Showing posts with label Little HolyDays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Little HolyDays. Show all posts

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Flames

Pentecost is still a new one to me - I'm still learning about it's significance and how to celebrate it.  With the Easter decorations coming down I wanted to do something in our big front window.  Luckily Maite Roche (a favorite illustrator of children's Christian books) shared a great picture on Facebook just a few days ago.  So I pulled out my stack of tissue paper and my ream of Con-tact paper and made quick work of it.

We read the story of Pentecost from our Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories and went to work.  All in all, this probably took about 20 minutes from start to finish.  I just stack the tissue paper on top of one another and cut out flames of varying sizes.  We stuck the smallest flames on the Con-tact paper first (I tape it to our porch door, sticky side out) and built up of the fires.  When I was done I turned it sticky side down and stuck it up on the window.

Tissue paper, Cont-tact paper and construction paper the tools of my trade for quick, easy to clean up toddler crafts.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Better Days or Howerton Holidays Misses the Point

There's this Huff Post piece floating around, as they tend to do, around Facebook and other social media outlets decrying the abundance of "fake" holidays and the people who make a fuss over "phone-it-in" holidays like St. Patrick's Day.  To her St. Patrick's is a day just about wearing green and Easter is a day to get a pre-made Easter basket and maybe a new outfit.

I agree with Ms. Howerton to a point - in the days where family budgets and school budgets are constantly being tightened why are we celebrating these often meaningless days with special craft projects, take home projects, decorations and expectations?  It's one thing for a teacher to say, "It's Dr. Seuss' birthday and we're going to read "The Lorax" and another altogether to ask a student and/or parent to make elaborate truffela trees out of cardboard and imported silk.  Okay, that last part might be a little bit of an exaggeration.  However, it's also wrong for our classrooms (whether they're a public school or Sunday school) to be setting up children from different backgrounds and economic means to be expecting celebrations of things their parents probably don't know about in ways that don't fit their budget, or in the case of the ridiculous "holiday/celebration" candy and treats their nutritional expectations.

However, another thing struck me while reading Ms. Howerton's post - none of the holidays she mentions directly or indirectly seem to have a real significance to her.  No wonder she's annoyed at them all and that's where she misses the point.

It's not about bringing down the holidays "a notch" - it's about celebrating what is important to you, in ways that are meaningful and forgoing the rest.  If this is followed then, yes, the Valentine's Day treat bags would probably decrease, and the 100th Day "celebrations" would not require an extra hour of homework time at night and we could do whatever the heck we wanted to do for St. Patrick's Day.

While I'm the first person to encourage everyone to take the commercialization out of their holidays (it's an ADVENT calendar, not a Christmas Countdown and yes that Elf creeps me out) and I love finding ways to give on our holidays rather than receive, but I don't expect everyone to quietly ring in their celebrations with a small, homemade desert around a candle lit table.  Go big, have a hooley if you want to, but don't do it because the Archbishop of Pinterest demands it, your students are bored with your lesson plan or because the neighbors are doing something that looks really cool.  Celebrate your holidays in the ways that are special to you and your family, but make sure that there is a significance to it all or else, like Ms. Howerton surmises, it's all pretty worthless. 

There's a reason all of these holidays are feeling overblown and insignificant at the same time - they're not about anything and what does society at large fill an empty holiday with?  Stuff.  In fact a holiday used to be a cessation of normal activities.  In order to celebrate something you got some time off to enjoy it.  Now we don't even do that - we pile on "holiday" projects on top of homework and ask people to work so that we can fill our holiday with, you guessed it, stuff.  I can see where Ms. Howerton gets frustrated,  there no deeper lesson to be learned or motive to reflect on in her holidays and because all of the deeper meaning of a holiday is gone and the break from normal activities is not respected all she's left with is an abundance of meaningless stuff on top of an already busy and stuff filled life.

We are still human and we desire days of significance, days that are special, to mark the passage of time and draw us through the often dismal normalcy.  It's not about having fewer holidays or smaller holidays.  It's about having better holidays.  It's about having real holidays.  It's about giving ourselves an allowance to not go all out for a day that has no meaning to us and to go all out on the days that do no matter what box of goodies is being marketed at us.  It's about giving ourselves a day off from all the rest.  It's about celebrating things that give our lives more meaning instead of more stuff.  It's about having the right number of meaningful days so you don't need three hundred and sixty five slightly meaningful or meaningless days that try to fill the void.

