Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christmas is Past but Christ is still Present

I was planning on trying to keep up with this blog as we celebrated a Catholic-style Christmas season for the first time, but I guess I can say I was busy enough celebrating my intentions were not followed through so well. I did collect some memories that I wanted to share as well as some recipes I will post!

We did have a glorious time celebrating the birth of our Saviour in 2010!! From the beginning of Advent until the feast of Epiphany (the celebration of the Wise Men bringing their gifts to the Christ Child), we did so many meaningful things, both as individuals and as a family. We wanted to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, so we did not decorate the house all at once, starting by first putting up an Advent wreath and making a Jesse Tree. We waited a week before getting out the creches we own, but kept the statues of Jesus put away until we came home from Christmas Eve midnight Mass. We then waited until Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent when the pink candle is lit and "joy" is the theme of the day) to hang up our outside lights. Our tree didn't go up until the last Sunday of Advent and the tree wasn't lit until Christmas Eve~ thus ushering in the birthday of "Light of the World". David even chose to abstain from sweets during Advent which made his enjoyment of Christmas Day sweets "very sweet" indeed. We made it a point to share our joy with others as we tried to give extra (time, money & talents) to helping those in need. I think this made it for a deeper meaning of Christmas for each of us~ we had many opportunities to think about what we were celebrating!

And celebrate we did! Christmas Eve found us at my parents exchanging gifts and feasting on a variety of delectable delights~ from old favorites like Grandma Pitalo's artichoke dip and Philly cream cheese dip to homemade pizzas (of both the white sauced and red sauced variety) to wonderful desserts including an amazing homemade Marionberry pie. The evening's festivities were capped off with midnight Mass at Saint Joseph's. Arriving at home, ready for "a [not really] long winter's nap", we headed to bed after the kids put on their annual Christmas Eve gifts of pajamas.

We continued the celebration the following morning with our now fourth-annual Christmas morning brunch at our non-family family, The Hortons. French toast, eggs, bacon, hot spiced fruit along with hot coffee, coffee punch and juice was the menu of the day. When all were well-sated, we had our gift exchange among much laughter and joy.

There was another celebration as we headed over to my folks for Christmas afternoon with my Grandpa Aziz. This being the first Christmas with my Grandma being gone, we knew it would be a hard time for him. We had plenty of food (I am sure my dear readers are not surprised) and there were stories recalled of Christmas' past that brought tears to more than one person's eyes.

Celebrations continued throughout the following week with a wonderful dinner at a fellow parishioner's home Wednesday night (thanks so much, Paul, for the delicious meal as well as the introduction to Chartruese). We also made another visit to my mom and dad's on Thursday night to celebrate with my sister and her family who came up from Grants Pass. My mom decided to make manicotti which was quite delicious, and the time spent with family was sweet.

Friday followed with the boys getting up at 2:30 AM (yes, you read that right) to head off on a pilgrimage to Mt. Angel Abbey to celebrate Lauds. After a few setbacks, the boys did make it to the Abbey where Mary and I joined them for Mass. To celebrate their journey, we had donuts and eggs for breakfast with hot cocoa for all.

That evening was the annual New Year's Eve Party at the Wests~ more food and more fellowship was on the menu for the evening as well with a surprise nerf gun attack as the moms bombarded the kids (and dads that were there too). New Year's Day was a relatively quiet affair, with David and I heading back to my folks for breakfast with my sis and family and an afternoon spent with football and fabric (thanks to my mom for all the wonderful fabric for my cache)!

The topper of all of the celebrations for our family actually happened right after the Christmas season officially ended.
Brian and I were able to celebrate our marriage convalidation (blessing) at Saint Joseph's Church on January 8th along with a small gathering of family and friends. It was a beautiful celebration and followed with a dinner at the home of our friends, Mike and Cristina Ford. Joy seemed to permeate the air as we enjoyed everyone's company~ the Wests, the Roses (who came down from Washington to celebrate with us) and Father Todd Molinari (thanks for giving us your time when you even had to get up the following morning to celebrate 7AM Mass). Feeling of friendships- both old and new- growing deeper was prevalent as we shared appetizers, soups, bread, desserts and a variety of wines. Conversations continued into the evening as I sat amazed at what God had brought in my life~ my husband and grown (or almost grown) kids, my dear friends (both old and new) and the love He continues to show me.

So yes, Christmas is past for this season. The Catholic Church is now in what is known as "Ordinary Time" until Lent begins. Decorations and lights are put away as are the last crumbs of Christmas goodies. Now that the Christmas season is officially over, the opportunity to celebrate His presence is a daily challenge as the world tries to get my attention. Thanks be to God, who is truly present for those who want to celebrate Him~ no matter what the season.

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