Christmas Traditions #2 – Fabric Advent Calendar
11 years ago (!!), I was an au pair girl in Germany. I had finished high school in June 2003 and was spending a sabbatical year abroad to improve my knowledge of German and English before going to university. What amazed me in Germany (at least in the region of Swabia) was their love for traditions. I particularly remember Martinstag (Saint Martin’s Day) on the 11th November, the Martinszug (children carrying lanterns in the night) and the play on the market place with a real horse (!), Nikolaustag (Saint Nicholas Day) with children chanting his name until he arrived on the market place, the famous german Christmas markets, the Kinderpunsch that Sabine (the mother in my host family) prepared each time the weather was cold, the Weihnachtspyramide (kind of a wooden carousel with several levels depicting the nativity; the spinning motion of the pyramid is achieved with the help of candles whose rising heat spins a propeller above). In short I discovered Advent time.
Of course I knew Advent. I had been told at school. In Belgium Advent is most of the time associated to the Roman Catholic Church and had never been mentioned in the Evangelical congregation I grew up in. My family is not a big fan of rituals and Advent was therefore no more than a Catholic tradition. In German I discovered the Adventskranz (Advent wreath) and I immediatly loved it. In the evening Stefan, Sabine and their three kids gathered on the sofa in the living room, lit one, two, three, four candles (depending on the week) of the wreath (hanged on the ceiling) and read Bible stories. When I came back in Belgium in 2004 I started to attend a small Protestant congregation (where Yann and I served from 2008 to 2011) and its traditional liturgy counted the Advent wreath. You can be sure that as soon as the 15th November, I took it out of the cupboard, replaced the candles and did everything needed to have it ready for the first Sunday of Advent!
Another thing that caught my eye in my host family was their Advent calendar. Until then I had only known calendars containing chocolates and now I discovered a huge fabric calendar with pockets Sabine daily put small gifts for her children in. Since then I have been dreaming of such a calendar. I have looked for it but to no avail. I designed it, bought fabric in France in December 2012, cut and basted it in December 2013 and completed it in November 2014!
Tradition #2 – a personalized Advent calendar
I sewed a large fabric square which I sewed 4 times 6 pockets (24 days before Christmas Day) on. I was not sure how to mark the dates. I finally chose to glue small fabric elements (1 for 1st December, 2 for 2d,… until the 24th December). I thought it was a good idea to teach our children how to count. Days are all mixed up because I thought it was fun. I added a wooden stick on the upper part so that I could hang the calendar on the wall.
Surfing on the Internet I found loads of ideas to fill the pockets. I have planned a daily challenge that we can complete as a family (or at least with the kids). There will also be Jesse Tree ornaments (another tradition I’ll write about in a next article) for each day. And certainly small gifts here and there.
Our activities for Avent time 2014 :
- Lit the first candle of Advent
- Prepare the thirteen desserts (a Christmas tradition from the French region of Provence I’ll write about in a next article)
- Make a popcorn garland
- Find misletoe and hang it in the house
- Make pomander balls
- Go to a Christmas market and/or go see the Christmas lights in your town
- Buy/make Christmas gifts
- Lit the second candle of Advent
- Read a Christmas story/watch a Christmas movie
- Donate to charity
- Make a huge paper garland
- Bake Christmas cookies
- Make Christmas cards/decorations
- Make Christmas “perfume”
- Lit the third candle of Advent
- Hang seed balls for birds in the yard
- Write Christmas cards to the neighbors and mail them
- Bake a cake (one of our friends celebrates his 80th birthday)
- Go on a walk as a family
- Take a family picture
- Lit the fourth candle of Advent
- Tell the Christmas story with toys (we will be in the car, driving from Belgium to the South of France)
- Drink hot cocoa
- Dance, listen to and learn Christmas songs
And you? Is Advent a special time?