Advent · Catholic homemaking · Christmas · Homemaking · My world · Simplicity

Christmas and Advent 2008

I walked into Fred Meyer’s the other day and tucked away near the cards and the books was the first Christmas display, the American Greetings ornaments I believe.   Normally I am rather perturbed by the consumer driven tendency to market Christmas earlier and earlier each year, but this year I looked at it and thought about how dizzying the Advent/Christmas season is.  Every year I hope to be more organised and for the last few years I have note of “The Holiday Grand Plan” which starts holiday planning in the last week of August and finishes it in the main planning endeavors by the middle of December. 

Normally I forget all about the “Grand Plan” until mid October.  This year I actually remembered about it early enough to bump it back two weeks so I can use it for Advent and Christmas.  I plan to bump the Grand Plan back to August 17 and “Tweak” it so that I can focus on Advent too.

Christmas

A sad day in a joyful season

So young, so small that they had barely begun to know that they were when they died in place of Christ.  They died to save the one who would die to save them.  The first martyrs, the Holy Innocents, who we remember this day.

There is almost nothing that I enjoy more than being surprised by a thought.  And Fulton Sheen can do that on a regular basis it seems.  Today was one of those times were I read something and just sat back and said, “Wow.”

Happy Catholic (yes, one of my daily readings) had this quote:

There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. for the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God’s life …(F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus)

I have often wondered how Mary and Joesph felt as they fled ahead of the slaughter.  What did they think?  Did they know what was about to happen? These would have been their neighbors, the little babies they had seen growing up, the toddlers their own son had played with.  No wonder the “Flight to Egypt” is one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Even though they escaped the anger and rage of Herod there were those who died in Jesus place. The sorrow when they learned of the massacre must have been horrible. 

Advent · My world

Happy Saint Nicholas Day

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Click here for the 2008 Saint Nicholas Day Post.

Today is St Nicholas Day and we will have sort of a fun time.  Coloring, crafts and cookies. 

Santa and St Nicholas

I have always been sort of an odd duck among my friends in that I don’t really “do” Santa.   Even when the oldest was very little I had a bit of a problem with the idea of telling my child that someone in a red suit flew through the air and gave them presents when I know myself that it is actually not true.   That may sound somewhat fastidious of me or just crazy, but in reality I think we have struck a good balance between the secular celebration of Christmas (the orgy of consumerism) and Christmas (the nativity of Christ).  A good part of that has had to do with our approach to Santa Claus.

Over the years I have discussed our approach to the “Santa thing” many times with various friends and family both online and off.   Most the time I am a bit surprised at just how hostile people can be when you say that you “don’t do Santa”.   Part of this I understand, the most common thing is for  “dear friend or relative” to ask, “why?” and they don’t really appreciate the response.   In reality we never started doing Santa because use I just really couldn’t lie to the kids that way.   I have had a couple people argue with me endlessly that it isn’t lying to say that Santa is real.  I can appreciate the mental gymnastics that go into their arguments, but it just doesn’t fly.  To say a Jolly Old Elf dresses up in red and flies about the world  giving presents to good little boys and girls is not, by any stretch of the imagination objectively true.  

Now I have heard and I do understand all the “magic of the season”, “Harmless fun” , “Spirit of joy and love” , “Childhood memories” and “tradition” arguments.  I am by no means even suggesting that anyone else should do what we do.  What we do is what we do, I get that you might do something else, I am not saying you are dishonest or  hurting your children in any way, I get why you do what you do I just don’t quite agree.   I don’t quite get the “Your poor kids!” argument which seems to get tossed my way quite a bit– they enjoy the season very much and look forward to Christmas with all the pleasure of any young children.  They don’t miss any of the fun, joy, love, tradition and they have fantastic childhood memories.  We just don’t “do” Santa but that doesn’t mean that we toss out the Christmas tree and presents, have no cookies, no stories, forbid the mention or fantasy of Santa, that we don’t hang stockings or sing carols or sip eggnog. 

We read stories about Christmas, both the Nativity and the secular stories.  The children are in fact delighted with the idea of the secular Santa.   But it is along the lines of how they look at Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz.  We do talk about St Nicholas on December sixth.  We discuss his life and why he is remembered this time of year, we make “CandyCane Cookies” (the Bishop’s/Shepherd’s staff), some years we go to our parish event or to the Grotto.   Some years ago at the Grotto one of the monks dressed as St Nicholas  gave the children candy-canes.  He didn’t ask what they want for Christmas, he didn’t promise them gifts, but instead he asked them to remember the Baby Jesus and to do their best to be good.   That I love.   I love seeing the Saints brought to life for our children and I love hearing them promise to remember their Savior and strive to be good.  It highlight the biggest intellectual problem I have with Santa Claus.  The “gimmies”.   

