Advent Customs

Discussion in 'Talk about anything here' started by Rose, Dec 5, 2017.

  1. Rose

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    Around the Year with the TRAPP FAMILY by Maria Augusta Trapp



    The events that come to mind when we say "Christmas," "Easter,"
    "Pentecost," are so tremendous that their commemoration cannot be
    celebrated in a single day each. Weeks are needed. First, weeks of
    preparation, of becoming attuned in body and soul, and then weeks of
    celebration. This goes back to an age when people still had time--time to
    live, time to enjoy. In our own day, we face the puzzling fact that the
    more time-saving gadgets we invent, the more new buttons to push in order
    to "save hours of work"--the less time we actually have. We have no more
    time to read books; we can only afford digests. We have no time to walk a
    quarter of a mile; we have to hop into a car. We have no time to make
    things by hand; we buy them ready made in the five-and-ten or in the
    supermarket. This atmosphere of "hurry up, let's go" does not provide the
    necessary leisure in which to anticipate and celebrate a feast. But as
    soon as people stop celebrating they really do not live any more--they
    are being lived, as it were. The alarming question arises: what is being
    done with all the time that is constantly being saved? We invent more
    machines and more gadgets, which will relieve us more and more from the
    work formerly done by our hands, our feet, our brain, and which will
    carry us in feverishly increasing speed--where? Perhaps to the moon and
    other planets, but more probably to our final destruction.

    Only the Church throws light onto the gloomy prospects of modern
    man--Holy Mother Church--for she belongs, herself, to a realm that has
    its past and present in Time, but its future in the World Without End.

    It was fall when we arrived in the United States. The first weeks passed
    rapidly, filled with new discoveries every day, and soon we came across a
    beautiful feast, which we had never celebrated before: Thanksgiving Day,
    an exclusively American feast. With great enthusiasm we included it in
    the calendar of our family feasts.

    Who can describe our astonishment, however, when a few days after our
    first Thanksgiving Day we heard from a loudspeaker in a large department
    store the unmistakable melody of "Silent Night"! Upon our excited
    inquiry, someone said, rather surprised: "What is the matter? Nothing is
    the matter. Time for Christmas shopping!"

    It took several Christmas seasons before we understood the connection
    between Christmas shopping and "Silent Night" and the other carols
    blaring from loudspeakers in these pre-Christmas weeks. And even now that
    we do understand, it still disturbs us greatly. These weeks before
    Christmas, known as the weeks of Advent, are meant to be spent in
    expectation and waiting. This is the season for Advent songs--those
    age-old hymns of longing and waiting; "Silent Night" should be sung for
    the first time on Christmas Eve. We found that hardly anybody knows any
    Advent songs. And we were startled by something else soon after
    Christmas, Christmas trees and decorations vanish from the show windows
    to be replaced by New Year's advertisements. On our concert trips across
    the country we also saw that the lighted Christmas trees disappear from
    homes and front yards and no one thinks to sing a carol as late as
    January 2nd. This was all very strange to us, for we were used to the
    old-world Christmas, which was altogether different but which we
    determined to celebrate now in our new country.


    In the week before the first Sunday in Advent, we began to inquire where
    we could obtain the various things necessary to make an Advent wreath

    "A what?" was the invariable answer, accompanied by a blank look.

    And we learned that nobody seemed to know what an Advent wreath is. (This
    was fifteen years ago.) For us it was not a question of whether or not we
    would have an Advent wreath. The wreath was a must. Advent would be
    unthinkable without it. The question was only how to get it in a country
    where nobody seemed to know about it.

    Back in Austria we used to go to a toy shop and buy a large hoop, about
    three feet in diameter. Then we would tie hay around it, three inches
    thick, as a foundation; and around this we would make a beautiful wreath
    of balsam twigs. The whole was about three feet in diameter and ten
    inches thick. As we tried the different toy shops in Philadelphia, the
    sales people only smiled indulgently and made us feel like Rip Van
    Winkle. "Around the turn of the century" they had sold the last hoop.

    "Necessity is the mother of invention." Martina, who had made the Advent
    wreath during our last Advents back home, decided to buy strong wire at a
    hardware store and braid it into a round hoop. Then she tied old
    newspaper around it, instead of hay, and went out to look for balsam
    twigs. We lived in Germantown, a suburb of Philadelphia. Martina looked
    at all the evergreens in our friends' gardens, but there was no balsam
    fir. So she chose the next best and came home with a laundry basket full
    of twigs from a yew tree. In the hardware store, where she had bought the
    wire, she also got four tall spikes, which she worked into her newspaper
    reel as candleholders, and in the five-and-ten next door she bought a few
    yards of strong red ribbon and four candles. The yew twigs made a
    somewhat feathery Advent wreath; but, said Martina, "It's round and it's
    made of evergreen, and that is all that is necessary." And she was right.
    An Advent wreath is round as a symbol of God's mercy of which every
    season of Advent is a new reminder; and it has to be made of evergreens
    to symbolize God's "everlastingness."

    This was the only Advent we celebrated at home because the manager who
    arranged the concerts for us had discovered that our tenth child would
    soon arrive and had canceled the concerts for the month of December. In
    the next few years a much smaller Advent wreath would be made by our
    children and fastened to the ceiling of the big blue bus in which we
    toured the country. We always started out by looking for balsam fir, but
    not until years later, when we were to have our own farm in Vermont,
    would we have a balsam Advent wreath again. Meanwhile we had to take what
    we could find in the way of evergreens in Georgia it was holly; in
    Virginia, boxwood; in Florida, pine. The least desirable of all was
    spruce, which we used the year we traveled through Wisconsin, because
    spruce loses its needles quickest. But as long as it was an evergreen....

    In order to get ready for the celebration of the beginning of Advent, one
    more thing has to be added a tall, thick candle, the Advent candle, as a
    symbol of Him Whom we call "the Light of the World." During these weeks
    of Advent it will be the only light for the family evening prayer. Its
    feeble light is the symbol and reminder of mankind's state of spiritual
    darkness during Advent.

    On the first of January a new calendar year begins. On the first Sunday
    of Advent the new year of the Church begins. Therefore, the Saturday
    preceding the first Advent Sunday has something of the character of a New
    Year's Eve. One of the old customs is to choose a patron saint for the
    new year of the Church. The family meets on Saturday evening, and with
    the help of the missal and a book called "The Martyrology," which lists
    thousands of saints as they are celebrated throughout the year, they
    choose as many new saints as there are members of the household. We
    always choose them according to a special theme. One year, for instance,
    we had all the different Church Fathers; another year we chose only
    martyrs; then again, only saints of the new world....During the war we
    chose one saint of every country at war.

