Advent Teufel and Llama Cookies by Rebecca Sicree

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Advent Teufel & Llama Cookies

Rebecca Sicree on Preparing for Christmas in a Shipwrecked Culture

"We should do this every day," my daughter Genny informed me. It was the morning of December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. The night before, my children had filled their shoes with carrots and apples for St. Nicholas's horse and lined them up outside our front door. This morning they had found them filled with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, along with a letter from St. Nicholas.

"Now, Genny," I chided her, "wouldn't you get tired of chocolate coins if you got them every morning?"

"Oh, no, it's not that," Genny replied. "It's just that this way we can always find our shoes."

The Advent Teufel

With ten children, our house has always been, as my husband the chemist puts it, "an experiment in entropy," but never more so than around Christmastime. I have always felt guilty about this. Years ago I read an article about the Advent Teufel, a devil from German folklore who kept people so busy with preparations for Christmas that they forgot its real meaning. Not being German, I don't know whether the Advent Teufel exists outside of the people's imagination, but I still worry, sometimes, about whether my family is falling into his traps.

We don't, you see, just celebrate Christmas traditions we inherited from our families. We borrow old ones from other countries, like the Dutch custom of putting out shoes for St. Nicholas and his horse. And we keep acquiring new ones, like baking llama cookies. In fact, our family does the exact opposite of what everyone advises, which is to slow down and simplify your life so you can have a peaceful, spiritual Christmas.

Twelve Days of Dinosaurs

I didn't deliberately set out to complicate our lives, you understand. I had always loved reading about Christmas traditions from around the world, and I wanted my children to enjoy them for real, and not just in a book.

I didn't try to recreate all of them, of course. My husband, for example, allowed me to give our children one small present a day for all twelve days of Christmas exactly once, back when we had only two children. Then, possibly foreseeing that ten children times twelve days would equal 120 presents a year and that toy cars and dinosaurs would be swarming over our living room like army ants, he put his foot down, and I abandoned the Twelve Days of Presents forever. (My living room was overrun by toy dinosaurs anyway, but at least it took longer.)

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Rebecca Sicree writes from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. She and her family attend Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in nearby State College. She and her husband Andrew have ten children, six of whom are now adults.

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