{holidays} Meaningful Advent

Yesterday marked the second week of Advent. I feel like September through mid November dragged and now my life is flying by! I’ve been working hard to stay present and in the moment and even without a huge life change on the horizon, I know a lot of people strive for that this time of year.

The liturgical calendar gives us a name for this time and as I get older I find Advent more and more comforting. The chance to simply be in the waiting, to allow ourselves to anticipate the coming of Christmas, it’s a beautiful thing.

Advent is not a countdown, it’s a season unto itself and it can feel dark and scary at times because the world feels dark and scary at times. I feel less alone when I hear the readings in the lectionary, that there are so many others across so many years that have not known what’s ahead but forge on anyway. This is faith to me, to believe that there is light in the darkness and to try to cultivate it within myself and Advent, especially in a year ahead with so many unknowns, helps me focus on that light.

This year our celebration of Advent is fairly simple and completely imperfect. We are reading this book together as a family every night, Anticipating His Arrival, that I picked up in our church bookstore. It has the readings for all three church years as well as discussion questions. We are also reading A Christmas Carol, one of my all time favorite books. It is so perfect, and even if you think you know the story I promise it’s worth a reread. We have just made it through the first stave (the first spirit is about to arrive!) and so far the big kids seem to be enjoying it! Obviously some goes over their heads, but they pick up a lot of Dickens’ jokes and imagery and I hope it becomes something we do together every year.

Besides this we are trying to find fun things to do together as a family and with friends and celebrate this time of year in the home that we’ve made and loved in this city that we will soon be leaving. It’s all a little bittersweet, but honestly I feel like that suits Advent more than anything. I hope this season is meaningful to you as well and that wherever your life is at the moment that you can focus on the light in the darkness.

 

Intentional Holidays|Countdown to Christmas

The holidays are here! I hope everyone in the States had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was spent laughing with family and it was wonderful. I was very sad to wake up this morning and send the kids to school and my husband to work.

My birthday is at the end of this week and it’s the time of year where I always reflect on the past and plan for the future. This is the time of year I look to resolutions and goal setting and I love that it always coincides with the new church year as well. There’s something to starting December with a mindfulness of where I am and where I want to be that makes this time of year more meaningful for me.

For the next few days I will be sharing how I plan to celebrate the holidays with intention. I have been thinking about what I want this month to look like for my family and how our time and money should be spent. With a new baby we simply cannot do all the things, so I’ve been honing in on the things that matter most to us and what I want the focus to be this season.

Sometimes I think the best part of Christmas is the anticipation for the big day.  Having a fun way to countdown brings festivity to the whole month and can become a fun tradition for your family. I consider this to be a separate thing from honoring the Advent season, and I’ll share more how we do that later in the week!, these countdowns are meant to bring a little daily excitement and togetherness and also are sometimes a great way to channel the kids’ enthusiasm in a way that doesn’t drive me bonkers!

For the past several years I have done a book countdown. I wrap 24 Christmas/Winter themed books and we open one every day and then curl up and read it together. It’s seriously the best and my kids always get excited when the stack of wrapped books shows up.

The first few years almost all the books were from the library, but now we have a great collection that I’ve accumulated through many book sales, digging in Mimi’s bookshelf, and special purchases for books that they asked to read again and again. I set up shop in front of a movie one night and get them all wrapped and then the hard work is done and it’s totally worth it! Even if you don’t want to wrap 24 books, I highly suggest pulling out some favorites or checking some out from library and reading them together throughout the month. I have wonderful memories of the books my mom put out with all the other Christmas decorations every year and cuddling and reading them all together.

Another tradition I started last year was to get the kids their own Advent calendar. We have a giant one from when they were little that they were growing out of and who doesn’t love opening those little squares every day?  I got the kids each a Lego Advent calendar last year  and they were a huge hit. This year I went searching on Amazon and found this Hatchimal and Squishy calendar. I usually hate buying both of these things (so much plastic crap!) but  I know they will spark play every day and be even more special since they are a treat! (And I don’t think individual calendars are a must, my brother and I shared one growing up and just took turns every day and somehow we survived!)

For myself, I bought the David’s Tea Advent Calendar for the third year in a row. This becomes part of my daily ritual during the month of December and I look forward to it so much. Besides the delicious tea, it forces me to take a moment and slow down and it is as sacred to me during Advent as the scripture readings I try and focus on. This year they are offering a couple of different options and price points and the tea is always delicious and high quality! A great gift idea too!

That’s how we are going to countdown to Christmas this year. You don’t have to do anything like this or you can do more, but the point for our family is that our book and Advent calendars are ways to connect and slow down and I hope sharing what we do sparks some ideas that sound meaningful to you! Remember, no one does all the things and no one does any of them perfectly. Set your intention for the holiday season and focus on that and it will be easier to drown out the noise that is so loud from the outside world and actually enjoy the holidays.