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francis-christopher
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« on: December 01, 2006, 05:02:06 PM »

In nomine Iesu I offer you all peace,

What are some of your Advent Traditions?

Please share...

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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2006, 05:40:57 PM »

Irish Advent/Christmas Tradition:

In Gaelic, Christmas is called Nollaig, which comes from the Latin natalica, which means birthday. Christmas is an important season to the Irish, lasting from the beginning of Advent until Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany. It is considered unlucky to remove any Christmas decorations before the Epiphany.

At the beginning of Advent, Irish families set out to clean their homes, and if they live in the country, their entire farm. Some families may even go so far as to whitewash everything from the mantelpiece to their entire farms.

Although the German tradition of the Christmas tree has taken over in Ireland as it has throughout the world, evergreens were used as decoration in Irish homes long before trees were brought indoors. The most common Irish decoration is holly. Father Gerard Creedon, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Arlington, remembers hunting for ivy and holly with red berries when he was a child in Ireland.

The use of holly can be traced back to the Druids, who put out holly as a kind gesture to fairies who might use the leaves as a hiding place. When Christianity came to Ireland, Christians continued to decorate their doors with holly wreaths and their window sills with sprigs of the plant. The green of the plant symbolizes life during the winter solstice, and the red berries symbolize Christ’s blood, shed to give life. The holly plant has thorny leaves that symbolize the crown of thorns Christ wore at His crucifixion. As the carol states, holly also yields a white blossom, which is connected with the purity of the Virgin Mary.

In Ireland on Christmas Eve, after the evening Angelus, it is customary to light a large white pillar candle in a front window. One belief says that the candle is lit to serve as a welcome to Mary and Joseph who sought shelter in vain on the first Christmas Eve. For this reason, the candles are lit every night from Christmas Eve until Epiphany. During Penal times when Christianity was a crime in Ireland, a candle in the front window served as a signal to a priest seeking shelter that he was welcome in the home. One tradition states that a daughter named Mary should strike the match to light the candle, another tradition is that the youngest family member lights the candle, and that it should only be snuffed by someone named Mary.

When Ireland was occupied by the British, three candles were lit by Catholic families, one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit.

Just as Americans leave milk and cookies for Santa, the Irish leave milk and bread on the table after the evening meal for the Holy Family as they travel.

Also a tradition stemming from Penal times, the carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is actually a catechism song to help people learn about their Faith. During these times, possession of any written material related to Christianity could get one hanged, so the song was used as a memory aid. The "true love" mentioned refers to God, and what he gives to "me" are the gifts given to every baptized person.

Another song, not as widely known, comes from an Irish tradition. "The Wren Boy’s Song" is sung on St. Stephen’s Day when "Wren Boys" go door to door to collect money for a funeral for the bird. As they go, they sing variations on, "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, on St. Stephen’s day got caught up in the furze. Up with the kettle and down with the pan, give us a penny to bury the wren!"

St. Stephen’s Day falls on Dec. 26 and commemorates the first Christian martyr, who was killed shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. In Ireland, Dec. 26 has also become known as La An Droilin, the Day of the Wren.

There are two stories behind the celebration of the wren. One story says that a chirping wren revealed the hiding St. Stephen to Roman soldiers and he was then murdered. Those who believe this story travel the countryside claiming they have killed the bird who betrayed St. Stephen. The other story claims that in the 700s, a wren tapped on a drum as Irish soldiers were trying to overcome a Viking camp and the Irish soldiers were killed.

Wren boys travel around from house to house wearing tattered clothes and covered or painted faces. The day has become a day for parties and fellowship as the wren boys visit all their friends and neighbors. No longer are the wren boys strictly boys, but adults and children of all ages, male and female, celebrate the day together.

Eileen McCormick, a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Winchester, recently visited her grandchildren in Killarney, Ireland, and they are excited about being "Wren Boys" this Christmas and collecting money for charity.

McCormick also said that she remembers that when she was a child in Ireland, everything was closed for the week of Christmas, even the post office. After her recent trip back to Ireland, she said she noticed that many things have changed. When she was a child no one decorated until the week before Christmas, but now all the shops are decorated and advertising Christmas goods. Growing up on a farm in Ireland, her family never had a Christmas tree, but recently, decorating trees has grown more popular. She said that Christmas was more of a spiritual holiday when she was a child. The only people who received presents were young children. Even so, McCormick said, "I loved Christmas. It was marvelous!"

As the Irish say, Nollaig Shona Duit pronounced "NoLik Suna Ditch," Happy Christmas.

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« Last Edit: December 01, 2006, 05:41:47 PM by francis-christopher » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2006, 05:42:09 PM »

Well, for those of us on the Gregorian Calendar, Advent starts on November 15. Being a convert family, our traditions might not be the same as everyone else's, but here goes:

Right around now, I'll start erecting our Family Pole. This is made out of aluminum due to its high strength-to-weight ratio as well as low maintenance needs. No, we don't decorate it, because my family finds tinsel much too distracting!

