By Lisa Davidson
For many, the time before Christmas consists of hectic shopping trips, annoying travel on overcrowded streets, and awkward meetings with distant relatives. Malls extend their opening hours, the lines for pictures with Santa are unbearable, and sugary treats are stacked up high on the shelves in the groceries.
Like many (or most) other holidays in the US, Christmas seems once again to be about purchasing gifts and food to exchange and share on one single day: December 25th. Because it is all over after that. Many are still shopping on Christmas Eve and are back at work on Boxing Day.
But the time before Christmas is so much more than that. Advent – a time to remember, recharge and reminisce. A time for children to live in a magical world of hoping and wondering, believing and celebrating.
I grew up in a family with handmade advent wreaths, smelling of fresh fir branches, with four candles on top. Each candle symbolizes the passage of one of the four advent weeks before Christmas. And I still remember the excitement of lighting an additional candle each Sunday. Another tradition was our advent calendar. Each little bag filled with a small chocolate surprise to make the wait for Christmas even more wonderful.
This German tradition reaches back into the 19th century, when Lutheran families decided to celebrate Advent with putting 24 different pictures on the wall. The tradition evolved over time, taking different forms and turns. More traditional Advent calendars usually feature the manger scene or show Saint Nicholas. A more modern approach features Santa Claus and his reindeer. Some contain 24 picture windows, decorated with glitter and delicate drawings. Others are handmade, originally designed by parents, relatives or friends to make someone special happy during the pre-Christmas period.
It doesn’t really matter what the advent calendar contains – all that matters is the joy it gives each day when someone opens one of the little doors, appreciating what surprise is hidden behind.
Advent shouldn’t be about rushing around and being stressed out. It should be a time to slow down, to be able to take a minute to hold still in the light of the advent wreath, or to think of the people we care about. It should give us the opportunity to remember past Christmas celebrations, forgotten family members and old, cherished friends. That’s what makes Christmas special.
Lisa Davidson, mother of two energetic and drama-prone little divas, aged 2 and 4, studied Journalism in Munich and spent most of her time before having children writing for various publishers and travelling the world. After multiple moves inside and outside Germany, her latest pit-stop brought her to Texas, far from home but not from her heart. Now the days contain less scribbling in journals, but instead accomplishing tricky toddler crafts from Pinterest, less strolling in high heels through European metropolises, but instead trying to connect her daughters to her own culture. She is a busy mommy who knows how hard it can be to be far away from old friends and family, and she wants to help fellow moms to stay always true to themselves – no matter how stressful life can be or where their journey might take them.