Thank you so much to everyone who left me lovely compliments, and wishes about my angels and for the fair yesterday. It was a great day and I sold lots but I still have a few things left which I have listed on Etsy if you want to go and have a look - just click on the 'My Shop' link in my sidebar.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent and it's a day that is almost as exciting as Christmas Day in our house. Advent is a time for waiting, for making ready so the autumn table was cleared away last night and we left it with just a blue cloth and candle. This morning in a (short) time honoured tradition we brought down our huge christmas box and we all squealed in delight as we took things out that we hadn't seen for a year. The first thing we did was to place the nativity on the table. Rohan had made us an advent calender at school so that went up too (we'd already started the other calenders on Friday).
Christmas is pretty big in our house. In fact it's safe to say that I LOVE Christmas. Maybe it's do to with the fact that I have no history of the event so I have just created it the way I want it. You see we never celebrated christmas when I was growing up. At first my parents didn't really know what it was but as we grew older they bought a little tree and until I was 12 we used to get presents from my Dad's factory where he worked. That used to be it on the present front. We got lots of food though and television. We children didn't know any better so we just accepted that's what christmas was like. However, I've always had a special feeling for it though as you will see: each year I used to 'borrow' a hymn book from school at the end of term. About once a week in the evening I would drag my two sisters into the front room where the tiny tree stood and I'd make them sing christmas carols. The dilemna was always whether to turn on the lights so that we could read the words or to leave them off so's not to ruin the atmosphere but squint and get it all wrong. I loved and still love singing carols. Can you imagine three little Indian girls standing in front of a tree - one singing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem with gusto and the other two meekly following? Sweet.
I always find it so sad when I hear people saying Oh I hate Christmas, it's too commercial, too many presents etc etc. I discovered a long time ago that Christmas is what you make it. So in our house Christmas is a time for giving, a time for waiting, a time for family. Each year I sit down with the children and ask them to make a list of what they are giving to each other, friends, god parents, aunts, uncles. Then we sit around the table one night a week and we make those things. Ofcourse, we have to avert our eyes as one child is usually making something for the other but that's all part of the fun. Nearer christmas day they will make biscuits and take them round to some of the older neighbours down our lane. So the emphasis is on what they will give NOT what they will get.
The other big thing for us is advent stories. We just love them and we have a huge pile of books that I've collected over the years. So come the first Sunday we dispense with our usual bedtime stories and it's advent stories each night. I've started a flickr group of christmas stories for children so that we can all share the lovely books we might have - just click here to see it and please feel free to add your fave books too. I'd love to see them.
I should just explain about the nativity here. I don't always stick to the waldorf way of placing certain elements on the table each week. Instead I put the stable in one corner with straw in it. Then we cut out as many stars as there are in advent and we make a path of them on the table. Mary and Joseph start off at the beginning of the path and each night they get closer to the stable. They move from one star to the next. Sometimes we only have the minerals on the table in the first week (sorry I couldn't find them this morning), vegetables the second, animals the third and then the people (shepherds) in the last week. But as the last Sunday is Christmas Eve we may not do that this year. So each night the children are in pyjamas, sitting around the fire, we're having stories and the advent candle is burning on the table. Once the stories are read we go to the table and one child blows out the candle, the other moves Mary and Joseph along the star path and the third child places the star that Mary and Joseph were on in the sky. Then it's off to bed.
Christmas music is also a big thing in our house. We have a few tapes and CDs we like to play and someone will play carols on the piano most days and we'll have a sing song. When I got the music out on Decemeber 1st we all chose one song - I chose a piece from Handel's Messiah, Amber chose the Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, Rohan chose Frosty The Snowman, Raj wanted the song from the Snowman and Tom had Happy Holidays by Andy WIlliams. We have a mixed bag of music!
This morning I made an advent wreath to go on the table and we will be lighting one candle for each week of advent at mealtimes. It's very simple to make. You can get a metal ring from a florist for 50p or so on which you place moss or if you can't get any, newspaper. Wrap this round with a roll of thin wire to secure and then go for walk and find some greenery to go on top. I used yew which I also bound with wire and then I stuck in a few sprigs of holly. You can add cones, slices of dried orange or whatever you fancy. Then stick the candles in and that's it. The moss or newspaper is there to stop the wreath from drying out. Every couple of says you can either dunk the whole lot in water or mist it. That way it'll last for all of advent. Light one candle in the first week, two in the second etc.
I forgot to mention the biggest thing though for us and that's the advent spiral at school this afternoon. This is the most beautiful and serene thing. Picture a school hall only lit with candles, three people playing carols on lyres in the corner, a spiral made from greenery in the centre with a large candle in the middle. Slowly and reverently each child goes along the spiral holding a little candle in an apple. They light their candle from the candle in the centre which they then place along the spiral. Slowly the spiral is lit up and you can imagine the warm glow and the peace that emanates from this room. You feel so uplifted by this experience.
As I said before I've always tried to place the emphasis on giving at this time and that doesn't mean to say we don't make christmas wish lists or write to Father Christmas. I don't take the children shopping (I do most of it on the internet these days) so we don't have the frenzy and over excitement that a shopping trip brings. It also helps not having a television to tell the truth - it means that the children aren't exposed to advertising for one thing. Well, I've shared a bit of our advent/christmas with you - I'd love to hear about your traditions. I've also got a few craft ideas up my sleeve which I'll post up soon. Meanwhile a couple of books that help create a lovely christmas: