Saints, Feast, Family
- Traditions passed down with Cooking, Crafting, & Caring -
The Vigil of the Nativity
Nativity means birth
Holy Day of Obligation
The Lord delights in his people.
The goodness of the Lord is praised.
Acts of the Apostles 13:16-17,22-25
God chose the people of Israel, and from them he raised up Jesus, the Savior for all people.
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today's liturgy offers the option to read a longer or shorter form of the Gospel. If we read the longer form, we hear Matthew recount the ancestry of Jesus. This genealogy sets Jesus' birth within the context of the history of Israel, highlighting two of Jesus' ancestors—Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, and David, the most important king of Israel. Jesus' ancestral lineage reinforces a central theme of Matthew's Gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies made to the people of Israel.
The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph's perspective. During his betrothal to Mary, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. Betrothal in first-century Jewish culture was more than an engagement period; it was part of the marriage contract. A breach of this contract was considered adultery. If adultery was proved, the punishment might be death. Joseph had rights under Mosaic Law, but he chose to act discreetly in his plans to break the marriage contract so as to protect Mary. The way that Joseph and Mary faced these extraordinary circumstances tells us much about these holy people and their faith in God.
The message the angel gave to Joseph in a dream reveals many important theological details about the child Mary will bear and about the child's role in God's plan. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name will be Jesus, which in the Hebrew means “God saves.” He will be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He will be Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the Incarnation. God chose to become a human being in the person of Jesus.
Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed. He took Mary to be his wife and accepted the child in her womb as his own. When Jesus was born, Joseph followed the directions of the angel and gave the child the name Jesus. We often recall Mary's cooperation in God's plan for our salvation. Today's Gospel reminds us of Joseph's important role, which was also crucial to God's plan for Jesus' birth.
Songs of the season:
Oh Holy Night ~ Celine Dion
Andrea Bocelli Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Watch a movie ~ The Nativity
History Of The Christmas Creche:
St. Francis' Devotion to the Baby Jesus
St. Francis of Assisi had a special devotion to the Child Jesus, and he is credited with creating the first nativity scene on Christmas Eve of the year 1223.
"I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by.”
He set up an empty manger (the feeding trough of farm animals which served as Jesus’ crib) inside a cave, and even included a live ox and donkey beside the manger just as it was believed to have happened on that first Christmas night. Through these visual aids he wanted everyone to impress more deeply into their understanding how Christ came into the world in such poverty and simplicity. This was a typical perspective of St. Francis’ unique charism of simple centered spirituality.
It is also said that St. Francis—who was radically devoted to the virtue of evangelical poverty—was inspired to recreate the original nativity scene to overcome the rampant greed and materialism
The Spread Of The Devotion and the Christmas Creche
St. Francis’ recreation of that first Christmas night was so popular that soon every church in Italy had its own nativity scene. The devotion also spread to private homes, and in modern times even to secular institutions, so much so that it’s now impossible to imagine Christmas without a nativity scene to behold.
Gospel Reading for the Midnight Mass (Luke 2:1-14)
In the book of Luke, it proclaims the joyful tidings of the Angel: “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” The Gospel reading for this Mass tells the first part of the Christmas story, when Baby Jesus was born and the Angels herald the Good News to the shepherds tending their flocks. Therefore, this Midnight Mass is traditionally referred to as “The Angel’s Mass.”
Something interesting to think about
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem where she gave birth to Jesus and laid Him in a manger. Why is this interesting? Let's start with the word Bethlehem and its meaning. בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם (Bethlehem) is made up of two Hebrew words: Bet בֵּ֥ית (meaning house) and lechem לָֽחֶם (meaning bread). Mary's womb held the bread of life, which is Jesus. Mary went to the house of bread to deliver the “bread", Jesus. After delivering him she placed him in a manger. What is a manger? A manger is a structure or feeder used to hold food for sheep. The word manger derives from the Old French “mangier" (meaning "to eat”) or from Latin mandere (meaning "to chew"). Mary's actions showed that Jesus is the "bread of life" and Catholics are reminded about the importance of the Eucharist and transubstantiation even at Christmas.
