Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Traditions New and Old

It's so nice that this is our second Christmas home as a family complete.  What a difference that makes!

This year, Seth and Lizzie have far more language to be able to describe their excitement and to understand and participate in everything, and they have the memories of last year to know what it's all about.  All three kids love everything about Christmas.  They know about why we celebrate Christmas and talk about baby Jesus and what it would have been like to be the wisemen coming to bring him gifts; we've talked about what it means for a government to do a census, as was being done when Mary and Joseph were making their way to Bethlehem.  It's been really fun to watch them flourish.

This year, I'm adding some elements to our Christmas festivities, which I'm excited about because it's part of our building of tradition around this wonderful season of year.

First, as I've mentioned before, I'm including Christmas fun in our plans for every day of December through to Christmas Day.  From crafts to movies to learning topics to scavenger hunts to baking, our h/school will include lots of Christmasy stuff this year.  It's by far the most deliberate I've ever been about Christmas and I'm almost as excited as the kids are about it!  Of note, the kids watched their first Christmas movie on December 01 and it was The Nutcracker.  I actually thought that they wouldn't really enjoy this one, and was utterly shocked that they loved it.  They sat, riveted, throughout the entire movie (the storyline was based on the original but diverged quite a bit), which flitted back and forth between scenes played by real characters and lengthy scenes of ballet performed on stage.  The music of The Nutcracker played throughout the entire movie.  Matthew's comment immediately afterwards was "that was awesome!"  Wow...who knew?!

Second, we bumped our festivities up by a week this year.  In the past, we've always put up the tree and done our decorating on the second weekend of December, but this year we moved it to the first weekend of the month...basically because we want to celebrate the season more thoroughly!  The kids were practically peeing their pants with excitement about our scrawny, slightly skewed Charlie Brown tree!

Also new this year, we have created Advent traditions.  We will mark this lead-up to Christmas Day in two ways:
  • First, I bought four royal purple candles and one white candle so that we could learn about and celebrate the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.  When I was growing up, the church I attended lit four candles on the Sundays preceding Christmas, but I had no idea (or don't remember) what those candles were all about, and so I did a bit of research this year in preparation for my wanting the kids to enjoy this.  The Advent candles are not a biblical practice, but they are a symbolic way of pointing us to the waiting/hoping/expectation that surrounds Christmas for Christians.  It is a tradition that is hundreds of years old and this year we're joining in.  Although there is no 'one' meaning set for each of the purple candles (the centre, white candle is always lit on Christmas day and signifies the birth of Christ), we're choosing to attach meanings of hope/expectation, love, joy, and peace to them.  So on the first Advent Sunday, on December 02, we lit one purple candle for the hope/expectation that Christians celebrate at Christmas; on the second Advent Sunday the first candle is relit as well as a second candle signifying love; and so on.
  • Second, I wanted to mark a daily advent journey this year in the lead-up to Christmas day.  Because most advent calendars in the malls feature Santa, I had chosen this year to buy a different kind of advent calendar that I had found.  But then, just before I bought it, my Mom surprised me by telling me that she had painted an Advent tree for us over the course of the past eleven months (wow!), and that it would be ready for December 01!!  Sure enough, on November 30, she gifted our family a hand painted Advent tree, completed with twenty-four meticulously painted, detailed, tiny ornaments.  It's beautiful!  She even gave us the chocolates for the kids to enjoy each day when they put up another ornament.  The tree and the ornaments are beautifully done and we're going to use it for many years to come!  It's rather ironic that three of the tiny ornaments feature Santa/Mrs. Clause/a sleigh, but I had a good laugh over that one and then decided that we would enjoy those equally as much as the others because Santa's a great story to include in the festivities!  Below is a picture of the tree that my Mom painted for us, after the first ornament went up.  I'll take a picture yet of the tree with all of the ornaments on it.  Thanks again, Mom!!

I'm so excited for our family this Christmas.  We're in a good place.  Finally.  We're all here, together.  We can speak the same language (literally).  There's lots of love amongst us, and we seem to be in a place where we accept the idiosyncrasies that we each bring to the table.  Though there are still lots of hard days, it is with thankful hearts that we're moving onwards.  Upwards.  Gazing up at that star topping the tree and knowing where all good gifts come from.

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