Everything is better by candlelight

December 10th, 2006

Hands down my children’s favorite Christmas tradition is the Advent Wreath.

Lighting The Advent Wreath

Every night before bedtime during Advent we light the candles in our wreath and sit down to listen to our Advent story. Most of the time the children will have cookies and eggnog while I read. It helps to keep the mouths of the younger children busy doing somethig else besides talking.

Some years we have made the wreath, some years we have made the candles. We have had candles that were colored other than the traditional purple and pink. We have kept the wreath in various rooms in our houses depending on how we decorated that year. This year for the first time we have it as a centerpiece on our kitchen table. It may not survive to use another year.

But those things aren’t the important part of the tradition. What the children like most is all of us gathering together around the candle lit wreath and reading together. Each night a different child has a turn lighting, and then blowing out, the candles.

For the past six years or so we have been alternating reading the books in the Jotham’s Journey trilogy. We have tried other books, but none of them have held their interest the way that these books do.

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These books have a child as the main character who faces some some sort of adversity that they must overcome. Their paths cross in the three books and they all end up in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. The stories are along the lines of historical fiction in that the settings and places give a picture of what life must have been like 2000 years ago.

This year we are reading Bartholomew’s Passage. Bartholomew is a boy who was kidnapped by the Roman army and sold into slavery. These stories have the added benefit of givig me the ability to say to children afflicted with the gimmees, “Do you think Bartholomew would have been grateful?” Okay, I am kidding. (Maybe)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting This book is beautiful for youger children, I’d estimate 4-8 yrs old. It is a great coffee table book for any ages. I really like this hefty book, but for our nightly reading I wanted something meatier to read.

The description for amazon says: There are 25 pages–one for each day of Advent–that feature a door that actually opens. And behind each door is an appropriate picture and a part of the Christmas story with simple text that even the youngest can understand.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting I have been selectively chosing readings out of this book this year. Today I read from it a retelling of the classic O. Henry story “The Gift of the Magi” and it prompted a good conversation with my older children about giving.

The stories give the scoop behind many of the customs of Christmas (What is frankincense? Who were the magi? What was the Christmas star?) These are stories about a strange Christmas truce, about Charles Dickens, an unusual Christmas tree, and many other items you may never have heard about. Each story begins with a portion of the words from Handel’s “Messiah” and is linked to the music which is included on the free CD included with the book. Each story is illustrated by a beautiful full-color drawing from classic works of art, and there is an end-section that is chock full of fascinating facts, trivia, and activities. (description from the amazon website)

We listen to a CD of Handel’s Messiah that is not the one that came with the book. It makes nice background music in the house during the Christmas season. The linking of the stories in the text to the CD seems a bit forced to me in the case of many of the stories, but overall if you are looking for a way to work listening to this classic piece of Christmas music into your Advent season, you couldn’t go wrong with this book/cd set.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting A friend just told me about this book and I am considering buying it to add to our repetoire for next year. These short feel good type of stories are perfect for the kids to listen to.

*****

Even if you are not Christian or particularly religious I think gathering together every night with your entire family, reading by candlelight, and sharing some good stories is a worthwhile experience. It sets apart this time of year as special. A time that encourages us to think more of others, to be a tad more considerate than we might ordinarily be, and to build some memeories that will be cherished for years to come.

Let’s talk holiday traditions

December 8th, 2006

Whatever holiday it is that you celebrate.

What sort of traditions do you have in your family?

We have several that the children enjoy. Occasionally we will try something new, add it into the mix and sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t. The Advent calendar is one of those things. If I buy one the kids like it, but they don’t really miss it if I forget, like I did this year. I am going to spend the next week talking about the various traditions that we have established for our family during the holidays.

We are a family of readers. it only makes sense that the first tradition I write about is about books.

Christmas Books
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Basket of Chrismas books

Every year I wrap all of our Christmas story books in wrapping paper and put them in a basket. Each day the younger children take turns picking out and unwrapping a book for us to read. And yes, we have over 25 of them. (Advent varies slightly in length from year to year– this year it began December 2nd, so we will double up on a day when one of the children happens to pick a short book.)

The books vary from the tried and true old classics like, Twas the Night before Christmas

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to the modern classic, Polar Express

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to books like the Berenstain Bears visit Santa Bear, I’m not posting a picture of this one.

Every year I try to buy a few more books to add to the mix to replace some of the lesser loved (usually by me) or too juvenile ones in our collection. I look for rich quality pictures and an engaging storyline that appeals to both grown-ups and children.

Today we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey

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This book is a perfect example of the sort I try to find. The story is deep enough that a twelve year old can listen to it and discuss it afterward, but the beautifully detailed illustrations keep the interest of an almost 2yr old while I am reading.

So tell me what are your holiday traditions? Do you do something unique or fun that your family enjoys? Or did you do something as a child that you hope to continue as an adult?

Write about it on your own blog if you like and leave a link to the post in the comments.

I’m not dead, it just seems that way

December 6th, 2006

Hello? tap tap tap Is this thing on?

I have new posts coming. I do, really I promise.

I have been fighting spam over here and so I have turned off comments on all my old posts. Deleting a couple hundred a day was getting old.

I love this time of year, steeped with family traditions and fun. And also “fun”

But it is busy. I have lots of half posts and thoughts jotted down. Lots of emails I mean to reply to. But finding the time to sit down and type them out coherently has not been happening.