Monday, December 19, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26 and include Epiphany on January 6.
). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day.
Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. Many European celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine.
The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children with secular origins. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction, perhaps dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.
Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was only a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world.
The song goes like this:
On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Four Calling Birds
The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Five Gold Rings
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Six Geese A-laying
The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness,
6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.
So do enjoy the twelve days of Christmas and each day teach your children what that day means. Light a lamp or candle to celebrate the night and on Epiphany Day, give gifts and have a PARTY!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Field Trip – Creative Nativity Crib and Star-Making Competition

December 16th dawned with us not sure if we were going to make it to Old Goa for the competition since Glenn feared we would get stuck in traffic because of the meeting to protest the RP 2012. So it was at noon that we decided to take our chances and go.

I had to record two talks at AIR so we went there first. Having done with that, we picked up Kirsten’s guitar from Pedro’s and in Dhoom-style we sped along to Old Goa, capturing the scenic beauty of the villages on handycam. By 6pm, we finally reached the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa for the competition.

The programme was already underway when we arrived. There was a group of carolers serenading a small crowd gathered in the garden adjacent to the Museum where the stars and cribs were displayed. Tempting Xmas treats were served to the children; we too took a bite of the crisp neuris and soft delicious fruit cake.

The nuns put up a thought-provoking play adapted from the one published in the Xmas issue of RAYS – the diocesan magazine, which gave us the eco-friendly message not to cut down trees.

I was quite disappointed to see just three entries for the star; the crib had only three entries as well. Two of the cribs used plastic bottles and waste paper (see pictures), a concept I had been planning for our crib at home so I was delighted to see these and got good ideas from them. One of the nativity models, done by Jose and team from Candolim, had moving parts (three kings and star). The residents of the old-age home nearby did one of the eco-friendly cribs and they were all there to collect their prize!

The stars were made from bamboo, coconut palm strands and plastic straws. one was designed to look like Santa Claus.

It was all over sooner than we would have liked it to. While leaving, each one was presented with a season’s greetings card from the Museum by one of its guard. We returned home by 8pm after a short detour to a friend’s place to pick up some clothes for Aaron and books for our homeschool library.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hi Homeschoolers,

Aaron did an English lesson with me a couple of days ago called ‘Around the world’ which is an extract from Jules Verne’s novel ‘Around the World in Eighty days’.
We had an opportunity to do some geography in locating San Francisco, New York, the Rocky Mountains, etc. There was mention of winding roads, suspension bridges and canyons so we checked the net for pics. There was mention of Red Indians attacking the train and a gunfight with revolvers and rifles so I downloaded info on these for Aaron to read.
I share this with you to illustrate how homeschooling is far better than any class in school could ever be. Even if smart boards are introduced, will every student be guaranteed individual attention?
I also did an EVS lesson with both the boys on floating objects which Kirsten videotaped. They had fun learning whilst doing; Charis and Daniel watched and learned too!
What is lacking right now is a lab of sorts. Let’s hope we can cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, the kitchen will have to do.
For Goa Can Homeschool,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Reading a Pleasure

A well-planned home library does not take over an entire room. Create an inviting, clutter-free library corner in your home, either in the playroom or study or even the children’s bedroom. Opt for freestanding bookshelves which can also act as a partition, separating the main area from the cozy corner chosen for the library. Low spaces under windows can also be used to arrange shelves for kids’ books so they can get to them easily.

To brighten up the room, add a colorful bedspread over a quilted mattress or over a rocking/arm chair and place it in your library corner. A reading lamp, strategically placed, creates an inviting ambience at night as well as aids in reading, especially when the kids are asleep.

Choose a corner that is naturally well lit during the day, but remember to keep the books away from direct sunlight as they will fade and eventually deteriorate. If there isn’t enough light, add incandescent lamps. Avoid using fluorescent lights as they can harm books.

Place the books horizontally or vertically with the titles outwards so you can find the one you want easily. To break the monotony, you can arrange figurines, photographs, etc in between stacks of books, much like you would with book ends. Keep the books with adult content on higher shelves, well out of the reach of curious children. Invest in a cordless dust-buster and some lint-free cloth to keep the books in mint condition.

Finally, for music lovers, keep a player mounted nearby with a selection of your favorite soft instrumental music, and voila, your room is ready for some soulful reading.

In our home, we have one room exclusively set aside for study as we homeschool our children. In it, we have a study table which doubles up as a bookcase. There is a coir mattress to curl on and read, flanked by soft toys. A computer table is our work-station and the gateway to the world for our kids. One drawer of a huge wardrobe serves as a library for our treasured Enid Blyton collection. We also have a variety of books, ranging from Readers Digest condensed editions to books on spirituality, all around the house, but these are hidden away in closets for want of space.