    The newly chosen names are handed over to the calligrapher of the family
    (first it was Johanna; after she married, Rosemary took over). She writes
    the names of the saints in gothic lettering on little cards. Then she
    writes the name of every member of the household on an individual card
    and hands the two sets over to the mother. Now everything is ready.

    In the afternoon of the first Sunday of Advent, around vesper time, the
    whole family--and this always means "family" in the larger sense of the
    word, including all the members of the household--meets in the living
    room. The Advent wreath hangs suspended from the ceiling on four red
    ribbons; the Advent candle stands in the middle of the table or on a
    little stand on the side. Solemnly the father lights one candle on the
    Advent wreath, and, for the first time, the big Advent candle. Then he
    reads the Gospel of the first Sunday of Advent. After this the special
    song of Advent is intoned for the first time, the ancient "Ye heavens,
    dew drop from above, and rain ye clouds the Just One...."

    It cannot be said often enough that during these weeks before Christmas,
    songs and hymns of Advent should be sung. No Christmas carols!
    Consciously we should work toward restoring the true character of waiting
    and longing to these precious weeks before Christmas. Just before
    Midnight Mass, on December 24th, is the moment to sing for the first time
    "Silent Night, Holy Night," for this is the song for this very night. It
    may be repeated afterwards as many times as we please, but it should not
    be sung before that holy night.

    Since we have found that Advent hymns have been largely forgotten, we
    want to include here the ones we most often sing; and we also want to
    explain how we collected our songs. First, there were a certain number,
    the traditional ones, which were still sung in homes and in church during
    the weeks of Advent. Then we looked for collections in libraries; we
    inquired among friends and acquaintances; we wrote to people we had met
    on our travels in foreign countries. Each song that has come to us in
    this way is particularly dear to us--a personal friend rather than a
    chance acquaintance.


    Text, Isaias 45,8; melody, first (Dorian) mode. This is the medieval
    Advent call--sing three times, each time a tone higher.

    Ye Heavens, dew drop from above and rain ye clouds the just one.


    The text of this hymn is based on the seven Great Antiphons (O-Antiphons)
    which are said before and after the Magnificat at Vespers from December
    17 to 23. The metrical Latin form dates from the early 18th century.
    English translation J. M. Neale (1818-1866), and "The Hymnal of the
    Protestant Episcopal Church in U.S.A." (stanzas 2 and 4), by permission
    of "The Church Pension Fund." Melody, first (Dorian) mode.

    1. O come, O come, Emmanuel,
    And ransom captive Israel,
    That mourns in lonely exile here,
    Until the Son of God appear.
    Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel!
    Shall come to thee, O Israel!

    2. O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
    Who ordrest all things mightily;
    To us the path of knowledge show,
    And teach us in her ways to go.--Refrain

    3. O come, Thou Key of David, come,
    And open wide our heav'nly home;
    Make safe the way that leads to thee,
    And close the path to misery.--Refrain

    4. O come, Desire of Nations, bind
    In one the hearts of all mankind;
    Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
    And be thyself our King of Peace.--Refrain


    Text, Michael Denis, 1774; melody, 18th century Austrian, probably
    Michael Haydn, 1737-1806.

    1. Drop your dew, ye clouds of heaven,
    Rain the Just One now to save!
    With that cry the night was riven
    From the world, a yawning grave.
    On the earth by God forsaken
    Sin and death their toll had taken.
    Tightly shut was heaven's gate,
    For salvation all must wait.

    2. To redeem our sad condition
    Was the Father's loving Will,
    And the Son took the glad mission
    His decision to fulfill.
    Gabriel to earth descended,
    Brought the answer long attended
    "See the Handmaid of the Lord,
    Do according to thy word."

    3. Let us walk with right intention,
    Not in drunkenness and greed,
    Quarrels, envies and contention
    Banished far from us indeed.
    Fully now to imitate Him
    As with longing we await Him
    Is the duty of these days,
    As the great Apostle says.


    Text and melody, 17th century German. This forceful melody in the first
    (Dorian) mode should be sung in unison.

    1. O Saviour, heaven's portals rend,
    Come down, from heav'n, to earth descend!
    Open celestial gate and door;
    Never to lock nor fasten more.

    2. O brilliant Sun, O lovely Star,
    We dare behold Thee from afar.
    O Sun arise, without Thy light
    We languish all in darkest night.

    3. Drop dew, ye heavens from above,
    Come in the dew, O God of love!
    Ye clouds now break, rain down the King,
    His peace to Jacob's house to bring.


    German folksong known since the 16th century; probably much older.
    Translation, Henry S. Drinker.

    1. Maria walks amid the thorn,
    Kyrie eleison,
    Which seven years no leaf has borne,
    She walks amid the wood of thorn,
    Jesus and Maria.

    2. What 'neath her heart does Mary bear?
    Kyrie eleison.
    A little child does Mary bear,
    Beneath her heart He nestles there.
    Jesus and Maria.

    3. And as the two are passing near,
    Kyrie eleison,
    Lo! roses on the thorns appear,
    Lo! roses on the thorns appear.
    Jesus and Maria.


    Text by Hermann the Cripple, 1013-1054, monk at Reichenau in the Lake of
    Constance. Melody in the fifth (Lydian) mode. This is the liturgical
    Antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin for the season of Advent and

    Blessed Mother of the Savior,
    thou art the gate leading us to heaven,
    and Star of the Sea, aid thy falling people,
    help all those who seek to rise again.
    Thou who art the Mother, all nature wondering,
    to thy Lord, thy own Creator: Virgin before, Virgin forever,
    from Gabriel's mouth thou didst hear that blessed Ave,
    on us poor sinners take pity.

    After our first gathering around the Advent light, and the singing of the
    first Advent hymn, an air of expectancy spreads over the family group;
    now comes the moment when the mother goes around with a bowl in which are
    the little cards with the names of the new saints. Everybody draws a card
    and puts it in his missal. This saint will be invoked every morning after
    morning prayer. Everyone is supposed to look up and study the life story
    of his new friend, and some time during the coming year he will tell the
    family all about it. As there are so many of us, we come to know about
    different saints every year. Sometimes this calls for considerable
    research on the part of the unfortunate one who has drawn St. Eustachius,
    for instance, or St. Bibiana. But the custom has become very dear to us,
    and every year it seems as if the family circle were enlarged by all
    those new brothers and sisters entering in and becoming known and loved
    by all.

