Advent is here! We have several family traditions that center around celebrating Advent. Advent is a church holiday period encompassing the 4 week period leading up to Christmas. I love the Advent season because it emphasizes the religious aspects of the season. If you aren’t familiar here is a great 2 minute video explaining it far better than I could:
I think traditions are very important. They help to mark special seasons/occasions, bring a sense of belonging to the participants, and bring a sense of importance and anticipation to an event. We have quite a few family traditions, big and small, that we do during the year.
It’s interesting to think about the origins of family traditions. Of course you can look at the historical perspective, but many traditions (like my in laws serving scalloped oysters at Thanksgiving, or my family making potato pancakes on the night we decorate our Christmas tree) have no “historical” importance outside the family that practices them.
The perspective I like to consider is how you PERSONALLY came by your traditions. I think there are three main ways:
A-You got them from your family. This is the category that the scalloped oysters for Thanksgiving fall under–my husband’s grandmother always served them (I’m not sure if it goes farther back then that) so his mom always did and now we do. Quite a few of our Christmas traditions fall in this category–not only do they have a true historical tradition, but we learned them from the homes and churches we grew up in.
B-You consciously decide to start a tradition. Potato Pancakes for tree decorating night falls into this category. I can’t remember why I thought of it, but early in our marriage I suggested to my husband that we eat that particular meal in homage to our meeting and early years together in Germany (it’s a traditional Kriskindlemarkt food there). My kids have grown up with this as an unquestioned tradition–so they may carry it on with their families some day.
C-A chance idea or occurrence sort of accidentally becomes a family tradition. Peach cobbler on the first day of school is a tradition like that for my family. I happened, totally by chance, to make peach cobbler two years in a row on the first day of school. The third year Buddy asked “you are going to make peach cobbler for an after school snack today, right”–I didn’t even realize I had done it two years in a row. Now it’s a family tradition on it’s 4th year 🙂
On to the Advent Traditions!
1-The Advent Wreath (A)
The Advent wreath is an evergreen wreath with four candles set in it–traditionally 3 purple and one pink. You start on the first Sunday of Advent lighting one candle, then on each Sunday up through Christmas you add another candle. Yes–this means your candles will be burned unevenly. And the pink one gets lit the 3rd week, not the last 🙂 In our family every night that we sit down together during Advent (which isn’t every night. . . but we try) we light the appropriate candles at the beginning of the meal and have them burn during supper.
2-The Advent Book (B)
My big sister gave me “The Advent Book” years ago. It’s a large book–think “coffee table book” sized. Each page has a picture of a door on it–and the door opens to reveal a Bible reading for part of the Christmas story. Every night during Advent starting on Dec 1 (there are 25 doors in the book so if Advent starts before December does we just wait on the book) that we eat dinner together we also pull out this book. We start at the beginning each night and read up to the current day. When the children were small they would open the doors and I would read the passages. Once they were old enough to read that became their job. One kiddo gets to light and blow out the candles on the wreath, the other one reads.
3-German Chocolate Advent Calendars (C)
Yankee Bill and I met when we were both stationed in Germany. While we were there (actually before we even met) he became very good friends with a local German man. His whole family actually–the mother would refer to Yankee Bill as her “good” son, you know compared to the doctor, the lawyer and the engineer 🙂 Anyway–every year Helmut still sends us an Advent calendar from Germany with Kinder brand chocolate inside the doors. (We send their kids US silver dollars) My kids really look forward to their German chocolate every year!
4-The Advent Calendar and Tree (B)
When my kids were small my father gave us this great wooden Advent calendar with little drawers in it. Now of course my first thought was it would be fun to put little gifts in each drawer. On further reflection I decided two things. #1-I didn’t want everything about the Christmas and Advent season to be about GETTING something. That’s really not the point of the season. #2-When the kids are small it’s easy to find very inexpensive things to put in the drawers, but as they grew it was going to get more and more expensive to find 24 little gifts for each of them.
My solution was to buy a small tabletop tree and 24 little Christmas ornaments. When the kids were small each day they would take turns opening a drawer and adding the ornament to the tree. After all–we were always telling them not to touch the ornaments on the big tree, so this was one they actually were allowed to touch.
I admit it–now that the kids are older, this is a tradition we don’t always do. I put the tree out and the Advent calendar, but of course at 12 & 14 the kids aren’t particularly jazzed about adding an ornament each day. That’s ok though–someday a long, long time in the future I’ll have grandchildren to continue the tradition with.
Those are the Fowler family Advent traditions. I’d love to hear any family traditions your family has during this Advent season.