In an effort to counteract the relentlessly consumerist nature of Christmas these days, here in the House of Soup we have tried to bring back a focus on Advent and the nativity story over the past few years. Celebrating Advent is a lovely way to bring the gentle message of Christmas into our home and in a very short time it has become an eagerly awaited tradition.
We clear our nature table of its assorted seasonal paraphernalia such as leaves, birds nests, odd bits of Lego and assorted found objects. We lay a fresh cloth and arrange four candles. The beloved calendar is dug out of the special Christmas box, and all the little windows closed, with Blu-tak if necessary. (It’s a few years old now).
On the first Sunday of Advent we give thanks to the mineral world. The first candle is lit and each child places a special shell, stone or crystal of their choice on the table. (Last year Son #2 found a tiny bird skull ... ewww). And we say the first verse ...
The first light of advent
It is the light of the stones
Stones that live in crystals
Seashells and bones.
Each Sunday leading up to Christmas we pause in respect for the various kingdoms, mineral, plant, animal and human, that combine to make up our world. And each week a new candle is lit, which stays burning while we read the children a chapter of their bedtime story. Which, in December, by popular demand, is usually The Little Donkey. Happily, it has 24 chapters! By the fourth week, all four candles are burning every night. On Christmas Eve, a special red candle mysteriously appears to join the others.
Every couple of days during this month the children wake to discover that the Advent Fairy has placed something from the appropriate kingdom on the table. So in the first week, the stable and sometimes a little stone path materialise, depending on the time and energy available to the Advent Fairy. (The stable used to be two fat sticks and a bark roof balanced precariously on top, until last Christmas when my father, who was hanging round the kitchen getting underfoot, was given the task of creating a new one. A more stable stable, hahahaha. He took this task very seriously and Mary and Joseph now reside in five star luxury at our place).
The second week some little plants appear; in the third week the odd sheep, chicken and cow arrive, as befits a pastoral stable scene. In the final week a shepherd arrives to muster the sheep into the stable, and towards the last couple of days, Mary, Joseph and a rather dodgy looking donkey appear. As the week progresses, they gradually approach the stable and by Christmas Eve they have arrived.
I am delighted to say that on Christmas morning, in addition to waking hellishly early to see whether Father Christmas ate his treat (mince pie) and the reindeer ate their food (oats and glitter) and what presents have been left under the tree, our children go straight to the advent table to see if baby Jesus is in the manger. (He always has been so far. The Advent Fairy has never been too drunk to remember her duty on this special night).
Note: if anyone notices the time stamp on this post and thinks to themselves, what the heck is she doing posting at 4.00 am? The answer is because I woke in the wee small hours with the sudden realisation that tonight is the first Sunday of Advent and I have not purchased this year’s candles. That and the growing horror that I splashed my children’s underwear all over the internet, have kept me from sleep. So what to do? Get up and blog, of course.
Oh, I also have a funny story concerning Son #1 and the Advent Fairy. Remind to tell you one day.