Friday, December 15, 2006

The Loveliness of Preparation

Welcome to The Loveliness of Preparation, the latest in the series of Living Lives of Loveliness fairs. If you were able to join me in real life I would hand round a plate of mince pies and brew a big pot of tea. As it is, I'm afraid I can only offer the virtual kind.

I love Christmas. Maybe the excitement isn't quite as much as when I was a seven year old expecting Father Christmas to visit, but it isn't far off. Preparing for Christmas is my idea of fun. Decorating the tree, baking Christmas treats, rehearsing Christmas carols, wrapping presents ... I love all of it! And that, of course, is just one side of the preparation. We are also preparing for the real focus of Christmas, the celebration of the Nativity, with our Jesse tree (this year, an Advent tree), our Advent candles and our prayers. As the posts have come in for this fair it has been lovely to see what other families are doing to get ready for Christmas. Now it is your turn. Please take a mince pie, pour a nice cup of tea (or a steaming hot mug if you prefer), put your feet up and share this glimpse into their Christmas preparations ...

Last month Jenn hosted a magnificent Loveliness of Advent fair at Family in Feast and Feria , with a host of ideas all aimed at helping us to keep the real meaning of Christmas at the centre of our preparations. Ruth's Jesse Tree and Alice R's Advent wreath show us some of these ideas in action.

Jenn herself is halfway done preparing for Christmas. Admire her husband's splendid first effort at carpentry ... a Christmas tree platform. What a treat for a small boy (or a bigger one!), and what a lovely new family Christmas tradition. Bridget and her family are also in the midst of their Christmas preparations, and already have a tree, lights, cards and a large quantity of cookies to show for their efforts.

Many families enjoy celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the real Santa Claus. Alice and her family ventured out from the Cottage to join friends for an afternoon of St.Nicholas Day crafts (don't miss the photo at the end of the littlest member of the family enjoying herself). Dawn of By Sun and Candlelight has been making colourful Christmas crafts at home with her boys, and is enjoying a season of colour, light and joy.

For most of us cooking and preparing food is a big part of the Christmas season. At A Living Education Katherine puts this into perspective with a thoughtful post on the gift of hospitality, reminding us that the preparation of food is a privilege and a true act of love. Stef, as her blog name attests, is a queen of the kitchen. Her Christmas confections are not only scrumptious, but allergy free. We have also been busy in the kitchen ourselves. Here in England Christmas means a turkey dinner with all the trimmings (no Thanksgiving, remember!) followed by a traditional Christmas pudding. Star and I spent a busy afternoon measuring, chopping, grating and mixing our puddings on "Stir-Up Monday" (we were a day late for Stir-Up Sunday). Next week we will be on a mission to produce mince pies.

Christmas for most families includes a fair number of outside activities as well as domestic preparations. We have discovered that Christmas is a very busy time for brass bands, and Angel has been rushing around playing Christmas music at various shopping malls and social clubs. Tonight we will be wrapping up warm for Christmas carols on the village green. Angel and Star will both be playing with the band and I shall enjoy getting the chance to join in the carols - usually I miss out on singing because I am playing myself. Over in Louisiana Cay shares joyful photos of her children's Christmas pageant (love the little angel with the cookie!). She also shows us how it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks and gives us an important reminder - what matters is not how much we do, but that we focus on the spirit of the season, relax, keep it simple and enjoy preparing for Christmas.

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed posts to this fair. Compiling it has given me a warm, seasonal glow ... I hope reading it has done the same for you. May your Advent be blessed, and your preparations for the great Feast of Christmas be joyful ones! I'm going to leave the last word to Tracy, who is enjoying her Christmas preparations to the full:

It’s beginning to look at LOT like Christmas,
Everywhere we go…..
Take a look at the stressed out folks,
running to and fro,
They frown like scrooge,
and make me feel so low!

Well, that’s IF I let them! And I don’t! I have had the Christmas spirit since October 13th, when a HUGE “October Surprise” storm hit our area, knocking down trees, and huge branches of trees, power lines, and every other line you can think of, obliterating my most favorite season of the year, Autumn. It was then that I decided I’d not allow that to upset me, and I’d just move on to my very favorite Holiday of the year,

My daughter and I began watching Christmas movies right away, one of our favorites like Christmas with the Kranks. And we watched one given to us as a gift by Grandma last year but hadn’t yet seen, The Polar Express. Our favorite song of course is Josh Groban’s, *Believe*. We ordered a few from Netflix that we had never seen, some oldies like Christmas in Connecticut, and White Christmas. Our family watched our traditional VERY all-time favorite, The Christmas Story.

