Advent with Little Luther

A reformer, a bishop, and an angel gather under a Jesse Tree…sounds like the beginning of a very strange Advent joke…

We’ve had some fun with Little Luther this year, and I figured Advent should be no different:

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I got him a few seasonally appropriate Playmobil friends (I have to imagine Luther would have enjoyed spending time with a heretic-slapper!), and they’re all hanging out under our Jesse Tree. Just a little Lutheran fun in our Advent season!

A French Colonial Christmas

Today, after celebrating Christmas in Italy on The Hill, we traveled to the Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia to celebrate a French colonial Christmas. The house was decorated in a simple, but beautiful style:

There was a musician playing the hammered dulcimer, which really added to the festive spirit!

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And, instead of a typical American Santa, they had Saint Nicholas, also the precursor to the French Père Noël, visiting with people.

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This was a unique, and still very St. Louis, way to celebrate Christmas!

December 6–Nicholas of Myra, Pastor

From the LCMS website:

Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. A.D. 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, although there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of Turkey today) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of “Sinte Klaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas, in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

December 6–Nicholas of Myra, Pastor

From the LCMS website:

Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. A.D. 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, although there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of Turkey today) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of “Sinte Klaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas, in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe. 

Christmas School–Day Six

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

While we may not do the whole Santa thing, we do recognize Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, on this day of his commemoration. We started the day with a few small gifts in the children’s stocking–an orange, some candies, an ornament, and the gifts Turkey and Bunny purchased for their siblings at the Dollar Spot at Target. They, of course, thought this was great fun!

Once school began, we read Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, which is an excellent book from CPH. As the title suggests, this book tells the story of the actual St. Nicholas, (or at least as much of it as we know), as opposed to the normal Santa stories we hear at this time of year. This story illustrates the faith and generosity of Nicholas of Myra, as well as reminds us that we should be practicing that same generosity (and not only at Christmas!), because of the generosity God shows to us in the gifts He gives us.

We then read another version of this same story in The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories. This time, however, we read a Dutch legend, instead of a biographical story, and there were some glaring differences. It is much easier to see where our Santa mythology comes from when reading this particular version–According to the Dutch, St. Nicholas stood on rooftops, and tossed coins down chimneys, which then landed in stockings. It was fun to compare and contrast the two stories, even if this one veered pretty far from the truth.

We also watched the Veggie Tales DVD, Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving. This was, naturally, mostly just for fun, (who doesn’t love Veggie Tales?), but there was some historical information in this recording. I will admit, however, you really have to look for it–this particular story takes some real liberties with the life of Nicholas, especially as it tries to morph his story into the Santa mythos. In spite of that, it does once again capture the spirit of generosity, which is always a good lesson for children to learn, and hear over and over. I would suggest that it’s a good idea to talk about this one with the children, to make sure that they understand the difference between the fact and fiction in this video.

Today’s craft project was a “Handprint Wreath.” Now, I realize that this had nothing to do with St. Nicholas, but it was a lot of fun, and I’m a sucker for handprint crafts. Plus, it looks really cute!

Kala Christougena!

Today was “Christmas Around the World: Greece” in our little school. Actually, it was more of a Greece/Turkey hybrid, but it worked. I had to throw in Turkey because we also learned about Saint Nicolas (since the commemoration of his death is tomorrow, I wanted to make sure we read the story today, and kept things timely), who hailed from what used to be called Lycia, but is now Turkey.

It  was quite amusing hearing Turkey and Bunny attempt to say “Merry Christmas” in Greek (and I have to admit, my pronunciation of “Kala Christougena” wasn’t that great, either!)  We had a fun time learning about Greek children’s tradition of caroling to homes with triangles, drums, and sometimes, small boats, as a nod to their sea-faring tradition. They were very intrigued to learn about the treats the children often receive in response to their songs! Turkey and Bunny also enjoyed coloring a picture of this tradition from their new Christmas coloring books.

Turkey and Bunny were also quite surprised to learn that the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas a week later than most other Christians do.  They did find similarities in our celebrations, though: we all go to church to celebrate Christ’s birth, many of the foods are the same, the Christmas tree with a star on top is the same, the gathering of friends and family is the same, not to mention the giving of gifts!

The highlight of the day, by far, though, was the eating of the baklava. Although I should have chopped the walnuts a little smaller, and I wrinkled some of the phyllo dough a little too much, it was delicious (and a nice bridge between Turkey and Greece, as there seems to be some question from where it originates)!  I have to admit that I was a little surprised that Turkey and Bunny enjoyed it so much–I thought it might be a little too different for them, but they loved it, and had seconds after dinner tonight.  Making baklava might even become a family tradition for the commemoration of Saint Nicholas every year!baklava

We enjoyed our first stop across the world, and we’re definitely looking forward to visiting the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Germany in the next two weeks!