Contentment

As this holiday season comes to a close with Epiphany, I find myself reflecting on how this last month or two went. As I think, I realize that this has been one of the best Christmases ever.

  • It wasn’t because I got the best gifts.
  • It wasn’t because we hosted the best parties.
  • It wasn’t even because we attended the best parties.
  • It wasn’t because we had the best clothes.
  • It wasn’t because all the food turned out great.

I am realizing that for the first time, I really put Christ in CHRISTmas.Here’s how:

  • We participated in Holy Heroes Advent Adventure;
  • We took my daughter’s doll cradle and some shredded paper (added for acts of kindness and sacrifice) and made a bed for Baby Jesus;
  • We wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a Manger;
  • We followed the genealogy of Jesus with a homemade Jesse Tree:
  • We celebrated the lives and Feast Days of some Saints who loved Jesus long before we were alive – we discovered we can learn a lot from their faith and example!
  • We made many of our gifts, removing ourselves from the malls (we did go to a couple of stores, but were determined not to participate in the madness);
  • We made Christmas Eve Mass a priority – it was something special – we arrived early and didn’t rush out. We lingered. We studied the beautiful Creche. Then we went home and read The Night Before Christmas, but the last thing we did as a family was to read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke.

It was such a beautiful time this year. There was no stress. There were no worries about the ‘perfect’ gift. There was just family and love. From the First and Holy family, to our immediate and extended family.

I am convinced now that this is a lot closer to the way things are supposed to be. It’s amazing that the more I let go of the way the world thinks I should do something, the more I feel at peace. How about you? How did you make your Christmas season centered more around Christ? Happy Feast of Epiphany!

Feast Days

Growing up we didn’t celebrate a lot of feast days, so I never really thought about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when we really started homeschooling, that I thought about celebrating feast days with the children. However, they always seemed to creep up on me and I was never prepared. I would find a great idea here or there, but it would be too late to do, or I wouldn’t have the right supplies/ingredients to make it happen.

But I decided to change that this year. Since Advent is the beginning of the Church year, I thought it was a good time to start and we actually began celebrating some feast days. Keep in mind that we are new at this, so our celebrations are not huge or elaborate in any way. However, I’ve also realized that they don’t have to be – the children enjoy the celebrations and they learn something about someone who loved Jesus. Just stopping the ordinary, changing the routine, is a way to signify that this is something to remember.

So far, we’ve celebrated St. Nicholas (December 6th), The Immaculate Conception (December 8th), St. Juan Diego (December 9th), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th), and St. Lucy (December 13th). We’ve also made our very first Jesse Tree.

For St. Nicholas (sorry I didn’t take pictures, but it’s pretty explanatory) tradition has it that he helped a poor man with dowries for his three daughters and that perhaps one of those ended up in a hanging stocking. For this reason, the children put their shoes out overnight and received a small amount of chocolate (wrapped, of course). Throughout this feast day, we read several books about the life of this generous, Christ-loving man.

For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we attended Mass at a local church. Our church is a little farther away, so when we have a Holy Day during the week, we usually attend a more local Mass. We remember at this Mass that Mary had to be without sin in order to carry Jesus as fully God and fully human within her womb.

The feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe are intertwined and tell a beautiful story that resulted in the conversion of Mexico. Mary appears to a humble widower and asks for a chapel to be built. The local bishop asks Juan Diego to ask for a sign. Mary shows Juan Diego where God has allowed roses to bloom in the winter, and he gathers them in his tilma. When Juan Diego shows the roses to the bishop, that’s not the only amazing thing: a beautiful image of Blessed Mary is imprinted on the tilma. That image still exists and scientists have not been able to figure out how it got there. We enjoyed some Mexican tostadas and recalled the story as told on Glory Stories at Holy Heroes. Diva even colored some coloring pages.

For St. Lucy, it is a tradition (Scandinavian, I think) that the youngest daughter wakes the household dressed in white with a wreath of candles on her head (if you have Kirsten’s Surprise by American Girl, this is the image on the cover). She brings with her sweet buns and coffee/cocoa. While this is a great thought, Diva is not quite old enough to accomplish this on her own. Nor do I want lit candles on my daughter’s head! So, we compromised. She woke us up in an almost white dress with a paper wreath on her head. {This is where I know I’m not a professional blogger yet – I didn’t have my camera on my bedside table to get a photo!} Then we made some biscuits, cocoa and coffee and we all had a nice breakfast together.

Lastly, we have begun making our very first Jesse Tree. This tradition follows the lineage of Jesus from Creation through His birth. Each day there are Bible stories and a new ornament to make. We kept it simple this year and are making everything out of paper. I went to get a piece of poster board and the only green they had was neon, so our tree is neon. As we discuss each day’s readings, either LegoFan or Diva draws the day’s symbol and attaches it to the tree. I love how they can look at the ornaments they have made and can tell the Bible stories in order. This auditory, visual, and tactile project has enabled them to internalize Biblical history even more! We are getting our ideas and explanations from the Advent Adventure Series by Holy Heroes. Now, please don’t laugh at my crude tree drawing or the neon color…

I really think these traditions have helped my children to learn more about people who have loved Jesus before them, as well as more about Jesus Himself. They are doing much more this advent then just making lists and succumbing to the commercialism and greed we see so much of nowadays. I pray that with Advent seasons like this, my children will grow up with the true “Reason for the Season” in their hearts.

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