Monday, 30 November 2015

First Sunday of Advent

Advent, the four beautiful weeks before Christmas where we prepare our hearts and homes to receive the Incarnation. A time to ponder sinfulness, salvation, and to start us on the road that leads to Easter. Also, a time when everyone around us goes completely Christmas-mad!

For the Porters, the first Sunday of Advent means:

1) David can finally play Christmas music (and watch Christmas movies) without reproach. In the Ideal World it would only be Advent Music, but I can extend my decrees only so far and we have so many great Christmas records that it would be a shame to only listen to them between December 25th - January 7th. 

2) Sunday desserts suddenly become part of the Christmas baking program. Working mum's gotta save time wherever they can, right? So instead of the usual pies, puddings, cakes etc, it's going to be squares, cookies, and candies for the next few weeks. Today we're kicking it off with peppermint bark. I can pretty much guarantee that the Man of the Place will hate it but as it simply involves stirring crushed candy canes into melted chocolate it seems achievable and like something that toddlers can help with. 

3) We will build our Advent Wreath. This family tradition started in Ely, which means this is our third year doing it. People who live in tiny apartments with no storage cannot accumulate an excess of liturgical decorations. Do you know how much space a wreath takes up and how awkward it is to store? Do you know how hard it is to find one that is both beautiful and affordable? 

This morning, on our way home from Mass, the children and I foraged for some winter evergreens to build our wreath. I was hoping for holly & ivy, but instead we managed to find some red berries of dubious origin, one lone adolescent evergreen, and a few hedges of greenery that looked like it might last until the new year. I may have cursed cities under my breath during the whole excursion, particularly as I have it on good authority that rats are nesting in some of those green hedges. I miss the beautiful fenland walks for Ely or the forested country where I grew up, where to harvest Christmas greenery meant a walk to the sideyard and the holly bush growing there and the ivy twining its way up the mighty trunks of the towering evergreens. City dweller by choice I am not.

While the children slept I snatched a few minutes to clean away the toy-and-crumb clutter that seems to surround our coffee table. That way, when they woke up I was able to quickly settle them in to helping with the advent wreath making. My method is simple -- decide what size wreath we want and then cut out a circle of cardboard to that size. It can either be mounted (ie taped) onto a plate or put on a board or directly onto whatever surface we're using. In years past I've wrapped the circle in tinfoil or tissue to make it pretty, but this year Emily suggested that we just colour it in. It was a great idea!

Once the circle is decorated, I lay the base layer of the wreath. This year I formed the base layer with evergreen branches from a young tree, which meant that they were easy to bend. I just stick them on with some tape here or there. After the base layer is down, I weave on a top layer. I like to weave this one in and around the base layer, because it hides the tape and adds a fullness and some height to our wreath. Then I weave in our more decorative pieces, which usually include red berries and perhaps a different type of greenery.

and yes, as I pointed out to David although I might be in my jammies and a cardie I am still rocking 3 strands of pearls. 
The final stage is to add the candles. I misjudged the size this year so our Christ candle doesn't fit, but that's no big deal as it wouldn't be lit until Christmas anyway, at which point we won't be lighting the advent candles. So I will just remove them and maybe use our largest white candle as it should fill up a good portion of the wreath.

And that was that! We set it on the living room windowsill and David read a prayer for the First Sunday of Advent:

Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray thee and come; that, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

I lit the candle and we all enjoyed the cheerful light until the children went to bed.

Love my ghost image in the background? I do not have time to edit photos! But what I am loving is how one of the beautiful wedding ornaments is centred behind our wreath. Our faith is the heart of our family and I'm loving this visual of it.

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