Today (03 December) is the first Sunday of Advent.
My family had no traditions based on church-going; my Dad was raised Mennonite (born in Russia, emigrating at age 1) and my Mum was raised, like most Norwegians, in the Lutheran church. But together they did not belong to any church, although they let us know early that we could choose any religion we wished and they wouldn’t mind, so long, said my Dad, as we didn’t try to convert them. Fair enough.
Anyway, the upshot is that I personally love the old traditions and yet have rarely practised them at home. So for now I enjoy reading about the traditions others follow and gathering ideas for the day when I am settled again.
As to Advent:
I have been doing some reading on the traditions of Mennonites and Lutherans. Traditions and beliefs may differ, but I think we can find ways to bring Light and Love, Peace, Hope and Joy into these darkest days of winter (well, here in the northern hemisphere, they are, anyway) and also into these dark days in the world in general.
To add to the Peace in the world, I begin with myself, as I often find it easy to move from calmness to agitation, from positivity to negativity. I am finding ways to remind myself of my ultimate goal, which means abandoning any negative path I may step onto and returning to a positive path. Rhonda Byrne, who wrote The Secret and other books, says we don’t need to be positive 100% of the time; 51% will begin to tip the balance. So when I catch myself thinking negative thoughts (many times a day, still), I remind myself “51%” and that usually does the trick.
When dealing with a person who is unrelentingly negative much of the time, I find it helpful to remember that this is often a way of protecting oneself from hurt and disappointment. Then I do my best to accept them as they are and not get drawn into the negativity. It is quite a balancing act at times!
I don’t know about you, but I find symbols rich with meaning. They evoke days long past, not only in my own life, but through my family’s and the world’s long history.
Symbols that are meaningful to me include candles, greenery, shapes such as hearts and stars, angels and red berries. Colours, too, can bring us feelings of Peace and Joy. Above are some examples of Scandinavian Wheat Weaving, a skill I hope to master one day. I’ve done a little some years ago and really enjoyed it. I like the circle with the greenery, too; If I were making this I’d use a small glass jar to hold a candle and wire that to the circle. If you try this, do be careful that the candle doesn’t touch the sides of the jar. I prefer not to leave candles unattended in a room, even if I’m only going out for a few minutes.
Something I did for a few years before I moved to Edmonton was to make a sort of ‘curtain’ across he large front window of the places where I was living. I had collected some shiny red mini-apples because I love their colour. I had previously placed them in an old wooden bowl I have, but one year I had an inspiration: I tied a long piece of red yarn to each one and suspended them from the curtain rod. I hung them at different heights the first year; I just varied the heights for interest, after that I hung them so that they formed an arch. It was very simple and quite pretty.
My Auntie in Princeton used to make crocheted snowflakes (that look like very fancy stars) from cotton thread (sizes 10 – 30). ONce made, they are starched and pinned flat to dry. I have a couple of books with patterns and plan to carry on her tradition. She would make one of each pattern in her book, then give away sets. Before I begin giving them away, though, I plan to make enough for myself so that I can hang them in a front window. The apples may be hung somewhere else! [unless the snowflakes find their home on my tree 🙂 ]
I have also formed candle holders from crumpled tinfoil, setting a small red votive candle in the middle of each and lining them up on top of a short bookcase with greenery from the bottom branches of the Christmas tree tucked around them. The silver foil reflected the light of the candles and looked nicer than one might expect. And, for me, candlelight is always symbolic of Inner Light.
Make a Simple Cinnamon Ornament:
This is a great activity to do with children of any age and ability!
Simple and not too expensive ornaments to make are Cinnamon Hearts. I buy a large bag or more (you will need at least 2 cups) of ground cinnamon at an Asian market, where it is much cheaper. Dollar stores are a good source, too, sometimes. You will need a can or two of inexpensive unsweetened applesauce, too (again, at least two cups worth). Put two cups of applesauce in a bowl and add two cups of ground cinnamon to make a medium soft dough. Add more applesauce if the dough is too dry and more cinnamon if it is too wet. It should be similar to cookie dough. For variety, you can divide the dough and add other spices to each portion: ginger, cloves, allspice, mace, etc. I would use a tablespoonful first and then adjust according to how it smells to me. This spicier dough would be perfect for gingerbread boys and girls.
You can mould this into shapes if you like, but keep them fairly thin (about 1/4 inch) so that they will dry properly. I find it simplest to roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick, dusting a little extra cinnamon on the counter and on the rolling pin so nothing sticks. Then use small cookie cutters to cut out your favourite shapes; hearts, stars, etc. Gather the scraps together, knead them briefly, then roll out again and cut more ornaments. Repeat until it’s all used up! Then use a toothpick or a drinking straw to create holes that can be used to hang the ornaments later. Depending on the size of your cutters, you should get at least two dozen ornaments.
If you have time, you can place them on baking sheets or anything that will hold them safely and allow them to dry at room temperature. This works best in a fairly dry atmosphere. Or do what I do and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment and set your shapes on it. They can be close, but it’s best not to let them touch each other. Put them in a very slow oven (either set it at a very low temperature or pre-heat, then turn the oven off) and leave the sheets in so the ornaments will dry out. If you use the latter method and the shapes are not dry enough when you check them, repeat the process.
Once dry, thread a piece of yarn or ribbon through the hole and hang them on your tree, add them to a wreath or place them in a bowl in your entryway. they are lovely added to a banner made by tying several lengths of raffia together (use enough strands to provide the necessary strength, then join the bunches with simple knots), then hanging ornaments from it. Faery lights are nice to use, too, if you have an outlet close by.
Add one to the ribbon when you wrap a gift (turn them into gift tags by writing the recipient’s name and the year on each with a glitter pen or fabric paint. The puffy paint works well, but choose a colour that looks good with the red-brown of the ornaments) or they can be offered to guests to take home as they leave. But for that, have some tissue ready to wrap them and perhaps a bit of cardboard (pieces of old cereal box sides work well) for support.
You can also hang some from a chandelier if you have one, or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle and cut the hook off. Tie greenery all around it, add some ribbon or yarn bows and hang the cinnamon ornaments (I like stars for this) at intervals. This is a nice touch for an entry or a hallway.
These keep indefinitely if wrapped carefully for storage and handled with care.
[The images for this post are ones I found on the internet, as I don’t have any of my own here.]
Well, that’s it for today, my friends. It’s nearly midnight but it IS still the 3rd! See you tomorrow! I wish you all Inner Peace through the coming days.
I have posted a link to this song before, but I think it fits my thoughts today and is worth remembering: