Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Week by Week: Week 2~ Breakfast With Santa, Cookies, and St. Nicholas Day!

First, before any other ado: if you read the comments here or on Facebook, you know that there was some question about Advent, and whether or not it is okay to go ahead do Christmasy stuff (and Santa) in December. To answer that, please read this post by Jennifer Fulwiler.  I'm sad that I feel like I have to start this post with a disclaimer that those solemn, penances of Adventish misers don't suit us, but I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea from my Advent Week-by-Week series. In it, she explains why she is going to continue with the traditions her parents did; like Santa. She explains why: So she doesn't have to rethink every last little jot and tittle of what her kids and her family will do and celebrate each and every year. So that some things can stay the same: Just like we've always done, just as our parents did.

In our home, we will celebrate Advent as a preparation for Christmas. Yes, Christmas isn't here yet... but we're not going to be solemn. We're also going to listen to St. Peter's Choir sing Christmas Carols, and some of the other great music out there while we munch on gingerbread cookies, because... well, that's what Stephen and I have always done. That's how we grew up. Maybe that doesn't sound important. But we are Americans. I suspect some of you out there reading this grew up this way, too. December = Christmas parties, events, traditions, celebrations! ;)

Why do we celebrate Advent? Ultimately because it is part of the church year. If you think about it, if you are fully celebrating Advent correctly, you must do it in context.  You can't have a proper Advent without Lent. But then, you can't understand Lent at all, if you do not celebrate Easter. And if you don't believe Jesus really rose from the dead, what is the point of the year, and what is the point of "pretending" to do any of this at all- Advent, Lent, Easter, Christmas?  If you do not have the waiting and penitence of Lent, you can't have the fulfillment of joy and celebration of the Eastertide.  If you do not have the anticipation of Advent, Christmas just isn't the same. Because that's the calendar: That's how our Church Fathers meant it to be.

I'm not sure what the church year means to those ignorant of the calendar. But I do know from personal experience that Advent is a wonderful thing to do with children. And having an Advent wreath to light with children is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Reflecting, doing devotions, and singing "O Come, O Come..." as a family as we light candles could also be helpful. But one of our favorite family songs when I was growing up was called, "Christmastime's a comin," and surely that was our attitude! But also, Advent in an American context = inevitably means, Christmas celebration! But maybe the joke's on us: that "partridge in a pear tree" mindset makes for a whole lot of presents! And just FYI, Christmas lasts until Epiphany. Candlemas is in February, see here, see here!

Sleepers, wake! Let's figure out why we're doing any of this at all in the first place! We are meant to show our children a counter-cultural approach: but that's not the penance of Lent.  It is, however, that it isn't about getting. It isn't about greed. Gifts have no place in our Advent. Advent is about the wonder we feel in our hearts, meditating on Jesus born as a baby, and expressing that through giving to one another on Christmas Day!

If we lived in another part of the world, we might have a Siesta in the afternoon of each and everyday, and we would also give all of our gifts on the Feast of Three Kings (Epiphany) instead of Christmas! But we are Americans- Stephen and I. So we'll talk up Santa and give gifts on Christmas, and we will enJOY the spirit of THIS season, as much as we can without compromising the Advent season!

In the spirit of having Joy during this time... Here are some fun American tunes to get your juices flowing! :) ;)  This is technically my "Secular Christmas" playlist, but it is still full of fun!  I truly believe it can't hurt to bring the spirit of Christmas into your home, even if it is still Advent, simply because- as I said before- it's the American way. ;) And please don't judge- give the Beyonce song in this list a chance. (Normally I wouldn't include something with a cover like that, to those of you out there who would not let their kids listen to such an album.) :-0 !

Breakfast With Santa~ Molly and Frances are now both students at OLPH. I volunteer for this fun event and fundraiser every year! They had even more fun activities and crafts this year! Frances saw a bunch of her friends from Pre-K and even had a little round of hide-and-seek with one of her friends in the gym.... So cute!
The food was great, as usual, and it was so fun and memorable to have another sibling come along to this event with us this year! We had pancakes, sausage casserole, potato casserole, scrambled eggs, apples, candy canes, grapes, and hot chocolate, with coffee for me.