So stand up for your big shindigs and quiet dinners and go small with the Valentines and seriously question your children's teacher when she sends home yet another "holiday" project that your kids probably don't care about at all. Stand up for fewer day, more days, bigger days and small days.  Stand up for better days.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Notes for Next Year

Mary had a great idea, so I'm joining in.  These are my notes to myself about what to do or not to do next year for Advent/Christmas

  • Don't worry about getting decorations up on the first day of Advent.  You just make a big mess late at night.
  • Do continue putting up the tree on the 2nd week with only the lights on (and the star if Henry asks again).
  • Do continue doing the bookmarks on the fireplace.  That was a big hit.
  • Do try to bring in some fresh greens for the Advent wreath and on the mantel.  Yes, the cats will try to eat them, but you're over plastic.
  • Do bring out the play nativity set and let Henry play with it all season.
  • Don't worry if he's not a theological master by Christmas Day.  It's great that he understands that's Baby Jesus' Birthday, that he believes Santa brings him A present because of it and that Saint Nicholas only brings snacks.
  • Do continue doing St. Nicholas Day, but remember it comes up quickly on the calendar.
  • Do try and take the week off - it was magical.
  • Don't make a big meal on Christmas Day - it's not worth the stress.
  • Do continue to make double or triple batches of the shortbread cookies and eggs.
  • Do wait to put Christmas ornaments up until the night before.
  • Do continue to have "Santa" set up the nativity set by the stockings.
  • Do continue the 3 Gift Rule and do your shopping early and online whenever possible.
  • Do continue making the food gift tins - they were a big hit!
  • Don't worry about trying out everyone else's traditions - continue to let yours develop naturally.
  • Do make orange birdfeeders on New Years Day again - everyone loved that.
  • Do the kid's Christmas Card exchange next year - it was a lot of work, but everyone seemed to love it.  In fact, send Christmas cards from Henry to more kids next year.
  • Do try again to go to the Messiah Concert, the Festival of Carols and your Christmas Concert - but don't fret when the weather gets in the way each time.
  • Do keep more blanks on the calendar during Advent than activities - it was so nice this year.
  • Do make an Advent Calendar listing those activities again - it was good to have it all down and ideas ready to go.
  • Do try to travel to see relatives next year - maybe getting to see the Nutcracker with H. for the first time.
  • Do order that Beeswax Candle set next year!
  • Do think about doing the Wise Men traveling for Christmastide thru Epiphany; Henry will probably understand next year.
  • Do hold back decorations until after Christmas and decorate the windows and doors again in the following days like this year.
  • Do find an Advent Calendar for H. next year.
  • Do play Christmas carols on the piano you swear you'll have by next year!
  • Do keep on giving more and more during the season - it brought you so much happiness this year!
  • Do keep the blogging to a minimum and use Leechblocker as much as possible during the holidays - you waste a lot of daylight on that darn computer!
  • Do watch those Veggie Tales movies again - he got a lot out of them.
I think that's it so far.  This year was one of our nicest holidays to date - we did a good deal, but it was un-rushed and focused on being home together.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Convert Looks at the Spirit of the Season

I am pleased to welcome Tacy of [picture a skyline] to share some of her thoughts on Christmas from a converts point of view.  Enjoy!

A Christmas Carol can be read online for free*, although I do heartily recommend a hard-bound, worn-out copy on your bookshelf.  I bought it a few short winters ago, in a book club where we read the concise story by literary giant Charles Dickens (with whom I may have had a few quibbles).  It was a lively, spot-on discussion that happened to be led by my sister-in-law.  

Recently, rereading this story, I felt the cold chill of fear that I always feel (and sort-of dislike), when reading about the spectres visiting poor oldScrooge. I pull the blanket closer around me. And from another reading, I am beginning to think about the Spirit of Christmas in a new way.

Many people will attend the play or watch one of the ten film versions this Christmas. As they do, they may ponder some of the same things I pondered when I re-read it.They will ponder selfishness, the need of thepoor, the greed of the financially stable, excuses for helping the poorand starving, and perhaps the process of self-examination which often occurs during this season. And they will probably hear “Bah, Humbug,” and laugh reflexively- or alternately, shiver cold-heartedly and utter it themselves. Most likely while in mall traffic.

