Friday, December 31, 2010

Feast of the Epiphany

Updated from the Archives:

The Epiphany of Christ, Raphael Sanzio , 1508, scene 50 of the Raphael Loggia

This year the Feast of the Epiphany will be celebrated on Sunday, January 2nd. The Epiphany is on January 6th but in the US is celebrated on the first Sunday following January 1st. Epiphany, or "twelfth night of Christmas," is traditionally celebrated in honor of Christ's birth, of the adoration of the Magi, and of the baptism of Christ's (also celebrated on the first Sunday following Epiphany), three manifestations of the Lord's divinity.
The blessing of the home is a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means "Christ, bless this home." The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+11. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.
Blessing of Chalk
Let us pray. O Lord God, bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man. Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it upon the entrance of our homes may enjoy physical health and spiritual protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
House Blessing
Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Read Song of the Camels by Elizabeth Coatsworth We Three Kings by Olga Zharkova The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie dePaola We Three Kings illustrated by Gennady Spirin The Last Straw by Fredrick H. Thury Activities

• Place the three kings in your nativity set • Exchange gifts
"However the exchange of gifts on the solemnity of the Epiphany should retain a Christian character, indicating that its meaning is evangelical: hence the gifts offered should be a genuine expression of popular piety and free from extravagance, luxury, and waste, all of which are extraneous to the Christian origins of this practice."
from Catholic Culture • This is a little craft I tweaked from the Little Saints book
Star of Bethlehem Craft
Cut out a star from yellow construction paper, glue onto paper plate, decorate star with silver and gold star foil stickers and rays of light from the star with silver and gold glitter or glitter sticks. Punch hole on top of paper plate and hang with string or ribbon above nativity set.
• Make star shaped sugar cookies or pancakes with one
big star to represent the one that led the wise men to our Lord
• Because the Magi came form the Orient, many of the traditional foods
served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often baked for dessert,
and entrees may include curry powder or other pungent spices.
• Make Lamb’s Wool Punch as in England, Twelfth Night
was traditionally celebrated with a drink called Lamb's Wool,
made of cider or ale, with roasted apples and sugar and spices.
This Old English and Irish punch, which dates form the Middle Ages,
probably gets its name from the wooly appearance of the flesh
of the roasted apples floating in the cider.
Lamb's Wool Punch 6 baking apples, cored 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 quarts sweet cider, or hard cider, or ale ­or a mixture of cider and ale 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger Roast the apples in a baking pan at 450 degrees F. for about an hour, or until they are very soft and begin to burst. (An alternative and quicker procedure is to peel and boil the apples until they are very soft and flaky.) You may leave the apples whole, or break them up. In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar a few tablespoons at a time in the cider or ale, tasting for sweetness. Add the spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the liquid over the apples in a large punch bowl, or serve in large heat resistant mugs.
• For other food ideas visit Catholic Cuisine

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God

From the Archives:

Orazio Gentileschi 1565-1647, Madonna And Child
Below are some ideas for celebrating this day with your family.
"Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the "Seat of Wisdom." — Catechism of the Catholic Church 721
This day honoring Mary as the Mother of God is a Holy Day of Obligation, so the principal activity to celebrate the day is to attend mass. • Pray the Rosary (as a whole or a decade, or even just a Hail Mary as a family) • Pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary • Pray the Magnificat • Pray the Angelus
• Have a white meal to symbolize Mary’s purity. • There are numerous ideas at Catholic Cuisine including
• Create a Mary candle as a centerpiece for a table or mantle with a white pillar candle
and embellishing it with blue and white cloth or decorative details and light
this candle during prayer time • Color Charlotte's coloring page of Mary, Mother of God • Sing Immaculate Mary
"Mary, Mother of God, Pray for Us"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"From the grotto of Bethlehem..."

