Christmas from Japan to Papua New Guinea

headshot-jayna-breighBy Jayna Breigh

Long before my husband (let’s call him Bill) and I ever met, Bill seriously considered being a missionary aviator. To prepare for his possible life as a missionary he learned to fly by taking private flying lessons at a little municipal airport. He also spent a year in Japan teaching English through his denomination.

Bill spent one Christmas in Japan while on this mission and remembers it well. Christmas was not a “legal” holiday there like it is here. Banks didn’t close and children had to go to school. I asked Bill if there were decorations and gift exchanges. He said there were secular decorations—Santas and reindeer, but no gifts. As he put it, there were the trappings of Christmas without the Christianity.



Bill did have a very moving remembrance of his one Christmas in Japan. He was working at a Church in Wakayama City (the capital of the Prefecture of Wakayama–yes it has the same name twice like New York, New York). Wakayama City is a seaside city in Southern Japan, about an hour’s train ride from Osaka. On top of the church was a large illuminated cross visible to boats and ships in the Pacific Ocean. A Pakistani Christian sailor saw the cross from his ship in the harbor and joined the congregation of Bill’s church for their Christmas Eve service.

It did not work out for Bill to be a missionary aviator. One of the requirements to fly (at least at that time) was that the pilot had to be married, which Bill was not. The concern of the mission’s agency was that the isolation and depravations of mission life would prove to be too severe a temptation to a single man. Flash forward to today.  Bill ultimately became a commercial airline pilot. And our family now supports a missionary aviation family in Papua, New Guinea. The husband transports medical supplies, translators, Bibles, and other goods. He also flies medical personnel into remote areas and flies sick people out. His wife homeschools their four children. If I had met my husband years earlier, this could have been my life. And just like the missionaries we support, we would have spent Christmas in a remote village, far away from friends and family, far from modern conveniences, far from American commercialism, and surrounded by traditions that are so foreign to the way we were raised.


Papua, New Guinea

I took the time to look back through four years of newsletters to see how our missionaries celebrated Christmas in Papua, New Guinea. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summertime when Christmas is celebrated. The photographs in the Christmas newsletters of our Papua, New Guinea missionaries show green grass and lush vegetation in the middle of what is our winter here.

In the states, even if someone lives in a seasonally warm state like Arizona, Christmas is still marked with scenes of Winter, songs about snow and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. And whether one is religious or not, the basis for the celebration of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — is understood. In Papua, New Guinea, it is different. There are more than 850 languages in Papua, New Guinea, the most in the world. Yet, the Bible remains untranslated in approximately 300 of them. That means in these places there isn’t even a written Christmas Story for the people to read if they wanted to.

And this is part of Christmas around the world.

Writing Prompt: He pushed send on the application for the Missionary aviation position. He’d put a name on the application in the space marked “wife.” But, he hadn’t actually given her the ring that was currently in his pocket. In fact, he hadn’t introduced himself to her yet…



headshot-jayna-breighJayna is a wife, home educator, and an attorney who practiced in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles for more than a decade.  Currently she resides in the Southeast with her husband and two children.  Jayna enjoys online word tile games and British period dramas.

Jayna has spoken at women’s retreats, led women’s Bible studies, and has taught and facilitated women’s and parenting seminars on topics ranging from sharing the faith, life skills management, and mother daughter relationships. She is also a member of the ACFW.

Her current work in progress is a Finalist in the Inspirational category of the First Coast Romance Writers 2016, Beacon Contest, and took Second Place in the Central Ohio Fiction Writers 2016, Ignite the Flame Contest. You can connect with Jayna at and on Facebook at

A Long Ago Christmas

By Jacqueline Kimball

turkeyIt’s December, 1850, in a small pioneer settlement in Oregon. A yearling boy’s dream is a hunt with his father, and he hopes to be the one to kill a beautiful turkey for Christmas dinner. Mama will be thrilled, and everyone will say it was the biggest turkey ever caught in these here parts.

But wait! (Cue the sound of a record scratching on a turn table…) Ahem…did I say turkey? I did, didn’t I?  Did you know that there were no turkeys in Oregon in 1850? Neither did I, and when I found out, I had major revisions to do on my manuscript for CHRISTMAS IN BEAVER CREEK. My character, Jimmy, couldn’t shoot a turkey. No wonder Mama wanted to kill his goose. Well, Jimmy couldn’t have that, now could he? So Jimmy then went after a coveted deer, so that Mama could have a beautiful venison roast.

After I realized that I didn’t know an 1850 pioneer Christmas if it hit me over the head, I dug deep into researching, and I was quite surprised.  Take Christmas trees, for instance. Despite what you see on television, it is doubtful that there were Christmas trees in most pioneer homes in 1850, even if trees were available.

