Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 11 – Christmas at Church

The topic for Day 11 of the Advent Calendar of Memories 2013 is Christmas at Church: There are a variety of activities at Church during Christmastime, and they can vary based on your denomination or church. From the lighting of the Advent Wreath to Midnight Mass or Christmas Eve church services, for many, church is a central focus of the Christmas holiday.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

My mother and I were always church goers and my father would very occasionally join us for Midnight Mass even though he wasn’t a Catholic. Christmas, like Easter, had many phases to the preparation for Christmas including the priest wearing purple vestments throughout Advent then wearing white on Christmas Day.

In more recent times the church has had Advent wreaths with various coloured candles for each week of Advent and while I don’t really recall this from my childhood, I do distinctly remember the Easter candle being re-lit at Christmas. The crib would be set up in the church and the baby Jesus added, I think, on Christmas Eve. We did the same thing at home: the crib was set up on a large corner display table with an angel hovering over it and suspended by the glass top of the table. Again, the baby would not be added until Christmas Day.

It was traditional to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve when I was a child and this was a tradition we continued with our own children for many decades. It was part of what made Christmas special, including the sleepiness, darkness, and then the candles. The band at the church we attended would play subdued carols throughout Midnight Mass, then when then as everyone left, full of the spirit of Christmas, they’d launch into rocking versions of carols with full acoustics. It was fun, and very different from the churches overseas.

Of course in Australia, we had the advantage that we didn’t have to contend with snow, jackets or the freezing cold. Even at midnight it was often still quite hot.

christmas-church-280x170When we came home we’d have shortbread and a hot drink. Midnight Mass also had a good off-spin which is that the kids were then tired enough to sleep in a little on Christmas morning and not wake us up at 4am! One of our traditions was that they had to roll over and go back to sleep when they first woke up, then they could look at one of the parcels on the end of their beds. Between this tradition and not getting to sleep until 1am, we were rarely awakened at an unholy hour on Christmas morning.

christmas-school-angel-300x201I’m not going to re-submit a response for the Christmas at School(day 13) topic, but if you would like to read my 2011 post, you’ll find it here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December. Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site. My post today is a minor re-working of my 2011 one.

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Advent Calendar: Day 4 – Christmas Lights & Illuminations

The Christmas light prompt is: Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbours into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbours? And was it a favourite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations?

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012: a very Aussie set of lights with Santa and his snow white boomers (kangaroos) in lieu of reindeer.

As a child, lights were mainly restricted to shops and city streets. With long summer nights the further south you go, the less the impact of house or street lighting, unlike colder climates where the sparkle of lights everywhere brightens the darkness and the spirits.

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A Christmas window display in the David Jones’ window in Sydney 2006.

Instead it was traditional in those long-ago years to visit the city and see the wonderful Christmas displays (including pretty illumination and moving models) in the windows of our big department stores, like Myer or David Jones (or McWhirter or TC Beirnes). At different times we’ve seen similar window displays in Sydney as well and even in Dublin. Still I think that amazement that one has as a child remains untouched. It’s still lovely to see them but it’s just not as awe-inspiring.

I have no recollection of any houses displaying lights as happens today. It’s only in recent times (relatively) that the Christmas lights tours have taken off. We’ve only been checking out the Darwin lights for a few years and now regret we hadn’t realised the extent of the displays earlier.

christmas-lights-300x300For our family, Christmas lights were probably as much about the Christmas Carols by Candlelight which we attended every year for decades, even when our littlest was only a few weeks old. It was so atmospheric to be in a park singing away to the performers on the stage and with candles swaying. Quite beautiful and helped to define Christmas and our own family’s tradition. Unfortunately, to our minds, the Carols by Candlelight became increasingly commercialised and tacky so we ended up no longer attending in person.

However one tradition that remains is that we watch Carols by Candlelight from the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve: it’s our only Christmas television tradition. Sometimes all the chores are done and we’re chilled out, some years it’s still a mad panic to get presents wrapped. Whatever the day brings, we find the enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious, and the camera crews always manage to find some super-cute babies to profile in their vision.

I was quite astonished today to discover that the Carols by Candlelight tradition started in Australia –well at least according to Wikipedia. Perhaps that’s because our climate is more conducive to spending hours out doors at that time of the year.

This post combines several topics for the Advent Calendar: Christmas lights, Christmas TV/Movies and a dab of Christmas Tradition. The 2011 topic was slightly different focusing on outdoor decorations: you can read my post here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.