"So plentiful, O Christians, are the lessons that shine forth from the grotto of Bethlehem! Oh how our hearts should be on fire with love for the one who with such tenderness was made flesh for our sakes! Oh how we should burn with desire to lead the whole world to this lowly cave, refuge of the King of kings, greater than any worldly palace, because it is the throne and dwelling place of God! Let us ask this Divine child to clothe us with humility, because only by means of this virtue can we taste the fullness of this mystery of Divine tenderness. "
- St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace."
- Luke 2:6

Friday, December 24, 2010

T'was The Night Before Christmas...the First Christmas

The Night Before Christmas
by Sister St. Thomas, B.N.D. de N presumed public domain
A more spiritual version of the famous Christmas story.
T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
St. Joseph was searching, walking up roads and down;
Our Lady was waiting, so meek and so mild,
While Joseph was seeking a place for the Child.
The children were nestled, each snug in their beds,
The grown-ups wouldn't bother, "There's no room," they said;
When even the inkeeper sent them away,
Joseph was wondering, where they would stay?
He thought of the caves in the side of the hills,
"Let's go there," said Mary, "it's silent and still."
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Made pathways of light for their tired feet to go;
And there in a cave, in a cradle of hay,
Our Saviour was born on that first Christmas Day!
The Father was watching in heaven above,
He sent for His angels, His couriers of love.
More rapid than eagles God's bright angels came,
Rejoicing and eager as each heard his name;
"Come Power, Come Cherubs, Come Virtues, Come Raphael,
Come Thrones and Dominions, come Michael and Gabriel;
Now fly to the Earth, where My poor people live,
Announce the glad tiding My Son comes to give."
The Shepherds were watching their flocks on this night,
And saw in the heavens an unearthly light.
The Angels assured them, they'd nothing to fear,
It's Christmas they said, the Saviour is here!
They hastened to find Him, and stood at the door,
Till Mary invited them in to adore.
He was swaddled in bands from His head to His feet,
Ne'er did the Shepherds see a baby so sweet!
He spoke not a word, but the shepherds all knew,
He was telling them secrets and blessing them too;
Then softly they left Him, The Babe in the hay,
And rejoiced with great joy on that first Christmas Day.
Mary heard them exclaim as they walked up the hill,
"Glory to God in the Highest, Peace to men of good will!"

Blessings This Christmas

from our home to yours...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some Christmas Humor

I got a kick out of this...

Happy Birthday Jesus Monkey Bread

In my family, we have always had ooey gooey yummy Monkey Bread on Christmas morning. Since the children understand that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, we now put candles in the monkey bread and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
Monkey Bread
4 packages standard size biscuits (not Grands)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cinnamon
2 sticks butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each biscuit into four quarters and place in separate bowl. Mix all dry ingredients above in a bowl. Spray surface of bundt cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Dip a few biscuit quarters at a time into cinnamon sugar mixture completely covering them with sugar and then place in bundt cake pan until all done. Pour half of remaining sugar mixture onto biscuits. Melt butter in the microwave and pour it all evenly over biscuits. Then pour remaining sugar mixture over biscuits. Place cake pan on foil-covered cookie sheet. bake for 30 minutes depending on your oven. We like our monkey bread a little undercooked, so if you want it cooked more then bake for 35 minutes or so. Immediately after taking out of the oven, carefully flip over onto a platter and let stand until cool enough to eat. I have to say that the above recipe is a double recipe for the cinnamon topping, so it has lots of ooey gooey crust. If you prefer you can decrease the sugar, cinnamon and butter by half.
Happy Birthday Jesus!

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Joyful Excitement...

of Christmas, we have been...
Decorating Our New Home
Reading Lots of Christmas Books
Making & Eating Sweets
Making chocolate dipped sprinkle spoons for hot cocoa gift bags
Making peppermint pretzel dots with these
great festive Christmas pretzels I found at Walmart
Pumpkin was so proud to have unwrapped every Peppermint Hershey Kiss all by himself.
Don't these Oreo Truffles look delicious (thanks MH for the idea).
And they were so easy and kid friendly to make.
And of course some basic sugar cookies iced with yummy frosting.
Peaches' snowgirl has both a red and a green show.
So perfect for the girl who always puts her shoes on the wrong feet on purpose.
Jingling all the Way
We made these easy jingle bell bracelets by lacing
these small jingle bells onto a pipe cleaner
and twisting it to size to form a bracelet.
Watching the Nutcracker ballet
We went to see a ballet show of some pieces from The Nutcracker
that a local dance group at the mall and Peaches was enthralled by "her favorite ballerina."
Decorating Gingerbread Houses

Looking at Christmas Lights

There are some great ones near our house,
one that even broadcasts its own radio show
with the lights matching the music.
We loaded the kids up in the car in their PJs
with their lovies and blankies,
and let them eat fast food and cookies
while we drove around looking at the lights.

doing this nativity puzzle

They also make a great Easter one and some other Bible scenes.