I discovered that the Christmas tree was a German tradition, and rarely was seen in America except in German homes. This slowly changed when a picture was published in a London magazine in 1848, showing German-born Prince Albert and Queen Victoria with their Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was at first mostly seen in upper-class homes in America.

wreathPioneers decorated their homes with what they could find. On the prairie, this might have been corn husks, bits of ribbon, and painted wooden items on the mantle. Oregon was abundant with trees. The home would have been decorated with greenery, berries, pine cones, wooden carvings, and, perhaps, festive fabric.

Wreaths were made of greenery, pine cones, nuts, berries and even colorful bird feathers. Socks were often hung by the fireplace, and excited children might find a few items in the stocking, usually a piece or two of candy, and homemade treats such as cookies.

Santa Claus was alive and well long before 1850. In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas, for his children, and it was published anonymously in 1823. There is controversy over his authorship, though he publicly acknowledged that it was his work in 1837. Regardless, the book is hugely responsible for the Santa Claus that children love to this day.  The story spread quickly. Jolly Santa Claus, and yes, even his reindeer, became part of Christmas traditions in America.santa

But gifts in Santa’s sack have certainly changed from the simple gifts of the nineteenth century. Back then, most were handcrafted, and the family worked on them for weeks or even months ahead.

 Pa might build a doll house for his daughters, while mama made dolls from old rags. Pa might pass down a knife or gun to an older son, or build a rocking horse for a younger child. Mother often knitted woolen scarves, and made warm clothing as gifts.

rocky-horseOranges and candy were expensive, and a child who got an orange in their stocking might scream with excitement. Children often made a pincushion, painted a pine cone, or gathered a bucket of nuts for gifts to their parents. Older children made carvings, stools, aprons, handkerchiefs and such for their parents and siblings.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her Christmas on the Kansas prairie. “That very Christmas, Laura Ingalls was delighted to find a shiny new tin cup, a peppermint candy, a heart shaped cake, and a brand new penny in her stocking. For in those days, these four small gifts in her stocking were a wealth of gifts to the young girl.”

bread Pioneer meals for the special day were not nearly as elaborate as today’s heavily laden table of main dishes, sides, and desserts. Since there was no refrigeration, women used seasonal items and preserved foods. Sugar was expensive, so there would have been only a few sweet items.

Men took to the woods and brought back fresh meat for the table. Some families had smoke houses, and cured their own hams. Though the fare was simple, cooking the holiday meal involved hours of preparation and cooking. Cook stoves, if the lady of the house even owned one, were primitive, and food was easily burned. Much care had to be taken to ensure a fine feast.

Consider this menu from The Lady’s Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie, published in 1847: Roast turkey, (not that my Jimmy could find one ) cranberry sauce, boiled ham, turnips, beets, winter squash, bread, and mince meat pies. Not very interesting, is it? Other popular items were baked potatoes lavish with butter, candied sweet potatoes, baked beans, fish, and pickles.

nativity-1The real Christmas story, the birth of Jesus, was a huge part of Christmas traditions in most pioneer homes. Almost every home had a Bible, or knew the story of the Lord’s birth by heart. Usually the Christmas story would be read or told on Christmas Eve. Some homes even had carved nativity scenes.

**All pics are from Pixabay free images.

WRITING PROMPT: Study the picture below of a modern family Christmas. Think about how Christmas today is much different in some ways, and the same in others. If you could go back in time, and sit beside a person your own age, what would you tell them about Christmas today? Do you think that a long ago Christmas, or today’s Christmas is the most satisfying? Why?


mejan2016Jacqueline Kimball is a writer and Louisiana native who received her degree in elementary education from Northeast Louisiana University (now named University of Louisiana at Monroe), graduating magna cum laude. In 2006, she was honored Teacher of the Year at her school, Rayville Elementary. She retired from teaching in 2010, and though she misses her time in the classroom, she is happy to finally have time to pursue her passion for writing.

Jacqueline (Jackie) is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and her local group, Alabama Mountain Writers. She loves history, and is particularly drawn to the mid 1800s. She enjoys writing historical fiction, and four of her five books are historical.  Her newest book, book one of her Beaver Creek Series (Love Comes to Beaver Creek) was just released on Dec 4th. She also write children’s stories, including the book Houston the Cleft Palate Puppy, her personal favorite. Additionally, she has written for church publications, Hub Pages, Infobarrel, MSNBC, and various publications. She is currently writing a Christmas novella, A Very Doggie Christmas.

She is the mother of three grown children; Lisa, Kimberli, and Michael, and a proud nana to eight beautiful grandchildren and one great grandchild. She currently lives in Northeastern Alabama, near her younger daughter Kimberli and family. She shares her home with her older daughter Lisa, and two spoiled little house dogs who don’t know that they are…ahem…canines.