Once, a year or two before Ashley was born, I was at a shopping mall during Christmas.  Hectic and in its own way fun.  I have often referred to shopping malls as “Temples of Consumerism” not sure where the term originated, but it has stuck in my head.  I was looking over from the second level below to the “Santa’s Village” display.  Here was the God of consumerism seated in red velvety glory, his liveried attends assisting the supplicants as they approach the throne to tell him their requests.  Mothers grooming their tots to catch the perfect picture to accompany the “Christmas Letter” for friends and relatives and leading them up to sit on the big man’s lap.  Some of the children were happy and excited, coming forward with letters in hand detailing exactly what they wanted, others horribly afraid many were bored in the line, stressed out parents — all in all it was a really strange affair.  Completely commonplace and yet in some part of my brain completely alien.  It mad me question the whole “thing”.    It was beautiful in a way and yet off-putting as well.

There is no doubt that most adults have wonderful memories of their childhood Christmases.  Drifting to sleep Christmas eve hoping to hear the faint tinkle of sleigh bells in the distance, almost believing they do as they slip into dreams of Christmas morning  where they will receive the gifts they have been hoping for.   It is really an enchanting thing.  And yet there is always that “horrible” child in school who learns “the truth” and then tells all their peers.  I really shudder to hear how I have heard such children described.  One of the other very common things I hear is that my children must somehow be out to ruin the Christmas Joy for all their peers since they aren’t raised with the misconception that Santa is Real.   What a sad ignorance of the power of fantasy on children’s minds.  Children can delight in and believe in for a moment anything, any fantastical thing they can create in their imaginations.  All stories are for the moment real.  There are princesses with glass slippers, elves, fairies, teddy bears talk, and toys spring to motion when no one is looking in a child’s world.  Santa can be part of that, loved and enjoyed and treasured yet put away in a moment. 

Parent’s don’t need to say something is true for their children to enjoy to thought of it.  My children love the whole idea of Santa, but they don’t believe in Santa why way the believe in God or England.   There has been no crushing moment of “discovery”;  I have never had to utter the words “Thems that believe receive thems that don’t don’t”.   They slowly outgrow the Santa story the same way they leave behind the puzzle with ten pieces or nursery rhymes.  A loved part of happy childhood, but not the big part it is to some others.

Advent

Advent 2007: Hope

The first week of Advent is the week of Hope. 

The hope of life everlasting.  The hope of the world to come.  It is one of the central themes of Christian faith.  A fortitude that sees us through horrible darkness and leads us to the one true hope of Christ.  The light of the world.

Advent · My world

One Week Before Advent

Today I went out to the craft store and picked up some floral supplies for Advent.  I was really excited to find some fake poinsettia blooms in purple and pink.  So I picked up three purple and one pink.  I had found a few years ago and I have had trouble finding them since.  I use the floral supplies year after year… but after ten years these particular items were looking a look worse for the wear.

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Advent · Christmas Alliance

More on Advent preparations

Advent, the basics for this year:

The first Sunday of Advent is December 2nd, 2007. December 9th, 16th and 23rd obviously filling out the four weeks.  Important dates within Advent are: the Feast of Saint Nicholas on Thursday, December 6, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, December 8 and the Feast of Saint Lucy on Thursday, December 13.  The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation.  The four weeks of Advent are typically “themed”  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  I have seen several variations on this, but I would discard any that didn’t have the pink candle and Joy for week three (Gaudete).

Advent is not just a Catholic thing, Lutherans and a few others have long celebrated it and some other reformed and protestant churches are also bringing it back.  But I am not really up on all the ways others celebrate so you might have to bare with me.

Advent is ideally a time of prayer and spiritual reflection.  A time for anticipating the Birth of the Savior.  Which sounds rather strange considering it is an event that took place some 2000 years ago, but we anticipate it every year as part of the liturgical calendar.  Liturgy is one of those sublime things.  Its ability to bring us in again and again to the events that shape our collective faith strengthens and shapes our personal faith.  The birth of Christ, celebrated in the darkest days of the year, reminds us in a very tangible way that no matter how far from Him we have traveled and how broken we have made ourselves Christ is born again in the darkness of our lives and we are born again in Him. 
 

I didn’t grow up with Advent, being a convert.  Our family has been building our Advent traditions  each year we try one or two new ideas and keep those things we find give us joy and build our faith.  Not everything works for every family.   

After my conversion to the Catholic faith in 1998 I was overwhelmed by everything that is Catholic.  There are many wonderful devotions and practices, traditions and cultural expressions of the Catholic faith.  No one can do them all.   Advent really appealed to me.  Each year we have experimented with one or two ideas and kept those that mean the most to us.

Over the next couple weeks I am going to write about those Advent activities that have become traditions for our family.  Today I want to focus on The Wreath.  One of the first things we began was the advent wreath.  I make two evergreen wreaths every year.  One a wall hanging and one for the Advent wreath.  It becomes the focal point during Advent.  Four candles, three purple and one pink adorn the wreath in addition to ribbons and florist “picks”.  

Some parishes have Advent wreath making events where the parishioners gather together and make their wreaths which are then blessed and taken home to be used throughout the season.  We make ours at home.  Later this month I will post instructions and hopefully pictures of our wreath making endeavors.   Anyone can bless the wreath (you don’t need to take it to a priest) usually I see prayer books recommend the father take on this duty and I think that is a wonderful thing.