    And then comes another exciting moment. Once more the mother appears with
    the bowl, which she passes around. This time the pieces of paper contain
    the names of the members of the family and are neatly rolled up, because
    the drawing has to be done in great secrecy. The person whose name one
    has drawn is now in one's special care. From this day until Christmas,
    one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to
    provide at least one surprise every single day--but without ever being
    found out. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of joyful suspense,
    kindness, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps you will find that somebody has
    made your bed or shined your shoes or has informed you, in a disguised
    handwriting on a holy card, that "a rosary has been said for you today"
    or a number of sacrifices have been offered up. This new relationship is
    called "Christkindl" (Christ Child) in the old country, where children
    believe that the Christmas tree and the gifts under it are brought down
    by the Christ Child himself.

    The beautiful thing about this particular custom is that the relationship
    is a reciprocal one. The person whose name I have drawn and who is under
    my care becomes for me the helpless little Christ Child in the manger;
    and as I am performing these many little acts of love and consideration
    for someone in the family I am really doing them for the Infant of
    Bethlehem, according to the word, "And he that shall receive one such
    little child in my name, receiveth me." That is why this particular
    person turns into "my Christkindl." At the same time I am the
    "Christkindl" also for the one I am caring for because I want to imitate
    the Holy Child and render all those little services in the same spirit as
    He did in that small house of Nazareth, when as a child He served His
    Mother and His foster father with a similar love and devotion.

    Many times throughout these weeks can be heard such exclamations as, "I
    have a wonderful Christkindl this year!" or, "Goodness, I forgot to do
    something for my Christkindl and it is already suppertime!" It is a
    delightful custom, which creates much of the true Christmas spirit and
    ought to be spread far and wide.

    And there is still one very important thing to do for Advent. According
    to Austrian custom, every member of the family writes a letter to the
    Holy Child mentioning his resolutions for the weeks of Advent and listing
    all his wishes for gifts. This "Christkindl Brief" (letter to the Holy
    Child) is put on the window sill, from whence the Guardian Angel will
    take it up to heaven to read it aloud to the Holy Child.

    To make small children (and older ones, too) aware of the happy
    expectancy of Advent, there is a special Advent calendar which clever
    hands can make at home. It might be a house with windows for each day of
    Advent; every morning the child opens another window, behind which
    appears a star, an angel, or some other picture appropriate to the
    season. On the 23rd, all windows are open, but the big entrance door
    still is closed. That is opened on Christmas Eve, when it reveals the
    Holy Child in the manger, or a Christmas tree. All kinds of variations on
    this theme are possible, such as the Jacob's Ladder shown on our
    illustration, which leads step by step to the day of Christ's birth. All
    such little aids make Christmas more wonderful and "special" to a child,
    and preparing them adds to our own Christmas joy.

    {Advent Calendar: Take piece of cardboard; cut out clouds, leaving them
    attached at one point so that they can fold out. Cut spaces in ladder as
    on insert so that they can fold down. Take transparent paper same size as
    cardboard. Paint and draw pictures of stars, angels, toys, etc. on spots
    behind clouds and ladder steps. For top cloud, put Christmas tree or
    Christ Child in crib. Paste this on back of calendar. Each day another
    cloud or ladder step should be opened, until Christmas Eve is reached on
    top of ladder.}


    There is a group of fourteen saints known as the "Fourteen Auxiliary
    Saints." In Austria they are sometimes pictured together in an old
    chapel, or over a side altar of a church; each one has an attribute by
    which he may be recognized--St. George will be shown with a dragon, or
    St. Blaise with two candles crossed. One of these Auxiliary Saints is St.
    Barbara, whose feast is celebrated on December 4th. She can be recognized
    by her tower (in which she was kept prisoner) and the ciborium surmounted
    by the Sacred Host. St. Barbara is invoked against lightning and sudden
    death. She is the patron saint of miners and artillery men and she is
    also invoked by young unmarried girls to pick the right husband for them.

    On the fourth of December, unmarried members of the household are
    supposed to go out into the orchard and cut twigs from the cherry trees
    and put them into water. There is an old belief that whoever's cherry
    twig blossoms on Christmas Day can expect to get married in the following
    year. As most of us are always on tour at this time of the year, someone
    at home will be commissioned to "cut the cherry twigs." These will be put
    in a vase in a dark corner, each one with a name tag, and on Christmas
    Day they will be eagerly examined; and even if they are good for nothing
    else, they provide a nice table decoration for the Christmas dinner.


    Although St. Nicholas is not in the illustrious company of the Fourteen
    Auxiliary Saints, he has been one of the most popular saints in the East
    and in the West for many hundreds of years. He is the patron of seafarers
    and also of scholars, bankers, and--thieves. But most of all, he is the
    very special saint of children. Devotion to St. Nicholas is found in
    every European country. In the north, in Scandinavia and in northern
    Germany, he is known as Santa Claus. I do not know what happened to him
    on his way from Europe to America. While he is still pictured in the old
    world as an ascetic-looking bishop with cope, mitre, and crozier, since
    crossing the ocean he has turned into a fat, jolly, red-nosed, elderly
    gentleman in a snowsuit and a red cap. From Lapland he has brought his
    reindeer. Unfortunately, he has changed the date of his appearance. In
    the old country he comes on the evening before his feast day (the feast
    of St. Nicholas, on December 6th), accompanied by the "Krampus," an ugly,
    chain-rattling little devil, who has to deal with the children who have
    been naughty. St. Nicholas is much too kind to do the punishing and
    scolding himself.

    It all goes back to the days when St. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, where
    he once discreetly threw alms in through a window as a dowry for three
    young girls, who would otherwise have been sold into slavery, according
    to the custom of the day. For this good deed God rewarded him by giving
    him permission to walk the streets of earth on the eve of his feast,
    bringing gifts to all good children.

