Celebrating Christmastide

Christmastide is almost upon us, and I am looking forward to the twelve days of Christmastide and the wonderful Holy Nights that are the wonderful, introspective times of peering within for moving forward. It’s a beautiful time of year!

Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.

Here is a small guide toward helping families enjoy each day of Christmastide, and I do so hope you will leave your favorite traditions in the comment box as well!

Monday, December 24th – Since the Feast of the Nativity truly begins on Christmas Eve, attending liturgy is a priority for this night! In the hustle and bustle that can often accompany this day before Christmas, making time for quiet prayer is a powerful example of showing our children that God is with us should we choose to acknowledge Him, find Him, adore Him. God is with us, and with His smallest creatures. In Scandinavian countries, it is traditional to put sheaves of wheat for the birds. Children will enjoy taking time on this day to decorate an outside tree for the birds by stringing popcorn or making the traditional pine cone bird feeder of peanut butter rolled in birdseed.

 

Tuesday, December 25th– Christmas Day, the first of the twelve holy days, is a wonderful time to take an afternoon walk and see God’s creation, and also to read from The Gospel of Saint Luke. Old-fashioned board games are another suggestion for celebrating the Christmas afternoon in family togetherness. Another suggestion that some Christian families have tried with success is to spread gift-giving throughout the twelve days of Christmas so that not every gift is opened on Christmas morning.

 

Wednesday, December 26th The Feast of St. Stephen – Love is the spirit of Christmas. This day is the Feast of Saint Stephen , one of the first deacons of the Church to serve the poor. Perhaps today you and your children could bring small baked treats to your neighbors, or another act of kindness and love for those in your area. Good King Wencelas is also associated with this day; perhaps you know the famous carol about him and there is also a picture book about him called “Wencelas: The Eternal Christmas Story” by Geraldine McCraughrean that children may enjoy.  This is also marked as “Boxing Day” in the UK and other countries, and you can see a full description of that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Thursday, December 27th– The Feast of St. John –  This is sometimes associated with the blessing of wine.  You can see more about this day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas4.html

 

Friday, December 28th– The Feast of the Holy Innocents. This is a lovely day to let your smallest child be the “King” for the day, and a wonderful day to bless your children with a special ceremony.

 

Saturday, December 29th –  is The Feast of St. Thomas Becket  in the Anglican Church and also in the Roman Catholic Church. You can see more about this feast day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmasx.html

 

Sunday, December 30this a very quiet day on the Church calendar; perhaps this is the day to write thank you’s for Christmas gifts and to take another walk or hike to look at God’s beautiful world.

 

Monday, December 31st– this is, of course, New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve actually has no relationship to Christmastide since the beginning of the New Year in the (Western) Christian calendar actually begins with the First Sunday in Advent or September 1st in the Eastern Christian calendar! However, this can be a wonderful day of receiving friends and hospitality. Perhaps you could plan a special party, playdate or tea for your children and their friends on this day!  My favorite activity is listed in the book “All Year Round”.  Those of you who have this book may remember this activity, where small walnut shell halves are filled with beeswax and floated in a tub lined with tin foil and greenery and there can be small “islands” of desires, dreams, wishes for the New Year.  Just lovely!

 

Tuesday, January 1stThe Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – according to Jewish tradition, this would be the day of the naming and circumcision of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. In English tradition, it is also a day to remember godparents. Children would often visit the home of their godparents to be blessed and receive a gift! Perhaps this is a day your children could talk to their godparents and deepen that relationship.

 

Wednesday, January 2nd – The website Full Homely Divinity, a resource for Anglican parish life, recognizes that the Feast of St. Basil is celebrated on January 1st in the Orthodox Church, so they recommend making the traditional vassilopita on this day, which traditionally has a coin baked into it for one lucky person to find and have good luck in the new year. Here is a recipe: http://www.lerios.org/recipes/vassilopita.php

 

Thursday, January 3rd– Today is a wonderful day to again gather friends and family and hike, play board games and sing Christmas carols! What carols does everyone know in your family?

 

Friday, January 4thThis is a day to read Christmas books; there are several by Tomie dePaola that are exceptionally good!

 

Saturday , January 5th– Twelfth Night, the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and marking the transition to the beginning of the season of Epiphany! We often recognize not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men on this day in the Western Church, but also the Baptism of Jesus and the significance of water, but also the first miracle of Jesus performed when he changed water into wine.

