagatttinam to find smoldering piles of bodies still burning–more than five thousand died in this region. I took a deep breath. I’d come to help,  take pictures, and write a story for a Guideposts magazine assignment. I walked with my husband toward the men weeping in a smashed up fishing boat. In Tamil, my husband counseled them on the loss of their wives and children, the ones whose bodies were planted under those saplings.


Situations like that make me very thankful on so many levels.

Thanksgiving 2014, flying back from India, we visited those same villages and spoke with the people we helped, young children and teens, many now married. I’ve gathered stories of thanksgiving; hearts thankful to Americans for their help a decade ago and hopeful hearts through the struggles they still face living in a third world country. On the day after Christmas, I’ll be releasing a book: Tsunami 2004: Still Wading Through Waves of Hope.


The children from the Nagapattinam region have grown and are ready to begin new lives with money and interest from a CD deposited in accounts for them ten years ago. Hope is alive, but some stories were surprising and a common theme prevailed among the girls, now women, struggling with being female in villages steeped in old traditions. Wounds, never fully healed reopened and fresh tears flowed. Rupees won’t bring back the lost, but these young adults featured in my book have hope. They want to move forward with their lives.

Those in the remote fishing villages of Nagapattanim, South India expressed deep gratitude to America–to the school kids from Illinois who emptied their piggybanks and to adults from all over (especially in Northwest Arkansas) who generously opened their wallets on the heels of a major giving holiday.

Today, with the internet and news plastered with troubles in other parts of the world, we’ve become a global world, caring about those in distant troubled lands, praying for them, helping when we can. We also become thankful people, grateful to God for His protection and care.

On Thanksgiving, this year, as we thank God for our lives, our families, and our freedom, let’s look beyond our borders to those less fortunate and say a prayer for them.

And as we look forward to the Christmas and the topic of Christmas Traditions, let’s consider where our family traditions came from. Do you have ancestors from another country? What traditions can you trace to other parts of the world? Here’s my recipe for Turkey Curry, India style.


Ingredients Chicken/Turkey – 1 lb (cut into pieces) Onion – 1 (sliced) Kuskus – 2 tbsp Cashews – 4 Corriander seeds – 1 tbsp Green chilly – 5-7 Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp Coconut – 1/2 cup (grated) Yogurt (Curd) – 1/2 cup Ginger-Garlic paste- 2 tsp Cardimon – 3 Fennel seeds – ¼ tsp  Bay leaf – 1 Cloves – 2  Cinnamon sticks – 1 Oil – 2 tbsp Salt – to taste Cilantro – for garnish

Method 1. Soak kuskus in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes and then grind it with green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cashews, cardamom and coconut. Keep it aside. 2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Splutter fennel seeds.Add the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon. 3. Add sliced onions and fry them till they are translucent. Next add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell vanishes.  3. Add the chicken/turkey pieces and saute for 2 minutes. Next add 1 cup water, yogurt and salt to it. Cover and cook till the chicken is almost done. 4. At this stage add the ground paste and add the water required. Check for salt and let the kurma simmer for 5 minutes. 5. Garnish with cilantro. This goes very well with barottaaapam and idiyappam.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Carole Towriss

Carole profile pic

Today we welcome author Carole Towriss to 3 Questions Wednesday.

(1) What is your favorite book? [Bible excluded]

Carole: Right now, my favorite book is Excavating Kirjath-Sepher’s Ten Cities: A Palestine Fortress from Abraham’s Day to Nebuchadnezzar’s. (Wow, that makes me sound like such a nerd.) But I write biblical fiction, and this was a book I bought for research as it is the setting for my current wip. It was written in 1934 by Dr. Kyle Grove, who accompanied (and funded) the archaeologist William Albright on his digs of the ancient city of Debir. But it’s the way he writes—with such love and awe for not only the site, the history, the people he works with and the people who lived around the site, but especially for Christ Himself, that make this work so incredibly amazing. Everything is tied up in Christ, which is the way biblical archaeology was then, as opposed to now, where they basically try to debunk the Bible.

(2) If you could walk into any book, what literary character would you want to be?

Carole: I would love to be any character who hung around Moses, Joshua and Caleb.

(3) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Carole: Right now, Italy. My oldest daughter is there for a semester abroad and I really miss her!

Thanks, Carole, for joining us on 3 Questions Wednesday! Leave a comment for a chance to win Carole’s book, By the Waters of Kadesh, in print, e book or audio, winners choice.

By the Waters of KadeshWok front Cover

Kamose, once Egypt’s most trusted soldier, no longer has a country to serve or king to protect. Moses insists God has a plan for him, but Kamose is not so sure. Tirzah’s cruel husband died shortly after they left Egypt. She escaped his brutality, but now she’s alone, and once they reach their new land, how will she survive? Gaddiel, Tirzah’s brother-in-law, is chosen as one of the twelve spies sent to scout out Canaan. He’s supposed to go in, get information and come back, but all he really wants is to bring down Joshua.

Carole Towriss grew up in beautiful San Diego, California. Now she and her husband live just north of Washington, DC. In between making tacos and telling her four children to pick up their shoes for the third time, she reads, writes, watches chick flicks and waits for summertime to return to the beach. Her first novel, In the Shadow of Sinai, released November 1. You can find her at

Kadesh Buy links:

• Amazon
Barnes and Noble
DeWard Publishing

Thanksgiving Thankfulness: My Grass Really is Greener Than Yours


Now is the time of year everyone posts their “I’m thankful” list on Facebook. Sometimes it can feel like a boast list.

I’m thankful my marriage is so perfect (unlike your train wreck). I’m thankful my child learned how to read by 3 (unlike your dumb kid). I’m thankful I don’t have fertility issues (unlike you). Or in the reverse, I’m thankful I don’t have a million runny-nosed kids to chase since I actually know how to use birth control (unlike you). I’m thankful my teen didn’t just get his fifth tattoo and a nose ring (unlike yours.)

What’s the point of thankfulness? Is it essentially a boast list lining up your pros against everyone else’s cons so you can feel good about your life? As an American, I have the advantage in pro/con list style thankfulness since America is one of the most affluent and free countries in the world.

But I don’t think that’s what thankfulness is. Over 3,000 years ago, the Psalmist said in Psalm 50:14a, “Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God . . .” In modern times, research studies have shown that an attitude of thankfulness helps those struggling with depression to regain good mental health.

As a mental health counselor, I know that mental health isn’t just an issue that plagues the extreme edge of society. Just like we all have physical ailments, all of us have aspects of our mental health that is stronger or weaker. Thankfulness helps us with our mental health. Thankfulness helps us. Comparing to others in pro/con list style doesn’t.

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just think about what you’re thankful for. Think about why you’re thankful for it. Are you thankful because you have something no one else has? Or are you thankful because you want to be a content, happy person.

Speaking of comparing to others, my Thanksgiving recipes are a sloppy mess. 😉 A pinch of this, a pinch of that, and cook long enough that it looks right. My husband is always asking, “Why don’t you set a timer on your food?” Because I . . . am gourmet? 🙂 Not really.

So here’s my sloppy Thanksgiving recipe. Cranberry applesauce. It’s absolutely delicious and so much better than the canned stuff.


1 bag of cranberries

A saucepan full of apples (more apples make it less red; less apples makes it tarter).

Sugar to taste


Boil apples and cranberries until cranberries float to top and apples are very soft. Using a foodmill that removes skins and seeds, (I bought mine for 2 bucks at the thrift store. You can also get awesome $300 versions that don’t necessitate wrist-burning cranking), crank all the cranberries and apples and some of the liquid through the food mill. Add sugar to taste. (Note: The cranberry-apple sauce will thicken in the refrigerator.) You can serve with whip cream and walnuts if desired.