Monday, December 3, 2012

A First Pause in Advent - 'Essence'

Welcome to A Pause in Advent 2012, as readers and as ‘pausers’ ! This Pause in Advent is more challenging for me than others I’ve organised, as I’m working close to full time right now and our internet connection decided to desert us last week. I wrote this post on Saturday night and am now (Monday morning) in a McDonald's restaurant near to my next lesson, taking advantage of McDonald's free WiFi (and a diet coke and a salad...) It's been an enormous pleasure to log on and read all the kind and enthusiastic messages you've left me since our internet connection disappeared - my apologies to those who asked questions which I haven't been able to answer yet.

So, having more outside pressures at the moment, I’ve had to think about my priorities for preparing Christmas. What is really essential, and what is just a pleasant trimming? Or, to go with the title of this post, what is the essence of Christmas, and what is merely ‘Christmas-flavoured’?

I teach French people who work in the food industry, and one group had an interesting conversation last week about which ice creams are entitled to a vanilla flower on their packaging. If real vanilla essence is used, the packaging can be illustrated with the vanilla flower. If flavouring which has never seen a vanilla pod is used, then there is no right to use a picture of the flower. (Although unscrupulous producers do use it. No surprise there…)

So there we are – essence (the distilled ‘real thing’) and flavouring (a commercial attempt at copying the real thing).
For me, I’ve decided that to distil Christmas preparations down to their essence, I will need to focus on four things. I’ll post about one of those things, each Advent Sunday!

The first part of the essence of Christmas may well be tradition. I love the old traditions and I really enjoy the way that families and other groups quickly create their own traditions – there doesn’t need to be much age behind a tradition to make it significant. I hope that some of the other ‘Pauses’ are going to talk about these traditions, old and new, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about them. But another, very practical, aspect of tradition has really made itself clear to me this year.

I was far too busy teaching English to food producers (and others) to prepare much for Advent this year. So on Friday night I went to the box labelled ‘Advent’ and pulled out:

The Advent Tree made by Ben’s mum when the boys were little.

The Advent Wreath made by Ben from one of our firewood logs two years ago, after we’d burnt a hole in the old fabric wreath in our 'Pause' logo. (I need to add some greenery - I haven't had time yet!)

The Advent Nativity Scene bought by me in the Harrogate Fair Trade Shop about eleven years ago.

If I hadn’t had these trusty, traditional pieces tucked away, we wouldn’t have been ready for Advent. Last year I really enjoyed getting creative and making a fresh Advent wreath. This year I’m delighted to be revisiting the old favourites, which have allowed me to establish a genuine atmosphere of preparation in the home, with almost no work. Traditions make it easy to hold on to what matters – my new discovery of the week.

PS Ben has just started playing ‘O come, o come Emmanuel’ on the piano – full marks for Advent Essence, that man!


Fat Dormouse said...

Hello Floss! I don't really have any specific Advent decorations & I'm not decorating the house this year(as I said on my "Pause" the cats are a bit seek-and-destroy when it comes to decorations) but I did come across my door wreath when I washunting for something in the cellar. I think I should at least bring that out for this year.

I love your Pauses, as they reflect a family life that I think I would have liked to have had if I had had children. (There's a sentence you are free to use when yu teach conditionals!!!) Thoughtful, Christ centred - but normal !!! (that is meant to be a compliment!) God bless, my dear Floss.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Floss! Pause has been a delight so far! I love the friends who participate, all of them!
I like your red in your Advent decorations. I have not found the Advent ring yet. I think I'm missing a box. It'll turn up.
Take care. You are busy. Thank you for organizing this meaningful Christmas event! I so appreciate it!

Jane and Chris said...

I'm focussing on carols this year...hoping that non believers may take time to listen.
Jane x

Unknown said...

Traditions are good, liked your post.

Unknown said...

I love these traditions. We have calenders that my mum made the children when they were tiny and a pile of seasonal books that we add tp each year...some are children's books from years past last years was a poetry book.

Thomasina Tittlemouse said...

What a lovely idea to have a dedicated Advent box to get out every year! Things that come out every year are part of the specialness and become themselves laden with memories. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog and explaining how to link in. I have edited my post accordingly and borrowed your lovely Advent wreath button for my sidebar. Happy First Week of Advent! E x

Betty the Wood Fairy said...

Lovely post Floss and thankyou for persevering with your computer access issues - good old McDonalds! I am enjoying this Advent more than ever with our new 'free' approach although there are a few traditions in there so will think about that for my next post.Betty

Thistle Cove Farm said...

"The thrill of what you already have"...LOVE IT! I have Jesus so Christmas is complete.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Kezzie said...

Oh I love O Come, Emmanuel! It's lovely to hear about different traditions! They make me so excited! I am afraid I have no advent traditions here at my current house though we did when I was little with my parents! At church we light the four candles and we used to sing a version of The Holly and the Ivy specially written by our old organist about advent, adding a verse each week, e.g. One is for the prophets....

Catherine said...

Love the essential essence thought Floss...thank you. I've never been too good with the trite in life. Distilling the essence through tradition...brings out the it happens I am making my own vanilla essence just at the minute & I am interested to notice the deepening colour & flavour as the infusion progresses. Do hope that you don't have to frequent M's too often before Christmas! x

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, it's baby B's first christmas so we're making an heirloom stocking to start her traditions x

Unknown said...

Oh how lovely - and full of such sweet family memories. I especially love the wooden Advent wreath as my sweet husband was a woodworker! And oh! The handmade tree calendar is so lovely! I have a couple of older Advent wreaths full of special memories, but they are currently in storage a few states away. In past years, I've made new ones with the big pillar candles. Turns out, if you store those in the attic - they MELT! I now have a lovely maroon angel, that used to be white, and no more candles. :) But this year, my grandkids' house has a lovely Advent wreath up. And we are talking about Advent stories at both houses - in bed for bedtime, as well as in the car as we drive. Like you, it's a busier year than ever for me here, so minimalist definitely works.This year, it's the heart of Advent more than the decor for us, and as you've wisely pointed out, that's the most important part. Sweet blessings to you this week.

A garden just outside Venice said...

I'm totally unprepared for Xmas this year due to a recovery which is taking longer than expected.
So my essence will be spending quality time my little family :)
The wooden Advent wreath is a very clever idea!

magsmcc said...

I like this idea of the purity of Advent distilled into a thick concentrate of what really will matter. I don't have your reasons for needing the concentrate, but I like the idea!