Bonfires of the Christmas greenery and Twelfth Night Cakes are typical on this day; perhaps this would be a good day to sing the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”!  Many times a special cake is baked; a Twelfth Night Cake!

 

Sunday, January 6th – The Feast of Epiphany –Epiphany is a festival of The Baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church and called Theophany; in the Western Church we often call it “Three Kings Day” and mark the Wise Men. The night before Three Kings Day is Twelfth Night, and is a time of joy and festivity marked in many different ways in different countries . In Scandinavia, “Star Singers” move from house to house, led by a large and festive star on a stick and in Russia, children are putting out shoes for Babouschka and waiting for gifts. Italian children are waiting for Old Befana and gifts as well. There are many wonderful traditions from other countries to explore; in many countries Epiphany and not Christmas is the main time of gift giving!

There is a traditional house blessing often done on this day that acknowledges the Three Kings, and the eating of a King’s Cake is traditional. You can find details about this under the Epiphany tab on the Full Homely Divinity website.  I also have past posts about Epiphany on this blog.

For those of  you interested in the idea of the Holy Nights as elucidated by Rudolf Steiner, there is much to say, and I am by far not an expert on Steiner’s indications for the Twelve Holy Nights.  I refer you to this document about the Holy Nights as a good source often shared in anthroposophic communities.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

The Fourth Week of Advent: May You Be A Shelter From The Storm

When I was very young, before my mother died, we lived in an apartment complex.  Apartment complexes in general are not always full of nature, but our apartment building backed up to a small lake.  I spent days by myself outside running around that lake.  In the winter, we ice skated on it.  And in those days, I would look up at the sky and realize that all the things I could see – the sun, the sky, the rain and clouds, the ice and snow, the trees, the water – were all breathing in and out together. It all felt connected to me.

This feeling continued as I grew up.  I became very  interested in other people’s stories; what had happened to them and how they got where they were.  I worked in a hospital in a big city and treated people from all walks of life.  We treated the incarcerated, we treated many suffering from addiction. I still felt connected to so many that I met, even if their life circumstances were very different from mine.

Now I have my own family.  All of our personalities are very different indeed.  Sometimes the hardest test of learning teamwork and respecting each other’s differences begins right at home.  We all are connected, but by more than just blood. In this day and age, when many of us have friends  whom we feel closer to  than family members, it is important to me that I stay very connected to my spouse and to our children through warmth, love, and fun.

This fourth week of Advent is about people, and the unity of people in all things in the world.  To me, this fourth week is about good stewards of creation and all that is in it, but also being good stewards for ourselves and for others and the hope that we can bring each other.  May you be a shelter in the storm for someone this holiday.  May you always remember those who are in need and if you find yourself in a position to help, just help.  There doesn’t need to be any judgement attached to it.  Just be that help and shining light for someone.

We are all connected.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year, and to me, one of the beginning of a season of community, storytelling and gathering, but also one of introspection and rest.

I always felt like the introspection and rest  of the entire winter season was an interesting contrast to the feasting of Christmastide (that begins on Tuesday) in the Christian calendar, but the older I become I see Christmastide as both feasting and introspection.   Solistice, to me, begins the time when I think about how I am going to spend the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day (this year it is on Tuesday!  Not that many days away), and ends with the feast of Epiphany/Three Kings Day.   If you are interested in planning a bit ahead for the twelve days of Christmas and some inner work, here is a back post linking some ideas.  Here is an introspective approach I took one year through biography.

For today, though,  here are a few thoughts for celebrating:

  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset
  • Have yellow, round warming foods
  • Create live music!
  • Hike, backpack, picnic
  • Use only candlelight today or have a candlelit dinner
  • Make Sun Bread (do you have the little book?  This is the link to “Sun Bread” on Amazon
  • Tell stories about the animals
  • Make yellow window stars, star lanterns, window transparencies
  • Ski or snowshoe if you live in a climate for that. All we are getting where I live is cold, gray rain.
  • Go out and see the full moon and the meteor shower.  There was a recent article about this here.
  • Try some of the ideas from the Danish concept of hygge.  I personally like the book, “Making Winter: A Hygge-inspired Guide For Surviving the Winter Months”
  • Be inspired by viewing some beautiful winter art, like Henry Farrer’s “Winter Scene In Moonlight” and others.

Hope you have a wonderful day marking this transition into winter.  I would love to hear your plans!  Comment below!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

9 Ideas To Help You Keep A Rhythm During The Holidays

Finding rhythm during the holiday season can be difficult!  From disturbed naps to sweet food that our children don’t normally eat to general overstimulation (but lots of fun!), it can be a time of year that is unlike any other.  How do you keep a rhythm during the holiday?

