Friday, January 15

Befanini - Italian Epiphany Cookies

We enjoyed making some Befanini cookies yesterday afternoon.  They are Italian sugar cookies that are traditionally made for Epiphany.  We made stars and doves to remind us of the wisemen and Jesus' baptism.  We used this recipe and I love the hint of lemon!  They are perfect little cookies to go with a cup of tea.

And while we enjoyed some cookies after school we read The Legend of Old Befana by Tommie dePaola.  DePaola's book is a telling of  italian folk tale about an old woman who is invited to join the wisemen to find the Christ child.  Befana doesn't go and then decides she should, but by the time she made gifts and swept her home she can't find the wisemen or the child.  The Italian tradition says that she continues to travel looking for the child.  And every Epiphany she leaves gifts for all the children just in case one is the Christ child.  This story is perfect for Twelfth night.  But a week and a half into Epiphany is where it landed for us this year.  

Friday, January 8

A Joyous Epiphany!

Epiphany began with discovering treat-filled shoes that had been left out with grass for the magi's camels on twelfth night.  The magi always leave a book for each boy under their shoes (to help the boys become wise men) and some treats, which always include chocolate coins.  It is always a bit like a mini Christmas morning and I love ending Christmastide this way. 

And while our day began auspiciously, it ended with a lot of tired children after school and a few soar throats which made us miss the service we so hoped to attend.  We did manage to chalk the door and shared the house blessing from "The Year and our Children."  We also enjoyed take-out from the east (take-out isn't something we normally do, so it is quite the exciting occurrence to have dinner arrive at our door.)  It certainly wasn't a perfect scene as tired grumbles were all around, but we made it through the blessing and dinner together, which was good enough.

This is the second year that we have chalked the door.  You may notice that the blue chalk that we used last year was still there, so we just added pink on top this year.  I like the idea of adding layers of blessing each year.  The tradition of chalking the door is a lovey one and probably came to be because the magi visited the house where the Christ child was living.   The 20+C+M+B 16 stands for the year 2016 with the blessing of the magi in it - The magi are symbolized by  cross and their first initial (traditionally the names of the magi are Caspar, Melchior, and Belthasar).  Alternatively, the CMB can mean Christus mansionem benedicat  - May God Bless this House.

Here is the last bit of the house blessing from The Year and Our Children::

And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.  Let us pray.  Bless, O Lord, almighty God, his home that it be the shelter of health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to the commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  May blessing remain for all time upon this dwelling and them that live herein.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Wednesday, January 6

Twelfth Night

We've generally done most of our celebrating of the three kings on Epiphany and not on twelfth night.  But this year, for a few reasons we moved a large part of our celebration to the fifth.  I enjoyed spending this last day of Christmas setting a festive table and thinking toward an evening celebration.  I found myself sewing a gold cloth for the table.  Then I was making stars on sticks to place in the wood pieces Jim cut and I drilled for the 'trees' for our advent garden; it was delightful to find another use for them. 
Friends came over after dinner and the fun began with kingly children following the star around the house  (Jim is always the star - he just carried the one from our tree this year.)  They marched while holding our magi and singing "We Three Kings."  The star stopped over our party table where baby Jesus awaited the magi.  Christmas Crackers, Kings Cake and Lamb's Wool were the simple elements of the celebration.

Rowan and Isaac helped to make this star garland.  We used wax paper and ironed crayon shavings between the layers.  I then cut stars and hot glued them to twine.

The Christmas crackers were a last minute addition and we so loved that we all ended up with crowns!  I'll be on the look out for more next year!

I made the King's cake from Let Us Keep The Feast: Living the Church Year at Home (Complete Collection)
this year.  It was different than one's I've made before and equally yummy.  I have no idea which we'll do next year.

The boys ended the evening by filling their shoes with grass for the camels.  They are so very eager to see what the wise men will leave! 

 On Epiphany itself we plan on getting take out (from the east) for dinner and chalking our door.  There is a service at church we are hoping to attend at seven, which is late for our boys, but I'm hopeful we can somehow make it work.

Wednesday, December 30

The Feast of Holy Innocents

I spent a lovely forty-five minutes today with a friends five day old baby in my arms and I can't think of a better thing to do on the feast of innocents.  Those tiny hands and features.  The deep sleep of an infant.  So precious and vulnerable.  So beautiful.  

