Growing up my family loosely observed Advent , just enough to give me a taste for it’s sweetness, it’s calming rhythm.
As an adult, I can honestly say that my experience of Christmas began to change for the better when we began our own Advent traditions in our little family. I found myself connected to the season in a way that I had lost since childhood. In observing Advent, I found there were more reminders of what the season is truly all about, instead of less, all around me. Slowly, the very essence of true Christmas became woven into every part of my holiday experience and I love it.
We have an Advent Wreath the boys made at church last year during our annual “advent event” (a tradition passed down from my childhood church family.) With this wreath are 5 candles – 4 votives and 1 pillar jar.
The smaller candles represent: Love, Joy, Hope and Peace. The larger one is the Christ Candle to be lit on Christmas Eve.
On Sunday or Monday nights we try and eat dinner as a family at home, and we light the candles in order (there are 4 Sundays in Advent, and each Sunday we focus in on one of the 4 themes.)
We then take turns reading from the Advent guide that we put together at church, which has Readings, Poems, Scriptures and Questions pertaining to each weeks focus.
As the boys have gotten older, they have taken on more and more ownership of this weekly event and it has become a sweet time of renewal at the beginning of each busy holiday week.
We also have an Advent Garland that goes from December 1-December 25. They are simple shipping tags, which have the numbers and pictures pasted on the fronts, and then on the backs of each tag are “deep thoughts” or actions – like “Be Humble” or “Share a cup of cocoa with someone you love.” Hanging from each tag is a small ornament. The boys take turns turning the shipping tag around and hanging the ornament on our tree.
This was my first stab at an Advent Garland, and each year I think I am going to make a new and improved one, a more “professional” one, but I think we all becoming a little bit attached to this one, warts and all.
It is honest and simple, and maybe that is what matters most.
The last part of Advent that really isn’t officially Advent, but that feels like it to me, is the Christmas card exchanging. Writing my cards each night, and checking the mail each day to see which ones have arrived is something I look forward too.
I know the tradition of sending cards has slowed down, and I know some people don’t like the expectation and pressure that writing Christmas cards brings. But I am one of those Christmas nuts that really likes the whole kit and caboodle.
For me it is a way feel connected to those I know and love despite the miles we may have between us, or the lack of time we have together.
I love seeing the circles of the card wreathes fill up with faces and notes from friends, new and old. I love that I can see the passage of time, see so much history right there in one glance.
It reminds me that I am not an island.
Of course we do not observe any of these traditions perfectly. There are days where the advent tags on the garland pile up and we have to turn 3 at one time. There are times when the Candle Lighting doesn’t happen till Tuesday or Wednesday if at all, and lots of people will get their Christmas cards from me in 2010 because I didn’t get them all quite finished in time…
But I love having these traditions just the same, and I love that each year, we try again.