Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This Thursday - February 2nd  - is the feast of 'Candlemas' .

Ron Dicianni   'Simeons Moment'

This little known , but delightful celebration is a feast of light , commemorating the presentation of Jesus as a baby, by his parents at the temple in Jerusalem. In the gospel story in Luke chapter two Mary and Joseph attend the temple as required by law to offer  sacrifices. As they enter the temple they are met by Simeon, an elderly and devout man who has been promised by God that  he would not die until he has seen the Messiah. It a dramatic and intense moment as Simeon takes the baby in his arms and  prophecies.

Imagine holding the infant Son of God in your arms.

His  parent are amazed and probably not a little disconcerted. To add to their perplexity they are approached by Anna, a prophet and widow who spends her days in the temple. She also recognises the baby for who he is.

The celebration of Candlemas includes three symbols; time, light and music.

God's timing uniquely perfect and beautifully executed. Simeon had waited a long time , faithful and patient , to see God's salvation. Now he would die in peace and  confidence.  Candlemas falls precisely between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Just as the days are beginning, ever so gradually, to lengthen and small quiet signs of spring discreetly emerge we celebrate the light of the world publicly recognised. We move from winter towards spring, from Christmas towards Easter.
‘The snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas day’
Traditional rhyme
 February is the month  when glimpses of the sun and early flowers give hope for the spring after the bleak days of January. Snowdrops flower at this time of year and are sometimes called Candlemas Bells. The tiny infant who was taken to the temple that day is a glimpse of the glory of God's salvation - for both Israel and all the nations.

 It is predominantly a feast of light. Simeon's words remind us  that Jesus is ' a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel'
Some churches hold candle lit processions into darkened church buildings and the candles to be used during worship for the rest of the year are blessed; this is where the name Candlemas comes from.

The words of Simeon are known as the Nunc Dimitis; they have been set to music by a variety of composers. The following links take you two lovely but very different recordings.

The first is Aled Jones and Ben Crawley singing Geoffrey Burgon's setting

And Michael Card singing 'Now that I've held Him in my arms.'

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January Days - feeding the birds.

 We are enjoying the birds that come to our garden and have started to feed them over the winter months. I have a pair of binoculars on the kitchen windowsill and we are gradually learning to identify the different birds that visit.

According to the RSPB half the adults in in Britain feed birds in their gardens! Winter is the often the time when we think about feeding the birds , especially during harsh weather conditions when food is scarce. The RSPB website has lots of good advise on how, when and what to feed.

Also, this month on the weekend of the 28th and 29th is the Big Garden Bird Watch . All you have to do is commit one hour to watching the birds in your garden and recording the species that visit, then send the results in to the RSPB.

It looks like fun.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January Days.

I am so much enjoying my first winter in over three years!

  • Frosty morning walks to school when I can see my breathe. 
  • Warming homemade soups, especially pea and ham made with the Christmas ham bone.
  • Seville oranges and homemade marmalade.
  • Scarlet sunsets from my window.
  • Evenings curled up under a rug.

Some snow would crown it all!

    Sunday, January 08, 2012

    Epiphany 2

    A few thoughts on and photos of our Epiphany celebration.

    Yesterday evening my husband and I went to see the film 'The Way' at our local community cinema. It is about a father who travels to France to bring home the body of his son who died walking the Camino de Santiago. Once at the place where it begins he decides to walk the way himself. The experience has a profound impact on him and the pilgrims who he meets along the way. An image that remains with me from the film is the clear joy even the most cynical pilgim feels on arriving at Santiago de Compostela.   The metaphor for life  as journey  is currently popular and a little over used in both spiritual and secular circles but it is a picture that is often used in the bible. When we read the story from Matthews gospel yesterday of the wise men setting out on their epic journey and resolutely following the star , seeking the new born king I was struck by their responce when they finally arrived at their destination. They were overwhelmed with joy. Anyone who has completed a trek or a long and ardous journey of some kind knows the relief, the satisfaction and the pleasure of arriving but overwhelming joy? The pilgims on The Way experienced something like this. For the wise men however, joy was complete because their destination was Jesus. The light leads us to Jesus - what other destination could there be?

    A few photos of our feast

    Friday, January 06, 2012


    Epiphany means an appearance or manifestation , a moment of revelation or insight and is the name given to the beautiful celebration of the visit of the wise men to the young Jesus and his family. It is celebrated on January the 6th.
    This year we are going to celebrate on the 7th - mainly because the kids are back to school and we plan to go Geocaching so Saturday is a better day. I read about geocaching some years ago and stored the idea away: it seemed such an excellent way to have fun on Epiphany with a meaningful activity that gets us thinking about intrepid journeys and hunting for the greatest treasure of all. When the children were younger we made crowns for everyone but now the boys especially are less inclined to play with paper and glitter. It seems like a good year to introduce a new, more energetic tradition!

    After our adventures and treasure hunting we will have a lunch with  middle eastern theme - since the wise men came from the East;

    Lamb Stew with Coucous 
    Pitta Bread

    followed by a Gallette  de Roi which is the traditional French kings cake. This year is the first year I have made it as I have often been living in places where the ingredients were not available!
    and Chocolate Chunk Spice cake which is what I usually make from Catherine Bells book Everyday Epicurean.

    The wise men will have completed their journey through the house and will be placed along side the other figures in the Nativity scene.

    There are lots of good stories to read together after lunch ; the story of the wise men from Matthew's gospel of course and the story of Babouska - a Russian folk tale, we may read T S Elliots poem ' The Journey of the Magi'

    We will feast, laugh, read and play - what I hope above all is that we will end the day with a revelation of our own,  a deeper appreciation of what the coming of Jesus meant to the world beyond Jewish borders.

    I am linked to the Nativity Carnival. 

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    Twelfth Night

    Twelfth Night on January 5th brings Christmas to a close. I like to think of it as a beginning rather than end.  Advent and Christmas are the start of the church calendar, after the birth we watch this remarkable baby grow and mature. We follow His progress as He fulfils the purpose for which He was born. Our journey with Jesus stretches ahead of us and the events to come are even more amazing.

    Traditionally it is a night of feasting and revelry and most of the traditions probably stem from pagan roots. It was an evening for plays and mummers, parties and games and in some areas of the country , mainly apple growing ones, a time to bless the orchards and the land to ensure a good harvest. Wassailing is an old English tradition when a hot spicy ale or cider based drink is shared from a common cup; some of the drink is poured around the trees to ensure a good crop. 

    It is also the night to take down Christmas decorations. In our house we usually spend the evening together quietly dismantling the decorations and the tree. Before we pack them away we record our best memories of Christmas on cards and tuck them in the box of decorations ready to find next Advent when we unpack everything again. 

    We drink Lambs Wool a warm drink made with cider or ale or a combination, flavoured with spices and baked apples. I make a non alcoholic version for the kids with apple juice  and serve a spicy snack - this year I think I will make gingerbread.

    As it happens we are also going to the Pantomime on the 5th of January , which seems a fitting end to Christmas!

    To share some ideas visit the Nativity Carnival at  The Ten O Clock Scholar. 

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Happy New Year.

    If you have not already done so here are a couple of good links to resources to help families set goals and make plans for the new year. We did ours last night.

     Life as Mom has a free printable booklet here and Activity Village always has good resources too.