It made it so much harder to read Jeremiah and Matthew this evening with the boys.  To talk about Herod's evil plan to kill all the wee boys after introducing them to such a beautiful baby boy this afternoon was very appropriately difficult.  

I found Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals under the tree on Christmas morning and have been enjoying using it for morning prayer.  Each day's morning prayer is a perfect length for a mama who is trying with difficultly to carve out space and is at times interrupted.  We've been following the scripture readings listed through the feast days of Christmas as a family in the evening.  I'm really loving that I begin and end my day with the same scriptures.

Tuesday, December 29

St. John's Day

 Merry, merry my dear friends!  I hope your Christmastide is off to a lovely start.  I'm so grateful to have twelve days to spread out the Christmas goodness.  Jim's family was here over the last four days, which was so celebratory and wonderful!  And now I'm looking forward to slowing down a notch and savoring these later days of Christmas with my boys in a quieter way. 
To St. John the Evangelist!  

Tonight we shared a toast to St. John the evangelist* with cups of hot cider after reading Malcome Guite's sonnet John from Sounding the Seasons and Jonah read the beginning of John's gospel for us.  Through advent and Christmas we've been focusing on the Godly Play idea that the mystery of Christmas is that "the king who was coming is still coming" (Godly Play: Volume 3, pg 30).  So after reading John 1 we expanded that idea to say "the king who was coming is still coming, and also has always been."  Tying the doctrines of incarnation, redemption and creation together is so very important theologically and I was grateful to bring this element into to the day.

Tonight each boy's bedtime prayers incorporated a petition that the boys might love like St. John and know that they are loved.  Celebrating St. John today was neither laborious or fancy, but very simple and meaningful.  There are many times I overshoot or don't manage to mark time at all.  I'm really learning to love these less-fuss markings of time as the best sort.

*Typically St. John's day is on the 27th, but when there is a Sunday in the first three days of Christmas the feasts (St. Steven on the 26th, St. John on the 27th, and Holy innocents on the 28th) feast days can be pushed back to allow the Christmas Sunday to stand on its own.  

Sunday, December 27

This Most Precious of Traditions

The Christmas pageant is one of my favorite things.  There is nothing else to say... just look at all this goodness.

Sunday, December 20

The Christmas Tree

Oh, we had a bit of an adventure getting our Christmas tree this year.  We traveled forty-five minutes north to a Christmas tree farm to find that 90% of their trees were white pine and the other 10% were only five feet tall.  We almost chose one, but the price was a bit high to come home with a tree that we didn't like.  So after over an hour of exploring the tree farm we left empty handed.  We stopped at Lowes on the way home and in five minutes had chosen a beautiful fir tree.  I did so love the idea of supporting a local farm.  [Sigh.]  Maybe next year.

We came home and decorated our tree with lights and strung popcorn and cranberries over the next couple days.  I also made a new star out of branches painted gold.  Ours fell apart a couple years ago.  I was excited to try out a blessing of the tree this year that I found in The Year and Our Children.  So Tuesday night we enjoyed some hot cocoa and apple danish and read the blessing of the tree together before decorating the tree.  The blessing is a short service with several scripture readings.  It ties together the ideas of the Jesse tree (Isaiah 11), the trees of the wood shouting for joy (Psalm 95) and being branches grafted into Christ (Ezekiel 17:22-24).  The whole service takes ten minutes and it is a lovely way of turning tree decorating into a deeply meaningful activity.

A couple years ago we tried waiting till the 23rd to decorate the tree, but I think we've settled on a mid-December decorating.  We will add candy canes, trinkets, cards and goodies on Christmas Eve after the boys are in bed.  We will also add tinsel on the night before Christmas after the boys are in bed.  The tinsel is the stringy kind that goes all over the tree and makes it look magical.  It isn't the sort of thing I would typically buy (it is a plastic of some sort), but we found an unopened package in our Christmas boxes out of storage when we returned to the states.  It had never been opened (I think someone passed it on to us) and we decided to use it last year.  I'm totally enamored with it and fairly certain that waking to a tinseled tree on Christmas morning is a tradition that is here to stay.  It is a lovely way of having the tree be different and more magical through the twelve days of Christmas even though most of the decorating happens earlier in the month.