Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Each year, I try to make a bit more of an effort to celebrate the full Christmas season, which is technically until Epiphany (celebrated traditionally on January 6, although in the US it is observed on the Sunday following the start of the New Year), and officially until the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated the Sunday following Epiphany. This is harder to do than one would think, because culturally, Christmas has already ended. You can't go out looking at Christmas lights, for instance, once we get a few days past Christmas Day. The main way we have done this is by leaving up decorations and lights through Epiphany.

One way we have typically extended the celebrating has been easy: we've visited extended family and had them visit us during the week after Christmas Day. Here are some of the other things we've done to continue the Christmas celebrations:

There are many feast days that fall during Christmas: St. Stephen, St. John, the Holy Innocents, the Holy Family, Mary the Mother of God, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton... and others. We celebrated St. Stephen's feast, December 26, in an easy way which I posted about here.

For the Feast of the Holy Family, which fell the day after Christmas Day this year, I think it is fun to do something together as a family. This year, we attended Mass with my extended family and spent the day and night with them, opening gifts, talking, cooking, and eating. As my children get older, I think it would be fun to do something together like have a family movie night, go bowling, or something along those lines.

The feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28th remembers the innocent babies who were killed by order of King Herod when he was trying to find and kill the infant Jesus. I found some rather gory suggestions of serving a white pudding (white for the infants' innocence and purity) topped with strawberry sauce (since red is the color of martyrs) - but that really sounded unappealing to me!! So, instead, we had another dish which contained both colors in a more tasteful way, in my opinion! These are baked stuffed apples, which were delicious with the butter rum sauce (for the adults)! Caroline also commemorated this feast day by playing "the flight into Egypt," in which she pretends to be Mary and escapes to Egypt (my kitchen, where I apparently live as an Egyptian woman!) and asks me to hide her, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Herod's soldiers actually follow them into Egypt in her version, ha ha.

Since we often see relatives a few days after Christmas Day, we save some of the baking for then so we can have some fresh;y-baked treats to share. This year, we made our classic gingerbread men, Christmas bark, caramel popcorn, and M & M pretzel thingies, all of which keep pretty well. However, eggnog cookies and cocomint cookies might not keep as well, so it is good to have some things we can bake after Christmas Day. This year, I had a bunch of coconut milk that had a sell by date a couple days after Christmas, so I finished that off by making some more coconut banana bread. I also made this delicious coconut rice pudding (without the "optional" ingredients and using butter rather than coconut oil) for breakfast one morning - a really good recipe, which both the girls ate completely even though the had shunned my earlier attempt at another coconut rice pudding recipe. We had it for breakfast on the feast of the Holy Innocents, and regarding the aforementioned distasteful pudding recipe idea I mentioned above, I should also note that it was said that serving pudding could also be a reminder of the age of the Holy Innocents, as babies tend to start with softer foods. Not that I would feed my babies sweetened puddings or even spoon-feed them at all, for that matter, but the idea is there of softer foods being well-suited for babies! That being said, I made the rice pudding that particular morning because it was the same date as was printed on the carton of coconut milk, so I needed to use it up before it went bad! ;)

Cecilia helped to make the cocomints. These are yummy chocolate cookies with a mint filling sandwiched in between them. Sometimes I tint half of the frosting red and half green, but they were all green this year. An experiment to roll the edges in crushed candy canes was a fail and they were given as gifts in their standard format!

Cecilia is really neat and tidy when baking, for some reason.

Her favorite part - stirring. I love to do lots of baking just before and after Christmas Day and use the baked goods as gifts for extended family and friends. This involves the girls in the whole giving part of Christmas - and reminds me to be patient. ;)

Something else we did was to make some ornaments. The girls made poinsettia flower fairy ornaments... well, I made them with the glue gun while they looked on. Glue gun crafts are often not good for the five-and-under crowd. ;)

They turned out very cute. Here is where I got the idea.

And here is a staple of our Christmas celebrations: the panettone. We had some at my parents' house (it was waiting for us on the top of the fridge, and I expected nothing less), and I bought some for us to have at our house. I didn't get to really host a big Christmas meal for anyone this year - looking forward to getting to do that one day (I've never even cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in my house before, and I have been married for eight years!) - and being tired from travel, I used the panettone to go along with our eggs for the breakfast I served when we had family visiting one morning.

I got a new teapot and mugs for Christmas, on the table here - aren't they cute?

