Friday, December 6, 2019

Christmas...a Month of Merrymaking

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Here on Berryridge Farm, John and I start making merry today, on St. Nicholas’ feast day, and continue until January 6th,  Epiphany. I unofficially begin the season the first Sunday of Advent, getting out my three precious Advent calendars (the same ones I’ve kept for several decades). Then, it's off to the closet to pull out my favorite holiday book: Mary Engelbreit’s illustrated collection of holiday songs, scripture and stories. When December 6 arrives, John and I begin the holidays in earnest, with the St. Nick from antiquity. If you’d like to add more holiday traditions to your season, there’s plenty of fun and meaningful celebrations all the way to Christmas Eve and Day… And beyond!

Yule Lads

To me, the absolutely most entertaining tradition (if not exactly religious or spiritual) hails from Iceland: the Yule Lads, beginning 13 days before Christmas. (See my 2016 holiday post.) These 13 mischievous trolls do pranks or out-and-out wreak havoc in your house every day until Christmas…so make sure you’re good, or you’ll find a piece of rotten potato in your shoe!

Counting down to December 25…

In Sweden, St. Lucia’s Day honors this saint on December 13. There's the Winter Solstice—I have friends who set aside a day to observe the event with a special gathering, which this year occurs December 21. While John and I don’t do anything all that special for the solstice, we still rejoice to think of the light on its way, each day bringing the blessing of few more minutes of daylight. We always mark Hanukkah too—on the 22nd this year—so we can say “Happy Hanukkah” to our favorite neighbors.

Tonight, we’ll start decorating the house—set up our favorite Christmas figurines on the dining room table, bring out the other knickknacks and candles, and hang up the two beautiful Christmas tapestries from John. It’s not a lot, nothing like the collectors’ ginormous displays you see in magazines. It seems to me, when every inch of someone’s house is covered with stuff, each figurine or candle or special ornament your child made for you gets lost in the shuffle. John will select the Best Holiday Playlist Ever—full of traditional carols, choir music, or elegant instrumentals.

Since we like a l-o-n-g holiday season, we wait until the second week of December to get a Christmas tree—to make sure the needles will stay on the free well into January! Then begins the cookie baking, the holiday movie watching, music every night, contemplating the lights and the meaning of the season, the gatherings with friends and family… and the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Christmas Letdown

If you feel a letdown at the end of Christmas day—The food! The gifts! The mess! And the worst, Facing the mall the next day to return gifts!!—here’s a new tradition to think about: the 12 Days of Christmas, as featured in the old carol. The 12 days aren’t the ones leading  up to Christmas, but the ones after. Okay, in our modern time, this stretch of days is no longer all about partridges or pear trees or golden rings or maids a’milking (how many again?), but why not carry on with more celebrating? Music, maybe a Kwanzaa get-together, more contemplation of the meaning of the holidays…until the 12th day, Epiphany, January 6.

Women’s Christmas in Ireland

In Ireland, there’s an old-time tradition on the 12th day of Christmas: “Women’s Christmas,” or Nollaig na mBan, related charmingly here by author Felicity Hayes-McCoy. The men stay home, while females of all ages—toddlers to girls, mothers to elders—get together for feasting and dancing. These days, you might find a Women’s Christmas gathering only in Ireland’s rural areas. Still, you can start your own!

New Year's Resolutions...don't start until January 7!

Even though John and I still miss our chickens, we're grateful for the time we  had them and their abundant gifts of eggs...and resolve to do much better next time. So in this season of gratitude and love and abundance, why not end your holiday season with a flourish…Forget your New Year’s resolutions, and instead, on the 12th day of Christmas, keep the tree up, bake another batch of holiday cookies, break out the bubbly/sparkling cider, and toast the wonderfulness of life!

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