Merry Celtic Christmas

4th Sunday of Advent. We’re getting there…

4th Sunday of Advent.  We're getting there...
Celtic Christmas

Celtic Winter – Magical Christmas. Thanks to Derek and Brandon Fiechter who composed the Celtic songs in this video.

Remembering Our Ancestors: John Chris(t)man

Our 4th and 5th great-grandfather John was a real Christman: He was born on 25 December 1763.

The Christman’s, who for a few generations spelled their name “Chrisman” but have the “t” added back in again by now, at least in our branch of the tree, are of German origin.  The “Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chester County” (Chester Co, PA, that is) says the following about them:

The family is of German origin, tracing its ancestry back to the Fatherland, from whence came Daniel Christman in the good ship Alexander, William Clymer, master, ” from Rotterdam, last from Cowes,” as the vessel’s report shows. He landed in America September 5, 1730, and settled in Worcester township, then part of Philadelphia county, but now comprised in the county of Montgomery. He afterward removed to Frederick township, Montgomery county, where he died. He was a fanner by occupation, a member of the Lutheran church, and his remains lie entombed at Leedy’s burying-ground in Frederick township.

His children were : Anna E., married Johannes Grobb in December, 1749, and lived in East Coventry township, this county ; Felix, born in 1733, and removed to Vin- cent township; Elizabeth, born in 1734; Jacob, born in 1737, and died February 27, 1804; George, born in 1739, was a farmer, and lived in Frederick township, Montgomery county; and Henry , who was born in Frederick township, that county, in 1744.

Daniel Chris(t)man’s son Felix was our 5th (and 6th) great-grandfather, and today, we are remembering Felix’s son John, our 4th (and 5th) great-grandfather.  Before the Chris(t)man’s immigrated, they lived in southern Germany, in the Kaiserslautern area in Rhineland-Palate and in north-western Bavaria.

John Chris(t)man’s parents Felix and Rebecca had seven children altogether, as we have found out recently, and John was their third child and second son, the first son having been named after his father.  John was born on Christmas Day in 1763 in Chester County, PA – how very fitting, given his last name!

When John was 13, the colonies his grandparents had immigrated to turned into a nation, and his father Felix helped to bring it about, luckily surviving the Revolutionary War.

When John was 17, his mother Rebecca died, and when he was 31, his father passed on as well.  Until then, John had not found a wife, but in 1797, he married Jane Baer (or Blair), and the two still lived in the far south-eastern corner of Pennsylvania, in Chester County.

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John and Jane had six children, and they consistently spelled their name “Chrisman”, it seems.  Would be interesting to research how many branches of the Chris(t)man family spell their name without the “t” until this day, much like the Denney’s with and without the second “e”, but we’ll leave it to another day.  Our direct ancestor in the Chris(t)man line is John’s first son Daniel, named (apparently) after his grandfather.

We do not know what John did for a living, but he stayed in the area with his family, for he died on 1 August 1830, tomorrow 190 years ago, in Vincent Twp. (not sure if East or West), Montgomery, PA, and he lies buried in Vincent Baptist Churchyard in Pikeland, Chester Co., PA.  From what I can see, that’s all rather close together.

Requiescat in Pace, Great-Grandfather John.  It’s good to know that at least one member of the Christman family was born on Christmas Day.

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Poesie: Tolkien’s Noel

One last Christmas poem…

I had already written a post for today when a dear friend sent me a link to this blog post.  It appears two of J.R.R. Tolkien’s poems that were printed in the annual magazine of an Oxfordshire Catholic high school in 1936 came to the attention of the press, one called The Shadow Man, the other NoelThe Shadow Man was published later in a different form as we pointed out recently, but I had not heard of “Noel”, or at least, I do not remember reading it.  Since Christmastide ended only yesterday with Epiphany, let’s have one last Christmas poem for this season, and maybe not the most commonplace one.  Enjoy!

NOEL

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, 1936

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Poesie: Ben Johnson’s Carol

A Martyr born in our defence, /
Can man forget the story?

Carol

I sing the birth was born tonight,
The Author both of life and light;
The angels so did sound it,
And, like the ravished shepherds said,
Who saw the light, and were afraid,
Yet searched, and true they found it.