And they may also think on the following exchange, which really stood out to me. When Scrooge inquires of the Spirit of Christmas Past, “What business brings you here?” The ghost answers, “Your welfare!” The ghost is not there to annoy him. The ghost is there to cajole for the improvement of his own welfare. At least, we think so, given what we know about spirits and ghosts in the story, and in real life.

When I was squirming in my chair a few Christmases ago, wondering if I should convert to the Catholic faith from my well-rooted Presbyterian faith system, I wish a stranger or a ghost - or anybody, really- would have appeared in a dream or in real life, even at the grocery store or on a billboard…. to tell me, “I come for your welfare!”

Although, I should say, many people encouraged me in my walk toward my now-Church home.

Why? Because now I know the Spirit of Christmas in its wholeness. Now I know the Spirit of Advent in the proper context. Now I know the humble baby because his body and blood are real in the Eucharist. I have that truth, and that truth has set me free. I will be fully cognizant of this fact when I attend Christ-Mass on December 25th.

When Scrooge says at the end of the story,“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. . . The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 

I want to proclaim with Dickens, “I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” And I will be referring to the theologians, some of whose books I have read. I will be referring to the Priest who helped my family with our process of discernment and did our Easter Vigil / Confirmation Mass.  I will be referring to the Saints and Apostles who have gone before me. I cannot shut out the lessons that they teach. Saints like St. Nicholas, St. Peter, St. Therese, and St. Paul. I will also be referring to the community that I am a part of, that makes my life a pleasure, rather than a burden.

After Scrooge has been haunted for three nights, and learned the value of  keeping the Christmas spirit alive, Dickens writes,

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

This Christmas, as we hug our relatives, as we go Christmas Caroling, as we light the fire, fight over packets of hot chocolate, and open the gifts placed lovingly under the tree, may we be divorced from any Grinchly tendencies- or Scrooge-like tight-fisting. May we give generously to the poor, may we remember the Spirit of Christmas. It is expressed beautifully in the Spirit of Humility found at the manger, and the Spirit of a Father who gave us his son willingly and generously, wanting to guide us into all truth. And that love is what I want to pass on to my children.

The discussion at our book club, along with the mulled wine and smoky hard cheese, stirred our souls and swelled our cold, small hearts with warmth and light.  I want to say, “We know how to keep this Spirit alive, if any men alive possess the knowledge.” And, as Dickens wrote so many Christmases ago: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us!” And, as Tiny Tim so elegantly observed and hoped for all people, “May God bless Us, Every One!” 

**If you desire to bring the that Spirit alive in your own home, consider doing some (if not all) of these activities or crafts of a spiritual nature with your children! Here are a few ideas:

Wise Men Adventures @ Catholic Inspired such a cute idea!

Our Advent So Far… @ Catholic All Year-- you will be inspired!
Jesse Tree Ornaments With Scripture Readings @ KareninMommyland- so beautiful!
Catholic Cuisine has some recipes online as well-  of great necessity at this time of year!

*All quotes from the story are from, {which can also be found online, link below}:
 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It is a fairly quick read, and it is a Classic work of fiction, certain to inspire you. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy!

Tacy writes at [picture a skyline] about faith and family.  She also gave her oldest daughter the best name ever {if I do say so myself}.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent {Literally} Unplugged

Where have I been you ask?  I've snowed in.  I've visited friends and family.  I've been to Arendelle, Dickensian London and Middle Earth.  I've even been accompanying Minotaur Girl and Human Boy on an Epic Quest across the United States .  I've been anywhere except at my computer.

The internet cut out for a good portion of the day last Monday and what a wake up call to how much time I spend on this darn thing.  I spent that night downloading and configuring an add-on to my Firefox browser called "Leechblocker".  With it I can control how much of the internet I can access through my computer at any point during the day.  Facebook, Pinterest, Bloglovin, and Blogger all got a special place on the list that blocks my access for about 9 hours of my waking day; allowing me access to social media for a little bit in the afternoon and early evening.  If I really want to spend time on these sites I have to stay up late or get up early.

So far it's been a great success and I'm finding I'm not missing out on too much and getting a lot more done.  When suddenly I can't just mindlessly wander on those sites I might as well do some laundry, or get something ready for dinner.  I'm faster to put down what I'm doing and just play.

This isn't a death knell for my online socialization (which is the bulk of my socialization in general), but it's a step toward a healthier use of it.

