We are pretty excited about Advent around here. Not only is this the first year we have a kidlet old enough to share some advent traditions with, but this is the first year in four that Advent hasn’t been shared with the End of Semester Press. It is hard to get your Liturgical New Year party hat on when you are miserably behind on papers and reading and it takes all your willpower just to haul your miserable sinful arse to chapel, let alone carve out time to light candles at home.
Assemble an Advent wreath we did, this year, lacking as it might be in actual wreath-age. We even found Advent candles in the bottom of the Christmas box; who knows whence they came.
I pored and puzzled through many a Mommy-blog looking for good Advent activities to share with the kidlet. All-in-all it was rather overwhelming, with few things quite right for our 21-month-old – precocious, but lacking in attention span. Imagine our relief then, to find this beautiful little Advent calendar in the magical Christmas box. It had been a gift from Jared’s co-worker on Naomi’s first birthday, which we’d forgotten about completely. For each day in December, there’s a little book that tells a little bit of the Christmas story. And each is also an ornament, which can then go on our little tree.
This is all just exactly Naomi’s speed, and reading the little books fits nicely into a breakfast devotional including a little singing, an advent collect, and the usual family prayer. Nothing drastic, but definitely special.
The above tree is also the only foliage on display in our house right now. We’re taking the slow route with Christmas decorations. Jared suggested we try being stodgy about not putting up the Christmas tree until Advent is nearly over; I never much minded that, but I’m happy for the excuse to put off the work. The aforementioned Christmas box is stowed in a discreet corner, and every few days we’ll pull out a new decoration. This week’s oppressive greyness inspired me to put up outdoor Christmas lights for possibly the first time in my life, as even the half-baked job I’m capable of is worth it just the extra color and brightness.
Little N has invented her own Advent Work. We’ve had these little Nativity finger puppets for a while, and a month or so ago I found their bag gathering dust under the sofa table. At first, N just liked taking them in and out of the little ziploc bags they came in, but in reading through storybook Bibles, she finally connected little finger-puppet Mary and Baby Jesus with the stories she was hearing. Now, at least once a day, she pulls out “Mimi” and “Beebee Jisus”, lays them neatly on the ottoman, drags down the Jesus Storybook Bible to sit next to them, and finds all the pages with Mary and Baby Jesus on them. I try to teach and train and add bits here and there, but all I can do is watch in wonder as her heart makes connections and grows affections.
Advent is also home to the feast days of several rather fantastic saints. I’m still not sure what I think about praying to saints; I stopped being Roman Catholic, so I stopped hanging around people who do that sort of thing, but I just never got around to not believing in it. But the saints themselves are wonderful, and I love hearing their crazy stories, staring at their icons and learning to love a person who loved Jesus so much. It’s an excuse to celebrate and learn something new about our ancient family. And many of the saints that turn up in Advent – Nicholas, Ambrose, Lucia – are early church saints that all Christians share.
Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, the perennial favorite. When I was young, for some reason we actually had wooden shoes that got goodies in them a couple of years.
As much as it’s another excuse for candy, today it’s also brought home the penitential aspect of Advent for me. My mood, which has tracked the greyness of the skies, erupted with them yesterday into rain and damp and anger and sadness. As the deluge continues in a drizzle today, I face my issues for the umpteenth time, and stare into the eyes of St. Nick.
He was so many things that I am not. He cared for the weakest, the children and the poor, what James calls “true religion.” In his coastal city on the southern edge of Turkey, he thought of the special needs of the sailors that came through. He was generous, and humble, and strong. Puts troubles in perspective, and shuts up a bit of my fussing, my quickness to dramatize, my eagerness to blame.
These were my meditations as I made Watergate salad for tonight’s party. Another childhood favorite, an indulgence in all things culinary which I dislike in any other context. Because it’s a party, and this way I don’t have to bake anything.
It’s 1/2 a canister of Cool Whip, a 20 oz can of crushed pinaeapple (w/ juice), a package of pistachio pudding, a few hands-full of mini-marshmallows, and a hearty sprinkling of chopped walnuts and coconut. Mix, chill, and serve.
Advent: rich with celebration, light, meditation – and the resurfacing of childhood rituals, as that memory-laden holiday approaches. Those are all my thoughts on the subject. What are yours?