Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5 Golden Rings

Some thoughts on how our culture has changed over the generations and its effect on our Christmas celebration.

Traditionally, the tree was not put up or decorated until Christmas Eve and was left up until after Twelfth Night. These days between Christmas and Epiphany are the actual 12 Days of Christmas that we sing about every year. My dad even has memories of his early Christmases when Santa decorated the tree while the kids were sleeping on the evening of the 24th. Just a generation ago, but it seems so foreign to our current ideology.

Why would we put the tree up on the 24th only to take it down again on the 26th? It seems like a waste, doesn't it?

With our ever-increasing focus on gift giving as the most important part of the Holiday season, we often put up our tree before the Thanksgiving leftovers are in the fridge (and this year, we might have even started shopping between the main course and the pumpkin pie). Stores are ready for the commercialism to begin by Halloween, bombarding us with decorations, promised sales, and music to put us in the mood to buy, buy, buy.

Our Christmas Season lasts most of November and all of December.

Then comes Christmas morning and a flurry of wrapping paper and new toys for everyone. As soon as the gifts are unwrapped, it seems, we hurry to get the decorations packed up before mom and dad have to return to work and the kids are back in school. Christmas is all but forgotten by December 26th (unless we are among the throngs of folks returning and exchanging gifts for something just a little bit "better").

Having been shopping celebrating since October, we can't imagine carrying on through the new year, a week into January, or *gasp* February (yes, the Feast of Candlemas was a traditional marker for removal of the Christmas decorations). Gone are the 12 Days of Christmas. We have replaced the feasts and celebrations that actually bring Jesus to mind with a culture of consumerism.

Our stores and our hearts have already moved beyond Christmas and begun to think about Valentine's Day...our next nationally recognized opportunity to buy more junk.

Don't get me wrong, we celebrate the holidays with gift giving, music, shopping, and the like all through the month of December like any good American. Honestly, I love it. The first snow makes me giddy. I insist on watching Elf every year (and White Christmas, and A Christmas Story). However, we are in no rush to tear down. We always leave the tree up until Epiphany and the coming of the Wise Men. Each year we are trying to incorporate more of the meaningful and relevant traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I'll let you know how it goes this year.

What are you doing to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in your house?

Advent Part 4

We have had a really fun time finishing up the Advent season and preparing our hearts for Christmas. Here are our last few activities:

Day 22 - Wise Men Craft

We read the story of the three wise men from Matthew chapter 2 and made a star mobile to hang from the ceiling and lead the way to the infant king. We also learned the chorus of "We Three Kings" to sing together as I sang the verses.

Oh! Star of Wonder, Star of Night!

Day 23 - Wild Lights at the zoo

We headed across the river to have Christmas with Grandpa and Gigi, who were able to join us for the zoo lights. The only thing that would have made the day more fun was if Daddy hadn't been on call.

W climbing on a giant beetle instead of enjoying the lights
N liked the trees with lots of colors
goofing with Grandpa
N and Gigi on the carousel: on the tiger and cheetah (he LOVES big cats)
W and Grandpa on the carousel: on a penguin (one of W's faves) and a donkey
so pretty
Day 23 - Find and open your "Christmas Eve" present

Each of us had a box under the tree marked as "Christmas Eve." The boys got the job of finding them, then we took turns opening.
W first: Angry Birds (red for him, of course) with Santa hats!
Next N: green (of course) with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater with reindeer antlers
L's turn: Toy Story aliens with candy canes (maybe just striped jet packs, but close enough) and plenty of green and blue
Daddy got Santa Snoopy and buffalo plaid flannel pants. Mommy (not pictured) got Mickey and Minnie Mouse on ice skates
despite the fact that it was 11a.m., the littles had to try on their Christmas pjs
Day 25 - There was plenty of fun to be had! Waffles for breakfast, egg nog, stockings and presents at our house, the same at Yaya and Grandad's house, Christmas carols, gingerbread cookie decorating, hot chocolate.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Part 3

Another week of good times (and goodies!) around our house.

Day 15: Gardenland Express Train & Flower Show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (if you live in the area...GO!!! This was fantastic fun for all of us)
watching the trains & playing "I Spy"
The Holly and the Ivy
Day 16: Bake Christmas cookies to take to our friends & neighbors (and, of course, some for ourselves). On a side note, this was just the beginning of several days of baking...the house smelled amazing!
stirring up the Gram Ruth cookies is hard work, but well worth it!

When we were delivering to our neighbors, I couldn't help but see God's hand in the way things worked out. We started out with the few houses that are clustered around ours. There were few porch lights on and even fewer people who were answering their doors. We had a few boxes left and decided to walk around the corner, past the big lot, and try some of the folks down the street (we really don't know our neighbors well, in all honesty). At the very last house we approached, we were greeted with the most grateful of recipients. It was a man who was living with his mother taking care of her after she had spent 2 weeks in the hospital and was recovering from surgery. His father had passed away earlier in this year, and he said his mom would really like the cookies. If just one more person that I had planned to deliver cookies to had been home, we never would have made it to this house -- the one that most evidently needed some Christmas cheer. I just love it when God shows up in the little things!
assembling some boxes and plates of deliciousness
Day 17: Make a manger craft. We paired this with a reading of Luke 2:1-7 and learning the songs "Joy to the World" and "Away in a Manger."
we like crafts!

the finished product -- pretty cute, I think
Day 18: Make a gingerbread house (again, a 2-day project...assembled one day, decorated the next)
adding the delicious finishing touches to our tummies our house
the twins also made gingerbread houses at school, so we have a little gingerbread village in our dining room right now!

Day 19: Drive through The Way of Lights at the Shrine -- so beautiful!
this is the only thing I could even come close to capturing on film!
worshiping the newborn king!
Day 20: Make a shepherd craft. We also read Luke 2:8-20 and sang "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Go, Tell it on the Mountain!"

A happy shepherd dance...Go! Tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

the shepherds joined our nativity
Day 21: Wrap presents! Yay!
goofy gift wrappers!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Part 2

 Our second week of Advent has been busy and fun! It feels like we've been crafting up a storm. Here we go:

Day 8: Celebrate Auntie Jo's birthday by making her favorite cake
stirring up the strawberry cake

W concentrates on the icing
L thinks it's hard work
N "accidentally" gets a LOT of icing on his hands
 Day 9: Drink hot cocoa from Christmas mugs (with plenty of marshmallows) and sing Christmas Carols together as a family

 Day 10: Make Christmas T-shirts

Yes, we have matching Christmas shirts. Yes, we are cheesy. Yes, we love it.
 Day 11: Make handprint snowmen ornaments
Some of them look like ducks...but I'm not anal about making things look "perfect" when they were made by my boys. The perfection is in the imperfection.
 Day 12: Learn about the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary and make angel puppets
 Day 13: Make (and EAT!) ice cream cone Christmas trees
L is proud of his creation
W can't stop giggling!

N "accidentally" makes a mess with his icing that he needs to

look, ma, no hands!
 Day 14: Celebrate Jesus' birthday with cupcakes, candles, and the birthday song!
Happy Birthday, dear Jesus! Happy Birthday to YOU!
delicious North Pole cupcakes with a peppermint stick and a sprinkling of sugar to look like snow

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Part 1

We love to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus (and to have some seasonal fun) every day during the month of December. Here's a little overview of our first week of this advent season:
Day 1 -- Decorate the house for Christmas
i think this view is cuter
they could watch this train all day long
the stockings were hung by the chimney with care

decorating their tree
daddy felt the need to space out their ornaments a little more evenly
Day 2 -- Choose this year's new ornaments for our trees
ornaments 2012: L-R Snowman, Penguin, Twin Santas
 Day 3 -- Sleeping Bag "camp out" & Christmas movie 
this year's movie was Veggie Tales St. Nicholas

Day 4 -- Make birdseed ornaments and decorate an outside Christmas tree

pretty way to feed the fauna
Day 5 -- Welcome Jazz, our elf on the shelf
our elf just plays hide and seek with us every morning
 Day 6 -- St. Nicholas Day = give away toys to those less fortunate
taking inventory of what we have and what we can donate
Day 7 -- Make Christmas cards for our friends
happy to send cards in the mail

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