Glorious First Week of Advent

Advent is a time of doing. We experience the wonderous light of Advent with all of our senses. I love this quote by Joan Almon, master teacher of Waldorf Early Years, from “An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten”: “Within the Waldorf Kindergarten the festivals are  not meant to be “taught” but are offered in a light manner, much like telling a fairy tale, which allows the children great freedom to come to the festival as they will.  When offered in a spirit of gratitude and with a sense of wonder and awe, something of the essence of the festival can speak to the children.” I think this is something to consider for all family members, from the early years all the way through to the teenager who is unsure of participating in family or community festivals. We offer, we model, we have gratitude and wonder ourselves.

I think the approach that the Waldorf Schools have can work for a variety of families during this sacred time, but only you and your family can discern what festivals you want to celebrate and what resonates with you. In a Waldorf School, Advent is not to be made into church, but rather a time of preparation for the Christ Child which is a singular event that will never come again. Every week, each kingdom on earth is preparing (mineral kingdom, plants, animals, mankind). If you would like to learn more, please refer to this back post Advent and Other Winter Celebrations Within The Waldorf Home | The Parenting Passageway which includes the Advent Spiral and the many smaller festivals often seen in a Steiner tradition, including St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia, Solstice, and more. If you want a new approach to your holidays that is less materialistic, try this wonderful back guest post: Christine Natale’s Musings On Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions | The Parenting Passageway

This is our plan for this week and how we celebrate. Please keep in mind that as a practicing Christian, I am looking forward with anticipation to celebrate the coming of Christ in His incarnation, and looking even further into the future when Christ resides over death, Heaven, Hell, judgment. The prayer for our family during this time is “Our Lord, Come.” You may find things to take here that work for your family. We are part of the Episcopalian denomination and use Episcopalian/Anglican resources, including the Advent Word of the Day (#AdventWord – A Global Advent Calendar) for the adults and older teens and They Way of Love Advent Calendar (Journeying the Way of Love Advent Calendar | Episcopal Church) for the family.

Today, Sunday the 29th- Happy New Year to the Church and the First Sunday in Advent. Today we set up our Advent wreath. This is very simple with four small candles in holders that have been covered with pink and blue tissue paper and painted on with glue and glitter sitting inside a small grapevine wreath that we weave fresh fir boughs into. It isn’t fancy but the fun part comes in making it! We have hung up our outside lights, and have our Nativity set up (without the baby Jesus, who comes on Christmas morning). In many Waldorf classrooms there are lovely handmade ways of representing Spirit to Earth for this time.

Monday the 30th – Today we are setting out our representations of the mineral kingdom and all of our St. Nicholas decorations, and reading our St. Nicholas Day books (you will find a picture this week on FB/IG of these titles). We also have many poems and songs about St. Nicholas, which I will share on FB/IG as well.

Tuesdays December 1 – Today we will be gathering our things to dip candles, which is lovely at any point in Advent. We also will make beeswax ornaments, which always smell so heavenly on the tree.

Wednesday December 2 through December 5 – Prepare for St. Nicholas Day on the 6th! Baking, crafts, getting our Christmas Tree!

Sunday, December 6 – St Nicholas Day is here! Children leave out their wooden clogs, shoes, a boot or even a sack on the Eve  of Saint Nicholas.  Saint Nicholas comes to earth on his snowy white steed, and leaves behind apples, tangerines, clementines, walnuts, hazelnuts and sometimes a little toy or book.   In many stories, Saint Nicholas is the forerunner that reminds children the Child of Light is coming.  Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, is loved in many countries, including Russia, where there are many churches dedicated to Saint Nicholas.   It is a major day for my friends in the Netherlands (the 5th) and in Germany (the 6th).  Saint Nicholas music, crafts, cookie cutters and recipes and more can be found at the wonderful website www.stnicholascenter.org.  There are also some wonderful handouts regarding the relationship between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.

I am looking forward to hearing about all of your plans!

Blessings,

Carrie 

Week of Gratitude

As I write this, we are almost done quarantining for the second time this year. It may not be the last time we have to do this, because now only three out of the five of us have had Covid-19. I have a great deal of gratitude that none of us were extremely ill, that we took precautions that probably made the course of our illness better and certainly better for our community, and that we have a warm house and plenty of food while we are home.

