Oh, were we? Speaking of trees? Well, I was thinking of them. I’m still decorating my little table top tree downstairs, but when Paul was alive we always had large living trees which were decorated Hungarian fashion with not only ornaments and lights but lots of cookies and also special “szalon cukor” (parlor candy) for people to enjoy eating. I remember that one of my nephews burst into tears (he was about 3 years old) when he saw his first American Christmas tree. “It has nothing to eat,” he wept.

Stephen dec 2014 getting the tree

Today Alice and her family were at the tree farm we’ve gone to for years now, nearly an hour south of here. I believe their family tree story at the moment is that they buy the tree and put it up and Baby Jesus decorates it on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus brings the gifts to put under it and Alice and Mike add the presents they are giving people in the morning….It does become complicated……

Stephen dec 2014 getting the tree 2

DD Emily and her family have Baby Jesus/Christ Kindl bring the tree on Christmas Eve, and decorate it and put gifts under it….

Alice is having her nieces, Emily’s daughters, at her home for the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Then everyone is coming to my house where we sing in the candle-lit kitchen and in time, Andy will read the Christmas story from Luke and we will sing more and a bell will ring and we will go see the tree and the gifts. Then Emily and her family will go to their home for their singing and gifts. Alice and her family will have a Christmas supper with Andy and me. And then go home and find their presents the next morning.

See what I mean about complicated? Yes, it is! But it was not much simpler when Alice, Emily and Andy were the little kids themselves. And it is always magical and heartwarming.

Look how strong Nathan has become! He’s a real help with this tree cutting and bringing home!

Nathan dec 2014 getting the tree 2

Nathan dec 2014 getting the tree

Meanwhile, I am going to miss the Advent singing tomorrow because I’ve nearly lost my voice with the unfortunate cold I am trying to shake off! And I must put in some more time finishing my Christmas cards……
I’ve had two days of doing not much of anything except gargling with hot salt water. (It does help.) And sipping Lady Gray tea. And reading free feel-good Kindle Christmas stories.

Memories…Christmas is always an emotional time for everyone, I think. Happy ones or sad ones, or a mixture of both………

Yesterday a blogger I’ve been reading for years now, Brenda at Coffee tea books and Me, published a post on “Why I celebrate Christmas”. Somehow it triggered many memories for me from the Christmas I was six years old and finishing the first semester of first grade.

Christmas tree german

Nearly a year before in January of my year in Kindergarten my dear father Eli died, from one half hour to the next. Probably if it had happened now, he would have been saved. But there were no EMS people then. It took our family doctor a half an hour to arrive and by then it was too late. There is so much else I could write about those days, but that is a story for another time. Now I am remembering preparations for Christmas the following year. I remember sitting on the dark red plush sofa in our living room and watching my mother and grandfather on a step ladder decorating our really tall tree. Up to that point, in every other year, I had heard the Santa Claus story and how he brought the Christmas tree as well as the presents, but the winter of 1951 we did things a little differently.

Christmas tree in Germany

I remember watching, but not feeling much except a sort of sadness. Not overwhelming, but a bit empty. And I remember asking my mother about Santa Claus and how presents came at Christmas time…..

Christmas Tree from Denmark 2010 wiki commons

And my mother came over and so kindly and gently reminded me that God is Love and Love is what makes all these things happen. I thought then that it was a perfect explanation and I still do. This is why I celebrate Christmas. Love came into the world…….Love comes and makes wonderful things happen. A good reason to try very hard to keep Christmas in our hearts all year around. My mother and I did not always see eye to eye as I was growing up, but several times at critical moments she came up with the perfect words to comfort and heal.

Christmas by Carl Larsson

nutcracker 1

Today, Andy, Alice, Emily, Sofia, Clara and I are going to see the Nutcracker ballet at the Akron Civic Theater.


I think Sofia and Clara will enjoy the ceiling of the theater which has twinkling stars and clouds that drift across……

The little girls are very excited to see the ballet, as are the rest of us. (They have been taking ballet lessons for a few years now.) We’re having lunch at Lockview, across from the theater and then going to the performance in the beautiful, renovated and saved from destruction Civic Theater.

