Advent Time Preparation.
What is Advent?
Many of us know a little bit about “Advent” and marking time to Christmas by those little cheap cardboard calendars they sell in all the supermarkets come this time of year. You know the ones- covered in Dora the Explorer, Winnie the Pooh, Ben 10, Spiderman motifs and filled with a little piece of chocolate- one to open each day from December 1st to December 24th- to mark the coming of Christmas.
Mmm…. chocolate and sugar. Just what I (and all the teachers in the world) want for my kids. Chocolate before school and family day care. Awesome. (Not)
But Advent is so much deeper than that.
Advent means (from the latin word- advenir) “to arrive”. Advent then, is a time of preparation and anticipation for the arrival of the baby Jesus. Yes, there are Christian overtones, but more importantly, it is about the coming of an “important one” (a royal one), which was a familiar theme in many pre-Christian cultures.
This time can also be interpreted as also about the coming of the ‘light’. Northern hemisphere friends find Christmas situated right in the middle of their dark winter, and the birth of the new baby is a gift of light for the world. A reminder that light always follows darkness, and that we can turn inward to keep this light alive during fallow times.
It is a bit more challenging in the Southern hemisphere, where we live. This time of year is delightful and full of the most delicious lemon yellow light. We are pulled outside, and out of ourselves, into water sports, sun, parties and end of school activities. It is NOT AT ALL an inward looking time so there presents an extra challenge to stay motivated and somehow striving to recognise and participate in this inner contemplation.
The Four Kingdoms of Advent Time Preparation
For us, a celebration of the Four Kingdoms of Advent is one way we can tangibly do this without too much stress. I’d never heard of this until I started teaching in a Waldorf/Steiner school, and as someone who has never belonged to a church or had much exposure to formal religion, this was quite enlightening, and enlivening. Over the years, I’ve gathered with friends in many different ways to celebrate. One year, our families met every Friday night to share dinner and stories. Another year, we celebrated all four kingdoms in one go with craft, stories and song. Other years, we’ve kept it close to home, just us and our nature table.
So how does it work?
As the month unfolds, we are encouraged and led to acknowledge the journey of the human throughout life (experiencing all four ‘seasons’ within us, good and bad) along with the unfolding picture of the journey of Mary and Joseph as they travel over a period of a month to find the place where Mary will give birth to this miracle child.
Each Sunday morning, we greet something new (a craft, a picture, an ornament on the nature table) related to the particular kingdom stage we are at, and this reminds us that there IS ‘something happening’ and ‘something is building’ during this time.
The four kingdoms go like this.
Week One: The Kingdom of the Mineral World. Giving thanks to the foundations that stand underneath us and support our human journey.
Week Two: The Kingdom of the Plant World. Giving thanks for the life force that imbues the plant world, that provides food and oxygen for us.
Week Three: The Kingdom of the Animal World. Giving thanks for the creatures that mirror us, our movement and our relationships.
Week Four: The Kingdom of the Human Being. Giving thanks for our creative faculties, that allow us to create and through our creative ability, to meet, understand and love the world we live in.
I love symbolism and meanings of things in life, and Advent is one of those festivals that can be imbued with something so much deeper than just a pretty display or a lip service action.
Why not try celebrating Advent yourselves this year?
Here is a few ideas for you.
1 Each week, share a story, poems and songs. Enliven these with purpose- that is, the anticipation and building strength for the coming festive season. Try to keep these true to your local area and season.
2 Place a dark blue cloth above your nature table and each day, add one gold star to the wall. The colour blue is symbolic of this time, especially with regard to the rhythmic changes of the day- dusk and dawn.
3 Make an advent wreath with local greenery. Add something from each of the kingdoms each week eg crystals or shells first week, dried flowers or oranges for second week, feathers or beeswax figurines for third week, and something made by human hands for the fourth.
4 Make the whole of advent special by using table coverings for this time.
5. Each week, hang a golden star (one for every member of the family) on a nominated tree in the garden. As the night sky fills with ‘stars’, you will know that soon the special day of Christmas will arrive.
6. Make an advent calendar by painting a picture with many ‘treats’ eg candles, apples, smiling faces etc. then placing a second painting over the top so that when the ‘windows’ on the top page are opened, the ‘treats’ are found. Number the windows 1-24 and open them one by one. The windows can be closed on the top painting with little ‘gold star’ stickers. The advent calendar keeps children involved in the entire season.
7. Treat the month leading up to Christmas as a time of restraint before a big indulgence of the rich foods of the Christmas festivities. This is anticipation at the most basic level. Your body will thank you!!!