I am so delighted to welcome Kelly today. I am particularly excited for this guest post… this time of year is one of my favorites. But, it hasn’t always felt so right. For quite a few years, I definitely got caught up in the over-the-top, more-more-more, excessiveness that December can bring. I felt I was missing out on what was really important. Advent can be such a spiritually rich time of year for us and for our children… it can be a time to connect and bond and share our love. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your Advent with us.
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Sharing the light of Advent by Kelly
As we walked through the woods on a crisp, misty November morning recently, we passed along a familiar path that we have walked so very many times – through fir trees and past a beautiful mossy tree stump, around which it is our family tradition to walk our Advent Spiral each December.
At this point, I mentioned to my children that we would soon be celebrating the start of the Advent season.
And that means branches of fragrant fir, pine and spruce . . . prickly holly covered with fat holly berries . . . the best pine cones and the brightest, softest moss from beside the old Cotswold stone walls . . . all this we’d be collecting to make our Advent Wreaths together, as we do each year on the day before the first Sunday of Advent.
It was then I thought just how well we know these woods . . .
How we wander almost daily among these trees, just as the deer and the squirrels do. How we have special dens in special spots. How last Advent Spiral our little apple-loving Noah munched big holes out of all the apples which were meant to be candle holders.
Or how enchanting the woods appeared covered in snow in deepest winter as we trudged along, almost expecting to see the Snow Queen ride by in an ice chariot.And how we all marveled at the wonderfully vivid wild woodland flowers of early spring.
I then fondly remembered waddling along these paths with my very big baby belly during Easter, all of us hoping to spot that Easter hare, who we know lives in the fields on the far side of the woods. I remembered watching butterflies flutter among the shafts of sunlight streaming through the dense green canopy of leafy summer trees. Making fairy baths in tree hollows for Midsummer’s Eve, or captivated by a sky ablaze with red-and-purple sunset dragons at Michaelmas in autumn.
So three seasons have passed, with winter now in the ascendancy. With these seasons, a rich tradition of festivals has been celebrated – hand in hand. Our three children are now a year older, with a new babe since joining the clan. I am grateful for how our family gently flows through these two cycles – nature and festivals – so entwined with each other, naturally and simply, until here we are again, near the end of another circle.
Which brings us back to Advent!
I asked my eldest child what he looked forward to most about the Advent season.His answer was that he loved how all the natural world gets ready for the birth of the Christ Child. Children inherently know the essence of a festival through our family traditions, expression and symbols of a festival – simply and naturally.
But what is Advent, and how does it all work?
To be honest, I didn’t have a good understanding before having children and discovering Waldorf, but I can now confidently say that Advent includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas, a time of inner searching, introspection and anticipation.
It is through the darkness of the Earth we await the birth of a new inner light to warm our hearts and strengthen our thoughts and deeds. This is manifested in the Christ Child of light born on the night of Christmas. All the kingdoms of nature – Mineral, Plant, Animal and Human – from beneath to above – await the coming birth. Advent is a journey inward to the soul, where we become aware of the eternal light that lightens our way.It is also so beautifully entwined in the northern hemisphere with Winter Solstice and the return of the Sun, and in the southern hemisphere with Summer– celebrating the Sun. Advent is a fun, joyous time for children especially.A time that will forever be etched in their memories.
For those celebrating the Advent festival, and to all spiritual beliefs and traditions, this time of year has something special for everyone – the Season of Light on so many levels.
It is a time of seeking and keeping that light aglow and sharing the light.
I share with you some of our Advent traditions.For our family, this weekend will be full of activity as we reach the start of Advent. We will collect evergreens and prepare an Advent Wreath. A circle of evergreen holding four candles.Beeswax or not, it is the light that is important.There is much symbolism here within the circle and candles.