I’m posting this in response to Weaver of Grass’s request for blogs to be upbeat these days and try to counteract the bad news in other places. A good request!

nutcracker 2

advent wreath 2

For well more than fifty years, Advent has been one of my favorite seasons of the church year. I was in high school when I read Maria von Trapp’s book Around the Year with the Trapp Family Singers and learned of the Austrian custom of singing around the Advent wreath on Sunday afternoons, ending with a little tea…….Or learned that Advent Hymns and Christmas carols are not the same things…

When my children were growing up (and actually, from the time Paul and I married, and before there were any children to share this custom) we also sang English Christmas carols and Hungarian Advent and Christmas songs on Sunday afternoons. We made family song sheets and everyone really loved this custom. It had been more difficult to accomplish this in recent years, especially with Emily’s family so far away, but now they are close and tomorrow, the first Sunday of Advent, we will be gathering at her home to sing….I can hardly wait.

I began this post a few days ago and we’ve already had the first Advent singing at Em’s…….It was preceeded by some cookies and tea which Ingmar said was his family’s custom, though I’m not sure this helped us get our singing voices and we certainly need all the help we can get. We are not the Trapp Family, alas!

Then we sat in a circle and the wreath with four white candles and one lit was on a table beside Ingmar. We go around the circle and each person takes a turn to choose the song from our Jalics family Songbook, a work in progress for more than the last 30 years! We have songs in English, German and Hungarian.

Some are upbeat and the children seem to like these best, songs such as O Du Froeliche and Deck the Halls……For Jingle Bells Emily handed out bells for us to ring. Some are songs that were beloved by family members who are no longer with us, such as Fel Nagy Oromre which was the favorite of my husband Paul’s father. Or O Little Town of Bethlehem which my grandfather Art Granat liked very much. We never get every song in the songbook, but we give it a good try!

Sunday, besides being the first Sunday of Advent was also the name day of my son Andrew, the feast day of Andrew the apostle, the fisherman. Paul and I wanted names which would be good in both English and Hungarian. In Hungarian Andy’s name is Andras. (pronounced “Awn drahsh”.)

I find myself struggling to accomplish much of anything during these days of ever diminishing daylight, and there is a lot to do…….Many Christmas cards need to be written, and though I no longer decorate the least bit compared to what I once did, there are still many things waiting to happen! The nativity set, the tree, little things set about to remind us that the season of Advent and Christmas is coming…….I need to put out the books I read and look at this time of year….I need to cultivate a certain emptiness in myself to make room for the coming of Love into the world. Et Verbum Caro Factum Est.

Christmas et verbum caro factum est

If you go to this link http://www.amazon.com/dp/0870612409/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=33854793835&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12329148069911349716&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_115o7rr5o1_b#reader_0870612409 and click on the image of the book The Reed of God you will be able to scroll down til you come to the pages on “Emptiness” which I have pretty much read every Advent since I was a sophomore in high school and Sister Gabriella recommended the book to me…..

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.

Thanksgiving card 2010

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”

Everyone at Thicket House wishes all of you a Blessed day of Thanksgiving!

Mostly likely they do not, despite folk sayings and superstition. But one can always hope.

I had surgery two weeks ago and yesterday two of my brothers in law had quite serious surgery as well. One had a kidney removed and the other had knee replacement replacement. Yes, one had his second knee replacement on the same knee….So I think our family has had quite enough going on in hospitals for the time being. And since we’ve had three events, I believe we can knock it off for a while, now.

Both events seem to have been truly successful and we are all breathing deep sighs of relief and feeling very thankful!

Jalics Gyuri after kidney removal surgery with Laci

These operations took place on two different continents, but thanks to our amazing modern technology, the two brothers were able to skype with one another this afternoon and compare notes…..When I think how differently this would all have played out twenty years ago, let alone in my childhood, I can really only shake my head in wonder!There will be longer recovery times for both of these surgeries, but I expect them both to continue to do better every day……

And it is always beautiful and welcome in those first snows, probably all the snows before the Christmas holiday.
It’s only later that for some of us it can become a bit too “same old, same old…..”

But today it was a true joy for my grandson Nathan who threw snowballs at the stop sign while waiting for the school bus this morning, and a bit later for Stephen who built a happy snowman with his Mom’s help. Nathan knew it was “good packing” snow when he first looked out his bedroom window this morning…..

Stephen November 2014 Alice and he build a snowman nov 17

Smiles All Around!


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