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the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord
25 December: the first day of Christmas
On this day...
We sing "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In" as we unveil the Christ candle and light it, to burn throughout Christmastide, along with all our other candles
We have a special breakfast
We open our first day of Christmas family present
We eat, drink and make merry with friends and family, opening our home to all as we begin these twelve days of celebration
We sing & play Christmas carols
We have our procession with the baby Jesuses to put them in the mangers around the house, singing "Away in a Manger"
We string popcorn, decorate our tree & pray the Blessing of the Christmas Tree (below)
We read/perform Nativity play (http://dce.oca.org/resources/plays/)
We color icons of the Nativity & do Christmas crafts
We play traditional games (see below for suggestions)
We say our Christmas prayers & sing "Good Christian Men Rejoice"
Troparion — Tone 4
Your Nativity, O Christ our God, / Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! / For by it, those who worshipped the stars, / Were taught by a Star to adore You, / The Sun of Righteousness, / And to know You, the Orient from on High. / O Lord, glory to You!
Kontakion — Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, / And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! / Angels with shepherds glorify Him! / The wise men journey with a star! / Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!
About the Icon...
The background of the icon is an inhospitable world, the world since the expulsion from Paradise.
The helpless baby in swaddling clothes represents the complete submission of Christ to the physical conditions governing the human race.
The manger is reminiscent of a sepulcher and His swaddling clothes of the shroud he will be wrapped in after His crucifixion.
The star is the light of wisdom. This is a sign that Christ came for everyone: "For by it, those who worshiped the stars, were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Orient on high" (from the troparion of Christmas). Some icons have three rays from the star, representing the Holy Trinity.
The Magi and the shepherds bring their gifts, also a sign that Christ came for everyone.
The women on the bottom right are midwives. This indicates that Jesus was born in the normal way and would have needed washing, as a regular human baby would.
Old Testament prophecy
Below the center are a tree, an ox, and an ass. The tree is the "Jesse Tree" from prophecy, which says that a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse (the father of King David): "A shoot shall sprout from the stump (tree) of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him" (Isaiah 11:1-2). The ox and the ass are also from an Old Testament prophecy: "The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib" (Isaiah 1:3). Sometimes they are shown near the Christ child, providing warmth from their breath.
The Righteous Joseph is depicted away from Jesus and the Theotokos, off to the bottom left. This is because he was not involved in the miracle of the Incarnation of the Son of God, but he was the protector of Mary and Jesus. The old man speaking to him represents the devil bringing new doubts to Joseph. The devil suggests that if the infant were truly divine He would not have been born in the human way. (This argument, assuming different forms, keeps on reappearing through the whole history of the Church. It is the basis of many heresies.) In the person of Joseph, the icon discloses not only his personal drama, but the drama of all mankind, the difficulty of accepting that which is beyond reason, the Incarnation of God.
Mary in the center, from her reclining position, looks at Joseph as if trying to overcome his doubts and temptations. She is not the most important figure in the icon, but the most dominant. Sometime she is depicted kneeling, still concerned.
The angels are glorifying God, tending to the action, and ministering: announcing the Good News to the shepherds, or singing. To the right, a young shepherd sits, wearing a wreath and playing his flute, showing the joy of the Good News.
Victorian Party Games
One player acts out a word or phrase often by miming similar-sounding words, and the other players guess the word or phrase. The idea is to use signs and not words to convey the meaning.
One person is blindfolded, and all other guests scatter around the room. When the blindfolded person catches someone, they have to tell who it is they have captured or the prisoner is freed and the blindman must continue their pursuit until they can identify the person caught. The blindfold then changes hands.
You're Never Fully Dressed without a Smile
One person is selected to be ‘it’ and that person is the only one in the group who is allowed to smile. They can do anything to try and get someone else to smile and if they succeed, they become ‘it.’ The person who never smiles is declared the winner.
Ho, Ho, ho
One player stands in the middle with a handkerchief. As they drop the handkerchief to the floor, everyone must laugh. They must stop laughing as soon as the cloth hits the floor. Anyone who doesn't laugh the whole time the handkerchief is falling or continues to laugh after it ends is out. The last person remaining wins the prize.
This is great when you are sitting around the table, too full to move. Each player shares three things about themselves. Two of these must be true and one false. Everyone in the group gets the chance to interrogate the speaker. The group grills the speaker to discover how well they can back up their claims.
When everyone has had the chance to ask their questions, the group decides together which statement they believe to be the false one. This is the most fun part as everyone struggles to reach a consensus. When a majority decision has been reached, you announce your verdict and discover whether you've successfully deciphered fact from fiction. Watch out for hesitation, faintly concealed smiles and discreet blushing.
This is a modern twist on a game which in the 19th century would have been known as a "catch" game since you are looking to catch someone out. You begin by selecting a "psychiatrist" from the group. It's his job to diagnose the condition everyone is suffering. He leaves the room while the group agrees the condition they might all have. The classic ruse is that everyone answers as if they are the person sitting to their left. The Psychiatrist returns to the room and starts to ask questions of his or her patients. How are they? Do they have any particular fears, dreams et cetera? People have to answer as accurately as possible according to their knowledge of the person to their left (which itself proves very revealing). When the psychiatrist is totally baffled you can help him by suggesting he ask each patient his or her name.
Christmas Tree Blessing
The father of the family recites the antiphon, & then Psalm 95 is then recited alternately with the rest of the family.
Antiphon: *Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy, for the Lord has come.
Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name, *
Proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, *
His wonders among all peoples. For great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, *
to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the heathen are vain idols: *
but the Lord made the heavens. Majesty and beauty are before Him: *
Power and splendor are in His sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and power; *
ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name. Offer sacrifice, and enter his courts. *
Worship the Lord in holy attire. Tremble before Him, all the earth. *
Proclaim among the nations “the Lord is king.” He has established the world that has not moved; *
He rules the people with equity. Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea and all that it contains resound, *
Let the fields exult and all that is in them. Then shall the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord, for he comes *
for he comes to rule the earth. He will rule the world with justice, *
And the peoples according to His faithfulness.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The Antiphon is repeated by all together: Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy, for the Lord has come.
The mother of the family reads the chapter:
Chapter:After the fall of our first parents the earth was bare and desolate; the world stood in the darkness of sin. But when our Savior was born our earth shone with a new brightness; the glory of the Almighty had renewed the world, making it more beautiful than before. This tree once stood dark and empty in a cold world. But now resplendent with lights and bright adornments in its new glory, this Christmas tree reflects the new beauty that God brought to earth when “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” By a tree the whole world has been redeemed, and therefore, with great joy we celebrate the glory of this tree.
Second Reader: Troparion — Tone 4
Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all! / Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave! / Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit: / If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam. / Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning!
Father: Christ is the tree of life.
All: In the midst of the paradise of delights.
Father: He is the tree.
All: We are the branches.
Father: In Him was life.
All: And the life was the light of men.
Father: The Lord be with you.
All: And with thy spirit.
All sing "Oh Christmas Tree"
How steadfast are Your branches!
Your boughs are green In summer's clime
And through the snows Of wintertime.
How steadfast are Your branches!
What happiness befalls me
When oft at Joyous Christmas-time
Your form inspires My song and rhyme.
What happiness befalls me
Your boughs can Teach a lesson
That constant faith And hope sublime
Your boughs can Teach a lesson
Sources & useful links...