Christmas For My Family

November 24, 2019

Last month I shared what Christmas was like for me as a child. Now I’ll tell you about how I celebrate Christmas with my wife and children.

Christmas music may be heard anytime during the month of November, but it usually isn’t played exclusively until the day after Thanksgiving. At 12 noon Thanksgiving day our favorite internet Christmas station, https://www.stfrancis.edu/spirit/, begins their all-Christmas programming. They continue playing Christmas music 24/7 until noon on January 2. We also fill our 5-disc CD player with CDs from our Christmas CD collection of well over 50 CDs. I sometimes think we have a larger selection of Christmas music than some radio stations.

We used to put up our outdoor decorations including the lights on our house Thanksgiving weekend. But, because it is frequently unbearably cold that weekend where we are, we started putting the lights on the roofline of our house earlier in the month. We just don’t plug them in until after Thanksgiving.

The Christmas tree is decorated the day after Thanksgiving. Our main tree is a 6-foot slim tree. My son likes to put up our 4-foot tree in the basement. We call it the kids tree. We decide on one of the four color schemes we have, red and silver, blue and silver, purple and silver, and anything goes. I think this year is an anything goes year. We put a lot of lights on the tree including a string of bubble lights.

We have 5 different ways, 4 books and 1 set of ornaments, we rotate through each year for advent. 3 of the books tell a story that is inter-related with the other 2 books to give 3 different perspectives of the days leading up to the birth of Jesus. The main characters go on their own journey while intersecting and interacting with the characters of the other 2 books.

Our church has a Christmas program put on by kids in the church. The program is put on the first weekend of December. Through the years several of my children have taken part in the Christmas program. This year my youngest daughter is in the program, my middle daughter is helping out with it, and one of my sons is handling one of the spotlights.

Our church’s adult choir also puts on a Christmas program a week or two after the kids program.

During the month of December the family makes several kinds of cookies and several batches of fudge. Everyone gets to help make cookies. At one time we made all the cookies on one Saturday in December. That quickly became a chore that I dreaded as the number of kinds of cookies grew with the number of children in the family (we have 7 children). Now some of the older children are given the opportunity to make their favorite cookies anytime during December while I make 1 or 2 different kinds of cookies on “Cookie Saturday.”

Christmas morning the children are not allowed out of their rooms except to use the bathroom. They are not to go into the living room with the tree or into the kitchen before Mom or I call them. We fix breakfast of egg casserole and put their stockings out so they can have them during breakfast. Before the gifts are passed around we read the Christmas story out of the Bible or the last chapter of the Advent story book. We always have Christmas music playing while we open gifts usually with a fireplace video playing in our DVD player.

By the time we finish with the gifts it’s almost lunch time. We don’t have the traditional turkey or ham for Christmas. Instead we make an extra cheesy and meaty lasagna. We like doing this because there’s less clean up afterward. This year we’re going to have a couple cheesecakes for dessert instead of pies.

After lunch we play games and enjoy our gifts and each other.

That is our Christmas celebration. How do you celebrate Christmas?

Childhood memories of Christmas

October 25, 2019

Christmas has always been the time of year I look forward to the most. The music is happier. The decorations are bright and jolly.

The radio station I listened to most growing up added Christmas music gradually to the playlist. The first week of December one Christmas song per hour was played after the news at the top of the hour. The second week of December the station added a Christmas song at the bottom of the hour. From the third week to Christmas Eve, Christmas songs were added to the quarter hours. Four Christmas songs an hour, that is the most Christmas music played per hour until 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve. At 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve the radio station began a program called The 30 Hours of Christmas. It was wonderful. I remember Santa tracking updates from NORAD, a narrated musical version of A Christmas Carol (I didn’t know until recently that the songs came from the Christmas Carol movie starring Albert Finney) and ad wrappers called The Customs of Christmas telling how certain customs started. (That is where I got the name of my website, customsofchristmas.com.) I went to sleep listening to that station and woke up the next morning listening to that station.

