Tomorrow is Sunday, November 28th and the First Sunday in Advent. Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming") is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus; in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. Born and raised Roman Catholic, I was taught to celebrate the advent of Christ's birth. For me, this has always marked the beginning of the festive season, full of excitement and anticipation. It wasn't so much about the gifts, because I wasn't raised in a wealthy environment with lots of material things so I didn't expect much, but it was a time of profound wonder, hope and possibilities - when anything could happen. Christmastime (and Easter) has always been my most favorite time of the year. One of the things I remember doing at home with my parents is sitting at the table with the candle(s) lit, reciting a little children's poem (in German) before having our cookies and beverage.
Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt
Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei dann vier
Dann steht das Christkind vor der Tuer.
In English: Advent, Advent a little light burns First one, then two then three then four then stands the Christchild at the door.
Funny, the little things we remember! (...and the big things we forget - or at least try to.) Please note that when I grew up in Germany, eons ago, I recall only seeing red candles on the Advent wreaths; however, it is common to see three lilac and one pink candle, each having a significant meaning (and a name) as does the Advent wreath itself. Anyway, for those of you that celebrate Advent (and by the way, it's not just us Catholics that do, but Lutherans, Protestants, Anglicans and Episcopalians, for instance, do also and any church that uses a Liturgy would recognize Advent), I hope you have a wonderful first Advent Sunday. Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks prior to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas. Another Advent tradition that can be very meaningful and fun for children is to celebrate with the Jesse Tree. Although I have never done that as a child, I think it's a great way to divert children's attention away from themselves and their gifts, but to focus on the real reason for the season.
Remember to get your Advent Calendars out on Tuesday, Nov. 30th, so you and/or the kids can open your little windows starting on Wednesday, Dec. 1st. I still have to buy one for myself. Counting down to Christmas by opening a window every day (some of which have little pieces of chocolate in them) reminds me of my childhood in Germany. I established a whole bunch of little Christmas traditions since living alone, like watching "The Grinch" and "White Christmas" religiously, since family gatherings are a thing of the past.
When I first came to the USA from Germany in 1971, Advent Calendars were not as common, but now they are virtually everywhere, so nobody should miss out on the fun. Anticipation is - after all - a big part of the Christmas celebration..