The Saturday before Christmas was an important day at our house. We decorated Christmas sugar cookies. This is one of the most anticipated Christmas traditions of all! Everyone loves to spread the frosting and sprinkle the sugar on our soft and thick sugar cookies. Audrey really takes her time and decorates with great detail and beauty. Ethan loves to use orange on his cookies. Sophie really made her cookies look cute and realistic. And Ava, well, she piled the frosting and sprinkles on so high that her cookies would have broke from the weight of it all if we did not hold and support them correctly.
During the Christmas season, we always host a Gingerbread Party. Since our cousins now live in Tennessee with us, we invited them over for this year's party. First, we read Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. Then we mixed, stirred, rolled, cut, and baked our own gingerbread baby cookies. Finally, we decorated gingerbread houses together.
We read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. This is such a touching story of the year a small town in the Appalachian Mountains almost did not have a Christmas Tree. We then needle felted our own Christmas Tree ornaments using a Christmas Tree cookie cutter, some felting needles, and colored wool. This is a fun handicraft for children because it is simple and beautiful. To me, this story and these needle felted ornaments celebrate the simplicity and the beauty of the Christmas Tree!
We read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. This is such a charming and cheerful story. Mr. Willowby gets a very large tree for his very large home but it is just a little too tall. So the very top is cut off. The top of the tree is then given to the maid, but it is just a little too tall for her home. So the very top is cut off again. This keeps going on until the very "tippest" of the top is given to the tiny mouse family. Now everyone has their very own perfect Christmas Tree cheering up their home. It is just too cute!
We made these Christmas Tree cookies to go with our story. The kids had fun swirling the green icing and sprinkling the colored sprinkles on top. They turned out so simple and so sweet.
Our newest Christmas family tradition is ... planting a baby Christmas Tree in our backyard. We will plant a baby Christmas Tree every year and watch them all grow. We read Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray on this special day. This is one of our very favorite Christmas books. It is a celebration of Christmas and growing things.
"At last it was time for Parker and Wilma to choose their trees. That night, across their yards, Christmas twinkled. Far away, too, in rooms they never saw, in places they never knew, five hundred and sixty-six trees that Wilma and Parker had grown wore lights and balls and tinsel in their branches--green balsam branches that smelled the sweet smell of Christmas."
(Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray)
Yesterday, December 13th, was St. Lucia Day. Our family loves observing this traditional Swedish celebration. Legend has it that once during a great famine in Sweden, Saint Lucia appeared with a circle of lights on her head to deliver food to people in need. So, on this morning in Swedish homes today, children wake up early and secretly prepare a special breakfast of coffee, saffron buns, and gingersnaps. The oldest daughter in the family will then wear a white gown, red sash, and a crown of candles on her head to deliver the breakfast to her parents.
In our home, we bake St. Lucia Crown Bread and gingersnaps for St. Lucia Day. We also sing a simple song and read the story of St. Lucia.
"Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia
Wearing white, wearing white
Lighting up the darkest, lighting up the darkest
Winter night, winter night.
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia
Crown alight, crown alight
Hope in the darkest, hope in the darkest
Winter night, winter night."
(tune: Are You Sleeping?)
Happy Saint Lucia Day!
This week we read Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. We love this old-fashioned farm family Christmas story. Every year the family uses the apples from their dear, old apple tree to decorate their Christmas tree. This gave us the idea to decorate our home for Christmas using apples. So we made apple and orange garland to string up on our windows. It does look festive!
"Once upon a time there was a little tree, a beautiful, healthy, green tree. But it was not happy. The little tree did not have soft, green leaves like the other trees in the forest. It had hard, sharp needles, and it did not like them."
This little tree began to wish it could have golden leaves, then glass leaves, then soft green leaves. The tree got each one of these wishes. But the tree slowly began to discover that it was perfect all along.
After reading this warm and reassuring story, we imagined what our own little Christmas trees might wish to be. Then we decorated trees with oil pastels and watercolors. We put a shining star on top of each tree.
"And then a little shining star fell down from heaven...and landed on top of the little tree."
The second week of Advent is here! We are lighting the first and second candles on our Advent Wreath now. We also added gifts from the plant kingdom, branches from our Christmas tree and little pine cones, to our Advent Garden. We read Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones once more, as we think about the whole world anticipating and preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ.