Every year on the first Sunday of Advent, Andreas & I create a wreath, and then later that day we light the first candle, at supper-time. Over the next three Sundays, we light one more candle to join the first, and then the second, the third, and the fourth. On Christmas Day, the final candle in the middle is also lit. By then, the candle that kicked off the season has usually burnt down to not much more than a stub, but the light in the centre is now the one that burns bright. Not a bad metaphor.
|Boughs scavenged from local trees that needed pruning.|
When our children were small, we had a couple of friends, Reg & Ellen, who offered their pottery kiln to us. The children and I would play with clay, and over time we made enough pieces to people a Christmas crèche. We used small, metal, funnel-tips, the kind that go onto the end of the bag used for icing cakes, to create the patterns on the Wise Mens' cloaks. On the first Sunday in Advent, the Wise Men and shepherds would be placed on the other side of the living room from where the crèche was. Over the next four weeks they inched closer. On Christmas morning, the baby Jesus would appear – not before.
|30 years old, and hokey as heck - but it is ours.|
These days, I am bit lazy about all that. The crèche and all gets unpacked and goes up at the same time - which is whenever we can make the time. We seem to need to pace ourselves a bit more than we used to. Maybe we should always have done that, but our bodies back then were the equivalent of jet planes and we could heedlessly cover great distances at ear-popping speeds. Now, we travel through life in the equivalent of Greyhound. All is good.
If you look closely, you might notice that there is a distinct absence of sheep in our crèche. I never could do sheep, except in the form of ginger-port-marinated lamb and such. That I can do. Also you might notice that one of our Wise Men has boobs. The way I see it is that since the Bible doesn’t mention how many Wise Men there were, we may as well riff on gender as well. Our wise woman is modeled after Margaret Laurence, my eldest daughter’s godmother. She died far too young, younger than I am now.
Over the years, some of our crèche people have lost their hands, or had to have their heads glued back on again. Even the angel. The greatest amount of damage happened the year I placed the box of clay figurines on a rocking chair when I was in the midst of packing things away. I added the camel, and that was the tipping point. Literally.
Andreas glued all the broken bits back together, so there they still are today, some of them handless, some with glue marks on their necks, but all still in the crèche that he built just as he built much of the two houses that sheltered us for the past four decades.
I haven’t even touched on our various Xmas food traditions, so I will leave that aspect for other posts, maybe even another year. Pacing myself. There is one more tradition though that does not involve food and is also worth mentioning before I close, mostly because we just did it again a few days ago.
For the past three decades, our celebration of Christmas has included an onslaught of recorder playing. Onslauight is the operative word. Sometimes the assembled Schroederians and their offspring finish off a particular Mennonite Christmas carol on the same note. Sometimes not. Regardless of the outcome, it is always declared to be an instance of brilliant harmony, or an inspired atonal variant. We always win. In my books, that’s the kind of winning that is a good note to end on.
So, Merry Christmas. Lashings of abundant good health, love, and joy for all in the year to come.
|Chris, on piano, sheepdogged us through it all once again - in spite of a sudden onset of what turned out to be strep throat. Ah, yes. Tis the Season for flu and such ....|
|A sign of our nomadic but digitally connected times - one family contingent was Skyped in from Prince George. Occasionally, the baby appeared thunderstruck. Understandable.|