When Jenny asked me to share with her lovely readers about the traditions and decorations and incredibly well-though-out reasons behind them that help define Advent in our home I thought, "I've got this."
Here's the truth: I don't.
I sit here 38 weeks pregnant and having contractions. I have pain in my my SI joints that is so bad I sometimes cannot move and usually walk like a zombie. I can fall asleep on the sofa at any time of day. Dinner tonight may possibly be cold cereal.
The plans I had for this year's fall and winter have all pretty much been laid aside for the advent of the baby in my womb. Even the things three weeks ago I thought we'd be able to pull off have fallen to the wayside.
For sure we'd still be able to cut down a Christmas tree on Guadete Sunday... or not.
For sure I'd be able to make the St. Lucy rolls and share them with my friend's family who just had a Lucy of their own... or not.
For sure my eldest child and I would be able to do the Jesse Tree together, reading the Scripture and discussing the meaning... or not.
For sure I could at least sit with my kids and re-enact the nativity story with them using our toy nativity.... or not.
But all of that is okay. This Advent we're doing what we can do and the little things still matter and still make a difference. This year's Advent is different than last year's, just as they will each probably vary for us. Our little traditions don't make or break the holiday season and since I'm not the liturgical living police I'm not gonna sweat what we have not accomplished this year.
But because this is a peak about what we are doing to keep Advent in our home I'll show you what we have accomplished.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care and St. Nick filled them on the eve of his feast day.
Also, the "Dad Zone" was marked out on the carpet.
Our nativities were set up (we have 4, two of which are kid-friendly). The "grown up" nativities are empty, waiting for the Holy Family to arrive.
Holy Mary, St. Joseph, and their donkey always hang out on the Advent wreath until December 24th. We have lit the candles almost every night at dinner, singing "O Come, O Come, O Come-O" as my three year old calls it. Then ensures a lively discussion of who got to blow out the candles last and whose turn it is this night. No child has been burnt and the two year old's hair was only slightly singed, once.
The Wise Men are on the bookshelf, way off in the Far East, aka: the far side of the living room. After Christmas they'll move to the Advent Wreath, where we'll have a white Christmas candle for the kids to fight over.
My living room's gallery has a couple of items that change for each season: the "chalk board" (actually foam board and white paint pen) and the Audrey Eclectic artwork.
The kids art gallery (rope + clothespins attached to the wall) was cleared of all Thanksgiving artwork to make room for the Christmas projects. The Jesse Tree has a few more ornaments (colored and hung by my oldest) but then that petered out. But it still looks nice next to the nativity, which the kids do play with, even if we don't have theological conversations about it.
And while we didn't actually cut down the tree on the Third Sunday of Advent, we did drive to a tree place in the steady rain. I sat in the minivan with the little kids while my husband bought a pre-cut one and tied it to the top of the vehicle with the help of our 6 year old (it was adorable). It stands, sorta majestically, in the corner of our living room with a crooked star and most of the decorations on the top half.
It took our family a few years to find which Advent traditions work best for us, but even those still fluctuate a bit. At this point, St. Nick filling stockings for his feast day (and no Santa at Christmas) works well for us - making it easier for me and my husband to teach about a saint and generosity while keeping the emphasis a bit more on Mass and Christ than on the presents. Having the nativities out but waiting for Christmas and Epiphany to move all the figures to the stable is a fun way for the kids to interact with the nativity story and they serve as aides in my personal prayer life as well. Getting the tree, cranking up the Christmas music, and busting out any remaining decorations on Rejoice! Sunday helps my family to actually rejoice.
All together, doing Advent the way we do makes it feels like our home is preparing a bit more each week for Christ's birth. It's like nesting, but for the Infant Christ.