Love Comes to Beaver Creek

lindylovecomesseriesSummer 1851, Beaver Creek, Oregon. Lindy Sanders is in love with her childhood friend, Jack Matthews. But she, and she alone, was at the creek when his sister drowned, and she feels that he blames her. When another person drowns, the community realizes that this is no coincidence. Who killed Sissy Matthews, and why? Can Lindy and Jack find true love despite the tragic events, or will a love from the past change everything?

Ben Dorsey’s wife died, leaving him with two babies under a year old. Ben vows never to love again, but he needs a wife, and quick. Mary Grace vows that she will marry a complete stranger, rather than live with her father and step mother any longer.

 And finally, Carlton has returned from California with enough money to take a wife. But the one he loves, loves another.

This is book one of The Beaver Creek Series. Each book is a stand-alone book, with familiar characters from The Oregon Series, and new ones as well.

Christmas Around the World: My Russian Legacy

Christmas around the world is our topic for December. Many people rejoice over the birth of Christ and with different countries come various celebrations. Food, church services, gift-giving, decorations, and lights are some of the ways people show their love for the Babe born in Bethlehem. Join us for our trip around the world, starting with Russia…

By Jennifer Hallmark


Uncle Paul, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom

Christmas Eve and day were spent with my dad’s family and my husband’s family, sharing traditions familiar to them. Southern food, presents galore, and catching up on the past year were an important part of their holidays. The New Year would come and go. Russian Christmas would finally arrive.

My family would drive to my parent’s house on January 6, which was the eve of the day Christmas was celebrated on the old “Julian” calendar. The excitement would build as our children, Mandy and Jonathan, looked forward to the small, decorated tree, presents and a special supper to commemorate this second Christmas of the year.


wikipedia image

On Russian Christmas Eve, Mother would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree. We would prepare a special seven-dish Russian meal, which included salmon, stuffed potato pies, borscht or beet soup, stuffed cabbage, polish sausage, boiled cabbage, and special rolls filled with raisins and prunes. We ate by candlelight and recelebrated the birth of Jesus, then exchanged small presents as we shared stories of culture, heritage and family.


My stuffed cabbage and peppers

I’m glad to remember and share my heritage with my family. Today we celebrate different traditions tied to my heritage and home in the Deep South. We rejoice with love, fellowship, food, and gifts.

One Christmas at a time.


Writing Prompt: Share your favorite Christmas tradition.


Can Winter be a Favorite Season?

snow stormAs winter storm after sub-zero day piles on our country, many of you laugh at the thought of winter as a favorite time of year. My true favorite season is fall with colorful leaves, cooler nights, and football, but for me, every season has its place. A good place. Even winter.

Winter officially starts on December 21st in 2016. This is Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. In meteorology, winter in the Northern Hemisphere spans the entire period of December through February. The Northern hemisphere of our planet is closest to the sun during the winter. The tilt of the axis accounts for weather changes, not proximity to the sun.

summer solstice

Winter Solstice

Enough facts for now. How could winter be my favorite season? Here are four reasons:

  • Christmas-Jesus’ birthday, family gatherings, presents, and the joy of children. Need I say more?
  • Snow-For us folks in Alabama, snowfall might be once a year and less than an inch. So any snow is a real treat for us. I love watching the grandgirls frolick in the frozen stuff.
  • Rest-Life in January and February is slow after Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can catch my breath and regroup.
  • Writing time-My most productive writing time is January and February. I don’t like to go out in the cold much, so I stay in and write.

How about you? Can you find joy in each season? Do you love the newness of spring, the vitality of summer, the changes of fall, or the closure of winter?

Remember to enter our blogaversary celebration by leaving an answer to the writing prompt. You’ll be eligible to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Writing prompt: Kelsey grabbed her phone and flipped to the calendar. Today was winter solstice? How could they have planned the pre-teen girls sleepover for the longest night of the year? She’d better call…

using cell phone

Joy in 2016

By Jennifer Hallmark

joy quoteI’m moving slowly back and forth in the old timey rocker/glider in Mom’s living room. It’s December 30th and
I’m working on my January blog post while I’m here. My stepdad’s health has been declining so I sit with him while Mom goes to the doctor and shops. Thoughts about how my year is ending, similar to how it began, circles in my mind. Without going into detail, the first two weeks of January were bewildering. My word of focus for 2015 was grace, but to me, unexpected or unforeseen would have been more appropriate. In reality, I needed an abundance of grace to see me through last year. I more than understood why Matthew 6:34 is in the Bible.

‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ NKJV

In 2015, all my worries were for naught. What I worried about didn’t come to pass, but things I never could have imagined did. So I’ve tried to process 2015 the best I can and look forward to 2016.sylvester-1097596_1920


I mean, Alabama just won the semi-final college football game and will go to the Championship. And even though I ended the year with bronchitis, the holidays are over and I’m entering a writing season. My 2016 focus is set (seek God) and I’m ready.

Or I was until January 2nd.

The ambulance came for my stepdad who had double pneumonia. The back and forth trips from ICU to the waiting room to home and back to ICU began. By the time you read this, I hope he will have made it into a regular hospital room, but he won’t be home yet.

So what do you do when plans continually go awry? Am I the only one?

No. I passed too many people in the elevator, in the hallways, and in the hospital cafeteria to feel too sorry for myself. People whose lives have been disrupted by… well …life.

Should I just chunk 2016 and go to the pity party that waits just around the corner? Or keep writing, helping my family, cleaning house, shopping for groceries–all the things that make life what it is?

‘Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.’ Hebrews 10:23 NLT

BibleWhat is God’s promise? That Jesus shed his blood for us, took our punishment, and opened a new way. The Bible is full of so many promises. We are loved, accepted in the Beloved, a royal priesthood, set apart, and never alone, to name a few.

I love to remember the promises in the quiet, productive times, but I need to remember them in the chaotic times when the ground is shaking, and I have trouble standing.

I’ll step boldly on into this unsteady month of January, writing snatches of work here and there. Cleaning when I can. Resting when able. And I’ll step with joy, knowing God hasn’t left his throne and I’m always cherished and loved.

Today I choose JOY.

Writing Prompt: Let’s take the letters that make up the word JOY. Write a short story which includes one word that begins with a J, one that begins with an O, and one that begins with a Y.  Enter it in the comments for a double entry in our bi-yearly contest.

Christmas Celebrations and Decorations

11157649lBy Jennifer Hallmark

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have vegetated in the recliner all morning after an early invigorating walk, staring at the harvest/Thanksgiving decorations surrounding me. It’s an hour and a half until the Iron Bowl starts, the biggest football game of the year for Alabama and Auburn fans. I have plenty of time to get my thoughts on paper for my next post.

Our focus is on what Christmas means to me. Yes, it means family, my kin by blood and my church family, connected by the blood of Jesus. I love the Christmas plays, parades, television specials—from cute cartoons to moving stories about the birth of Jesus. I dress up in Christmasy clothes and shop more than any other time of the year.

This weekend, these three or four days after Thanksgiving, however, is where it all starts for me. I live in a rural area, near a small town, so on Black Friday, my husband and I venture to WalMart, CVS, Tractor Supply, and Dollar General. The crowds aren’t bad in our area, it’s enjoyable, and we always find a few treasures.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas music plays during my shopping, and presents lie on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. It’s time. A smile spreads on my face as I sit here, envisioning the decorations that will soon cover the house. Lots of snowmen because they’re my favorite. The granddaughters love to see them all, though my two children roll their eyes at the explosion of roly-poly snow people of all colors, shapes and sizes.

They all have meaning as many were gifts IMG_20151209_075847333from friends and family, some no longer with me. Many were picked up from after Christmas on clearance tables or at summer yard sales. After a few seasons, I pass them on to others and we still have room to walk through the house.  🙂

Why? To me, Christmas is all about celebrations and decorations. Jesus was born in humble surroundings, but angels and one perfect star announced His birth. Shepherds visited him, and wise men bore precious gifts. Even in that tiny stable, Mary and Joseph must have celebrated as the presence of God visibly arrived in their world.

IMG_20151209_084915535Did the animals surrounding them sense the Son of God? Did the innkeeper or any of
the occupants of the inn visit them, drawn by a love beyond anything they’d ever sensed before? We’ll never know on this earth. Jesus is worth celebrating and as I decorate my home and play Christmas music, I think of Him. I envision my family gatherings and sometimes tear up with thoughts of family I won’t see or loved ones gone on to heaven.

Then the decorating is done. I walk through slowly, enjoying each decorated room, savoring the old decorations and new. I eagerly await the Christmas play that Ava, my oldest granddaughter, will star in at school. Her role is Mrs. Santa Claus. Then there is the play at church where she is an angel and little Sadie Rae, a lamb. She practices her baaing constantly.

A big Christmas Eve gathering and Christmas day visits round out the holidays. Before the New Year arrives, I carefully pack everything away, where it waits for its unveiling in 2016. I give a contented sigh while I sit, sipping hot tea and typing these last words.

Celebrations and decorations.

Jesus, the reason for the season.

My family and friends.

Writing Prompt: Write a short paragraph telling how the photo above makes you feel.