Posted December 15, 2014 in Advent and Christmas:
Christmas in Our Houses: St. Joseph’s House 2013

by Alma Coffman.

In December, it got down to as low as -30 C (-22 F), and we had an accumulation of almost three feet of snow. Carol Ann Gieske and Martha Reilander tried to make a skating rink on the marsh ice, but the snow cover won. Yes, it has been a real winter so far.

Before Christmas, we had two periods of visiting which took us to numerous towns and villages and houses in between.

And, as we do every year, we led groups of staff and visitors from Madonna House for an evening of caroling to our neighbors in the area. Even though we divided into six groups instead of the usual five, we had to do a lot of moving from house to house for we cover a radius of many miles.

Community celebrations which we attended before Christmas include a Christmas Carol Choir performance at a neighboring parish church, a potluck supper at our parish, a skating party at the Combermere ice rink, and Christmas performances at the Madawaska High School and two Catholic grade schools.

We also attended a priest friend’s 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

We invited friends and neighbors for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas brunch and supper, Epiphany and, as we do each year, the Madonna House staff for an open house on New Year’s Day.

Also as we do each year, we helped with a toy drive, and some families came to our house to pick up their gifts. Two mothers had tears in their eyes when they saw their packages. The main toy was exactly the gift their child had asked for, and they hadn’t had the money to buy it.

This was the first Christmas at St. Joseph’s House for two of our staff, Martha Reilander and Loretta Fritz, and this was a delight for all of us.

Martha designed and put together a gingerbread St. Joseph’s House which was first nibbled at on Christmas Day. Loretta gave us a taste of her Norwegian heritage by making lefsa, a delicious blend of potatoes, flour, butter, and cream, rolled very thin with a special rolling pin. We served it with butter on New Year’s Day.

Trina Stitak set up the crèche set for the house, a set which has many different animals but included pigs, a loon, and a goose for the first time. Carol Ann Gieske made many Christmas cookies, and Sandra Novecosky, our director, helped in a variety of ways.

I put crèche sets along the path on the island close to our house for people to find.

Before the snow fell, Peter Lyrette and Loretta picked out the Christmas tree from a neighbor’s farm, a beautiful spruce tree so tall that it needed to be trimmed to fit under our 8 ½-foot living room ceiling.

When we were ready to decorate the tree, we invited a family to do it with us. The six-foot tall father picked up one eager child at a time, each with an ornament in his or her hand, so that the child could easily reach the top branches. Soon the tree was beautifully decorated, and we all had had much fun doing it.

We attended midnight Mass at our parish, and on Christmas Day Fr. Brian Christie, a Madonna House priest, celebrated Mass at our house. Four friends joined us for it and stayed for brunch.

For Christmas supper we had another family with three children as the husband and father needed to work in Toronto that day. The other guests were totally unknown to us. A family with five children was staying at a local cabin and, when we heard they would be alone, we invited them.

The two families blended well together. Near the end of the evening as two of their girls were finishing playing with animals and people in the crèche, one asked, "Is it time to put Baby Jesus to bed?"


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