The main focus this season for my family is the dinner, when we can finally break our fast. Besides the eating, one of the highlights is the Airing of Greivances, when each member of the family describes how the others have disappointed them throughout the past year. Once this is done comes the Feats of Strength: here, in keeping with time-honored tradition, as the head of the family I challenge another member of the family to a wrestling match. The celebration cannot end until I finally get pinned!

Once I get pinned, or give up, then the season is done, and we usually put away the pole until next year!

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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2006, 07:11:35 PM »

Haha! That was an excellent episode.
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2006, 07:41:05 PM »

Ah a Festivis for the restivus, but seriously folks this will be my first Christmas as an Orthodox so I would be very interested in what the EO advent traditions are too

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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2006, 08:12:19 PM »

Ah a Festivis for the restivus, but seriously folks this will be my first Christmas as an Orthodox so I would be very interested in what the EO advent traditions are too
Orthodox traditions vary from culture to culture, and even in Orthodox countries, different provinces have different traditions. But in Greece, one of the common traditions is the giving of "sinhoria" ("forgiveness"). "Sinhoria" are Fasting dishes which are prepared using grapes and wheat, corn and their byproducts and which are given to neighbours as a sign of forgiveness of the living and the dead during the Nativity Fast. The dishes vary from place to place, and may be as simple as bread, kollyva (boiled wheat), or boiled corn kernels. But by far, the most common dish is called "Varvara" which is a pudding made from boiled wheat, flour, sugar, and raisins and is usually given on the Feast of St. Barbara (St. Varvara). Taking a dish of Varvara to your neighbours is a way of expressing forgiveness for any offences from them or from their departed members. And since, at least in Europe, the Nativity Fast takes place during the dead of Winter, a high-carb, warm "sinhoria" dish is a welcome blessing.
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2006, 09:31:13 PM »

Many Balkan peoples have various traditions surrounding the feast day of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6). Children often put out their shoes on the eve of the feast, hoping for some treats from St. Nick.

That's the only major one I can think of. Remember: During Advent, Orthodox people are fasting, so a lot of our festal holiday traditions don't happen until after the feast itself (e.g. all Orthodox lands have a large number of traditional folk Christmas carols, and, of course, there's always the Vasilopita!).
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2006, 10:25:29 PM »

Yeah I realize that there is the big advent fast thats gonna be a bit of a change coming from latin traditions all of advent is pretty much a party thats what accounts for everyones holiday weight gain Cheesy.
What is the Vasilopita I dont recall hearing about this?

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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2006, 10:56:53 PM »

What is the Vasilopita I dont recall hearing about this?
http://www.saint-anthonys.org/orthodox/vasilopita_observance.htm
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2006, 02:11:35 AM »

Here or some Advent or Nativity Lent practices that I have become aware of in the years since my conversion:

1)“Enthrone the Nativity Icon” at the beginning of Nativity Lent.  Some families place this on a table prominently placed in their home with a vigil lamp burning before it.  Other families have a special holder with flowers surrounding the Icon during the Nativity Lent and place it in the family Icon Corner. Before the Nativity Icon, the family says their family prayers and read daily  scripture readings. The icon becomes the focal point as the “reason for the season.”

