Christmas carols start wafting through shops earlier and earlier each year, but this year one thing about Christmas is later than usual.
The church season of Advent runs for four or so weeks before Christmas, helping us to imagine life before Jesus, and anticipate the celebrations of his birth. This year it begins on Sunday 2 December.
In New Zealand we tend to do most of our Baby Jesus church stuff in the Advent period because everyone heads away on holiday during the two weeks after 25 December that are technically the Christmas period.
Do you remember Advent calendars and wreaths and candles from your childhood? Do you or your kids celebrate Advent these days? It’s one of my favourite parts of the year.
We used to have those calendars with a chocolate treat behind a door for every day of Advent. Nothing like a bit of sugary bribery to get kids (yeah, just the kids, honest) into the spirit of counting down the days of Advent!
It’s a couple of weeks away yet, and I’m planning some Advent blogging, but there’s no point me starting an Advent discussion here when it has already begun, in case you get inspired to join in and then miss out of some of the fun. So, here’s a pre-Advent post to give you some resources and ideas in case you’re interested.
Single at Advent
There were some very thoughtful comments on the first two posts in our Single series (here and here), particularly about how single people and families can be part of each other’s lives.
Advent would be a great opportunity for this. All of the ideas below are extra things in a family’s life that can be hard to squish in, especially at what is often a pretty full time of year.
If you are single and interested in celebrating Advent, perhaps you could team up with a family with kids and provide some of the research or assembly or thinking to get Advent calendars, wreaths, prayers, books or something else happening for everybody. Parents, maybe you could invite a single friend to be the sponsor of Advent in your home?
Read or Build a Jesse Tree
This is my top tip – the ‘read’ bit, anyway.
I learned about Jesse Trees – which lead you through stories of Jesus’ ancestors like Ruth and David, one story for every night of Advent – from West Baptist, where lots of families with kids or grandkids use this excellent storybook by Geraldine McCaughrean.
For creative ideas, including making your own Jesse Tree (a bit too hard-out for me at this point), follow the links on the West blog, and see my article on Jesse Trees at Kiwi Families.
Advent Mealtime Traditions
Most kids love seasonal rituals, and of course the whole Christmas season is chock-full of them.
Whether or not you normally ‘say grace’ before meals in your house, perhaps Advent could be a period where you have a special mealtime tradition.
An Advent wreath is traditional, and many families have one at the dinner table. There are lots of links to Advent resources at TextWeek, including prayers and readings for wreaths and calendars. There are lots more ideas compiled here.
Your Advent mealtime tradition could be a grace that you all say together (for some ideas, see here, here and here) or take turns choosing or saying. It could be that at dinner every night of Advent, you take turns to say something you’re thankful for.
Maybe you could pray for children in a different country every night after dinner. (Paul has some resource recommendations for this if it takes your fancy.)
Did you grow up with a different tradition or have you seen something else you’d like to share? Ideas, please!
Some families have a special charitable or service project they do together around Christmas. I imagine this works best in the Northern Hemisphere, when December isn’t also the end of the school and work year and packed with parties and break-up functions!
You could also set up a Nativity scene. Trade Aid in New Zealand has some gorgeous ones that come with a free sense of satisfaction at supporting small businesses in hard places.
Obviously, Christmas trees come with a lot of potential for family traditions and sacred spaces. I’d love to hear what you do in your household (whether there are kids there or not).
We’ll have another discussion soon on how to do Christmas presents without going insane or becoming destitute, so save that stuff for later, but please go nuts with sharing other ideas for December in family life.
Over to you! What has worked for you?
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