St. Nicholas, Our Advent so Far & Fasting Resources

Here Comes St. Nicholas!

My daughter Lena just told me it is the “eve of the eve of St. Nicholas Day!” Every year my children look forward to December 6th. On the Sunday closest to St. Nick’s feast, someone at the monastery (usually one of the monks) dresses up like St. Nicholas and hands out candy while the rest of us sing “Oh who Loves Nicholas the Saintly.” The night before his actual feast day, the kids place their shoes by my little St. Nicholas collection and wake up to them filled with chocolate coins and candies, a candy cane, and an ornament for the Christmas tree delivered by St. Nicholas himself. We attend Liturgy, read about his life, and pray an Akathist either the night before (usually after vespers), or sometime that day (as long as the day doesn’t get too crazy!).

I have a small collection of St. Nicholas figurines and dolls (and a large Icon of course). Every year I hunt down new collectibles at the thrift shops to add to my “St. Nick shrine”(as Manny calls it!). For years, Manny thought I was the only completely crazy person who does this until he saw my friend Renee’s collection. Now he thinks I am not crazy alone! I warn him that I aspire to have just as awesome of a collection as Renee’s (yes, this worries him)!

Renee's St. Nicholas shelf

My friend Renee’s awesome St. Nicholas display!

 

Renee's St. Nicholas shelf 2

I was hoping to write a short life of St. Nicholas but haven’t had a chance. I did come across this very well written post and you can read it here.

I do have to say something about St. Nicholas and myself. This year has been an interesting one. Manny has been out of work and as time goes on the finances have gotten tighter. With Christmas coming I was wondering how I would get the kids their normal ornament for St. Nicholas day and the usual gift he brings on Christmas day. After going over bills recently, I knew we didn’t have the money. I told God He was going to have to come up with money for the bills and I told St. Nicholas it was on him about the gifts. I was angry as I wondered what we would do. I even told St. Nicholas ‘I guess you better make a miraculous check show up in the mail or deliver the gifts yourself!’ After calming down, I did realize I meant what I said (even if I shouldn’t get angry), because there was nothing else we could do. So I left it at that–in God’s hands and St. Nicholas’s hands. Well the next day a check did come in the mail. An unexpected gift from a dear friend. It was a huge blessing; enough for some St. Nick day treats, Christmas day presents, much needed winter gear for the kids, and help with a few bills (I guess God and St. Nicholas showed me!). I am so grateful to the wonderful friends we have who have helped with meals when I was sick, gifts of money, and of course so many prayers. Since I first wrote about Manny being out of work, readers have messaged us with encouragement and assurance of prayers. We are not out of the woods yet, but all of these things show us that God has not abandoned us and we just have to keep having faith and trusting Him to provide for us in His way and His time. A huge thank you to everyone who has been a light to us during these times! And thank you to St. Nicholas for answering my prayers yet again.

Goings On…

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard my 10 year old daughter say, “The first week of the fast is over, things will be better now. Yay!” I don’t know about ya’ll, but in our house, the first week of the fast is rough! Everyone is grumpy and all my plans of a great start to the fasting season crumble before my eyes, as people grumble about what I made for dinner and hungry bellies rumble,it makes for moody people who are snappy, short tempered, and anything but cheerful.

It happens every year, everyone knows what’s coming but still the first week is rough. I am always tempted with thoughts of ‘why are we even doing this?’ as I listen to everyone being grumpy and mean to each other. I start out trying hard to encourage everyone to be patient and remember why we are fasting and to be kind to one another but after a few days of all the moody blues, I crack and start getting just as impatient and grumpy as everyone else. By the end of the week, we all need to go to confession.

The entire household can breath easy now because the first week of the “fasting grumpies” has passed. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and next-day leftovers. This past week has been good and we are on track with no grumpies and everyone is making a real effort to prepare well for Christmas. I guess it just takes awhile to accept that there will be no bacon or fried chicken for little while. That and my, “Mary gave birth in a cave–this ain’t nothing–so get with it” talk!

I have been reading Old Testament stories to the kids, discussing the foreshadowing of different events and explaining how God was preparing the chosen people to give the world Mary and then the Messiah. Some of the stories need a lot of explaining (God sounds so mean to kids in the Old Testament stories). We have had good discussions though and I think they are understanding well. I’m using a Catholic Children’s Bible so that we will get through a lot of the major stories in time for Christmas.

We have been praying the pre-Christmas kontakion at home during prayer time and the kids have it down good.

I am reading The Winter Pascha from Fr. Thomas Hopko. I read part of it years ago, and picked it up every now and then, but I would inevitably get distracted with another book. This is the year to finish it though, it thoroughly has my attention this time.

When it is much closer to Christmas, we will go to the tree farm up the road and fight over which tree to take home.  Some will want a tiny one, others one way too large for the house, and I will have my own ideas. Manny will have to referee and finally we will get too cold to fight any longer so we will agree and the kids will cut the lucky tree down. A few days before Christmas we will decorate the tree and the house.

