Sunday, December 28, 2014

The 4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents, Giotto
image via Wikipedia

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
(Matthew 2:16-18)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Tomorrow shall be my dancing day"

Nativity by Fra Filippo Lippi (detail)
via Wikimedia Commons

This traditional English carol was apparently part of a medieval mystery play and has eleven verses  of Christ himself telling the whole story of his birth, life, suffering and death, and ascension, but most recordings, like the one below, only use the first four verses.  This is John Gardner's delightful arrangement.

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;


Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.


In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Between an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.


Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.


Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance.


The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.


For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.


Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.


Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.


Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.


Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Sleepers Awake: Bach's Cantata "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 140

This is a beautiful recording of the full cantata Bach wrote for Phillip Nicolai's hymn, "Sleepers Awake."

Enjoy!  And I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tutorial: How to fold paper to make a snowflake

These photographs were taken by a man named Wilson Bentley, who was born in 1865. He took his first photo of a snowflake in 1885 and went on to take over 5000 more before his death in 1931.

Images via Wikipedia

As you can see, real snowflakes have six points.  Making snowflakes out of paper is a great activity, but it's pretty hard to manage six points.

This is a doily, not a snowflake.

This is pretty in its way, but it's not a snowflake.

To make a six-sided flake, you have to start with a six-sided piece of paper.  Getting there is kind of tricky, so I'm going to show you the way my daddy taught me do it.

This isn't a snowflake yet, but it will be.

First, you need a square piece of paper.
  • Fold the short edge of the paper diagonally across to the long edge, forming a right triangle. 
  • Cut off the part that extends past the triangle.
  • [I do this by folding the extra part and then cutting along the line.]

Fold, fold, open and cut.

Make your hexagon.

First fold: Fold the square in half, making a rectangle.

Second fold: The second fold begins about 5/8" to the left of the center of the folded edge.

Take the upper right corner and fold it at the left-of-center mark,making sure that the corner touches the bottom edge of the paper.


Third fold: Take the left side of the paper, and fold it across to the other side,

so it looks like this:

Fourth fold:  Fold paper in half.

Now you have to cut off all those weird corners sticking out of the end so it will have the right shape.  Turn it over so that the folded edge is down and the point is to the left, like this:

and cut it along this line:

If you open it up, it should look like this:

Now, fold it back up and again and cut the edges to make your snowflake. Just be sure NOT to cut off the point. A real snowflake is formed around a grain of pollen or a speck of dust, so it always has a solid center.

If you cut it like this

you'll get this shape.

Cutting it like this

will make this shape,

which isn't a scientifically accurate snowflake, but it's pretty and it DOES have six points.  Also it's quick and easy.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Now I know why people make video tutorials

Writing one out is really hard!

I'm almost done putting together the one on folding the paper for a proper six-sided snowflake, but I can't tell if the instructions are clear.  It's all running together in my head! 

I'll try to get it up tonight, but in the mean time, here's a fun website -- Make-a-Flake.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paper handicrafts for Christmas, and more Sleepers Awake 2: Snowflakes edition

I love making paper snowflakes, but mine always tend to come out looking more like doilies than like snowflakes.

I made the tiny ones in the upper left of this photo. They DO have six sides, but they're not really snowflakey, are they?

Advent 2006
Where did the time go!?!

But last week I ran across this link showing how to make scientifically accurate snowflakes. I want those magazines, but I missed the Kickstarter by just a few days.

Anyway, we've been looking at the drawings posted there as we're making snowflakes this year.

Mostly made by Violin Daughter

Is creativity always this messy, or is it just me?

You should have seen it before I cleaned up the glue that leaked out during the night
and went down that crack and onto the floor.

Still making points for my Moravian star.  I found this beautiful paper at Hobby Lobby.  I'm in love.

When making paper snowflakes the most important thing is folding the paper so you end up with a six-sided shape and not an eight-sided shape.  I've looked all over the internet and can't find any clear instructions on this, so tomorrow I'm going to make a tutorial will post it as soon as I can.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I'm having a terrible time finding a good recording of the hymn Sleepers Awake -- most of the quality recordings are of an arrangement that's meant for performance rather than for congregational singing -- but this one's pretty good (the singing starts at 1:00).

Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
     Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight's solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
     He comes; prepare ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Bear through the night
Your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.

Sion hears the watchmen singing,
Her heart with deep delight is springing,
     She wakes, she rises from her gloom:
Forth her Bridegroom comes, all glorious,
In grace arrayed, by truth victorious;
     Her star is ris'n, her light is come!
All hail, Incarnate Lord,
Our crown, and our reward!
We haste along,
In pomp of song,
And gladsome join the marriage throng.

Lamb of God, the heav'ns adore thee,
And men and angels sing before thee,
     With harp and cymbal's clearest tone.
By the pearly gates in wonder
We stand, and swell the voice of thunder
     That echos round thy dazzling throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught
          Such rejoicing:
We raise the song,
We swell the throng,
To praise thee ages all along.

