AdventEvery day during Advent we'll light the Advent wreath, read a special Advent devotional and add one more ornament to the Jesse tree. This is a wonderful family ritual. It reminds the kids that the reason for the season really has nothing to do with presents, but rather with the gift of the Christ Child. We put up the nativity on the first Sunday in Advent, but Baby Jesus won't show up there until Christmas Eve. He'll spend the next four weeks traveling closer to the nativity. We'll also be preparing a bed of straw for the baby by writing down the kind acts we practice during Advent and adding them to his crib.
St. Nicholas DayWe break tradition around here and do St. Nick's day the first Saturday in December. The kids will put out carrots and apples for his horses, and they'll receive a few small presents in exchange. We'll also talk about the legend of how St. Nicholas cared for others.
Santa Lucia DayLast year Lilly was very excited to do Santa Lucia Day all on her own. She made the saffron buns and the glogg and had breakfast ready for everyone in the morning. This year we'll be celebrating Santa Lucia on the second Saturday in December so we don't have to try to make Lutterkasse on a school morning. Also, we'll be making an electric crown of candles - the girl still has her heart set on a real candle crown, but that will have to wait until she's much, much older.
Winter SolsticeWinter can be such a dark and cold time. It's lovely to remind ourselves that long summer days will return again soon. We'll gather some friends, light a big bonfire outside and all of the candles inside, make a big pot of chili and mulled wine to warm ourselves from the inside and feast on the fruitcake we made on the first day of Advent. We won't do any of the pagan rituals, but we will talk about how many ancient cultures celebrated the solstice. It's a good time to review our mythology background (Roman, Egyptian, Greek, Norse and Hopi) and a great excuse to have a winter fire.
Christmas Eve and Christmas DayFor us Christmas Eve is about church, friends and family. We'll gather for a meal with another transplanted family then head to church for the Candlelight service and kid's program. We'll round out the evening with carols around our tree and home made eggnog. Then, in the morning, presents and more food and family. There's no paper flinging around here - we take our time and watch each person open a present one at a time. Breakfast is simple - cinnamon buns and a breakfast casserole made the day before - I just pop both in the oven while I'm starting the coffee before presents.
KwanzaaWe're no more African American than we are Jewish - but this year we'll be celebrating Kwanzaa. Last year Lilly requested that we learn more about this celebration so we got a good book about celebrating Kwanzaa and we're going to give it a whirl. We'll check back in with you in January and tell you how it went.
Twelfth NightDid you know that there are actually 12 days of Christmas? Twelfth Night happens on January 5th (the night before Epiphany begins). Twelfth Night has become one of my favorite celebrations. We invite several musically minded families. They bring their guitars and any remaining Christmas goodies. Then we share food and fellowship around the tree. We also invite the kids to come in their PJs and enjoy hot chocolate and a final viewing of their favorite Christmas movies.
FoodWith the exception of those goodies that have to be made for the celebration (Pfeffernussen (St. Nick's) and Lutterkassen (Santa Lucia), we try to make as much in advance as we can. We make a lot of cookies together, so starting on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving the kids and I will make two or three batches of cookies and then store them in the freezer. It's a great way to spread out the holiday baking. I'll also start making a dish or two at a time for our other celebrations while I'm busy in the kitchen anyhow.
For recipes and pics from last year click here, here, here, here and here.