Twenty-five Days of Christmas Cheer: December 23rd (Sunday Serenade)

This post is technically for yesterday, but since I was out of the house all day visiting family, I didn’t have my computer, plus didn’t want to be rude and anti-social. I don’t see my parents and siblings much so I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. 🙂

So, Sunday Serenade. Well, today is the last Sunday of Advent. In church we sang a few Advent hymns during Holy Communion, and the other hymns were Christmas carols. The church looked so beautiful, all decked out for Christmas. It’s been decorated since the beginning of December, but being this close to Christmas Eve, my eyes see things through rose-colored glasses, if you will. Though I always try to see the beauty in the world, there are times when it is just that much more apparent.

Today’s music that I will share with you is not just one song — it’s an entire radio station. An internet radio station, to be exact. One that at this moment is playing sacred Christmas carols nonstop. Lutheran Public Radio is a wonderful station to have on any time of the year, but right now more folks may be willing to listen to it, it being Christmas and all.

Advertisements

Twenty-five Days of Christmas Cheer: December 13th (St. Lucia Day)

Last week I talked about a saint’s day that everyone knows about; St. Nicholas is quite popular the world over. This week, however, the saint’s day that I am going to talk about is not so well known. St. Lucia (or St. Lucy as she is sometimes called) is celebrated mainly in Scandinavia, even though she was probably Sicilian. The tradition of her day became combined with many other Yule traditions which then pretty much led to the celebration there is today. If you read the Wikipedia article you can see all the different traditions. I have never fully celebrated the day, though there are many times when I wish we had when I was a child. This is partly due to the fact that I am the oldest child, so I would have been the one to wear the white gown and the wreath on my head and bring coffee and buns, and maybe gingersnaps (which, by the way, I love), etc. Of course, a scuffle might have ensued, since my sister who is two years younger than me had the American Girl doll Kirsten Larsen who was Swedish and would have celebrated the day. (I had Samantha Parkinson, the Victorian one. Both dolls are retired now…stupid Mattel.)

https://i0.wp.com/di1-3.shoppingshadow.com/images/pi/e5/c3/e6/108846252-260x260-0-0_american+girl+american+girl+kirsten+retired+saint+.jpg

Anyway, my parents didn’t drink coffee, nor are we sufficiently Scandinavian for it to have been a family tradition already (we’re more German Lutheran than Scandinavian Lutheran), so my attempt to celebrate it at 10 years old was half-hearted at best. But, I will share with you a recipe for St. Lucia Buns from Kirsten’s Cookbook anyway. I’ve never been able to make these myself, not having access to saffron (any recommendations where to purchase it?), but I’ve eaten some elsewhere and I really like them. Minus the raisins. Yuck. (By the way, this recipe is written so young kids have an easier time understanding it, so it may sound a bit clunky and repetitive.)

St. Lucia Buns (makes 6 buns)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs (one for the mix, one to mix with 1 tablespoon of water and brush on top of buns before baking)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon saffron

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon cooking oil

24 raisins

Directions:

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter pieces to the warm milk and stir, then turn off the heat.

2. Measure the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir well. Set the bowl aside for 5 minutes.

3. Add the warm milk and melted butter to the yeast. Stir in the sugar, one egg, salt, and saffron. Then add 1 1/2 cups flour and stir until smooth.

4. Add enough of the remaining flour so that you can shape the dough into a ball. Save some of the flour for kneading the dough.

5. Put the dough on a floured cutting board. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough. Add flour when the dough gets sticky.

6. After 5 to 10 minutes of kneading, you will have a smooth ball of dough. It should spring back when you poke it with your finger. Cover the dough with the towel and let it rest while you wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Note: you could use a different bowl, but why make more dirty dishes???)

7. Spread cooking oil in the large bowl. Roll the dough in the oil until it is coated. Cover the bowl with the towel and set it in a warm place to rise. After 45 minutes, the dough should be twice as large. If not, check it again in 15 minutes.

8. Punch down the dough. Then divide it into 6 sections. Take 1 section and divide it in half. Roll each half into an 8-inch rope. Cross the 2 ropes in the middle. Then coil the ends in tight circles. Shape 5 more buns in the same way.

9. Place the buns 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with the towel. Let the buns rise for 30 to 45 minutes until they double in size. Preheat the oven to 350 while they are rising.

10. Mix the other egg and water with a fork in a small bowl. Brush this mixture lightly over the top of each bun. Decorate the buns with raisins.

11. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes. When the buns are golden brown, move them to a wire rack to cool. (Note: original recipe says to have an adult move them to the wire rack, but I figured that didn’t need to be said!)

https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_fHzwF9oHiB4/R2GIhLolPWI/AAAAAAAABsA/9sBS4bfGcgo/s320/lucia.gif   

If you make these buns and enjoy them, please let me know! And again, if you know of a good place/website to purchase saffron, let me know that as well!

