I tried to start a blog on Advent but have given little attention to it since it's inception last summer. I can only claim busy-ness as my excuse. Is that enough?
Anyway...what we do for Advent developed mostly during our time in Canada, while Dave was in graduate school. One of the professor's wives wrote a book, Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman (which begins on December 2nd this year). She would give talks to the spouses about Advent, Lent and other celebrations during the church calendar. I ate it up!
Our church, St. John's (Shaughnessy) Anglican, also celebrated Advent. When I'm in a community that encourages such traditions it's easy to maintain a family life around those traditions. Unfortunately, since leaving Vancouver it's been very trying to maintain the Advent traditions. But we're hanging on.
While roaming the Well-Trained Mind Forum boards I found a website that has a calendar of activities/readings/menus for this year. Check it out. It has some awesome ideas for everyday.
A dad who participates of the WTM boards and homeschools and writes curriculum (whew, busy) linked a site which gives a menu for simple eating during Advent. Just like during Lent, the time of Advent is to prepare for the celebration of the 12 days of Christmas. If we feast everyday prior, the 25th won't seem like a special feast. So we will eat simpler anticipating the goodies and all they represent on Christmas day.
And there is a lot of symbolism in the foods, decorations, stories surrounding the Christmas season. Do you know why gingerbread is associated with Christmas? Saint Nicholas, the real guy, had bakers create a tasty and nutritious food to pass out to the poor in his town during the Christmas season. He was a wealthy bishop and thought creating jobs for the bakers and feeding the poor were good ideas. Even though the Christmas tree has it's roots in paganism, Christians redeemed that tradition and identified it with the everlasting (evergreen) truth of Christ and lights are strung (or candles) to represent Christ as the light of the world. The same is true for the wreath (circles representing eternity).
There is a wealth of tradition in Advent and each culture has its own. One of my favorite Christmas carols (thought it wasn't my favorite until I heard the history behind it) is the 12 Days of Christmas [edit here: I went on the site www.Snopes.com which investigates urban legends. They state the interpretation of the 12 days of Christmas is pure myth. IMHO their argument against the 12 Days of Christmas seems weak, so I'm sticking with the story I know]. The song was written as a memory aid for Catholics when they were persecuted by Protestants from the 16th-19th centuries. Each number references a creedal truth: first day, partridge in a pear tree=Jesus Christ crucified; second day, two turtle doves=Old and New Testaments; third day, three French hens=the Trinity, etc.
So yesterday we strung lights on the eaves, lights in the buses, hung the stockings, strategically placed precious ornaments, and assembled the tree (Dave calls it our "false" tree since it isn't "real). We will open the first window of our Advent calendar and begin the countdown.
I love this time of year! I appreciate more and more that it is only one time of year, creating in me the anticipation of not only celebrating here and now the Creator's incarnation (and what a gift of wonder and grace!), but anticipating the celebration to come:
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.
In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." Isaiah 25:6-9