Christmas Lights

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One of the Christmas traditions we enjoy is walking around and seeing Christmas lights.  Ryan and I enjoyed our time celebrating with friends Friday night.  The festivities including good food (fondue per Zapp family tradition), a white elephant gift exchange, Christmas lights and warm beverages afterward.  Take some time to enjoy the beauty of the holidays with family and friends.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Thankfulness and Anticipation

Seasons are a wonderful way to mark the passage of time.  We just celebrated Thanksgiving which can be a sweet season of thankfulness.  Ryan and I enjoyed the fall colors and time with family in Northern California.  It was nice to relax a little before December comes around.

IMG_20151125_123531I especially love special seasons like Advent because they help us to be intentional in times of busyness.  Today is the first day of Advent.  We will light the first candle, read and pray.  Since we will be in Wisconsin for Christmas, our only decorations this year will be centered around Advent and remembering the birth of our hope, Christ Jesus.

20151129_075719We need daily reminders of the gospel and our Advent wreath is a great way to encourage sweet anticipation during this season that could easily be swallowed up with activities and preparation for Australia.  But Ryan and I will try to pause each day for Advent in order to prepare our hearts for the Christmas season and the celebration for the birth of the Christ Child, the Savior of the world.

Happy Epiphany!

Today is January 6th also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day.  This is the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and part of celebrations in many countries.  We often forget the non-hallmark holidays since many people went back to work as usual here on Monday.  But once again I was reminded when I texted a friend and they told me that they would be busy for the “remainder of the nativity feast”.

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So here is a little about the meaning of and the traditions around Epiphany.  I was first introduced to this when I lived in Germany, where the tree was decorated on Christmas Eve (with real candles!) and it was left up until after Three Kings Day.  I didn’t really understand the significance but once I looked more closely at the church calendar it started to click.

Epiphany is the celebration and recognition of Jesus as the son of God.  It fits with Three Kings Day because this day was a celebration of the visit of the magi.  They came, worshipped him, acknowledged him as the son of God and gave him gifts fitting for his life and death (Matthew 2:1-12).  In some places, like Germany, boys and girls dressed as the wisemen go from house to house singing and collecting money for charity.  Once again I don’t remember all the details but Three Kings Day is definitely still celebrated in the Catholic church in many parts of Germany.  It would be fun to know about more traditions and church celebrations from other places.

I remember being told that the 12 Days of Christmas song, that is popular here in the US, also has spiritual significance but after doing a little digging I’m no longer sure that the spiritual meaning wasn’t just added recently.  I love finding Christ and the gospel signified in cultural or other contexts but I’m not a fan of attributing spiritual meaning where there really isn’t any.  I’ll keep researching but for now my position is that the 12 Days of Christmas is just a secular song that’s exhausting and fun to sing, gold rings, pear tree and all.

But I did find a different song of English origin, A New Dial, that dates much later (around 1625).  There is no doubt of the spiritual significance in this song as they count down the 12 days of Christmas.  And so I will leave you with these lyrics which can be found many places but I got these ones here.  Happy Epiphany everyone!  What a sweet day to remember that Jesus is God’s son.

A New Dial
What are they that are but one?
We have one God alone
In heaven above sits on His throne.

What are they which are but two?
Two testaments, the old and new,
We do acknowledge to be true.

What are they which are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity
Which make one God in unity.

What are they which are but four
Four sweet Evangelists there are,
Christ’s birth, life, death which do declare.

What are they which are but five?
Five senses, like five kings, maintain
In every man a several reign.

What are they which are but six?
Six days to labor is not wrong,
For God himself did work so long.

What are they which are but seven?
Seven liberal arts hath God sent down
With divine skill man’s soul to crown.

What are they which are but eight?
Eight Beatitudes are there given
Use them right and go to heaven.

What are they which are but nine?
Nine Muses, like the heaven’s nine spheres,
With sacred tunes entice our ears.

What are they which are but ten?
Ten statutes God to Moses gave
Which, kept or broke, do spill or save.

What are they which are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus’ sake.

What are they which are but twelve?
Twelve are attending on God’s son;
Twelve make our creed. The Dial’s done.

Ryan’s 12 Days of Christmas

IMG_0614Traditionally the 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days between the celebration of the birth of Christ and Epiphany.  Epiphany marks the day celebrating that Christ is indeed the son of God.  In some countries Epiphany is celebrated with visitation from the Magi or the Wisemen.  When I was in Germany Epiphany is the day that the churches star singers would go house to house, sing and I believe, collect money for charity.  It’s been awhile so I don’t quite remember all the details.  But for many americans I think it’s safe to say that our memories and knowledge of the 12 days of Christmas comes straight from the song, partridge, pear tree, 5 golden rings and all.

I’ll write more about the religious symbolism in the 12 Days of Christmas song closer to the beginning of January but all that to say, I use to think that the 12 days of Christmas were simply the days leading up to Christmas.  But instead they lead to Epiphany, however either way it’s all about anticipation.  It’s the reason I like advent so much.  Anticipation.  I like anticipating what’s next otherwise Christmas, birthday or any other celebrations seem to come and go too quickly.  Or we get caught up in the un-festive trappings so that we can’t wait for it to end.  I like having reminders to keep me happily anticipating in the right way.

So last year for advent I gave Ryan a stack of cards.  One for every day in December.  Since we weren’t always together this was a little something for him to anticipate us being together on Christmas.  This year, doing something every day seemed a little excessive and time consuming so I decided to put together 12 gifts leading up to Christmas.  Ryan’s 12 days of Christmas include all sorts of goodies which I can’t divulge here because we don’t want to ruin the surprise for him.  But i’m excited for him to start opening a gift every day in anticipation of Christmas.

I hope this season is filled with joyous anticipation for everyone.

2014 Tree Cutting

Our quick trip up to Sacramento last weekend resulted in lots of fun, lots of laughter and many new memories.
IMG_0306It’s always fun to get together with my cousins and take trips down memory lane.  We all have great, funny, interesting memories of holidays when we were younger.  The hats we are all wearing use to be in the dress-up box that provided us hours of entertainment when we were little.  But getting together is especially nice now that we are making new memories with our ever-expanding family.  We have new spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, children and expected children (once again, I am not pregnant but three other women in my family are) that are now part of our holiday traditions.  We get to make new memories but we also get to share traditions and memories from the past.

IMG_20141206_144252One of these old traditions comes in the form of the Red Dresses.  These dresses were made by my mother for Christmas Eve many years ago.  All the sisters and Grandma had a dress made for them and they were worn for many years.  One of my aunts still wears it every Christmas Eve while a couple of the other aunts rolled their eyes at the sight of the dresses.

Red Dress ModernAnd here are Santa’s helpers dressed up this year.  We passed out gifts to the new generation.  Three of my cousins now have kids.  My mom was one of 6, there are 9 grandchildren and the great grandchildren count is currently 4 with three more on the way.

IMG_0274Tree cutting is a great way to kick off the Christmas holidays.  Although this picture isn’t the entire family, it is a good portion of the family and we’re quickly running out of space on the stairs.  We’re looking forward to many many more family events and many many more sweet memories.