Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent and the Christmas Season

This week we have started Advent.  Well, technically, since I did not have my candles Sunday, we are starting it tonight, but that is okay!  I am not using the traditional colors of pink and purple - I just like white and red, and the meaning is still the same.  Tonight, and then for the next three Sundays before Christmas we will do Bible readings and light the next candle, as we await the birth of the Messiah.
We will be using the book Advent Foretold for our devotions this year.  There are 25 devotions, starting on December 1, pertaining to the prophecies of the coming Messiah.  I have had this for a few years, but it was over the younger boys' heads.  I think it will work well for us this year.  You can find a link to this book on my Shelfari bookshelf (look to your right).
We are doing old and some new traditions this year.  The last few years I have set up the nativity scene before the rest of the decorations - I don't like to put up our tree until mid-December.  I set the stable and the animals in one place, the shepherds nearby but in another room, Mary and Joseph far away, the angel and the Christ Child are hidden, and the Wise Men are a long way off.  Then, each Sunday, everyone gets a little closer, until Christmas Eve after everyone is in bed I put them all in the stable.  The Wise Men don't show up until Epiphany (January 6).  I think this helps to illustrate the waiting period and lead to more anticipation.  I plan to bake a cake for Epiphany this year.  I did one a few years ago, in the traditional gold, green and purple.  The boys are finally getting old enough that we can learn about these things and have them have some meaning, beyond how much fun it is to eat green, gold and purple icing. 
This year I am also planning to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (December 6).  We don't "do" Santa Claus.  The boys know who the character of Santa is, of course, but we have just treated him like a cartoon figure - they don't think of the Jolly Elf as any more real than Thomas the Tank Engine.  They have always known where their gifts really came from.  However, St. Nicholas was a real person, who lived in the 4th century and was well-known for his love and generosity.  The boys have heard this true story from the time they were little.  I have no problem teaching them about and celebrating St. Nicholas Day, just as I would teach them about Washington and Lincoln on President's Day (and maybe have a cherry pie then!).  This year I am going to set up my St. Nicholas decorations (and maybe buy a few more) on December 5, before I set out anything else beside the Advent wreath.  I am also going to hang their stockings,  Then, on December 6 they will have some traditional treats (gold coins, gingerbread, etc.) in their stocking, and we will read the story of St. Nicholas and remember this Christian man. 
And you can log that as "history", for you homeschoolers out there!
I am considering St. Lucia Day, a Swedish tradition, but I am not quite sure how to do a wreath with candles on my head and not having my AquaNet go up like a fireball, so that one may have to wait until next year....

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