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Does Advent Have a Meaning for Secular Families?As my long time readers know, we are a non-religious family. I was raised atheist, my husband was raised in a liberal Lutheran family and stopped practicing when he came over to the United States. But it doesn’t mean that we are giving up on all the fun and traditions associated with Christmas. As a child, I remember anxiously awaiting a New Year Day, since Christmas was not celebrated when I was growing up. My husband had a very traditional German Christmas every step of the way, and he was very determined to spread the magic of Christmas season in our house, of excitement and anticipation, of special activities leading to Christmas Day and… of sweets. Ever since we met, he made me a special Advent calendar with sweets, and Advent calendars sort of exploded in the house since daughter was old enough to understand that something special is about to happen.
Do we talk about Christ during Christmas season? Yes. We think that Christianity is an important driver of our culture, and we certainly want our daughter to know about “the reason for the season”. We read a wide variety of Christmas books, both religious and non-religious. In fact, one of our cherished Christmas traditions is based on a religious Christmas book that we bought when daughter was 2 years old.
Advent StorybookAdvent Storybook by Antonie Schneider is a German Advent book translated from German by Marissa Miller. Every day of December Mama Bear tells her little son stories about the perilous journey that Benjamin Bear undertakes while following a magic star to Bethlehem. Every short story (less than a page long) ends with a one sentence explanation connecting the story with God’s laws. I thought that the book was somewhat too religious for our family, but my young preschooler loved it, and every year she asks to read it again. She already reminded me about a “Bear book” and looking forward to its reappearance this Christmas season.
Advent CalendarsAs I mention, we usually have an explosion of Advent calendars in the house. For several years we went with basic “chocolate in colorful tissue paper” calendar that took about an hour of preparation.
Last year my husband invested time and energy in sewing up felt calendar that has drawstring pouches. Our calendars usually have chocolate on every day, plus a small surprise on Sundays leading to Christmas.
In addition, Smarty’s German grandfather sends her a store-bought chocolate Advent calendar that hangs on the wall, and her German uncle and aunt traditionally give her Playmobil calendars. This was the one that she is still playing with 2 years after its arrival:
As you can see, there is no lack of excitement in the house on December mornings, when new treasures are discovered and inspected:
Advent JournalLast year we also introduced a new Christmas tradition – an Advent Journal. Every day Smarty and I wrote stories and lists in this journal. It made a great memory of the season. Since the journal still has space, I hope to pull it out again this year.
Activity Advent CalendarsI admit that I love the idea of Activity Advent calendars, except the Elf on the Shelf – I am firmly in the “creepy” camp on that. In reality, I was never able to complete an activity Advent successfully – not with the craziness of school plays, Christmas shopping, and other distractions of the season. But my blogging friend MaryAnne from Mama Smiles: Joyful Parenting shared a simple idea for a book Advent calendar that I think we might try this year. I might have to go to the library sale first and get a few more Christmas books :)
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