By Kory Glossop
I have always loved traditions. My parents were very big on establishing traditions especially surrounding celebrations.
As I moved into adulthood, I still craved these traditions and celebrations, but found that certain ones just seemed a little too corny to do alone, or with only adults.
Then I became a mom! While being a mom definitely can be hard, exhausting, draining, etc, it can also be AMAZING. One of the super fun things that I am starting to notice and appreciate is that some of those old traditions, that may have been weird to do before, are now adorable and amazing again!
This year, Caleb is 21 months and actually seems to understand that Christmas is coming. We pass decorations and he points and says, “Kissmass Tee” and “Kissmass Baws” (Ornaments). He even has started to point out “Santa!” We had a lot of fun Christmas traditions in my home growing up, many of which I want to bring into our family. We will do Santa, mainly because I remember the excitement and mystery and want that experience for my little man. We will look for Rudolph’s nose in the sky (red lights) on the way home from our family Christmas Eve celebration, because why not? We will leave cookies, carrots and a note for Santa and his reindeer. We will go to church Christmas Eve and watch the pageant of the first Christmas.
Many of these traditions are not unique to my family (except maybe the Rudolph’s nose one) and none of them seemed particularly individual to me growing up. However, as I have gotten older I have discovered one tradition that my family had that seems far more unique than I ever realized growing up. We celebrated Advent.
Now, when I say we celebrated Advent, I don’t mean that we opened an Advent calendar every day, which we did, or that our church lit an advent wreath, which they did, I mean, we DID IT UP.
Every Sunday night during Advent, the family would gather around the dining room table after dinner (which was not where we ate….carpet…small children….smart parents). We had an Advent wreath in the center of the table. My parents would dim the lights and we would begin our little family service. My parents would announce which candle we were lighting. (i.e. “tonight we light the candle of love”) The youngest child in the family had something to say (i.e. “Jesus is God’s Love”). There were some Bible verses to read, part of the Christmas story was told, and a Christmas hymn was sung.
All the kids would participate and sometimes even be allowed to help light or put out the candle. But, my favorite part came at the end of the “service”. My parents would pull out tiny strips of paper. On these strips of paper they had written 2-3 “loving things” that they had noticed each of us doing in the previous week. They would read off the child’s name and then what the strip of paper represented (i.e. “This is for Allison. Thank you for making your bed without being asked”).
After all of the slips of paper had been passed out, we would get up and move to the living room. On one end of the living room, we had our crèche set up with all of the usual characters, except that ours had an empty manger. All of the kids would line up across the room from the crèche and my parents would sit on the couch. They would begin to sing “Away in a Manger” and as they sang we would walk across the room to the manger. We would then take our strips of paper and place them in the manger so that our “love” made the “hay” for baby Jesus to lay on. (Baby Jesus was always placed on the “hay” by my parents after we went to bed on Christmas Eve so that he would be there when we woke up on Christmas morning.) Usually we would all go and join my parents on the couch and finish the song. We would hang out for a little bit longer and then begin to disperse.
The family service wasn’t long and it didn’t involve anything big but it stands out in my mind as one of the most special parts of the Christmas season. But aside from just being a special family time and memory, it accomplished the bigger task of making sure that the real “reason for the season” was front and center in our minds for the whole month leading up to the actual day.
Now, with Caleb being as little as he is, I don’t plan to do the full service yet this year, but we do have a wreath, and a little booklet that I found on Amazon and each night, after dinner, we dim the lights, light the candle and read one page from the booklet. We have been singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Caleb gets to open his calendar and eat his chocolate, sing along, and help blow the candle out at the end. We’ve only done it for 4 nights, but he already is asking for the “Avent Weef” and talks about “Baby Dzeesus” and I look forward to it every night.
I know most non-denominational churches don’t celebrate advent since it is very liturgical, but I think it does such an amazing job of bringing Christ into Christmas for the little ones and making for an amazing family experience and tradition, that I plan to celebrate every year.
I hope that each of you and your families are able to celebrate lavishly this holiday season and that you would find great joy in remembering the real reason we celebrate!!