I have always enjoyed the Advent season. In my family, when I was growing up, we had Advent traditions that I just loved. Advent was a time to get the house ready for Christmas, of course, and since my birthday falls in the first half of Advent, I always wanted the tree to be up and decorated before my birthday. (I still feel that way!) Perhaps putting up a tree and decorating the house for Christmas isn’t so much about Advent as about Christmas (but it is about preparing, which Advent is about, too), but my family did have other traditions, which were purely Advent in nature.
Each year we had an Advent calendar placed in the living room. It was always a nativity scene, covered with tiny numbered doors with images hidden behind them. We kids would open the doors day by day. I always had to open the second door so that in the rotation with my two brothers, I would get to open the door on the eighth day, too, which was my birthday.
Another tradition my family had was using an Advent wreath, which sat as the centerpiece to our dining room table. The overhead light had a dimmer switch, and Mom would soften the light at suppertime, and then we three children would take turns (meal by meal) lighting the candles. On Sundays, after the appropriate number of candles were lit, we would all sing the first verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” before praying our mealtime prayer (“Come, Lord Jesus…”) and eating.
I still love eating by Advent candlelight, and the chandelier in our dining room also has a dimmer, which we take full advantage of. My husband and I may not sing at the table like my family used to do, but I still love that hauntingly beautiful song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and I cherish it every time we sing it in church. My husband and I also have a homemade magnetic Advent calendar on our fridge (with cross-stitched pieces) that allows us to create a nativity scene, piece by piece, throughout the season of Advent. The fact that we made it makes it even more special to use year after year.
What are some of your most cherished Advent traditions?
Kris Brugamyer, of Dickinson, North Dakota, was on the churchwide executive board of Women of the ELCA.