Our Advent season is over and our Christmas season will soon be winding down as well. I plan on keeping decorations and lights up until Twelfth Night if I can, but haven’t really planned too much else – if there’s one thing I’m learning about living out a more traditional liturgical year is that it’s never good to force too many new traditions at once.
With that in mind I felt I wanted to share our ups and downs of our new practices and see what’s made the cut for next year. So without further ado our Advent Recap
The Advent Calendar:
- I liked having a system to count the days, but I didn’t like feeling tied down to certain activities each day – often they felt rushed and it was a stretch not to feel bad for missing a good portion at the end due to illness and unexpected travel.
- I think next year will be more of a count down of days with activities filled in as they naturally arise.
- I’m glad we started this tradition, but it will probably take another year until we find it’s right place in our day to day activities, but it’s definitely a tradition I’ll hold on to.
- Maybe next year we’ll even remember to light all the candles (that last weekend was a little crazy in our defense)
- I really enjoyed starting a St. Nicholas tradition of books and chocolate – we’ll be keeping this for next year!
- I really liked Haley’s idea of setting out a new pair of shoes and will be considering this for next year as well – I’m playing with the idea that pair of shoes that gets set outside the door get donated to charity later that day.
- We didn’t do too many more Feast Day celebrations this month – I don’t like to jump into ones that I don’t feel called to at the moment so I’m glad I didn’t push this.
Limiting Christmas During Advent:
- This was a challenge this year and I’m going to give and take different bits and pieces next year.
- I loved not putting up our tree until after 2nd Sunday and then only with lights. We planned on decorating with Henry, but 4th Sunday Night rolled past so I stayed up late and put a few ornaments on the tree and decorations around the house while everyone slept. Both Ben and I like the idea of of Christmas appearing overnight and it was great to see Henry’s face when he saw the tree “magically” decorated the next morning.
- I either need to find more Advent music next year or go back to listening to Christmas music – Ben commented how strange it was not to have it in the house this year and it just didn’t feel right. Rather than part of the celebration I think Christmas music is part of our “preparation” so more Christmas music will be back on the table to keep spirits bright.
Limiting Commercialism in Christmas:
- I still feel like I fail a lot in this category – I want to make more by hand and buy more local and fair-trade, but I feel this will come in time so I’m not stressing too much at the moment.
- Another successful year of limiting gift giving – our PJs, Stocking and 3 present rule still feels like plenty and it’s great to see my side of the family begin to embrace it. I’m finding we’re giving more thoughtful, needed or really wanted items and I think I can feel the difference between quantity and quality in our gift giving.
- We did stretch the 3 gift rule a little for Henry, because what we wanted to give him came had so many parts – but I was so happy to see it come together with pieces we already had, things given to him by other relatives and a lot of second hand to fill in the rest. I think his train and track collection will be a gift we’ll be passing on to grandchildren some day.
- Even though I thought that my giving of second-hand gifts last year was thought strange by most of my family I was thrilled to see it embraced by my parents and in-laws. Henry’s train collection is about 90% second-hand and 10% gifts from others. Henry’s gifts from my in-laws were fantastic (and non-train related) and I think 100% second-hand – a couple toys and small stack of books for our collections. They eagerly boasted of their finds and I love that they are comfortable with our ideas of gift giving enough to do something like that.
- Even with our limits on gift giving Henry still came away with a great collection of trains and accessories no one was denying this and it opened up a great conversation about limiting the gift giving for his 2nd birthday in February – I now feel that a request of “presence not presents” will be warmly received and even thought of as a sign of prudent parenting by our parents and grandparents.
Encouraging Christ in Christmas:
- I take the blame, but also admit that my crazy work schedule got the best of me and Christmas Eve Mass was a wash. Next year we plan on starting to take Henry to the early children’s Mass so we can guarantee we get to church. Not having to work next Christmas morning will help this immensely too in case something comes up.
- I’m thrilled to see how attached Henry became to his little Nativity scene that has rested by his bed all month and while I know he doesn’t really understand the Holidays yet (at all) I can’t wait to see how far he comes next year.
- I’ve got a list of books that I want to get a hold of for next year for personal or family prayer and reflection – bringing prayer and the like home is still a struggle, but one I’m facing up to as best I can.
Overall I think it was a lovely holiday – we ended up having a few unexpected events including weather and a death in the family which kind of threw a kink in the works a little and my work schedule made for an interest pattern of Christmas Days, but overall I’m happy.
I’m thrilled that, barring anything unforeseen, I will have my first real Christmas Day off with Henry in 2013, and tried not to dwell on the fact that I had to work – I offered it up as a prayer, as best I could, for the folks at my hospital who didn’t get to go home at noon or who had to celebrate the entire holiday in a hospital room. We got our “Christmas morning” as a family the day after, but it was our first Christmas Morning together so it was worth the wait.