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The Advent Spiral





The “Advent Spiral” or “Spiral of Light” as it is sometimes called is a thing to behold. It marks the lengthening of days and the journey we will all take into the darkness and quiet of winter. It reminds us to take our inner light with us on this journey through the long cold months and longest days of our year and to have a reverence for it.
The apple lanterns have been carved and are ready, the star shaped sugar cookies are warming in the oven, the pine boughs have been cut and layed just so, families gather in a darkened room on a cold December afternoon near to the Winter Solstice.
And so it begins. One at a time, the children walk along the spiral path of boughs leading to one large lit candle. Each holds an unlit candle, even the smallest hands are capable and ready! In the middle of the spiral the children light their candles and then retrace their steps out of the spiral, leaving their lit candle next to the last child’s. The room is hushed, sometimes there is faint harp music – light and airy.
As each child passes through the spiral something amazing starts to happen -the room brightens!
After all the children have made there way there is often singing and snacks of cookies and warm apple cider.
The hearts and souls of all who attended are warmed and the children go away with a sense of the light &warmth they have built candle by candle.
The advent spiral can also be done in your own home to prepare the family for winter and bring the cheer to your very own house!
FaerieWaldorf has a wonderful guide for sale in her etsy shop all about preparing and participating in the Advent Spiral!
Soltice Sun King pictured above from PaintingPixie’s etsy shop.
Needle felted apple’s by CozyCottageCreations
Wooden Spiral by DragonsandMermaids

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Celebrating Santa Lucia Day

Lo, on our theshold there,
White-clad, lights in her hair.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

I must make an upfront disclaimer–I am not Scandanavian, never celebrated Santa Lucia Day as a child, and have no fond memories or connections to this tradition. But the year Mara was turning three, I was captured by this beautiful tradition, and we have celebrated Lucy ever since.

There are many versions of Lucy’s story, but the one that resonnates with me is one that I created for my homeschool group some years ago. 

In our story, a small village on the Swedish coast huddled cold and hungry in the middle of winter. Food was quickly running out, as there had been a bad harvest that year. All of the villagers gathered and shared what they had, but even that was running low. The people despaired–would they have enough food to last until springtime? The days grew darker and darker until one night, it seemed as if the sun would never come back at all. The wise women in the village gathered and sent their prayers to Freya, the Scandanavian goddess of hearth, sun and war, that the sun would return and food would be found. As the village prayed through the longest night of the year, watchers on the shore saw a light appear in the water. What could the glowing on the water be? No one knew. The villagers lit a fire on the shore so that they could see. The light in the water grew brighter and brighter, until they could see that it was a woman with a crown of candles on her head, standing in the prow of a boat that was heading toward the shore. The villagers called out to the boat, and it landed on their shore, full of Italian sailors carrying a boat load of food. “What happened to the woman in the boat?” the villagers asked? The sialors had no idea what the villagers were talking about–but upon hearing the description of the woman, they knew that the villagers had seen their saint, Santa Lucia. The sailors unloaded food from the boat, and the village celebrated, knowing that they would survive the winter.

This week, we will make our Lussekatter, the saffron buns that Lucy carries. The cookies look like eyes (the Italian saint tore out her own eyes–gotta love the lives of saints!), but we like the idea that they are a reflection of Freya’s cats that pull her chariot across the sky. Here’s our recipe for Lucy’s Cats, gleaned from a long-forgotten internet source years and years ago:

1 packet yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
saffron threads (or powdered saffron, about 1/4 tsp.)
4 cups (about 400 grams) all purpose flour
beaten egg (for brushing)
raisins or dried cranberries or currants

Dissolve yeast in warm water (I like to add a bit of honey, too, to make the yeast grow more quickly). Melt the butter, stir in milk, and then add this mixture to the yeast. Beat in the sugar, salt, egg, and saffron, blending until smooth. Add in the flour a cup at a time, and work until smooth. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Turn the dough out and knead. Pinch off small pieces of dough and twist into an “S” shape and place on baking sheet (I like to use a stone). Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 20 minutes in a warm kitchen. reheat oven to 425 degrees. Add raisins in the curves of the “S” and brush with beaten egg. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen of Lucy’s Cats.

On Saturday morning, Mara will awaken before us all, come down and make the coffee, load a tray with cats, and bring it to Dave and I in bed. She has a garland, but we don’t light the candles on her head–just a bit tricky getting up the stairs! But we will light the garland as it sits on the table, and we’ll all sing Santa Lucia:

Nightly, go heavy hearts
Round farm and steading
On earth, where sun departs,
shadows are spreading.
Then on our darkest night,
Comes with her shining light
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
Then on our darkest night,
Comes with her shining light
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Night-darkling, huge and still.
Hark, something’s stirring!
In all our silent rooms,
Wingbeats are whisp’ring!
Stands on our threshold there,
White clad, lights in her hair,
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
Stands on our threshold there,
White clad, lights in her hair,
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

“Darkness shall fly away
Through earthly portals!”
She brings such wonderful
words to us mortals!
“Daylight, again renewed,
will rise, all rosy-hued!”
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
“Daylight, again renewed,
will rise, all rosy-hued!”
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

Image credits:
Needlefelted Saint Lucia by Haddy2Dogs
Santa Lucia stuffed doll by FaerieRebecca

