It isn’t quite December yet, but I wanted to post today because I actually had a good chunk of time to write this weekend. I already shared a bit about what I hope my holiday season looks like, but I have a few Advent specific things I wanted to talk about for today’s post.
December is almost here and with it, the final push into the Holiday season. I talked in my post about my hopes for the holidays that I hope to lean into creating new traditions and keeping ones that were passed down to me. So I want to talk about one tradition I was surprised to keep this year, one tradition we decided we won’t keep this year but I hope to keep in years to come, one tradition which is no surprise at all, and one non-tradition that I hope will make advent more meaningful.
One of the widely held traditions I thought we would skip this year is a Christmas tree because we have such an active toddler, but my wise, trusting husband talked me into putting our little fake tree up anyway and just limiting the ornaments on it to the plastic ones that won’t shatter if little guy gets to them. I’m SO glad he talked me into this. It has been so cool to watch my son stare in awe at the lights on the tree and even more amusing to watch him gently touch the ornaments he can reach and then try to decorate the tree more by hanging some of his own toys on it (our new favorite christmas ornament might be the lightsaber from his Jedi build a bear…)
A friend of mine from grad school once shared with me a beautiful Advent tradition about giving up lights aside from christmas lights and candles during the advent season. They didn’t give up electricity, but they wouldn’t turn on regular bulbs. Not only did this make the Christmas lights beautiful, but it was also a practice in mindfulness. It’s hard to prepare your meals by Christmas light or candle light. And when they would come to a struggle like that, they would think about how Advent is a time of waiting for Jesus, the light of the world. I love everything about that, but we’re not quite to the point that we feel comfortable with using candlelight around our toddler, so it’s something we’re hanging on to for future years.
One of my favorite traditions that is pretty common in most Catholic and many Christian households is the nativity set. I bought my first nativity set from a garage sale when I was in junior high. It was beautiful in my eyes but it was made of cheap resin and the paint was chipping and each year the small holes in the figures became bigger and bigger. I left it in Arizona when I went to school but always set it up when I was home. We ended up getting rid of it after I got married, but the one thing I knew I wanted to get when we went on our honeymoon to Italy was a new nativity set. The one we have now has small figures, but it’s extra special because it is from our time in the vatican. We put out the figures at the start of advent but hide the baby Jesus figure until Christmas Eve. Sometimes I think this is kind of strange. Like Maybe we should just be putting a piece or two out each week- because why would mary and joseph be gathered around an empty manger? Or I know many families who don’t add the wise men until Epiphany. But I feel like Advent is about anticipation and preparation and longing and having everyone huddled around waiting for Jesus to appear in the manger makes sense to me on a deeper level of the many many years people gathered together while waiting for a Messiah. (Also, I’m pretty sure if we split it up too much that I’d forget to put most of the pieces out… it’s hard enough not to lose the baby Jesus these days…)
This final thing is not a tradition per say, but it is something I’m planning to work on to make Advent more meaningful. I go back and forth with myself CONSTANTLY about my relationship with social media. I wrote about how I have issues with being addicted to my smart phone and that is strongly linked to social media and wanting to look things up right away or be in constant communication. I always feel torn because I believe social media is a tool- it does a lot of good or a lot of bad depending on how you use it. I love the groups I’ve connected with through Facebook, the ideas I’ve executed through Pinterest, and the way I can get snapshots into people’s lives or stay connected with friends during those times it is hard to schedule a phone date. But I’ve noticed recently it has not been good for me. I am exhausted by advertising everywhere, especially as we move toward Christmas. I am exhausted by feeling like I no longer have the opportunity to use it to share but an obligation to do so – especially when it comes to promoting shows I do because theatre does not have enough support where I live to be able to use traditional advertising methods. I don’t want to feel like an advertisement and I don’t want to feel like friendships are built on us selling ourselves to each other. I have also been exhausted recently which is a prime time for me to fall into a trap of forgetting that social media is NOT real life and you will never get the whole story there. But at the same time, this is a very joyful time of year and I WANT to share that joy both of my own and of others that I see either often or rarely.
I have gone back and forth what to do about my mixed feelings toward social media- do I go cold turkey and give it up? Keep doing what I’m doing but try to stay mindful? And I think what I’ve decided on is to use Advent as a time of social media “dieting”- fast from it a bit but don’t completely abstain. I’m planning to give up Facebook aside from an hour or so a week (I’m thinking Facebook Fridays aside from maybe getting on to share blogs, but not even sure I’ll do that…) but I will keep messenger enabled so if people want to reach out and actually connect that will be available. I will also try to limit messaging availability so I don’t have my phone constantly nearby. My son turned 18 months yesterday. This time is flying by and I don’t want to miss it by staring at a screen.
I’m going to use the Pinterest app during this time. because I have many ideas and recipes I’d love to try this season, but I’m giving up my Pinterest feed because it is clogged with ads and I already have hundreds of pins I haven’t tried. I won’t miss out on the perfect idea by leaving the feed behind for a month and if something is really great, odds are good a friend will send the pin on to me anyway.
As for my phone… I’m not really sure what to do about that ongoing struggle. I’m not sure whether to set a time limit per day, or a no going on without a very specific purpose or a no using it except for pictures and phone calls and use your computer if you want to get on the internet… maybe i’ll try a different route each week of advent until I find something that will work long term. Seriously, does anyone have thoughts or useful advice on this? Please comment or email or message me if you do because I’m lost on that!
My hope with all of this is to have a focused, intentional advent. I particularly hope that cutting back on social media will allow me to pay more attention to the people immediately around me and that it will bring me back some of the time that seems to go missing so I can do things like take better care of myself and my family, pray more and worry less, stop comparing my holidays to other peoples, and maybe even set aside some time for special acts of charity this season. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited for the journey. I chose the word brilliance as one of my words for the year because one of my favorite lines of a Christmas hymn is “All is calm, all is bright…” so I’m hoping the brightness this year can come less from screens and more from our choices preparing for Christmas. I’ll be blogging about it here as well as taking this month to wrap up the year and start sharing what I plan to do next year with this blog and my new set of resolutions!