One last thing on this St. Lucia Day: It’s American Girl related, again. There is a CD entitled The American Girls Christmas: Music of Christmas Past, which was released in 1999, that has some Swedish Christmas songs on it. This was one of the first CDs I ever personally owned, and I still absolutely adore it.

 

The American Girls Christmas - Music of Christmas Past

 

Twenty-five Days of Christmas Cheer: December 10th (My Favorite Christmas Songs)

We got around 3 inches of snow yesterday, I think. It looks lovely outside. It’s supposed to get warmer in a couple of days…I hope and pray that it does not. I would really like the snow to stay. Yesterday turned out to be a wonderful day, actually. The German Christmas service was beautiful, even though I didn’t understand the sermon. The church it was at had recently had a new pipe organ installed, and it was absolutely heavenly. Perfect sound, filling the sanctuary. I will never understand why people prefer guitar, keyboard, and drums to a pipe organ. They cannot even compare.

Anyway, today I am going to write about my favorite Christmas songs; I say songs, not carols, because a) I already did that list, and b) the songs are the secular ones. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I dislike the modern songs, but I do have a few secular songs that I like to hear and sing at this time of year. These are in no particular order.

1. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

(Only certain recordings…but it’s a fun song!)

2. “Let it Snow”

(This really doesn’t even have to be only a Christmas song. I mean, let’s face it…we’re more likely to get snow in January and February than in December.)

3. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”

(Gotta love Burl Ives and the old Rudolph film! Actually, I like all the songs in that film.)

4. “Silver Bells”

(There’s just something neat about this song.)

5. “White Christmas”

(Okay, this should be at the top of the list, but oh well. I adore this song! Especially when Bing Crosby is singing it.)

6. “Frosty the Snowman”

(Who doesn’t love this song??)

7. “Snoopy’s Christmas”

(I always get super excited when this comes on the radio!)

8. “Twelve Days of Christmas”

(Always fun, especially when caroling.)

9. “Winter Wonderland”

(Again, doesn’t really have to be only a Christmas song.)

10. “Sleigh Ride”

(Since I always liked sleigh rides, this song is definitely a favorite.)

 

Well, there is a list of ten of the secular songs that I like. There are a few more, like “Deck the Halls.” But honestly, this list couldn’t be much longer. Do you have any particular favorites?

Twenty-five Days of Christmas: December 9th Sunday Serenade

It’s finally snowing!! At the time I posted yesterday, I didn’t realize we had snow coming today; now it’s been snowing since at least 6 am and it’s after noon. Soooooooo happy now!! Anyway.

This afternoon, my husband and I are going to be attending a German language Christmas service at another Lutheran church in the area. We went to this together three years ago, shortly after we began dating, but then circumstances arose the last two years that caused us to be unable to go. Two years ago, everything that day was cancelled because of a gigantic snowstorm, and last year, he was working and I didn’t want to go alone.

Today it’s finally beginning to feel like Christmas is just around the corner. Perhaps it’s the snow. Perhaps it’s the anticipation of the service this afternoon. Perhaps it’s simply the joyful message that I heard in church this morning: Christ was born as a babe for us and we no longer need fear eternal torment and separation from God because of our sins.

Here is a link to a Christmas carol entitled “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” for today’s Sunday Serenade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8rC-1MHFGo

Enjoy!

 

Twenty-five Days of Christmas Cheer: December 7th (My Favorite Christmas Carols)

Let me begin this post by mentioning Pearl Harbor. Please, as a nation (America), and elsewhere in our world, let us never forget what happened, both on this day in 1941, and the rest of the war. We don’t need to go through another world war. Yes, the possibility is there; it always is. As long as people disagree and become violent about disagreements, the possibility is there. All the same, let us never forget what WWI and WWII did to our world. World peace isn’t attainable, but we still must never forget.

****************************************************

Now, onto more Christmas cheer! I hope you all liked my post about St. Nick’s Day! Maybe it inspired you to think of your own favorite stories involving Santa Claus. Also, I didn’t end up getting anything done yesterday that I intended to. Days like that are frustrating, to say the least, but when the reason is that my mother-in-law randomly invited me over for lunch, I think it’s all good. She lives barely 5 minutes away when the weather is good, so yeah. Hopefully today I am going to do some baking. I totally intended to make gingerbread cookies yesterday afternoon, but yeah that didn’t happen. Today, however, instead of making the cookies, I am going to attempt to do some sewing first. A dear friend from my family’s church let me borrow one of her sewing machines, so I bought all the supplies to make an adorable Christmas apron, complete with ruffly eyelet! I haven’t done any sewing since last year summer, when I made my wedding dress, but hey, an apron should be a lot simpler than a wedding dress, right?! And I can’t legitimately do any Christmas baking until I’ve made my Christmas apron….

*******************************************************

So, favorite Christmas carols. Now, when I say carols, I am referring to the sacred songs about the Christ Child. You’ve already read my few mentions of my dislike for secular Christmas songs, haha. Now, I don’t hate secular songs; they can be lots of fun. Many of the classics like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Silver Bells” I really do like. It’s the modern ones I can’t stand…but that’s a post for another day!

