Monday, December 27, 2010


I like both traditional and odd Christmas decorations. I like both handmade and store bought ornaments. I like all the many different ways Christmas can be celebrated in our homes- in different ways by different families... Every year I sort through the ever changing hodgepodge of gifts and purchases that are my holiday decorations in order to recreate Christmas anew for my own nearest and dearest.

Charity begins at home they say- in thought, word and deed- and I think that is very true. Start with a smile and a kind word- and move forward from there.

In today's world many different organizations raise funds to help those in need. Bell ringers stand by doorways and hope that Christmas shoppers will be generous with their funds. Even fashionable clothing retailers do what they can to help raise funds for those in need. That is how I ended up with this adorable paper mache "Story Ornament" Elephant this Christmas.

I found him in an Anthropologie catalogue while looking for a fashionable sweater to buy for my daughter for Christmas. I get a HUGE kick out of this little trumpeting elephant covered in newsprint words. Seems a fitting symbol for the deluge of words brought on by the information age- AND I very much like idea of helping Haitian artisans rebuild their lives, their homes, and their country.

(That particular Story Ornament Elephant is already sold out on Anthrolpoligie website)

When in Jordan this past September, one of my husband's relatives (cousin Mohammed's mother- a delightful women I had never met before) gave me a beautiful cross from Bethlehem.

Symbols make our world more interesting and interconnected. Art history books can devote pages and pages to the meanings of a painting. Some symbols are obscure and harder to fathom, others (like the cross, or the star or the crescent moon) are quite well known.

The last cross I received as a heartfelt gift came from my grandmother who gave me a book mark that is made of three book length long strands of narrow white ribbon, each strand of ribbon with a small golden charm sown onto the end. A cross, an anchor and a heart: Faith, Hope and Charity.

Charity is love- and generosity.

Dove of Peace

A friend from many many years ago sent me a link last month to a charity in Jerusalem that I find intriguing and exciting.... Palestinian artisans are making Christmas symbols out of the lambs wool from Bethlehem sheep.

Thanks to the Internet I was able to order some to give as gifts (as well as some to keep for myself) and they arrived here just in time for Christmas...and my heavens are they popular ! Every one who sees them and touches them is utterly enchanted. The workmanship is suburb. Each item is charming- and so very symbolic.

Sunbula is a Jerusalem-based nonprofit Fair Trade organization that supports Palestinian craft producers -- women‘s groups, artisan cooperatives and disabled people‘s organizations. By promoting traditional handicrafts locally and internationally, they support economic self-help efforts of those living in difficult conditions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian minority inside Israel.

Sunbula is Arabic for "spike of wheat," the flower that makes bread. As the name symbolizes, Sunbula helps people provide themselves with the gift of a more dignified life.

Each one of their product is made by hand with care, and in the spirit of preserving Palestinian craft traditions.

Go shop at their 2 fair trade shops in Jerusalem or visit their Online Craft Market for hundreds of beautifully crafted items Palestinian embroidery, olivewood carvings, home decors, jewelry, and more!

These felted wool ornaments feel good to touch- and they are so lightweight, and unbreakable. Although I suspect a naughty kitten might have fun pulling one to pieces... all the more reason so buy more than one just in case!
I like olive wood ornaments too, both for my own home and to give as gifts to friends and family.

Some holiday decorations are simple, others are much more complex, like this music box I got a few years ago- made in Palestine... turn the star and it plays the Christmas carol Silent Night.

In growing a garden for Palestine today, I have to keep hoping for peace, even though sometimes it seems that is getting harder and harder to do, with so many extremists, bigots and imbeciles (on both "sides") dominating the conversation at every turn. Thankfully there are many others- many better, brighter, more compassionate and realistic men, women and children who are hoping for peace too- a just and lasting peace for every one's sake.

There are good and decent people here, there and everywhere, hoping and quietly, gently doing what they can to help make Palestine a reality. A real country with real jobs for real people- not a rally cry but a sovereign nation state where Palestinians are fully free to rebuild their lives and homes... fully free to live in peace- and earn a good living. Fully free to simply be.

Today, here in America we can find and buy Palestinian crafts and souvenirs- but in time we might also be exploring sophisticated computer programs or security advice made in Palestine. There is no limit to what might be.... New inventions and new technology or new ideas that radically change our world and the way we do things can not be predicted. But we can help create an environment where more people are more able to make the most of their time and talents.

Lamb's wool angel floating on a puff of lamb's wool cloud

If you are an American citizen looking for ways to invest in a real Palestine be very very careful about what you invest in- and (who and) what you promote. Spend both your energy and your money wisely.

Times change- and life moves on. Sometimes it is in very unexpected ways. Sometimes the change is shocking- but sometimes it is barely noticeable.

And sometimes it is REALLY hard to find a family photo where everyone is actually looking towards the camera!

Christmas Eve dinner at my mother's house 2010

Every year we celebrate any holiday, no matter who we are or what we are celebrating, it is at least a little bit different than the last as our children grow up and we age... Some years the change is huge- loved ones die and we miss them horribly, wishing they were still with us.

Fact is money can not buy the best things in life.

For all the ornaments and decorations that I very much enjoy, my favorite Christmas ornaments are actually the birds in our garden.

A tree full of bluebirds