Book Notes: Around the Year with the von Trapp Family

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Around the Year with the von Trapp Family by Maria Augusta von Trapp is surprisingly upbeat and joyful, especially when we recall that The Sound of Music ends with the von Trapp troupe fleeing their beloved Austria. The 1965 American musical drama ends by highlighting the danger the family averted by escaping with only what they wore — and what was in their spirits. They courageously sang their way to freedom.

Maria’s book is taken from her writings on the liturgical life she lived to keep her family Catholic. Your family can adapt many ideas from this book easily. The book’s sections include “Celebrating With the Family in Heaven” about the Catholic sacred days, “Celebrating With the Family on Earth” with ways to mark special days, as well as collections of songs and recipes.

After the von Trapp family arrived in America, their financial resources disappeared in a stock market collapse. They did not flinch at impending poverty, but as in The Sound of Music, used those talents to survive again performing as the Trapp Family Singers.

Keeping Catholic

Through it all, Maria kept the family Catholic with year-round customs, meals, shared sacrifices, family entertainment evenings — whatever she could do. Maria recorded the poignant everyday stories of how they lived liturgically, proactively making everything meaningful in the way they dressed, ate, read books, sang music, and played.

With the beautiful layout, illustrations, and Maria’s warm words of encouragement, Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family looks like a coffee-table book to show off — but soon becomes a kitchen-table book. It needs to be kept handy so that mothers can try the recipes with their children, such as Rum Slices for Advent, Spring Herb Soup for Lent, or Linzer Torte for birthdays. Mom and Dad can use the book to plan new events to enrich their family throughout the liturgical year. Any musician in the house will rest this elegant volume on the piano or music stand and play new Easter songs like “Three Women at Break of Day” or “Easter Eggs!” The pianist can pick out the notes to one of six Advent or eight Marian hymns. On dreary evenings, the 19 Rounds for Family Singing will warm the hearts of the grumpiest.

The von Trapps celebrated the season of Carnival from January 6 to Ash Wednesday, with games, singing, food and drink. Maria writes of the merriment of this season before Lent and shares details about the food and drink, dancing and singing that were part of their celebration.

Freedom to worship

The von Trapp children were taught to know and honor the saints. They learned the symbols many saints bear, and why they are invoked for specific causes. Maria elaborates on traditions kept on feast days such as Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, Christ the King, and the feasts of Mary — with many Austrian hymns. Imagine preparing your family for Pentecost by devoting the nine days before this important holy day to discussing one of the gifts of the Spirit each evening. Maria contrasts the freedom to celebrate Sundays before and after World War II. She gives us a thorough picture of Sunday in prewarAustria, throughout Church history, and in America.

After the Trapp Family Singers’ first concert tour in America, many parents sought Maria’s advice on how to keep their families at home in the evenings. Unable to answer all the letters sufficiently, she started the Trapp Family Music Camp to show their fans how the von Trapps enjoyed their evening activities at home.

“The evenings of each camp session were always devoted to ‘home entertainment.’ And once the camp closes at the end of August, our home remains open for guests, and there we carry right on, living as we had been used to in Austria.”

The dancing, reading aloud, group discussion and singing continue in the hearts and homes of those who take from this book the ideas and spirit that kept the von Trapp family close together and always profoundly Catholic.

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Copyright 2019 Nancy HC Ward

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About Author

Nancy Ward writes and speaks about Catholicism, her conversion and Christian community at JoyAlive.net, plus 7 websites and magazines. She loves to tell her faith story to Catholic groups and help others tell theirs. Her "Sharing YOUR Faith Story, a three-part seminar for evangelization," is available live or DVD. She contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion.

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