Thursday, 1 January 2015

Feasting and Celebrating!

The Feasts of Advent

Advent is supposed to be a time of preparing our hearts for Christmas. It is even penitential as we clean house and get ready to celebrate the incarnation of the Almighty God into our hearts. Yet, it seems every year is a mad rush to get everything done - we have to finish up our responsibilities for our jobs and the kids need to finish up their schooling (those not homeschooled that is) and so forth.

One aspect that helps us is the celebrations in our liturgical calendar. The feast days are constantly calling us out of the rush of life to stop and reflect and to spend time with family. The result: we are more present, less dispersed, and more at peace.

Feast I (Nov. 7th): Kate turns 3!

A specially made chocolate cake with cherries just for Kate.

In this video where we sing 'happy birthday' I think Katie is more interested in her glass of milk then the goings on.

 Katie and her little friends: (front) Michael, Katie, Winter, Tavi, Benedict, Benedict Owens.                                              (back) Tristan, Sophia, Leo, Therese, Magdalena, Laura

Katie received many little hand made gifts - it was a special day for her.

Dragonslayers begins again:

I started up Dragonslayers again with the boys and focused on the virtue of courage. However, I only got two sessions in this semester due to the amount of school work and getting sick and so forth. We'll try to be more regular after Christmas.

We always begin with the Knight's Creed and prayer.

Then we learn a manly skill. This day was hitting the target with either an arrow or slingshot.  Here is Benedict shooting chestnuts with his slingshot.

Tristan is aiming at cans stacked in the tree.

Then we finish off with learning about the virtue and cooking meat over a fire. Definitely something loved by each boy - I just wish I had had more time to do it this past term.

Feast II (Nov. 11th): St. Martin's Tag (St. Martin of Tours feast day) 

St. Martin's is a huge feast day in Hungary and Austria. It is usually celebrated with eating goose because it was the geese that gave away the hiding spot of St. Martin when he was being called on to be a bishop.

The children bring lanterns to Mass and get their candles lit by a blessed flame.  Here is Amalia Sinitsin, Winter and Benedict carrying their lanterns.

Then at ITI we usually act out the story before we celebrate with food. I was appointed St. Martin this year. Here St. Martin meets the beggar that is cold.

St. Martin rips his royal robes in two and gives half to the beggar.

 Here is St. Martin on his trusty steed.

Then after begging for baptism, he eventually is asked to be bishop and hides amoung the geese. You can see one of the geese below.

Feast III (Nov. 16th): St. Margaret Queen of Scotland

We have a tradition of celebrating St. Margaret at ITI with a rousing go of Highland games. Including scones, scotch, bagpipes, and Braveheart war paint.

 (below): Magda, Kristina, Florian, Winter, Eli

The kids have their competitions first: Tug-o-war:

Log wrestling: 
 Tristan vs. Benedict Kelly

 Benedict vs. Eli

 Tristan vs. Marco and then the men get a try at it.

 Rupert vs. Daniel

 Log Toss: Here is Alex tossing the tossing the log as far as he can.

Pole Climb:
Here is Benedict making it to the top!

 And a fire and scotch to end the festivities.

 Feast IV (Nov. 18th): Daddy turns 40!

I had grandiose plans for my 40th birthday. I figured turning 40 was akin to a high feast in our liturgical calendar. The high feasts we celebrate for 8 days. Thus, I wanted to celebrate my birthday for 8 days. Alas, my plans came to naught. I got sick and after losing a few days I gave up on the idea. I'll try again at 50.

Feast V: American Thanksgiving

As half of our students here at ITI are from America, we celebrate a huge Thanksgiving as a community. It is a joyous feast with everybody bringing turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and so forth. For one day of the year we get a small taste of home.

The dance hall is under repairs so we made the Schloss hallway into a dining hall. It worked out very well. 

and after we had the kids dance and then the adult dance.

 Katie danced with me and danced with her dog.

Here is a good video of the chaos of a kids dance. Note how the boys are 'dancing'. Ha!

Benedict has some pretty cool moves in this video!

Winter and her dance moves.

Daddy and his new lederhosen!

and at the end of it all, the kids were wiped right out.

Feast VI (Nov. 23rd): Christ the King!

The last Sunday of the liturgical year is Christ the King. We've walked the year with Christ through anticipating his birth, his presentation at the temple, his baptism, his 40 days in the desert, his passion and resurrection and his sending the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Now we crown Him as King of our home.

Winter made a crown for our centre piece, Becca made a royal feast, we all dressed up and even set a place for Jesus at the table.

 We also read out the prayer that the Pope prays on this day as he consecrates the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Feast VII (Nov. 27th): Katie's name day - St. Catherine of Alexandria

We had a special day for Kate and read the story of her patron saint.

Feast VIII (Nov. 29th): Celebrating 40 years of Masculinity!

One of my brain waves was to celebrate all the guys who turned 40 this year with a 40 years of masculinity party. I wanted to celebrate the manly virtue of courage and to do so via competition: the old guys vs. the young guys.

I also invited the kids and ladies out to join us, as it is important for all of us to celebrate our differences as masculine and feminine. Many ladies showed up and cheered us on in our endeavours and the celebration was a brilliant success!

First Competition: Arm Wrestling.
Winner gets a beer.

Kenton vs. Max

He won with the right and I won with the left so we both got a beer.

 Valdus vs. Alex

 Competition #2: Chin up
Winner was a young guy: Matthew. Rule was you had to drop to full extension. This made it tough.

(below): Kolby trying his hardest

 Competition #3: Rope Climb The fastest one to climb the rope and hand from the wooden beams was the winner. Travis (below) won this event.

