Thirteen or fourteen years ago a good friend of mine, my first friend in Germany, gave me a gift of an Advent calender. I still have it. I was about to type that it is a firm favourite among my Christmas decorations but that wouldn’t be true. Advent is not Christmas. Advent is the lead up to Christmas. A time for reflection, anticipation, preparation. The calendar I have is most definitely a reflection of that.
There’s no chocolate inside or doors to open, no treats or hidden pictures. This a wall calendar to hang up on 1st December with a page for each day up till 24th December. On each page is a recipe, instructions for a festive craft, a poem or a thought for the day. Making the time to turn the page and read the daily message is something I strive to do throughout December.
Even finding those five minutes or the right frame of mind to remember that the calendar is there can be a challenge. When I remember, I am always glad I took the time. While not one to preach on mindfulness, I do appreciate that simple rituals like turning the page of my Advent calendar daily root me in the here and now. It sets the tone for the run up to Christmas and inspires me to various tasks I might otherwise let slip, like taking one of my poetry books from the shelf for a browse, reading a few pages of A Christmas Carol or taking a moment to take in the scent of the Christmas tree.
Perhaps you would like to bring something of the mood of Advent into your life. Doing so isn’t at all difficult. There are various ways you can go about it. I’ve gone ahead and written down my suggestions to give you a head start.
Why not write a 24-point wish list of small things you want to do this Advent? Cut your list into 24 pieces with one wish or idea on each piece of paper. Fold them, place them in a jar and each day pull one out. From baking Christmas cookies to buying yourself a bunch of mistletoe to sitting for ten minutes with a cuppa and a lit candle, you can come up with all sorts of seasonal ideas.
Choose a selection of words (reflect, focus, less, give,…), quotes, poems (Advent by Patrick Kavanagh, Winter Morning by Katharine Tynan, …) and recipes. Write or copy them onto a sheet of A4 paper each, number them randomly 1 to 24 and use an office hole punch to punch a couple of hole in the top. Tie the sheets together in numerical order with a pretty ribbon and hang up somewhere you’ll see it every day.
If you’ve been struck by a mental block, here’s a list of 24 ideas for you:
1. Light a candle
2. Listen to The Swan from Carnival of the Animals
3. List the things you are proudest of in 2017
4. Make dried orange slices for decorating gift wrapping or hanging on the tree
5. Make or buy a wreath for the door or table
6. Hum your favourite Christmas carol
7. Reflect on the year, trying to remember a particular moment in each month
8. Watch your favourite Christmas film
9. Read Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening
10. Take the time for a bubble bath
11. Browse a cookbook
12. Make a donation to a good cause
13. Write a letter to a friend and pop it into their Christmas card
14. Use real chocolate, a pinch of cinnamon and hot milk to make a festive hot chocolate
15. Make mulled wine from scratch
16. Close your eyes, roll back your shoulders and take three slow, deep breaths
17. Remember Christmasses of your childhood
18. Read Anticpation by Emily Bronte
19. Treat yourself to an early night
20. Buy a Christmassy magazine – interiors, crafts, cookery,…
21. Find a recipe for baked apples and make them to fill your home with the scent of Christmas
22. Take a moment to stop and gaze at your Christmas tree, breath in its scent, feel its needles
23. Tell someone you love them
24. Place a red candle in a jar on the windowsill on Christmas Eve night, an Irish tradition