Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Musings

Recently, I've seen an awful lot of grumbling out there about the stress of Advent and, of course, lots of talk about taking the stress out of Advent. Frankly, I don't see where the stress in Advent lies. It's my experience that stress is usually found internally.

Regarding Advent activities... do what you want to do. We will always find time or resources to do the things that are most important to us! If something doesn't get done, well, frankly, it probably wasn't important enough. And that's OK! If it's not OK with you, then perhaps a reordering of priorities is in order, but only you can determine what your priorities should be.

The things I do are important to me and my family. The amount of effort I put forth is directly related to how important it is to us right now. Years ago, when the kids were littler, different things were more important so we did those things. Years from now when my kids are older, I'm sure new things will take primacy of place on our Advent to-do list. We don't try to do it all.

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about her family's Oplatki tradition and tears welled up in her eyes remembering the warm feelings that this tradition inspired. It was truly moving, but they were her feelings, her memories, her traditions, not mine. I didn't feel the need to insert this foreign-to-me custom into my family's practices, even though I might find something intriguing or inspirational in the idea of it. There have been occasions when someone else's tradition stirs up excitement and interest and so we try it and find that it suits us, so we keep it.

I've read people's musings on how no Christmas music will cross their eardrums until Dec. 25th; Advent hymns only, please! And I think... well, that would require noise canceling headphones for everyone in the house since our piano teacher starts handing out the Christmas sheet music around the end of October. Obviously, that kind of Christmas music banishment isn't going to work in our family, but it might be just the thing someone else needs to set the Advent mood in theirs. (Listening to Carol of the Bells practiced twenty thousand times in the months leading up to Christmas really emphasizes the "preparation" aspect of Advent, if you ask me.)

Learning to admire something without feeling pressure or guilt takes effort. It doesn't just happen. And some things are worth working on, if they are important enough.


  1. I completely agree Charlotte! Growing up, we didn't do the advent wreath, Jesse tree or St. Nicholas' feast day, but I still have fond memories of the little things that we did do. Lately, I've been seeing a huge crop of advent calendar tutorials and I want to make one, but I realize too that my family already feels so much anticipation with the Jesse tree and advent wreath that it's okay to put off making a calendar...forever. And in this season in our life, having just moved into a temporary apartment, we don't even have our usual Jesse tree, it's just a string, but Bernadette loves it.
    As for the stores starting to put Christmas decorations up in September, right next to Halloween decor... I've come to appreciate it because I buy what I need far in advance of the Advent season so that when Advent comes around, I'm not even in the stores...I'm at home listening to Away in A Manager. :-)

  2. I agree too!

    I'm just going to say it, since everyone else in blogworld seems to do it:

    I don't do O'Antiphons.
    I don't really get them and it's so busy at that time, well, I just don't add that to our list of to-do's.

    there. I said it.

    I still feel a little blogworld guilty though.

    I'll re-read your post.

  3. Wonderful thoughts.

    This is the first year that I have done a Jesse Tree at our house. My oldest is excited about it and so we are doing it. But, I don't feel committed to having to do it year after year.

    I find that not only is stress internal, but it usually has to do with focusing on other worldly events instead of on HIM.

    I think it's important to remember to take a deep breath, step back, and realize the true meaning of the Advent season. Preparing our hearts and minds for Christ. Jesus won't be sad if we don't put a Jesse tree or hang an Advent calender!


  4. Beautifully said. I believe that in the arena of motherhood, so many mothers feel guilty for things that are unnecessary. So many will read a post and beat themselves up if they are not doing the same thing.

    Many mothers have different levels of enthusiasm and it shows in their posts (if they blog). I dare not mistake this enthusiasm for false piety and no one should.

    Each family is unique. We should not allow ourselves to feel pressured or stressful during ADvent. Yes, there are some inevitable stressors, but the focus, as you all know, should be Christ's coming.

    Oh! I do wish that I knew more then of what I know now. Alas! such is life (and it certainly isn't boring!)

    I'm now finished with my donut and is calling me.

    Happy Advent!

  5. Well said!

    That line between being inspired by someone else and feeling guilty for not following suit can be so thin. I think for me the problem lies mainly when I fall in love with an idea and really want to do it but then just don't quite have the follow through to actually do it. Like I love the idea of wrapping all the Christmas books and opening one a day. Love it. And yet I can't seem to find time for the actual task of wrapping. So we're currently in book limbo with all the books in the box waiting for me to decide whether to give up on the wrapping scheme for this year and try again next year.

    But in general I'm like you, good at doing what works for me and admiring other things from afar.

  6. Jamie,
    We didn't do the O Antiphons until last year when we first started exploring saying Sunday Vespers as a family. Then it started to make sense for us and is a case of one of those things we latched onto.

    Then I would say that it might not a good fit for your family right now. Wait a few years and see if it will fit better then. Or, if it's a matter of something that you need to make time for, ask someone for help. The wrapping works for me because I am a really fast wrapper. I spent many a Christmas Season wrapping packages for Elf Louise. I wrapped all of our books in about an hour and a half.

    If you really want to try for this year, consider using tissue paper; no tape, no folded corners, just wrap it around each book and stack them up.

  7. Yeah, I've almost come to the conclusion that the fit just isn't right for this year. Maybe next. If they don't get wrapped tonight, I'll probably just put the books out tomorrow. I do like the tissue paper idea. Too bad I made my Target run yesterday. All I have is a big roll of Christmas paper and a roll of brown craft paper.

    The nice thing about Christmas traditions is that kids' memories are so fluid. Even if you don't start doing something till the kids are older, it can still take root and "feel" like something they "always" did. I'm pretty sure my mom only did a Jesse tree with us a few times; but in my memory it is one of those treasured things we did.

  8. I am just reading this today. All I can say is "thank you". Thank you for putting down in words how I feel about Advent and all the preparations. Reading the blogs of others who are doing all these wonderful Advent activities, I was feeling a bit inadequate. Especially since we are nursing a daughter with the flu. We are right where we need to home.

  9. I love your easy O'Antiphon ideas. We cover them every year with our faith lessons, but I'm looking forward to adding your neat ideas to that this year to really help my kids remember to slow down and think about what we are praying about in this final week of Advent. We have a good friend who has just moved back to his monestary full-time and recently spoke with him about this final and most intensive time of Advent. He's helping us learn more about the O'Antiphons (in their evening Vespers) and how they are such and important tool in helping us to fully focus on Jesus at this time! From your ideas, I pulled a winter log home art project for tomorrow, love the root beer idea, Key Lime Pie-I can pull that off, a Texas SUnrise? How fun is that!? King Ranch Casserole takes care of and easy meal Wed, and finally, watching a Nativity Story disc or popping in the audio we have will work too!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can't wait to share them with our priest friend. He'll laugh!
    THanks again,
    L King


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!