And you could get up the rope in any way you pleased. Here David is climbing up.

Competition #4: Rope Shuffle We strung a rope between two buildings and we had to shuffle on the rope from one balcony to the across to the other.

Here are some of the ladies cheering us on: Letzia and Margi (above) and Becca and Kristin (below)

 Competition #5: Wrestling

Jacob vs. Dr. Gotia

Kenton vs. Alex

Max vs. Valdus

The celebration of masculinity ended with food and drinks and a Latin competition. It was purported to be one of the best events thus far this year. It was a lot of fun. However, us old guys don't recover so fast. I was pretty much out of commission for the next 3 days.

 Feast IX (Nov. 29th): New Year's Eve 

Exhausted yet?!

We haven't even started Advent! November has been a crazy month.
This day was the last day of the liturgical year and the new year began with the first Sunday of Advent on the 30th of Dec. To celebrate we had the kids mentors over for dinner and played charades and had popcorn with the kids.

This year we have paired our kids up with students in the ITI who are exceptional and we'd like our kids to learn from. Margi takes Kate out twice a week and spends time with her. Travis takes out Tristan and Benedict and works on physical skills. Cecelia takes out Winter and they paint and draw together. Brother Evagrius takes out Tristan and Benedict and teaches them how to chant Psalms in Latin like the monks.

To say thank you, we have them all over for dinner on Saturday evenings. The semester has been very rich in this way and something my kids won't every forget.

Here we are playing Charades. Margi is acting and the boys are guessing.

Advent 2014: 

As a family, we are getting better at celebrating Advent. Despite the rush of the world around us to get everything done for Christmas Day, we were able to take things a bit slower. Since Christmas is 8 days long we decided that we didn't need to have all the Christmas baking done for the first day of Christmas, the 25th. Rather, we had what we needed for Christmas day and St. Stephens's (Boxing day) and then planned to make the rest during the octave. Every evening around the supper table we sang O Come Emmanuel in English and Latin and worked through the first verses by adding a verse for each week of Advent. We read books for St. Nick's day and St. Lucy's. It was, despite final exam week, a time packed with rich family moments.

Week #1

St. Nick's Feast Day: Dec. 6th

As usual, we have a big celebration for St. Nick as he arrives in some creative way every year for the kids. This year St. Nick arrived on a motorbike.

Of course, with great anticipation we put out our boots for St. Nick to fill with goodies. And he did not disappoint! (thanks to our good friend Ernie!)

Week #2 of Advent: St. Lucy's Feast Day (Dec. 13th):

The tradition is to have the oldest girl dress up as St. Lucy in white (for her purity) and red (for her martyrdom), to wear a wreath of candles and to serve breakfast to the family. Winter made breakfast for the whole family and served us and then made cookies, which she and Kate delivered to the tenants in our building.

Here they are telling the story of St. Lucy to Laura and Martina.

Week #3: Advent Market in Kottingbrun

The whole country of Austria celebrates Advent with Advent Markets everywhere. They are filled with music, goodies, Christmas spirit, mulled wine and crafts. They are a wonderful tradition and unfortunately one we can't continue in Canada.

This particular Advent Market was in a castle surrounded by a moat. The market wove the gardens and in and out of various parts of the castle.

We all decided on a treat: Krapfen - the Austrian donut. They were huge!

It is here we purchased a few Christmas decorations as gifts for friends and the kids picked out a decoration to buy as an Advent keepsake of our years in Austria.

Week #4: Kisi Kids mini musical: A Heavenly Excitement

Winter has been involved in Kisi Kids these past couple years. The Kisi kids is an international organization that teaches kids songs and choreography and performs musicals. It is a Catholic ministry, but it attracts many protestants to get involved as well. This year was the Trumau Kisi Kids first musical. They performed in Oberwaltersdorf and in Trumau.

Winter was an angel and had a solo.

Here is her song sung with Magda, Theresa, and Antonia.

Mother/Daughter date:

Rebecca took Winter out for a date to Vienna to see the Nutcracker at the Vienna Opera House. The tickets sell out in March, but if you come on the day of you can potentially get standing room only tickets for 4 euros. This was the plan.

Becca and Winter went out for Viennese torte and enjoyed shopping in a few Advent markets for gifts for daddy.

Kenton's Christmas Reading List:

Father Elijah by Michael O'Brien
Resurgent in the midst of crisis: Sacred liturgy, the traditional Latin Mass, and renewal in the Church by Peter Kwasniewski
Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind
Philosophy of the State as Educator by Thomas Dubay

Pictures for the Grandparents:

Winter's presentation on penguins that she had to present to her class at school.

 Winter made an entire costume for Benedict out of construction paper!

Snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails: Becca went to wash Tristan's jacket. This is all the stuff he was carrying around in the pockets of his jacket!  Winter is comparing it with what was in her jacket pocket.

Kate sleeping under her bed.

Benedict doing his prayers before bed.

Benedict the super hero!  Note the unprecedented mix of genres: medieval, Marvel, and Transformers.

We wish all of you a Merry Christmas season. May God bless you this Christmas season with much rest and family time. 
Remember, that Christmas doesn't end on the 26th of Dec., nor the first of Jan., nor even Epiphany. Christmas tide extends till Candlemas on Feb. 2nd. Use the season as an excuse to read more and celebrate more.

  Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate, and Tavi

Mailing Address: Schloss Trumau Schlossgasse 21 2521 Trumau, Austria

If you would like to financially support us - the easiest way is probably by paypal.  Our email is Or online via the ITI website: - in the space provided just write that the money is for the Biffert family.

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