I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And happy first day of Advent! All the pumpkins are gone from the house and we froze our buns off stringing lights on the house this weekend. I think this may be the earliest we've ever put up the exterior lights since we've been married. The inside of the house is a fresh blank slate, and I can't wait to bring Christmas into our new home for the first time! But today I'm thinking about Advent....
The concept of Advent as a season of spiritual preparation wasn't really part of our family traditions growing up. Advent was more of a countdown to Christmas, preferably involving pop-out windows with chocolate treats. It wasn't until becoming Catholic that this became a different part of our holiday season and honestly, we're still figuring out what that looks like for our family.
Can I make a confession here? I'm super guilty of succumbing to mom guilt. Even taking it onto myself when it doesn't exist. I was confirmed 10 years ago and because I didn't grow up with a lot of catholic traditions as a child, I tend to look to how other catholic families do things.
And there's a lot of amazing, inspiring, affirming families out there that have helped us come up with our own catholic culture in our home. But there's a lot of indirect "should's" and "should not's" out there too. In catholic circles, in mom circles, in social media circles, in pinteresty circles. All the circles. All the expectations. Expectations that I constantly have to remind myself do not necessarily apply to me/us.
So, as I started to think about Advent for our family this year, I had that moment. The what should we do? brainstorm....
OK, Let's pull out the Advent Activity Calendar and plan some super fun and festive things, mixed in with some service. Then we'll bake all kinds of goodies for neighbors, teachers, pastors, and unexpected gifts. Then I'll make personalized gifts for our family/friends. And maybe quilt each of my children their own Christmas blanket of coziness. If there's time.
I was talking with a friend the other day about that touted Advent Activity Calendar. The one that was so great in theory but almost killed us by the time we landed at Christmas Eve. The stress was probably self induced - the first year, I tried to plan something exciting for each day, but quickly learned we needed a variety of festive and low-key activities. Even with a better balance of activities, and even though the kids do enjoy it, that dang calendar has been a giant stress bomb every year. It just felt like it made an already busy season even more packed. The pressure of planning something everyday was too much. For me anyway.
Since we're fresh off another move, we're leaving the Activity calendar in the basement this year. We will pull out our Advent wreath (a "work with what you've got" DIY from last year)
Each card (one for each day) has a charming illustration on the front and a very simple Scripture with discussion prompts on the back. I love the simplicity of this tool and the fact that you can do it anywhere....as part of a bedtime routine, in the car ride to school, or over a meal. We're hoping this will not only help us to make a point of sitting down as a family to dinner each night, but also make for some thoughtful conversations.
The second is The Giving Manger.
You certainly don't need this kit to get started on the idea, but I love its natural beauty and the wonderful story that accompanies the manger set.
Mia actually found this and started reading it before I even had a chance to introduce it. Soon she had the whole gang gathered around.
With each act of service they show to another, they get to place a piece of straw in the manger. By Christmas, baby Jesus should have a bed made of love. The physical connection helps the kids understand the concept of serving another being a gift to that person but also a gift to God. Now if I can just wrangle that swaddled Savior away from the toddler so I can hide it until Christmas morning....
Our pastor referred to Advent as a time for "spiritual renewal" this morning. Not "hustle and bustle", not the "season for gifts", not for everything we feel we "should" be doing. Maybe you'll choose to do some of those things. Maybe you won't. It's totally up to you. What we chose to do (and not do) can really shape our Advent and Christmas experience. I for one have a lot of noise in the background that I need to quiet in order to pave the way for renewal. So, that's where I plan to start this week.
How about you? Is Advent a liturgical season in your home? What does it look like for you? How about those Christmas expectations? Anyone else kicking something to the curb this year?