Oh, my, I intended to be much more organized with Advent preparations and traditions this year, especially because my son is now four and is more aware of the impending holiday on December 25. But a variety of illnesses conspired against us and made me modify my plans. Although everything didn’t work out, I’m happy with what we’ve fit in and think it has given us a good foundation for future years.
Fortunately, we were able to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and St. Herman of Alaska on December 13. Their celebrations tie in well with the season, St. Nicholas for obvious reasons and St. Herman because of the chance to use evergreen cuttings and talk about stars (he was called the North Star) and woodland animals. I overheard him singing his own song about St. Herman, improvising on liturgical melodies. It was quite sweet. (I will likely use the same basic idea for St. Seraphim of Sarov on January 2, given some of the similarities in setting and theme between the two men.) He asked about the reason for St. Nicholas giving gold coins to the girls, so hopefully the idea of charity is beginning to form.
I put up the Advent calendar at least a week late, but he didn’t notice. We made it last year out of a birch stick I’d carried around the country for a decade. The bags were simply sewn and contain figures from small wooden Nativity sets (found at Target) and Christmas ornaments. Mary, Joseph, and the infant Christ are in the last bags. I love how all the Nativity figures are lined up in a row with an angel waiting to greet them – one of those signs your kid is Orthodox!
He has greatly enjoyed having a simple paper chain to use to count down the days, perhaps because he gets to use an adult scissor to cut them off.
We also made ornaments together for an Orthodox children’s ornament swap. Despite his (sometimes) long attention span, I knew I couldn’t get him to make 12 ornaments entirely by hand, so he helped me pick out paper color and shape (oval, not square) for the Nativity silhouette cuts and then placed the stars on them. We’ve received our first one in the mail. He immediately hung it on the tree and asked the names of the children who sent it. What a sweet tradition!
And now we wait for just a few more days!