The Hope of Easter

March 31, 2018

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Happy Easter!

March 25, 2018

life-of-jesusWe are in the middle of the Easter season. Both Easter and Christmas are similar in that they begin with the same 40-day season of preparation and they celebrate the same person. Christmas begins with Advent preparing for the coming of the Christ child. Easter begins with Lent preparing for the death and resurrection of Christ. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

All of this was a plan put in place by God to redeem His magnum opus, His prize creation, mankind. God created the earth and all the plants and animals in it for mankind, and it was “very good.” God enjoyed intimate fellowship with His masterpiece. Then the man and woman, God’s favorite creation, turned their backs on God. God was not willing to leave them in that condition. He desired the intimate fellowship He once enjoyed with mankind, but there was a penalty to be paid for mankind’s rejection of God, for mankind’s sin. No man or woman, even if he or she lived a thousand lives, could ever pay that penalty.

So God made a plan. He would send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin, live a perfect, sinless life, die a horrible death, and rise from the dead thereby securing the payment for the penalty for the sin of all mankind.

Now God offers this payment for the penalty of sin to every man, woman, and child who will turn from their sin and accept this payment. This is the ultimate celebration of both Christmas and Easter.

Resurrection Rolls

Ingredients:

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 large marshmallows
Melted butter
Cinnamon
Sugar

Instructions:

  • Give each child one triangle shaped section of crescent roll. This represents the tomb.
  • Each child takes one marshmallow which represents the body of Christ.
  • Dip the marshmallow in the butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar mixture. This represents the oils and spices the body was anointed with upon burial.
  • Lay the marshmallow on the dough and carefully wrap it around the marshmallow.
  • Make sure all seams are pinched together well. (Otherwise the marshmallow will “ooze” out of the seams)
  • Bake according to package directions.
  • Cool.
  • Break open the tomb and the body of Christ is no longer there!!
  • Celebrate God’s love!

 

Russian Christmas Customs

February 25, 2018

GrandfatherFrostChristmas customs enjoyed in Russia have evolved in three phases.  These phases are Russia before Communism, Communist Russia, and Russia after the fall of Communism.

Old Russia  Christmas was a religious time before the Communists took over Russia.  The Russian Orthodox Church held services every day during the twelve days of Christmas.  Nearly everyone in the town and surrounding countryside attended the local church making the services standing room only.

Many people followed a form of Advent.  For thirty-nine days before Christmas they would abstain from eating certain foods like meat.  No food was eaten on Christmas Eve until the first star was seen in the sky.  Many a Christmas Eve found the children of the house peering out the window watching for that first star so the Christmas Eve feast could begin.

The Christmas Eve feast comprised of a twelve-course meal.  Fish was a staple of the meal instead of meat which they still abstained from eating.  The soup course most likely was borscht, a soup made with cabbage, onions, potatoes, beets, and carrots.  Two other popular dishes were kutyala, a rich, sweet porridge made of wheat berries, poppy seeds, and honey, and kissel, a mousse-like berry dessert.

Meat could be eaten on Christmas day.  Duck, ham, goose, pig, and other roast meats were the centerpiece of the Christmas dinner.  Other dishes included borscht, jellied sturgeon, blini (light buckwheat pancakes rolled with caviar and served with sour cream), pelmeni (mini-dumplings filled with beef and pork), and piroshke (savory, filled pastries).

Christmas trees were popular in the 1800s.  They were procured three days before Christmas and decorated with apples, tangerines, dolls made of dried fruit and candy, walnuts wrapped in gold foil, wooden ornaments, paper lanterns, and topped by a shining star.

Instead of Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost delivered toys door-to-door.  He did not go down chimneys.  He wore a red coat trimmed with white fur and had a long, snow-white, bushy beard.  Some children opened the gifts they received from Grandfather Frost on Christmas Eve; others waited until Christmas morning.

Communist Russia  When the Communists came into power, Christmas was replaced with a Festival of Winter.  They also changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.  The Russian Orthodox Church, however, continued to use the Julian calendar.  The churches that were allowed by the Communist Party to stay open held Christmas services on January 6 and 7, the date of Christmas using the Julian calendar.  Churches would be decorated with Christmas trees, icons of saints, and colored lights.  Congregations would sing Christmas hymns, but elsewhere there was no Christmas.