(Tr. Catherine Windworth, 1858, alt., 1940 Episcopal Hymnal version)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Paper handicrafts for Christmas, and more Sleepers Awake

Last week Professor Carol wrote about Moravian Stars and included a link to a site that gives instructions in making something similar by folding and weaving long strips of paper.

Here are a few we made today:

I used legal-sized (8 1/2" x 14") copier paper for all the stars.  The size of the stars is determined by the width of the strips, and the strips must be at least 24 times as long as they are wide.  For the small ones, I used 1/2" x 14" strips.  For the medium one I used 3/4" by 28" strips (that's two 14" long strips taped end-to-end) and for the large one I used 1" x 28".  The larger ones were a lot easier to work with.

One of the ladies at the Ambleside Online Forum shared a link showing how to make a Moravian Star tree topper.  You start with a polygon for a base and then add cones to each face of it to make the star.  I've done the base so far, but this is a lot harder than the woven stars.

Base and template for points

That base is an icosahedron, which means that it has twenty sides.  Each face has three edges, so the points will be made of three-sided cones.

This thing sounds suspiciously like a geometry lesson, and in fact, the stars were orgininally created by a geometry teacher.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here's a lovely rendition of Sleepers Awake played on the guitar.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sleepers Awake on the king of instruments

Today's offering is a performance on the pipe organ, my favorite instrument. I'm pretty sure God Himself invented it, and the only people capable of playing it are Wizards -- who else would be able to use their hands and feet at the same time to make these earth-shatteringly beautiful sounds? The organist is Rodney Gehrke (whom I don't know from Adam's off ox, but he's amazing) because I don't have a recording of my favorite organist, the Wizardess whom I am proud to call Mommy. (I'm just a Squib, in case you're wondering.)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

[I posted this a few minutes ago but there was a typo in the title, which Blogger uses for the post's URL and I just couldn't stand looking at it, so that one's been deleted. Sorry for the confusion!]

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: Tsundoku

Remember what I said last week about all those books I'd bought and never read?  The Japanese, Lord bless them, have a word for that.

Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books

How cool is that?

There's more lovely words where that one came from at Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World .  Many thanks to Magistratium for linking it on Facebook today.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


I don't actually have any tsundoku to show you because I recently bought a new bookcase and some baskets to put into a corner where I was sure a bookcase wouldn't fit, then filled it with the board and picture books we keep on hand for young visitors, which freed up a lot of room on the shelves.

Elaienar says there's always room for more books.
And bookcases.

How the corner normally* looks.
Except for the candles. I lit the candles for the picture

And that bookcase was made to fit after I'd already put a set in the hall because there simply wasn't room for any more bookcases anywhere else in the house.

In the crooked hall of our crooked house --
mostly children's lit plus odds and ends I don't know what else to do with.

* Well, I said "How the corner normally looks," but what I meant by "normally" is "now that we've rearranged the room to fit the Tree in."  That bookcase is crammed into a different corner when there's no tree dominating the room.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

C.S. Lewis's father had a lot of books piled up, but they weren't necessarily tsundoku.

My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not.

~Surprised by Joy

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sleepers Awake

Sleepers Awake (also known as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645) is a chorale cantata J.S. Bach composed in 1731 for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which fell on the 25th of November that year.  That was a year when Easter came unusually early, because it's not often the calendar has twenty-seven Sundays after Trinity, so thankfully this piece has become a popular part of Advent.

Many hymnals have a version of it. The the 1940 Episcopal hymnal, the OPC's Trinity Hymnal, the LCMS's Lutheran Worship, and the UMC's 1989 hymnal all share Catherine Winkworth's 1858 translation, called "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying."

The Cyber Hymnal provides an 1864 translation by Frances E. Cox called "'Sleepers, Wake!' The Watch Cry Pealeth," and in 1982 Carl P. Daw, Jr, translated it anew, calling it "'Sleepers, Wake!' A Voice Astounds Us," for the hymnal that was published that year.

I had always assumed that the cantata was written first and the hymn was taken from it, but it turns out that it's exactly the other way around!

Philipp Nicolai was a Lutheran minister and hymnwriter who lived through an outbreak of the plague in the late 1500s.  He lost 170 of his parishioners in one week alone, and in 1598, to comfort those who remained, he wrote a series of meditations called  The Mirror of Joy, which contained this hymn.

I believe this is the original version of it:

Image source:,_ruft_uns_die_Stimme_%28Nicolai,_Philipp%29

I've been all over YouTube the last couple of days listening to dozens of lovely renditions of this hymn and of the cantata -- far too many to put into one blog post -- so I will post a few more of my favorites as the week goes on.  In the meantime I'll leave you with this, a congration singing it in Lituanian to the melody as originally composed by Philipp Nicolai.