For a number of years we had a real Christmas tree in the house. Sometime in mid-December the whole family piled into car and drove an hour and a half to my grandmother’s house in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains. Then while we kids played with cousins and enjoyed my grandmother’s house my dad hiked back into the forest behind the house to cut down our tree. In later years we just used artificial trees including a silver tree that reflected the Christmas lights wonderfully.

Every December we could look from our kitchen window into the kitchen window of our neighbors’ house and see them baking cookies. We knew it wouldn’t be long before they gave us a large tray full of the Christmas goodies we saw baking.

Christmas morning we kids were not allowed downstairs until mom and dad had breakfast ready for us. We finally were allowed to go downstairs. Opening our stocking gifts occurred while we ate. There was always a banana in our stocking to go along with our breakfast. We didn’t do oranges. After breakfast we opened the presents under the tree. After the presents were opened it was time to get ready to go to my other grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner with mom’s side of the family. My parents were never known for being early or on time for anything. We usually were baking one of the turkeys for dinner so we could count on phone calls asking us to hurry up. We finally made it. My grandparents’ house was full with most if not all my mom’s 6 brothers and sisters, their spouses, and children. Talk about bedlam. After dinner, or was it before I don’t remember, there were more gifts to open. As the day advanced, games appeared, new and old, adults talked of family happenings, and others went outside to frolic in the snow and play outdoor games.

It was late before we finally left for home tired but happy.

That was my childhood Christmas. Please tell us about your childhood Christmas in the comments below. I would love to hear your story.

Poland’s Christmas Dishes

September 25, 2019

Last month I presented some of Poland’s Christmas traditions.  Now I will post some links to recipes for some traditional Polish Christmas dishes.  But, first, some fun with this little video.

 

http://www.pwaa.org/Polish_Christmas_Recipes.htm

https://culture.pl/en/article/the-12-dishes-of-polish-christmas

http://www.polskafoods.com/polish-recipes/how-polish-christmas-wigilia-recipes

https://www.polishyourkitchen.com/polishrecipes/polish-word-of-the-day-christmas/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/polish-christmas-dessert-recipes-1136988

Happy eating!

 

Christmas in Poland

August 25, 2019

Upside down Christmas treeChristmas in Poland is all about family. As often as possible Christmas activities are done by the whole family together.

Modern Christmas trees, pajaki, did not appear in Poland until the 1800’s. Early Polish Christmases did not see a Christmas tree. Instead elaborate, handmade mobiles were hung from the ceiling. In the 1800’s in southern Poland tops of fir trees were cut and hung upside-down from the ceiling. This allowed for more room for the family while still giving them a chance to hang their ornate, handmade decorations.   Once the custom of bringing whole Christmas trees into the house began the popularity of mobiles and upside-down trees waned until they finally disappeared. Christmas trees may be set up any time during Advent; but, traditionally, they are not set up until the afternoon of Wigilia, December 24. Many people do not take them down until the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, February 2. Homemade garlands, paper cut-outs, apples, nuts, candy, and small cakes decorate the trees along with store-bought decorations, strings of electric lights, strings of peas, beans, and corn and blown-out egg shells painted with intricate designs.

Nativity scenes are often placed under the Christmas tree to be joined by the family’s gifts later.

Creating and sending Christmas cards is becoming more popular in Poland. It provides the family a great time of making and sending Christmas cheer to friends and loved ones.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Like Advent celebrations in other parts of the world it is a time for reflection and fasting preparing oneself for the coming of the Christ child. A number of saints’ days are celebrated during Advent, St. Martin on November 11, St. Catherine on November 25, St. Andrew on November 30, St. Barbara on December 4, St. Nicholas on December 6, St. Lucy on December 13, and St. Thomas on December 21.

