Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Emily and Elizabeth, David and I came up with a long list of activities with which to fill our Advent calendar.  They range from very simple (set up Nate's Nativity sets, get out Christmas books, take canned goods to the food pantry) to potentially messy (decorate gingerbread houses, make pine cone and peanut butter ornaments for the birds) to big and event-y (Scottish walk parade in Old Town, ZooLights at the National Zoo, go see the National Christmas tree).

And then we neglected to complete an activity for the first day of Advent.

Now, to be fair, I haven't actually set up the Advent calendar yet.  As any liturgical Christian knows, the length of Advent varies from year to year, depending on when Christmas falls.  This year, Advent is as long as it ever is (28 days), because Christmas is on a Sunday.  When Christmas is on a Monday, Advent is a mere 22 days long, because the Fourth Sunday of Advent is actually Christmas Eve.  (I think it's a bummer when this happens, frankly.)  Regardless of the actual length of Advent, though, every Advent calendar I've ever seen, including mine, starts on December first. 

Clearly my out-of-the-gate Advent stumble is the fault of my calendar, and not any failing on my part.  Ahem.

But we did manage to get the Advent wreath set up and blessed, and we lit the first candle tonight during dinner.  I'd like to find a short, simple prayer to use when lighting the candles, because I'd like to do it every night while we eat and the prayers from the book I have (Prayers for the Domestic Church) are way too long for nightly use when your two year old is waiting for his food.

I also think I've settled into a Christmas-decorating plan that I'm really comfortable with.  In 2008, in a well-intentioned but incompletely thought-out plan to observe Advent during Advent and celebrate Christmas during the actual Christmas season, we waited until the Fourth Sunday of Advent to procure a Christmas tree.  And then we discovered that very few places are still selling trees that late and very nearly ended up tree-less.  Even the Catholic school in Old Town was out of trees by the time we got around to buying one.  It was a bad day, that one.

In 2009 we decorated on the earlier side.  I think we put up the tree on the second weekend of Advent.  Nate was two months old, and so we needed to take advantage of the one weekend my mom was in town to get everything done.  Score one for necessity dictating the schedule.

Last year, though, I hit upon what I think is the right balance for us.  I pulled out the non-tree decorations during the second weekend of Advent.  They got the house feeling festive, but we still had the tree to look forward to.  We got the tree, then, on the third weekend, which also happens to be the weekend of Gaudete Sunday--a nice time for a little rejoicing.  I liked this for a few reasons.  First, it was far enough into Advent that I didn't feel like we were completely getting ahead of ourselves.  Second, it broke up the decorating so that it wasn't a big, all-day job.  And third, it made the tree decorating into a fun, stand-alone event, one made all the more enjoyable because the rest of the house was already bedecked with trimmings. 

So we're going with that plan again this year.  At some point in the future, I may consider breaking it down even more: maybe buying and lighting the tree on the Third Sunday, but saving the ornaments until the Fourth.  Or maybe I'll just ask Arwen what her family always did, and then shamelessly copy them, as per usual.


A'Dell said...

Oh, that is a GOOD plan! I like that plan. I really want to do an advent wreath this year and do candles each night but I am a bit behind on procuring the necessities for that one. I just love that this time of year there is always something to look forward to and I think that is what I like about your plan the most - lots of markers and milestones to keep busy with and anticipate and enjoy.

Salome Ellen said...

Actually, your plan from 2010 is better than ours was, because we always had a one-day-do-everything scramble that left me grumpy. This year we are shooting to GET the tree on Third Sunday weekend and set it in the stand in water in the garage until Miriel gets home. But I will try to get the rest done before that. Maybe.