When Michael entered the Air Force chaplaincy we learned about many new kinds of church traditions. One was "Advent," the other was the "12 Days of Christmas," and "Epiphany." Lent, too! Certainly, NONE of these days MUST be celebrated...but we learned they have a purpose and a wisdom. Our Christmas' have changed over the years.
We added an Advent focus. Advent is a four week period celebrating Jesus' coming (advent) to the world in the flesh, as well as looking forward to Jesus coming again in the future. Adding an Advent celebration brought a focus and an element of anticipation to "Christmas Day." We shifted our focus to celebrating Jesus, rather than the busy-ness of our family life. Around the same time we arranged our budget to match our theology. We gave the kids most their gifts on their birthday - the day we celebrate them. We slashed the Christmas budget to no more than $50 a person, as the goal was celebrating Christ. We gave the kids money to "shop" for things like wells, water buffaloes, chickens, sewing machines for impoverished countries. We loved the changes.
We were a busy chaplain's family....it was common to have 10 - 12 official Christmas parties to attend, as well as children's plays, chapel parties etc. The stress was great and often we were exhausted by Dec 25th - too exhausted to enjoy the day. This led to us moving the "gift exchange" from Dec 25th. We moved it to New Year's Eve - because it was convenient. The 25th now was free for worship, family and celebrating Jesus. It also meant we weren't trying to get all the gifts purchased and wrapped by the 25th. We were free to focus on things like gifts for others and shop the clearance sales with our small Christmas budget. LOL
Last year we realized, with so much extended family in town, the older Gherkins had come to love the way we do NYE and wanted to have a family exchange (all pick one name) as part of our NYE celebration. That's what we did.....but we wanted another day to give gifts to those kids still at home. We landed on Epiphany because that was the day when it all came together.
This year - we have been deliberately considering changes. What will allow our married children to have their own traditions? What will keep our focus where we want it for "Advent" (no rushing and stressing to purchase gifts)? What allows fun and gift giving at a leisurely pace?
The 12 days of Christmas is the period in Christian theology that marks the time between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi (aka wise men). It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 5 (Twelfth Night) or January 6 (Epiphany, sometimes called Three Kings' Day). I first learned of Epiphany when Catholic friends at the chapel mentioned they NEVER take decorations down until after Epiphany. Sounded good to me - though I failed to grasp it was more than a "take your decoration down day".
In some traditions, the 12 Days of Christmas celebrate a different saint each day. I would like to do more research before next year and celebrate the ideals the various saints represent. For this year....we are simply going to spread out our focus...continue celebrating Christmas with some activities, a few gifts, outings....and have our gift exchange (the 5 of us) on Epiphany. We never got around to our scavenger hunts this year and so we are thinking we'll work that in now.
So...WHY are we celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas? Because we want 12 more days to celebrate. Because it allows us to slow down and focus on Advent and Jesus during the lead up to Christmas. Because I stress with shopping and it works best for our whole family to BREATHE during Advent. Our church activities are on break until after 12 Days, and so it "fits" well for us. Each change has added depth to our celebration of Jesus.
Today is the FIRST day of Christmas. Beware of the traditions you begin with young children. For a few years I made my Grams' cinnamon rolls for breakfast. It is now our traditional Christmas Morning breakfast. This year, I cheated. I used Rhodes and we had eggs from our hens.
Alex commented, "Your rolls are better every year, mom."
I snorted. CoRielle has continued the Christmas breakfast tradition and she insists the Kroeger rolls are to die for.
Michael replied, "Are you saying frozen are better than your mom's homemade from her grandma's recipe?"
That is when I confessed......but they were good. AND QUICKER.
It was still dark enough at breakfast for candles! Yay.
Early afternoon brought Josiah and Jamin out from Eagle River. This crew set up a card table in the living room and set about to
|Josiah, Jamin, Stacia, Alex and Nolan|
Krista is reading a book and Michael is shopping for cars.
I worked on prep, set up a munchie table in the living room.....
...and 2 tables in the dining room. We like one long table, but I decided to try something new as the kids are getting old enough to need their own space at the table. Two tables seemed more convenient, less crowded, and we found ourselves talking back and forth between tables more than if it were a long table. We had 15 out today - when we're all here it is 17. Within a month or two it will be 18.
CoRielle came up, BreZaak arrived and we had dinner.....we enjoyed having all around today. We were going to start monthly dinners (vs weekly dinners of last year) when winter came. It seems about time to begin. It's a lot of work to get photos with kids - but Michael worked with the wiggles and we got em.
Try # 1 - Ah, Bella
Try #4 or so - What you digging for, Gideon?
Try #11 - Hang on tight, Bre.
Ah, BreZaak - The D Family
|Gideon, Bre, Izaak & Bella|
Try #1 - Benny, pull that shirt down!
Try #3 - I like it, Cory.
CoRielle - the S Family
|Bennett, Arielle, Cory|
Our Family - excluding Jared & Larissa....
|Front - Krista, Stacia, Arielle, Benny, Cory|
Middle- Bre, Gideon, Me, Michael
Back - Izaak, Bella, Alex, Josiah, Jamin, Nolan
|Nolan is glad to have two days off this week! He's feeling better, too!|
We decided to open Christmas stockings. I am going to look for stockings on clearance before next year. I'll keep them here to fill. This will eliminate the need for the older kids to haul their stockings back home. I can hang them all on the mantle and enjoy them throughout the season.
|Alex guards the stockings|
|Bella loved her baby diapers|
|Alex and Bre|
For the guys I went with a survival theme. They each got neon shirts to be spotted when hiking or hunting, thermal blankets, blister repair kits, straps etc. I told them I was preparing them for the next Resurrection Pass Hike....or they could put them in their glove boxes for winter safety.
Jamin's sweater plays MUSIC
|Cory and Arielle|
My favorite stocking stuffer - and it wasn't one I put in myself. BreAnne created a family calendar for us. I used to do these yearly for us and our moms, but got away from it. I LOVE it. She has a little photo of each person on their birth date and anniversaries....I've already filled in the January appointments and hung it up.
|Auntie K and Gideon - he's warming up|
|Uncle Cy and Benny|
|Stacia with the cake she made|