On December 24 everyone prepares for Wigilia. Wigilia is considered the first of the twelve days of Christmas or Gody in Poland. The house is given a thorough cleaning with attention given to barns and other outbuildings as well. Many families also visit family graves placing evergreen boughs or small evergreen trees on them. Food preparation is also a major component of Wigilia. The scrumptious smells permeating the house test the piety of the household as they are still in a period of fasting. Hay is placed either under the tablecloth or as part of the centerpiece to commemorate Christ’s birth in a stable. As evening draws near children make it a game to see who sees the first star to appear. The Wigilia feast starts with the appearance of the first star or 6:00 p.m. whichever comes first. The family enjoys many fish and/or vegetable dishes at this feast as eating meat is not allowed until Christmas day. After the feast, usually the eldest family member present reads the Nativity story followed by the family singing Christmas carols. Following the singing comes the gift-giving. Larger, more expensive gifts are for the children while smaller, more personalized gifts go to adults.

At midnight many families head to the church to attend Pasterka, Shepherd’s Mass. After mass some families will spend the night visiting friends, neighbors, or relatives.

Christmas day is spent with the immediate family. Now that the fasting of Advent is over the main meal at Christmas, served in mid-afternoon, features lots of meat.

December 26, St. Stephen’s Day, is almost treated like a second Christmas. Many families spend the day visiting friends and extended family members.

New Year’s Eve, the seventh day of Christmas (Gody), is celebrated with loud parties with family or friends

New Year’s Day, also known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, is a day for playing tricks on friends and family members.

The twelfth day of Christmas (Gody) falls on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. This day commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child.

Christmas in July

July 26, 2019

Today I am seeing more and more references to Christmas in July.  From Rankin/Bass’ Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July to store advertising using that theme.  Movie channels on TV play Christmas movies and music providers play Christmas music again for a short time.

I do not mind it at all.  I listen to Christmas music whenever I want to listen.  I watch Christmas movies whenever I want to watch them, too.  I even watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July in July.  Why?  Because it ends shortly after the “final firework fades on the Fourth.”

Here is a short video on some of the origins of Christmas in July.  I have not verified all the claims, but I have heard or read most of them.  I hope you enjoy it.

I am also including the trailer for the movie Christmas in July referenced in the video.  You may want to add it to your watch list this year.

Perhaps you do something to celebrate Christmas in July.  If so, please let me know in the comments below.

Merry Christmas in July!

Halfway to Christmas

June 30, 2019

It’s official.  We passed the halfway mark to Christmas.

Here’s a cute, little animated Christmas show for you to enjoy.  I’m also including two microwave Christmas recipes.  We all need more time at Christmas, do we not?

Merry halfway-to-Christmas!

Tangy Mustard-glazed Ham

½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons apple or orange juice
4 to 5 lb. fully cooked boneless whole ham
Whole cloves

In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, except ham and cloves.  Mix well.  Set aside.

Score top of ham in 1-inch diamond pattern, cutting ¼ inch deep.  Insert 1 clove in center of each diamond.

Place ham scored-side up in 10-inch square casserole dish.  Cover cut surface with plastic wrap.  Insert microwave meat thermometer.  Microwave at 50% (Medium) for 30 minutes.

Brush ham with prepared glaze.  Microwave at 50% (Medium) for 10 to 15 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Decorate ham with quartered orange slices during last 5 minutes, if desired.  Let stand, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before carving.  (Internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit during standing time.)

 

Orange Pumpkin Pie

1 pkg. (15 oz.) refrigerated prepared pie crusts
2 teaspoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 tablespoon milk
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Red and green candied cherries

Heat conventional oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let pie crusts stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.  Unfold 1 crust, ease into 9-inch pie plate and flute edges.

Combine sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl.  Brush edges of crust lightly with milk.  Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon sugar mixture.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool.

