Book Title:  Home For Christmas

Author: Jan Brett

Illustrator: Jan Brett

Genre:  Picture Book, Christmas

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

  • ISBN-10: 0399256539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399256530

 

Pages: 32

Age: 3-7

Why Did I Choose It?  Honestly, because it's the Christmas book we just read last night so it's fresh in my mind! 😉

My Review:  Jan Brett is a favorite storyteller/illustrator of this blogger, so it's not a surprise to me that I've enjoyed this book.  I recall the reason I chose this book from the shelf was the beautiful moose on the front cover. The illustrations alone could sell this book as they are full of  'living' details!  The storyline follows a troll who is a quite naughty and a bit selfish -  he doesn't want to do his chores, something every child can identify with! Rollo chooses to leave home and not be kind and helpful.  Each time Rollo encounters an animal family he believes he has found a better place to live, only to be dismayed at something not so wonderful.  Read the story to find out what takes Rollo back home and what happy event in the life of a troll occurs when he learns his lesson. While this isn't a Nativity story, it does fit into lessons of kindness for young children which is always a good quality to have at Christmastime.

Other Books By This Author: The Mitten, The Hat, The Three Snow Bears and many others

Jan Brett Page at Amazon

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I love to read.

I especially love to read at Christmastime! And in December, it's been pretty much an unspoken rule or tradition that I read Christmas themed books at night to the kids- now it's pretty much just one kid- but we have enjoyed quite a few nice Christmas stories this past week!  So while today is not Book Review Wednesday, I wanted to let you in on this favorite December activity of mine.

My personal favorite Christmas book is actually not a kid's book per se - it's this one-

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Norman Rockwell's Christmas book is filled with classic Christmas stories, poems, Carols and more- not to mention illustrated by this magnificent artist!  While a lot of these stories may be a bit advanced for a 4 year old, I do intend to read from this book this December- little snippets here and there including Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus,  bible selections, and several Carols.  I may incorporate a bit of artist study as well, showing him the colorful photos of the paintings and very informally talking about them with him.  I really look forward to sharing this book with him that I was gifted with in my first year of college by my wonderful grandparents.  It seems to be out of print now, but here's an Amazon link to some used copies!

Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book : Carols, Stories, Poems, Recollections

In addition to my reading at Christmastime, I've stumbled upon several blogs recently that are putting up very nice Christmas book lists.  I'd love to have the time to do this myself but time is eluding me.  So I thought I'd at least share with my viewers the blog sites that ARE putting up these great lists so you can benefit from them as I have! I'll add to this list as I stumble upon more. I would love to do my own list for next year - so PLEASE tell me what books YOU LOVE to read at Christmas!  (Children's and adult!)

The Busy Mom's Favorite Christmas Books

Best New Kids' Christmas Books 2014

25 Books of Christmas: Our Advent Calendar

A Very Bookish Countdown

Charlotte Mason's Christmas List : 5 Living Books Library Picks (2012)

And one more related list at Charlotte Mason & Home Education!

 

What's YOUR favorite Christmas Book list AND...

...What's YOUR favorite Christmas book and WHY is it your favorite???

 

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Book Title:  Jotham's Journey; A Storybook for Advent
Author: Arnold Ytreeide

Genre: Fiction Storybook, Christmas

Publisher:  Kregel Publications (August 26, 2008)

Pages: 168

Ages: 6-14 and up

Why Did I Choose It?  Well it's December of course and I love to have a large stack of Christmas themed books to read throughout the month.  I wanted to be sure you all had a chance to know about it as it's a book that's meant to be read in parts, nightly, throughout all advent.  It's still early December so I'm sure you could catch up easily if you get it now and read a couple extra sections here and there.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  Over and over Jotham screamed for his family, but there was no one to hear him.  They had vanished.  He was alone.  Where had they gone? How long ago did they leave? Through quick, stabbing sobs Jotham told himself, "I must look for my family.  I must search until I find them."  And so his journey began.