But, back to Advent.  After many years of pretending that snow doesn't exist we've been experiencing a winter like I remember from childhood.  Cold days, and continuous snow.  In fact, we didn't make it to our holiday show last Wednesday because it was too cold to even go outside.  Luckily, we hit up Family Night at the Library the day before.

A few fun things were accomplished this week - Christmas Cards are in progress, Popcorn strings were made for the birds, the Christmas Tree (lights only) went up and lots of games were played.

My time is running short, but I'll see you again soon!

*P.S. My computer also gave me the Advent gift of dying completely.  So there were a few days of compter-less existence too. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa, Sherlock and the Scientific Method

We're enjoying a lot of snow (subzero temps will probably keep us from the Holiday show this year) and a lot of downtime right now.  There's been a lot of Santa talk going around, so I'm reposting this from last year (the link up is not going on this year).  Enjoy and stay warm!

There are songs about him.  Games about him.  Traditions that revolve around him.  Around this time of year it seems like you can't swing a cat with out hitting one and all this without mentioning the fact that he's always available with a chocolate coating and rich, nougat-y center.

Santa Claus.

Santa is a touchy subject for many.  For some he's the embodiment of a child's pure and simple holiday delight and for others he's just the tip of the iceberg of what's wrong with the Christmas season.  Tackling the Santa issues is not something to be done lightly and it's not a "one-size-fits-all" answer.  There are some children who can easily accept the "truth" about Santa and move one, some children won't care that they never wrote a letter to the Jolly Fat Man or sat on his lap, some might be shaken to the core at the realization of the truth and in some families there's just no room for another sleigh.   The long and short of it is that only a parent who truly knows his or her children can make the call.

I feel smack dab in the middle of the whole debate.  As a child I never remember believing in Santa 100% and when I found the hidden presents that later turned up in my stocking it just wasn't that big of a deal.  I do remember that it was fun to make a list "for Santa" and turn it into my parents and I remember going out of my way a few years to make sure I set up the "traditional" milk and cookies, which I had just learned was a traditions that we had overlooked for years.  In the end, when my Santa years came to an end, it was okay - my faith and belief was not shaken to the core and I did not spend restless hours pondering what else my parents were "lying" about.  To me it was never a lie they were exposing me to, but rather just a long lived game of make-believe.

Make-believe and imagination are two essential parts of childhood in my humble opinion.  The games, the stories and, yes, even the belief in fantastical things give the mind room to develop and flourish.  I believe that allowing children to daydream and believe in dragons, ogres and fairies gives the mind the elasticity needed to comprehend intangible subjects like philosophy and quantum physics.  It is part of the scientific method to whittle away fallacy to discover truth and I believe that as we grow and discover that which is not true, no matter how disappointed we might be, we can become that much more driven to discover that which is True.  As the great, fictional, detective Sherlock Holmes states "... that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

I don't plan, in the future, to necessarily promote Santa. We will focus on the real "reason for the season", but we will have Christmas stockings, at some point Santa will probably be the answer to how those stockings get filled.  I have some beloved books from my childhood I cannot wait to share and the Jolly Man is in them.  If my children look at me and say "No way!" then we'll drop it; if my children say "Wow!" then we'll play along and support the fantasy as long as they feel the need to believe in something so magical the same way we would play tea-party or aliens vs. zombies.

Eventually we will segue into the stories and traditions of St. Nicholas instead, we will teach them the joy of being "Santa" to others and then tackle the bigger teachings that come with a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith.  These religious ideas, just like any teachings on moral philosophy, require a certain stage in logic development that young children (for the sake of argument, let's say under the age of five) rarely possess to the fullest.  So until those milestones have been past I can prepare them for the deeper questions in life by allowing their minds to believe in goblins, fairies, and Santa.  I can allow their imaginations to run rampant as they experience anticipation, wonder and joy in the Christmas season as they collect the memories and emotions that will carry them into adulthood and if Santa is part of that, so be it.

When I find the right time to approach and tackle mind-blowing ideas like the Trinity, Heaven and the Soul I hope to find minds that have already begun to gather evidence and test a hypotheses. I hope to find minds that are used to accepting fantastical, mysterious and improbable Truth.  I hope to find minds which have been stretched to the further most limits of a galaxy far, far away, to the top of tall towers, the depths of the earth and even to the North Pole.

