Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas and other Irish customs

(Informational post by Mom)
Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions that are all of its own. Many of these customs have their root in the time when the Gaelic culture and religion of the country were being suppressed and it is perhaps because of that they have survived into modern times.
from the website  

The Twelve Days of Christmas  
This old and beloved carol is Ireland's very own. During the centuries when it was a crime to be Catholic and to practice one's faith, in public or private, in Ireland and England "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written as a "catechism song" to help young Catholics learn the beliefs of their faith. It was a memory aid when being caught with anything in writing indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hung.

The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person.

A Partridge in a pear tree - Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Two turtle doves - The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens - Faith, Hope and Charity, the theological virtues.
Four calling birds - The four Gospels and/or the four Evangelists.
Five golden rings - The first five books of the Old Testament (The Pentateuch).
Six geese a-laying - Six days of creation.
Seven swans a swimming - The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven Sacraments.
Eight maids a-milking - The eight Beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing - The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit (sometimes also listed as the nine classifications of angels).
Ten Lords a-leaping - The Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping - The eleven faithful apostles.
Twelve drummers drumming - The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and which gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.

The Laden Table 
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set and on it were placed a loaf of
bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of the welcome.

The Candle in the Window 

The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is still practiced today. It has a number of purposes but primarily it was an symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter. The candle also indicated a safe place for priests to perform mass as during Penal Times this was not allowed. A further element of the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name 'Mary'.

St. Stephen's Day (also known as Boxing Day in Northern Ireland)
During Penal Times there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as 'The Devil's bird'.

Other lore suggests that a wren betrayed the hiding place of St. Stephen before he was stoned to death and became a martyr.

On St. Stephens Day (the day after Christmas) a procession, known as The Wren Boy Procession
takes place. A pole with a holly bush would be carried from house to house and families dressed up in old clothes and with blackened faces. In olden times an actual wren would be killed and placed on top of the pole. There is a famous song called “The Wren Boys” that was known to be sung as part of this procession. The Chieftains sing this song on their “Bells of Dublin” Christmas CD for those of you interested in hearing this catchy tune.

This custom has to a large degree disappeared but the tradition of visiting from house to house on St. Stephens Day has survived and is very much part of Christmas.

St. Stephen's Day is a national holiday in Ireland and most businesses remain closed until 27 December.

Other Irish Christmas Traditions
Merry Christmas in Gaelic is: Nollaig (Christmas) Shona (happy) Duit (to you) pronounced: null-ig hunna ditsh.

Traditionally the Christmas season begins on 8 December in Ireland and lasts until 6 January. Christmas is a wonderful time to be in Ireland. In Ireland there is still a deeper sense of the meaning of the season here. As you walk through the streets of cities like Cork you may hear choir’s large and small singing on the sidewalks, street musicians with flutes, harps, violins or guitars playing the strains of familiar carols or favorite Christmas recordings wafting from the shops. While few private homes decorate outside beyond the festive wreath on the door, the towns, cities and shops go all out. The Christmas season doesn't really get into full swing in Ireland until December when streets are lined with lit decorations and live Christmas trees are often mounted like flag staffs from building fronts. Larger department stores and shops fill their windows with animated scenes and figures.

Gifts for friends and from family members to each other pile up under the Christmas tree in the days before Christmas and as everywhere a lot of squeezing, shaking and guessing goes on, but in the back of everyone's mind is what Santa will bring on Christmas morning. And there is no peeking or opening any gifts until Christmas morning!

Santa Claus is a very popular fellow in Ireland too. He and his helpers can be found arriving at many malls and department stores by helicopter or fire engine to take Christmas wish lists or for the very lucky children a trip to visit his workshop in Lapland (the North Pole) can be arranged!

In Ireland, Santa works a little differently than in the United States. Instead of leaving everything under the tree he leaves each child's gifts in their room, often in a pillow case at the end of the bed, though sometimes a large gift may be left unwrapped under the tree. Christmas stockings are a tradition with some families and are hung Christmas Eve for Santa to fill. He arrives quite late as Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is still a strong tradition for many families and the chimney is his main entrance into most homes.

As with holiday traditions everywhere, food plays a big part of celebration in Ireland and, just like else where, there is some variation from family to family. A fairly traditional menu for Christmas dinner includes either a Goose or Turkey with stuffing (usually a sage and onion type), ham, roasted and boiled potatoes (Irish meals often include potatoes prepared several ways), brussell sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and any other family favorites, followed by Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding. A favorite treat throughout the Christmas season are small mincemeat pies (in the states because of the size they would probably be called tarts). Candy canes are not very popular in Ireland nor wide spread but tons of chocolates is a must for Christmas.

