Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Getting the Spirit of Christmas!


MERRY  CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL
Meaningful births I have always known
Three children, five grands and one more.
But Christmas is the Birth of all births;
'Twas the day Christ, our Savior, was born!

fellow travel bloggers meet!
Hopefully this meaning is not lost in the frenzied preparations and concurrent activities. This year I started our decorations late, what with my birthday and Thanksgiving right before it and the hectic finishing of book editing. With the influx into the Phoenix metropolitan area of snow birders from the northern US states and Canada, there were lots of meet-ups and I even had the chance to meet a fellow blogger I met online at Facebook through the group Travel Boomer Bloggers. Donna Janke and her husband Rick and Bill and I met at Cheesecake Factory. They are here for the winter from Manitoba, Canada. Before I knew it, the first week of December had gone by!

Well, our decorations are up and simpler this year. I had so many plants so I just put some poinsettias and red ribbons among them and put up our small ornament tree. Then Bill decked them up with lights and our Filipino capiz star! We also just bought traditional Christmas cards from our parish, to help more people, instead of making them. They were sent by snail mail. Online gift-giving is less personal: not only don’t you get to wrap the gifts but also you do not get to tag them with special Christmas greetings.

at the CASA Toy Shoppe, where everything is free!
And there were the usual Christmas parties that provide the drum roll to the Advent Masses in church. Our first party was a very meaningful event. Bill completed his training for the Court Appointed Special Advocate program last March and received his first assignment, a sixteen-year old boy who is under court supervision with the child protective services oversight. “Voices for CASA,” a three-year old nonprofit organization that supports the advocates (including tickets for NFL games) threw a party with food, music from a children’s choir, and speeches from the prime benefactor, the coach of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team, and the Director of Maricopa County's Department of Child Services. There are 12,500 children in foster care in the county but only 500 advocates. So the Toy Shop during the part was unique. An advocate could select all that he felt his child wanted for Christmas, for free! Bill brought home a big box full of blankets, board games, a backpack, a 3D kite, a basketball plus a gift card and a certificate for a bike! Enough that his teenager will be able to share with the other 5 boys in his group home who do not have their own CASAs. Some children will be very happy this Christmas.

the dancing @ the tennis party!
blue and lovable
The other Christmas Party was the fun one, the one where you share the festivities surrounding the Big Birthday with friendsBill loves to play tennis now and I have started to tag along, what with a whole new tennis wardrobe! So with two hundred other people, the Viewpoint Tennis League had a whole lot of merry-making in one night. We had good food, cakes, drinks, skits, contests, dances, and chit-chats with friends who have become crazy over a net, a racket, and some balls.

at Handel's Messiah
Christmas celebrations are also not complete without some show or concert. This year we chose one which Bill had seen but not with me, Handel’s Messiah, presented by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra at the Mesa Arts Center. It is a composition by George Frideric Handel first performed in Dublin in 1741. The oratorio is accompanied by scriptural text from the King James Bible and Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer. Part 1's "For unto us a child is born", Part 2's "Hallelujah!" and Part 3's "Amen" were definite highlights, the last two meriting standing ovations. I was spellbound; It was the most meaningful Christmas symphony!

the Nativity Scene at an Orlando, Florida church, 2012
 But Christmas Eve has to be the most special of all. After Mass we will celebrate at Toro, the Latin F&B outlet of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel which, they say, has the best Christmas festivities in the Phoenix area. In the past five years, we had been accustomed to being alone during this special time, something that is not at all common in the Philippines. So we have tried to make it more special. At the stroke of 12, after mass and the special meal, Bill and I open our gifts and stocking stuffers and let love light up the room.

For He is already with us. The Messiah is born!