28 November 2007

A faint whiff of Frankincense

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.

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.

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.

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 K├Ânige (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...


Divine Mercy said...

hmm, good ideas there!

Vincenzo said...

"...wouldn't know stollen if it bit them!"

I just looked it up (never had it before). I want to make some.

swissmiss said...

My dad liked German things. My FIL says he's 100% German but every time I've offered to make him things when I made them for my dad, he never knew what I was talking about!

I'm not a big fan of stollen. Will probably make chocolate chip cookies and some fudge. Those are favorites in my family :) Don't know what else yet.

Any Italian things you do?

VA said...

We don't exactly celebrate Christmas on December 6th, but we do get presents. Younger children will put their shoe out, and if they're lucky the Saint himself or one of his helpers will come by in the evening to listen to their songs. Older children and younger adults come together in groups where everyone makes a surprise connected to the receiver (for example, someone who loves tea might get a hand-made cardboard tea pot) with a present inside and a humorous rhyme about the things that person has done that year.

Presents at Christmas is something we consider slightly odd - although if your parents are divorced one might do St. Nicholas Eve and the other Christmas...

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the helpful comments, VA, and welcome to my blog. I kind of misspoke when I said Christmas is celebrated on December 6. Christmas is still Christmas :) I hope to bring back some of the traditions that were lost in my family...it think having several days of activities is more fun then one big day of chaos and presents.

Do you celebrate St. Barbara's Day?

Lisa said...

Great ideas!
I am so impressed at how much you're incorporating into your Christmas season. I may buy Meredith's book too-is she on EWTN?

swissmiss said...

I've never seen her on EWTN or had heard of her previously. I was just looking through Amazon one day since they had, or still have, a "Buy 3 get the 4th free" deal. I never thought I would find anything, but found her book, a chant CD, a classical music for kids CD and the "Who am I?" catechism book for pre-schoolers. Sooo, I got one item free and qualified for free shipping (since my order was over $25 before all the discounts) and it only totalled about $20 after all the free stuff was calculated!

Adrienne said...

I'm tired just reading your post:)All your ideas are wonderful, don't forget it's ok to start some of your own family traditions.

The other worry I have (remember, I'm old so I sometimes see things you younger folks don't) is that sometimes we set ourselves up for a big let down when we set our expectations too high. Pick out a few things to do and don't fret if they are not always perfect.

whitestonenameseeker said...

Thanks for the Jesse Tree links-very useful.
I used to make Stollen every year-but babies, toddlers and homeschooling have put a dent in my bread making.
I did intend to get back to it this year-so far I haven't gotten around to it.
But I just love the smell of stollen as it bakes and then having it still warm from the oven...bliss

Terry Nelson said...

I still celebrate St. Nicholaus day. In Germany I believe the Christ Child brings the gifts on Christmas Eve - but they have Santa too I think. I'll have to research.

Meredith Gould said...

Thanks for buying...and getting a deal on...and enjoying my book!

You might be amused to learn that a pre-publication reviewer wrote this comment next to my list of traditional Christmas foods, "Does this book make me look fat?"

You have not seen me on EWTN because they thought I was too irreverent when I suggested giving newly ordained priests gift cards to housewares stores. Guess I should've mentioned that several priests offered that suggestion.

In any event, readers do find THE CATHOLIC HOME helpful and fun. As for me and my house, we'll be switching to purple place mats on Sunday and focusing on Advent as its own special season of watchful waiting and careful contemplation.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

swissmiss said...

If things get too much, then they will get shelved. The nice thing is that this stuff is over the next month, not all crammed into one day...another reason why I like Advent and having St. Nicholas Day. Plus, almost all the work is already done with the helpful websites I found, I just need to print the stuff and cut them out. We'll see how it goes:)

This is the first year I feel I can tackle anything since I had really little ones last year. This year my son is old enough to understand a lot of what is going on and appreciate the symbolism...sort of.

Ter Bear:
I think you're right about the Christ Child. A very sweet idea, not to bash Santa. I should really ask my brother what they do, but they make an effort to be American and celebrate Thanksgiving and all our holidays, so it's kind of humorous and ironic.

Welcome to my blog! I just got your book last night and read the sections on Advent, etc. Really like the ideas and history.

Irreverent? We NEED more of that. People should see the joy of Catholicism instead of only perceiving us as stuffy or stuffy with a guilty conscience!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Swiss Miss I've added you to my blogroll-sorry this is a bit late.
I've also added you to my homeschool blogroll (Thinking Love, No Twaddle)

God bless

Terry Nelson said...

I found out Martin Luther started the ChristKindle tradition, taking away from the St. Nicolaus tradition. Oh well. I'm reading up on things however.