We will also clear away our autumn nature display, and in its place prepare Mary’s Star Path – our Nativity scene and Advent calendar – all in one.We will add a blue cloth on which to add the stars. We will place Mother Mary at the start of the stars – a gold star for each day of Advent, with a big star for each Sunday and a final big star for Christmas Eve.The children take turns sticking up the stars and moving Mary along to the next star on the path.They love the wonder of these two meaningful activities.Each week we will also add stones, plants, animals, people and finally the Light in the manger.
On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, we recognise the mineral kingdom.This week is the Festival of Stones.We light the first candle and around that candle add a special stone, crystal, shell. Anything from the mineral kingdom dear to the children.We also add stones, shells, minerals around the Mary scene.We also like to make crystals this week.
From the second Sunday of Advent we light the second candle on the wreath so we have two candles aglow.It is the Festival of Plants.We add berries, nuts, flowers, pine cones, moss, wood, and straw around the candle. Around the Mary scene we add plant treasures.We also decorate our home with holly and make Christmas decorations using plant treasures – acorns, pine cones – for the Christmas tree which we bring in and decorate this week too.We also like to plant a tree or plant bulbs or seeds this week.
From the third Sunday, it is the Festival of Animals so we focus our attention on the animal kingdom. We light three candles on the wreath and add something made of wool or beeswax or a little wooden animal.
We add, sheep, donkey and an ox to our Mary scene.We think of ways to honour animals, like setting out extra bird food, or other acts of kindness to animals and pets.
From the fourth Sunday, it is the Festival of Humankind.We add a human image around the fourth lit candle.We now have all four candles glowing and spreading lots of light.We add shepherds to the nativity scene. We think of ways to show extra kindness to people.By now we hope our home is glowing with warmth, kindness and light!Outside, the sun’s light continues to dwindle leading to Winter Solstice, the shortest day on 21st December.This is the time we walk our Advent Spiral in the woods.
Those woods are our second home and it just seems a fitting location for us.We all gather up boughs of evergreens and we form a spiral with these around the special tree stump.We bring warm tea in a flask to enjoy while we wait for dusk.
We have candles stuck in apples and, if it is windy, then we have tealights in jars.Then the children, one by one, take an apple candle, and walk the spiral.They light theirs on the big candle in the centre, and then walk out and place their candle somewhere on the spiral itself, then pass out the spiral again.We hold hands with the little ones and walk together.We search within and take light within us and share the light.
We keep our Advent celebrations simple so that it becomes a natural, gently flowing tradition. We share stories, sing, bake, craft, make and prepare.
There is a wealth of Advent stories, crafts, ideas resources available.Two resources that I turn to time and time again are All Year Round – Druitt, Fyres-Clinton and Rowling for an wide array of Advent ideas and Festival of Stones by Reg Down which has the most delightful stories.
The light is sought and flows through the silent strength of beneath and within, the mineral kingdom, up through the wind in the trees, the plant kingdom, through the bird song and lion roar of the animal kingdom, through the sparkle in our children’s eyes and the joy in our song, the light spreads and warms.
However you celebrate Advent, may light be with you and your family!
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Oh, Kelly, you have so much soul! I utterly adore every word you write. Your words shine with light and love and magic. Did you know that your blog was one of the very first blogs I fell in love with. I was new to Blogland and came across your beautiful space and thought, “oh my gosh… I love this life she writes about”. There is a photo from your blog that I think of often… it is the one of you spinning at your spinning wheel while your little one nurses. That photo made me realize the kind of motherhood I wanted. Thank you, dear Kelly.
Kelly’s blog is called Freeflowing Ways and it is a true treasure. Prepare to be enchanted whenever you visit.
Donni Webber is the mom behind the popular natural living Waldorf website and blog, The Magic Onions - where the magic of nature and the wonder of childhood collide to make each moment a precious gift. She is a photographer, writer, crafter, wife and mother of two inspiring young children. Her work has been featured in many popular publications, including HGTV, Better Homes and Gardens, Disney and Apartment Therapy.