Christmas, Gifts, and Timing

We celebrate Christmas – the coming of Jesus Christ as a baby born in a Bethlehem manger. We put up the Nativity scene, bit by bit. Baby Jesus doesn’t appear until the 25th December  The poor Kings languish on the cabinet for December, until, finally, they can be put on the mantelpiece Nativity set early January. Santa doesn’t even get a look-in in our home.

Saint Nicklaus, the priest from Myrna in Turkey, is talked about 5 December – for his generosity and compassion for poorer people. One year we handmade little gifts with a little written card or letter (with a blessing) and secretly hid them in the other’s shoe, without them seeing the gift being delivered. We had to restrict the children from going in their own wardrobes between 7pm and 7am! Early December we also have fun decorating the Christmas Tree – chatting about who gave the decorations and when.

Christmas Day is a problem for me though. I cringe when the wider family is opening presents together – papers are ripped off, gift looked at, then next present grabbed. Ugh! But I have teased my kids, now young teens, that maybe this year we won’t open gifts till the 6th of January. After all, isn’t the story of the Wise Men bearing gifts where we got the idea from.  It would free Christmas Day, a holy day, from desecration by greed and the “gimmees”. We can then contemplate a Baby born who bought hope, goodwill, and ultimately salvation to our world – for everyone. Jesus is God’s Royal Gift for us.

Back in Jesus’ Day, the Magi from the East brought gifts fit for a King. This is celebrated 12 days after Christmas (Epiphany). These are the real 12 days of Christmas – not before the 25th. Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. In following this older custom of counting the days beginning at sundown, the evening of January 5th is the Twelfth Night. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King’s Cake (maybe a twisted iced bread/brioche ring or pastry fruit-filled galette). It is cut into pieces for those present, plus one for the poor or “the share of God”. One or two things hidden in the cake will indicate who is King (and Queen) for the day.

December and January in New Zealand is summertime. No-one is home between Christmas and New Year. We’re probably all at the Beach: from where I live, that is 30 minutes west, or 70 minutes east, or  less than 2 hours north any number of beaches. Life is already exciting and busy, doing outdoorsey things.

Delayed gratification and the anticipation is good for the soul! Maybe gift-giving on January 6th isn’t such a bad idea.

Anyway, wasn’t Jesus really born late September-October?

National Association of School Lunches Takes Aim at Those Who Dare to Eat at Home

by Valorie Delp

The National Association of School Lunches today, in a bold public statement, expressed their concern over untrained mothers serving lunch to their children. Says one source, “The problem is wide spread. We have mothers, who are untrained in how to serve lunches, feeding their children, in their homes. Something simply has to be done.”

The National Association of School Lunches warns parents of the possible ramifications of feeding their children at home: Children will be deprived of the social experience of eating in the cafeteria. Some important social rites of passage, such as food fights, will be completely skipped.

Students who eat at home may not get to learn how others students in other parts of the world eat. Exposure to chopsticks or eating on the floor will be completely diminished.

Students who eat at home may not get the full range of foods that are available only through the school cafeteria.

There is no quantifiable way to measure the nutritional standard of the food being served. Surely parents need to be told what foods their children must eat. Lunch eating is serious–moms could never figure this out on their own.

But the biggest argument put forth by the National Association of School Lunches is that mothers are untrained in serving lunches. They strongly feel that in order to serve school lunches, one must have taken important courses and be certified in things like serving techniques, placing the food properly on the tray, anti food-fight tactical manoeuvres and how to dollop mush. Although mothers serve their children lunches every day from birth until that child enters school, once the child is school-aged, the parent must be trained or their lack of training could be a detriment. Previous experience counts for nothing in the hard core, fast paced world of school lunch serving.

Another key concern are health and safety standards that are required by law in school cafeterias. Although I cannot explain how the phenomenon might occur, apparently home is clean enough for breakfast and dinner but during the lunch hour, homes everywhere must be attacked by germs and bacteria thus necessitating state produced standards for cleanliness for the lunch hour.

Finally, school lunch personnel everywhere are concerned about accountability. Should children have to prove that they’re getting adequate nutrition or perhaps should mothers have to submit meal plans for the year to be approved by the state department of school lunches to check and make sure that the food that’s going to be served meets nutritional standards.

Come back later as I have a feeling that there might be more from the National Association of School Lunches.