Why do we celebrate? Why do we have traditions around things like birthdays and holidays and seasons and the Church calendar? These are not commanded celebrations or traditions, to be sure, but they are gifts to myself and my family and those whom we embrace in hospitality. God loves to show abundance in His kindness and mercy in His remembering. As image-bearers, I think it is particularly beautiful when we seek to copy Him in this abundance and mercy. If I have an opportunity to be kind, let me be showing it with abandon. If I have an opportunity to remember, let me do so with an active mercy to all around me.
As the wife and mother in my household, I get to set the tenor and timbre of most of the family traditions and celebrations we pursue (especially those we ultimately keep), and this is a huge privilege as well as honor. I want to do it with joy! But does that mean that, in order for it to bear good fruit, I also need to have a facade of happy whimsy or only put my hands to this work when I am feeling full of glee? No indeed.
As the tradition-maker, tradition-leader, tradition-keeper in our home, I get to set my hands, my mind, my heart, and my attitude toward the principle of joy in these things whether it comes naturally or not. I won’t seek to cultivate traditions that nobody likes or enjoys or remembers fondly, nor will I seek to be legalistic about traditions. Birthdays happen whether we have a cake, blow out a candle after singing a certain song, give gifts, or not. The only thing necessary for a birthday is to have a birth followed by a passage of time. My husband turns 38 today regardless of whether or not I made him a cake and gave him a gift. But I did those things because I love him, and we happen to keep those traditions in our family… I knew it would bless him if I kept those habits.
And with other traditions, this is likewise true. Tomorrow is the first day of Advent (which begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas), although some of our Advent traditions won’t start until two days later, because some things just do 25 days in December. Both work just fine for me, and help me lead in gently. I can wade in each year without just throwing myself off an unseen sandbar. Advent does not necessitate nor imply drowning.
The Church calendar still begins the new year tomorrow, whether I mark it or not. There will be a candle lit in its honor at our morning worship service whether we light one at home or not. Christmas is still coming! We can’t keep it back! Even the world around us knows that they can’t stop it from coming. Just ask the Grinch. The Light has come: darkness has been shattered.
But in my love of Advent, I have gathered up some traditions through my years as the keeper at home. Keeping in line with our family’s deepest loves and culture-cornerstones, our traditions with Advent center primarily around books, music, food, and hospitality.
I am going to share some of our Advent traditions here this year. From recipes to poetry to devotional stories artwork, it is good to Mark what one’s own pursuits are as well as to learn from those of others around you.
One of our Advent traditions that starts today for us is our weekly Advent Dinner. On Saturday night, we kick off the next week of Advent with an upscaled dinner complete with chocolates, wine, readings & singing, and a group gift for the children. My parents live next door, so they have an open invitation to join us, and sometimes my grandma comes as well. It is full of candles and sparkle and my great-grandma’s china dishes. Then on Sundays after corporate worship at church, we have a family or two over for a simple lunch coupled with robust fellowship.
To start off my sharing this week, here were our menus:
Saturday Advent Feast:
•buttermilk biscuits with peach jam
•roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, & onion
•southern fried chicken
•salted caramel brown sugar cheesecake
Sunday’s Hospitality Lunch:
•lasagna (gooey, cheesy, beefy!)
•sourdough bread with soft butter
•salad with bright balsamic dressing
•pumpkin cake with cinnamon icing