We have been having some beautiful peaceful moments every evening around our Advent wreath singing a song we learned from some sweet children a little north of us, saying our Advent prayers, reading our Jesse Tree readings and singing a Christmas song. And every night the kids are so excited for this special time followed by opening another window of their chocolate Advent calendars. I'll post more pictures this week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Display All Those Beautiful Christmas Cards

This should solve my problem of where to display all those beautiful Christmas cards we have received. So festively adorable.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feast of St. Lucy

December 13th is the Feast of St. Lucy, which is called Luciadagen (Saint Lucy's Day) in Sweden and marks the beginning of the Swedish yule tide.
In Sweden, the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy's Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by "starboys," her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. "St. Lucy" will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods."
Here are some ideas for celebrating this feast:
Pray this prayer to St. Lucy
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day.
Do a St. Lucy morning procession
Sing (original Italian lyrics) or listen to "Santa Lucia"
English Lyrics:
The silver star shines on the sea,
the waves are gentle,
the wind is favourable.
Come to my swift little boat!
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
O dear Naples, o blessed land,
where creation was pleased to smile!
Come to my swift little boat!
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
Re-enact this morning tradition in any way, from the elaborate to as simple as a white dress, pajama pants and dress-up princess crown and serving store donuts.
Make Saint Lucia crowns for this morning procession . For inspiration look at these crafty ladies' crowns - Charlotte, Jennifer and Jessica
Color Charlotte's coloring page of St. Lucy
Food & Treats
Traditional foods eaten in Sweden on Luciadagen are:
Pepparkakor - ginger snap cookies
Lussekatter ("Lucia cats") - sweet saffron buns which are made in the shape of an X, with curled up ends and raisin eyes. Make these traditional Lussekatter.
other sweet breads in the shape of a crown
Make this Santa Lucia's Braided Bread for breakfast
Serve store-bought donuts as an easy alternative to a crown-shaped sweet bread

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and remembers Our Lady's appearance to St. Juan Diego. "The Blessed Virgin Mary, by her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the Patroness of Mexico and the Americas. On December 9, 1531, Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego, an Indian Christian, whom she sent to the bishop with the request to build a Church in her honor on the hill where she appeared. The bishop asked Juan Diego for a sign to prove that the Virgin had appeared to him. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego again on December 12 and promised that his uncle would be healed. She directed Juan Diego to gather a bouquet of roses that miraculously appeared on a bush nearby (roses do not bloom at this time of the year) to present to the bishop. Juan Diego gathered the roses in his tilma (cloak). When he opened his tilma before the bishop, the roses felt to the floor, and the bishop was amazed to see the miraculous image of the Mother of God imprinted on the cloak. The image persuaded the bishop to believe what Juan Diego had told him, and the Church was built." from Women for Faith & Family.

Here are some ideas for celebrating this feast day. Prayer
Learn the Hail Mary in Spanish
Ave Maria
Dios te salve, María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo. Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres, y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús. Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros, pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amen.
Read The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola
Make Mexican food for dinner, enchiladas or tacos. For more ideas for mexican meals, visit Catholic Cuisine. We'll be having beef and tomato enchiladas with yellow saffron rice and black refried beans, one of my favorite meals.
Make Rosy Punch
Activities & Reading
Color Charlotte's coloring page of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Re-enact the march that many pilgrims make on their knees to visit the shrine
Buy and light an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle, like here
Listen to Mañanitas, which are traditional Mexican songs that people sing early in the morning on birthdays and other special days. Traditionally this song is sung to Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day either at midnight or the break of dawn to greet her on this day. Sing this song in the morning. Listen to it here.
las mañanitas Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el Rey David Hoy por ser día de tu santo te las cantamos a ti. Coro: Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metio. These are the morning songs that King David used to sing. Because today is your birthday We are singing them to you. Chorus: Awaken, my dear, awaken and see that he day has dawned, now the little birds are singing, and the moon has set

