I was first introduced to Advent while my daughter was attending our local Waldorf school. The way that Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf community celebrates Advent is certainly different than a traditional Catholic Advent; however, the theme of quiet, mystical preparation is very similar.
In this hemisphere, the longest night of the year (the winter solstice) occurs just a handful of days before Christmas. Darkness comes early and the days seem impossibly short. Of course, indoor electricity really takes away from this phenomenon: it can be difficult to appreciate just how cold and dark the ancient world was during December, especially if our evenings at home are basically unchanged. But the earth gets dark for good reason: we are meant to go inward and acknowledge the gentle hush that is falling over us. Relishing in the peaceful expectancy of Advent is precisely what helps us gather the strength we need for the jubilance of Christmastide.
If, like me, you are easily agitated by the manic buzz in the air as the holiday season approaches, its probably just because you are a mammal. You may wear a hat and drive a car and take pictures of your food, but you are still a mammal. And like all the other mammals out there, you require a period of rest during the darker months. Advent is one way to sink into rest during the dark season (if you are looking for something more secular, I’ve always wanted to try this e-course all about banishing holiday overwhelm.)
As I’m sure you already know, choosing rest in the weeks prior to Christmas is a radical act in our hurried culture. Its so hard not to get swept away in the frenzy. Which is why I have created a list of goals now before Advent begins this Sunday:
- I plan to be selective about how many holiday events we attend. Many people do this naturally, but as an extrovert I need to be more intentional about it.
- Similarly, I am going to choose to listen to music that honors the mystical stillness of the season, intentionally avoiding the commercial holiday hits that are already on blast at the mall. (If you want something extra reverent, I am obsessed with the Benedictines of Mary. These Benedictine nuns from Pennsylvania sing at least five hours a day! Their voices are like soothing chimes. You can listen to their stunning Advent album on Spotify or download it.)
- My goal is to put a major dent in my Christmas shopping by the end of this month, possibly even finish it. I’ve never been that prepared in my life, so we’ll see if I can pull it off! In the past, I’ve bought one or two quality dolls for my daughters at Nova Natural or Magic Cabin. I also look at this Girl Empowerment Gift Guide every year, which has awesome suggestions suitable for both girls and boys. I’ve gotten lots of new suggestions from folks online, including 10,000 Villages.
- Since I am still a fledging Catholic, I ordered this beautiful journal to help me situate my understanding of Advent within the context of Christianity. We will also read Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as a family this year, so the kids can absorb the spiritual aspect of Christmas. I want to get an Advent calendar, too.
- I ordered these beautiful beeswax Advent candles. I skipped the brass candle ring because I want to use my own candleholders and make a wreath from tree cuttings. I also picked up some frankincense and myrrh incense at Whole Foods. This Ayurvedic brand has the most soothing and mystical scent!
- I love the idea of using candlelight in the evenings and eating simpler, almost austere meals during Advent. This will be extra tricky given the hustle and bustle of the world around us, but if we do it even a handful of times I will be satisfied.
- Last year we did Mary’s Star Path, in which we moved a small, felted Mary figure each night along a starry spiral towards the Inn at Bethlehem. On Christmas morning, I put the tiny felted Christ child in the manger for the kids to see. I positively love this tradition but ALAS! My felted nativity set is somewhere in our storage pod and I have no clue if I will be able to un-earth it this year. I’m hoping that we can.
And thats it! Seriously, for anyone interested, all you need to know is that prepping for Advent should look more like an “Don’t-Do list” rather than a “To-Do list.” I will probably post a few pictures over the next few weeks to capture whats working for us (and what isn’t).
I hope your Thanksgiving is happy and fat.