Happy New Year!

Thou shalt light but one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, and the number of candles to be lighted shall be one. Four candles there are, but thou shalt light but one, not two, nor three, but one. And stay away from the rose coloured one.
Wish I’d seen these instructions before I bought the candles 😉

If you’re a churchgoer of the traditional persuasion you may already know that the church year started on Sunday. The first Sunday in Advent is the first day of the church year.

Somehow it’s not having the same effect on me as January 1st does. There’s something about the world having a huge party the night before, and a public holiday, that makes New Years Day feel special.

Having said that, I felt like I wanted to do something for Advent this year. I want to make the lead up to Christmas something different. To prepare myself.

I am not one of those who puts a Christmas tree up in November. If you are one, more power to you. I find I’ve had enough of the tree taking up my living room once it’s been there a couple of weeks, so I wait a little longer to put it up.

I am also not organised enough to make up an Advent calendar of any significance, and I don’t want to eat extra chocolate every day before Christmas. (I was going to say, ‘eat chocolate every day’ but I realised that I’m probably going to do that anyway if the past few weeks are any indication.)

Just an aside, I have really great friends who have done an amazing thing for their kids. They’ve made up an advent calendar, in each little draw there are a few pieces of Lego and a page of instructions. Each day, the girls will pull out the draw and add something to the growing Lego construction. At Christmas time they will have a full Lego toy, and it’s one of those three-in-one things so they’ll be able to pull it apart and make the other two on Christmas day.

I was never going to do something that organised.

But I decided that there was something small that I could do to make the time seem a little more special and that is Advent candles.

Four white candles surrounding a purple candle, on a wooden board. One white candle is lit.
My little Advent wreath

I went to the local everything cheap store (and marvelled at the overwhelming amount of sugar wrapped in plastic junk that is available to all of us). I found (eventually) some candles, and then after a little more searching I found candles that were unscented (so I don’t spend the whole of Advent with a stuffed up nose). And I found a little board. 

I’ve made my own Advent thingy. It’s not really a wreath, it doesn’t have greenery. But it’s Advent-ish.

Each Sunday I will light another candle. One for each of the Sundays, and the purple one for Jesus on Christmas day.

I chose not to worry about the pink one for the ‘Joy’ Sunday, and I think that technically all the white candles should be purple, and the purple one, white. But see the earlier comments about scent. All the purple candles in the store were scented and one candle is more than enough scent for me.

I’m hoping that lighting candles each week gives enough of a slow down moment to make the lead up to Christmas less hectic as I take the time to remember what it’s all about.

Oh and I saw this amazing Advent calendar on Facebook that I thought I’d share with you too. Maybe we can make this month a precious and joyful time and put some good back into the world.

A 25-day calendar with a suggestion of a kindness to do each day. For example, let someone in front of you in line, or buy a friend coffee.

What are your Advent traditions? When does your tree go up? Is anyone else doing a clever Advent calendar of some sort?

The Twelve Steps of Christmas Grocery Shopping

Christmas Dinner

Step 1: Budget. Put aside money through the year. At least twice as much as you think you’ll need. (If you’ve missed this step then Step 1 might be buying a TARDIS. You can go from there.)

Step 2: Watch American Ninja Warrior or Ultimate Beastmaster or some such strength/parkour adventure competition game show the night before.

Step 3: Write a list. A complete list. Don’t forget to ask everyone in the house what they need you to buy to make it feel like Christmas.

Step 4: Pick a buddy that will have fun with you while shopping. Singing and dancing along to the shop music is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

Step 5: Decide it’s going to take a long, long time to do this.

Step 6: Park at the very far end of the car park. Why not? It’s easier to park and you’ll get to stretch your legs.

Step 7: Stop and buy a coffee on the way in. This is particularly effective if you’ve decaffeinated yourself for months beforehand. The caffeine feels like a Christmas miracle. A large chai can also work if you’re not that into coffee.

Step 8: LARGE trolley. The smaller ones have all been taken anyway.

Step 9: Visit every aisle in the shop. But reframe each aisle as a level in the American Ninja Warrior or Beastmaster show. We are now playing Ultimate Hardcore Grocery Challenge. Each aisle/level has different challenges – some have pillars in them, some have people going up the aisle on the left and on the right, some have that person stopped right in the middle that holds up traffic both ways, some have people you need to stop and chat to, it’s all part of the game.

Step 10: Check the list at the end. Do you have everything or is it time for a bonus round?

Step 11: Pick a checkout with a friendly check out chick/chap that you can chat to. Remember to try not to wince when the total comes through, you’ll be eating this stuff until the end of January.

Step 12: Putting it all away when you get home is part of the game. Or is it a new game? Tetris, maybe.

End of Year Weirdness

teddy bear christmas

I just realised why it feels so weird.

I know that everyone says that they don’t feel Christmassy and all every year, but I was definitely feeling something different about the end of the year this year, and just now it hit me what it is.

Both my children have finished school. This is the first year in 18 years that I haven’t had an ‘end of school’ routine with a child. I haven’t had any final assemblies, any prizes or awards, any end of year activity days.

And yes, Moz is still a teacher, and would normally attend all these things, giving me some sense of normalcy, but this year he got hit with the horrible cold thing – the one that ends with the everlasting hacking cough (apparently) – and wasn’t able to attend any of the end of year things for his school at all.

And while I’ve finished up work for the year, I’ve been doing that slowly and in pieces for a few weeks now. There was no big last-day marker.

So this year the end of the year has come in a dropwise, petering out, unmarked fashion.

And it feels weird.

But in another way, it’s been really nice. We’ve taken it slow. Our tree isn’t up yet (the picture is from 2013) and I’m not worried about it.

Tonight the kids both come home – Jess from Canberra, and Caleb from a four-day road trip – and tonight we will start to celebrate Christmas and end-of-year-ness together. I’m really looking forward to it.

With two adult children we’re starting a new set of traditions.

I have a friend who has moved to a small mining town in Western Australia. This will be her second Christmas ever without her wider family around. She also needs to start a new set of traditions. And I think she’s feeling a little weird too.

Then there’s my friend whose father-in-law passed away just last night, and things have changed for that family too.

We have such high expectations for the Christmas period. We build them year by year. We can do it all ourselves but we’re given unhelpful help from Christmas movies, TV shows, advertising, and all the marketing guff that goes on.

For some people this time of year is incredibly hard as they battle loneliness, addictions, and so on. But even for those of us blessed with happy families and first-world wealth the changes that each year brings can shock us and hurt us as we approach a milestone like Christmas Day.

I find it helpful to go back to the foundations. For me, the foundation of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. That is enough for a huge celebration no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

The second foundation stone for me is the celebration of family. My own husband and children, my parents and siblings, my in-laws, and my church family. No matter what the day brings I have so much to be grateful for.

I hope that you can find something to be grateful for this Christmas, even if you celebrate through tears.

Lots of love,

Ruth