Friday, December 30, 2011

Advent Celebrations

There are many little celebrations leading up to Christmas. It can get a little overwhelming for me so I've learned to keep it simple. Things worked out really well this year!
The children love all the traditions we have started and if I forget to do something they quickly remind me! I'm glad that the little things we do each year mean so much to them.
On the first day of Advent, we get out our Advent Wreath. We place new purple and pink candles in the wreath (purple is the color of penance to remind us that Advent is a penitential season) and Mike blesses it with Holy Water. Then we gather around a say a prayer, asking God to bless us this Advent season and bring us closer to Jesus. New this year, we started learning "O Come, Emmanuel" in Latin. It's very beautiful. We'll work on learning a new verse each year. We also get out our Christmas books which have been packed away since last Christmas. I put them all in a basket and the children pick one to read together every night. But we always start Advent with Tomie DePaola's "Clown of God". Then the children talk about what gifts they can give to Jesus for his birthday. We write it down on a piece of paper and place it in a little gift box. I saved their "gifts" from last year and we enjoyed reading them. Mr. Tickle wanted to give Jesus a donkey last year and this year he asked if he could get baby Jesus a St. Michael statue. The older kids got a kick out of this. ;) Some of the gifts from the older two were to be nice to siblings, to listen to Mom, to not complain about dinner. Every once in awhile we open the gift box and read what they wrote as little reminders.
Then comes December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, which I explained in my last post.
Gaudete (which is Latin for "Rejoice") Sunday changes each year, depending on when Advent starts. But it is the third Sunday before Christmas, the day you light the pink candle. Pink represents Joy and on this day the Church shows her excitement that the Savior's birthday is very near. This year, it happened to land on the 11th. The day before 2 other feast days! It was a busy week. ;)
But on Sunday morning I made the kids pink pancakes with whipped cream and raspberries which we ate after lighting the pink candle. The kids were so excited to see that there was only one more week before we would light the last candle! We certainly joined the Church in her joy.

Then comes December 12th. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The kids and I wanted to go to Mass so we drove to a church in Warrenton for their noon Mass. But after getting there, a nice old lady explained to us that the stopped having the noon Mass and moved it to 6:30AM. We were disappointed but they had a huge, beautiful painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside so we went in to pray. Little Miss Sunshine was being very loud and I worried about disrupting the other people who were praying in the church. So I quietly told the kids it was time to leave. Mr. Tickle did not want to go. He was kneeling down with his little hands folded together in prayer. It was so sweet. I waited a few more minutes but Sunshine was getting louder and louder. Still Tickle did not want to go. I had to literally drag him out of there and when we got to the van he was crying and kept saying, "I want Jesus!" I reminded him that he could still talk to Jesus even when we aren't inside the Church. But he wanted to be back inside with the beautiful picture. Bless his little heart.
When we got home the kids colored pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe and we watched a cartoon about St. Juan Diego, who witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Gaudalupe.

We had beef fajitas for dinner and Mexican Wedding Cakes and Mexican Hot Chocolate for dessert. We also read a book about the apparitions which is gorgeously illustrated. The kids always enjoy looking at the pictures in that book.

Then comes December 13th, St. Lucia's Day. St. Lucy just happens to be the patron of electricians so we feel indubitably honored to celebrate her feast day. ;) Traditionally, the oldest girl in the family prepares breakfast and serves it to the family in bed. I'm not too comfortable with bringing food into our beds so we opt for a picnic in the family room. it's also a tradtion to serve lussekatts (St. Lucy Buns) which are made with saffron. I go the easy route and just buy cinnamon rolls in a can. I was really excited to find cinnamon buns with orange flavored icing this year because saffron has an orange color to it.
The girls wear candle wreaths and boys wear star boy hats. I'm not quite sure what the meaning behind the star boy hats are. I'll have to look in to that. We do it simply because I don't want the boys to feel left out!
Little Miss Chatterbox always brings her stuffed animals to the family room to join us. It's quite the party. ;)

Lucy is always depicted wearing white, to symbolize her purity and wears a red sash, symbolizing her martyrdom.

Chatterbox has a barbie named Lucy so of course she needed a candle wreath too. And we couldn't leave Tigress out either. She is part of the family, you know. Chatterbox even made them white dresses out of tissues.

I love this picture. Doesn't she make a beautiful St. Lucia Bride?

Then things quiet down for a day or two before the O Antiphons start on December 17th which lead us into Christmas. During that week we get our Christmas Tree and start decorating for Christmas. Advent and Christmas is definitely the children's favorite time of year though I can't imagine why. ;)

St. Nicholas' Day

St. Nicholas' Feast Day (Dec. 6) is a very special day in our house. My middle name is Nicole so he is one of my patron saints! St. Colette was also named after St. Nicholas. He is the patron of children and sharing (amongst many other things!!) so he fits in very well with this family. ;)
When Nicholas was a young man, his parents died and left him a big inheritance. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, especially for children. One such story says that there was a poor man who had three daughters whom could not afford a dowry for them. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. That is why our kids get their stockings on Jolly Ol' St. Nick's feast day.

Along with their stockings, the kids always find a letter from St. Nick, praising them for good deeds they have done and also some friendly suggestions on what they could improve on. ;)

In honor of this generous giver, the stockings are hung a week in advance in case anyone in the house would like to leave something for the others to find. Little Miss Chatterbox worked very hard on writing stories and drawing pictures for her parents and siblings. This led to the boys doing the same. It was so sweet to see them drawing each others favorites things. It was even sweeter when they found each others "goodies". They were all so thankful and so excited to give. It was the highlight of my day and I'm pretty sure St. Nicholas was proud too. ;)

They were all very excited with what they found in their stockings. But Mr. Funny had the best reaction. He was overjoyed with his new G.I. Joe which Mike's mom gave me to give to the boys.

On the kitchen table the kids found chocolate St. Nick's, complete with a candy cane crosier and gold coins.

We had Catholic Schoolhouse that day so I had to wake the kids up extra early. I decided to let Little Miss Sunshine sleep in a little longer so she didn't get her stocking until after the other kids had already opened theirs.

I put a little holy card of Our Lady of Victory (one of her patron saints) in her stocking and she kissed it over and over! My little Sunshine loves to give kisses. ;)
I found this little tin full of candy canes at our local grocery store. I was so excited! I thought it was really cute but Little Miss Sunshine didn't quite understand what it was. haha
Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Farewell to Fall (in pictures)

Farewell to the longer days.
Farewell to playing outside without a jacket.
Farewell to the beautiful colors.

Farewell to gorgeous fall sunsets.

Farewell to backyard football games.

Farewell to playing in the leaves.

Until next year... we'll miss you Fall!