Sam loves setting up the Christmas village my mother-in-law gave me. . .
Joshua loves trimming the tree as a family. . .
John loves the Advent Book we’ve read together each December evening since the boys were tiny. . .
I’ll begin this post with an apology. If anyone who reads this feels I’m skipping right over Thanksgiving, and furthermore that kind reader will be roasting a turkey for twenty-five in just shy of three weeks and is up to her ears in stuffing recipes or a guest bathroom remodel, I’m sorry. This week I’m continuing to consider what I’m feeding, with a focus on the Christmas to come.
The reason is three-fold. First, I love Thanksgiving, partly because I think that even in our culture, we haven’t managed to mess it up too much yet. Family and feast can have their pitfalls, but we have largely left commerce out of the equation. Second, I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I’m not asking the to-brine-or-not question or mapping out a make ahead battle plan.
Finally, I know for me, for this planner-mom, the ironic key to living grateful in the now is to spend some focused time thinking about the weeks of December and Christmas itself. If our family tucks in moments here and there of aligning our holiday expectations with heart, time and financial reality, we can be more present in these weeks of gratitude and grace.
This post began with my own family’s answers when I asked them what the most important activity or tradition of the Christmas season was to each of them. What was most interesting was there was no hemming and hawing. Instant answers. It was delightful that all three activities happened to be home-centered and free. To add my own answer, I love the trimming of the Advent wreath each year. The first autumn John and I were married, we were living in Richmond, Virginia. We went to a huge arts and crafts fair, and came home with a pottery Advent wreath– four candle holders connected to a narrow circular basin, with a separate candle holder in the center for the Christ candle. On the first Sunday of Advent, I fill the basin with cool water and add holly and cypress and boxwood from our yard, and the candles. Together we add prayer and flame. My favorite thing. . .
So asking that question and really listening to the answers gives us a place to begin. These are the first things we’ll say yes to, the things we’ll celebrate around. Sam will get to shake out the white tablecloth that makes Carolina “snow” for the Christmas village and choose where we place the church. We’ll make a whole afternoon or evening of trimming the tree, with finger food and Christmas music and let Joshua plan the menu. We’ll watch the clock on December evenings to leave plenty of time to let the Story of Stories unfold as we open each door in The Advent Book.
And the Sunday after Thanksgiving I’ll be out with clippers and a basket, looking for trimmings for the symbol of our waiting, of our eager hearts.
So in these weeks, we ask, and listen, and allow space to be surprised by the answers. And in beginning with these yeses, we have the joy and humility of beginning to plan a celebration that is a family creation instead of a one-woman show.
So early in November I’m thankful to have a map of yeses to navigate the weeks to come.