Use remaining crust to form pastry bow and ribbon.  Cut 4 strips, each 8 inches by ¾ inch.  Place 1 strip on baking sheet.  Cross at center with another strip.  Secure strips together, using a small amount of cold water.  Form bow over center of crossed strips, squeezing gently in center.  Brush bow and ribbon lightly with milk.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.  Decorate center with red and green cherries.  Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the remaining ingredients in medium mixing bowl.  Beat at low speed of electric mixer until mixture is smooth.  Microwave at High for 4 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is very hot and starts to set, stirring once or twice.

Pour into prepared pie crust.  Place pie plate on saucer in microwave oven.  Microwave at 50% (Medium) for 15 to 21 minutes, or until center is set, rotating 3 or 4 times.  Using spatula, carefully loosen bow and ribbon from baking sheet.  Place on top of filling.  Cool.

Candy Canes – a Custom of Christmas

May 26, 2019

view of christmas decoration

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

The candy cane started out about 400 years ago as a plain stick of white candy. As Christmas trees became popular in Europe people began putting them on their trees as decorations along with other foods like fruit and cookies. The first reference to these candy sticks in relation to Christmas came in 1670. A choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany gave the candy to the children that attended the church’s nativity services so they would be quiet. To make the candy go along with the spirit of the services he bent the candy into the shape of a shepherd’s staff.

The first reference to the candy cane in America came in 1847 when a German immigrant living in Ohio named August Imgard decorated his tree with the sweet treats. About 50 years later the first candy canes with red stripes appeared. Peppermint and wintergreen flavors were also added to the candy at this time making the candy cane the sweet Christmas favorite it is today.

The candy cane, as with many other things that we associate with Christmas, can be used as a symbol of Jesus and point others to the reason for Christ’s birth. Here are some pictures of Christ that we can see from the candy cane.

  1. The candy cane is in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. (John 10:11; Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11)
  2. Upside down the candy cane forms the letter “J”, the first letter of Jesus’ name.(Luke 1:31)
  3. The candy cane is made of hard candy to remind us that Jesus is the Rock of our salvation.
  4. The wide red stripes on the candy cane represent the blood He shed on the cross for each one of us so that we can have eternal life through Him. (Luke 22:20)
  5. The white stripes on the candy cane represent the virgin birth, sinless life, and purity of our Lord. He is the only human being who ever lived who never committed a single sin, even though He was tempted just as we are. (1 Peter v22)
  6. The narrow red stripes on the candy cane symbolize that by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3)
  7. The flavoring in the candy cane is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is of the mint family and was used in Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice. (John 19:29, Psalm 51:7)
  8. When we break our candy cane it reminds us, just as communion does, that Jesus’ body was broken for us. (1 Cor. 11:24)
  9. If we share our candy cane and give some to someone else in love because we want to, it represents that same love of Jesus because He is to be shared with one another in love. (1 John 4:7,8)

Happy Easter!

April 20, 2019

He is risen!

I apologize for all the ads that may appear with this video.  I wanted to share the story that started at Christmas and gives us hope at Easter.  I hope you share this story with someone today.

Happy Easter!

Leprechauns and Christmas

March 25, 2019

Here is another Rankin Bass Christmas show I hope you will like.  This time they combine the leprechauns of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day with Christmas.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas Trains

February 25, 2019

For many years, trains have played a big part in Christmas celebrations.  Big or small, it is difficult to not smile and enjoy the look and joy of a train decorated and run for Christmas.

Many homes display trains going around the Christmas tree or weaving their way through a Christmas village.  Stores and malls across the world run trains in their Christmas displays.  Tourist trains run Christmas-themed trains in the weeks before Christmas.  Even big railroads like Canadian Pacific run Christmas trains touring areas served by the company.

I have started a small Christmas-themed layout.  It will progress slowly as I get the money and the time to work on it.  One side of the layout will show a small town at Christmas time; the other will be the North Pole complete with Santa Claus.  I hope to have trains running this Christmas, but the layout will be far from complete.

Until we celebrate Christmas again enjoy these Christmas trains.

Merry Christmas!

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