Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Traditions

For the last few years Advent and Christmas snuck up on me. I would turn around and suddenly I needed to be decorating and wrapping presents but I wasn't at all prepared. The traditions I wanted to maintain where either forgotten all together or done haphazardly at the last minute. This year I am determined to take the stress out of the season and put the fun back in!

I am starting at a simple baby step of day dreaming; remembering what it was like when I was little. Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. A time of joyful preparation for the coming of Christ. My family would always do an Advent Wreath. A wreath with three purple candles, one pink candle, and a big white candle in the middle. We would clear our dining room table with candles and turn out all the lights in the house so the only light was from the candles. My father would ask us what the candle for that week stood for (Bethlehem, Prophets, Angels, and Shepherds) it was always a contest to see who could remember first. We sing a song, then Papa read a passage from the bible, followed by a prayer, then we would sit around in the candle light singing all of our favorite Advent hymns. At the end Papa would say, "Ok, blow out the candles!" And we would all rush to see who could blow out the most candles.

During Advent my mother would bake all kinds of goodies. The house always smelled of fresh bread, cinnamon, and nutmeg! Some of the goodies she froze for Christmas, some of them she wrapped for presents, and some of them she put into baskets for Christmas caroling. Every year my mother would ask us who we wanted to carol. We would make a list of old people, sick people, lonely people, and of course our cousins. Then one afternoon we would load all of our baskets into the car and go caroling. I can remember one little old lady who would cry and say every year, "Christmas is here!" I greatly enjoyed the tradition but I don't think my siblings appreciated it as much once they reached their teenage years.

After a month's build up finally Christmas Eve would arrive! On Christmas Eve we would go to my grandparent's house for a huge potluck with all my my mother's extended family. There where uncles and aunts everywhere not to mention an army of cousins. We would romp around on my grandparent's farm and cause all types of havoc! There would be a huge gift exchange, tons of food, mischief of all kinds, my grandfather always had a fire that made the house WAY too hot,  and eventually we all headed home tired. My parents sent us strait to bed to rest because we always attended midnight mass.

I love midnight mass! It is so neat to make our way to the church in the dark of the night and enter into the beautifully lit church. I could go on and on about midnight mass but that would be getting away from the point of this post.

After mass we would come home to find that gifts had magically appeared underneath the tree. My parents had rolls of unused white news paper so there would be stacks of white packages with our names on them. We would pull out one of my mother's goodies that she had put back. After eating we would all go to bed completely exhausted.

On Christmas morning my mother would make the most amazing cinnamon buns! The house always smelled amazing! Everyone would partake in the sticky goodness. While eating our cinnamon buns we would have our last prayer service with the advent candles to light the big Christ candle. We would leave all the candles lit all day until they melted down. Prayer was followed by gift time! My father would hand out each gift one by one and we would watch as everyone opened their gifts. It was always wonderful to watch someone open a gift I had got for them and see the look on their face!

Later on in the day was the big Christmas feast! I always loved helping with the dinner preparations and setting the table with the best China and silver. We would have turkey, homemade dinner rolls, potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce (my personal favorite), and many other goodies!

When I think back to how magical and wonderful our traditions where and how my parent's used them to teach us about our faith I can't wait to make my own for my children! I hope I can do as wonderful a job as my mother in making the season magical for my children!

What where your favorite Advent/Christmas tradition growing up? What are some of your favorite traditions that you do today?

5 comments:

  1. Hannah, these are beautiful memories. Knowing your Mom, I bet Christmas was a truly magical and holy season. I know you will do a great job following in her footsteps! Someday, when I'm out of nursing school, I hope to "restart" some of these traditions in our home. We do the Advent wreathe, etc., but one year soon, I'd like to do a Jesse tree during Advent, where the kids make the ornaments, and we read the Scriptures and discuss. It's a fun way to learn about Jesus' family tree, and many Biblical events.

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  2. Krystyna-- I have thought about doing a Jesse Tree. I have to admit I have never done one and don't know much about it. I have seen several families who do them and have been greatly intrigued.

    Kate-- Thank you!

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