Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Church Year

I was over at Reasons For Chocolate this morning and my comment on Patty's post was lost, so I thought I would come over here and blog a little about it. Today is the first day of the new Church Year. Back in my single, young adult days, while living and studying in Steubenville, we had a legendary (at least amongst those Grad-NonTrad students who were there at the time) Church New Years Eve Party. Everyone got dressed up and brought delicious food and drink to Isaac House where we had dancing and eating and talking and celebrating. I believe there was even champagne. And, if memory serves right, we stopped at midnight for a prayer, followed by singing Christmas Carol's, followed by more dancing and celebrating.

I have often thought it would be fun to do that again. In fact, Jim and I did have one Church New Year party with friends and family (I think my parents were there) back when M was a baby and D hadn't arrived yet. That was also fun. But since then we have developed new ways to celebrate the New Church Year. Usually the celebration takes the form of a First Sunday of Advent event.
Today we began with Mass, of course, grabbed a donut on the way to the car, and headed home for bacon and eggs. At breakfast we read the second to last chapter of our saint chapter book (Saint Dominic) that we were trying to finish before Advent began. Then we began the decorating.

The Advent Tree came first. We decorate our Christmas tree with white lights, and some purple decorations. This is used for the Jesse Tree. 
I am so excited about this year's Jesse Tree ornaments. I saw these on Etsy last year and waited with great anticipation for them to arrive. Isn't it cute? It is hand painted wood. No more trying to keep up with coloring one each day. My kids are not avid colorerers (did I just invent a word?) and go through stages of being entirely uninterested in coloring anything!

On the subject of new things this Advent, I came up with something new this last month. It all started with my desire to have a nicely decorated Thanksgiving table. I went placemat shopping hoping to find something that looked fallish, and matched our colorful plates. I found nothing. 
Then, it occurred to me that I could make some, but I didn't feel I had the competence to sew them, nor did I have the time. So, I finally settled on just buying some cute fall fabric (on sale at JoAnn's), trace the shape of my favorite placemat, and cut them with shears so they wouldn't shred. That would serve the purpose for the day (and the table for 17 that I was setting). In the process I bought some purple fabric for Advent. Then I got the bright idea to paint something on it...along the lines of those pretty Advent mantle's you see on the Catholic Mommy Blogs (you don't see those mantles? I see them EVERYWHERE). I bought a stencil and some fabric paint pens and went at it...with only a few mistakes.
THEN...I got the bright idea to laminate them. At OfficeMax. Only cost $2 a piece. Not bad, huh?
Word to the wise, in case you want to try it...the laminating guy (I am sure he has some other more important job, but he laminated for me twice) had never done fabric before and he tried very hard to make sure that the went in flat by holding down the sides and things like that. After four times trying to hold it different ways, with four creased placemats, he put the last one in without touching it...and it was perfect. When I went back to do my Thanksgiving placemats he was there, a little bit wiser, and each of the 20 placemats came out perfectly!
In case you can't read it, on the top is the word PATIENCE in all caps, and on the bottom it says "we wait in joyful hope". Yes, I stole that from someone's mantle (Charlotte, to be totally honest). 
That Advent wreath dates back to Aberdeen days. 

Another addition to the Advent tables here is this new Cradle to Cross Wreath. We were able to use it for Lent this past year and now we will use it for Advent. Another hand-made item to add to our traditions!
Each First Sunday of Advent I have given the kids some gift. This year we added to our nativity scene collection....

(not pictured...Little People and several other Nativity scenes)
...with a Playmobil Nativity scene! I didn't get it at Amazon though. I found it at Barnes and Noble for $10 less!

And that is how we begin the New Church Year in the Kennedy house. At least for this year.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving: An American Holiday

 Republished from last year....
For the past few years I have come to appreciate this American holiday more deeply. This is in no small part due to Rush Limbaugh's annual recitation of The Real Thanksgiving Story. 
Now I see Thanksgiving as not just a day for me to be thankful for the blessings in my life, but for us as Americans to appreciate the unique blessings bestowed on our country since before it's founding. 
The story below is my retelling of the Thanksgiving story as I want my children to hear it each year. I share it with you today in the hope that this holiday brings you together with family and friends to reflect upon America's exceptional situation on the world's stage. 
This exceptionalism has nothing to do with our genetic make-up (after all we are a nation of immigrants), or any supposed superior intelligence, but is directly due to the specific vision of freedom and the destiny of man that underpins our founding, and God willing, continues to form us as a nation. 

Thanksgiving and Freedom
By Carol Kennedy
In 1620, a band of Englishmen and their families set sail from England to America on a ship called the Mayflower. There were 102 travelers aboard that ship. They left England to escape an oppressive state religion, the Church of England, and seek the chance to practice their faith freely. They came to be known as Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans who came several years later). 

The trip across the Atlantic ocean took 66 days. When the Pilgrims arrived it was December. The weather was cold and there was snow on the ground. There were no other people living in this spot, no buildings, no stores, nothing to welcome them. 

That first winter was very difficult. The Pilgrims were unprepared and supplies were very low. Many people died. By springtime there were barely fifty Pilgrims left. 

As the weather warmed, the Pilgrims began to work hard to plant, to hunt, and to fish. When they left England, they had agreed to share all the fruits of their labor equally. So each person worked for the whole group. Every field planted, tended, and harvested was split among the fifty pilgrims equally. They also depended on trade and supply ships to survive.
In March of 1621 they met some neighbors. An Indian named Massasoit introduced them to his tribe. The Indians and the Pilgrims agreed to live peacefully. They would work together to fight off unfriendly Indians. 

In the fall of that year there was enough food for everyone. The harsh winter was behind them and they were grateful to God. When it came time for harvest they celebrated God’s blessings on them. The celebration included feasting, sports and games, and their new friends. They gave thanks to God for surviving their first year. 

But, things were still not easy. For the next two years, harvests were barely adequate. They still depended on the supply ships. However, sea travel was so difficult in those days that they were never sure when to expect the next ship. Finally, the Governor and some of the leading citizens got together to make a new plan. They decided that the original system of 
sharing all goods equally was the problem. People resented working for those members of the community who did not work hard. Wives resented doing tasks for men other than their husband. And they were reluctant to encourage their children to work as well. 

The new plan was a system of private property. Each family would receive a plot of land that they could work. And the fruits of that work would be theirs. Each man worked for the sake of himself, and his wife and children. The wives now went willingly into the fields, with their little ones in tow. This change made the community more productive and they finally began to live without the danger of famine so close to their doorstep. 

One hundred and fifty years later, in 1789, our first president, George Washington, declared a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month of November. His declaration stated that we should, as a nation, be thankful to God for His providence, especially in the founding of the new country called the United States of America. 
President Washington named specific blessings that he thought this country should remember when giving thanks to God: 
  • for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation  
  • for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable intervention of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed
  • for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness
  • for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; 
  • for the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; 

The Pilgrims were not the first Europeans to come to America, nor were they the first colonists to discover the value of private property in bringing about prosperity. However, each Thanksgiving school children color pictures of pilgrims, dress up as pilgrims and write reports about pilgrims. The Pilgrims have become a symbol of the early beginnings of our country. Each Thanksgiving we recall the lessons learned by these early settlers because they have formed the foundation of a country whose commitment to freedom and liberty is unique in the history of the world.