2)Here are some Nativity lent practices related to St. Nicholas-
   a)  In Greece, the Greeks will display the Icon of St. Nicholas Prominently in their home the Nativity Lent as a reminder to give alms in emulation of this great Saint, The mother of the home after reciting St. Nicholas’ troparia with the children will sprinkle salt water on the icon and the children for the safety of the house, the children and those who sail the sea (remember that St Nicholas is both the patron saint of children and sailors). Greek tradition notes that when St. Nicholas intervenes with a miracle for his people, that his clothes are soaked with brine, his beard always dripping with seawater, and his face covered with perspiration because he has been fighting storms to reach sinking ships and save men from drowning. Greek ships carry an icon of St. Nicholas, as he is regarded as master of wind and tempest.
   b) In Russia, In the name of St. Nicholas, more than 6,000 make a three-day walk following an icon of St. Nicholas, from Kirov to the holy village of Velikoretsky. Your family may wish to take a walk in a fund raiser or do a good deed in honor of St Nicholas. Russian sailors carry small icons of St. Nicholas on their person when they are out to sea. On the Eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, Russian children put out their shoes and receive traditional gifts  of The traditional gifts given on the feast of St. Nicholas have a special message for us: Oranges are green in color until the nip of the frost when they turn orange, a sign of the Resurrection. Apples: The red peel reminds us of the blood of Jesus shed for our sins and the white pulp reminds us of the innocence of the Virgin Mary, His Mother. Nuts: Squirrels "wisely" store these for the winter months. Nuts remind us of St. Nicholas' wisdom. Candy: In days of old, sugar was an expensive food item. It reminds us of the "treasure" that St. Nicholas shared with those less fortunate.
   c)In Romania, on the night of December 5th, boots are carefully polished to be put by the door or on the windowsill to wait for St. Nicholas' (Sfantul Nicolae) visit. He is generous to adults as well as children, putting a little present in each boot. If a rod is found in a shoe, it is a warning that behavior needs to improve. On the sixth of December, gifts are given to friends, children, and those in need.
   d) In the Ukraine, St. Nicholas, Sviatyij Mykolai, comes on December 6th (or the 19th in the Orthodox Julian calendar). It is a happy day with visiting and sleigh rides. Schools have plays telling Nicholas stories and the saint visits local churches. Dressed as a Byzantine Bishop, the good Saint is often accompanied by angels. He quizzes children on their catechism before giving gifts.  Traditionally this is the main day for gift-giving. Today many Ukrainian churches have St. Nicholas celebrations to help children understand that the holy man Nicholas came long before Santa Claus.
  e) In Bulgaria, Nikulden——December 6th, is a great winter festival. Bulgarians celebrate St. Nicholas as the protector of sailors and fishermen. Stories are told of St. Nikolay, the commander of the sea, calming wind and storms and saving ships in danger. Like Greek and Russian sailors, Bulgarians keep icons of St. Nicholas on shipboard seeking protection from storms. Sailors' wives put icons of Nicholas into the sea, praying to St. Nikolay to bring their husbands safely back to shore. A special fish dish, ribnik, carp wrapped in dough or baked with rice, is served as carp is regarded as Nicholas' servant. Ribnik is baked in the oven along with two special loaves of bread. The food is blessed at church or at home before being served.  After wafting incense over the food, the host raises the bread high, and breaks it in half. One half he keeps, the other is left on the table. The food is kept out on the table all day to be shared with neighbors and other guests. It is a great festival day which ends with songs and fun.

3)The primary observance for Nativity Lent or Advent is the Fast. From November 15  through December 24, the following are some basic guidelines for fasting in the Antiochian Archdiocese:

   a) On weekdays (Monday to Friday inclusive) during the Nativity there are restrictions both on the number of meals taken daily and on the types of food permitted; but when a meal is allowed, there is no fixed limitation on the quantity of food to be eaten.
   b)On Saturdays and Sundays in  Nativity Lent, fish is permitted as well as wine and oil, but meat and animal products are not allowed.  After December 12 at which time Fish is no longer permitted but wine and oil may be served on Saturday and Sunday.
   c) WINE AND OIL are permitted on all Tuesdays and Thursdays of the Fast prior to December 12, and on the following days: 
12/4 -- Great martyr Barbara
12/6 -- St. Nicholas of Myra
12/9 -- Conception of the Theotokos
12/13 -- St. Herman of Alaska
12/20 -- St. Ignatius of Antioch, the God-bearer

Note: According to the strict observance, only two meals are usually eaten, it should be added at once that in practice today these rules are commonly relaxed to allow three meals. Shellfish, shrimp, crab, crayfish, squid, and octopus are also allowed on days of xerophagy; likewise vegetable margarine and corn or other vegetable oil, not made from olives.


I am always interested in learning more traditions surrounding the Nativity Fast.

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Thomas
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2006, 07:46:07 AM »

    c)In Romania, on the night of December 5th, boots are carefully polished to be put by the door or on the windowsill to wait for St. Nicholas' (Sfantul Nicolae) visit. He is generous to adults as well as children, putting a little present in each boot. If a rod is found in a shoe, it is a warning that behavior needs to improve. On the sixth of December, gifts are given to friends, children, and those in need.
We do this. Not only is it the tradition my wife grew up with (being Romanian) but the same one I was raised with as the German tradition is identical (and yes, I'm sorry to say that one year I was shocked to find that I'd been brought a cane). Not sure about the adults, though. I've never seen a Romanian adult even put their shoes out let alone receive anything in them. Certainly it's just a thing for the kids in our house.

Other than that, as has been pointed out already, most of the traditions are after the fast has ended. The house isn't decorated until the afternoon/evening of the 24th December (preferrrably around sunset) and are taken down on 6th January (which, in contrast to the west, is a huge feast in Romania and, I would guess, other Orthodox countries). Carolers come around between Christmas and New Year, etc.

I actually didn't feel much of a change when I converted (except for the fasting) because my mother was from a village in north Germany and they all kept very strictly to old German tradition, so I was raised with Christmas Day as the beginning of 12 days of Christmas rather than the end of advent, which seems to be more how its seen in England. Evidently, despite being Lutheran, something of the old Roman Catholic fasting and feasting seasons had remained in German tradition even into the middle of the 20th century. I suspect that the traditions I grew up with were more German than most Germans in Germany observed, though, by the time the 70s and 80s came along.

James
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