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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Homestead Advent Journey to Christmas

Thanksgiving is over and many people have cleaned up the turkey and strung up the lights. This is something you won't see at our house. At first appearance you may think us to be worst than Scrooge or nastier than the Grinch. But just you wait until December 14 which is Gaudete Sunday our house is as bright as the next!

Advent reflections.
We weren't always like this, we felt the pressure to be just as cheery and decorative as the rest. We too would deck our halls and blast the carols as soon as the Thanksgiving feast was cleared.  Upon doing this there always seemed to be something lacking and by the time Christmas actually came we were sick of carols and tired of bumping into the mistletoe. 

About 12 years ago I wondered why instead of the holiday cheer I actually felt blue. I blamed this lack of peace and joy on the commercialization and gift exchange focus of this beautiful holiday. Although this was part of it something else seemed to be missing. Despite our efforts to focus on our Catholic tradition of Advent it seemed to be lost in tinsel, lights and Christmas confections. Like my usual self I did not want to seem defeated or just give in to what everyone else was doing. I had to do some soul searching and research. What is the purpose of Christmas joy if mom and dad were yelling Bah Humbug? Even though there seemed to be financial and social pressures around our family we needed to make it more personal and meaningful with the coming of our Savior. 
Our Celtic Advent wreath
on our dining room table.

Tomorrow is the official start of Advent. Advent is a time of penance. A time we Christians are suppose to prepare and wait patiently for the arrival of Christ on Earth. This is why in the Church you will see no decorations and the vestments are purple. The Advent wreath has 3 purple candles and 1 pink/rose candle. Advent is the counterpart of Lent. While the season seems to be filled with parties, food and shopping our home takes this time to pause. Things light up on Gaudete Sunday when we light the rose colored candle symbolizing the 1/2 way point of Advent. This special Sunday moment is to remind and encourage us to continue our preparations. Our preparations for that special day when God became man. Gaudete comes from the Latin "Gaudete in Domino Semper" from Philippians 4:4 meaning "Rejoice in the Lord Always".

Each year during each individual week we seem to grow in a deeper appreciation and joy of this wonderful feast day. It is way different than the old us and different from what the rest of the world is doing. This tradition does not have to be just for Catholics. Trying to make things simpler in a busy world is good isn't it?  I realized that the slow simple build up to that special day made for a more peaceful season.

While I am typing this I realize it may actually be easier for you readers and myself to actually show you our week by week journey from Advent to Christmas.

Week One: 
The girls prepare the Jesse Tree.
  • Clean and organize the house. Keep things simple. Meals remain simple it is almost like Thanksgiving was the Fat Tuesday of Advent. We eat a lot of soup and bread at this time.
  • Set up our Advent wreath on the dining room table (light the first purple candle). Select prayers or readings for the family prayer time. 
  • Set up our Jesse Tree (our is just a felt tree with felt ornaments) This starts on December 1 If you do not know what this is click on the word and it with explain it in the link.
  • We also draw names with our children. Each person is to do small sacrifices and secretly help that person throughout the Advent season. It is to help the children and us to focus on doing things for others that does not require money. 
  • Next is the hard part  - NO CHRISTMAS MUSIC yet. It is hard for us because it is fun and everywhere but we try to stay away for it for a little while longer (O Come O Come Emmanuel is allowed)
  • Get Christmas mass cards and picture of kids ready.
  • Go to Christmas Choir practice.

Week Two:
  • Continue our prayers and reading for the Advent wreath (light second purple candle)
  • By week two we should have several ornaments and have read your bible verses for our Jesse Tree.
  • Put up outdoor lights but DO NOT LIGHT them yet.
  • Still no Christmas music. (O Come O Come Emmanuel is allowed)
  • Bake cookies and get gifts ready.
  • Put up Christmas Tree but leave it bare for the next week. This is actually pretty cool to see a slow progression of the decorations. 
  • Go to Christmas Choir practice.
Week Three: Gaudete Sunday
  • Continue our prayers and readings for Advent wreath (light rose/pink candle).
  • Still continuing the Jesse Tree (starting to see more ornaments)
  • Outdoor lights on!
  • Decorate Christmas Tree!
  • Christmas Music focusing on hymns.
  • Continue baking and gift preparations.
  • Set up Nativity (DO NOT PUT BABY JESUS IN yet)
  • Go to Christmas Choir practice.
Week Four:
  • Final stretch for our prayers and readings for our Advent wreath (last purple candle lit)
  • Final stretch of our Jesse Tree.
  • Last of the Decorations completed (except for Jesus in the nativity)
  • Gift and meal preparations finalized.
  • Get ready to sing at midnight Mass.
Christmas Day: Music, lights, food and finally put Baby Jesus in the manger.

Hopefully by the end of Advent we will feel renewed and joyful about Christmas Day. I hope to focus on the special meaning this day brings. We will celebrate with family and friends. We will continue to leave our decorations up. When the radios and stores stop playing Christmas music you will be sure to hear it blaring from our house until January 6 (Epiphany - which I will leave for another post). 

Just to clarify things - we do not ban going to Christmas parties or protest people who hang up there lights before we do. We do go to Christmas parties before Christmas and exchange gifts with friends and family. We enjoy that time with friends and family being sure to take it easy. We than return to our home that just reflects more of who we are and the simple way we want to live out the way Christ came into the world.

Have a Blessed Advent Season!

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