Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Wreath

I love to decorate for Christmas.

But I prefer to do it very slowly. 

The halls of most American yuletide-loving homes are fully decked by the close of Thanksgiving weekend, but that's when I'm just beginning my process. Armed with bits of paper, tree branches, fishing line, assorted garlands, and twinkle lights, I expect to spread the job out over the next few weeks.

Here, in day-to-day installments, is the story of how my house is getting ready for Christmas.

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After several decades of experience, you'd think that I would have it in my head that four Sundays before Christmas begins the celebration of Advent. 

After all, the schedule is eternally unchanging.

But every single year, I go through the same ritualized last-minute panic of frantically digging out my purple and pink votives - thank heavens I came up with the idea of making these colored candle-holders so I no longer need to rush off to the store for the properly hued candles - and setting up a last-minute Advent wreath.

This tradition is not one to be rushed. 

So after hastily assembling the basics the other day for our first Sunday candle-lighting ceremony, today I took the time to do it right.

For starters, I arranged the four candles - three purples (or blues) and one pink - on a heavy metal plate. Over the four Sundays of the Advent season, first one, then two, then three and ultimately all of the candles will be lit. The pink one falls on the third week. 

In the middle stands the Christmas candle, pure white, to be lit in honor of the newborn babe on Christmas morn. 

According to tradition, evergreen boughs encircle the candles, symbolizing eternal life. Rather than opting for a store-bought wreath, I traditionally improvise with green things growing in my yard. This native ground cover, commonly called kinnikinnick, is adorable for its sweetly rounded and richly colored deep green leaves, as well as the festive red berries. 

My cats love to curl up in this stuff for their outdoor summertime naps, but that's a different story.

To help make Advent come alive for children, it's fun to associate each week with a familiar character from the Christmas story. Although my little ones have all grown up into big ones, I still keep the tradition alive, though I change things around every year to keep them on their toes. 

This year, I decided to start Week One with some sheep, who were presumably grazing in their pastures outside Bethlehem long before the action of the story heats up.  They seem an appropriate symbol for expectant waiting, which is what this season is all about. 

So there is the start of my Advent wreath, version 2014. I wonder what it will look like next year. 

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Wanna see some of my other Advent wreath arrangements?


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