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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Part 4 - Keeping Advent

The Family Calendar
The Advent Season is filled with delightful mini-celebrations that ease our anticipation and kindle our devotion. However, to celebrate or observe every one would be a burden for us. So, we have carefully chosen a few that have particular meaning for us.

The Advent Season is preceded almost directly by St. Andrew the Apostle’s Day. Some people fast on this day in preparation for the beginning of Advent. We’ll have a modified “fast” in which we serve a “feral” meal. “Feral” meals, being the opposite of “Feast” meals, are simple and modest. Instead of our usual Friday night pizza, we’ll have a simple soup and salad meal.

Dec. 1st - today we’ll do the minimal Advent decorating: an heirloom Advent banner and the Advent wreath. The banner is a simple cross-stitched on linen with little loops on which to hang candies – one for each day of December.

Dec 2nd – first Sunday of Advent: We will have our first Advent wreath devotion and light the first candle. We will do this before we go to church rather than at dinner time, because our church now meets in the evening and has a potluck dinner afterwards. Each Sunday, we’ll do the same!

Dec 6th – St. Nicholas Day: We’ve done away with the secular “Santa Claus” and restored St. Nicholas! Our shoes are set out beside the fireplace the evening before and St. Nicholas leaves a small present or two and some goodies. We have a big family breakfast – Daddy even takes the morning off! In the past, we’ve spent the day baking and decorating gingerbread men and bishops. But this year, we might make them a few days ahead of time and then spend St. Nicholas day delivering them to friends with notecards telling about St. Nicholas. This just seems more in the spirit of the day and the saint!

We’ll bring out some of our “St. Nicholas” (or Santa Claus) decorations today. Not too many, just a few. I like to put them all on one table or shelf to make a St. Nicholas display of sorts.

Dec. 9th – Conception of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos): In lieu of the Roman Catholic observance of the Immaculate Conception (on the 8th), I’m choosing to adopt the Eastern Orthodox day. Regardless of what you believe about Mary, this is certainly a good day to spend some time honoring her through prayers of thanksgiving.

Perhaps, we’ll bring out our nativity Mary and Joseph and let them begin a procession around the house until they arrive in “Bethlehem” on Christmas Eve.

Dec. 13th – St. Lucia Day: My MIL’s family is Swedish. She was born there, but her parents immigrated to America when she was quite young. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed learning and adopting some Swedish customs. St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) is a particular favorite of mine because she was an Italian (part of my heritage is Italian). You can read a bit more about how Swedes traditionally celebrate the day and about St. Lucy.

We celebrate the day with special St. Lucia buns, which are rich, saffron bread (like a challah bread). I make small breads for each child and drizzle some icing on top. This year I’ll wake my daughter up and let her help me prepare the special “candlelight” breakfast. We’ll probably serve it in the kitchen, but we might get adventurous and serve breakfast in bed. Later, I make larger St. Lucia breads which are served with orange marmalade rather than icing on Christmas morning.

In the evening, we’ll put up our Christmas tree. The tree is hung with lights and that is IT! No decorating until Christmas Eve. We will also put lights at the windows and other selected locations in the house. (Lucy’s name means “Light” – and we’ll talk about how she reflected God’s light to those around her.)

Dec. 21st – St. Thomas the Apostle Day: This is a new celebration day for us this year, and a particularly Anglican one, too. (Roman Catholics celebrate his day in July.) Besides learning about St. Thomas this day, we will put out the final decorations around our home, including the rest of our “nice” Nativity scene. (Mary and Joseph have been traveling here for sometime, but now they will be getting much nearer!)

Dec. 24th – Christmas Eve: Tonight we begin our Christmas feast with a very full day. We will decorate our tree, remove our Advent wreath (replaced with the Christmas Pyramid), enjoy a festive meal, open a few special gifts, and enjoy the first glass of Svenska Glogg. I know this isn’t really a traditional or Anglican way to spend the day before the Christmas Vigil, but it is an accommodation to my MIL who loves to have a big Christmas Eve feast (Swedish tradition).

In the past our parish has often had a late afternoon family church service. We’ll either go to that or Hubby and I will sneak away (grandparents will stay home with kids) for midnight mass. Maybe both!


mark said...

These are wonderful and thoughtful comments on your Advent preparations and celebrations. Thank you so much for taking the effort to "broadcast" them.

Anonymous said...

I've really appreciated my walk through your home this Advent! Blessings as you celebrate and prepare.