A crisp 39 degree morning, a plate full of apple spice muffins, a cup of coffee and Christmas In Italy. Ah, the sweet anticipation of Advent and the many feasts we will celebrate!
Our family's approach to the season has undergone many changes, over the last two decades. The first few years were spent caught up in the manic-frenzied-howmanyshoppingdaysareleftuntilChristmas-insanity that starts sometime after All Hallow's Eve and ends with the big "Day After Christmas Sale, Don't Miss It!"
The Christmas tree was up no later than November 10th, the Christmas cards sent the day after Thanksgiving, the presents wrapped-under-the-tree-collecting-dust for no less than three weeks prior to Christmas Day. The Advent wreath was frequently neglected.
Shop, shop, shop. Bake, bake, bake. Wrap, wrap, wrap.
Pray, pray, pray? Only that everything would be finished on time!
Oh, how much has changed! For more than a decade, we have been observing a "season" that is a bit different than the one we had celebrated in the past.
December 1st: We continue a lovely tradition which we incorporated and altered a bit from A Year With God. Each child and adult will draw a slip of paper from a jar. On each slip of paper is a name: St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin, the Angel, the Shepherd, the Ox, the Donkey, etc. During the entire month of December, each person tries to emulate the virtues of the particular "Nativity figure" whose slip was drawn from the jar. A nightly accounting is made, with particular focus on sacrifices offered. The sacrifices are written on a 6 inch long slip of paper, which will be glued (end to end) and incorporated into a chain. Every year, we try to make the chain longer than the prior year. We have also used these slips and sometimes pieces of straw, to create a "soft bed for the Baby Jesus."
December 2nd: The First Sunday of Advent, our family collects beautiful greenery to adorn our Advent wreath and the mantle. The Nativity set that belongs to our oldest son, Arthur, is always placed on the mantle. There are several Nativity sets, as each child has received their own as a gift from Grandma Martha. The various figures are placed in different locations around the room, as they will "journey" closer and closer to Bethlehem. The Advent Wreath is always placed in the front window of our home. Every evening, the entire family gathers around the wreath. Dad reads an appropriate Scripture or Psalm. The room is darkened. The candle(s) are lit according to the week and then everyone sings "O Come, O come, Emmanuel." The wreath is then carried back to the window, lit, and the family sits in darkness for a couple of minutes before extinguishing the lit wreath.
December 5th & 6th: Set out your shoes this evening! St. Nicholas is coming! We read the traditional stories about St. Nicholas and Black Peter. After the Advent Wreath ceremony, we all set our shoes on the hearth. What will St. Nicholas leave this year?
December 13th: Ah, the Feast Of St. Lucy! Before sunrise, mommy awakens Charlotte and Emily. In their white gowns with red belts, they will don their evergreen crowns (we will be using these this year) and serve the entire family these.
December 8th: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Candies shaped like roses and a lovely tea in the afternoon. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the evening. Sweet!
The Christmas Tree: We will start looking for a fresh one, sometime in the middle of December, but will not set it up until 3 or 4 days before Christmas. We never turn on the lights of the tree at night, until we have lit the Advent Wreath, first. The tree will be left up, along with the Nativity sets until the day after Epiphany. After all...that's when the "season" ends!
The Christ-Mass: The Traditional Latin Mass at Midnight! Alleluia! Christ our Savior is born! Alleluia!
Christmas Day: Where did all those presents come from?! And the stockings are full?! It must have been the Christ Child and the Angels! We just can't wait to open them after Mass! A joyful feast in the afternoon...and the "season" continues!
December 26th: The Feast Of Stephen. Our Proto-Martyr.
December 28th: The Feast Of the Holy Innocents. Arthur's birthday. We remember all the "holy innocents" on this day, particularly the littlest victims of abortion.
And that's just the month of December! January 1st marks the great Solemnity of Mary, Mother Of God. We close with Epiphany, on January 6th. The Wise Men take their place before the Holy Infant. We sing "We Three Kings" and thank God for the conclusion of the Christmas Season.
Shopping? We really don't shop much, until the week before Christmas. We don't wrap presents until a couple of days before. Usually the same day that we set up the tree. These changes have changed us...we approach the entire season with the peace and joy that I believe our Lord intended us to have. Things don't always go perfectly. There are the inevitable evenings that someone is sick, or dad is late. But the "mania" is gone.
Christ-Mass is back. Deo Gratias!