Blog Notes

The Year We Missed Easter

Emma and Mira at the airport

Eighteen years ago, we missed Easter. Twice.

On Sunday, March 27, 1999, we met Mira in Kazakhstan for the first time. All the next week we came to visit her, driving up a long and curvy, still snowy road from the capital city of Almaty to Esik, a journey of about only 40 miles but over an hour by car. I was taken back to the nursery only once (no male germs allowed). They always brought her out to the director’s office. She was so tiny—not much bigger than a newborn at three months. She’d been fed formula once a day. The rest of the time she was given diluted mashed potatoes; that was all they could afford.

Sunday, April 4 was Easter back home, but not in Kazakhstan. We found an ex-pat church to attend that morning, but as I recall, they didn’t …

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One More Time, Just For Fun

When I decided to take a few weeks’ break in January, I didn’t expect to be gone this long. But a lot of things have happened that kept me away.

One of those things was my youngest daughter getting her learner’s permit. In Maryland, you can get that at 15 years and nine months old. You keep that for nine months, drive 60 hours with a licensed driver, and get your license at 16 ½.

John took Dara to get her learner’s permit. Among the required documents, I sent her birth certificate, which was issued by the state of Maryland, has a state seal on it and is dated. To obtain that certificate fifteen years ago, I had to …

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Field and Fountain, Moor and Mountain…

Three kings looking at the star.

Epiphany ends the season of Christmastide. It is celebrated more in the East than in the U.S., and in fact, they consider it more important than Christmas. Epiphany commemorates the revelation of God as human in Jesus Christ, and specifically that revelation to the gentiles through the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child in Bethlehem. The word epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation.

In many cultures decorations and greenery are taken down on this day, and special gifts are given. In some European countries, children leave their shoes out the night before to be filled with gifts, while others leave straw for the three Kings’ horses.

 

In Spain they serve a pastry called a roscón, a ring-shaped roll, filled with cream or chocolate and decorated with a paper crown. Inside is a figure of a king …

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The Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 5th, is the Feast of 19th century-St. John Neumann, the first Bishop in America. Since the next day is Epiphany, this night is also known as Twelfth Night.
People held large parties on Twelfth Night, during which the roles in society were often reversed, with the servants being served by the rich people. A rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices was eaten. A dried pea or bean was baked inside, and whoever found it was the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule for the night. Shakespeare’s play of the same name takes place on this night of revelry, leading to gender-confused disorder.
In many countries, it’s traditional to put the figures of the Wise Men/Three Kings into the Nativity Scene on Twelfth Night to prepare to celebrate Epiphany the next day.…

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The Eleventh Day of Christmas

The Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 4th, is the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. She established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland, dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of sisters founded in the United States. She also began first free Catholic school in America, which marked the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States.
Other countries celebrate the feast of Saint Simon Stylites, who lived on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 47 years near Aleppo, Syria. Simeon was seeking to escape a growing number of people who frequently came to him for prayers and advice, so after first living in a hut, then in the mountains, he built a small platform atop a pillar which had survived among …

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The Tenth Day of Christmas

The Tenth Day of Christmas, January 3rd, is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Originally the Holy Name of Jesus was celebrated at the Feast of the Circumcision, since it was then that our Lord received His name. But because of the growth of this devotion, a separate feast was instituted in the seventeenth century. “Every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).…

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The Ninth Day of Christmas

The Ninth Day of Christmas, January 2nd, is the Feast of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two important 4th-century Eastern Christians. These two saints taught a great deal about the Trinity and helped refute the Arian heresy—a concept that stated Jesus was created by God the Father at a separate point in time, and was distinct and subordinate to the Father.…

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The Eighth Day of Christmas


The Eighth Day of Christmas, January 1st, is the Feast of Mary, the Mother of Jesus
. In some denominations, this day is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, since by Jewish tradition he must have been circumcised on the eighth day (counting both the first day and the end day) after his birth.…

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The Seventh Day of Christmas

The Seventh Day of Christmas, December 31th, is New Year’s Eve and the Feast of St Sylvester I, Pope. Sylvester was a native of Rome and the son of a Roman soldier. He was pope during the time of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. The Edict of Milan, the emergence of the Church from the catacombs, the building of the great basilicas, the Council of Nicaea all took place during his papacy, and though brought about by the emperor, the pope kept the church independent—no small feat in the face of such an overpowering ruler.
In many central and eastern European countries, New Year’s Eve is still sometimes called ‘Silvester’.…

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The Sixth Day of Christmas

The Sixth Day of Christmas, December 30th, is the Feast of the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, in America as a model for all Christian families. In England, they observe the Feast of St Egwin of Evesham. Egwin was a descendent of Mercian kings and known as a protector or orphans and widows, so he rates high in my book.…

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