Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Getting Started with Advent?

                                                   photo by Mark Boisvert
There's No Time Like the Present
My dad likes to say, "There's no time like the present." My dad is 89 years old and just spent the weekend cutting firewood. He still works. He's an amazing guy, my dad and I am so grateful for his practical life wisdom, and so much more. I'm grateful to my mom too. She's 87 years old. I've noticed that people seem to go through phases about telling their age. We like to talk about the children's ages, then there is silence with the middle ages, and then all of a sudden wow, 87 and 89 years old, nearly nine decades. It's a badge of honor. My mom and Dad were born into the Depression and have lots of great stories to tell of their experiences of growing up in hard times.

It's Advent Time
If you're reading or hearing about Advent celebrations and saying to yourself, "I want something meaningful, but don't know how to start, maybe it's too late, I can't figure it out..." No worries. You can start now, because, as my dad likes to say, "There's no time like the present."

Begin with a Wreath
Make a wreath of evergreen boughs. Consider the Waldorf tradition of celebrating the light in each of the four kingdoms of nature over the four weeks of Advent. We're in the second week of Advent, it began on Sunday November 27th. 

If you can't make a wreath, have no trees around, consider purchasing a simple un-decorated wreath.

This week, the second week of Advent began yesterday with the celebration of the light of plants.

Take a few minutes this week to think about the role of plants in your life. Pomegranates, broccoli, berries, walnuts, pecans, clementines, cocoa for chocolate, garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, carrots, potatoes ~ it's all from the kingdom of plants, along with the evergreens! Send some prayers or vibes of thanks to the light in this nourishing food and to the people and forces that make it possible to eat such goodness from the play kingdom.

Make the Wreath
Look around outside where you live to find evergreen boughs. Consider fir, pine, juniper, cedar, arborvitae. Clip some boughs and fasten them onto a ring. If you don't have a ring, make one from coat hangers or heavy wire, whatever you have handy. Green floral wire hides itself well within the green boughs.

Add four candles. Use simple candleholders. They're inexpensive and usually found at thrift shops. Nestle them within the boughs. If you only have two candles, use them and add two later. I you have only one, use that one until you can add more.

You are going to light one candle for each week. Last week's candle celebrates the light in the mineral kingdom.

Decide when you will light the candles. What time of day will you light the candles? Who will light them? Keeping the same rhythm and ritual with this tradition is powerful over time.

I like to light the candles after dark. Some years we do it just before dinner, and some years we do it after dinner when the house is quiet. This can make a soothing before bed ritual.

Be sure to turn out the lights in the room before lighting the candles, so the glow comes from the wreath. If you light the candles before dinner, you might like to keep the candles burning during dinner.

In some families the youngest child lights the candle for the first week, the eldest child lights the candle for the second week, one parent lights the candle for the third week, the other parent lights the candle for the fourth week. When I was the solo parent with two young children, I lit all the candles every week, until my children got old enough to participate.

Begin with the first light of Advent
Light the candle.

The first light of Advent is the light of stones, 
Lights that live in seashells, in crystals and in bones.

Add some elements of the mineral kingdom to your wreath ~ seashells, crystals, gem stones, bones.
Light the second candle.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up into the sun, and in the breezes dance.

During the second week of Advent add elements from the plant kingdom to your wreath ~ I tend to lean towards pinecones, berries, things I can find in the yard.

We have a tradition of singing a Christmas song for each week after we light the candles. Over time one build's up a little repertoire of songs that you sing together as a family. If children scatter first, that's even better, so they're last experience is of the candles lit. (as with the Advent spiral) 

Be sure to take care and gently snuff out the candles when you are done. This helps to maintain a mood of reverence for the celebration.

A few of my favorites for singing with the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath include:

People Look East ~ music and words composed by Eleanor Farjeon, words here, you can see the four kingdoms in the lyrics. Her wonderful book Ten Saints is a treasure for teaching Second grade. 
Deck the Halls ~ since that's what we're doing,

A Wonderful Resource
My all time favorite resource for the holidays is Mary Thienes Schunemann's booklet, The Christmas Star that comes with a CD recording of her beautiful voice singing all the songs you could wish for at Advent and Christmas and Epiphany, along with tips for celebrating the season. She's a wonderful teacher and inspiration to all of us who seek to bring more song into our homes or classrooms. I feel like she is reaching out from the heavenly realm and continuing her teaching from the other side. More on Mary's life here.

A Gift for You
Last but not least, if you'd like more details on this tradition and support for keeping the holidays Simple, Slow and Savory, come on over and join my December eCourse I am offering for free, as a gift to you. It's here.  There's no time like the present!

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