In my view, one of the most rewarding aspects of the expat life is to be able to come across many different traditions. Advent is one of my favorites. I have discovered it in Austria and rediscovered it from a different perspective in Germany, where we live now.
Its always starts four Sundays before Christmas and it comes with a very specific atmosphere and values like sharing, giving, being grateful. It's an invitation to slow down, center and focus on the people we love.
This particular atmosphere is partly created by the Christmas Markets that are build in all the cities and villages in Austria and Germany. Friends, colleagues, family meet at the Christmas markets and share food, drinks and laughters. The ambiance is full of joy and wonder.
We enjoy going to Christmas Markets every year: from the tiny ones in the Austrian Alpes to those in the big cities in Germany or in the villages in Alsace. My daughter loves them for the endless decorations with shiny stars, the Bretzels (a German traditional kind of bread ) and the old carousels.
Another Advent tradition we adopted is the Advent crown. Made of branches of pine trees, it usually displays 4 candles in a cross. To make ours, we "recycled" some of the treasures from our autumn table: acorns and pine cones. I used candles made of beeswax: they are ecological and 100% natural. Instead of displaying them in a cross, I put them in a row to represent the progression of the time (in a Montessori way). We lighted the first candle on the first Advent Sunday, then we kept lighting it up every evening of the following week. The next Sunday we lighted the first one and the second one too. And so on. I think it's a simple and beautiful way to symbolize the concept of time going by. And it fascinates my daughter.
The Advent Calendar is also a new tradition in our family this year. There are 24 activities inside (plus the Christmas celebration) : one for each day. There is no chocolate involved nor other material goods. I made it only with things I had already (envelops, ribbons, a coat hanger, a branch of pine tree, and an old white garland). The only thing I bought were some shinny star stickers.
What I love about this Advent Calendar of ours is that we have each day a new idea to explore together (reading, singing, baking..). We also some reminders about how fortunate we are (and this is not the case for all the people in this world, so giving is more important that receiving). The message I'm sending to my daughter is that spending quality time together is more important than gifts and treats.
You can read more about our alternative Advent Calendar here and see all the activities inside the envelopes.
I would love to learn more about the traditions you have adopted in your family. Please share them in the comment box here bellow.