This year, however uneven and trying at times, has offered up its own brand of blessings and promises. I am finishing my clinical doctorate in December should all things go well. I started working at two new jobs. This year has been so hard for so many, but it can become a foundation to build up from. Many people spent more time at home with their families than they ever had. School situations changed and parents were more aware than ever as to what went on at school, or decided to change schooling and be all in with whatever way they choose to educate their child. People cut back expenses, cut back on driving, cooked more at home, gardened and canned more, and overall found joy in things that before may have been in the category of “I will do that if I have time.” Hopefully this foundation of the family and the home will bring a stability and a place to build sustainability for the future.

So, in this time leading up to American Thanksgiving on Thursday, may your blessings be many. May you acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the land you stand on at your dinner, if you do that on Thanksgiving Day. Here is a place to find what First Peoples to remember where you live: https://native-land.ca/. May we never gloss over nor forget. I wrote a post in 2015 with these words about the act of giving thanks and it seems true today:

In a world that often seems shattered, broken, and perhaps beyond repair….

Let us give thanks in our hearts for the light we and others can bring to the world.

Let us give thanks for our best attempts to be kind, compassionate and caring to ourselves, our children and the world.

Let us give thanks for all the good things we model for our children.

Let us give thanks for all the helpers in the world.  There are many.

Let us give thanks for all that we have, and all the ways in which we can help others.

Let us give thanks for the beauty of the earth and skies and seas.

Let us give thanks for the animals and plants and the diversity of all human beings and cultures around the world.

Let us give thanks for peace and show the world love.

May your gratitude be great as we bring even more light into the world during this season. May your acts of kindness be bold.

Blessings and peace,

Carrie

Healing In The Peaceful Home

We live in a world rife with anxiety, depression, and turmoil. Individual circumstances placed upon a backdrop of COVID-19, different schooling situations, and political tensions has made 2020 a tumultuous year for many. I have received many emails about helping our families defuse some of the tension and stress surrounding this year, so I wanted to share a few ideas with you all today.

One of the first and basic things that I find helpful is to shore up any kind of loose rhythm that works for your family. This provides structure and stability even if we don’t feel as if we have it in us to give. A simple rhythm could be a warm breakfast, school with breaks or work around the home, a reading or art time, a warm lunch, rest time, outside time and movement, warm dinner and a warm bath, turning lights off and “putting the house” to sleep and bedtime.

Warmth is an important consideration in these times, both physically in warming foods and clothing appropriate for your area, but also in emotional tone. A peaceful, attentive, and loving tone can be difficult to transmit to children when we ourselves are feeling completely stressed and depleted. Coming up with our own rhythm of self care is vitally important during these times. This can be as simple as remembering to eat, and going to bed at a normal hour. It can be stepped up with a walk outside, yoga or stretching, listening to music that makes you smile, connecting with people in whatever way you can safely, setting a timer on your phone to drink water or meditate or pray.

Trying to keep tension away from children in the home can be very difficult, but one thing to consider is cutting down the negative influences streaming into your home, whether this is on the news, social media, people who stress more than bless, etc. Trying to protect yourself so you can be all that your family needs is okay! It is okay to have boundaries and be selective as to what things honestly give you energy and what people and things drain you.

In times like this, working with the hands is often soothing. Gardening, even in containers, is satisfying, as is making bread by hand, fermenting foods, cleaning and polishing, setting up bird feeders and making suet or pine cone bird feeders. Handwork can be helpful – small children can roll balls of yarn and finger knit, older children can knit, crochet, sew. There are always things like window stars to make or window transparencies which can be a lot of fun for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Stories for small children that have a protective element to them in the vein as The Mitten by Jan Brett are very healing, or finding a wonderful story that the entire family can listen in on is also helpful.

The small things that seem the most ordinary can be the most healing for this time and place. Holding warmth and stability can heal our families, one by one in our own homes and then we can then send that love out into the world.

Blessings and peace,

Carrie