Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Making Ready for the Nativity

Nativity table begun! 
I can't wait! I love getting out all of our little ornaments and mangers and nativity scenes and talking to the children about softening our hearts. For my non-Orthodox friends, we do Christmas a little differently - we fast 40 days before Christmas, so we try to avoid too many treats and parties and focus instead on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But we still celebrate the fast with much joy and anticipation! And because we start early, I have to hold myself back a little, and not pull out all the things on November 15. I know some people feel like the activities and crafts are too much pressure this time of year, but for me it is a joy. And most of my work was done in years past, so I keep it pretty simple now. Here's my plan:

Celebrating the Nativity Fast, Feast and 12 days

At the start of the fast (Nov. 15): Put up a simple garland on the fireplace for our Jesse tree ornaments, and get out our empty manger to start our manger activity (we're making a soft place to welcome Christ through acts of kindness). Also, put up our Nativity Countdown Printable to keep track of the days. Make a meal plan and put that on the fridge, as well.

The girls and I will be reading through the books of Luke and Acts in the mornings during the fast. And we're looking forward to praying the Advent Paraklesis at church on Wednesdays during the fast.

On St. Nicholas Day (Dec 5/6): Put out our shoes for St. Nicholas, and find them filled with treats in the morning. Later in the day we will put up our Christmas tree!

On St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13): Put up lights in the kitchen window to remember our saint of light. We'll also make Lucia buns to take and share at church.

The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (Dec. 13): Get out our toy nativity set to play with as we approach Christmas. Our ongoing Jesse Tree activity teaches the meaning of this Sunday, so I'll briefly talk about this to the kids on the way to Liturgy. All the stories we've been reading point to Christ, listen to the hymns and readings today to see how many of the Old Testament stories you know!

Christmas Eve (Dec. 24): This year, we'll celebrate Christmas here at our own mission church for the first time. We're very excited about celebrating in our own town with all of our people (and about not having to drive late at night). The Liturgy starts late, after 10 PM - don't forget to take a nap!

On Christmas Day (Dec. 25): Find our baby Jesus in the manger! Open presents and eat sausage balls and other goodies! I've seen an old custom to eat your Christmas Dinner with straw on the table under a linen table cloth. I've always wanted to do that (how memorable for the children!) so maybe this year will be the year!

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Dec. 25 - Jan. 5): This is the time we usually spend with family, doing the laid back celebrating. We make sure to eat lots of goodies and do lots of singing during this time. We usually end up doing all of the Jesse Tree readings for this period all at once, and usually the night before Theophany.

New Years/St. Basil's Day (Jan. 1): We are often just getting back home from our travels. We'll enjoy a lazy day unpacking, and bake a vasilopita using my favorite recipe.

Theophany (Jan. 6): I love this service at church with the Great Blessing of the Water. We'll drink whatever Holy Water we have left and take our cleaned bottles to church to fill with new water. After Theophany, we'll put away the tree and clean house to get ready for our house blessing!

How beautifully the church calendar rolls around again and again. Thank God!


Ashley said...

I'm so glad to have found your blog! I commented on the we wilsons one the other day.

I started a blog just to put up some things I"ve been working on. It should have things in the next couple of days--I have pneumonia and need to get to a scanner since ours is broken, but I made printable Jesse tree ornaments for all 52 days and am working on a simplified version of the Akathist of the Nativity of the Christ so kids can enjoy it. Thanks for the inspiration!

Laura Wilson said...

That sounds great, Ashley! I'd love to see your Akathist.

Ashley said...

I finished the akathist. I sent it to my priests to see if they have any issue with it, but I'm glad to share it with you until they give approval to post it. My email is if you want to send me yours, and I'll send it on.

Ashley said...

They're up on my blog now! My priests approved them. Let me know what you think!