Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the season of waiting...

Driving to pick up Lily from daycare this afternoon Daniel piped up from the backseat, "Mom, it's beautiful!".  It was a rainy afternoon, and very dark by 4:00... even without too many holiday lights up our neighborhood was taking on a magical quality.

We are really starting to notice the season of darkness/the season of light. It's twilight when we head off to school/work, and it's dark out when we return home. Some of our neighbors have already put up their Christmas trees. In a couple of weeks our Jewish neighbors will be lighting menorahs in the windows. The kids, especially Daniel, are anticipating Christmas with an intense mixture of excitement and anxiety.

I love Christmas- it's my favorite holiday of the year. Which is slightly remarkable in that we are not, technically, Christians. We're Unitarian-Universalists (if you just went HUH?, please click over here for a brief explanation, or here for a longer one.)  Anyway, we love Christmas- for the lights, for the celebrations, for the presents, for the vacation, for the chance to be with family.  In dark days all that joy is infectious. But...

Christmas is complicated... and not just for us Unitarians.  All those secular celebrations: Santa, the Elf on a Shelf (ohmygoodness why! why?) the stockings, the tree, the presents, the food!... none of those things are directly related to the magic of the birth of Jesus.  How do we help our children understand all these traditions? Daniel and Lily were born to Ethiopian Christians... and believe me, Christmas in Ethiopia did not involve trees, plastic Santas or magical reindeer.  A looooong church service followed by a feast, maybe a new set of clothes. Done.  For older children adopted from a different religion and culture, American Christmas can be very confusing and overwhelming. God? Santa? Jesus? huh?

Last year we tried to keep both our beloved family traditions (a fresh, pine-smelly tree, cookies! and stockings) while also keeping our kids' stress level low. We did pretty well... the kids had a beautiful Christmas.  I got to hang up four stockings, something I'd been longing to do for years.

This year we will continue to keep it simple, but I'm trying something new. We are going to be celebrating Advent. (Much, much more on that this weekend. The first Sunday of Advent is coming up! Dec 2) This year, in addition to giving my children the gift of a joyful, simple low-stress holiday, I want to give them the gift of understanding why we celebrate it.

Daniel is still very much working out his sense of time. "Is it my birthday next? Is it Christmas yet?! I hate "next Monday"!" I'm thinking that a visual and tangible counting down tradition will help him measure the days until this much anticipated present opening extravaganza religious holiday.

Here are the advent envelopes we prepared for them to begin opening December 1st.  Each one has a simple gift: a joke, a card, a candy or a puzzle piece.

Do you celebrate Advent? Have an advent calendar? Any beloved counting down traditions? Please share!

Happy Season of Light!

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