‘Tis the season!
’Tis the season to be jolly, engage in merriment and folly; to give and receive. Every family has its own approach to Christmas – whether the wrapping paper has been shredded by 6am, or parents hold back the tide of children’s excitement until after the Monarch has addressed the nation.
But Christmas actually wasn’t the big deal it has now become until the Victorian period. Before this, people celebrated the entire period of twelve days from Christmas day to Epiphany on the 6 January (when the Magi finally made it to the manger), and saved their biggest feast for the end of this period.
Things have changed a lot since then. This is our guide to your new favourite traditions – and a few older ones that might be worth reviving… or at least incorporating into a pub quiz!
With the spread of advent calendars, candles and spiral stairways for Mary to progress up, everyone knows that Advent is the name of the period we spend preparing for Christmas. Traditionally, though, Advent is the fast before the feast. Now you have an excuse to avoid the awkward office party, although you’ll have to give up your tiny chocolate for breakfast too.
Seriously, though, Advent is traditionally a time of repentance and longing for the arrival of God’s Son. It was a central part of the Church calendar in medieval Europe – so much so that the Reformers protested against the Church in the 16th century by staging a sausage eat-in during a fast!
If you’re interested in using Advent to focus attention on awaiting Jesus, you might like to add a Jesse tree to your standard combination of Advent calendar and Christmas tree. Each day during advent an ornament is added to the tree, helping focus attention on the story of Christmas in an engaging way.
Looking forward to the festivities of Christmas day can also help us to act more like Jesus. You may have heard of the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ – Santa’s scout who sits on the shelf to spy on children and make sure they’re not being naughty. Well, how about trading Santa’s vindictive little helper for some ‘Kindness Elves’? The Kindness Elves spot good behaviour instead of bad, and occasionally suggest acts of kindness you might like to consider doing. If the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ is just trying to manage the chaos, the ‘Kindness Elves’ turn Advent into a season of learning to love our neighbour better.
It’s not just us who have to get ready for Christmas, though. Whether you go all out or prefer a fashionably minimalist front room, there’s no doubt you’ll be doing some decorating. If you’ve got little people in your life, this is a great opportunity to create memories and keepsakes. Even if you’re not particularly crafty, baubles decorated with glass pens or painted handprints are pretty straightforward.
And if you’re looking to take your Santa expectation to the next level, then why not put a twist on the idea of writing a letter to Santa? Instead of letting the letter simply disappear, shave a sparkler into the envelope with the letter. This way, when you light it, you can show bright-eyed young-uns their letter magically disappearing to the North Pole!
It’s the day by which you have to have finished your shopping. But if you’ve got time to spare before bedtime, then you could add a few finishing touches to make sure Father Christmas remembers to stop at your house.
This article was taken from the Christmas 2019 issue of iBelieve Magazine.
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