My Review: My children and I read this first book of a series of three several years ago.  Jotham's Journey is divided into short chapters to allow for nightly readings starting 4 Sundays before Christmas (and can easily be caught up by those who start late or who forget a night here and there). We became mesmerized by the adventures of ten-year old Jotham as he travels across Israel in search of his family. We felt compelled to read more as the end of many chapters kept us on the edge of our seats as Jotham faces robbers, kidnappers and other challenges until the end. Can you guess what he will find in Bethlehem?  It was fun fitting the pieces of the story together with information we knew from the Gospels and information gleaned from the Old Testament to realize who all  the characters were in Jotham's story and the role they all played in the real Christmas story. I highly recommend making this book and the others in the series part of your advent/nativity family traditions.

Other Books By This Author:  Bartholomew's Passage,  Tabitha's Travels and Amon's Adventure

You may also want to check out JothamsJourney.com

I don't have much of a post today....but wanted to let my homeschool readers know of a good sale over at HEDUA.

But as I'm posting about a sale during the beginning of this holiday season, let me ask-

How many of you shop on Black Friday?  Do any of you have your Christmas shopping done?  Every year I tell my husband, "Next year, let's get it all done BEFORE Thanksgiving.... so we can really REALLY enjoy the advent/nativity season."  And every year I sit here the week of Thanksgiving realizing I haven't gotten it all done.  AGAIN.

I love the holidays.  I love Christmas.  I love giving presents.  I just don't like the cramming it all in and the stressed involved in those last-minute decisions and last-minute shopping with all those people out there that seem to forget what it's all about.

What, if anything, do YOU do to relieve the pressures and hassles of the season and keep the focus on what it's really all about?

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Today is the annual Christmas get together with my family 🙂

It's a big family.  Mom and PapPap had 6 kids, 5 of which are still living and they raised me.  So Mom and  all of their kids and their kids' kids get together at Christmas for a meal and gift exchange.  It's usually a really fun time.  So I thought today I would share quotes about family.

"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."  ~Dan Wilcox and  Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H
"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts."  ~Author Unknown

"You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."  ~Desmond Tutu

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
~ Jane Howard

"Family faces are magic mirrors looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future."
~Gail Lumet Buckley

Random Thoughts on Saturday:

  • I like fudge.
  • I love my family.
  • Having little children makes Christmas morning extra fun and exciting.
  • I am computer challenged....  actually I am technology challenged  🙁
  • The only problem with having lots of books stacked on my shelf is deciding which one to read first!
  • Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!  I hope you are all still enjoying the Christmas season with family, friends and faith and love in your hearts!

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Christmas Day may be over but the season is not.  And the reason we celebrate the Holy Day is never gone.

Let us remember the reason of establishing the Feast of the Lord's Birth on December 25th:  In the 4th century, there were heresies being taught.  Followers of Arius were denying that Jesus was God made flesh. In accordance with this teaching, Christians could not celebrate his birth.  In order to fight this error, it was agreed in the Church that the commemoration of the Birth of Jesus, Our Lord, would be separated from the Feast of His Baptism ( Until the 4th century, this Feast was celebrated on January 6 along with the remembrance of Theophany - the Baptism of Our Lord - and was held on the 6th day of the year in relation to the "Sixth Day" when Adam was created because according to ancient tradition, Christ is the "Second Adam").  December 25th was chosen out of several suggestions made at the time as a date for this separate celebration in order to remove temptation from the Christians of that time. The Romans had a pagan festival on this day and it was usually spent in merrymaking and immorality.  Choosing December 25th as the day, therefore, assisted the Church to teach the rejection of pagan ideas and demonstrated that Christ had come to replace those lifeless and immoral teachings.  Most importantly, in choosing a date to separately celebrate the birth of Christ, the Church clearly confessed her faith that God had indeed taken flesh and chose to live here among men.

The sun sets on the night of Christmas Day but the celebration is not over.  There are 12 days of Christmas of course, as I discussed in my previous post on the Russian Orthodox Traditions of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany in which we celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Savior with family and friends.  And there is the rest of the year to come in which we recall not only the Birth of our Lord, but His life on earth, His teachings, and, most importantly, His suffering, death and RESURRECTION!                  His birth leads to His RESURRECTION - which gives us eternal life.   wpid-IMG_20131210_153127_002.jpg

That can't be over in one day.

