At RevGals MaryBeth invites us to Advent Confidential. What are your favorite traditions, observances, hymns, or memories of Advent? Is there something you remember from childhood that you’d like to do again? A funny story you can share about the time the Advent wreath got a little over-lit? We are here and listening!
Growing up we were awash in traditions, some of which were distinctly Advent. I have so many great memories of that time, which makes this a particularly meaningful season for me in very personal, nostalgic ways. As Quakers we had no liturgical traditions, but the season was full of wonderful, anticipatory activity.
1) The Advent Calendar. Hung on the back of our front door was a felt version made by my mother. My brothers and I took turns emptying the appropriate pocket each night to decorate a felt tree with tiny ornaments, culminating with a star at the top of the tree on Christmas Eve.
2) Family shopping night. I don't know how many years we actually did this, but I think of it as a tradition. We headed downtown to the department store where my parents would help each of us kids shop for certain presents. Dinner at a nearby restaurant and a walk around Hartford's Constitution Plaza to view the holiday festival of lights was a part of the deal. I remember snippets of this activity, but the fact that it stands out in my memory must mean that there was some deep joy with much greater impact than the cold of a winter night.
3) Christmas themes. Every year my mom chose a theme that was the focus of decorating the house (and sometimes for our family Christmas card). Among the themes were the Three Kings, the twelve days of Christmas, Noel, and Peace. She saved cards we received from year to year that depicted these themes, and there was usually a banner filled with several of them that was displayed hung on a doorway. It is a tradition that I have only recently thought about putting into action myself.
4) The Advent candle. At times, rather than a wreath we had a single pillar candle with 24 marks down one side. Each night at dinner the candle was lit and allowed to burn down to the appropriate date before it was extinguished.
5) Baking and delivery of the goods. My mom had two consistent holiday kitchen specialties: homemade toffee and spiced tea mix. There were several family friends who were regular recipients of this kitchen largesse, and as a family we would bundle into the car and go to the homes of these friends, standing outside the door and announcing ourselves by breaking into song--a carol, of course. The front door light would come on and the door would open with wonder and joy, and we would spend some time with our friends as we delivered our gifts. It is another treasured family memory.