Simple Preparations for Advent
The first light of Advent is the light of stone–
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of the plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of love, hope and thought
To give and understand. ~ Rudolf Steiner
Advent Sunday begins next weekend and I am currently making a tiny alter on our dining table to light the candle each week, read an advent story and sing a verse.
Each Sunday we light one, then two, then three and then four of our four advent candles, singing a part of the advent verse above and reading a Nativity story. We will also open up one window on a handmade advent calendar (by my son in Kindergarten) and add a special, tiny treasure to the advent display on the table to represent one of the four Kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal and human).
Inspired by our own family culture, we have chosen to share the Nativity story with our children while emphasizing the values and moral lessons laid out- bravery, hope, rebirth, perseverance and faith and downplaying ideas and concepts about God or the son of God. When we refer to Jesus we often refer to him as the ‘Child of Light’ as opposed to the “Son of God” or the “Saviour”. The language we have chosen to use to describe Jesus’s birth reaffirms our family’s inclusionary spiritual philosophy. For us personally, the word God feels too closed and absolute. Words like Universal Energy, World Spirit or the Divine speak more to our values and beliefs. Of course, you may choose very different language based on your family’s culture and beliefs.
As our children get older and ask more questions about the holiday stories we try to honestly respond with our own inner truths instead of those prescribed by a specific tradition or religion. But this kind of discussion is best kept for those seven and up while simply living into the holiday stories, preparations and celebrations is enough explanation for younger children.
We also celebrate more light-heartedly with a homemade advent chain. Each day we take a ring off of the advent chain to read outloud the Christmas activity for that day. Some activity examples include making hot chocolate, baking cookies for our neighbours, singing Christmas carols, dipping candles, crafting Christmas cards and collecting food for a local food drive. In this way we try to live into and experience the values we associate with this holiday season each and every day leading up to Christmas.
Since we’ve recently moved to a different community and country I am still searching for a way for our children to experience and observe how others of different faiths celebrate their own traditions during these Winter months. For example, I’d love for them to learn more about Hanukah.
I do plan on adding a new yearly festival to our own family calendar- Bodhi Day. Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence over our family and I would like to honour this day by coming together in a small meditation and perhaps enjoying a simple meal of milk and rice together for breakfast and enjoying vegan foods the rest of the day, culminating with a story book about Siddhartha.
I would love to hear how you celebrate the holidays together- what you think is working for you and what you’d like to change.