The time leading up to the holidays, particularly if you celebrate Solstice, Hanukkah, or Christmas as your major feast for this season, can feel like a whirlwind of decorating, baking, wrapping, giving, end of semester recitals and plays and finals (maybe not this year with Covid-19, but every state and school seems to be different!) …leading up to the major holiday and it can feel exhausting! Maybe if you are like my family, you celebrate several smaller festivals in this month such as St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia, an Advent Spiral (which is a walk around a spiral of evergreens) or more, which can sometimes feel like too much if all of it is elaborate!
In this time, slowing down and being together is the thing that really matters the most. Take time to read together, to make window stars and straw stars, to dry orange slices for a garland for the tree, to string popcorn and dip candles, and to otherwise bring the pace as a spiral inward and inward and inward. We can do this by being gentle in our actions towards ourselves and others and setting time aside for our own self care and to relax and enjoy this season of light, love, and generosity. Relaxing during this month should be a given, yet how many mothers actually relax in the midst of all the whirlwind of things to be done? Take heart, you don’t need that many “things” to create family memories for Advent.
This week we are working on a few small projects that I will be highlighting on FB/IG, including making window stars and dipping candles. These are very doable projects with children. Window stars are a simple folding of a square of kite paper (held up like a diamond shape), fold in half and unfold, and then bring the sides of the paper to that crease. Glue the corners down and do this for enough points to make your star! Candles are also easy with melted beeswax (a garage sale crockpot works well for this), and a simple wick and a nearby pitcher of cold water. Dipping takes time, but children are often fascinated watching their candle be built up, flattening the bottom as they go along, and doing that over and over. You can flatten the bottom when it is still warm onto a little round of wood for the holder. Simple and satisfying.
St. Nicholas Day is on Sunday, and we can bring to this day a gentle, easy, and nourishing time with tea, special foods, and perhaps a little gift (or not) if this is not your main time of gift giving (for some families it is the major time of gift giving). When our children were younger, St. Nicholas Day was perhaps bigger than we celebrate it now. We never did a lot with the idea of Santa Claus (one unwrapped smaller gift was from “Santa”). However, perhaps more importantly than “getting” is children learning how to give and how to have the spirit of St. Nicholas in them at all times. Have you been getting into “good trouble” as John Lewis would say, helping others without them knowing, with a twinkle in your eye? Are you generous and kind all year round? This is the spirit of Advent and Christmas. What can your children give? What can they do to be generous and helpful and kind? Is there someone your family can help in a tangible, secret way? Those are the amazing opportunities that this month opens up into our hearts and souls.