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Sankt Martin

If you should ever get the chance to visit the area in Germany where I grew up, you will notice one thing upon entering one of these small communities. As you drive into a small town you will notice a distinct feature on the horizon: two church steeples, one belonging to the Catholic church – the other to a Protestant church. Animosities and downright hostilities between the followers of either religious denomination have lasted for centuries. May God forbid that a Catholic girl should ever wed a Protestant man ( or vice versa), as my mother did, for she might become an outcast in her family…Despite the fact that most Protestants do not recognize saints and may even ridicule the Catholic practice of saint worship, there is one celebration in November they will not shun! On the evening of November 11, you will find Protestant and Catholic children alike going on lantern walks at night to celebrate the life of Sankt Martinus.
According to legend, St. Martin started out as a Roman soldier, was baptized as an adult, and became a monk. “It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised he has clothed me.” (quoted form Wikipedia)

Most of the lanterns the children carry they craft lovingly at home or in art class at school. The lanterns are usually made of paper with beautiful cut-out designs that look like the lead glass windows of a church. The lanterns are attached with wire to the end of a dowel. Little tea-lights are used to make them glow in the dark. The children walk from their houses and meet at the market place, or the school building. From there they follow a rider on a white horse, dressed like a Roman soldier, marching towards the outskirts of town. While walking the children sing songs about St. Martin and songs about their lanterns. The destination of their march is a huge bonfire. The children gather around the bonfire. After a dramatic reenactment of the most famous scene from St. Martin’s life, cutting his coat in half and sharing it with the beggar, all children receive a sweet treat. Each child gets handed a figure made of a yeasty bread dough with raisins for eyes.

I so loved this tradition as a child. There was always such a wonderful sense of community in this celebration. What better way to celebrate simple acts of human kindness?

Wishing you lots of light, human warmth and kindness for this season!
Ulla
http://www.germandolls.etsy.com/

 

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Life as a Waldorf “Short Order” Cook

The other day my daughter was asking me:”Mom, what are all those little sticky notes on the window behind your sewing machine?” I responded:”Oh, those are the custom orders I received and need to finish for Christmas.”

If you are an artist/crafter and offer custom work in your etsy shop, life in the months before Christmas can get pretty complicated and hectic.

You may find yourself worrying and asking the following questions:
How many custom items should I offer?

Do I have all the materials to make them?

Do I have enough shipping materials, and will I be able to ship it on time?

How do I keep my store stocked at the same time?

How do I balance the custom work with my desire to create new items?Should I just skip sleep and work 24 hours? Now is the time, right?

I have been struggling with these questions since August. I would really like some input from other crafters who offer custom work. How do you stay organized and make it through this busy season?

Sometimes I get so tired of the balance act I am performing that I want to stop taking customs orders altogether! But then I get some wonderful Feedback or a really sweet message from someone who received their doll, and I forget all about the stress.
I find, that the challenges of custom orders bring out the best in me. Often customers come to me with ideas I never would have come up with myself! Or they point out how one of my items sold previously was so great because of a certain feature and why don’t I combine it with this other feature…I think my customers make me a better artist. Even when I find myself grumbling at times about a difficult request…

My favorite kind of dolls are ethnic dolls. I made the Asian dolls you see in the pictures for children adopted from China. There is a great need for such items because it is hard to find dolls with Asian and other ethnic features on a regular store shelf. I feel that my work is important and appreciated by the children and parents alike!

But I am only one woman. I wish I had some elves to help. Maybe some day my daughter will be old enough to help. But for now it is just me.

Later I might post a picture of all my little sticky notes in the window of my “studio”. I feel like a short order cook at times. Which is a funny way to put it since my orders take hours to complete. =)

Hope to hear some opinions from all of you who do customs!

Love, Ulla

Posted on

Life as a Waldorf "Short Order" Cook

The other day my daughter was asking me:”Mom, what are all those little sticky notes on the window behind your sewing machine?” I responded:”Oh, those are the custom orders I received and need to finish for Christmas.”

If you are an artist/crafter and offer custom work in your etsy shop, life in the months before Christmas can get pretty complicated and hectic.

You may find yourself worrying and asking the following questions:
How many custom items should I offer?

Do I have all the materials to make them?

Do I have enough shipping materials, and will I be able to ship it on time?

How do I keep my store stocked at the same time?

How do I balance the custom work with my desire to create new items?Should I just skip sleep and work 24 hours? Now is the time, right?

I have been struggling with these questions since August. I would really like some input from other crafters who offer custom work. How do you stay organized and make it through this busy season?

Sometimes I get so tired of the balance act I am performing that I want to stop taking customs orders altogether! But then I get some wonderful Feedback or a really sweet message from someone who received their doll, and I forget all about the stress.
I find, that the challenges of custom orders bring out the best in me. Often customers come to me with ideas I never would have come up with myself! Or they point out how one of my items sold previously was so great because of a certain feature and why don’t I combine it with this other feature…I think my customers make me a better artist. Even when I find myself grumbling at times about a difficult request…

My favorite kind of dolls are ethnic dolls. I made the Asian dolls you see in the pictures for children adopted from China. There is a great need for such items because it is hard to find dolls with Asian and other ethnic features on a regular store shelf. I feel that my work is important and appreciated by the children and parents alike!

But I am only one woman. I wish I had some elves to help. Maybe some day my daughter will be old enough to help. But for now it is just me.

Later I might post a picture of all my little sticky notes in the window of my “studio”. I feel like a short order cook at times. Which is a funny way to put it since my orders take hours to complete. =)

Hope to hear some opinions from all of you who do customs!

Love, Ulla