 

On Christmas Eve we plan on writing names of friends and family on little brown bags, filling them with sand and a candle and lining the Monastery driveway and sidewalk with these “farolitos” (a tradition from New Mexico that we brought with us to Wisconsin). The little lights are perfect little prayers and symbols of baby Jesus coming in His small quiet way to be the light of the world.

farolito path

Advent/Nativity Fast Resources:

We are obviously not a food blog but we know a couple of people that do have food blogs and some useful info for keeping the fast right now.

Fasting and Feasting through the Church Year

Fr. Moses of HRM has a blog with some very good fast friendly recipes on it:

fastingandfeastingthruthechurchyear.blogspot.com.  Here is some good advice he has written:

Making Fasting Easier

Most of us who were raised in the average American home have no idea how to fast. It really does require us to rethink how we eat. When we have restrictions on what we can eat its much more difficult to prepare a meal, you cant just pick up “fast” food (most “fast” food is not fast friendly) you actually have to think about (at least I do) whats on the menu. People often comment that keeping the fast is so hard. So what to do about it? Be prepared, plan ahead and keep it simple.

  1. Be prepared! A week or so before the fast starts stock up on foods that will make your life easier. Some foods I like to keep on hand for last minute fasting meals; dried beans, especially lentils (they cook up in just 30 min), canned beans, pasta, tofu, lots of fresh veges and salad stuff, frozen or canned fish and shellfish are also great to have around.
  2. Plan your meals ahead. This will help with shopping as well as helping to utilize leftovers saving $$.
  3. Keep it simple. One of the reasons we fast is to allow ourselves more time to pray. Its kind of pointless to spend hours in the kitchen preparing lenten meals and not to spend enough time in prayer. There is nothing wrong with a bit of monotony at the table. Try cooking a larger batch of something then you usually would and serving it again later in the week.

DYNO-MOM

Our good friend Melissa Naasko  has a great blog with all kinds of wonderful information. She has a whole bunch of info and recipes sharing her own families fasting meals. This link will lead you to all of the fasting posts on her blog:

sunflower hummus http://www.dyno-mom.com/search/label/Freaky%20Friday

Since we are talking about Melissa’s blog, I want to remind people (I often forget this myself) with any shopping you will do on Amazon, make sure to use someone’s  affiliate link. Melissa has a link and any shopping you do via her link can  help support her blog. Her family is a wonderful Byzantine Catholic family and you will enjoy reading about them. Her affiliate link is on her site.

Lot’s of charities also have Amazon links and it can be a good way to give a little extra support. I am trying to make an effort to buy any religious items from small family or religious run businesses but there are plenty of non-religious things I will purchase from Amazon. I may as well support a friend or charity when doing so. We wrote a brief post about Stewardship and Holiday shopping with a few Catholic and Orthodox sites to buy items from. You can read that here.

Pinterest is a great site for finding resources and keeping track of them. There are some pinning addicts in my house (I’m not saying who) but I am not one of them. I do have boards with some useful info though. You can follow me at Pinterest by clicking the logo in the upper right corner of the page. I promise to continue adding useful content over time, especially of traditions, recipes, icons, and articles.

My own last thoughts on the fasting aspect of this season are two things. First, remember this isn’t about the food. It’s about growing closer to God. Pray and be charitable and let your fasting support those efforts. Second, gratitude goes a long way to make this time easier. We can grumble about having to choose to eat beans but we should remember for some, they don’t have that choice, many people go hungry every day. Being thankful for what we have can give us the right perspective.

Because this is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving I want to share with you three organizations that are helping the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Let us remember them in our efforts, especially our prayers, this season.

ACERO the international aid agency of the Assyrian Church of the East

CNEWA Catholic Near East Welfare Association

IOCC International Orthodox Christian Charities

We shared our own experiences over the years and additional resources for the Advent Season in two precious articles. If you missed them, you can read about how we keep the Nativity Fast in our family here. I wrote this article for Catholic Exchange which was written mainly for a Roman Catholic audience as a way to share the Eastern churches practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It was well received by Roman Catholics and Christians from various churches. If you have friends who you would like to encourage and share Eastern practices with please pass the articles on.

Thank you for visiting our site, please keep us in your prayers!

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. I just stumbled across your blog : )

    If you are ever looking to add to your Advent preparations, we started doing a Jesse Tree this year. My husband was skeptical because he thought it would be hokey but even he has enjoyed it. This set has enough ornaments for each day – https://www.etsy.com/listing/171685761/orthodox-jesse-tree-40-days?ref=shop_home_feat_1 . It is the only one I found that had an ornament for each day of the Philip’s Fast; most sets only had enough for the 4 week Advent.

    • Jessica Archuleta says:

      Hi Joanne 🙂 Thanks for the link. We have Jesse Tree ornaments packed up somewhere! We are reading the Old Testament stories without the ornaments. Maybe by next year I’ll be unpacked in time! Thanks for sharing.

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