I hope you'll be back next Monday as we kick of our Little HolyDays Link-up properly!  Feel free to share our button in the mean time and start visiting our Little HolyDays Pinterest Board!

Little HolyDays Link-up

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Up To Date

 {new additions}

 {St. Nicholas visits}

 {Working on our Advent Countdown}

 {Working fireplace is a must}

 {A new additions to our decorations from the Thieves Market}

 {Snow Day}

{A long forgotten project}

Reading, watching and waiting.  Slowly decorating.  Trying to keep the computer shut more often.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Filling Up a Simple Holiday Season

Today I thought I'd share what our holiday season is looking like.  This year I'm trying to keep things simple and family oriented, but also trying to make sure there's plenty of memory making to be had.

To start I filled out our calendar with important dates to be observed.  These are the holidays and holy days we'll be observing this year:
  • Each Sunday of Advent
  • St. Nicholas' Day
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • Christmas Eve and Day
  • Feast of St. Stephen
  • Feast of the Holy Family
  • Epiphany
Then I added in our important events while trying not to over load our schedules from the get go.
  • A Sing Along Messiah Concert
  • Family Night at the Library
  • Festival of Carols (a free holiday show put on by a local theatre for families)
  • Luminary Night
  • My Church Choir Concert
After that Calendar was already nicely filled with activities and special days, but to help inspire me on cold, dark nights I searched through this list to find fun "days" to celebrate if time and resources allowed.  Some of the ones that made the list are:
In the end this is what our Calendar looks like:  Holy Days and Holidays are in Red, Family Events are in Green, Ideas and Optional Activities are in Black. {click on the picture to see it larger}

My hope is that we do something on all the Red days, most of the Green days and the Black Days if it works out.  There are little things that I still hope to do during this month - reading certain books, watching some movies, other activities with extended family, etc. but for now that's all a general list in my head - I don't want to set us up for disappointment by assigning something to everyday only to have life get in the way.

Simple as that.

{There are great holidays and events out there, and I wish I felt drawn to every holy day in particular, but I feel that it's more important to stick to those that draw me to them rather than fall into the habit of celebrating all the days my friends do. }

Friday, November 29, 2013

On the First Day of Christmas {Music}

I've been waiting for this day since the first of November.  I adore Christmas music, it just makes me happy - in fact sometimes throughout the year I'll put on a Christmas tune or two just get myself out of a funk.  This year I tested my resolve by not playing Christmas Music until after Thanksgiving and oh boy has it been a challenge, particularly because I found a lot of great new music thanks to Spotify.

Last year I tried to limit my Christmas music before Christmas and it just wasn't right.  In fact my husband, jaded as he is from years in retail, mentioned that there was something off in the house without the music playing during most of December.  So this year I'm giving myself free range to listen to what I want, but making an attempt to balance out Christmas and Advent music.

Since today I'll be filling my ears with these joyous sounds I wanted to share some of my new and old favorites with you!

  1. Advent at Ephesus - Not Christmas Carols, but Advent hymns that capture the joy and expectation of the Advent Season.
  2. J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio - The King's Singers - Bach's Christmas Oratorio set to a Big Band beat.  Lots of fun and in German!
  3. O Night Devine - L'Angelus - A little bluegrass-y takes on classics.
  4. Silver and Gold - Sufjan Stevens - Fresh takes on classic holiday tunes.
  5. The Sounding Joy - Elizabeth Mitchell - Some old and some lesser known holiday music, simply arranged and sung.
  6. On a Cold Winter's Day - Quadriga Consort - "Early Christmas Music & Carols from the British Isles", lots of great new songs to discover.
  7. The Nutcracker Suite - A timeless classic for my family.
  8. Barenaked for the Holidays - Barenaked Ladies - You always need at least one Christmas CD just to dance around the house to.
  9. A Very Rosie Christmas - Rosie Thomas - Okay, maybe two.
  10. Enya - And Winter Came - Not a lot of religious themed music, but classic Enya, perfect to throw in the mix for a reflective evening at home.
  11. Handels' The Messiah - This list wouldn't be complete with out it.
  12. Marian Grace - In the Bleak Midwinter - I might have jumped for joy when the announcement for this CD was released a few weeks ago.  Just wonderful, it's been hard waiting so long to play it on repeat!

 What are your favorite holiday tunes?

{This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.  If you'd like to make a purchase of something I've mentioned here click through the pictures and I'll get a small kick back.}