Continue the celebration.  Keep the LOVE of CHRIST in your heart..keep the magic in your heart - keep the spirit of wanting to give, wanting to smile, wanting to celebrate Christ alive in your soul not just on Christmas Day, but today, tomorrow and all the days of the rest of your life.  May God grant you many many many years to do so!

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With Christmas coming up in a few days, I've read up a bit on Russian Christmas Customs.   Although we ourselves are an Orthodox family and my husband is Russian, we don't necessarily follow all these customs. However, I enjoy reading about them and occasionally take part of an old tradition when it sounds appealing and doable for our family.

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox
Church celebrates its Christmas in accordance with the old Julian calendar  (Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th and several Orthodox families exchange gifts on this day). We have talked many years of doing part of our gift celebration on Russian Christmas but it just never happens.  We do leave our tree up until the day after Russian Christmas though and I always wish my husband a Merry Christmas once again.

We, as most Orthodox in America, celebrate Christmas according to the western calendar on December 25th.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas is the third most important feast (Pascha, or Easter, and Pentecost are the most important).

The 12 days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany are called Christmastide  (traditionally falling on January 6th, Epiphany  marks the revelation of Jesus Christ as God - though of course that manifestation occurred in the womb - and is the day we celebrate the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan).  These holy days have been called the 12 Days of Christmas and are usually celebrated by visiting friends and relatives.

The Holy Supper, apparently, is comparable to a Carpotho-Rusyn and Ukrainian meal and is served on Christmas Eve. A white table-cloth symbolizing Christ's swaddling clothes cover the table.  A white candle symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World adorns the center of the table. There are traditional ethnic foods served including Kutya, a special porridge made of wheat and other grains served with honey and poppy seeds.  The dish symbolizes hope and immortality while the honey represents happiness. Other dishes include: Sauerkraut Soup, Parsley Potatoes and Red Wine.  There is no meat as this meal, though festive in nature, still takes place during the fast.

There is typically two services held in the Orthodox Church at Christmas.  One is a vesper's service held on Christmas Eve while the Liturgy service is held on Christmas morning. The traditional Christmas Greeting"Christ Is Born!" can still be heard exclaimed by Orthodox Christians everywhere and can often be seen on Christmas cards. (It's always written in ours!) The traditional response is "Glorify Him!" We use this greeting in Church and in public throughout the Christmas holidays and for several weeks after it.

Children usually go Christmas Caroling on Christmas carrying an eight pointed star (also a Romanian tradition) and an icon in the center.

On the Sunday after the Nativity (Christmas) a Yolka (Christmas party) is held.

And there is the custom of Babouschka.  Babouschka, according to old tales, was inhospitable and did not offer food or shelter to the Magi as they were traveling and searching for the Christ Child.  Because of this inhospitable behavior, she still wanders the countryside in search of the Child Jesus.  Along the way, as she has learned her lesson, she stops at homes of children and leaves them gifts.

Sources For More Information on Russian Customs:

Russian Crafts

Advantour

The Treasured Traditions and Customs of the Orthodox Churches by Mary Paloumpis Hallick

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Christmas is a time  when you get homesick - even when you're home.”    ~  Carol Nelson

It's that time of the year again. Everywhere you look, there's a reminder:  beautifully decorated Christmas trees, the smell of cookies in the air and Silver Bells by Bing Crosby playing on the radio...

Those are sweet memories of my childhood.  I think Christmas brings the fondest of memories...   Those are the memories I had that were always filled with love....  the feelings of always being safe and snug and wrapped in good times and cheer.  So even when I am home....whether it be for a short visit to see Mom or over the holidays and everyone is there, I am still a bit wistful for those days... days of Christmas Joy. What is one of your favorite Christmas memories that make you homesick?

