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Posts Tagged ‘decorations’

More than Christmas, more even than Easter, Advent is my very favorite liturgical season.  Part of my affection for Advent stems from my beautiful memories of Catholic school celebrations, but I also love it for how simple it is to incorporate the celebration of this special season into daily life.

When I was very young, opening the doors on our Advent calendar each December morning before school was my earliest introduction to the season of Advent.  This is a delightful way to harness children’s anticipation of Christmas to teach a lesson of joyful and patient waiting.   Over the years there have been times we had a calendar for every kid ready to go on December 1, and other times we weren’t on the ball managed to find the very last available calendar a week into Advent.  This year I’ve got two all ready to go:  one scriptural retelling of the Christmas story that I bought at Catholic Door and one chocolate from Trader Joe’s.

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Another treasured tradition in our home is the decorating of the Jesse Tree.  I loved doing this every Advent morning when I was in grade school, and have enjoyed incorporating it into our family celebration.  We got our first set of ornaments at our church’s annual Advent workshop (another long-time tradition), and they were all the more treasured because they were colored by little hands.  When we lost them to fire, I found free printables online–there are many to choose from.  Or you could buy this beautiful set my friend Sara has made.

Most years we manage to have an Advent wreath.  The biggest challenge is having the right color of candles. (Note to self: check Amazon tomorrow for candles)   The next challenge is that we don’t eat dinner together every night, so some nights the candles don’t get lit.  But I like seeing them there just the same.

Probably our most important Advent tradition is what we DON’T do.  While the secular world and mostly Protestant East Tennessee are happily partying long before the guest of honor has even arrived, in our home we continue to wait.  No, we don’t bah humbug all the Christmas events happening outside our home–we go to the downtown tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving as well as many other fun local events that we look forward to year after year.  But at home things are different.

Right after Thanksgiving I remove the gourds and other harvest items from the mantel and put out simple votive lights.  Along with our Advent wreath, these will be our only seasonal decorations until about a week before Christmas, and the tree will go up later than that.  I may not hold off on the Christmas music quite that long, but for at least half the month we will be listening to Advent playlists.

We don’t do all these things every year.  Sometimes we fail at Advent rather spectacularly!  (The one we are the very best at is not putting up the decorations early!)

What about you?  How do you celebrate Advent?  For more ideas, click the picture below to read other posts in the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network blog hop.

cwbn advent

 

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Before I even give my usual disclaimer let me tell you that I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crabpot tree!

Yes, I received said tree for free in exchange for my honest review of it here, in my capacity as a blogger for National Family Guide.  But it’s not even stretching the truth a little bit to tell you that I love this thing and I would like to own many more of them.

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First of all, the details the company wants me to share: Crab Pot Christmas Trees are remarkable, perfectly shaped trees that are pre-lit, fold flat for storage, sparkle from EVERY angle and are easily set up. What makes these holiday trees so unique and the MUST HAVE of the season for home decor? Crab Pot Christmas Trees are made from the very durable PVC Coated Crab Pot Wire which withstands all that Mother Nature throws at it.

You can see the company’s pictures and their explanatory video on my first post here.  But let me tell you about my personal experience.

This thing comes folded flat in a triangular box.  It takes literally two minutes to set up, tops.  We set it on our front porch for instant festiveness.  It came with anchors for putting it out in the yard if we had wanted to do that.  I was a little worried it might blow over in the wind but it never did even though we have had strong winds and rain, too, and our porch does get wet when it rains.

I have one complaint only which is that the cord is a little short.  It would be perfect for an in-floor or in-ground outlet but we had to attach ours to another strand of lights to reach the wall plug.  No big deal but just one detail that could be improved upon.

We love this tree and would buy more of them.  They are having a sale right now if you want to get your own–check out their site right here!

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The following was written in Advent 2011 and posted at my friend Lacy’s blog.  That first post-fire Christmas still seems very close and this time of year still is a little painful for me.

Traditions.  We all have them.  Children demand them—“We did that last year—we have to do it again!” I was fortunate to grow up in a home where holiday traditions were carved in stone.  For 25 years I knew exactly where I would be and when and with whom on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Life intervened—divorce, marriages, kids, estrangements, death.  Even as my husband, five children, and I began to develop our own traditions, we always had to be a little more flexible—never knowing for sure who would host the Christmas dinner, or where we would gather with extended family to open presents.

When my oldest was only a baby I started a treasured Christmas Eve tradition of giving each child a Christmas book to unwrap and have read to them before bedtime.  Our collection of Christmas classics grew and grew, leading to additional Christmas story evenings, reading to the kids’ classes at school, even a Christmas bedtime story party for my youngest two and their classmates for several years.

Other favorite traditions centered around the decorations we collected over twenty-two years of marriage:  the nutcrackers which covered the piano, part of a collection originally started for my husband by my grandmother and continued in later years by my mother; my less-planned collections of Santas, including my favorite of Santa kneeling by the manger;  the crèche that belonged to my grandmother and then to my mother, still in its original box from a long defunct department store.

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The kneeling Santa my sister gave me for Christmas 2011 to replace the one that was lost in the fire

Tragedy struck on Labor Day. Our house burned nearly to the ground.

The books are ashes. The piano is reduced to its metal innards. Here and there among the ruins you can spot a piece of some treasure, beyond repair. Fire doesn’t just destroy, it consumes.

