Celebrating Advent

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation.  For some, it’s the countdown to Christmas; for others, it’s the countdown to the darkest day of the year and the beginning of the return to light.  This is a journey that has many different layers to explore and many different ways to explore it.  Here I’ll give a bit of an overview of the elements that many Waldorf inspired advent celebrations incorporate.

Advent: A Way to Count Down

Advent officially starts four Sundays before Christmas, and for many children, the element of counting down is the most exciting part; it certainly was for me as a child.  Growing up, we explored different ways to count down each year: calendars with a picture behind each door, or a small toy behind each door, or a chocolate behind each door.  Other years we had a creche scene where Mary rode her donkey a step closer to the stable each day of Advent; I’ve also seen some beautiful needle-felted scenes where an angel would travel across.  If you are not celebrating Christmas, I’ve seen lovely Advent calendars with a stone traveling a spiral of stars toward a single candle in the center.  I’ve also seen Advent candles with 24 lines, and you melt the candle down one line each day.  You can see lots of examples of different ways to count down on my Advent Pinterest Board: https://www.pinterest.com/joyfultoddlers/advent/

Advent: An Element of Light

In many Waldorf communities, the Advent journey starts with a wonderfully sweet Advent Spiral ceremony.  (more)

For individual family celebrations of Advent, there is still an element of light.  Most families will have an Advent Wreath with four candles placed around it (often three of one color, and one of a contrasting color).  The first week of Advent, one candle is lit each day.  During week two, two candles are lit, and so on, until those final few days when all of the candles are lit including that fourth, special candle.

Advent: A Tone of Joy and Reverence

As with all festivals and celebrations, our attitude shapes our children’s experience.  I’ve seen many Advent celebrations disintegrate into squabbles over whose turn it is to light the candle/open the door/get the toy/move the figurine/blow out the candle.  One of the big reasons for this is that we adults tend to have this funny idea that being “fair” means an equal number of turns for each type of thing.  In my experience, this leads mainly to discussions and inevitable disappointments.  From the child’s perspective, “fair” is much better translated as “knowing what’s expected” (think about it: most of the time a child says, “That’s not fair!” it’s because they thought something would be one way, but it was another). Instead, try assigning each child a special task: one child to open the advent calendar each day, one child to move the figures each day, one child to blow the candle(s) out each day, etc.  If there is one task that is MUCH more enticing than all the others, save it for an adult to do.

Another way to set the tone is through song.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

For lighting the wreath:

Advent, advent, a candle burns

Advent, advent, a candle burns

First one, then two, then three, then four

Each flame will brighten our hearts even more.

Here’s a traditional carol that you may remember from your childhood:

From the forest bring the boughs of fir and spruce and pine

Bring them home, bedeck the house, for now it’s Advent time!

Bring the boughs, bring the boughs, for now it’s Advent time!

Light the candles one by one, count off the days in rhyme,
Every day a task well done, for now it’s Advent time!
Every day a task well done, for now it’s Advent time!

On the hearth a fire lay, of oak and yew and pine,
Drive the winter chill away, for now it’s Advent time!
Bring the boughs, bring the boughs, for now it’s Advent time!

Tune the fiddle and the flute. Oh, let the music chime!
Sing we all, let none be mute, for now it’s Advent time!
Sing we all, let none be mute, for now it’s Advent time!

(softly):

Come, o Christ-child, do thy part, thy creche awaits thee here,

Enter now, be still my heart, for now it’s Christmas near.

Enter now, be still my heart, for now it’s Christmas near.

Themes of Advent

Traditionally, each day of Advent has a brief reading or teaching.  If you are doing Advent for your children, you might read a story or chapter from a book, and many of these stories had themes of generosity, helping those in need, and other messages that have traditionally been part of Christmas, although many have gotten lost in the commercialism of mainstream Christmas.  I’ve included a list of books I like at the end.

If you want to dive more deeply into Advent, or you are counting down to the Solstice rather than to Christmas, then exploring different themes of Advent can shape your adult experience.  In this case, there is a different theme to each week:

Traditional themes of Advent: Week 1: Hope, Week 2: Peace, Week 3: Joy, and Week 4: Love

Waldorf themes of Advent, with a short verse for each:

Week 1:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones

The light that shines in crystals, in seashells and in bones.

Week 2:

The second light of Advent is the light of the plants

Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes dance.

Week 3:

The third light of advent is the light of the beasts

It shines in the greatest, it shines in the least.

Week 4:

The fourth light of advent is the light of humankind

The light of love, the light of thought, to see and understand.

 

A book with multiple stories for Advent:

Advent Storybook,

Beautifully illustrated picture books (some are quite long):

The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale, The Christmas Wish, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: And Appalachian Story, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey,

 

What Your Advent Might Look Like:

Sing a song to let your children know to come gather ’round the Advent Wreath: your day’s advent ceremony is beginning!  You get your matches and sing the advent candle song as you light the appropriate number of candles for your point in the journey.  Together the children find the next number on the advent calendar, and one child gets to open the little door.  The family stops together to admire the tiny image beneath, or to take the tiny treasure and add it to your advent scene.  Another child gets to lift Mary on her donkey and put it one step closer to the stable where the empty creche awaits.  You get out the book of Carols and sing some songs, and then settle onto the couch to read a story together.  Back to the table you go, to sing one last time and blow out the candles.  After a moment of silence, you go back to your daily life.

 

Enjoy your Advent!  How does your family celebrate?  What stories or songs are your favorites?

Warmly,    ~Miss Faith

 

Check out my book, Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers: Create A Life that You and Your Child Both Love.  Available through my website, on Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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