Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

Growing up in a liturgical church, I did not fully appreciate the beauty and symbolism found in the Advent traditions. The priest began wearing only purple vestments, the banners on the walls were dark purple as well. Certain parts of the service changed to reflect a time of contemplation, not celebration. The Advent wreath had just one pink candle in the midst of 3 other purple candles.

I'm from south Louisiana, and purple is one of my favorite colors, but really! It got a little old, and somewhat depressing, to see all that purple everywhere. What happened to the "12 Days of Christmas" and singing happy Christmas songs, and generally enjoying the anticipation of the BIG DAY? I can remember waiting anxiously for that pink candle to be lit, on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, because it represented hope. The color change alone lifted my spirits in church that day.

Fast-forward a couple of decades... Advent is here again. My children don't see the liturgical signs I did, and I doubt they'd be all that interested in them. But I want them to appreciate this time before Christmas, this period of anticipation that has nothing to do with the presents and singing and lights and tree. I want them to focus on the celebration of Christ's coming. So last year, with the help of my step-mother, I instituted a daily tradition. Using a set of mittens, each stuffed with a trinket, that mark days 1-25 in December, we tell the kids the Christmas story. Each night, a bit more of the story is unveiled. From the Annunciation to their flight to Egypt, we give one piece at a time.

By day 17, when I ask "now where were we?" the kids can repeat the story of Jesus' birth in amazing detail. By day 22 (tonight), we've actually finished the story --can't drag it out too much--and they are asking for more about Jesus' life as a grown up. It's been a little heady to observe their focus on and excitement about Jesus, baby Jesus, Jesus who died on the cross... not the presents under the tree.

That's what Advent is about. To make us focus on Jesus' coming. He's coming! He came, and He's coming again!


  1. Awesome tradition you've started! Do you have those 25 days broken down in a way that you can email them to me? Would love to begin this in our house next Christmas.

  2. Let's chat about it! I've tried different methods these past 2 years, and next year will be something else (yes, planning ahead!!). But I can show you what I've got.