Monday, November 20, 2006

'Tis the Season

With Thanksgiving just three days away, I've been thinking a lot lately about...


I wasn't always this way. When I was younger, I was vehemently opposed to any hint of Christmas before at least December 1st! So it was completely out of character for me when, on our way home from my Aunt's house one Thanksgiving a few years ago, I turned to Darren and said, "Hey! I have a great idea! Why don't we decorate our Christmas tree when we get home?"

He was incredulous, but quickly warmed to the idea. It was such a nice, relaxing way to spend the afternoon, and our tree that year was so beautiful. We decided then that every year, following Thanksgiving dinner, we would get out the tree and take our time decorating it. And that's exactly what we've done. We listen to Christmas carols, sip egg nog and hot cocoa, and once it's dark, we light a fire and plug in the lights. It's such a peaceful, beautiful way to conclude such a special day.

We'll carry on the tradition this year, but I'm also excited about incorporating some other ideas I've had this year. It has been my concern in years past that, despite our best effort to focus with our children on the birth of baby Jesus, they still get wrapped up (as we all often do) in the commercialism of the season. So one idea I've had is to display our nativity set under the Christmas tree as a reminder that we are not awaiting material gifts but the birth of Jesus. Then, on Christmas morning, we'll place the infant Jesus with Mary and Joseph and sing "Happy Birthday" to Him, as we always do, before blowing out the candles on the birthday cake the kids help me make for Him every Christmas Eve.

I was also inspired this morning by Alice, who, borrowing an idea from Rebecca, created this beautiful Advent Log. What a wonderful idea! I'm hoping that Darren and I will be able to fashion one of our own.

If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to hear about any traditions or ideas that you all have! How do you keep the true spirit of the season alive in your own homes?


Mom to Almost Four said...

We do the birthday cake or something of the sort for Jesus too. Ours lately has been a Happy Birthday Coffee Cake to enjoy on Christmas morning. We have our Nativity in a place where we see it constantly and we don't put baby Jesus out until Christmas morning. My mom always had us hunt around the house for the hidden baby Jesus. The other things we have done for many years now is a Jesse Tree. I bought a kit from Emmanuel Books years ago and for a while we colored the ornaments and attached them to the enclosed poster. For sure latst year we hung the Jesse tree ornaments on a little tree b/c Nicole was doing them too. The booklet has Scripture and prayers to read. We try to light our Advent wreath every night during our Jesse tree coloring. We always try to buy toys for the poor. We celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day. We also try to read lots of Tomie de Paola Christmas books and this year we plan to do some of the suggested activities that Elizabeth Foss shares on her website and if I remember correctly in her book too. I would love more ideas too. Gotta love the Advent Log idea. How cool! Hope this helps.

Melissa said...

Celeste--Thank you, THANK YOU, for your wonderful suggestions! It sounds like your family really knows how to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. I was just over browsing at Emmanuel Books--I LOVE the Jesse tree kit you mentioned. And those Tomie de Paola books look GREAT! I can't thank you enough for directing me over there. I'll definitely be placing an order!

He who wears the most black wins. said...

I just wrote a SUPER long comment. I am praying that it didn't get lost!!

I'll keep checking back...

He who wears the most black wins. said...

Okay, so obviously I'm not on my game today. So sorry about that.

Here goes again...

So, for Christmas morning we make a cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. I usualy have a couple creches out, but have never hidden that baby Jesus before. I really like that idea...or even just saving him until Christmas morning and placing in the manger together.

St. Nicholas leaves treat in shoes on Dec. 6th and we'll go to Mass as well.

I just bought a wonderful Advent book for families with young children. There is a scripture verse, a story, a family prayers and an activity to do together ( ie..make a sheep ornament for your tree to remind you of the Good Shepherd...etc.) for each day of advent.

We limit the kids outside gifts ( those from grandparents) to three total (one from Noni, one from Popi, and one from Grandma and Grandpa) ..representing the gifts of the magi. It was hard for our families to adjust to at first, but now I think they really like the idea. a) they're spending a lot less money on toys that won't get played with and b) they see how much their one gift means. It's really great and I'm glad we made that rule.The kids also get one gift each from Mommy and Daddy and one unwrapped from Santa, Christmas morning.

I am like you, Melissa. I am crazy about Christmas and I love getting the tree up ASAP! It's even hard for me to wait until AFTER Thanksgiving! Steve has a hard time with it being up so early, but marriage is about compromise, right? ;) He's such a trooper. I laughed out loud when I read that you put it up after Thanksgiving too. I LOVE IT!!!

This year, I think we will also start something new and on Christmas eve, we'll read the story of Christ's birth straight from the bible.

God Bless you and your family!!

Thanks for the sweet comments, too. :)

Alice said...

Thank you for this post and for your very kind words!!! I so appreciate it!!!

Anonymous said...

Ha - you guys crack me up! We wait until the last possible moment to put up the tree. In fact, my husband will put it up and get the lights on it about a week before Christmas, but we spend Christmas Eve putting the ornaments on it. It's the German in my husband - half the magic of the day is seeing the tree in all its glory for the first time Christmas Eve when we have a tree blessing and lighting ceremony.

We also hide the Jesus statue, and Joseph, Mary, and the wise men are scattered in the house. Mary and Joseph get closer during Advent and the wise men begin their journey on the 26th.

If you're at Emmanuel Books, I highly recommend the Celebrating the Faith in the Home series. The books are chock full of traditions and ideas.

The Leaflet Missal has a two-dimension Jesse tree that I bought to replace my old one. Good for those who don't have a table to spare for the 3-D one.

On Christmas Eve, we harken to my Slovak roots and eagerly wait for the first star to appear in the sky before beginning any festivities. We bless and light the tree, have a candlelit procession singing Silent Night while bringing the infant to the creche, say our final Advent wreath prayers, read the story of the Nativity from Luke, and eat five pounds of Christmas cookies. Loads of fun!

On the feast of the Epiphany, we hide the Holy Family and have the kids, wearing crowns, try to find them. They also get a gift that day. We keep the tree up at least until this day, sometime a bit longer (since it goes up so late, we don't want to say goodbye!).

Happy advent!

He who wears the most black wins. said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Melissa! I hope it's truly blessed.

Melissa said...

Thank you all so much for generously sharing with me your family traditions. This gives me a LOT to think about as we prepare to celebrate advent and Christmas! I can hardly wait to get started!