Gold chargers can fancy up the table... or as Cecilia asked at my mom's house (where she also has gold chargers), "Why does everybody have two plates?"

Another Christmas season ritual: writing thank-you notes. I have been taking photos of the girls enjoying gifts from their relatives, and then I put them into a thank-you note document. This year, Caroline could fill in many of the blanks in the form thank-you note herself. We drank hot chocolate stirred with candy canes while working on the notes.

This is a hot chocolate mix that was made by our friends. Yummy!!

Here's an easy little thing: we had biscuits with our dinner one evening, so rather than cutting them in the standard circle shape, I let Cecilia use Christmas cookie cutters to cut them out. We had biscuits shaped like wreaths, trees, and stockings!

A Christmas art project: making a nativity silhouette painting. I saw these last year and thought they were just beautiful, so I saved the idea. We mixed up a few shades of blue paint, dark purple, and a very deep blue, and the girls painted a swirl design. I showed Caroline how by modeling with Cecilia's paper, and then I gave Cecilia a bit more assistance while Caroline did most of hers on her own. The deepest blue was used for the ground. After they dried, we glued the nativity cut-outs in place. The template to trace these is found at the link above.



For St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's feast day, we had Colonial Brown Bread. And I had mine with hot chocolate... again. Giving up the caffeine and upping the protein. ;)

Here's a random shot of Caroline pretending to be a Salvation Army bell-ringer... she even opened up her bank and gave us coins to drop into her teapot. I need to teach her to sing Christmas carols in the same voice as our old Target Salvation Army bell-ringer did back in the good ol' days...

This was the first year in which we swapped out our purple and pink Advent candles for white tapers along with putting our Christ candle in the center of the wreath. We have been diligently lighting them at dinner every evening, as you can see by how low some of them have burned:

I think they'll make it all the way down at this rate!

If anyone else has something special you do to continue the celebration of Christmas throughout all twelve days, I'd love to hear about it!


Eileen said...

Wow, what lovely ideas! It actually depressed me how quickly the neighborhood decorations came down this year -- since Christmas/New Year's were on Saturday, people (naturally, really) took the opportunity to use Sunday to quickly pack it all away.

I think it's actually hard to extend Christmas celebrations too far beyond when everyone else has finished. It feels a little strange -- like seeing a Christmas tree still up in February. What I've been thinking about this week is that, next year, I think I'll use the post-New Year's part of the season as a slow "take down" of Christmas -- just as Advent is an exciting build-up to the Big Day, post-New Year's could be its gradual opposite. But I haven't really given any thought yet to what that would look like, exactly.


Anonymous said...

We did slowly take down decorations this year and I much preferred that and we aren't done yet. Our tree and ornaments came down last weekend as it was dying but our house was still fully decorated. I started taking down a little more today and the kids treated me like the grinch, "why is Christmas over" "where are you putting our stockings? Anyway, good idea for Elizabeth Ann Seton too. She is my name saint as my name is Elizabeth Ann and I find it funny she had 5 kids and was a teacher. I was trying to think of something to do. I love how much you bake, I would love to do more. We did the exact same thing with our biscuts for our chicken a la king. I still need to give you my recipe. Great ideas!! I want to do more every year. And I forgot to tell you to get A Well Trained Mind from the library, it had some good homeschool suggestions you might want to look at for next year. I read it this past summer before Brianna started 1st.

Xhonane Olivas said...

What a beautiful celebration Erin!! This is a great example of how to live Christmas TIME, not just the 25th!! I would love to see your post in my Christmas Party Link! What do you think?
This is the address

Craig Krueger said...

I am interested in your candle holders. I may be deceived, but it appears that the nativity figures are actually part of the holders and that they relate to the specific candle being lit.

If so, I would REALLY like to know where you got this advent wreath. That would be the most unique one I have ever seen and would dearly like to get one for our church. Please, please, let me know!

Erin said...

Yes, the figures are attached to each of the candle holders on our Advent wreath. I don't know if they are associated with each candle; there are angels, shepherds, Mary/Joseph/Jesus, and the three kings... we light them in that order since that is the order they appear in the Christmas story, although the kings don't come until Epiphany two weeks after Advent ends...

I bought it at our church; each year they have sold wreaths/candles and religious Christmas cards for a few weeks at the start of Advent. It was 9 or 10 years ago that I bought it, and doing a Google search, I can only find an image of one like mine but not a place to purchase it online - sorry!