Category Archives: Christmas

Twelve Days wrapped up.

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This evening I was reminded of one snowy night last week up at my daughter’s: I walked outdoors and crunched through the snow, far enough from the house that the fairy lights were hidden behind a tall spruce tree, and I looked up – oh my! The stars were brilliant, and I immediately saw two constellations I hadn’t noticed the last time I was in the mountains, in October. It is evidently the season for Orion and the Pleiades. I always think of the Pleiades as the Seven Sisters, because when I first met that group I was in Turkey, and my friends there called them that.

Tonight I took a bowl of kitchen scraps out to the trash, and saw those same constellations shining right above my house in lowland suburbia. A cloudless sky seems strange, after days and days of clouds and rain. But there it was. I was carrying out all the rind and seeds of this giant Rouge vif D’Etampes pumpkin, which I bought in the fall and which has been sitting on my front walk until today, when a black spot revealed a bit of rot setting in.

I cut out that bit of flesh and then roasted the two halves one at a time, because they were too large to do otherwise… unless I had cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of that idea until later…

(Those are Asian yams baking at the same time.)

…maybe because I brought a cold home with me from the northlands, and my brain may still be affected, though I feel very well today. Another more pleasant gift was a jar of our Glad-type of peppernuts ! that Pippin baked for Christmas. I took this picture in my car before I had eaten too many, and I’m proud to say I have continued with restraint. They are the sort of treat we can’t seem to produce every year. Maybe next year I will bake some myself; on the way home I bought one of the ingredients that is often not easily found except at truck stops.

I didn’t bake half of the cookies I’d planned this Christmas. Instead of baking, I had my little road trip, and then a couple of days of lying around under the weather. I figure if I haven’t done my baking by the Twelfth Day it will have to wait until next year.

Speaking of the Twelfth Day, here is one last image of Theophany, from my dear friend May’s parish, and her arrangement of the festal surround.

My red berries from the bike path cotoneaster bushes dried out before Theophany, and I had to wander the garden a bit to find something to extend the season for my kitchen windowsill. In January it’s succulents and olives.

I’m slowly putting away the decorations and burning down some of the candles, beginning to settle into what looks to be a quiet month of guilt-free homebodiness. I have a good stack of firewood, and enough housework and reading to keep me busy for a year of Januarys. And more than five quarts of pumpkin now in the freezer to make sustaining soups and puddings for the rest of winter and beyond.

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift.
There is nothing small in it.

-Florence Nightingale

We heard the hymn.

I haven’t baked much yet this Christmas. I may start in a few days, to prepare for a couple of events coming up. I made two of my traditional treats for the cookie platter: Ginger Spice Cookies in a gluten-free version and Cranberry Jellies.

The one new kind I tried so far is from Dorie Greenspan’s book: Double Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies. Here are the last of those, in the cookie tin, at right. They are buttery and chocolaty, but I don’t think I will make them again. I did buy five kinds of Christmas cookies from Trader Joe’s, so we didn’t suffer.

Here are a few scenes from the last busy days:

I also want to share this poem again,  a song from Canada called “The Huron Carol.” Here is a video version of it sung by Tom Jackson.

THE HURON CAROL

’Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled,
That Mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.
Before their light the stars grew dim, and wand’ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped His beauty round.
And as the hunter braves drew nigh, the angels’ song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

The earliest moon of winter is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
And chiefs from far before Him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav’n is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy, who brings you beauty, peace, and joy:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

~ Jean de Brébeuf, S.J. (1593-1649)

My grandson Pat and his wife came on Christmas Eve to hike and feast and play games with us for most of the day. This morning Soldier and Joy’s family came to church with me and that was lovely; we came home and had a lovely festal brunch before opening gifts. Christmas Day always surprises me, as the last few days of Advent are like being on a train that speeds up just before getting to the station.

Thank you for your Christmas greetings to me! If you are kneeling before the radiant Boy just now, I’m right there with you. Christ is born!

Here is the crux of holiness.

“In Christ we see something which could be revealed by God but which could not even be dreamed of by man: the fullness of Divinity in human flesh. Here is the crux of holiness. It is accessible to us because of the fact of the Incarnation. This does not lessen the mystery of God: a purely transcendent God is easier to understand or imagine than the God of the Incarnation.

“And when we see the crèche of the Nativity in our imagination, or in plastic representations, and can take the Child-God in our hands, we are confronted with a greater mystery than that of the imperceptible God. How can we understand that the full depth of infinity and eternity lies here, hidden and at the same time revealed by a frail human body that is fragile and transparent to the presence of God?”

-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, God and Man

Days and bags full of children.

Last week I laid out these sleeping bags in my new guest room, for the use of my grandchildren whom I was expecting along with their parents, flying in from Colorado.

Night after night I’ve started a little blog report on the fun we’ve been having, but night after night I’ve had to crash before I could complete a paragraph. This afternoon has been a little pause, wherein I drank tea and will try again.

One of the first tasks I set the children to was shelling my Painted Lady beans. They were fascinated with how the giant speckled beans fell out of their crisp pods with the slightest squeeze and crunch from their small hands. After we had disposed of the pods, and the remaining several pounds of beans were sitting in a stainless steel bowl on the table, with children and adults frequently stopping by to run our fingers through the sea of them, each of the kids asked if they might have a bean to keep, and I completely understand why. They are so smooth and large, it’s nice to have one in a pocket as a friendly pet.

The weather has been br-r-r-r-cold, and a week of rain is in the forecast, but has twice been pushed into the future. One non-rainy morning we took advantage of that delay and drove out to the coast, while my town lay under a disheartening blanket of fog. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant day for a picnic and even playing games in the surf.

I pulled my Seanna doll out of my backpack to show Clara, three years old. This is the doll that I’d found washed up on the beach last winter.

Several gifts of the to-be-opened-early sort have arrived from Aunt Kate, such as a reindeer ring toss game, and a fir scented candle. We dutifully and gleefully opened them!

It has been much easier to make progress on decorating, now that my elf helpers have arrived. I’ve begun to realize that in this era, Christmas decorations have to go up gradually. When there were seven of us in the old days, we’d do the tree and everything in one day and evening, and take it down similarly. But now, with just me to care and to do it, that style and method does not fit. I bought several strings of led lights this year and I plan to keep them up at least until February.

There are dozens and dozens of dolls and stuffies in my house, and Clara is making sure that they are all taken into her care and concern. She lets me know every time one or a group of them is going upstairs to bed, and when they wake up again; also, whatever names she might have given them. I guess it’s always nice to know one more woman who likes to talk about babies! A large teddy bear has been bedded down near the woodstove for a couple of days, and when I walk past and see him out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly think he is a sleeping toddler.

The children spent hours doing cut and paste one afternoon, and Brodie made this starry paper box. The family brought several of their own essential toys and books, of course, such as the best Tin Tin books for Dad to read to the boys. I’ve been reading the same Letters from Father Christmas to them that I read last year to Pippin’s children.

Soldier and Joy and all will be with me through Christmas Day, which means more good times, and scenes to illustrate my happy days. Most or all of the children take a stuffie into their sleeping bags with them each night; Clara may have several bears, rabbits and sheep at the bottom of hers by now.

I made a big pot of chili using a cup of the Painted Ladies we’d shelled, plus all of the jarful I brought home from shelling  with Cathy a year ago, and lots of vegetables. It was fantastic; the fat beans came out creamy yummy.

And I asked the children to pose with their personal beans as a remembrance.