    While in some places the children only put their shoes on the window sill
    on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day and find them filled with candies,
    cookies, oranges, and dried fruit the next morning (but only the good
    ones; the bad ones find a switch), in other parts St. Nicholas comes in
    person. He always did in our house. On the eve of December 5th the whole
    family would gather in the living room with great expectancy. By the time
    the much-expected knock at the door could be heard, one could almost hear
    the anxious heartbeat of the little ones. The holy bishop, in his
    pontifical vestments, accompanied by Krampus, would enter the room while
    everybody stood up reverently. St. Nicholas always carried a thick book
    in which the Guardian Angels make their entries throughout the year.
    That's why the saint has such an astonishing knowledge about everybody.
    He calls each member of the household forward, rewarding the good and
    admonishing the less good. The good children will get a package of
    sweets, whereas Krampus aims at the legs of the children who did not
    deserve one. After everyone has received his due, the holy bishop
    addresses a few words of general admonition to the whole family, acting
    as a precursor to the One Who is to come, drawing their thoughts toward
    Christmas, asking them to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Holy
    Child. After giving his blessing, he takes his leave, accompanied
    reverently by the mother, who opens the door for him. Soon afterwards the
    father, who, oddly enough, usually misses this august visit, will come
    home, and he has to hear everything about it from the youngest in the

    Of course it did not occur to us, even in the first and second years in
    America, that St. Nicholas' Day should pass without the dear saint's
    appearing in our family circle. In the old home this beloved bishop's
    attire was stored away in the attic to be used every year on the evening
    before his feast, but now we had to work with cardboard and paper for the
    mitre, a bed sheet for an alb, a golden damask curtain borrowed from
    friends for a cope, and a broomstick artistically transformed into a
    bishop's staff. But at the right moment St. Nicholas opened the door.
    That taught us that it really does not require money, but only
    imagination and good will, to revive or introduce these lovely old

    "St. Nicholas smells of Christmas, don't you think, Mother?" one of my
    little girls said once, meaning that on December 5th the whole house was
    filled with the same good smell as it would be in the days just before
    Christmas. For this day there is a special kind of cookie called
    "Speculatius". The dough is rolled very thin and then cut in the shape of
    St. Nicholas, and these little figures are then decorated with icing in
    different colors and candied fruit. And just as we are sharing with the
    reader our ancient songs and customs, I believe we should also share
    those ancient recipes that have come down to us through the centuries. So
    here is the recipe for "Speculatius" (St. Nicholas). It comes from


    1 cup butter 4 tsp. cinnamon
    1 cup lard 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    2 cups brown sugar 1/2 tsp. cloves
    1/2 cup sour cream 4-1/2 cups sifted flour
    1/2 tsp. soda 1/2 cup chopped nuts

    Cream the butter, lard, and sugar. Add sour cream alternately with sifted
    dry ingredients. Stir in nuts. Knead the dough into rolls. Wrap the rolls
    in waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Roll the dough
    very thin and cut it into shapes. Bake in moderate oven 10 to 15 minutes.

    Another family recipe must not be forgotten here. As we are a rather
    cosmopolitan family, with one branch of English relatives and with my
    husband's people coming from northern Germany, and sprinkled with cousins
    from France and Italy and Switzerland, not to mention personal culinary
    memories of my husband's early years in the Balkans and our own far-flung
    journeys, we have quite a number of recipes. This one is a venerated old
    "must"--a real British plum pudding. It has to be started on the first
    Sunday of Advent, which in England is still known to this day as "Stir-Up
    Sunday." There is an old belief that the more you stir a pudding the
    better it will be, and that each member of the household must come for a
    good stir. Plum pudding is painstaking to make, and time-consuming, but
    when it finally appears on the table, aflame with burning brandy,
    everyone agrees that it was worth the trouble and it wouldn't be
    Christmas without it.

    Plum Pudding

    1 lb. suet 1 fresh orange peel
    3 cups brown sugar 1/4 lb. candied orange peel
    2 cups stale bread crumbs 1/4 lb. candied grapefruit peel
    6 eggs 1-1/2 lb. raisins
    juice of ten oranges 1/2 lb. currants
    4 cups sifted flour 1/2 lb. citron
    1 tsp. ginger 1/4 lb. blanched almonds
    1 tsp. salt 2 medium-size raw potatoes
    1 tsp. cinnamon 2 medium-size raw apples
    1 tsp. nutmeg 2 medium-size raw carrots
    1 fresh lemon peel

    Grind the suet and bread. Moisten with beaten eggs and orange juice. Add
    sifted dry ingredients. Grind fresh and candied peel with the raw
    vegetables. Add these to the batter. Stir in raisins, currants, citron,
    and almonds. If the pudding is dry or lumpy, add fruit juice. Pack in
    buttered tins and steam.

    "And steam" is taken literally in our house, even now in the days of the
    pressure cooker. It takes a whole day, eight to ten hours, but then the
    pudding keeps indefinitely, or, rather, it improves with time. As I write
    this we have just begun the holy season of Advent.

    Yesterday there was in my mail a somewhat bulky, large envelope and when
    I picked it up, something rattled. I found a Christmas card from our good
    friends the Sisters of Social Service, and a little brown envelope
    containing seeds (that, of course, explained the rattling). "Christmas
    wheat," it said. When I read the explanation, I was happy to know that
    here was a group who wanted to share a folk custom from their old
    home--the Sisters of Social Service were founded in Hungary--with their
    friends in America. With the permission of the Sisters, I pass on the
    story of this lovely custom, feeling sure that many of us will wish to
    adopt it.


    It is an ancient Hungarian custom to offer to the Infant in the manger
    the green sprouts of wheat.

    Agriculture is the mainstay of the Hungarian nation and wheat is the
    symbol of sustenance and prosperity for this nation. It is therefore the
    most suitable gift for the newborn Saviour.

    But it also has a meaning for everyone. The "new wheat" symbolizes the
    "new bread" in the natural order and also the "New Bread of Life" in the
    supernatural order; for it is from wheat that the altar bread is made
    which becomes the Holy Eucharist, the bread of our souls.

    The wheat seeds are planted on the day of St. Lucy, the virgin martyr,
    December 13th. Kept in a moderately warm room and watered daily, the
    plant reaches its full growth by Christmas. The little daily care given
    to it is flavored with the joy of expectation for the approaching
    Christmas and spreads the spirit of cheerfulness as the tender plant
    reminds us of our spiritual rebirth through the mysteries of Christmas.

    To plant the seeds, take a flower pot four or five inches in height and
    fill it with plain garden sod. Spread the seeds on the top and press
    gently, so that the seeds are covered with sod. Do not push them too deep.

