Or warm stollen in the kitchen
I finally have gotten a plan together for what I would like to do bring Christ into Christmas in our home. Now that my kids are getting old enough to actively participate, there are many things we can do. Because of my genealogy interests, I wanted to incorporate cultural elements into the season, but quickly found when you're a mutt and not a purebred, you have a lot of cultures to account for! It wouldn't be possible to do them all justice, so this year I am focusing on my German and Swiss heritage, along with hubby's Germans from Poland/Russia background. Next year I think I'll try a weird combination of Irish/Welsh/Scottish/English and pray there won't be fighting in the house :)
We will light candles on the advent wreath. I just received a great book, The Catholic Home, Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, by Meredith Gould. She is a Jewish convert to Catholicism and knows more about traditional Catholic things than I certainly do. Her book, along with a wealth of internet sites, provides some background on the Advent wreath. I will be learning my faith along with my kids.
Wreath - The eternal nature of God; the king who is coming and will come again in glory
Ivy - Clinging to God's strength
Holly - The crown of thorns
Bay - Victory over sin and death
Cedar - Eternal life through Christ
Violet - Penance
Rose/pink - Joy
Green (wreath) - Hope in God
First candle - Isaiah and prophets who foretold the coming of Christ
Second candle - The Bible
Third candle - Mary, the Mother of God
Fourth candle - John the Baptist, who called Jesus the "Light of the World"
Middle candle - Jesus, Light of the World
I also plan to get the store-bought Advent calendars that have the doors you open each day and get a piece of chocolate. We'll read the kids the bible verses each day and then let them have their chocolate.
THE JESSE TREE
I've never made a Jesse tree before. Maybe way back in CCD we did, but I don't remember ever doing this. There are ornaments you can print out on the internet or some you can make and your kids can color. Of course, all of the ornaments are steeped in symbolism, which is very neat. They also have the daily bible readings to go along with this. May have to combine these with the advent calendar readings this year.
ST. NICKLAUS - DECEMBER 6
In Germany, they celebrate Christmas on December 6, which is the feast of St. Nicholas or St. Nicholas' Day. I don't want to move our Christmas, but do want to emphasize the bishop instead of the jolly man in the red suit, so will do some things for St. Nicholas' Day.
According to a website:
As in many other European countries, on the eve of Dec. 6th children place a shoe or boot by the fireplace. During the night, St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, hops from house to house carrying a book of sins in which all of the misdeeds of the children are written. If they have been good, he fills the shoe or boot with delicious holiday edibles. If they have not been good, their shoe is filled with twigs.
I've also heard that depending on the child, there may be candy tied to a twig, sending them the message that their behavior was borderline! We have some old wooden shoes from my husband's great grandfather that I will set out by the fireplace. Also, St. Nicholas used to quiz the children on their catechism/prayers and knowledge of the faith before they got anything in their shoes. Will have to try something like that with my son.
LETTERS TO THE CHRIST CHILD
From Meredith Gould's book (p. 20), she mentions this is done by European and Canadian Catholics, who have their children write letters to the Christ Child on December 5. "These little notes, which, admittedly may include requests for presents, are left on the windowsill for St. Nicholas to pick up and deliver."
I have several very nice manger scenes/creches. But have one that is fairly large that I will put in front of the fireplace. The kids will probably enjoy doing this and I'm sure it will be a challenge to keep them from playing with it!
From a website I found: Heilige Drei Könige (the “Wise Men,” “Three Kings,” the Magi) in German. To this day, the initials of the Three Kings — C+M+B (Caspar/Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) — plus the year are inscribed in chalk over doorways in German-speaking countries on the eve of January 6 to protect house and home. (Although historically the three letters are supposed to come from the Latin phrase for “Christ bless this house”—"Christus mansionem benedicat"—few of the people practicing this custom are aware of this fact. We have done this for many years, since St. Agnes has always provided blessed chalk and the blessing prayers each year. This is one of my favorites.
I'm still debating if I want to make any special German items. I've never been a big fan of German food. Don't really care for sausage. Always made the stuff for my dad, but no one else really eats these things and hubby's family wouldn't know stollen if it bit them! Maybe this year I'll just go easy and bake all the usual things instead of trying to incorporate too much!
There is much more that could be done to add a German flair to things, but for this mom, this is plenty! I also heard that in some countries that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is treated as another Mother's Day and moms get the day off and are treated to breakfast in bed, no chores, no responsibilities. I may push for this...
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