"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas is Coming...

The goose is getting fat!
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny
Then a ha'penny will do-
If you haven't got a ha'penny
Then God bless YOU!

In our consumer-driven, sugar-saturated culture, it can be difficult to develop one's own healthy, spiritually meaninglful holiday traditions.

I've been waxing long on nutrition and food- man, that series of 11 posts was a lot! It burned me out a bit. What do you do to celebrate the Holiday of holidays when you choose not to resort to gingerbread houses, a bottomless candy dish, piles of presents, and all the other typical Christmas trappings?

Well, at our house, we don't decorate for Christmas till Christmas Eve.
We mark the passing of December, Advent, with stories. The stories start with a big, red book on the purple-clad buffet in the dining room. (Purple is the traditional color for penance and waiting.) An Advent wreath sits on the dining room table. And on the first night, we begin.

Every night we hear a story from The Jesse Tree and each child makes a tree decoration with a picture of the story. For years I've been working on a fancy-shmancy embroidered set of Jesse Tree decorations, but this year I officially give up. I don't think it would mean as much to take turns hanging up a pretty bauble mommy made- they take so much pride in creating their own tagboard picture, tying on a ribbon, and hanging their story on the tree. And there's no fighting over who's turn it is to hang up the decoration!

In addition to reading through the history of the Poeple of God from Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to Jesus, we revisit all our favorite Advent and Christmas stories. For 28 days, we will read and bake; play and plan. We usually start with Merry Christmas, Strega Nona becasue of the emphasis on preparation and waiting. Then come all our favorite St. Francis books- Merry Christmas, Strega Nona being our favorite! We talk about how different Christmas would have been without St. Francis' gift- the nativity scene.

The stories build to Christmas Eve, when, before Mass, we listen to the story of Christmas from the Word Itself (the Bible), and we place our Baby in His waiting manger. (Our nativity is great- Mary can hold the Baby, so He's usually there- "Where He belongs, Mommy!" the children say.)

Can tales and really mean as much to children as Christmas wishlists, 'Toy Boy' (remember him?), and cookies for Santa? I certainly think so! After all, what is Christmas but the beginning of the greatest Tale ever told? And even in a family that celebrates a more mainstream presents- cookies- Santa Christmas, making the telling of stories of the real meaning of Christmas part of your family traditions adds a layer of richness to the experience of the season.

Here are a few more of our must-read, Christmas-wouldn't-be-the-same-without-it story books:

The Real Santa Claus: Legends of Saint Nicholas

Hark! A Christmas Sampler

An Early American Christmas

The Night of Las Posadas
(This year we will actually get to go to the "Posadas" in this book, in Santa Fe, New Mexico- we are very excited!)

Baboushka and the Three Kings

Do you have any special books that mean "Christmas" to your family?

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
~Peg Bracken


  1. love all the different books! And thanks for the reminder, I need to get going on our Christmas book stash, want to unwrap and read one each day of December through the 25th... I think we have maybe 10 books so far...

  2. So fun! That's what we try to do, too; 1 a day and the Jesse Tree story after dinner.