Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Traditions

We got out our Christmas decorations this Sunday...It made me semi-excited for the holidays. I have to work Christmas so I'm pretty much boycotting it in my mind. Our house does look very pretty with the garland, lights, wreaths and candles. We still have to get our Christmas tree, I demand we get a real one...I feel strongly that it is the only way to go. It makes the house smell so good and love something living and imperfect in my house. I tend to feel nostalgic about Christmas...we had so many traditions growing up. We did the same thing every year and now that we are all grown up and married it makes it harder and harder to have the Christmas we had as children. I guess that's part of life and more and more I'm learning that change is inevitable. I have such fond memories of our Christmas traditions that I am determined to keep them going in my own family. Mark thinks I am slightly insane, but over the past 4 years he has become fond of them as well. I thought I would share with blogger world some of our traditions...

1. The beginning of the Christmas season always began with the first week in Advent in the Catholic Church. Advent is a 4 week season in preparation fro Christmas. It is a time of waiting, watching and preparing for the real meaning of Christmas. This is symbolized by using an advent wreath in the home. Ours was always on the kitchen table and we would light it before dinner each night. It has 4 candles, 3 purple 1 pink symbolizing each week. I remember fighting over who would get to the light the candle and then my brother Matt would always fake sneeze and try to blow out the candle and my parents would get so mad! The best part about our advent wreath was that we placed a bowl in the middle of it, wrote out the names of family and friends on a small piece of paper, placed them in the bowl and then eachpicked a name and that was the person we prayed for that day. I remember picking a name each day before school and praying for these people. It was such a nice way to remember family and friends. Of course us ornery kids would secretly place the names of our siblings "boyfriends and girlfriends" and we would be humiliated picking their names...I continue to do this in my house. Our advent wreath sits on our breakfast table with a bowl of names of people to pray for. I think Mark has started to enjoy this and it is a way to remind us of the importance of prayer in our lives.

2. Our second tradition was always going to pick out our real tree. We were all forced into our mini van and to listen to Christmas music we hated at the time (now we all love). We would pick our tree and bring it home. Of course nothing could go easy with our Christmas tree picking. I remember the tree falling off the top of the mini van when my dad turned too fast and we had to go down into a ditch and hall it out. One year my dad forgot it was on top of the mini van and drove straight into the garage, smushing the tree beyond belief. And I can't count how many times we were woken up in the middle of the night because the tree had fallen and there was water and needles everywhere. A real tree is a must in our house!

3. Another favorite tradition is our Christmas Eve meal, by far better then any Christmas day meal. We eat no meat on Christmas Eve...instead we eat fish, potatoes and the famous periogies (cheese and cabbage stuffed ravioli's) yum yum! Before we eat we participate in something called "breaking olpatek" here is what it is:

The Breaking of the Oplatek

One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.
The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home

The father or eldest member of the family reaches for the wafer, breaks it in half and gives one half to the mother. Then, each of them breaks a small part from each other's piece. They wish one another a long life, good health, joy and happiness, not only for the holiday season, but also for the new year and for many years to come. This ceremony is repeated between the parents and their children as well as among the children; then, the wafer and good wishes are exchanged with all those present, including relatives and even strangers.
This is a very meaningful time as usually we all end up in tears, but look forward to it every year.
  4. After we eat, Santa always makes a visit to our house. We all get to sit on Santa's lap and get one present. We have pictures of the same thing every year.
  5. On Christmas morning, before we are allowed to open any presents, we take baby Jesus (who has been removed from the nativity scene) sing Happy Birthday and place Him in the manger. A nice gentle reminder of the real meaning of the season.
So these are some of the traditions we had growing up that I have continued in my house as I am "adult."  What are some of your family traditions?!

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