Look around and what do you see? Christmas trees and music playing. Little elves and holiday decorations. Coupons and sales already starting. And all this already going on since just after (or even before) the end of October. What happened to fall? To Thanksgiving?
Thank goodness the Church has Advent, a time of preparation before the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a time to reflect, to slow down, to pray, to enjoy family. It is not meant to be a hassle, a stressed-out series of weeks prior to Christmas Day. Our world needs Advent. I love Advent - and the Christmas season that follows (though it can be difficult when the world round stops celebrating Christmas as you are just starting to!).
In my few years since Skipper was born, we have slowly rearranged our family traditions - edited, deleted, and started new traditions - to reflect the true meaning of Christmas, to ease into the holidays, to make it less stress-free. Is it perfect? By no means. It is a work in progress, and if this is your first year changing things up, take it slowly! Pick a tradition and go with it. Add to what you do year by year as you see what works and what does not. Most of all, spend time in prayer and reflection, not only with your children but yourself.
Normally I also like to have the bulk of my shopping done by now - items needed as well as presents - so that I can completely enjoy and experience Advent without the craziness of the holiday buzz. Plus, it keeps the kids and I out of the stores, away from temptation, and away from the commercialism of Christmas.
Speaking of commercialism, does that mean we ignore Santa Claus, our family's secular traditions, or other non-religious paraphernalia? Nope, not a bit. If you have read any of my posts to date you know that I am pretty much the only practicing Catholic between our two families so that means plenty of secularism goes on. I admit that the overemphasis of Santa really gets to me at times. Do not get me wrong. I love the magic of Santa Claus, his goodwill message, and all that, but when everybody and his brother keeps talking about Santa, it drives me nuts. To counterbalance it, I always keep it low-key at home. We do give two main gifts from Santa, we enjoy reading the Night Before Christmas, and leaving out cookies and milk for Santa. My husband has fun showing Santa's location using NoradSanta. Last year the kids received a personalized free video message from Santa at the Portable North Pole. We also read secular Christmas books throughout. Other than that, it is all about the birth of Jesus. And, when possible, I try to tie in the secular with our faith.
During the last two weeks I have gone over my notes of previous Advent plans and items on my "wishlist" of ideas, and have put together a [hopefully] simple plan for this year. With a baby coming days after Christmas, I whittled our list to what we have done in the past that the kids love, with a very few simple new items. Typically I reduce our school load during the weeks of Advent, especially as we near Christmas, but with a baby coming, I have decided to keep on trudging away since we will have plenty of weeks off during and after the Christmas season!
Over the next few days, I will be going through our Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany plans to share with you. Meanwhile, enjoy those turkey day plans, smell the last winds of fall, and remember your daily blessings.