Some photos of Belfast Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall (where Elder Penman was for Christmas 2015):

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas In Ireland so Good To me Round 2

Skype call with Elder Penman, Ray, Dad, and Mom on Christmas Day
Elder Penman received a "mustache"
at the Shearers' house
Wow-zer! I cannae believe its been a year since last Christmas! It honestly feels like a few weeks ago that I was down in Omagh! I love it here in Belfast so much. The members really spoiled us like we were their own children or even grandchildren. Our shelves are full of more food than I have ever seen. 

Elders Mulville, Wilson, Parkinson also
sporting their mustaches at Shearers
I loved being able to sit and take a breather this last Friday and Saturday! It was a great time to crash. We went to Sister Sheils, The Entwistle's, the Shearers, Eddie and Joanne's, and Sister Armstrong and to finish the break off we had a baptismal service for the other Elders (Parkinson & Wilson). It was great. What a weekend.
Relaxing at Shearers' house with their family and the other Elders
Elder Parkinson, Alicia, Elder Wilson
Alicia was found during the "Belfast Blitz" back in October

Alicia (center) and her friends at her baptism
   I don't know if any of you tried the challenge I gave you but I did and I have come to know the Savior so much more through the Holy Spirit. I Know Jesus the Christ lives and has a resurrected body just like our Father in Heaven's body! That is the greatest knowledge of all! 
Also I have been studying Faith in PMG (Preach My Gospel) and Alma 32!! WOW-O-Wow! There is some good stuff in there! Also the Virtue section in Personal Progress! Thats good Crack so it is! 
   The man S_______ we are teaching has decided to get baptized on the 23rd of January! So that will be exciting. We also are going to teach a new friend that is friends with a lady in the ward. He came to church last week and came back again because "he felt good and at home." He didn't really know who I was and what my purpose is. He told me "Don't tell anyone but I want to be baptized." I told him "that is great!!! I guide people on the path so they are ready for baptism." We are going to start teaching him this week.  

Elder Penman
Elder Mulville
Elder Wilson
Elder Parkinson

Elder Penman, chilling
At Eddie's house
Elder Wilson looking at E Penman

At Eddie's house
At the Armstrong's party

At the Armstrong's party

Monday, December 21, 2015

You Have To Have The Desire

   I only have a few moments. We had an pretty good week. So many spiritual Experiences. 

New Christmas tie from Mom & Dad
   We had an Experience where we felt the spirit move us to go and see one of our teams. We showed up and expounded Alma 31 to them. We gave all of them blessings of comfort and counsel. WOW....! The spirit was so strong. I knew at that moment what Alma had felt as he "clapped his hands" on those, his brethren... the thing that happened was some of those missionaries walked away from that experience and went back to the same old thing. To act in faith we must be willing to move from a lower place to a higher place, then we will truly see the Atonement work with in our lives. Then you will know with a surety that He lives!!! 

Happy Christmas. I challenge all of you to take 15 minutes each day this week to ponder the saviors life then look outside of yourself and ask who can I serve?  When you do this you will feel the spirit of Christmas!! (:

Christmas stocking from Mom with a new Christmas
sock tie, and scrolls of General Authority talks
about the names and attributes of the Savior

Merry Christmas! 

         Elder Penman

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grand like So it is! Moves Call‏

E. Penman and E. Perkes on travels together.  Father and son reunited.
Saint Anne's Cathedral (Belfast Cathedral)

Hey, Hey!! I would first like to thank all of you for the prayers you have given us! We have seen miracles! We had some amazing works happen for us. 

Belfast City Hall
    Biggest miracle of the week had to have been finding... well, S________ finding us! We had a huge group of people walk by us probably like 20-30 people. So I started speaking to all of them about Christmas while Elder Mulville was talking to individual people who would stop to listen. After the group walked by I told them what church we were from and a man behind us stopped and Elder Mulville and I ran over to him and he said, "I couldn't find your church last Sunday. I went to look for it and couldn't find it." We than got his contact info and set up an appointment to meet the next evening.

    We met with S_________ the next night and taught about how he can feel the Holy Spirit. We taught the role of the Holy Spirit as well. We then proceeded on to watch the restoration DVD. When he watched the part where Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ... He paused and then looked me in the eyes with the biggest, happiest, most excited child like smile I have ever seen. He told us he felt the Spirit. We then invited him to be baptized and he was so excited. In a broken accent, "yes."
E. Mulville & E. Penman having fun
together as companions

   He came to church yesterday and loved it. He is going to bring his 7 friends next time. I'm so excited. He is truly a miracle from my Loving Father in Heaven.

   This week we taught an African family. A mother and 2 kids, whose father has just died. They are so good but the mothers depression is bringing her a sadness so we won't be able to teach her...Please oh please pray for her health and to recognize the closeness they felt to their God! 

E. Perkes driving...out on travels together.
   We had Moves call. Every one is staying the same in Holywood. In our Zone we only have 1 person out of 28 moving so its pretty good.  I will have Christmas in Norn Iron again. (: Also I will have another 7 weeks in the Best City on Earth! Belfast is the BEST!! 

