Confession time (and if you know me, you’ll not be surprised at all): I am not a hugely sentimental person – not within the context of seasonal decorations and past-times, anyway. For example, I have never had a pumpkin spice latte, and I steer clear of the home decorating aisles for as long as I possibly can. As I fall directly between Generation X and Millennial lines, I tend to have an overabundance of cynicism around any holiday that focuses on frivolous decorations and anything more that consumer culture is trying to sell me. Mostly though, I chalk it up to being too lazy to deal with all the clean up. While my children want to decorate in extravagant (and pretty gaudy) ways for every season, I tend to push back and put off decorating. I tend to focus on the fact that whatever they do to our home in order to make it seasonally acceptable, will stay throughout every season unless I take the initiative to clean it up or kick them to do so. (my son successfully kept a small Christmas Tree up in his room all year – really, it hasn’t moved since last Christmas)
This year, I thought I had successfully subverted the Halloween decorating plans until I drove into our driveway the day before Halloween and was greeted with paper skulls and bats taped all over the garage door, spider webs (generously shared by the neighbor friends) in the trees and on the front step, and paper ghosts hanging from the front gutters. The youngest daughter was extremely happy with herself. Kids – 1, Mom – 0
Christmas decorations are hard for me. I attach cynical ideas to the purchasing of decorations or crafting of them because the cost and effort feel ultimately unproductive. Once they’re up, I do admit to loving the glow of the twinkle lights and the warmth that seems to emanate from every little detail. My own want of traditions that are meaningful strain sharply from something that often feels overly market driven rather than any real tradition driven. Driving home from an extremely fun and productive day of decorating our church this year though, I wondered out loud at why I am so opposed to decorating. Scott commented that it really all started when the kids were little – that I sort of hate unnecessary messes and clutter and generally think of anything taking up surface space in an unproductive way as such a thing. This dislike is even more incomprehensible when I love the look of decorations everywhere else – In every other home or place but my own.
So, this year I’m trying to slowly turn myself toward the frivolous but fun traditions just as much as the ones I truly love.
Therefore, the stockings and twinkle lights have been hung in the living room
I’ve set up my Grandma’s Precious moments Nativity Scene – and I’m trying to remember that it’s not just about what I prefer, but that my kids should love seasons in their own ways, too.
I do hope to pass some of the other traditions along though. I love traditions that are surrounded with words – with poetry and letters – with songs – with simple dances – with games – with people and friends.
Each year, as Advent begins, I regain a little of myself through these types of traditions. I get ahold of the frayed edges and start tying them all back together. Around our house, we sing songs of waiting and of hope – pretty much constantly. Tonight, though, we jumped back into one of my favorite traditions.
For the past 3 years or so, after dinner – still at the table – during every night of Advent, my family reads through Christina Rossetti’s “Advent” poem. Each of us taking a stanza and passing the poem around the table. Generally, there are tears from about the 3rd stanza on – tears of hope IN waiting. Hope for the world as it is and as it was and as it will be. Tonight, as I reminded the family of this traditions – the response was hilarious. There were “No! not the crying!”, “May I be excused? I need to clean my room.”, and “Alright, but I get to go first.” – and then when it was done, Scott and I were congratulated on the least amount of tears they’d ever seen.
I love this pause in a day. I love the words that reference so many stories – crafted in a way that tells a story of hope with a backdrop of waiting. A story of longing for peace, for light, in the midst of the long hours of the night – a story to which each one of us can connect (Even when stretching through the need to clean one’s room).
So, as I stretch into embracing the decorations, I thought I’d share a little of the tradition of Advent season that I challenge my kids to stretch into as well – and because it’s over one hundred years old, I’m pretty sure I’m clear to copy it for you here:
Advent by Christina Rossetti
This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year,
And still their flame is strong.
“Watchman, what of the night?” we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
“No speaking signs are in the sky,”
Is still the watchman’s word.
The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
“Watchman, what of the night?” but still
His answer sounds the same:
“No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.”
One to another hear them speak,
The patient virgins wise:
“Surely He is not far to seek,”–
“All night we watch and rise.”
“The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.”
One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
“Friends watch us who have touched the goal.”
“They urge us, come up higher.”
“With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.” “They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.”
There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh, for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us,–we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.
Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight,
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, “Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.”
Cheers my friends. In all of your traditions, I wish you hope and peace.