Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Advent week to week


Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.





Advent wreath candles on Christmas Eve

I've always loved the season of Advent, and the traditional celebration of the weeks leading up to Christmas as practiced by the Christian church. Growing up, we lit candles in our Advent wreath at every suppertime (and squabbled over who got to blow them out).1 We followed along every Sunday at church with the big Advent wreath, often being one of the families who volunteered to come up front and lead that week's lighting.2 This year, we've found a way to incorporate the celebration into our own family.

I know this is the Mindful Mama Carnival, but I have to give credit to a mindful papa. It's Sam who's spearheaded our celebrations and come up with what we've done week to week.

A little background: We started going to a new church just before Alrik's birth, and our attendance has been … spotty. Part of that is finding a good way for Mikko to worship with us (a perpetual problem). He hasn't wanted to go to the nursery or children's church (too scary), but he also hasn't wanted to sit quietly in the service (boooring). On the Sunday before Advent started, I had finally convinced him to stay in the nursery with Alrik and me, so the three of us missed the service. Sam, who was in the service, brought home an Advent guide that had been handed out. We fully intended to go to church the next two weeks … and missed both of them. Oops! Good thing we had a handy Advent guide.

boy mixing dough for Communion Jesus bread — home church


So, anyway, that first skipped week, the first Sunday of Advent, Sam baked some "Jesus bread"3 with Mikko (see above photo), then pulled some chairs into a circle near the electronic keyboard. I think the idea was that I would play the songs for that week, but the booklet didn't include the music, so we went a capella. We read some Bible passages, sang the suggested Advent hymn ("Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus") and children's song ("Jesus Loves Me") while shaking random percussive instruments (even Alrik, although he added an element of drool), and broke some Jesus bread together. It was like a little home church service, or what I like to think of as detention for skipping church.

The next week, we did it again.

boy playing ukulele — home church baby shaking and eating maracas — home church

boy breaking Communion Jesus bread — home church

baby eating Communion Jesus bread — home church


I'll tell you what I'm taking away from this Advent celebration. I realize so far this has been very religion-centric because that's how it looks in our house, but I'm hoping it can benefit those of you who have a different faith or none at all.

Separating Advent into weeks makes the wait more manageable for a child.

When we told Mikko there were 24 sleeps till Christmas (or whatever number we were on — I think he started asking immediately after Thanksgiving, actually), we might as well have told him there was a googol of sleeps left. "Why it take so yong time!" he lamented. (I will be so sad when he learns how to pronounce Ls, let me tell you.) Saying four weeks (although it's kind of five weeks this year, with Christmas on a Sunday — on which we will likely skip church again) is less unreasonable for a little kid.

Showing the weeks passing makes it more concrete for a child.

We're using 24-day Advent calendars as well, but there's something satisfying about four candles around an Advent wreath. Watching one candle lit per week and, if you're using real candles, seeing the earlier ones burn down lower than the later ones, takes the waiting out of the abstract and into the real.

Celebrating meaningfully puts the focus where your family wants it.

As far as Mikko's concerned, Christmas is about presents. I'm not even against that. But it's nice to inject some of our grown-up beliefs and values into the gift-fest, and celebrating mindfully each week allows us a chance to do that. We sing the songs that resonate with us. I read him the story of Jesus' birth from his children's story Bible. (It's divided into segments, and I have to admit to a thrill when he asked me to continue with the shepherds' tale.)

In the spirit of charitable giving, Sam picked two children's tags off a tree downtown for us to go shopping for them as a family. At first, Mikko was horrified that we were giving away the cool presents we bought for these low-income kids, and he could not wrap his mind around the idea that these were the only toys these kids might get this year, and that, no, giving one of his old toys instead was not a proper substitute, and anyway, which of his old toys would he agree to part with? He moaned about it the whole ride home from the store, although it was still a kind of joyful moaning, because we were joking with him about it. Then, all of a sudden, it clicked. The next day, Mikko brought the newly purchased gifts over to me along with a roll of wrapping paper. "Let's be Santas, Mama," he said, echoing what Sam had suggested we were doing. He had me seek out scissors and tape, and we wrapped those presents for the kids. I think my heart melted into a puddle of goo. Thinking unselfishly is really, really hard developmentally for little kids — it just is. Imagining these abstract "low-income kids with no presents" is very difficult. I was so pleased he made a switch in his own head and realized giving these toys away was the right thing to do.4


Whatever your family wants to emphasize in your holiday celebrations, you can bring it into your preparations: greening your home, connecting with neighbors, commemorating the seasonal changes, trying new winter outings — you can choose what would be meaningful to you, and figure out a way to divvy it up throughout the month.

I could envision crafting your holiday plans into a weekly celebration. Say you wanted to watch four holiday movies — you could pick a weekly movie night and watch one each week. You could do a little home worship service the way we do, in whatever way works for your family. You could pick four holiday-themed books for bedtime, one a week. You could think of four activities, like ice skating and a cookie decorating party, and schedule them one a week to help your kids count down the time till the big day.

Here's hoping that your marking down the weeks toward Christmas (or whatever holiday you may celebrate) ends up being not just a way to pass time but a meaningful celebration in itself!

How do you mark the weeks till Christmas or your chosen holiday?



1 Funny Advent memory: One day, my older brother was insisting he was going to blow them out and my mom intervened, "No, I'm going to," and the rest of us sort of figured it was one of those Mom moments of "You kids can't decide nicely? Then I'm gonna do it!" My brother was arguing frantically with her as she leaned in close to the candle, opened her mouth, and … let out a huge belch. It was a Mom classic.
2 I am a dork from a family of dorks. I am now raising the next generation. Dork power!
3 So called because it's like the bread they serve for Communion in church.
4 The next day he told us we needed to stop by a pet store to buy reindeer for our sleigh — he was going to do Santa right.