Sometimes it seems near impossible, but I have a few suggestions to help you enjoy both the season but also to keep the edge of insanity at bay:

  1.  Loosen up and enjoy the fun and energy of this season.  I don’t have any immediate family on my side of the family who are alive, so while your family may drive you crazy, if you still are talking to them and generally like them, do try to relax a bit and enjoy it as much as you can.  Yes, your children might be overstimulated.  Yes, the TV might be on and driving you crazy.  See if you can find ways to cope and still enjoy yourself at all.
  2. Be prepared with some of the things (toys, crafts, ideas for getting outside) in order to occupy your children. It really helps to keep things more even-keeled, and you will feel better knowing some things are still in your control.
  3. Earlier bedtimes and nap time is often difficult in a noisy house for toddlers and preschoolers. Consider taking them for a little car ride and having them fall asleep or laying down with them.  It gets you out of the over -stimulation of everything as well!
  4. You can’t do it all, especially with preschoolers and toddlers in tow!  Things HAVE to be mother-sized.  The wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating, what have you, has to be mother-sized.  Delegate, simplify, pare way down on your expectations.  Ask for help!  Come up with new traditions that don’t tax you!
  5. Prepare one day a week  during the holiday season as your rest day if that is possible.  This can be a  day to be home and get things done; a day that the children will go to bed early and you will have a little time to get something done that you need to without littles around.  Or trade off child care with a friend or enlist an adult in your family to help entertain children.
  6. Simplify your meals so they can be warming and  nourishing but not exhausting.( If there was a ever a call for the simplicity of crockpots, instapots, and compostable plates, December might be it! LOL).
  7. See if you can take a break for outside time each day, even if it is cold or blustery outside.  The children will enjoy it, and they will rest better.  And you can de-stress!
  8. Self-care can be hard this month; so deecide what self-care means to you this month and what that would look like. Does it mean getting up earlier than normal to get your workout at the gym in?  Does it mean eating right so you feel good in the midst of everything?  Does it mean a hot bath several nights during the week?
  9. Keep your schedule a little clear.  In planning December and even through New Year’s, it is easy to pencil something in most days and then have no room left for the last-minute things that come up.  Keep some time and space unmarked.

I would love to hear how you de-stress your holidays with tinies or with teenagers!  Let’s share ideas!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Celebrating The Second Week of Advent

The second Light of Advent; it is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

-The second part of a traditional Waldorf School Advent verse

Advent is here, and many of us are left scrambling trying to catch up from the first week of Advent.  Not to worry, the second week brings promise of a beautiful, nourishing week.  It’s a wonderful week to refresh  your Advent Wreath (or make one or bring one out if you haven’t done that yet!), and to get a Christmas tree if that is part of your tradition in celebrating Advent.   It also could be a wonderful week to celebrate a Winter Spiral with some friends or a wonderful walk in the woods.

This week also has two traditionally celebrated feasts in it – both the Feast Day for Our Lady of Gaudalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, celebrated on December 12 and Santa Lucia Day celebrated on December 13.  Here are some suggestions for this week:

A general story to fit in with the plant theme:  

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

For Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Play from Catholic Family Celebrations

Link with pictures of this celebration  (full disclosure, I am Episcopalian)

There are also several books, including this one, by Tomie dePaola and this one by Serrano

For Santa Lucia Day:

From Tiziana Boccaletti:  A Gentle Santa Lucia Story

From Christine Natale, A Little Story for St. Lucy’s Day

From Christine Natale, Saint Lucy in Sweden with the help of Saint Stephen

Here are two craft suggestions:

Little Felt Christmas Tree Ornaments

Snowy Pine Tree Garland

Food:

For years, we have made the recipe here (and this page has a link to a Santa Lucia song on it as well) listed here as our Santa Lucia bun.  This year I think I am going to modify this reciple for orange sweet rolls to include a little less sugar/glaze and add some saffron to make it more yellow. I will let you know you how it turns out!

I would love to hear your plans for the week!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Our Advent Activities

Advent begins on Sunday, and there are many mindful things to do during this season as we prepare for light, love, and blessings as we move into Christmastide.

