Advent starts tomorrow. Catholic kids know the countdown to Christmas by the lighting of 4 candles (3 purple, 1 pink) around a wreath. Each week at mass, we watch a selected family light the super skinny taper, hand it (kind of) to the youngest member of their group, and help the child to light the next candle on the wreath. And so it goes for 4 weeks, as we count down toward Christmas.
I have a pile of numbered elf hats from Ikea (because of course they are) into which you can put a note or a small treat. I don’t use them anymore. In fact, that one was a bit of a misadventure. I bought them in the WayBack when Child and I collected up stories about the animals of the nativity (donkey, camels, and so on). It kind of started with a copy of Tomie DiPaola’s The Friendly Beasts, and then Garth Brooks put that song on his Christmas Album. We found more picture books about critters, and eventually, we pulled the name of an animal out, and we read a story that featured that animal. I even had (almost) 24 ornaments that we could hang on the tree every day at bedtime. Except for the part where we get a live tree so the tree didn’t go up until, like, the week before Christmas, so there wasn’t exactly a place to put the ornaments. Some years, we used the sad little Charlie Brown Tree. But sometimes, we just stuck to the stories. But the message then was that everyone is welcome at the Nativity.
Then, Child got interested in how different countries celebrated Christmas. He watched a Christmas special featuring Caillou that talked about Christmas traditions from different countries (I know… I know… don’t judge us. This special was actually pretty good once you get over wanting abandon Caillou at the Tree Farm just to escape the whining. But I digress). Child comes from Italian/Polish stock on my side, and as he’s grown up, he’s seen how different ethnicities and cultures have different touchstones. My sister-in-law’s husband dutifully makes Pepper Pot from his Guyanese heritage and we get to enjoy it at Christmas breakfast. So good. Anyway, Child wanted to know more about how different countries celebrate differently, so to the Googleverse we go. We read something about a different country every day leading up to Christmas. The message on this one was that there are many ways to celebrate.
There are about eleventy-billion different Advent calendars you can get now: the classic Lindt chocolate, tea, makeup, beer, Lego, hot sauce, dog treats. Countdowns are fun, and giving yourself (or best furry pal) a treat to mark the countdown is even better, right? Most instruct you to start on December first (which may or may not actually be the first day of Advent. Likely not).
For the last few years, I’ve done the Advent Project. Every day, I find a way to reflect that helps me create a place where faith can thrive. This time of year finds many people on many journeys. This Advent, may I follow a map that I know with my heart.
Extra Credit if you need a refresher course: Advent in 2 minutes
Extra Credit if you just like funfacts: A Brief History of Advent Calendars