Many Christmas traditions were transferred to New Year’s, and Grandfather Frost arrived on New Year’s Day.  Christmas trees were banned by the Communists; but because the people wanted to keep the tradition, Joseph Stalin, in 1935, lifted the ban calling them New Year’s trees.

Many people put up their New Year’s trees on December 31 and left them up until January 13, Old New Year’s Eve).  The trees were decorated with toys, little dolls, colored lights, garlands, and topped with the red star of the Soviets instead of the star of the Magi.

Grandfather Frost remained the gift giver, but he arrived on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas or Christmas Eve.  Instead of a red robe he wore a blue one.  Instead of some of the more fun and frivolous gifts Grandfather Frost brought more practical gifts like clothing, shoes, and books though small toys did appear on occasion.

Grandfather Frost was also joined by Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. The Snow Maiden also dressed in a blue robe or coat and knee-high boots.  They would be seen together in parades and many New Year’s events.

Post-Communist Russia  In 1991 with the arrival of Glasnost and Perestroika the Russian people were once again free to celebrate Christmas.  Russian Christians were once again able to worship without fear of persecution or death.

The big celebration still occurs on New Year’s Day with extravagant fireworks and organized games.  Grandfather Frost still delivers gifts on New Year’s Eve and is still accompanied by the Snow Maiden.  The big feast still includes such foods as borscht, blini, sturgeon, halibut, or herring, fresh fruits and vegetables (when available), bread, and sweets such as baba or kissel.

Without the fear of persecution many Russians are returning to church especially at Christmas and Easter.  Christmas services in Russian Orthodox Churches are well-known for their sacred music, and many who cannot make it to the services are able to watch them on Russian television.

Today’s Russian Christmas customs are still being developed.  Some are trying to bring back some of the old customs while others are creating new traditions.

Baba Romovaya cake recipe

Ingredients:
3 ea eggs
5 oz flour
5 oz sugar
–Icing:
5 oz cherry juice
2 tbsp rum
–Sauce:
4 tbsp rum
2 ea yolks
8 oz cream
1 tbsp starch

Method:
Beat up eggs with sugar with the mixer until there is foam. Stir in flour very gradually and make dough very quickly. Fill in the form half (the dough will rise twice) with dough very very carefully. Grease the form abundantly with butter and sprinkle with flour. Close all windows and doors to avoid draughts otherwise “baba” will catch a cold”. Put in a warm place, don’t move it. As soon as the dough rise up to the top, bake in the oven (180C) until it is golden. It is very important to keep the form of “baba” after baking. Put upside “baba” in the form down on the paper until it is cold. Don’t take it out of the form until it is cold. Mix rum with cherry juice in a large bowl and sink “baba” in this syrup. Beat up yolks with cream and starch, pour in rum. Put the mass on a “steam bath” (put a smaller pan with cream mass in a large pan with water) and bring to thickening. Pour the sauce over “Baba” before serving.

Epiphany and the Three Kings

February 25, 2018

January 6 is Epiphany or Three Kings Day.  It is traditionally thought to be the day that the three kings arrived to give their gifts and worship to the baby Jesus.  But is that really the way it happened?

Let us look at the events as told in the Bible. 

We’ll start in the book of Matthew where we are told about the magi.  In chapter two we are told the wise men arrived in Jerusalem from the East.  They asked around for the whereabouts of the One who was born King of the Jews.  As you may suspect this caused an uproar in Jerusalem.  Herod the king was a very suspicious and paranoid king worried that everyone was trying to take his kingdom away from him. 

Herod knew Israel’s Holy Scriptures prophesied about this special Ruler so he called the priests and scribes who knew the scriptures best.  They told him the Baby was to be born in Bethlehem, a small town about five miles from Jerusalem.  Herod then interviewed the wise men.   He found they had been traveling about two years.  We surmise this from the age of the children he killed in Bethlehem

When Herod had all the information he wanted he sent the magi on to Bethlehem.  He wanted them to find the Baby, return to him, and tell him the location of the Baby.  He would then “worship” the Baby, meaning he would kill the Baby.

The wise men traveled on to Bethlehem and, following a star that led them on much of their journey, found the Baby and Mary, His mother, in the house they were staying in.  They gave their gifts to Jesus and worshiped Him. 

We are not told it they stayed in Bethlehem a few days or traveled back home the next day.  We are told that as they slept God told them in a dream to not return to Herod so they took another route back home.

