The Signs of Advent…

Long ago when we were adding children every two years or so and working hard we had fun deciding which traditions to bring to our marriage that we’d grown up with and which ones to leave behind.

Gradually we came up with our own take on what major holidays and birthdays looked like for a McNeny.

A question at Sunday school this year asked,

“What are the signs of Advent in your house?”

My head began to fill with the memories of many Advents, the four week season that heralds the birth of our savior, we had treasured activities that set this time apart for us.

Advent calendars marked the passing of days in December.  Starting on 1st, each evening disclosed a picture or a bible verse behind a tiny closed door.

We no longer have the calendars but we do have an Advent wreath with four candles, one for each week, 3 purple, 1 pink.


It graces our breakfast table and during our meals the candles burn brightly.

Prayers are said each day with the lighting and a bible passage read.

We learn about prophecy and fulfillment.  

We learned that when children are in charge around candles a lot of wax flies and paper napkins burn fast and furiously!

When the four white candles are lit on Christmas Day we can finally rejoice and celebrate the sacred birth.


Sometimes a creche is brought out, somewhere around the second or third week of Advent. Baby Jesus is hidden away until after Christmas Eve mass and then placed, tenderly, in his appointed manger (when he can be found!).

Advent is a season of waiting, preparing, longing, impatience.

The older everyone grew it began to be one of rushing:

To feed and ice the cake, steam the puddings, bake and dust the shortbread.

To paint the handmade cards, address & stamp the envelopes, write the letters, take the photos and pop them all into the letter box to send on their jolly ways.

To buy the gifts, sort, wrap and place under the tree.

To clean the house, prepare menus, buy groceries, again and again and again.

Once we became homeschoolers we took the whole month of December off to immerse ourselves in the activities allowing them to become a part of our rhythm…for a season.

We un-rushed the rush.

We made lemon curd watching it bubble gently,

sugared pecans in the warm oven,

and hung garlands along the bannisters intertwining the greenery through the railings, threading in the lights, finally getting it right after the third or fourth time.

This year bacon jam simmered slowly, its rich, breakfast smell following me down the driveway on my walk.

Olive oil was seasoned and bottled,

fruits and nuts set into Ghirardelli chocolate bark gave the illusion that the rich, dark confection could maybe be healthy.


The service of Nine Lessons and Carols was added when the children starting leaving home.


Without the distraction of excited young ones Hubs and I could focus on ritual and enjoy a break from waiting patiently to sing carols.

Once in Royal David’s City and God Bless Ye Merry Gentleman rang out in the naves of Canterbury Cathedral, Church of the Incarnation or St. Peter’s, depending on where we were.

Those are the signs of Advent in our house and perhaps they will show up in our children’s homes (or at least some of them) as they choose what traditions to bring to their own marriages.

Ah blessed season.

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