Day 9

Advent Verses

Zechariah 9:9 tells us the King will come, riding on a donkey.   Matthew 21:4-9 confirms that it happened just so.

Jesse Tree
I'm glad there is no such thing as Jesse Tree Police because my family takes a lot of liberties with this tradition. We only do Jesse Tree activities on weekdays (it's a busy month and we just can't fit everything in,) so we read Genesis 21:6 and talk about the birth of Isaac, but we then go on to the next set of verses that discuss Abraham's obedience in his attempt to sacrifice Isaac. 

This is a difficult passage for young children to understand, but it was not an unheard of act for the times in which Abraham lived.  He would have known of the pagan customs around him that included human sacrifices, but he also would have had trouble understanding how his God could ask such a thing. Of course, we know that God's request was part of a different plan and was never intended to be carried out fully.  Whew!

Our verse for this passage is Genesis 22:8, where Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide the sacrifice.

"God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,"

This story is a picture to us of God's father-heart as His own son was offered as the ultimate sacrifice.  It is a heavy day for discussions, but it makes the heart cry with joy for what was done for us.

An ornament for today could be a picture of a ram's head or a small child's toy of a ram or sheep.  Remember, there are no Jesse Tree Police, so if your ram happens to look more like a reindeer...well, use your imagination and squint when you look at it and it might look more like a ram.

To Explore
Santa Claus! This figure has a rich history worth learning. Originally known as Nicholas of Myra (where he became a bishop,) he is now associated with many names and legends. Born in present day Turkey, he was raised in the Christian faith by wealthy parents who died while he was still a youth. He used his inheritance to assist those in need, dedicating his life to serving God. The anniversary of his death is celebrated on December 6th as St. Nicholas Day.

Many children around the world put out shoes or stockings on December 5th, and wake up to find chocolate coins or oranges in them. This tradition comes from the story of Saint Nicholas and the Three Daughters. Some versions of the story say that Nicholas gave gold balls rather than coins, which are represented by the oranges. 

Twas the Night Before Christmas is a poem that was written by Clement C. Moore as a present for his children.  It was published in a newspaper and became instantly popular.  This poem has been a key influence on the Santa Claus figure whom many children adore. His shape, color, and expressions that we all think of when we see Santa all originated with this poem.  The names of his reindeer, his use of a sleigh, all give a hat tip to Mr. Clement C. Moore. A beautiful version to read is a 1912 version with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith, which is available free online.

Sinterklaas and His Servant is a book by Jan Schenkman, which spoke of St. Nicholas bringing presents down the chimney, but also had him riding rooftops on a white horse after traveling by steamboat from Spain.  The St. Nicholas Day Song, still sung by Dutch children tells this story.  

These traditions, and many others worldwide began with a very special, very real person: The real Saint Nicholas.

To read about the legends associated with St. Nicholas, see here. Another beautiful site dedicated to sharing the true story of St. Nicholas is the St. Nicholas Center.

Christmas Around the World
Our English name of Santa Claus derived from a version of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas: Sinterklaas. The Feast of Sinterklaas is a distinctly Dutch tradition.  What a perfect time to celebrate Holland!

To read how Saint Nicholas is received in the Netherlands, visit here.

Some Dutch traditions are a tad ornery, but in their gift giving, they emphasize the unique efforts that go into giving the presents and not on the monetary value of the presents.  This is certainly to be admired. 

A distinctly different addition to the Santa Claus story can be found in the Netherlands celebration of a character known as Zwarte Piete. Parents might want to use caution in investigating this part of the story with kids present. Some images shown in search engines are frightening and others, quite racist.  For an explanation, see here.

In Dutch, Happy Christmas is said as "Prettige Kerstfeest!" 

Hands On
The beautiful design sometimes found on these cookies comes from intricate cookie stamps, as shown below. (recipe here)

  • One Dutch tradition is sharing uniquely disguised presents and requiring an elaborate hunt for them. What a fun day to have a scavenger hunt! Surprise a family member today by placing a note for them by their plate or some other conspicuous location which leads them to another note, leading them to yet another note. Eventually, the clues should lead them to a prize. Clues can be drawn pictures for younger children or more complicated riddles for older children. "Brrrrr, it's cold in here!" could lead to an envelope in the freezer.  "You're so sweet, much like the bowl I'm hiding in!" could lead to the sugar canister. Visit here for more (and better) ideas. 
white lights on wednesdays
Meet the Dubiens
  • Letters made from chocolate are very popular in Holland.  If you are feeling ambitious, try melting almond bark into alphabet letter forms for the initials of the recipients' names. You could also paint the letters onto waxed paper.
  • Though often used to refer to the Netherlands, Holland is actually just one small part of the Netherlands.  For more background information, visit this World Atlas entryLabel a map for a great geography lesson today.
kitchen fun with my 3 sons
  •  Sinterklaas Poems are very popular this time of year in Holland; try your hand at writing poems today!  Here is a popular Dutch Sinterklaas lied (song):
Sinterklaas kapoentje,
Gooi wat in mijn schoentje,
Gooi wat in mijn laarsje, 
Dank je Sinterklaasje!

Santa Claus ladybird,
Throw something (some stuff) in my shoe,
Throw something (some stuff) in my boot,
Thank you Santa Claus!

Up on the Housetop, lyrics found here.

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, lyrics found here.


The Legend of Saint Nicholas

Rich with history, but probably more appreciated by adults:

Fun tale of the Baker's Dozen:



Veggie Tales (We love this one!)