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17 comments:

Patti said...

This was so fun to read! Sometimes when I think 'mindfulness' I get all theoretical and I imagine meditation and mantras, but it really is just as you describe: setting aside time for meaningful connection and fun times together. It sure sounds like fun to be a kid at your house.
Joy to you and yours!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

This is precious. I need to be more mindful about celebrating each day before Christmas with my kids.

Steph

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Patti: Ha, that's funny, because I hadn't participated in the Mindful Mama Carnival before for that reason — I figured I wasn't a deep enough thinker or something. ;) Come to think of it, hope this post fits in all right with the others… Glad you enjoyed it!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Adventures In Babywearing: Thanks so much, Steph! It sure does go by fast otherwise.

I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Great idea to divide it up into weeks!

Baby is loving opening up the doors on 2 Advent calendars and changing wooden numbered blocks on a reindeer to count down each day.

kelly @kellynaturally said...

This is kinda off topic (and out of my league because I've never brought either of my children to a church - except for a wedding) but while reading this, I remembered that I'd just seen a product (can't even remember exactly WHERE now - wow, this comment is turning out to be SOOOOO awesome, sorry Lauren, LOL!) - naturally colored beeswax sticks kinda like wikistix, but free-form - like small rectangles of clay - but much more pliable and all-natural.... ANYHOW, I thought they were the coolest thing, and I put them in my shopping cart online somewhere in the interwebs (which then I promptly forgot after closing the window & tending to the kids, I'm sure). But, they would be safe for Mikko to play with AND okay if baby chewed on it.... and the whole darn point of my whole post was that in the REVIEWS section of this product, one Mom said how totally awesome they were at church - kept her kids quietly busy the WHOLE TIME & didn't make a mess. :) Whew.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@I Thought I Knew Mama: Nice! I love the idea of the reindeer one — sounds so cute!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@kelly @kellynaturally: Your comments about your comment cracked me up! I think I know what you're talking about — I saw something like that in the local toy store we were at yesterday (lots of natural toys). I have to go back for some baby gifts so I'll check them out, because that's a great idea. Sam always tries to choose quiet toys for Mikko to play with during church and always fails majorly. ;) Poor guy, it's not his fault — he thought, for instance, a sticker book would be nice and calm. But Mikko has to comment on every item on the page and ask for help putting on each sticker. So, no.

Tat said...

Your photos are fantastic and it's so much fun to see your family making something together and loving it - this is what Christmas is about to us.

Slowing it down and having something to look forward to every week has been something we've done, too, even though not consciously so.I didn't even see it as a way for children to appreciate the celebrations more until I read your post!

kelly @kellynaturally said...

LOL! okay, I'm BAAAAAACK! I found what I was talking about!! Here you go! :) http://www.magiccabin.com/Stockmar-Modeling-Beeswax_p193.html It's expensive, but maybe...

MaMammalia said...

I love how you've taken what's important to your family home with you from church. It sounds lovely! As always, I totally adore the pictures, too!

Luschka said...

This post made me feel all Christmassy. *Sigh* And Mikko is a sweety :)

I agree with what Patti said. You've given me so many ideas, and while we're only ten days away, I might still finish off that advent calender this year after all!
(P.S. Have you changed your settings? I can't sign in with my name and blog url, just a google password?)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Tat: So very true. I'm glad you were able to see the ways you're already helping your kids slow down and enjoy!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@kelly @kellynaturally: So cool! I totally want. Sounds like they're reusable and all, so maybe the price isn't so bad. Leave it to a toy person to find us a good toy, right? ;)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Luschka: I hope you do finish it! I keep having grand Christmas crafty ideas that I really should just start in January since otherwise they never get done. :)

You're not imagining things about the commenting. I got ~20 spam comments in a 10-minute span one evening so had to take "Anonymous + Name/URL" off as an option (in Blogger, unfortunately the options are tied together). You can still log in with OpenID, though, if that works for you. Perhaps through WordPress? I'm considering trying again to offer the other option but need to time it when I'm around to monitor.

Free Range Mama said...

Great blog post! We attend church with 3 young children and at times we didn't get a whole lot out of the service... :)

I love how you are teaching your children about giving, and that there are needy people out there who we can help. Children live what they learn.

Thanks for sharing! And Merry Christmas.

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

Thank you for participating in the Mindful Mama Carnival. Doubly so now that I've read the comments.

Your post typifies why I came up with the carnival (on a whim, by the way, and totally convinced no one would even participate.) Every time I speak with someone about mindfulness, I hear variations of how it's something you do after a lot of work and deep, deep philosophical thinking.

That's awesome if you can withdraw from the world and dedicate your life to mindful service. But, for the rest of us, it means finding a sense of gratitude and calm in the midst of the chaos.

All of the time I dedicate "on the mat" is for the single purpose of taking the skills I learn "off the mat." It's a ritual that gives me access to these parts of mindfulness.

Ritual is a huge part of connecting with ourselves and those we love. And as you discuss, ritual and practices can be anything that works for your family. It's intrinsic in our humanness to create ritual and celebration to remember what is important to us-to find peace, connection, and calm.

Mindfulness is a deliberate taking of a moment, holding it up in front of your eyes, and drinking it in with all of your senses. It's the ritual in the small things we do every day. It's the quiet between our breaths that lets us remember that we are so much more than the hustle and bustle of the season would have us feel.

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