Random Thoughts on a Saturday:

  • The look on a child's face when they see Santa walking towards them has enough sparkle to light up a Christmas tree.  🙂
  • When a parent displays a child's picture, it is really the parent displaying the pride they have in that child(which is never a bad thing!) and LOTS of pictures = LOTS of pride 🙂
  • Bing Crosby and Gene Autry ALWAYS remind me of a special man....  PaPPap....
  • Dr. Charles Richett won the Nobel Prize in 1913 due to his research that demonstrated  that hay fever, asthma and anaphylactic shock and other inflammatory allergic reactions were often caused by reactions to undigested proteins in the bloodstream from injected vaccines.  (Some researches currently believe it is trace proteins from peanut oil in vaccines that may be a likely cause of deadly peanut allergies that seem to be growing rampantly)
  • My husband gets the credit for this one:   What plant does MSG come from?  A Chemical Plant!!!
  • A good book can transform your thoughts and your life...sometimes for moments; sometimes for life!
  • My new Acorn slippers with sheepskin lining are the most wonderful and most warm slippers I have EVER owned.... (thanks to my daughter and husband for the b-day gift!!)
  • Gratitude for Christmas Memories goes into my gratitude journal today.
  • Today's post is #100 for me!!!

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Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Nicholas in the Orthodox Church.

Before converting to Orthodoxy, I really didn't know much about the real St. Nicholas.  I knew he existed.  I knew there really had been a man that grew into the legendary figure that most children know today as 'Santa Claus'.  

I grew up with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Oh how I believed!

I would look up into the sky on our way home from Christmas Eve services and wonder if that red light in the sky belonged to a reindeer...or was it just a plane?  I went to bed anxiously awaiting the arrival of 'a miniature slay'with eight tiny reindeer NINE reindeer (we can't remember the most legendary reindeer of all) and 'a little old driver so lively and quick'!  AND I was really anxious that Santa just may pass me over with all the adults up in the house making such ridiculous noises!! (okay...don't judge at just how incredibly naive I was  and had NO idea they were going up and down the attic stairs to get hidden presents, wrapping and all that adults do on Christmas eve.....)

Orthodox tradition tells us that Nicholas was born to an elderly couple in Asia Minor (Turkey) in 280 AD.  His parents had been wealthy.  When they died, Nicholas began giving generously to the poor.  One story tells of how he had thrown money into the window of a merchant one night in order to save the merchant's daughters from being sold into prostitution due to the merchant's debts. The merchant later discovered who it was but Nicholas did not want the story told - as he wanted all to give glory to God alone.  This particular story is the inspiration behind secret gift-giving on the anniversary of St. Nicholas' death - December 6th.

Saint Nicholas later became the bishop of Myra. He was imprisoned during Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians and freed by Emporer Constantine.  He died in the year 343 AD.

Read more: http://thestoryofliberty.homestead.com/Saint-Nicholas-to-Santa-Claus-.html#ixzz2m90gx8Q4

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Nicholas_of_Myra

                                                                              

When we had another child after converting to Orthodoxy, I wondered if we should change any of our customs regarding Santa Claus.  The other two children had been raised as I had, believing in a man who drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer.  We set up my Department 57  North Pole Villiage each year and hung our stockings by the fireplace.  I wondered if this was alright to do.  I've decided that it is.

Santa Claus to me, is not just that imaginiary man dressed up in a red suit. He is a symbol.  He is a symbol that stands for having the faith to believe in the impossible.  It's a symbol to believe that Christmas brings joy, love, 'magic'--  Christmas Magic....  Christmas miracles....  and I believe in Christmas miracles.  And I want my children to believe in it too.

Are there other ways to teach about the miracles of Christmas?  Absolutely.  And I don't fault anyone who chooses not teach their child to believe in Santa.  I get it.  But I enjoy the wonderment--- I enjoy seeing the eyes twinkle and the anticipation...and the belief that one man loves little children so much that he would encircle the earth to give to them all.  And we will teach our child about the real St. Nicholas too...and when he's old enough to comprehend which was real and which isn't so much... we will tell him that too (and whatever that age that my child decides to ask questions or not believe is is up to my child...NOT me) ...  but for now...we will continue to take part in that silly part of Christmas  --  sitting on the lap of this really nice man and telling him our Christmas wishes.

I still believe.  Do you?