Many countries give Christmas bread out as gifts of love like Panettone & Pandoro in Italy, Julekake in Norway, Stollen in Germany, Cozonac cu Nuca or walnut bread in Romania, Krendel Bread in Russia, Bobalky in Slovakia, Cougnou or bread of Jesus in Belgium, Christopsomo or Christ’s Bread in Greece, and Vánočka a braided fruit filled bread that is meant to resemble the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the Czech Republic. Sometimes Christmas wafers, Oplatek, are available from Churches which have been blessed for the families to eat before dinner. These charming Christmas wafers resemble a large Eucharist. The breaking of the Christmas wafer is a custom that began in Poland and it is now practiced by many people around the world. The Christmas wafer symbolizes the unity of the family, which should exist between all family members.
Peace on Earth
The Ritual of the Christmas Wafer: Gathered around the dining room table before the Christmas Eve dinner but right after grace the eldest male member takes the wafer and expresses his hopes for the new year. He also states that it is time to openly tell each other, I love you and I care about you. While holding the wafer he breaks off a piece to start the ritual. The remaining wafer is passed on to the next person at the table. All guests are welcomed to partake in this amazing family event, even pets. Each person is encouraged to give a blessing, a wish or to make amends. This continues until everyone at the table has a piece of the wafer. Finally, after each person has given the gift of unconditional love and forgiveness, while consuming a piece of the shared wafer, the father then leads the family in prayer, uniting the family. The wafer also symbolizes forgiveness, reconciliation, and above all love. Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people… John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
Feast of the Seven Fishes:
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it is not called by this name in Italy and is not a "feast" in the stricter sense of "holiday," but rather a grand meal. Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day, and the abundance of seafood reflects the tradition of abstinence from red meat until the actual feast of Christmas Day itself.
Today, it is a meal that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known simply as The Vigil (La Vigilia). This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat during certain times of the year. As no meat or animal fat (there is no prohibition on milk or dairy products) could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish (typically fried in oil).
It is unclear when the term "Feast of the Seven Fishes" was popularized. The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. "Seven" fishes as a fixed concept or name is unknown in Italy itself. In some of the oldest Italian American families there was no count of the number of fish dishes. Dinner began with whiting in lemon, followed by some version of clams or mussels in spaghetti, baccalà and onward to any number of other fish dishes without number. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.
There are many hypotheses for what the number "7" represents. Seven is the most repeated number in the Bible and appears over 700 times.
One popular theory is the number represents completion, as shown in Genesis 2:2: "By the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." During the feast of the seven fishes, participants celebrate the completion of God's promise of the Messiah through Jesus.
Other theories include: that the number represents the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church; or it represents the Seven hills of Rome that surround the city. It may represent perfection (the traditional Biblical number for divinity is three, and for Earth is four, and the combination of these numbers, seven, represents God on Earth, or Jesus Christ).
At my Italian American Christmas Eve dinner
Always after mass, and traditionally mass was at midnight but we now go to the 6pm mass.
Shrimp cocktail & Scampi
White Fish Fried
Baked Clams with Bread Crumbs
Clams in Red Sauce or White wine butter sauce
Grandma Minella back in her time made fried smelts too....Lots of fish!
As a newlywed, I got in good with great grandpa (Nick). My first year cooking at the house I made my Shrimp Bisque. Nick asked to take a jar of soup home with him and I said "of course you can." While he waited for us to make his to go bag ready he showed me a picture of great grandma Ruth. She was so pretty. He said I reminded him of her. Because I had a big heart, I loved to take care of family, and I loved to cook. I smiled, hugged him, and said thank you. I was later told that he never takes food home, that he must have truly enjoyed dinner and the company. I cherish this memory . Great Grandpa holds a special place in my heart. I think because my husband looks at me the way his grandfather still looks at Ruth. I hope that never changes. He is my best friend and our love only deepens with every passing year. I am truly blessed to have him and our son in my life.
Ann Marie's Clams Linguine
8 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium diced onion
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 cans minced/chopped clams, with juice
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon parsley
1lb linguine or 1 lb capellini
In a 5 qt pot, heat water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, melt butter and olive oil in pan.
