As a church-going child, I did always enjoy the sense of expectancy that lighting each advent candle brought; each one a marker that i was getting closer to the time of family, presents and a break from school – and all the craft makery that that would entail! However, since i realised that my spiritual path was not a Christian one, I guess I kind of shelved advent. Until this year. This year I’ve realised that I actually have my own kind of advent and, although I don’t want to offend any Christians by putting the word “pagan” and “advent” next to each other, this is the term that, for me, best describes what I’m celebrating.
It started with advent calenders – again, something I’d pretty much shelved since vaguely becoming an adult. Yet, in parenting I find myself kind of gradually unpacking the magics and wonders of childhood all over again – definitely one of the biggest perks of the job! I wanted to make Dylan an advent calendar, one of those lovely fabric ones with a numbered pocket for each day to hold a little treasure or treat. When I inevitably left it too late to get round to doing before December started, I started to justify my failure-to-be-supermama guilt with “well he’s only just turned two; he wouldn’t really understand anyway”. Or would he? Would he enjoy the countdown to something special? Would such a thing actually help to explain to him the various sights and happenings of festive preparation going on inside and outside his home? Would he simply enjoy it as something fun to do in that minute, even if it was quickly forgotten about? All of those reasons for seeing a smile on my boy’s face sounded good to me.
This little thought ramble then returned to the idea of advent symbolising a journey leading up to the festive celebration, be it the Solstice or Christmas Day. I prefer the word “journey” to “countdown” as the latter, to me, feels like the time is being wished away. Advent in the non-liturgical meaning is (as http://www.thefreedictionary.com puts it): “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important” and I realised that my Decembers are always sprinkled with days of festive preparations. The busyness of gift-buying and making, festive meet-ups, special cooking and creating decorations for our home can easily feel stressful and very intense, but I find so much fun and sparkle in these things; they are each delicious ingredients in the feast of love and celebration we are cooking up.
And so I wanted Dylan to be stirring that mixture with me. For him to walk through the journey beside me even if he’s still to young to have read the map. I do hope that I’ll get round to stitching the gorgeous fabric pockets of my advent dreams next year, but I’m pretty happy with this year’s effort. I thought up a 22-letter phrase to sum up the idea of the sun soon being reborn. 22 because I see it that the solstice is the darkest day, so the light starts growing from the day after. Each letter got stuck to either a section of an egg box that held a little treat (like some dried fruit, or a coin, or a bulb to plant together), or to a folded piece of paper that detailed a festive activity (such as Rob’s family’s big meet-up that we had last weekend, or a day where we make presents or attempt making Stollen). I don’t think he quite understands, (although he may do as more days pass), but he does enjoy….and so do I.
I also made an advent wreath, maybe just to re-ignite my childhood church-going memories. (Because, in spite of me no longer holding with that religion, I do have many good memories and lessons from those days). Steiner-Waldorf practices are a big influence in my parenting and I recently read of how, in schools and homes that follow Steiner’s teachings, the first advent candle (and objects that may be placed with it) represents the rock and mineral world, the second candle the plant world, the third for the animal world, fourth for humans and the central fifth of course for the Christ child. I liked the idea of honouring different life-forms in this way but guessed that the order was representative of the Christian creation story which is not what I personally believe. I also felt that I didn’t want to separate humans from being part of the animal world.
So my advent wreath has 3 spaces; one for each Sunday before the solstice. (Sundays still tend to be a more gentle, more family-centred day in our household). The first and second Sundays honour the same as in the Waldorf tradition, and the third honours the animal world but with humans included in that. My central fourth candle honours the spiritual world, lit on the day of the sun return, still in the same week that so many people are celebrating the birth of their divine bringer of hope, goodwill and light – and when many others are perhaps simply celebrating.
Happy advent ♥