I am sure Herod had many spies.  At least one of them would have told him that the magi left Bethlehem within twenty-four hours of their departure.  Herod was furious that the wise men would defy his order.  Then he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all baby boys two years old and under.  It would not have taken the soldiers long to cover the five miles to Bethlehem.

Now let us turn our attention to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (Luke 2).  When Jesus was eight days old He was taken by his parents to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised.  After that they waited another thirty-three days.  At the end of the thirty-three days Mary and Joseph brought Jesus back to the temple in Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice for Mary’s purification. 

That is a total of forty-one days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem that He was found in Jerusalem.  If the wise men had already been to Bethlehem and left for home Herod would have known and would have been looking for newborn babies from Bethlehem, but He was not looking for Jesus at this time. 

Therefore, I believe that the wise men did not arrive in Jerusalem or Bethlehem until at least forty-one days and perhaps as long as two years after the birth of Jesus.  The wise men traveled many days to worship the baby Jesus.  They brought gifts. 

They are our examples.  It is not enough to give gifts, to think about Jesus only at Christmas time.  We need to worship Jesus and bring Him the only gift He really wants. Ourselves.

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2017

Mr. Kruger’s Christmas

November 25, 2017

James Stewart did an excellent job on It’s A Wonderful Life, a Christmas movie showing how everyone touches the lives of others.  The most moving point of the movie comes when James Stewart’s character, George Bailey, realizes what his life means to those around him.  He prays that he would “live again.”  He got his wish.

Another excellent made-for-TV Christmas movie that he did was Mr. Kruger’s Christmas.  He plays an old man alone with his memories of times past.  As you watch it below, pay particular attention to what he says to the baby Jesus.  I believe you will enjoy this movie as much as I did.  I don’t know if copies of the movie can be purchase outside of eBay, but it will make a wonderful addition to your Christmas movie collection.

Christmas Freebies

October 29, 2017

We all like to get free things especially at Christmas time.  Here are some websites that offer free things or tell where some free things are located.  Consider them my treat to you.  No tricks just treats.

Christmas Scrapbooking

http://dschristmasaroundtheworld.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WWCSF

http://gracieandtracydesigns.blogspot.com/2017/10/new-christmas-goodies-freebies.html 

Variety

https://www.thefreesite.com/Seasonal_Freebies/Christmas/
https://www.thebalance.com/christmas-freebies-1356267
http://www.sassysue.com/christmas_freebies/
http://www.christmasfreestuff.net/

 Christmas Seals

http://www.christmasseals.org/seals/

Christmas blessings to you and yours this Christmas season.

Christmas in Greece

September 25, 2017

Greek-CookiesChristmas in Greece tends to be a religious celebration following the traditions and rites of the Greek Orthodox church.

Preparation for the Christmas season begins on November 15 with a solemn forty-day period of fasting and reflection.  This period called Christmas Lent lasts until Christmas Eve.  People focus on preparing spiritually for the arrival of the Christ Child.  They attend church services, confess their sins, and take Communion.  They also fast abstaining from all meats, milk products, and rich foods.

On Christmas Eve, the last day of Christmas Lent, groups of children go from house to house singing the Kalanda, Greek Christmas carols.  It is considered good luck to have children come to one’s home and sing so often coins and treats are given to the children for their songs.  The Kalanda are also sung on New Year’s Eve and the Eve of Epiphany, January 5.

Decorations in the home are simple mainly involving the home’s altar.  The altar consists of a wall cabinet or table where people stand or kneel and pray while facing the east.  Religious icons, statues or pictures of saints, and other religious items are placed in or on the altar.  The most popular icons picture Mary, Nicholas, and Basil.  In addition to these icons family altars may contain wedding crowns, a cross, a prayer book, a censer, a light or candle, and other important items related to other religious holidays like Epiphany and Palm Sunday.

Christmas trees did not appear in Greece until 1839 when King Othon I put one up in his court.  It used to be that the tree of choice was the juniper tree decorated with walnuts, almonds, dried figs wrapped in tin foil and tied to branches with string, and tiny candles (lit only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  Today Christmas trees come from Greek tree farms and are decorated with lights and tinsel and topped with a star.  Some homes put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve while others wait until New Year’s Eve.

