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Welcoming the Christmas season. November 30, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, when our friend Ben and I very sadly bid farewell to the season of Harvest Home that culminates in Thanksgiving, which we love, and turn our faces to our very favorite time of year, the Christmas season.

Mind you, it’s not even December yet, so you won’t find us putting up our tree or cloaking our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, with lights, or anything like that. We like to build up to Christmas to keep the excitement going. But we do like to acknowledge the change in seasons with a few significant changes.

First, to celebrate the Advent season, when all the Christian world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, we set out our Advent calendar. In our case, it’s one by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Tasha Tudor, whose early 19th-century lifestyle we admire enormously. Advent calendars have little “doors” (usually paper, as in the case of ours) that you open each day to reveal an illustration, thought, or scripture passage, leading up to Christmas. The excitement of opening a new door every day awakens the child in all of us.

Next, we get out our Christmas incense, balsam and pine and frankincense and myrrh and every good Christmas thing, and our Christmas candles, pine-scented, cinnamon- and clove-scented, bayberry, and so on. We love candles and incense, and we love changing them according to the seasons, so this is an important seasonal ritual for us, ushering in the Christmas season.

We don’t want to rush Christmas decorating, but we always set out two harbingers of Christmas on our mantel on the first Sunday of Advent: a small olivewood Nativity scene from the Holy Land that I acquired as an undergraduate, and a delightful Mary Engelbreit card of Santa approaching a chimney with “Believe” written below. We do believe in all that the magical season of Christmas has to offer.

The only other early-Christmas effort we make is to get out and start playing our collection of Christmas music. Every year, we try to add a CD or two to our collection, and, loving music as we do, nothing says Christmas to us (besides the smells of the season) more than music. We’ll share our faves with you tomorrow.

Soon, we’ll begin watching our annual “Scroogefest” of various DVD interpretations of Charles Dickens’s beloved A Christmas Carol. We’ll read our favorite Christmas classics. We’ll decorate our tree, mantel, and table, put up a wreath on the front wall of Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home, plan our Christmas meals, write our Christmas cards, gather all our Christmas gifts. We’ll prepare to delight each other and spoil our dog, cats, and birds, surprise our neighbors, and give our very best to our families and friends when the big day comes.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot to do. And a lot to enjoy. And the enjoyment starts now!

            ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

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Advent calendars. November 28, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Today is the first day of Advent, so of course our friend Ben and I got out our Advent calendar. It’s the first stage of our Christmas celebration, and one of our favorite traditions. Opening that first window makes us feel the Christmas season has really arrived!

For those who don’t know Advent calendars, they typically show every day from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve. Behind the door or window for each day is a surprise, so you open one each day until Christmas. Talk about building up anticipation!

Most Advent calendars are printed on heavy stock, and their windows open on illustrations or Bible verses. But we’ve seen wooden Advent calendars whose doors hide handmade Christmas ornaments, and Advent calendars made of felt with infants’ soft toys behind each door. Some Advent calendars let you hide your own choice of treats, toys, and tiny scrolled verses behind the doors.

Ours is a Tasha Tudor Advent calendar book, Tasha Tudor’s Advent Calendar (Philomel Books, New York, 1988). We love it, first for the delightful illustrations by the beloved children’s book illustrator, featuring all the animals her observation and imagination could provide, and second because the book format protects the calendar, which has the traditional windows that you open to reveal, in this case, animals in their Christmas finery. Like any good Advent calendar, part of the fun is finding each day’s window, hidden as they are in a lively scene of Christmas frolicking in Ms. Tudor’s beloved Corgiville. (Tasha Tudor fans, you can get your own Tasha Advent calendars at www.tashatudorandfamily.com.)

This year, we were fortunate enough to find two delightful tiny Advent calendars for OFB’s niece and nephew. Made in Germany, the cunning little calendars were no bigger than postcards, but still had windows that opened for each day, revealing surprises behind the scenes of Santa with his elk-drawn sleigh, surrounded by creatures from the woods, and Santa in an Old World village, lit like a scene from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. So much fun! It was hard to resist picking up another for ourselves.

We think the Advent calendar is a tradition worth reviving, if it’s not already a Christmastime classic in your home. It’s a delightful, innocent way to count down the days ’til Christmas in a sweet or spiritual rather than consumerist manner, reminding us each day of the “reason for the Season.”

             ‘Til next time,

                         Silence