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Fireman nutcracker in the ruins

Several years ago our Christmas tree fell over right after we decorated it, crushing several irreplaceable ornaments, many of them heirlooms from my husband’s German grandfather. The children and I stood around the fallen tree and cried. Every year since as we hung the remaining and replacement ornaments we have remembered and missed the ones that were broken.

This loss is so much more immense that we haven’t even shed tears over it. To lose everything you own is indescribable. What will it be like this year, putting out new decorations in an unfamiliar house?  How will it feel not to hang any ornaments commemorating “our first Christmas together”—we had FIVE! or any “Baby’s First Christmas” balls or handmade (childmade) decorations that their makers looked sheepish about but continued to hang all the same?

We believe in celebrating Advent before we move on to Christmas, so we haven’t had to deal with decorating yet. We cling to the traditions we can, so we started the season by attending the Advent Workshop sponsored by our church, where we made an Advent wreath that we will light each evening as we listen to a special reading for the day.  We’ve begun to attend the holiday celebrations—the downtown tree lighting, the Fantasy of Trees—that we have gone to every year since we’ve had children.  The Christmas Parade, the Living Christmas Tree, the Nativity Pageant, and the Walk through Bethlehem will provide continuity with other Christmases.

At home we will put up new decorations. We’ve already collected quite a few –some from a Christmas thrift store, some from Target, many from family and friends.  The question of whether to try to replace missing items or do something altogether new is something we still don’t have an answer for—and that applies to other lost belongings, not just Christmas decorations. So far, it seems we know what we need to replace when the time comes. The nutcrackers, for example—they seem to be important to everyone and we’ve already bought a few, including two big ones to guard the front door.

We don’t really need decorations to remind us of the true spirit of Christmas this year anyway—we are surrounded by the proof that there really are people who “honor Christmas in [their] hearts and try to keep it all the year.” If Christmas is about love and giving, we’ve been experiencing it since the day our house burned, when the offers of assistance started pouring in, shortly followed by donations, clothing, toys, gift cards, and enough furniture to completely fill our new home.

We are planning a holiday open house the weekend before Christmas, so that all our family, friends, and even strangers who shared what they had with us can come celebrate with us and see how their generosity helped us make it through the past few months. Who knows?  Maybe it will become a tradition.

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Our new house at Christmastime

I’m sharing this post at the #WorthRevisit linkup–please visit the hosts’ blogs here and here to see other great posts!

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That’s what they call some of the calendars in stores this time of year, and it irritates me.  Of course, Advent doesn’t always correspond exactly to the dates on the calendar, but it’s an Advent Calendar all the same!

I remember the first one I ever had–a Nativity scene with child-like characters.  It was pop-up and had movable parts.  I do have an incredible memory for everything that happened before I had kids but that’s not why I remember it–it’s because we saved it and continued to hang it year after year.

It looked a lot like this.

It looked a lot like this.

My sisters and I were largely responsible for decorating our house at Christmas time, and at some point we decided that our large dining room would look more festive with every single Advent Calendar we’d ever had displayed on one wall.  Although originally we’d get one and take turns opening the doors, eventually we started getting two or even three, so there were a lot of them.

I recall several Tasha Tudor versions (my mother’s favorite), one featuring Benji (remember that movie?), a Muppet one (“Hope Santy-Poo is good to you,” quoth Miss Piggy), the Legend of the Robin, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, the Nutcracker Suite, and many more.  We were so excited about our calendars, which we opened each morning before we left for school.  We looked forward with great anticipation to what the big secret would be under the 24th door.  This sometimes caused a problem when our cousins got the same calendar we had, because they were the kind of kids who peeked (we would NEVER EVER peek) and then they would tell us what was under that last door.

We had this one for sure.

We had this one for sure.

My first year at college, my roommate and I were determined to be festive.  We festooned our rooms with Christmas lights and put up a manger scene that I brought from home at Thanksgiving.  And since exams ran so late that we were at school until Advent was almost over, we wanted an Advent calendar.  Yes, my roommate and her family had this tradition as well, but with a twist–they always had chocolate calendars, which at that point I had never even heard of!  So we went out to Wisconsin Avenue and went shopping, and managed to find one.  I can’t remember now whether we continued that custom for the next three years.

Of course when my kids were old enough I started getting Advent Calendars for them.  There was no question of sharing–everyone had his own.  I haven’t always been successful with this tradition, though.  I never seemed to have it before Advent started, so we’d end up having to open several days at once when I finally got one.  Or there were years I waited so long that there was none to be had–or really hideous ones that I would normally have scorned.  And although I wanted to save them, either they weren’t as sturdy or my kids are rougher because some of them didn’t make it to the following year!

Sadly, at some point I found the old Advent Calendars from my childhood, which no one was displaying anymore, and decided they would make a nice addition to display with ours, which at that time we plastered all over the walls of our den.  So now ALL of them are gone.

I got the jump on this year by buying one on sale AFTER Christmas (because I forgot to get one until too late last year!).  But then Lorelei and William saw chocolate ones at the grocery store and wanted one of those.  So this year we have two, and they can alternate calendars each day.  It warms my heart to see their excitement and enjoyment and takes me back to a simpler time in my own life.

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