This Sunday – tomorrow, yay! – marks the beginning of the new liturgical year, (Year C for you liturgy nerds out there) and the dawn of the lead up to the most wonderful time of the year. If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t grasp the concept of Advent on a particularly intellectual level as a child. As far as I knew, the Church simply delighted in dangling a big, fat, purple (and one pink) candle in front of me week after interminable week, dragging out the tortuous wait until Christmas morning.
Now that I’m an adult and I have my own enthusiastic elves at home, I realize that 1. the Church as a mother has to start preparing a good month out. And it’s still not enough time! And 2. it’s a penitential season for a reason.
Much like the last month of pregnancy, Advent is meant to be a slowing down, a time of decreased activity and time for reflection and greater simplicity. Mama can’t cook, she’s tired. We’ll eat soup. We’ll go to bed earlier. We’ll snuggle under blankets and read stories and watch movies.
In reality, Advent has been a bit hijacked by that quintessentially American quality of freaking the freak out about major holidays and, as a result, utterly disregarding the actual meaning of the feast in question.
As a mom it’s a tricky balance between getting our homes (and our hearts) prepared and properly adorned, while managing to not whip ourselves into a frenzied rage of wrapping paper and Amazon Prime and cocktail shrimp.
I don’t do a great job of it. But I’m trying. And like Lent, Advent (which has been called a kind of “little lent” in the Church year) comes annually, so I get to keep trying. I want my children to have a beautiful, meaningful experience of waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our salvation, Jesus Christ.
I also want them to experience the joy (or horror?) of sitting on Santa’s lap and earnestly filling him in on the remote-control X-wing they saw at Costco. And asking about where the reindeer sleep.
I want to show them that yes, while we do put our lights up and start preparing the house for the Big Day, no, He’s not born yet.
And just like we weren’t using Luke’s baby swing or carseat until after he’d actually arrived, we won’t have those Christmas lights turned on for good until Christmas Eve. (We do turn our lights on for Sundays in Advent and for big feast days. And this is just how we do it as a family, not a commentary on anyone else’s family culture.)
That’s what we’re trying to create, after all: a family culture. A little liturgy of traditions and memories in our domestic church.
So, with the aim of sharing some of those personal familial traditions from different perspectives, I’ve invited some beautiful women into this space over the next few weeks to share how they celebrate Advent and Christmas in their own homes. How they decorate and pray. How they give of their time and treasure. How they unabashedly combine Frozen: the singalong! with Vespers; hot cocoa walks to admire Christmas lights in early December with Advent wreaths and evening prayers; magnolia leaf wreaths, black-tie champagne receptions and cozy knit throws with purple and pink candles burning in an evergreen circle at the kitchen table.
It can be done, after all.
Because we’re all preparing for the same Thing. I heard recently that in Arabic, “Merry Christmas” translates literally into “happy holiday of The Birth.”
Can’t think of a better way to say it myself.
On Monday I’ll kick this series off by sharing a bit about our own family’s Advent and Christmas traditions. I hope you’ll join us, and chime in with your own family experiences too.