Greeks who own boats will decorate them in honor of St. Basil’s bringing presents from Caesarea by boat on New Year’s Eve.  Children get into the act by decorating paper, tin, or wooden boats and placing them throughout the house.

On Christmas Day the Dodecameron, the 12 days, begins.  It is a joyful time of celebration that lasts from Christmas Day to Epiphany, January 6.  For many this is a time of decorating, cooking, and buying and wrapping presents.  Friends get together for parties, dances, and much fun and camaraderie.

Christmas Day is the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Many attend church services starting as early at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.

Each home enjoys a Christmas feast shared with the immediate family only.  Many families, as they gather around the table, will pause before sitting to lift the table three times in honor of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The meal starts with the breaking of the christopsomo, a Christmas bread eaten with honey.  Roast pork, chicken, or rabbit may be found on the Greek Christmas table along with many delightful cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Here are 2 recipes that one would find on many Greek Christmas tables.

Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

Author: Nicole-Cooking for Keeps

 Prep time:  45 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  1 hour

Serves: 5 dozen

These Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies) are a Greek classic. They’re buttery, crumbly, sweet, but not too sweet, and the perfect holiday treat!

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
3 teaspoons pure almond extract
8 tablespoons powdered sugar + another cup or so for coating
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
5 to 5 ½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter in the bottom of a stand mixer on a medium-high speed for 20 minutes. Add egg and almond extract, mix until combined. Sift 8 tbsp. powdered sugar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to butter and egg. Beat another 10 minutes on a medium high speed.

Sift five cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. With the speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add ½ cup more of flour.

To Form: Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough into crescents and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silt pad. There is no need to place cookies very far apart, as they do not spread much. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very pale brown and cooked through.

If serving cookies right away. Let them cool slightly and toss in powdered sugar. These will keep for 5 days. If you want to keep them for longer than five days, wait to toss in powdered sugar until just before serving.

*These can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

Recipe by Cooking for Keeps at http://www.cookingforkeeps.com/kourabiedes-greek-butter-cookies/

 Baklava

Recipe By:NEONWILLIE

“A Greek favorite that makes everyone think you are a master chef and is sooo easy to make!! I taught a Greek friend how to make apple pie and she taught me this fabulous recipe. The phyllo dough for this recipe is found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Add a little lemon zest to the sugar sauce, if desired.”

Ingredients

·         1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
·         1 pound chopped nuts
·         1 cup butter
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1 cup water
·         1 cup white sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         1/2 cup honey

Directions

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

2.       Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.

3.       Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

4.       Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

5.       Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017 Allrecipes.com
Printed From Allrecipes.com 9/17/2017

Christmas Websites To Explore

August 27, 2017

The Christmas season will be upon us before we know it.  Here are some Christmas website for you to explore now so you can use the information they have to enhance your Christmas celebration and involve all the little ones, and the not-so-little ones also, in your life.

www.christmas.com – This is a fun little website that offers a lot of Christmas fun.  Get new recipes to try, play some Christmas games, listen to some music, and avail yourself of their planning tips for the Christmas season.  One of the nice features on this site are the free family pages.  Families can upload and share Christmas memories and photos.  Let other family members know what recipes you are using for this year’s Christmas feast.  Don’t forget to post your Christmas wish lists.

www.northpole.com – This fun website has been around a long time.  Established in 1996 it has grown to what it is today.  On it you will find fun things for the kids to do, crafts to make, and recipes to try.

www.allthingschristmas.com – This website is a treasure trove of Christmas information and articles.  They also have a presence on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AllThingsChristmas/.  Also look for some Christmas giveaways here.

www.customsofchristmas.com – Don’t forget our own little website.  Find out the origins of many of our Christmas customs and traditions.  In addition to all that you will find games, craft ideas, recipes, and free downloads.  Remember our advent calendar.  It starts on November 29 and goes through Christmas Eve.  Each day you can listen to a 15 minutes segment of the story The Adventures of The Cinnamon Bear.  This story has been loved by thousands of kids and kids-at-heart for many years.

Christmas Videos for Christmas in July

July 25, 2017

I thought these videos were cute so I decided to share them with you for Christmas in July.

Christmas In July | Funny Xmas Compilation

Minecraft Xbox – Christmas Rescue

Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney – The Sid Winkler Trio

The Pink Panther in “A Very Pink Christmas” | 23 Minute Christmas Special

Merry Christmas in July!

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