    Watered daily at the manger and paying its simple homage to the newborn
    Saviour, the plant will last until about January 6th.

    "O all ye things that spring up in the earth, bless the Lord." (Canticle
    of the Three Children)


    If asked about the origin of these old folk customs, one sometimes finds
    it hard to answer. They have come down to us through the centuries out of
    the gray past. Some are so old that they go back to pre-Christian times,
    having been baptized together with the people and turned from pagan into
    Christian customs. But once in a while we know how one or the other
    custom originated. The Christmas crib as we have it today goes back to
    St. Francis of Assisi. Not that he was the one who made the first creche.
    This devotion is almost as old as the Church. We are told that the very
    place of Christ's birth and the manger in which He lay "wrapped in
    swaddling clothes" were already venerated in Bethlehem in the first
    centuries of the Christian era. Later devout people substituted a silver
    manger for the original one and built a basilica over it; and, with the
    centuries, the veneration of the Holy Child Iying in the manger spread
    all over the Christian countries. More and more ceremonies sprang up
    around this devotion, until in medieval times they had grown into a real
    theatre performance--drama, opera, and ballet combined. Finally, Pope
    Honorius had to put a stop to this, for it had grown into an abuse. A
    generation later St. Francis of Assisi got permission for his famous
    Christmas celebration in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas
    Eve, 1223. His first biographer, Thomas of Celano, tells us how it

    "It should be recorded and held in reverent memory what Blessed Francis
    did near the town of Greccio, on the feast day of the Nativity of our
    Lord Jesus Christ, three years before his glorious death. In that town
    lived a certain man by the name of John (Messer Giovanni Velitta) who
    stood in high esteem, and whose life was even better than his reputation.
    Blessed Francis loved him with a special affection because, being very
    noble and much honored, he despised the nobility of the flesh and strove
    after the nobility of the soul.

    "Blessed Francis often saw this man. He now called him about two weeks
    before Christmas and said to him "If you desire that we should celebrate
    this year's Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I
    tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant who was born at
    Bethlehem and how He was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how
    He was bedded in the manger on hay between an ass and an ox. For once I
    want to see all this with my own eyes." When that good and faithful man
    had heard this, he departed quickly and prepared in the above-mentioned
    place everything that the Saint had told him.

    "The joyful day approached. The Brethren [the Friars who had gathered
    around St. Francis] were called from many communities. The men and women
    of the neighborhood, as best they could, prepared candles and torches to
    brighten the night. Finally the Saint of God arrived, found everything
    prepared, saw it and rejoiced. The crib was made ready, hay was brought,
    the ox and ass were led to the spot....Greccio became a new Bethlehem.
    The night was made radiant like the day, filling men and animals with
    joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration.
    Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky cliffs echoed the
    jubilant outburst. As they sang in praise of God the whole night rang
    with exultation. The Saint of God stood before the crib, overcome with
    devotion and wondrous joy. A solemn Mass was sung at the crib.

    "The Saint, dressed in deacon's vestments, for a deacon he was, sang the
    Gospel. Then he preached a delightful sermon to the people who stood
    around him, speaking about the nativity of the poor King and the humble
    town of Bethlehem....And whenever he mentioned the Child of Bethlehem or
    the Name of Jesus, he seemed to lick his lips as if he would happily
    taste and swallow the sweetness of that word." (Celano. "Life and
    Miracles of St. Francis," as quoted in Francis X. Weiser, "The Christmas
    Book," pp. 106 f., New York, Harcourt, Brace & Co.)

    That is the beginning of the creche as we know it in our own day. St.
    Francis' idea of bringing Bethlehem into one's own town spread quickly
    all over the Christian world, and when there was a Christmas crib in
    every church, the families began to re-enact the birth of Christ in their
    homes too. With loving imagination, more or less elaborately, the little
    town of Bethlehem would be reconstructed. There would be the cave with
    the manger, "because there was no room at the inn," and the figures would
    be carved in wood or modeled in clay or worked after the fashion of
    puppets. They also might be drawn and painted and then glued on wood.

    In some countries whole valleys would take up the carving of these
    figures--as in Tyrolia and southern Bavaria. Some of these creches are
    works of great art. On the long winter evenings, during the weeks of
    Advent, the people are working on them. First, the scenery is set up
    again, and then the figures are placed, each year seeing some new
    additions, until such a crib fills almost a whole room with its hundreds
    of figures.

    Outside the town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, the nuns of the Benedictine
    Priory, "Regina Laudis," have devoted a whole building to their huge
    Christmas crib, a Neapolitan work that was given to them as a gift. This
    beautiful crib could become an American shrine, the center for a
    pilgrimage during the Christmas season.

    Just as the Reformation did away with statues and pictures of saints in
    Protestant churches, it also deprived many Protestant homes of the
    creche. A few of the German sects, however, kept up this custom even
    after the Reformation, and brought it to America. When the Moravians, for
    example, founded the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on a Christmas Eve,
    they had preserved the custom of the creche.

    {Top left: How to make the manger. Cut heavy paper to size, fold along
    dotted lines and glue together; cut other pieces from wood and mount
    together as in right picture.

    {Center left: Cut enough strips of paper and fold into round sleeves to
    fit over wire stem of palm on right; do not attach top wires until stem
    is covered; make crown of palm from wire and tie on stem; cut leaves from
    folded green paper as shown in drawing; cut fringes; unfold slightly and
    mount on branches of palm tree. See final palm in crib scene.

    {Bottom: Model wire puppet for crib figures.

    {Cut figurine heads from blocks of plaster of Paris or mold them in wax.
    Dress them with cloth.

    {Cut sheep from plaster of Paris or wood, paint them.

    {Cave: Use cardboard to get general shape and build around with stone and
    moss. Carve animals same way as sheep.