We’ve been listening to many of my huge Christmas CD collection since then too, my favorite Christmas CDs from my favorite artists like James Taylor, Manheim Steamroller, Amy Grant, Jim Brickman, Harry Connick Jr., and Bing Crosby. And we’ve listened to other collections like our all-time favorite, Charlie Brown Christmas!

Little by little, our home is becoming decorated. The outside was decorated first, with pretty, white lights all throughout the bushes, and our beautiful hand made silhouetted nativity, made by my boys (my husband and two boys) glows in front of our home, while passersby on our busy street get to see it glowing happily. While everything inside isn’t up yet, our Advent wreath has been on our table since the first Sunday of Advent, a new record in our home. *g* And over the course of a week, our Christmas tree has been put up and decorated. We can’t have a real tree, because I’m allergic to pine (*sigh*), but we love our tree, it fits our tiny living room perfectly. ;o) My huge snowman collection, which is put in the bathroom is now up. And we just put up our nativity on our entertainment center just a few days ago. It sits on a pretty white sheet, and little blue lights surround the nativity, making it a pretty feature in our home, just as it should be! :o) I just remembered our felt advent tree isn’t up (better do that today! (blush)). And we still have to put the village up on the piano. We have a huge village that comes to life on our piano at Christmas. That, and our joyful choir of carolers and angels will go up, and we’ll be well decorated for the beautiful holiday!

Christmas cookies are being planned, but I always wait to make those, because I like fresh cookies. Snickerdoodles will be the cookies made for our family Christmas cookie exchange. Then for our family, and the trays I bring to family gatherings, we’ll have our traditional favorites, most from my childhood, when my mom would make tons of cookies. We’ll make cut outs (and decorate as a family as per our tradition), cream cheese, thumbprints, and peanut butter blossoms. What a neat time of year this is!

I love our Christmas traditions. We’ve brought together some from both sides of our family, and made some of our own over our 18 years as a family. We spend a joy-filled time with our huge extended family, Christmas eve with husband’s side, and Christmas afternoon with my side. My dh is one of 9, and me, one of 6, with over 50 cousins here in our area to celebrate with! Dad is an organist, (besides his full time job), so our Christmas is always a bit different. Our Christmas morning, we have to get up early, after celebrating with dh’s side of the family, and being at Midnight Mass the night before (which is at 10 pm. LOL). We open gifts, have a nice breakfast, then dad goes to play Mass while the kids “play”, and I regroup. ;o) *bwg* Then comes Christmas with my side of the family. It’s really a beautiful and wonderful way to celebrate the joyous Christmas holiday, and the blessings which God has given to our family…… HIS life and our Faith, our beautiful extended family, and our precious family here in our tiny house in Amherst, NY. Little by little, our Christmas here is being prepared and made to be the incredible celebration it should be….a day to celebrate the JOY, PEACE, and LOVE of our precious Savior as He came to earth to bring us all home one day with Him. PRAISE GOD, and MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!!!

With Love,
Tracy Q and the Q family

Postscript: My email has been behaving eccentrically over the past couple of days. Please let me know if you submitted something for the fair and it is not here.


Karen E. said...

Thank you for all the great links!

I've fallen so miserably behind on these great fairs -- I need to catch up, and will start with you today!

Jenn M said...

Lovely job, Kathryn! And I loved readings about your puddings. I've never had mincemeat, but now I'm itching to try it.

JennM said...

Now I'm showing my mince the same as mincemeat?

Cay said...

What a perfect job!
What a lovely fair!
You did great, Kathryn. Thank you.

The Bookworm said...

Jenn ... mince here usually means minced meat (hamburger? ground beef), but "mince pies" use sweet mincemeat made with spiced dried fruit. Originally minced meat was included in the mixture, hence the name - but these days they are just sweet pies.

Bridget said...

This is beautiful, Kathryn!

My mother loves mince meat pies. I'll have to make one for her for Christmas dinner.

Dawn said...

Thank you so much, Kathryn! I will be reading this all weekend! :)

meredith said...

What a beautiful job Kathryn, bravo!!