While everyone seems to be pulling Christmas ornaments out of storage, hanging wreaths, and stringing lights outside, I am following my own holiday tradition by resisting the impulse to join them.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my seasonal decoration of choice is a simple arrangement of evergreens and candles that will remain on the dining room table until just before Dec. 25.
I understand completely the desire to drive out the dark by infusing our surroundings with Christmas cheer as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are done. This year especially, when our region has had an early blast of winter weather well before the solstice, it has been tempting to try to shake off the specter of increasingly shorter days with a liberal application of light and color.
But I am choosing again to experience the stillness and darkness of the season leading up to the holiday by holding off on the big decorating and engaging in a time of quiet waiting.
In delaying some of the gratification of Christmas, I am following the practice observed by my mother and father, who likely learned it from their immigrant Eastern European parents. As a child anxious for Christmas and living in a world that jump-started the holiday earlier each year, I didn’t necessarily like that we put up our Christmas tree later than everyone else. As an adult, however, I have come to see the wisdom in waiting, difficult as that can be while the Christmas whirlwind swirls around me and threatens to sweep me into its vortex.
It helps in all this to have the support of a spiritual tradition that observes the season of Advent, which means an arrival or coming. During it, we light one candle, then two, then three, and finally four, on the Sundays leading up to Christmas as we mark the time and think about what – and whom – we await. Our scripture readings for this period talk about being on watch, something we know we cannot do if we are distracted and busy. They also urge us to do some interior house-cleaning, sweeping out the dust of old thought patterns and clearing the clutter of corrosive habits. Stopping to light a candle, pray, and reflect week by week, it seems, slows down the pre-Christmas rush, refreshes our spirits, and helps us turn our eyes away from the material aspects of the holiday, making room for its deeper meaning.
So, even as I buy gifts, write cards, bake, plan food for Christmas gatherings, and try to meet that last writing deadline before Dec. 25, I have a template to follow, a kind of rule that keeps calling me back to where I want to be, in and out of this festive season. It’s not that I don’t get rattled or overwhelmed by all the things that must be done in this busiest of times, but I have a visual reminder – my simple Advent wreath – that summons me to a place of peace and invites me to linger there to consider what is really important and what matters most.
Although I do enjoy the warmth, lights and music of the “Christmas Season”, the Advent wreath on our table ‘grounds’ me and helps me to focus. Lighting the candles, and saying the special Advent prayers at mealtime, helps our family to meditate on what is truly important.
Thank you for sharing:-) Enjoy the wonder and blessings of Advent and Christmas!
Thank you, Bernadette, for sharing your experience of being “grounded” by keeping an Advent wreath, lighting the candles, and saying the prayers. It is a beautiful tradition and I’m glad to know we are observing it together!
Thank you for the gentle and meaningful reflection about how you truly live out the Advent season through your quiet and meditative tradition, mindset and visual reminder. I certainly appreciate hearing how you “keep the quiet” as much as possible during a season that is quite the opposite for most of us.
I’m grateful for readers like you who so beautifully summarize what I’ve written. Thank you for reading and commenting!
A pleasant surprise this morning as I’m eating my breakfast, Judy. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words concerning this season. As usual, a wonderful article.
Thank you, Pearl, for allowing me to be part of your breakfast this morning and for your affirming message!
I especially enjoyed this post since it helps counterbalance the frenetic emphasis on shopping and the pursuit of the best deals. I’m enjoying a post-Thanksgiving lull for at least another week before getting into the Christmas spirit.
So nice to hear from you, Gail. I hope you enjoy that post-Thanksgiving lull. Perhaps you can stretch it out a bit as Christmas nears! Thank you for reading my post and for your comment.
It’s true, we do have to make an effort to hold some peace and quiet in our hearts amidst the chaos of December. I like your way of enjoying the holiday season, Judy.
Thanks, Kim, for recognizing that this business of quietkeeping requires effort, especially in December. May you have much peace in what so often is a noisy, unsettling season.
yes. just this morning i wrote that i keep forgetting christmas is coming. not totally true – i know its out there, but i like the waiting, the quiet.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I just realized this week that the time until Christmas is pretty short. Despite all there is to do, I’m trying to preserve the peace and focus on the waiting. It’s good to know others like you are savoring the quiet with me!