Now that Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas season has officially begun, we will all begin to feel the pressure to
It’s a lot of pressure. There is too much to do. Pinterest will overwhelm you, your crafty on-top-of-things Facebook friends will make you feel inferior, and the stress of it all will threaten to steal the very peace and hope and beauty that the season stands for.
It doesn’t have to.
This is the season of Advent. Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” specifically of someone important. If Christmas means the arrival of Jesus into the world, then the season of Advent is the period of waiting and preparing for him to come. Surely, preparing for someone important to arrive into your life and home can be full of stress and a flurry of preparations.
But how often do we lose focus on the PERSON we are preparing for and begin to obsess over the EVENT we are planning for that person?
I know that not everyone celebrates Christmas, and those who do don’t necessarily participate in the religious meaning of Christmas. However, I think we can all benefit from a shift in focus. Instead of focusing on the present-buying, magazine-worthy decorations, festive parties, and holiday hoopla, what would happen if we took a little time each day to appreciate the simplicity and quiet beauty all around us? It’s there, if you look for it.
When you turn down the volume a little, and shield your eyes from the flashing lights, you can see it, and hear it, and feel it.
The magic of the season is in the flickering of a single candle, the delicate and intricate geometry of a snowflake, the familiar tune of Christmas songs sung since childhood. The peace of Advent fills your belly like warm, rich hot chocolate, and wafts through the air like the smell of cinnamon and cedar boughs.
Several years ago, I started making Advent calendars for my family members, and instead of filling them with chocolates or treats, I filled them with traditions. My thoughts at the time were, “We have SO many traditions to get done, that the only way we’ll finish them all is if we assign one to each day and check them off as we go!” I wasn’t wrong. But treating traditions like a checklist can turn a season of beauty into a season of overscheduled madness. No one wants to feel like there is a job looming every single day, or that failing to complete it will result in a sub-par Christmas.
I’ve changed my approach. The activities that I put in our Advent calendar now are simple. Instead of requiring money and planning, these traditions require us to slow down and narrow our focus.
These traditions encourage us to find the beauty in simplicity, the joy in giving, and the peace in preparing.
I’m sharing my family’s Advent calendar of traditions with you today. These are the activities that we have chosen to help us reflect and prepare for Christmas with hearts focused on serving others and spending time together as a family. But I would encourage you to make your own. Think of the little things that matter to you, and how you would want to share them with your children and others.
There are 25 traditions/activities here, which means that December 1st is the first day of our Advent calendar. Want to play along? Please do! Print out my ideas, or make some of your own. You don’t even need an official Advent calendar; a paper calendar on your fridge or a list on your phone will work just as well.
Note: I did not arrange our activities into a monthly calendar, with one assigned to each day in December. To allow for flexibility, I simply print this out as is, cut them out, and stick them into the little doors of our Advent calendar. That way, I can always rearrange them to better suit our needs.
This is not a to-do list. If you miss a day, you haven’t failed. Some years you might make an elaborate homemade gingerbread train overflowing with cookie toys and candy presents. Most years you won’t. And that’s OK. Because inviting a special person into your home is not about perfection, nor is it about how much you have accomplished prior to their arrival. All that really matters is opening your door, welcoming them in, and spending time together.
In this season of waiting and preparing, may you appreciate the season’s simple pleasures and meaningful traditions. May your hearts be full of wonder and your homes be full of peace.