Sweat onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Add clams with juice & stock
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Drain pasta and place in large bowl.
Cover pasta with clam sauce, stir well and top with parsley and parmesan cheese.
Longer the sauce sits on the pasta the better the flavor!
Serve with warm crusty bread and chilled white wine.
Make A French Yule Log Cake
Ingredients for the Yule Log Cake Roll:
6 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Ingredients for Coffee Syrup
1 cup strong coffee, room temp or cold
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Ingredients for Tiramisu Frosting:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Ingredients for Toppings/ Decor:
1 Recipe Chocolate Ganache, cooled to room temp
1 Recipe Meringue mushrooms
1 Tbsp unsweetened Cocoa Powder for dusting finished cake
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios
6 oreo cookies, frosting removed
How to Make The Sponge Cake:
Prep: Preheat Oven to 400˚F. Line 15×21″ baking sheet with parchment.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat 6 eggs with whisk attachment on high speed 1 minute. With mixer on, gradually add 2/3 cup sugar and continue beating on high 5 minutes. Mixture will be thick and fluffy (very important since you’re relying on egg volume for the cake to rise)
Sift 1 cup flour in thirds into batter, folding with a spatula between each addition and scraping the bowl to ensure you don’t have pockets of flour hiding at the bottom. Drizzle in 1/2 tsp vanilla and gently mix just until blended (do not overmix or you will deflate the batter). Spread batter into prepared baking pan and bake right away at 400˚F approximately 12-14 minutes or until top is golden.
Remove from the oven and quickly loosen the edges with a thin spatula. Right away remove it from the baking sheet keeping the parchment backing on. Place a second sheet of parchment paper over the top and roll cake into a log, starting from the narrow end. Cool to room temp.
How to Assemble and Frost a Tiramisu Yule Log(Bûche de Noël):
Stir together 1 cup coffee and 1 Tbsp sugar until dissolved. Unroll cake, removing the backing as you go and lay it out on the large baking sheet. Brush top evenly with Coffee Syrup. Let sit to soak up the syrup while you make the frosting (recipe below).
Spread frosting evenly over the top of the cake then roll, somewhat tightly, into a log shape, rolling in the same direction as the first time you rolled it. Trim off both sides of the roll to make it presentable. Slice 1/4 of the cake off on the diagonal (about 45˚ angle). Transfer the larger log portion to your serving platter. Place this stump over the top of your log with the flat side down. Refrigerate cake until ready to frost with chocolate frosting.
Beat room temp. chocolate ganache on high speed for 45 seconds to 1 min or until fluffy (don’t over-beat or it may start looking a little grainy). Spread evenly over yule log, but don’t frost the sliced ends of the log. Pull a fork across the entire surface of the log, making some spirals to add natural character. It helps to wipe the fork frequently with a paper towel as you go.
How to Decorate a Yule Log:
For effect: Dust the top with cocoa powder. You can also add sprigs of pine to look foresty.
For the dirt: remove cream from oreo cookies, then crush them in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin. Sprinkle crumbs at the base of the log.
For moss: finely chop pistacchios and sprinkle in patches on your log.
Just before serving, decorate with mushrooms as you please. Don’t refrigerate mushrooms or they will become sticky. Keep them in tupperware at room temp in a dry place until serving.
How to Make Tiramisu Frosting:
Tip: freeze or refrigerate mixing bowl and whisk 10-15 min prior to beating. The colder it is, the better it whips.
With whisk attachment, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream on high speed until fluffy/stiff and spreadable (1 1/2 – 2 min). Don’t over-beat. Transfer to a bowl.
In the same bowl (no need to wash the bowl or whisk after the whipped cream), beat softened cream cheese and sugar on high speed until smooth and fluffy (2 min), scraping down the bowl as needed to prevent rebel clumps of cream cheese.
Use a spatula to fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until very well blended (refrigerate frosting if not using right away).
Traditions Before Bed:
Release a paper Christmas lantern like they do in Argentina
And we end the evening with a gift to Santa!
Milk and cookies...hmmm
My son started Cosmos and Cookies to Santa!
& Carrots for the reindeer!
Cousin Spike waiting for Santa too!