    {Angel: Make same way as other figures, attach cardboard wings on which
    you glue gold foil. Make streamer from light board. Stitch on to hands of

    At home in Austria we wanted a creche which we could make mostly by
    ourselves. That is why we did not buy one of the ready-made models, but
    went out into the woods with the children before the first snowfall and
    carried home stones, moss, bark, lichen, and pine cones. A large
    table-top, three by five feet, was placed over two carpenter's sawhorses
    and draped with green cloth. This was the foundation on which every year
    a slightly different scene would be erected by artistic young hands--the
    stony hill with the cave, the field, covered with moss, with shepherds in
    the foreground. For the figures we bought only the heads and hands,
    beautifully modeled in wax at a little store in Salzburg that sold
    handmade and artistically decorated candles and "Lebkuchen". At home we
    made the foundation of the figures with wire and then dressed them with
    loving care, and it is incredible what ingenious hands can produce with a
    needle and thread and remnants of dress material. Every evening during
    Advent some time was devoted to the creche. At the end of the first week
    the landscape was completed; the second week was animal week, at the end
    of which many little sheep were grazing on the meadow and the ox was
    standing in the cave. In the third week the shepherds appeared, watching
    their sheep in little groups; while in the fourth week Mary and Joseph
    could be seen approaching from afar with the little ass, advancing
    steadily every day. Finally, on Christmas Eve, they reached the cave. The
    ass joined the ox behind the empty manger. Mary was kneeling down in
    expectation (that's the beauty of the wire under the blue dress the
    figures can kneel, stand, or sit), while Saint Joseph hung up a lantern
    above the manger and everyone seemed to hold his breath, waiting until
    just before Midnight Mass. Then the youngest member of the family would
    put the little Baby into the manger and joy would reach its height. After
    Midnight Mass, the figure of the big angel would appear, suspended on a
    long wire above the shepherds, announcing, "Glory to God in the Highest."
    There is no telling how much love and joy goes into the making of such a
    crib year after year.

    Again I must go back to our first year in this country. Of course,
    Christmas without a crib under the tree would for us have been Christmas
    with something essential missing. The beloved figures of our Christmas
    crib, however, were among the things we had left behind. But now the
    older children's Christmas present to me in that memorable first year
    turned out to be a large, elaborate Christmas crib with the figures and
    the little town of Bethlehem, self-designed, cut out of cardboard and
    hand-painted. Our neighbors in Germantown had kindly invited the children
    to help themselves in their gardens to the necessary bark, moss, and

    In addition to the large Christmas crib in the living room, we had one
    more custom in our family as long as the children were little. We used to
    place in the nursery a large wooden crib which could hold an almost
    life-size Infant Jesus. On the first Sunday in Advent it would be empty,
    but a big bag full of straw would rest beside it. Every evening, after
    the family evening prayers, each child could take as many pieces of straw
    from the bag as it had performed sacrifices and good deeds during the day
    "in order to please the Infant Jesus"--in other words, out of love of
    God. This is a precious opportunity for a mother to teach her little ones
    the true nature of a sacrifice brought voluntarily for the love of God.
    Meal times furnish excellent occasions for self-denial. To take an extra
    helping of an unpopular vegetable or to pass up a delicious dessert may
    be a real sacrifice for a child. So Hedwig ate a whole plateful of very
    healthy but unloved beets, while Martina followed the chocolate cake with
    longing eyes, saying, "No, thank you," however. Toys gave another
    opportunity for self-denial. I could hardly believe my eyes when I found
    Hedwig's favorite doll, "Happy," in Martina's lap, and Martina's little
    family of dwarfs--Father Dwarf, Mother Dwarf, and Baby Dwarf--in
    Johanna's corner, while Johanna had put her otherwise jealously guarded
    doll house into the middle of the room for everybody to use. These may be
    acts of heroism; we have only to think of the parable of the widow's
    mite--in the eyes of God she had given more than any other, for the
    others gave from their abundance, while she had given all she had.

    What a race among the youngsters from evening to evening until the crib
    was finally filled to the brim! When, on Christmas Eve, little
    Martina--for a long time the youngest among the children--was allowed to
    put the Holy Child on His bed of straw, the Infant seemed to smile at the
    children, grateful for the soft bed prepared with so much love. It is
    curious how such a childhood habit stays with you through life. You may
    be grown up, even white-haired, but all during Advent you will feel the
    same urge to "collect more straws for the crib."


    In the old country we had in our house an oil painting showing St. Joseph
    leading the Blessed Mother, who was with Child and looked fatigued and
    tired, as they were asking shelter at the inn. Through the crack of the
    door one could see the ugly, rough face of the innkeeper, and it was
    rather easy to guess what he had just said. This picture played a big
    role during the last part of Advent in the custom called "Herbergsuchen"
    (seeking shelter). By lot, nine members of the household were chosen to
    be host to this holy couple, to make up for the hard words, each one in
    turn offering room and shelter for one day. The children, especially,
    vied with each other, decorating little altars with candles and fir
    branches and trying to outdo each other in loving care for the august
    visitors. The one who was the host for the day could have the picture in
    his room and spend as much time with his holy guests as he wanted and
    school permitted. He could, for instance, take his meals together with
    them upstairs. How inspiring this is for the imagination of the very
    young--sharing even their meals with the poor Holy Mother, who "doesn't
    look so tired any more and seems to like it here." Every night, before
    evening prayers, the whole family would gather outside the room where the
    picture had stayed for the day, and in solemn procession it would be
    carried through the house accompanied by the singing of Advent songs,
    until it reached the next resting place. Each evening there would be
    enacted the scene before the closed door of the inn. We used to sing the
    old Austrian "Herbergsucherlied," the song called "Wer Kopfet an":

    Who's knocking at my door?

    Two people poor and low.

    What are you asking for?

    That you may mercy show.
    We are, O Sir, in sorry plight,
    O grant us shelter here tonight.

    You ask in vain.

    We beg a place to rest.

    It's "no" again!

    You will be greatly blessed.

    I told you no!
    You cannot stay.
    Get out of here and go your way.

    When we were in Mexico, we learned that there they have a similar custom,
    called the Posada. On the nine evenings before Christmas they play the
    "Herbergsuchen" from house to house. They invite the local priest, who
    joins the procession, saying prayers. Eight nights the holy couple is
    refused shelter and on the ninth evening, Christmas Eve, they are let
    into a house where everything is prepared most lovingly--a large cradle
    is waiting, and while a statue of the Infant is put on the straw, the
    cradle is being rocked and a famous lullaby is being chanted, "A la

    As the weeks of Advent are now our busiest concert season, we have had to
    give up this custom of "Herbergsuchen"--but only in one way. Every
    evening of these holy weeks of Advent we sing our Christmas program in a
    different town. While doing so, we hope we may prepare a warm place for
    the homeless holy couple in many hearts among our audiences.


    In ancient Rome, people used to exchange gifts on New Year's Day.
    According to their means, these might be jewelry, pieces of gold and
    silver, or just home-made pastry, cookies, and candies. But they were a
    means of saying "Happy New Year." (In French Canada this custom has been
    preserved to the present day.)

