Advent Traditions

Last Christmas we started talking about the meaning and significance of our families’ holiday traditions. We thought about which traditions were important to our family, which ones we wanted to practice with Zach.

One tradition we started is marking the advent season. I grew up with an advent calendar that look like this:

The Christmas before Zach, my mom offered us Christmas items from my childhood to take home. This was one of them. This year, every morning, I ask Zach if he wants to move Santa on the Christmas Tree. He gets excited, I pick him up, he grabs Santa out of the pocket I describe by the picture and we move it one over one. All along he has been working on his numbers and holiday vocabulary. (Once a teacher always a teacher). We felt like this was a great first step. With little ones, waiting for Santa and presents is teaching patience and then the celebration is even sweeter when the day has come.

Luke grew up with an advent wreath. Our version looks like this:

We bought this advent wreath last year. Luke grew up catholic, and every Sunday the month of advent they would light the candle(s). We chose a acrylic/wood wreath stand that includes scriptures and pictures of the different elements of the nativity story.

Right now we are not lighting the candles (toddlers and fire are a bad combo) but the wreath is prominently placed in the center of our dinning room table. This is not a tradition I grew up with. I will be learning through the years alongside Zach the importance of each candle, what it represents, what we are emphasizing each week.

Together these calendars represent the beginning and end: a timeline of a tradition. It begins with excitement and impatience, waiting for Santa and Christmas presents. And will end, as Zach gets older, with participating in the anticipation, the waiting and longing, for what the word advent really means:  “the arrival of a notable person and/or event”: the nativity.

Whatever traditions you, your friends, and/or your family, are celebrating this holiday season, we wish you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

A Toddler Christmas Tree

“Having kids changes everything”. I don’t know how many times I heard this before we had a kid but as much as I’d like to roll my eyes: it is very true.

Luke’s family owned a Christmas tree farm for several years when he was a child. The past six or so winters I have been learning how to spot “the perfect tree” to cut down.

At the tree farm this year we found three trees in the first half hour that were pretty good. But of course Luke wanted to venture to another section to find that perfect tree. I reminded him this year we have a toddler, who is cold and tired. We had to change our expectations. (No tree is truly perfect.)

As Luke cut down A pretty good tree,  Zach and I explored the store and ate butter cookies. By the time we were back on the road, tree on the roof, Zach was fast asleep.

After nap time we got out the decorations. Growing up I was the tree decorating perfectionist: the lights and cranberries had to be strung with equal spacing and tucked wires didn’t show. A balance of large and small ornaments had to be evenly dispersed.  (Yea, I annoyed the whole family I’m sure).

But now we have a toddler. This year I had to separate our breakable ornaments from the wood, metal, fabric, or plastic ones. All breakables went back in the box.  Zach was happy to be able to help, handing Luke ornaments to go on the tree. We used candy canes and fabric or paper snowflakes to fill in gaps where larger breakable ornaments would normally be.

We also decided that we cannot expect every visit this holiday season to: restaurants, stores, houses to have a baby gate, box, or barrier around their trees. We chose, even though it’s the harder route, to teach our son to use his eyes, to point at ornaments, to smell the tree.  Teaching him that touching is not an option was hard the first weekend. After several time-outs, Zach now rarely touches the tree. Luckily, only a few candy canes we lost in the process.

The tree is good, the decorations realistic and what matters most is we had a great time together. This year Luke and I discovered, if we set aside our past expectations, how we have always done it, we could enjoy this Christmas with our toddler. Toddler tree and all.