The first light of Advent is the light of Stones
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
It has begun! After getting through Thanksgiving in one piece, I was so excited to start our Advent celebrations. This is the first year in our home that we will be celebrating Advent. Until recently, I didn't know much about it except that it was some sort of celebration involving a wreath with four candles, and a way of working up to Christmas. Upon further research, I was so delighted to find how nature based it can be! Now this was right up my alley.
I have always celebrated Christmas in a pretty secular way. We are not religious, and my spiritual inclinations have always been closer to nature based celebrations, such as those of the Solstices or Equinoxes. I love the idea of the wheel of the year and rejoicing in nature's rhythms. Needless to say, I always felt a little hypocritical celebrating Christmas at all. However, traditions are difficult to break or change much. So what a relief it was to find a way to incorporate my take on things into a holiday that I loved, but in many ways was lacking for me.
Perhaps some of you have been celebrating this for years (lucky you!). For others, who are fellow novices, I'll break it down quickly for you. Advent is a four week celebration leading up to Christmas. Each week concentrates on a different element of our world. The first week is stones, the second, plants, the third, animals, and the fourth, humankind. A candle is lighted on the Advent Wreath at the start of each week. First one candle for the first week, then two on the second, and so on.
Traditionally, it is kicked off with a walk in an Advent Spiral. You can read more about that here. This symbolizes our receiving and returning of light into our world during the darkening days that precede the birth of the Christmas Child (this is how we refer to him, some use a more biblical approach.) We were going to begin this way also, but decided it felt more appropriate to do the walk on the Solstice, when the light actually does begin its return. So ours will be a Yule/Solstice Spiral instead.
Since we were going to celebrate Christmas and Advent, I felt it necessary to sort of hop on board as whole-heartedly as my conscience would allow. Most who know me know I'm really an "all or nothing" kind of person. If we were really going to have these holidays be a part of our family's traditions, we'd better put some real meaning behind them.
And so...[GULP]... I made a stable for a nativity scene. (Again, our approach to this is really very symbolic and I see it as a means of telling a really inspiring and meaningful story to my children.) On the first day of Advent, it stood empty, save for an empty seashell manger awaiting the Christmas Child. On each day (in the kids' Advent calendar) there will be a small gift that corresponds to the current week of Advent. These gifts will all be added to the Nativity scene until it is at last complete on Christmas day.
This week, the children will find crystals, shells, and stones to add to it. Next week, some bulbs to force in small vases and maybe some seeds or a pretty flower. I am making felt animals to add for the third week, and on the fourth we will be adding the shepherds, angels, and the family (including the Christmas Child) etc that I will also be making. The Three Kings won't show up until after Christmas, in keeping with the story.
Here's a picture of what it looks like so far. The kids have added special items throughout the past couple days.
I will now leave you here to celebrate the holidays as you will (or will not). Either way, enjoy!
And to quote a favorite old show I used to watch: "And now for something completely different."
St. Nicholas Day is coming up! Monday December 6th, to be precise. If you celebrate it already, have fun! What a great little festive day. If not, you can learn about it here on this fantastic website!