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Creating Advent Traditions

*Post inspiration; my little sister Monette, who will be celebrating her first Christmas this year with her first child.

Dear New Mum,

Advent is a beautiful time, a time of reflection and expectation as we await the celebration of His birth.
I know that you are eager to share in this celebration with your child, and yet you wonder where to begin. Perhaps you have little/no family traditions to draw upon, the concept of ‘The Domestic Church’ is totally new to you, or you have been reading about Advent traditions and feel totally overwhelmed. “Where do I start?” “I want to do it all!” “I want to do it right!” are perhaps some of the thoughts racing through your mind.

There is no correct way, there is no way you can ‘do it all’. How you celebrate Advent/Christmas will be a combination of many factors; they will include, what traditions you and your husband bring into your marriage, which ones are important to you/him? You need to go carefully here, tact and compromise are essential ingredients. And then you will want to forge new traditions, traditions that say ” We are a family, this is our family.”

I share with you a little of our journey in the hope that it may help you in some manner. I do not share to say, “You must do these traditions, you must do it this way” but to show how a family with little traditions can get to the point were they celebrate with several.

For the children tradition is simply something you do each year at that time. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it is just something that becomes an organic part of your family.

Both PC and I are blessed to have been raised in practicing Catholic families, a wonderful blessing indeed. Yet neither of us celebrated Advent outside of Church, certainly it was talked about at home, and excitement was built, but other than traditions involving the Christmas tree we came to our marriage with little background in traditions. (At least I did, PC can’t remember anything;) Our traditions have evolved since our marriage. This has benefits;) but the flip side is, for many years I was unsure just where to start, I was paralysed and lacked confidence.

When our oldest was a newborn I purchased a little book, Customs and Traditions of the Catholic Family, we read about setting up a crib for the Christ Child, for each good deed a straw is added, in this way the children work towards creating a soft bed, and developing virtues;). This was a new concept to me and profoundly affected my future thinking. Our first Christmas our baby was only 3 months old, it was easy enough to wrap a doll in ‘swaddling clothes’, from memory the manager was a cardboard box that year. Her first Christmas memories are of that tradition, it was many years before we were to add a Christmas tree to our traditions.

We started simple with just our crib, as the children grew older we slowly added a new tradition every year or two. If you are like me and feel overwhelmed easily, start slowly, wait until your new tradition ”fits like a glove’, until it becomes nearly effortless to do before you add another. Build slowly, year by year. As the children grow older you will notice a difference, they start to take over some of the planning and organising, this enables you to add more quickly if you choose.

It is also important to take into consideration the type of traditions you add. Our traditions reflect me, my comfort levels and talents, the type of person I am; they include simple prayers, lots of books, basic activities, colouring, a little cooking, simple crafts, occasional units (this is only recently). They don’t include involved handcrafts or elaborate baking or anything too complicated. I spent many years wishing (trying) to do these things until I came to the realisation that our traditions by necessity must reflect ‘Mamma’.

I encourage you to start this Advent with one tradition, don’t make it anything too elaborate, just something simple and enjoy!

May you have a Blessed Advent.

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12 Comments

  • Monette

    My dearest sister – I was full of emotion and gratitude after reading this very soft and lovely post. I often feel rather overwhelmed at all the wonderful things you do with your children and wonder how I can ever aspire to become a mother like you – this has helped me and given me encouragement like you wouldn't believe. Now I have some ideas and realise I can do something this Advent – even if the little man doesn't really know what is going on. It will be good for all three of us to commence our spiritual journey as a family this Christmas season.
    Much love, Mon xxx

  • ~ Judy ~

    Such a BEAUTIFUL post! God bless you and your sister as your journey through motherhood together now!
    I recall reading Catholic Customs and Traditions so many times!
    And that little graphic of the family you have in this post is SO VERY PRECIOUS…where ever did you find that Erin?!? Thanks for sharing!
    And a blessed upcoming Advent to you AND Monette!

  • Erin

    Why Gae, Thank you:)

    Mon, I suspected you were feeling overwhelmed which is why I wanted to say this. May you, M and A enjoy your first Advent together. Remember baby steps.
    Love you very much{{}}

    Judy, Thank you for your warm wishes.

    To answer you and Marilyn I found the image through a google search, please feel free to use it. I thought it so precious too.

  • deopatriaeamicis

    A great post! My mother created a home with many warm and happy Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany traditions. I remember feeling very disappointed my first "grown up" Christmas away from home because all the traditions I was used to weren't there and I couldn't pull them all off on my own! Over the next year I came to the realization that my Mom had started all those traditions very gradually when I was small. She didn't start out with a beautiful, organized, worshipful Advent full of special traditions either! We took a step back, and began developing our own family traditions much more slowly instead of trying to achieve the beautiful month my Mom always pulled together all at once.

  • Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely

    This is beautiful! Thank you! This Advent I'm committed to not doing too much, but I'd like what we do do to be meaningful and peaceful (w/o the stress of "we have to get this done to have a good Advent" that I have put on things in the past!)

  • Erin

    Thank you dear friends for your kind words:) Yes it is the spirit not the doing, start small and nothing wrong some years 'going back' small. We will be this year.

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