Advent means to wait. I guess it is a word in the English-speaking world, but not used very much. Here in Norway, however, it is a 24-day long season. The four Sundays before Christmas are referred to as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sunday of Advent, and we light a candle every Sunday. At Christmas we have four candles, all burned to different heights. The advent color is purple, so we have purple napkins and candles. I even have a purple dress.
The main thing about advent though is the Advent calendar. This is a calendar that is supposed to help us count down to Christmas and to make the waiting a little less stressful. When I was a girl I was happy with an advent calendar that had a new picture to look at every day. I still remember the feeling of awe and tingling in my heart when I opened the last window, which was twice the size of the other windows, and there, with glitter and gold, was a picture of the baby Jesus in the manger. The most beautiful image I had ever beheld at the age of four.
But times they are a-changing. My kids, materialistic like all kids are these days, would probably have disowned me as their mother if I had provided them with a calendar of cute pictures to look at every day. No, no, no. Nowadays small, wrapped gifts are the only option. For a few years I spent valuable hours of my life wrapping 72 gifts (we only have 24 days on the calendar, Dec 1-24th) for my darlings. This caused more stress and filled the house with more useless junk than we needed, so I changed the rules. Now they have to take turns opening 24 gifts. And if the gift contains a pair of new socks, then so be it.
Last year I included a word of wisdom or a Bible verse in each present. The idea was that we would take some time and talk about the words and care less about the stuff. But, not surprisingly, the words of wisdom were forgotten as fast as the color of the wrapping paper.
This year Steve and I almost decided to skip the whole thing. But then we thought about the looks in the faces of our traumatized kids when we told them. They would not recover from a blow like that very easily. So this year we are doing this:
They take turns opening a gift that contains useful stuff like chocolate or nail-polish. Then we read a passage of the Christmas story every morning. Steve is making an Advent journal where he records the morning, the temperature, the gift, the verse we read and other interesting facts about the day. In it we will put photos he takes every morning of the family groggy, sleepy, cold and annoyed. And then the really challenging thing about the whole program:
The person who gets the gift needs to do a good deed that day. A good deed! The girls were not entirely pleased with this. None of their friends have to do something that silly. And what do you mean by a good deed anyhow?
A good deed has been defined as something nice you do to another person without being asked to do it. The first day was a fiasco. Kristin was the good deeder. But when she sat down for dinner she had a stricken look in her face. She had forgotten all about it. Her little head worked fast and she remembered she had carried wood when her teacher asked her to.(I know. This is what kids to at school in Norway. Carry wood. More about that later.) This made her pass, but only because she was first and the youngest. Next time she has to do better. Then it was Naomi’s turn. She also forgot. With an even quicker head, she rattled off some stuff she had done at school (smiled at a girl without any friends). We said we were not impressed. Yesterday Elise was on. Finally we were going somewhere. She came home and said: Do you want me to take the dog for a walk?
Then dad had to ruin it because when she got busy watching TV, put off the good deed, and the dog needed to go to the bathroom really bad, Steve asked Elise when she planned to take him out. Now she had to think of something else because it is not a god deed if somebody asks you to do it. Teary-eyed she walked into the bathroom and cleaned it. That qualified big time. She is now the good-deeder with the highest score in the family. Today Kristin is determined to find something nice to do. She wants to look for an old lady who needs to cross the street. Then she will help her. It may be a challenge here, but who knows. Stay tune.
I am off to cleaning my kids messes without being asked to. Wonder how many points that will get me.