This is the professional shot that we had done.

This is the one I snapped with my iPhone. Frances was too shy to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas!

St. Nicholas Day~ I set the table with decor from the Dollar Store, and their new book, St. Nicholas by Demi. The kids had hot chocolate in their new little mugs, while waiting for their real breakfast...

I made these cranberry scones, and Stephen cooked some scrambled eggs and poured orange juice.
I think this could make a very fun new tradition. ;)

We also made star cookies. I think next year, we will do this in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps we could do white frosting next time. This year, we made the frosting orange with orange juice and natural food coloring.

We made a play-doh St. Lucia crown, a la Bonnie's idea.
The big kids wrote letters to Santa, and used this tutorial to make heart envelopes to put the letters in.

a hymn from the readings on Universalis from this past week...

The Advent of our God 
  With eager prayers we greet
And singing haste up on the road
  His glorious gift to meet...

In the past, even here on this blog, I have criticized American culture for the greed I see here. However, today, I'm here to focus in on something I think the spirit of the holidays here in our culture gets right: in celebrating Santa (AKA St. Nicholas), we have captured something unique to this season and also to our culture: This spirit of Generosity over Greed. Why do children sit atop Santa's knee at the Mall or at other events? Is it to fill their little hearts with an insatiable need for stuff? Is it to make little Grinches out of our sweet, innocent kiddos? Why do families tell the legend of Santa to their children, and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas," about a jolly old elf laying a finger aside of his cherry nose ....then, "up the chimney he rose."  Is it to trick them? No!

Santa and St. Nicholas- jolly elf or real patron saint of children, whatever your persuasion- sets the example as a fun thing that represents to children the parents' desire to bless them, to give them good gifts, and to help them know the spirit of giving for Jesus' birthday.  It is universal that some figure comes in the night to bless children secretly. Our children- I hope, from reading a bunch of books- understand that St. Nick and Santa are interchangeable. Someday, the children will be old enough to give gifts, as well- if they don't already! ;) To go deeper, St. Nicholas- from Lycea (modern day Turkey) was the patron saint of not only children, but seafarers and sailors, merchants, brewers, and so much more. (He is the patron of more causes than any. other. saint!) He really lived during the 4th century! This is an opportunity to tell them about a real person, who can enrich and  inspire their spiritual lives!
Stephen snapped this picture of The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, NC this past weekend. We were visiting the city to see The Biltmore Estate decorated for Christmas.

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou was with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.
(St. Augustine)

Does our desire for a happy Advent in our home mean that the new Evangelization of Catholic culture sweeping our ignorance away is bad? To celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, (coming up December 12- Saturday!) when you've never done it before (raises hand!), is quite a lovely opportunity. And the encouragement we find in the blogosphere to find creative ways to celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy (Santa Lucia to us Swedes!)  is a beautiful thing! And we hope to do just that in this upcoming week! This is a season of giving. Generosity.  We remember in our hearts those who suffered during their lifetimes- St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, and more-  who point to the birth of the Baby Jesus, this ultimate picture of generosity- the ultimate Gift!

If even you are late to the game (as St. Augustine felt he was), you can still celebrate Advent correctly. Look at the magic around you and the beauty ({pretty}). Who are we to take away that spirit from our children by polluting it with self-righteousness? The season of Advent technically is not penitential. It is supposed to be a time of joyful expectation. With the memories in our hearts, and the smells and delicious tastes of the season, let's make it real. And let's make it real for our kids, too. ;)

The giveaway is still open! I will keep it open one more week, then announce the winner on Christmas Day here on the blog.  If you already left a comment, each comment will count for one entry in the giveaway so feel free to comment again!
To enter the giveaway, (which includes a delicious smelling honeysuckle candle from Anthropologie, chocolate espresso bean truffles, a Christmas ornament, two Christmas towels, and a Santa drink coaster), tell me: What is your favorite holiday tradition? Did you celebrate and observe Advent growing up? (raises hand)


Chere Mama said...

Your kids are so so cute in their dresses. And their faces show that excitment that is so lovely to see at this time of year. I would love to win your give aways!!

Cristina said...

Oh I love the Biltmore at Christmas, although it always makes my decorations seem sad in comparison :)