The Son of God, the eternal King,
That did us all salvation bring,
And freed our soul from danger,
He whom the whole world could not take,
The Word, which heaven and earth did make,
Was now laid in a manger.

The Father’s wisdom willed it so,
The Son’s obedience knew no No;
Both wills were in one stature,
And, as that wisdom had decreed,
The Word was now made flesh indeed,
And took on Him our nature.

What comfort by Him do we win,
Who made Himself the price of sin,
To make us heirs of glory!
To see this Babe, all innocence,
A Martyr born in our defence,
Can man forget the story?

~ Ben Jonson (1573-1637)

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Featured a detail from the Nativity scene on the side facing the apse of the so-called “Sarcofago di Stilicone” (“Stilicho’s sarcophagus”), an Ancient Roman Christian sarcophagus dating from the 4th century.  It can be admired in Milan, Italy, beneath the pulpit of Sant’Ambrogio basilica.

Our Own Dear John Ronald: The North Pole Disaster

I’m dreadfully busy this year and not very rich; in fact dreadful things have been happening…

It all happened like this: one very windy day last November my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole.  I told him not to, but the North Polar Bear climbed up to the thin top to get it down – and he did.  The pole broke in the middle and fell on the roof of my house, and the North Polar Bear fell through the hole it made into the dining room with my hood over his nose, and all the snow fell off the roof into the house and melted and put out all the fires and ran down into the cellars, where I was collecting this year’s presents, and the North Polar Bear’s leg got broken.

He is well again now, but I was so cross with him that he says he won’t try to help me again – I expect his temper is hurt, and will be mended by next Christmas.

I send you a picture of the accident and of my new house at the top of the cliffs above the North Pole (with beautiful cellars in the cliffs).

~ J.R.R. Tolkien:  Letters from Father Christmas.  Excerpt from the 1925 letter

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Gingerbread Village

Knusper, knusper, knaeuschen, wer knuspert an meinem Haeuschen?

It’s not to late to make a gingerbread house for Christmas!  This year, we made a village of little houses rather than one larger house.  It was fun to make!  Here’s what you need:

Gingerbread Village

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Graham crackers
  • 1 bag of powdered sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • small candy of you choice, such as ernies or skittles, sourpatch kids, mini candy canes, chocolate-covered pretzels, candied fruit slices, candy corn, mini marshmallows, reeses pieces, chocolate rocks and the like
  • some coconut flakes

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Directions

  • Cover a board, piece of plywood or spare baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar into a thick paste that serves as edible glue.
  • Break graham crackers in half.  From three halves, make a triangular hut with one half as the bottom, gluing the gable together and the roof onto the bottom graham cracker.
  • When you have made all the houses you want, arrange them on the board like you wish and decorate them and the space between them with your candy.  The thicker the glue, the less things will slide.
  • When you have decorated to your heart’s content, drizzle more runny glue over the houses for icicles (good to use up leftover lemon juice) or sprinkle with coconut flakes or powdered sugar for a snowy effect.

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Traditionally, gingerbread houses (or Knusperhaeuschen, as the Germans call them) belong under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  It’s not a bad idea to cover it when it is not used as decoration or being raided to keep it from getting overly dusty before it is all eaten.

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Make sure to polish it off during the 12 days of Christmas!

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Kitchen Sink Cookies

If you cannot decide whether to make chocolate chip cookies, or oatmeal cookies, or almond cookies or coconut cookies, make these. No decision necessary.

Everything but the kitchen sink – these cookies got it!  They are basically gussied up chocolate chip cookies.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

* makes between 40 and 60 cookies *

Ingredients

  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips (12 oz)

Directions

Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350ºF until lightly golden brown.  This will take about 8 minutes; stir twice during this time.  Can also be done in a dry skillet on the stove top.  Let cool.

In a bowl, mix flower, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another. large bowl, beat together butter and the two kinds of sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, the the vanilla, mixing well in between.  Add the flour mixture, mix until blended.  Add oats and coconut, mix until blended.  Add toasted almonds and chocolate chips and mix until blended.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of room in between.  If you want crispier cookies, flatten the heaps.

Bake for about 10 minutes, a minute longer to make them crispier.

Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for a little, like you would with ordinary chocolate chip cookies, then move them unto a cooling rack.  Let cool completely.  These cookies are actually better when they are cold, and even better the next day.

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