Growing up, the hymns of the church were my favorite kind of music. I adore the pipe organ (as I think is mentioned in older posts on this blog), and I also adored the evening church services as a child. I still do adore them. There’s something quite special about worshiping the Lord in a sanctuary only lit by inside lights and candles. Anyway. I am going to list my top ten Christmas carols/hymns. At least I think it will be ten. Also, other than number one, these won’t be any truly particular order.

1. “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (This was the first Christmas hymn I learned on the piano, and it was because I begged my teacher. Words cannot honestly express how much I love this hymn. Pretty sure it will always be my favorite.)

2. “Once in Royal David’s City” (Absolutely gorgeous hymn. The music is soft and soaring all at once and the words truly express the joy of Christ’s birth.)

3. “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (Another gorgeous hymn that lyrically expresses the joy our of Savior’s birth.)

4. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (Any time I sing this one on Christmas morning, it brings tears to my eyes. Oh wait, they all do…)

5. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” ((I think I adore this one for the poetic words. It’s just so beautiful.)

6. “Angels We Have Heard on High” (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like any carol or hymn that mentions angels.)

7. “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Okay, so this one should be higher on the list. Penned by Martin Luther and clocking in at 15 verses, this is a wonderful, wonderful hymn about Christmas.)

8. “Joy to the World” (Help, I’m already at number eight! Seriously though, who doesn’t love this one?)

9. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (We always sang this one during the candlelight portion of our Christmas Eve service. I know it so well that I didn’t even have to bother with reading the words by candlelight…and I was usually in the balcony of the sanctuary anyway so I would stand at the rail and sing, the organ behind me and the candlelit church spread out below me…such a beautiful sight and feeling that always warmed my heart and brought tears to my young eyes.)

10. “Silent Night, Holy Night” (This one is the same as the previous one.)

Okay, I could honestly go on. I also love “Away in a Manger” and “The First Noel” and many others. But I tried to think of the ones that evoke memories that of Christmases past that I will never let go of as long as I live. The reason for the season is and always will be the reason that I and my family celebrate Christmas. I cannot listen to or sing carols without dwelling deeply on how and why Jesus Christ came to earth for us. It is the most important story ever told, seriously, and deep down in your heart of hearts, you know that. The Lord came down to rescue us from our debilitating sin by becoming one of us and yet sinless so that He could be the all atoning sacrifice and we would not be condemned to eternal darkness. All that He asks of us is that we believe. Faith is not easy, but it is the beginning and end of our lives.

I will post more about the Truth of Christmas when the day comes, and I dearly hope and pray that those of you who do read this blog will not dismiss what I have to say as religious drivel, because it isn’t.

Twenty-five Days of Christmas Cheer: December 3rd

It’s dear hubby’s and my first anniversary!!!! I honestly cannot believe it has been an entire year already. He is so precious to me. ❤

Unfortunately for us, he ended up having to work basically all day and all evening. I was incredibly upset about this at first, but then I realized that we can always go out for dinner tomorrow night instead, and besides that, most of the nice restaurants in our area are closed on Mondays. There’s almost always something good in every situation. 🙂

As for today, though it’s 1:00 in the afternoon and all I’ve done today is catch up on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and drink coffee (well, and eat breakfast), I am now going to go put on a pretty dress, a bit of makeup, and bake cookies and do housework like the young homemaker that I am! Seriously, most days I don’t even bother getting dressed if I don’t have plans to go anywhere, since working and cleaning in my comfy pants is quite nice, but it being our anniversary, I want to make an effort. Besides, a girl likes to look pretty now and then.

In Christmas news, we went and picked out our tree yesterday afternoon! It is a Fraser Fir and it is lovely. I have to make room for it in front of the windows and then we will bring it inside and begin the hair-raising process of putting on the lights. (I hate it, but I’m actually pretty good at it, so the job falls to me.)

So, with the Christmas music turned up (gotta love Pandora — I have a “Christmas Carols” station that plays only sacred carols, none of that weird secular crap) and filling the house, it’s time to spread some holiday cheer. Now, if only it would snow…

Twenty-five Days of Christmas: December 2nd Sunday Serenade

A blessed Advent season to all of you! Today is the first Sunday in Advent in the Church Year. Advent is such a beautiful season. The church is decorated for Christmas, there are extra services each week, and the Advent hymns are some of the most glorious in the hymnal. I honestly can’t imagine being a part of any other church than the confessional Lutheran church, because not much compares to Advent hymns on the organ, as far as music goes.

One of my favorite Advent hymns is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which has been sung by Christians (and non-Christians) for ages. It is haunting and beautiful. I was unable to find a recording on YouTube that contained all seven verses, nor a good one played on the organ, so I will instead post the video of Enya singing the song. Her voice is spectacular.

Here are the complete English lyrics:

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save;
Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Hymn # 31 from Lutheran Worship
Author: French Processional
Tune: Veni Emmanuel
1st Published in: 1854