Friday the 15th of November marked the first day of the Nativity Fast for Orthodox Christians.  This is the period of 40 days before the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, or Christmas as most of the western society calls it, reminding us of the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah who was born in a cave in Bethlehem.  I just read this excerpt today from antiochean.org:

What is the meaning of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord in our family life? How can we live through the preparatory period of Advent as a Christian family? Can this meaning be truly and naturally, unpretentiously, embodied in the experience of a family, a home with children, teenagers, adults and old people?

Of course, first of all, Christmas is a FEAST, a celebration, an occasion for joy. Understanding the real meaning of this joy (God coming to us to share our humanity) comes to every individual gradually, within the measure of his or her spiritual development, but the experience of joy, of rejoicing, of having a very happy time because it is Christmas is something that can be experienced by all members of the family, whatever their age, whatever their level of spirituality . . . if only there is someone within the family who remains a witness of the true meaning of this joy. The experience of a joyous celebration remains the foundation stone of understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Nativity.

Reading this and the rest of the article helped set my mind at ease.  Too often I worry about whether I am setting a right example to my children in allowing them to participate in the commercialism of Christmas.  We do the trees, Christmas cards,  shopping,  baking, and  tell tales of Santa. We do gifts on Christmas morning or sometime close to it if my husband's work schedule and the church schedule allow it to happen that day.

But I worry, are we missing the real point?  But what is that point? The point, of course is the birth of Christ.  And no, of course we know that most likely the actual birthdate was not December 25th.... but we do know it occurred, don't we?  And it IS a cause for wonderous joy and celebration!  God, Himself, came into this earthly world fully God and fully human within the womb of a virgin to share our humanity!  That is, indeed, a cause for great celebration!!

So  the shopping, tree decorating, and baking turkeys were not part of Christ's birthdays while He was alive here on this earth - it is something we do as part of the celebration we enjoy now in rememberance of this great event.  Where we need to caution ourselves is whether we are remembering the point of this celebration or are we getting so wrapped up in the commercialism that we are missing it?  Are we remembering why Christmas morning is significant?  Are we putting our worship time at church first, before the hustle and bustle? Are we being real Christians in our treatment of others while we are out in the midst of that hustle and bustle? Are we remembering the three kings and the symbolisms of their gifts or are we more concerned with the best deal of the shopping season?  Are we remembering the reason for this preperation is for the arrival of a babe lying in a manger, a babe that is Christ? Are we remembering the nativity fast when Orthodox Christians prepare for 40 days beforehand through praying, fasting, giving alms, etc?  After all,if one prepares by cleaning and meal preperation for a guest coming to their homes, shouldn't one also have even greater preperation in preparing for Christ?

          This Year For The Nativity Fast, I'm participating in an activity put together by   Adventures of An Orthodox Mom.  I love reading the psalms! It's being part of a large group of Orthodox women who are praying the psalter together.  Everyone reads a different part of the psalter each day so through the group of over 72 women,  each and every day, the entire psalter is read. Along with the psalms we read each day, we pray for the women in our group.

Our family is also trying once again to complete the readings that go along with the Jesse tree.  We don't have a tree.  Instead I draped a swag of greens over the kitchen window so we can see it during dinner which is when we do our readings.  For more on the Jesse tree project, go to this nice write up on Anticohean.org.

After we do our reading each night, we hang an ornament representing the reading onto the greens.  Then I read a small meditation out of Daily Meditations and Prayers for the Christmas Advent Fast and Epiphany by Presbytera Emily Harakas & Fr Anthony Coniaris.

This year, my husband's schedule is tight around the holy day.  He works the night of Christmas day... so our earthly traditions may need to change a bit.  Obviously church attendance comes first.  We will probably have a more simple meal so we can enjoy the day together as a family rather than worrying about preparing a whole lot of food and the clean up afterwards.  But on that day, and the rest of the days leading up to it, I hope that I can convey the importance of the celebration to my family.  I hope that the Christmas spirit comes into our souls and we remember what it's all about. I hope that all of you will know and feel it too.  The coming of our Lord... it's a great reason to celebrate!

God Bless you all!