First of all, I love Advent calendars.  You can make beautiful ones with scenes, like the one from the book, “All Year Round,” that The Quince Tree 65 did so beautifully here.  You could also order a lovely Advent Calendar; we have had this spiral one from Bella Luna Toys for years.   This year, we will also be following the Advent calendar  “Journeying The Way of Love,” from The Episcopal Church, our religious denomination,  that can be found here

Next, I like to think about mapping out a few things for our Advent simply because there are amazing things to do!  We used to always attend or host an Advent Spiral but we haven’t done that in quite some time due to our older children becoming teenagers and having a rather dwindled community of Waldorf friends.  But, the spiral walks are always beautiful and reverent!

This is sort of my outline for Advent/Advent activities:

(We already went to see holiday lights at our local botanical gardens right after Thanksgiving because I wanted to do it before anyone got sick during Advent – lesson learned from previous years! The tickets are a little pricey and cannot be wasted!)

We ordered some ideas from The Imagination Tree regarding the Kindness Elves.  I don’t know when they will arrive, but I know our little third grader is going to love this idea!

December 1 and 2 – Horse shows (is that an Advent activity? LOL); the little one and I will make beeswax ornaments to give out as gifts; set up our Advent wreath that we made the weekend after Thanksgiving in accordance with the mineral kingdom; attend church

December 3  and 4 – Will make Advent window transparency. My oldest daughter, myself, and my sister-in-law are attending an AMAZING art exhibit on the 4th, so check out IG for photos. ❤

December 5 and 6 – get ready for and celebrate St. Nicholas Day!

December 8 and 9 – Get our Christmas tree and decorate; Second Sunday in Advent ; set up our wreath by adding things to represent the plant kingdom; attend church; attend the Lifeways December Visioning Free Online Mini Retreat; the night of the 9th see The Nutcracker!

December 10 and 11 -Make some beautiful Mistletoe Luminaries for our home – see this Pinterest board; make applesauce/cinnamon ornaments

December 12-14 – prepare for  and celebrate Santa Lucia Day and a family birthday. Also a choir recital.  School ends on the 14th.

December 15-16- Horse show weekend; third week in Advent; prepare our Advent wreath with things representing the animal kingdom; attend church and lessons and carols

(The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Third Sunday in Advent are special times of fasting and prayer, mainly for our priests and the church,  called the  Advent Ember Days in the Anglican Communion).

December 17 and 18 -Christmas Baking- I have some special ninjabread man cookie cutters for our littlest; drive around at night and look at lights; hot chocolate

December 19 and 20 – Christmas wrapping; Ice Skating; make any last minute gifts

December 21- Winter Solstice Celebration; Make Sun Bread, make treats for the birds

December 22-23 – the fourth week in Advent;  set up our Advent Wreath with things that represent the unity of humanity; attend church; prepare food for Christmas Eve and make treats for the horses and dogs

December 24 – Deliver treats to horses in the morning; Prepare food for Christmas Eve, children sing at Christmas Eve Mass

December 25- Celebrate the first day of Christmas with family

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Making The Holidays Bright!

There are many wonderful celebrations of light, love, and gratitude during this holiday season.  December 2nd begins the season of Advent this year, and with it many of the activities for winding down the school year for the first semester.  It can turn quickly from a time of cherishing family, home cooking, and love to recitals, end of year banquets and parties for sports teams, multiple family and friend gatherings and a chaotic feeling of trying to get everything done.

So, this holiday, I hope we can all keep the holidays BRIGHT instead of feeling lost in the chaos.  I love the idea of choosing meaningful things to do throughout the season, and really keeping Advent as Advent and the twelve days of Christmas as Christmas!

It is never too late to begin anew!  Here is a wonderful guest post by Christine Natale“Musings on Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions”

So, in honor of this idea of everything having its own time and place, here are the things we will be celebrating during this season:

Our main plans include seeing holiday lights at the botanical garden (which we already did); making an Advent wreath; baking gingerbread;  ice skating on the  outdoor skating rink; going to see a production of The Nutcracker as a family; driving around to see holiday lights; having a family night with a hot chocolate bar and games; and I am seeing about planning an outdoor winter scavenger hunt for the kids.  Some of you may be interested in hosting a Winter Spiral at your home; we did this for many years.

Here are some thoughts about favorite gifts and holiday gifts for children. There was a series I did in 2009 about the inner work of Advent and it begins here if you are interested in tracking those posts down.  One of my favorite ways to do inner work is while walking outside; I find it is very important for me to get outside this time of year.  I also start thinking about the word for 2019; a word that symbolizes and helps me envision the entire year ahead.

Here is to a merry and bright (but not overwhelming) holiday season!

Blessings and love,
Carrie