Our little family doesn’t have many traditions, I must admit. An almond croissant as a birthday treat, the goodnight words we say to each bedtime, sitting together at the table to enjoy our evening meal and day’s stories, are some of the small ways we mark our days. At this time of year we are more likely to observe Solstice than give much heed to the hooplah that this season can bring. Keeping Christmas day a simple one to share with family. Or in the case of last year enjoy a wonderful camping holiday, sharing the holiday spirit with other’s in a beautiful part of the Australian Coast. This time of year is a little different in Australia to the rest of the world.
Advent is not a ritual I observed prior to becoming a parent, though through my son attending a (Waldorf) Steiner School, it has entered our consciousness along with other celebrations that we would not normally observe. I do appreciate traditions that mark the passing of time and the cyclical nature of our lives and our natural world. So, with some mixed feelings I have had an advent calender for my son each year since he was old enough to open a little window. The Steiner take on the Advent is one that sits well with me, as described so well here in a quote I found over here in the Parenting Passageway, that well describes an approach to Advent that resonates with me.
Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year. This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:
The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”
From this, many Waldorf schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week, all waiting for the birth of Christ. This can be a lovely idea, and certainly one that has been fairly well-fleshed out within the Waldorf community with many resources available on the Internet.
This creates an opportunity to make an advent calender with items representing each light of Advent. For example in the first week small items made of mineral can be included in the calender; small crystals, metal objects, seashells and bones, the second week would include plants – fruits, herbs, flowers. The third week is represented by beasts, so animals such as small treats in animal shapes, pet treats for our own animals, images and felt toy representations of animals. The final week represents humankind and the light, representations to include could be gingerbread people, star anise, yellow items, a small candle to light.
I have tried out many ideas for homemade advent, and the one that has stuck for the past few years is to make 24 small bundles, wrapped in a rainbow of tissue paper and all tied with a single string. It makes a beautiful, festive garland, with a treasure inside for my son to find each day, tearing the bottom to retrieve the gift and leaving the tissue in place to maintain the bright rainbow. In some years I have made them with a collection of tiny treasures representing advent as suggested above. In other years I admit that I have merely placed a delicious chocolate in each little parcel….and there was the year I indulged him in a star wars lego Advent calender! Either way, my son certainly enjoys this ritual. Only a few days to go, it’s time for me to start gathering items for this year.
wishing you a lovely festive season.