    This is one of the instances where Holy Mother Church took an already
    existing custom and "baptized" it. When the Apostles brought the Gospel
    to Rome, the people learned of the Three Wise Men who came from the
    Orient to present gifts to the newborn King of the Jews. From then on,
    the old custom was only slightly changed. The exchanging of presents
    remained, but now it was done in imitation of the Three Holy Kings.

    It should be understood that everyone in the family has a present for
    everybody else; these presents should be precious, though not in terms of
    money, as they should not be bought, but home-made. This is quite a task
    in a large family, but fingers become skilled in handicrafts of many
    kinds block prints, wood carvings, leather work, needle work, lettering
    with beautiful illuminations, and clay work. All these, and one's
    imagination, are called upon to create many beautiful, useful things,
    which could not be bought for money because they are made not only with
    the hands but also with the heart.

    But it is not of the immediate family alone that we have to think when we
    make gifts. The true Christmas spirit results in a desire, if only it
    were possible, to extinguish all suffering, all hunger and need of any
    kind, all over the world. Inspired by this desire, everyone prepares for
    some poor or unfortunate member of the community some real substantial
    Christmas joy. The parcels that have to go a long distance, or even
    overseas, are made in the first week of Advent, and the boxes are lined
    with fir branches from our own woods. "Geben ist seliger als nehmen" ("To
    give is more blessed than to receive"), says an old proverb, and these
    are the weeks of the year to prove how true it is. The very essence of
    Christmas is to give, give, give--since at the very first Christmas the
    Heavenly Father gave His only begotten Son to us.


    The great feasts of the Church--Christmas, Easter, Pentecost,
    Epiphany--are privileged to have an octave. That means that the feast is
    not over at the end of the first evening, but is celebrated for a whole
    week. Octaves follow the feast like the train on a beautiful wedding
    dress. Christmas alone is also preceded by an octave. By the seventeenth
    of December, a week before the great day, not only the children are
    impatient the Church herself has become so eager for Christmas that she
    makes an impassioned appeal to the Messias to come, and to come quickly.
    From that day on, in the so-called Greater Antiphons at Vespers (from the
    initial letters they are called the "O-Antiphons") prayer and expectation
    rise in an ever-growing crescendo. The whole of Advent is characterized
    by the boundless desire for the coming of Christ expressed in the
    liturgy, and one can almost feel the increasing impatience in the
    antiphons for Vespers of the several Sundays "The Lord comes from afar"
    (first Sunday); "the Lord will come" (second and third Sundays); "the
    Lord is near" (fourth Sunday). Throughout the whole season there is a
    growing emphasis on the Lord's coming--our remembrance of His first
    coming, our glowing desire for His second coming at this present
    Christmas, and our great expectation of His final coming in the latter

    These days of holy impatience should be marked also in the family. The
    "O-Antiphons" might be written out on a piece of white cardboard, and
    each day for the main family meal they might be put in the center of the
    table, and afterwards added to the family's evening prayer.

    An old custom comes down from the monasteries of medieval times, where
    the monks used to get extra treats during this octave before Christmas.
    For example, on December 19th, when the Church calls on Christ, "O Radix
    Jesse" ("O Root of Jesse"), Brother Gardener brought his choicest
    vegetables and fruits, with specially beautiful roots among them; or on
    December 20th, when the Antiphon says, "O Key of David...." Brother
    Cellarer used his key for the wine cellar and brought out the best wine.
    Finally, on December 23rd, it was the turn of the Abbot, who came with
    special gifts to the brothers. This beautiful custom could be restored in
    families, the members of the house taking turns in providing a surprise
    at the evening meal, leaving the last day for the father, the day before
    that for the mother, the day before that for the oldest child, and so on.

    There is also the tradition, going back to Honorius of Autun, that
    connects the "O-Antiphons" with the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost with
    which the Holy Child was filled at the moment of His birth.


    Finally, St. Thomas' Day, December 21st, arrives. Throughout the Austrian
    Alps this is the day when the "Kletzenbrot" has to be baked.
    "Kletzenbrot" is the Tyrolean word for dried pears, but this bread
    contains a mixture of dried fruit. There will be one large loaf made for
    the family breakfast on Christmas morning, and an individual small loaf
    for every member of the household. This "Kletzenbrot" keeps forever, and
    it is as wholesome as it is delicious. Try it!


    2 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup chopped nuts
    1 cup white flour 1 cup chopped prunes
    2/3 cup brown sugar 1 cup chopped figs
    3 tsp. baking powder 1 cup chopped dates
    2 tsp. baking soda 1/2 cup raisins
    1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 cup currants
    2 cups buttermilk

    Mix sifted dry ingredients in a bowl. Add buttermilk slowly and stir to a
    smooth dough. Mix in the nuts, raisins, and the rest. Bake in a hot oven
    for about an hour.

    But not only "Kletzenbrot" is being baked--on St. Thomas' Day Christmas
    baking begins, and from now on the house will be filled with a cloud of
    delicious smells. Some of this Christmas baking--the choicest delicacies
    in the realm of cookies and candies--will be hung on the Christmas tree,
    which is altogether different from an American one. Of the many varieties
    we always preferred the cookies known as "Lebkuchen" (or
    "Lebzelten").("Lebkuchen" means "bread of life," and the name seems to be
    more than a coincidence when one thinks of it as the traditional bread
    baked for the birthday of the One Who said, "I have come that you may
    have life and that you may have it more abundantly." To Austrians, there
    are some cookies so connected with Christmas that they are an absolute
    "must." Of these, "Lebkuchen" is Number One.

    They get better with age, and they are responsible for the unique scent
    known in our family as "Christmas smell."

    Recipes for the various cookies are often jealously guarded in individual
    families, each one having its own tradition. From the dozens and dozens
    of delicacies, I shall choose those we consider the eight best, in honor
    of the eight days of the octave of Christmas--one for each day.

