Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Wreaths + Ornaments + Decorations - Countdown to Christmas - Day 4

Yesterday we brought home a Christmas tree. So, today's main activity was bringing it indoors, letting the snow melt off of the branches, and then decorating it.

Tree lit and decorated.

I finally got the Advent calendar hung up on the railing. This is one that I hand-embroidered a few years ago. Each of the envelopes has a number on it, and the activities for the day inside.

Countdown calendar on the staircase. 

As we do each year, we saw off the lower boughs and use those to make an Advent wreath for the table. I'm not sure where the star centerpiece went for the wreath. We're still looking for it.

Advent wreath with rocks, crystals, a star, and gems for the first week.
It's missing the candle holder and candles.
Hopefully we'll find it soon.

The focus of the first week of Advent is the mineral kingdom. We put some stones, crystals, a star, and gems on the Advent wreath. There's a bit more about this on this pin on Pinterest.

Olivia set up the nativity scene. Cooper was very interested in the we'll need to keep an eye on that so he doesn't take that down and all the ceramic figurines with it.

As she does each year, Meenie quickly found the manger and sat on top of it. She's the only cat that does it out of the five we have. 

Sophia and I put the lights on the tree.

Sophia putting the lights on the Christmas tree.

Then Olivia, Sophia, and their friend Mary put the ornaments on the tree.

Mary, Olivia, and Sophia decorating the tree.

It was interesting listening to the girls tell Mary about the ornaments. Clearly, they had been listening to what I was telling them throughout the years each Christmas as we decorated the tree. I'm happy to know they remember the history of most of the ornaments.

Sophia and Mary putting ornaments on the tree.

The tree looked very nice when they were done putting the ornaments on it. As the girls shared a bit about each ornament Mary said, "All the ornaments have a story with them." And, indeed, the majority of them do.

Olivia putting a snowflake ornament on the tree.

Olivia finished coloring the drawings of the shoes for Friday's presentation at the nursing home. After she was finished, I glued each one to a piece of white paper. Then, I cut each one - leaving an opening at the top of the shoe - so they can be filled with foil-wrapped gold coins.

The shoe pockets ready to be filled with chocolates for the seniors 
at the nursing on home on Friday for St. Nicholas Day.

Although we talked on Monday about each of us making an ornament (or ornaments) during December, today we actually looked at some patterns and selected the ones we want to make.

Two of the ornaments we want to make this season.

I made an evergreen and cranberry jar that is filled with water and has a candle on top. Right now the jar is on the wood stove to add some color to that area when the stove isn't in use.

Jar filled with evergreens, cranberries, and a candle.

This is the third day of Chalica. The focus of today is the principle of acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

One way we do this is by learning about other religions. Last Wednesday, Hanukkah began. Today we learned some some things about this holiday:

- The Hanukkah Menorah: In remembrance of Judah’s rededication of the holy Temple and struggle for the freedom to worship, kindle the menorah candles individually while sharing their symbolic value:
- The Shamus (‘to serve’): the call to help and serve our brothers and sisters from around the world;
- Candle I: the source of our highest values, including peace, liberty and justice for all;
- Candle II: the wisdom and insight of great religious teachers from many cultures and lands;
- Candle III: the need for justice at home and abroad;
- Candle IV: the exercise of mercy in the face of cruelty;
- Candle V: the holiness of individual life;
- Candle VI: the centrality of love in bringing about world community;
- Candle VII: the role of patience amidst the misunderstanding that inevitably arises from interaction with the unfamiliar;
- Candle VIII: the courage needed to build relationships with people who look and think differently than we do.

The girls were supposed to have violin and choir/play practice, but there was a major snowstorm.

The backyard is now covered with snow.

Looking to the west, the visibility was about 1,000 feet at the most.

During the day, one of my favorite things to do is watch the birds who come to the feeder.

Black-capped chickadees seem to be the first birds 
to find feeders filled with new food.

Even Montague likes to watch the birds at the feeder.

A bird that we just started seeing last year - the Harris' Sparrow - returned earlier this week from Canada. This type of migrating sparrow stays here until spring. Hopefully this one will stay at our farm this winter.

A Harris' Sparrow in the apple tree.

The dark-eyed junco is another migrating bird from Canada.
Usually when you see these birds, snow begins to fall about two weeks later.

The roads are very icy and unsafe to drive, so we ended up staying at home.

So, we had dinner by the Christmas tree.

Olivia by the Christmas tree right before we began to eat.

We turned off all the lights except those on the tree. We had a simple dinner: sloppy joes; a variety of  crackers with butter; apple slices, and carrots with French onion dip.

There wasn't much light once we turned off all the room lights.
The only light for dinner was from the Christmas tree.

For dessert, we had peppermint sticks in oranges. When I was a child, we did this with soft peppermint sticks. The juice from the orange would come up through the peppermint stick which was delicious.

Peppermint stick in an orange.
If you bite the end off both sides of the peppermint stick,
the juice from the orange will come through the stick.
This works best on very porous peppermint sticks.

The soft peppermint sticks they make now are not as porous as they once were, so this didn't work out like I remembered. However, it ended up being quite comical in the preparation and trying-to-make-it-work phases.

Sophia's peppermint stick had a hole through the center,
so the juice from the orange came up through it.


Advent Reading: 

Luke 1:14-17 - You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”


Christmas Joke: 

 Where do snowmen keep their money?

My Snowman
Snowman I made in February 2012.

(In a snow bank.)


Christmas Fact:

Today we learned about the tradition of the Christmas tree:

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.

It is a widely-held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. In fact, in 1659 the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; and people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society.

By the 1890s, Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany; and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the United States.

Europeans tended to use small trees (about four feet in height), while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn was dyed in bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts.

Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.


Kath said...

How lovely it all is, very festive and atmospheric. I loved the snowy scenes especially.
I had to smile at "Each of the envelopes has a number on it, and the activities for the day inside."
I wonder if I could make one for my husband and put a job that needs doing in every one hee hee
He would say, that's not much of a Christmas present!

Rita said...

Great tree! How cool to have dinner in front of the tree with nothing but the tree lights!!
Interesting about the tree traditions over the years. :)