Normally we don't even start thinking about Christmas (decorating/music/etc) until after Thanksgiving, but blame it on the snow or the store shelves taunting me to deck my halls, but my mind is already racing forward to Christmas.
I've been thinking a lot about Advent this year. Maybe because we've always done the Advent things without necessarily thinking about the Advent purpose. Until last year, when it sort of forced itself on us.
On this day last year we were signing closing documents on our house in Albuquerque and hitting the road for Ohio. We signed papers on this house and the moving van pulled into our new driveway just a few days later, the day before Thanksgiving actually.
There was absolutely no way we would be experiencing the traditional Thanksgiving feast or the usual holiday decorating. We were unpacking boxes.
Remember this Christmas card? Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a couple of pre-lit trees and kids piled on moving boxes.
And it turned out to be the most amazing thing.
After a harsh reality check, all the normal expectations for cooking, decorating, and crafting were thrown out the window. There was no rushing. We were preparing our new home as a place for us to dwell, not a pin-worthy tour of holiday eye candy.
There were many nights spent curled up with a hot drink, unpacking our favorite Christmas books (thanks in part to the great snowpocalypse of 2014). It was such a blessed slower pace. We didn't even get our tree until about a week before Christmas.
And something funny happened. While normally I'm ready to tear it all down the day after Christmas and get the house "back to normal", I wanted to celebrate beyond Christmas day (which is actually just the start of the 12 day Christmas celebration of our liturgical calendar). I didn't have the same holiday burnout I normally experience.
I've never entered the Christmas season so slowly and have never experienced it so deeply as we did last year. It was stripped down of the usual distractions and the few things we did, were chosen purposefully.
I feel like we have an opportunity to do things differently this year. We always do. We're never stuck in our traditional ways. Our move forced us to do Advent and Christmas outside of the norm, and there's a lot I want to incorporate from those seasons again this year.
I think a key for me really entering Advent is Thanksgiving. It's so easy to rush past it, but thanksgiving preps the heart. When I rush through the process of gratitude (or skip it altogether), it's so easy to run right into a commercialized Christmas.....void of peace, void of reflection, void of hope. Christmas is about our souls. Not our homes. Not the tree. Not the STUFF. Thanksgiving is our opportunity, to squash that need machine....to remember how much we already have and how much we are blessed.
Then we can enter Advent, where we prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Christmas. The weary world rejoiced on Christmas, because it was WEARY and in need. And God met that need in the most tangible and personal way through the gift of his own Son.
So, while our Advent activities leading up to Christmas are sure to be filled with fun, we want to make sure that we balance that out with things that give way for quiet anticipation, reflection, and purpose.
Our kids favorite tradition around this time of year is our family advent activity calendar (which oddly I've never posted here!). Each day they open an envelope with a different activity. Sometimes it's baking cookies, or decorating the tree, or visiting a live nativity...sometimes it's watching a Christmas movie with hot cocoa, or cleaning out our closets to donate to those in need. The greatest part of this is James and I can dictate the flow and tone of Advent by when we do various activities. We brainstormed a list last week and I'll be sharing our calendar here soon!
I'm not sure exactly how our Advent will look, but I'm hoping it will be much more intentional than years past. And I'm hoping to keep all those ridiculous holiday expectations from robbing this season of it's purpose
Maybe you need a break too.....someone to take the pressure off. Well, you're off the hook in my book! Or maybe you're really excited and can't wait to jump in. Enjoy it! And be present in each of those activities before rushing to the next.
Sometimes we can't keep certain things from sneaking on our calendar, but as the years go by I'm finding the more time I block off or even "schedule" for quiet, the less of a holiday hangover I have at the end.
*So how do you keep the holiday whirlwind from taking over? Do you have any traditions that help you to really enter the Advent season? I would love to hear your tips for staying sane and grounded during the most wonderful time of the year :)
Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!