    {Cookie cutters: Use sturdy shears and cut one inch strips from tin cans;
    bend into shapes as indicated and fold over joints or solder.}


    4 eggs, beaten 1 lb. sugar
    3/4 lb. almonds, ground 1/8 to 1/4 lb. citron
    1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 lb. honey
    1/2 tsp. cloves 3 tbsp. rum or wine
    1/3 oz. powdered carbonate 1-1/2 lbs. flour, scant
    of potassium

    Dissolve powdered carbonate of potassium in the rum or wine. Sift the
    spices with the flour. Add the citron. Beat the eggs, add the sugar and
    the remaining ingredients. Roll on board 1/4 inch thick and cut into
    2-by-3-inch squares. Lay on greased tins; let stand in cool place over
    night. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 25 minutes and frost with plain icing.

    And here is a cheaper recipe, which we used during the war years:


    4 whole eggs 1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 lb. brown sugar 2 oz. citron, cut fine
    2 cups flour 1/4 lb. almonds or pecans

    Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy. Mix flour and cinnamon with finely
    chopped nuts and citron; combine the two mixtures. Bake in two greased
    10-by-15-inch pans in a moderate oven, 375 degrees F., for 25 minutes.
    Frost with plain icing.

    Another typical cookie for the Christmas tree is called "Spanish Wind."

    Spanish Wind

    3 egg whites
    3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
    1 tbsp. cornstarch

    Beat whites until stiff. Add 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar gradually; beat
    mixture until marshmallowy. Mix the cornstarch and remaining sugar and
    fold gently into the egg-white mixture. Put through pastry tube onto
    greased pan lined with waxed paper in the form of small wreaths. Bake in
    a slow oven, 275 degrees F., for 45 minutes.


    1 lb. sweet almonds
    1/4 lb. bitter almonds
    1-1/4 lbs. confectioners' sugar
    2 egg whites, unbeaten

    Blanch almonds, dry over night, grind very fine. Sift sugar over them,
    mix and knead to a stiff paste with the egg whites, or more egg, if
    needed. Roll with hands on board sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Cut
    into pieces size of a walnut. Roll each piece 1/2 inch thick, form into
    rings, crescents, hearts, bow knots and pretzel shapes, and bake until
    slightly browned, in a moderately slow oven, 325 degrees F.

    Most of these cookies are fastened with red string to the Christmas tree.
    In addition, there have to be trays and trays of small pastry ready to be
    eaten at random, like the following five recipes, each of which is a

    Rum Balls

    1/2 lb. vanilla wafers 1/2 cup light corn syrup
    2 tsp. cocoa 1/4 cup rum or brandy
    1 cup pecans, finely chopped Confectioners' sugar

    Grind wafers very fine. Add nuts, cocoa, syrup, and rum. Stir until well
    blended. Dust hands with confectioners' sugar and roll mixture into balls
    the size of a walnut. Let stand for about an hour to dry partially. Then
    roll in confectioners' sugar.

    Nut Busserln

    1 egg, beaten 1 cup chopped walnuts
    1 cup sugar 5 tbsp. flour

    Beat egg and sugar until very light; stir in chopped nuts, then add
    flour. Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake in a moderate
    oven, 375 degrees F., about 10 minutes.

    Cocoanut Busserln (Kisses)

    2 egg whites
    1/4 lb. confectioners' sugar
    1/4 lb. shredded cocoanut

    Beat the white of egg until stiff. Stir in the sugar well. Fold the
    shredded cocoanut in last. Drop mixture from tip of spoon 1/2 inch apart
    on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a slow oven, 250 degrees F., for 45
    minutes. Remove from pan when slightly cool.

    Rum Stangerln (Rum Slices)

    4 egg whites 1/2 lb. walnuts, ground
    1 lb. confectioners' sugar 1 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 lb. pecans, ground rum

    Beat egg whites until stiff, add sugar and grated nuts. Flavor with
    vanilla or rum. Form into rolls 3/4 inch in diameter. Chill for 45
    minutes. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Bake on greased tin in moderate oven,
    350 degrees F., about 15 minutes. While still warm, ice with
    confectioners' sugar moistened with enough rum to spread.


    2 cups corn syrup 1 tsp. soda
    2 cups dark molasses 2 tsps. cinnamon
    1 cup shortening 1/4 lb. citron, cut fine
    1/2 lb. brown sugar 1/4 lb. almonds, chopped fine
    10 cups flour 1 lemon, rind and juice

    Warm syrup, add shortening and lemon juice and the remaining ingredients
    in order given, soda mixed with flour. Roll into little balls, brush with
    white of egg, place on greased pan far apart, and bake until brown, 350
    degrees F. Roll in confectioners' sugar.

    And then of course there must be quantities of just plain cookies. Here
    is our recipe:

    Plain Cookies

    1/2 cup shortening 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
    1 egg 1-1/2 cups flour
    1 cup sugar pinch of salt
    1/2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. vanilla

    Sift flour, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Cream shortening. Add
    sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add egg. Beat well. Then gradually
    add the flour mixture and flavoring. Roll into small balls. Set 1 inch
    apart on greased cookie sheet. Flatten. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
    Bake at 400 degrees F. about 10 to 12 minutes.

    All through the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, there is feverish activity in the
    kitchen. Tin after tin filled with cookies comes out of the oven, plates
    are piled high, "Kletzenbrot" and "Knorpeltorte" are finished, and
    kitchen and pantry look like a pastry shop. It is a sweet torture to
    smell these good aromatic perfumes and not to be allowed to taste even
    one, since in our house we abstain from cookies during Advent.

    By midnight on the 23rd all must be finished. The dawn of the 24th finds
    a sober kitchen with all the goodies stored away and nothing left but the
    ingredients for a very frugal breakfast and lunch. Christmas Eve is one
    of the strictest fast days of the year. We have only a cup of coffee and
    a piece of dry bread for breakfast. For lunch, a bowl of fish salad
    stands on everyone's plate, and the only beverage is a glass of water.
    This is a special traditional fish salad, and here is the recipe:

    Fish Salad

    1-1/2 cups cooked fish, flaked 2 hard-boiled egg yolks
    1-1/2 cups shrimp 1/2 cup whipped heavy cream
    3 tsp. onion, grated 1/3 cup mayonnaise
    1 cup thinly sliced celery 2 tsp. lemon juice

    Combine fish, shrimp, onion and celery, season with salt and pepper.
    Sieve the egg yolks, mix with whipped cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice.
    Combine the fish mixture with dressing. Serve in individual bowls lined
    with lettuce, garnish with a dash of paprika and a few capers. (This
    makes about eight servings.)

    And with this lunch on Christmas Eve we have come to the end of the holy
    season of Advent. In the afternoon we begin the Vigil of Christmas.
    mirella likes this.