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Feast of Saint Nicholas

Hope you have a happy
Feast of Saint Nicholas

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Jean Bellegambe
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse

December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

"This day does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus by the Holy Ghost, but to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, by Mary's father, St. Joachim. What makes her conception immaculate is not that she was conceived by the Holy Ghost of a virgin, as was Christ Our Lord, but that from the very moment of her conception, she was filled with grace by God, Who knew, in His omniscience, that she would say "yes" to the Angel Gabriel and become the Mother of the Savior. Exactly nine months from now, on September 8, we will celebrate Mary's birthday... ...At the very moment of Mary's conception in St. Anne's womb, God filled Mary with grace and preserved her from the stain of sin so she might be a pure vessel by whom Christ could enter the world; "Immaculate Conception," then is a title for Mary -- a title reflecting her being and which reveals that the New Adam saved the New Eve from the stain of original sin in an act foretold in the first Book of Scripture (Genesis 3:15):

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

Adam and Eve, Mary and Jesus -- the only four persons with human natures who were, in their first moments, without sin (and, of course, Mary and Jesus remained sinless)." from Fish Eaters. Here are some ideas for celebrating this solemnity: Prayer

Attend mass as this a Holy Day of Obligation Complete the Immaculate Conception Novena and pull away the fabric on your candle from above to reveal baby Jesus and then cover it back until Christmas Pray the Magnificat and the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary


Have an all white meal symbolizing Mary’s purity, possibly of French food, since Mary declared to St. Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, France. For other food ideas for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, visit Catholic Cuisine. Make gingerbread cake or cookies or decorate a gingerbread house, because the aroma of gingerbread reminds us of the passage in the Book of Sirach, 24:20-21 that describes Mary smelling like spices: "I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatical balm; I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh; and I perfumed my dwelling as store, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odor is as the purest balm."

This video set to the music of Immaculate Mary has some
beautiful images of St. Bernadette and Lourdes

Take a virtual tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Color Charlotte's coloring page of the Immaculate Conception Watch the DVD The Princess of Lourdes, since Mary declared to St. Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Mary, Pray for Us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feast of St. Nicholas

The feast of Saint Nicholas is December 6th and celebrating this feast day can teach children that Santa Claus is actually a secularized version of Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop of Myra or modern day Turkey. Traditionally on this feast day in Northern Europe, children left their shoes in front of the fireplace and treats were left in them by the morning. This is a beautiful tradition to continue with your family, and here are some additional ideas for celebrating this feast day.
God of joy and cheer, we thank you for your servant,
the good bishop Nicholas.
In loving the poor, he showed us your kindness;
in caring for your children, he revealed your love.
Make us thoughtful without need of reward
so that we, too, may be good followers of Jesus.

Another prayer to St. Nicholas can be found here.

Saint Nicholas by Ann Tompert
Crafts & Activities
Give your children new slippers to leave out
Fill your children's shoes or new slippers with a bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins, as coins are one of the many symbols of St. Nicholas. For something really creative, visit Jessica to see her cute craft idea for chocolate coins.
Give each child a religious Christmas book along with their candy.
Somewhere I read this idea, but can't remember where in order to give credit of giving the children a note from St. Nicholas (which could be on the back of a holy card) listing the good deeds they have done, as well as anything they need to work on before Christmas.
Color St. Nicholas coloring pages
Do a St. Nicholas craft, here is a link to a few
Food & Treats
(in addition to the gold foil covered chocolate coins)
It is customary (although I don't think we will be doing it this year) to serve Speculaas (Dutch spice cookie) or Speculatius (German Spice Cookie),depending on your heritage, cut into shapes relevant to the life of St. Nicholas (coins, mitres, ships, balls, money bags, or St. Nicholas himself), and painted with colorful icing.
Visit catholic Cuisine for other food ideas for the Feast of St. Nicholas, including a Candy Cane Coffee Cake

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