  God lives and loves us so much that he did give his son and he also gives us what we stand in need of at specific times... according to our faith and our diligence.

Elder Penman
Elder Mulville relaxing

Elder Mulville in all his glory

 "The Walled City"--Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and, as the last walled city to be built in Europe, stands as the most complete and spectacular.
The Walls were built during the period 1613–1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 3.7 and 10.7 metres (12 and 35 feet), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.
It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city's nickname, The Maiden City. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Surprise on Facebook today! :)

From Mom:  I got a surprise message and photo today from Jade Fox, a member of the Holywood Road Ward in Belfast.

"Hey Karen! Elder Penman taught me a lesson on the gospel of Jesus Christ today and I made sure I got a photo to you! He said he's left his camera at someone's house but I told him he better get it and get some photos to his mummy! He's a great missionary and we're so lucky to have him serving in our ward."

Thanks Jade!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trust and You Shall See the Glory of God‏

Elder Penman and Elder Mulville at Sisters Debbie & Rachel White's home for dinner (THANK YOU!) 
 Elder Mulville and I have been working our brains off this week. We were able to see miracles happen we started teaching so many people.. But that's the problem we are having. We are teaching so many people but some of them won't stick or progress. We have been living with exactness and calling every number that we have access to. We were doing so much this week that sometimes I felt like crawling into bed. Then the alarm for 6:30 would go off and we could barely open our eyes. But it's so rewarding when you have weeks like this....

   The reason we are working with urgency is because the mission has set a high goal of baptisms this month and we have set a goal to have 5 Baptisms this month. We know we need to have faith it will be accomplished, Hope that we will meet the people that will be ready for baptism, and charity.. we need to minister with love to all of those we teach... if it be on the street or in their homes. But something we understand is like it says in 1 Corinthians 3: 6-7, We are not the ones who will make this goal happen. God will be the one who makes this happen.

I have never prayed so hard or fasted this much for divine help to sustain my weak body or for the gift to assist the the Holy Spirit. This led my studies into faith this week.

Nov 2013, Elder Russell M. Nelson
     Faith is a hope for something which is not seen but is true. True faith can only be in Jesus Christ who knows all things and is absolutely perfect, which is important. The reason this is so important is because true faith is complete trust in our savior Jesus Christ. Faith and doubt cannot be entertained by your mind at the same time. Your faith grows and is strengthened by obedience.

As I pondered on this concept I understood the reason for commandments. We live commandments and after we are obedient we receive a witness that it is true and is good from the Spirit helping us have unreserved trust in God. It all made sense because I didn't understand, really, how it is by faith that our sins are forgiven. But in Enos, I found that it is when he is told by the Lord he is forgiven, he trusts him and does not doubt that he is forgiven. I don't know if that makes to much sense but I get it so much!!  We must trust in the Lord with all our heart and not have a single doubt in his power and perfection.. "Obedience brings success, Exact Obedience Brings Miracles".. I know he is perfect, I know His Son is perfect. That is my testimony of the Living God.

Elder Penman

I'm Giving Christ My Son

Elder Penman and Mom saying
goodbye, July 2014
A special note from Mom:
The words are not mine, but they display the heart of a missionary mama so well.

I skipped the sales after Thanksgiving. The thrill just wasn’t there.
No pictures taken with Santa Claus. My decorating has no flair.
His presents are shoes, shirts, and ties, two suits and socks… no fun.
I’ve bought him all white clothes because this year I’m giving Christ my son.
I’ve spent more time in the temple, my testimony stirred.
I’ve re-read November’s Ensign, felt strength come from His words.
Our family prays more frequently. My tears are quick to run.
Abraham seems closer because this year I’m giving Christ my son.
I wonder how those Lamanite mothers gave their sons to war?
Or how the pioneers chose Zion—their sacrifice was so much more.
My loss will be his presence. I’ll miss his smile a ton.
For two years we will pray for him. I’m giving Christ my son.
I stare at his face when he’s not looking. I memorize his eyes, their shine.
He’s always hungered for the part of him, that makes his soul divine.
The stories and lessons he always heard. His choice and mine are one.
I’ll put my faith in God’s hand. This year, I’m giving Him my son.
Past gifts have lost their glitter. I think I finally understand
Christ’s birth should be celebrated by giving Him a hand.
It’s because I know Christ lives and reigns that all his packing’s done.
My gift has taken years to make. This year I’m giving Christ my son.
I know there’s One who understands the sacrifice I’m making.
Who knows the gift I willingly give, the toll it will be taking.
For He has done it all before. Greater love — there could be none.
For years ago God gave to me His only begotten son.
The hands I washed, the hands I held, the hands I taught to pray—
Now knock on doors to find the ones who will listen to what he’ll say.
Because I know Christ needs him until all the gathering’s done.
My gift has taken years to make. This year I’m giving Christ my son.
— Author Unknown