The reading habit is one that every child must get addicted to; parents should wean them away from deadly addictions to computer games or TV viewing. The skill of rapid reading will undoubtedly stand them in good stead when they have to understand textbook content in school and college. Knowledge through books is something you don’t get by passive TV watching as you have to exercise your imagination when you read. It improves vocabulary too since you see the word as you try to pronounce it. Your grammar and composition skills will improve by leaps and bounds as well. And playing Scrabble or doing the Crossword won’t be so tenuous a task anymore.

Give your children the best Christmas gift – the joy of meeting the ‘friends’ you had when you were their age. Introduce them to the ‘addiction’ of reading wholesome, soul-satisfying books and you will surely discover your childhood once again as you help them connect with theirs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hi Homeschoolers on the www,

Today Goa Can Homeschool completes 6 months of homeschooling. I must admit beginning this adventure was a challenge and the journey quite frightening at times. But we are convinced that it will work for the best of our children.

Homeschool has taught me to ‘Think out of the Box’. I look out every time for teaching moments and discover that I am learning more in the process. As a mother, I thrill when my kids yell ‘Eureka’ and as a teacher, I feel fulfilled when that happens.

We have more time for God and each other now. The Principal is relaxed; he works at home and from home. Daniel is a distraction; I have to tend to him and this takes me away from the table at times. But I find that the boys do their work with a bit of discipline, and the presence of the Principal in the room has a profound effect on them.

The day begins with Mass for Glenn and the boys. Aaron serves at Mass now. I prepared a record card for him so he can proudly show it whenever anyone asks him what he does early morning. Then we do a chapter from Proverbs after breakfast. Each chooses a verse to memorise. Aaron is a sponge so he says them like a parrot each morning when they are taken up. Even the teacher and the Principal have to do their homework. And, of course, Aaron takes it up!

By 9.30 am, we sit for the academic stuff; Maths and English everyday, EVS alternates with Hindi. I have a tough time getting the boys to the study table and that frustrates me. But once they get there, with a bit of the ‘boddi’, they get down to business. Aaron is a sponge as a learner so my work is half done; Nathan is a doer and so he plods along with his 3Rs. But give him an opportunity to act or do art with his fingers and he is in his element. Charis is showing exceptional talent in being self-taught; she has her own special little blackboard, painted for her by Aaron and me. We finish by 12 noon and then Aaron plays games on the computer while the other two watch or they help me or Glenn with housework. Sometimes they play together or read books.

Chores are allotted to the three according to age: Aaron gets to keep the vessels back after they are dry, Nathan does the dusting in the hall, Charis waters the plants. They all get together to put the clothes to dry on the dryer and each has to fold his own clothes and keep them in their respective sections in the cupboard. Besides this, Aaron is usually called upon to help at odd times as he is the oldest and most obedient and prompt in his work. Charis too likes to help but she cannot handle many tasks so we give her the easier jobs which she does with happiness. Nathan plods along as usual!

We get the kids to rest in the afternoons and by 5 pm, they are off like the wind to play wit their friends. At 7pm, its bath-time, dinner, then Gospel reading followed by the Rosary. We bless each other at the end and potter around until its time for bed (11 pm). Sometimes, on demand, I read them a bedtime story. The kids say their goodnight prayers and after a bit of talking and giggling, they are all off to Sleepyland.

We do field trips once in a while. I scan the activities in the newspapers and choose where we should go. We went for a book launch, then to a book reading, and soon we will go to see a star-n-crib competition at Old Goa. I also plan a trip next year to the Goa Chitra Musuem to see their section on wheels.

We look forward to our bimonthly homeschool meetings with the support group we have joined. They are our extended family so it’s heartwarming to hug and ‘hifi’ with all the members. Recently, we had a Children’s day party and soon we are planning a New Year’s Day with them. All have large families so we feel at home.

Our relatives and friends have started questioning the wisdom of this decision.It’s tough to explain it as they don’t want to hear us out, only to ask us to stop and get the kids back to school. When I shared my hurt feelings with one of the homeschool members, this is what he smsed, “We pay for our faithfulness to d gospel. Jesus pays for d rest. Stand up for ur convictions lady.”

Please keep us in your prayers, for each day brings new challenges and we don’t want to despair when persecution comes. Glenn and I want the best for our children, not as the world sees it but as God, our Provider and Protector, does.

Friday, December 2, 2011