Growing up, my family didn’t have any pre-Christmas formal traditions. Yes, there was the preparation for Christmas pageants at church. We even had a Christmas Choir Concert at my public school (this was before everything got PC and they started calling it a Holiday or Winter Concert). Our Christmas tree went up sometime before Christmas, usually the week or so beforehand. We went shopping off and on, mostly off since we didn’t have a lot of money (and my paternal grandmother worked retail. She got the best bargains!) But there were no rituals or traditions to help us anticipate the coming of Christ (just the coming of Santa Claus).
Somewhere between that childhood of Protestantism and my conversion to Roman Catholicism, I discovered Advent traditions. And fell in love with them. Honestly I wish we had these kinds of traditions for all holidays. It seems to enrich not only the holiday itself, but daily life. It makes life seem special. More beautiful. Sparkly even.
I’ve only been Catholic since Easter of 2010, and it’s been a hard few years, so I haven’t really created any real traditions of my own. This year I’m going to change that. I’m tired of the sameness of my life. And I need something to distract me from my anxiety over being unemployed. So here are the Advent traditions I’m going to try to implement (in no particular order):
- An Advent wreath. I’d had one in 2010 but it got killed in a move, so I’m making a new one for this year. I love the symbolism of the wreath and how it creates a daily pause. Click here for more info on Advent wreaths and their symbolism/use.
- Advent prayers. I bought an inexpensive booklet with special prayers to say at this time of the year, usually when lighting your wreath. I’m horrible when it comes to scheduling time for prayer. Normally I pray at random times throughout the day, usually when I need something. I think it’s time for me to start praying for something other than help.
- Advent calendar. I love the wooden calendars but can’t afford them. I don’t like the inexpensive kind that are made of cardboard or felt. So I’m making one of my own from gift tags. I’ll only use it for this year. Hopefully I can get a wooden one on clearance, or be able to afford one next year. Why am I doing it? It’s yet another way to pause in my day and think about something other than myself. And it helps build the anticipation for Jesus’ birthday.
- Decorations. I don’t always decorate for Christmas, or most holidays. Sometimes I don’t have the time or I’m too tired. Last year I was suicidal and the thought of anticipating anything other than death took way too much energy. Since I’m feeling better this year, I’ve gone as all out as I could on a dime. I’m determined to make my tiny apartment as glittery and festive as possible.
- Entertainment. Instead of only watching the shallow, incipit, shows you usually get on TV these days (I’ll still watch those too. They’re fun and frothy, kinda like cotton candy for the holiday brain), I’m gonna make an effort to watch TV shows and movies that go a bit in depth. In other words, I’ll be watching a lot of religious-type programming. Nothing wrong with that, I could use some depth.
- Books. I don’t consider books entertainment. For me, books are like breathing. If I don’t read, I don’t live. I’ll still read my typical stuff, but I’m gonna add in some holiday type reading that isn’t about shopping or generic “family” themes. Probably lots of history and spiritual type books.
- Mass. For those who are unaware, mass is the name of church services in the Catholic Church. I’m gonna try to go to as many as possible. This is a problem because I have trouble getting out of the house sometimes, especially in the morning and if I have to go somewhere where there are a lot of people. If I can’t physically go, I’m gonna listen to one on the radio or watch one on the internet. It’ll be good for my soul.
I know that’s quite a bit, and I’m gonna do my best to do them all. The hardest part, I think, will be to not yell at myself if I don’t do it perfectly. At the very least, I’m gonna try.
And that’s more than I’ve done in quite some time.
Blessings to all of you.