How to Celebrate Advent Simply, no matter what your faith
This is not really a “How To” in any sort of prescriptive way. I like the simplicity of that title. Advent is defined as the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas. Yet, in my family, where we celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, and the big event is Solstice, we have slowly been adding in more and more Advent celebration. Indeed, I have found that Advent is a great way to help blend all of our inherited religions into one somewhat cohesive—although not typical—holiday season.
What is (Your) Advent About?
Advent historically celebrates the anticipation–the fours weeks leading up to–Christmas. Christmas, is the birth of the Christian Messiah. At it’s very core, Advent is about the spirit of peace, warmth, light, and gentle preparation. The winter holiday season, in most of the major religions, shares the theme of bringing light (and warmth) into dark and this is expressed by physically lighting up the dark (candles, holiday lights, observance of the moon) as well as by sharing the light of each others’ company, family, food, and traditions of giving. I have found a great deal of guidance and joy in learning about the history of my family’s traditions and then using the true meaning of these holidays to create my own celebrations. You can learn more about some of the different holiday traditions and their origins in the article How to Create Meaningful Holiday Traditions. In your family, you can use the traditions of advent (and I feel reap the benefits of shared ritual) whether its meaning is bringing light and warmth or also in anticipation of the Christ event.
The Holiday Box
The most exciting thing that happens in our house on the first Sunday of Advent is that we take out our Winter Holiday box. This is where we box everything up after the holidays (after Epiphany if you are a Christian household or on Boxing Day). The key to the holiday box is that it must be boxed up. This keeps the grownups sane and keeps the stuff inside the box special. In our box we have these magical wooden music boxes with moving parts, candles, lights, Christmas Tree decorations, two menorahs, a few special seasonal books, and our Advent Supplies.
Advent in four weeks
In Waldorf education, each week of Advent is assigned a “theme” of sorts and is a time for reflection and gratitude towards the different realms of our earth: stones & minerals; plants; animal kingdom; and humankind.
Waldorf/Steiner Verses for Advent:
The first light of Advent is the light of stones.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Roots, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit by whom we live and grow.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
Animals of farm, field, forest, air, and seas.
All await the birth in greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand.
Many families set up some sort of Nature Table for Advent. Or, if they already have a nature table, add candles and, then, week by week, corresponding elements. First stones, bones, crystals, and shells. Then, plants and then something to symbolize animals and people. The idea of the table is to bring in beauty and a way to commemorate the season–a season where we bring in “light” to the “dark.”
Some people might light a candle on the Sunday of each week and say a verse to commemorate the theme of that week. Others, light a candle every day. We have used the candle lighting as a way to tie Advent into Hannukah.
The Advent Table is also a place where an Advent Calendar can be used. Because we don’t usually do gift-giving on Christmas, I especially like the Advent Calendar (as odd as that seems) because it brings a bit of magic to every day. I don’t like advent calendars with chocolate, because I don’t let me kids eat sugar everday. So, instead, I go for alternative Advent Calendars. Such as a home-made calendar which is reusable–such as with pockets–and can be filled by a parent or a house gnome. If that’s too much work, our first Advent Calendar was audio: Sparkle Stories Audio Advent Calendar and listen to a daily story of brother and sister: Martin & Sylvia. Some people wrap a book (they can be from the library) for each day of Advent as another way to give the gifts of story. Similarly, it could be a shared song, blessing, or event.
You can Shop Advent Calendars on Amazon.
The Advent Spiral
My favourite part of advent is the advent spiral. Learn about how to do your own at this Green Mama blog post.
Read more about Advent
Learn more about the Advent Table at this beautiful blog: Sure as the World.
Everything you ever wanted to know about incorporating a Waldorf-style Advent (or anything else Waldorf) into your home at Parenting Passageway.
These resources from Waldorf Homeschoolers for Advent can help in any home.