A few years ago a new Christmas tradition took the country by storm. That cute little Elf on the Shelf made its way into many American homes: breeding mischief, encouraging creativity, and causing sales of Q-tips and marshmallows to skyrocket. In addition to his daily shenanigans, the Elf keeps an eye on your little ones and reports back to the North Pole who has been naughty or nice, adding to the "magic" of Christmas.
For quite some time, I thought the Elf on the Shelf was a cute, fun idea. However, something (in addition to the high price tag) kept me from purchasing an Elf for our own shelf. The month of December is always a whirlwind. We never have enough time to squish all that we want to accomplish into 31 days. In recognizing that December is crammed full of lofty expectations and over-commitment, I started thinking about what I wanted most in December.
1. More than anything I want to celebrate Advent not the calendar month of December. I want to have peace not only on Earth, but also in my heart.
2. I want my children to grow closer to Christ. My cute little girls have excellent memories and can recite prayers most adults do not know, but I think it is more important that they feel God's presence and are able to have their own intimate conversation with Him.
We have many traditions at our house to help us prepare for Christmas. I (try to) read daily from the Advent devotional In Conversation with God. We follow the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure each night with the kids and pray a decade of the rosary before bedtime. Each day in conjunction with the Advent Adventure, we place an ornament on our Jesse Tree to follow the stories of the Old Testament that lead up to the birth of Jesus. We light our advent wreath before dinner and say a prayer. The Advent season also has several saints' days that we celebrate including St. Nicholas and St. Lucy.
We have also found ways to avoid some of the Christmas season craziness. 1) We do not send out Christmas cards. We prefer St. Patrick's Day cards. We have more time in March, and we like to think that our friends and family enjoy a little update in the dead of winter. 2) We finish all of our Christmas shopping before Advent begins and avoid the crazy consumerism of ads and shopping malls. Also, we do not purchase gifts for our children. This last item has garnered quite a bit of opinion from others. Our children do not even realize that we do not buy them anything because they are showered with gifts from all other corners of the Earth.
Before everyone reads this and thinks we are total extremists at our house...we do enjoy Santa. However, Santa is not the focus of our Advent season. We take advantage of the celebration of Gaudete Sunday and take the kids to see Santa right after Mass while they are still all dressed up in their Sunday best. (This timing also helps beat the long lines!) The kids ask Santa for one small item so that he has room in his sack to bring all the other boys and girls of the world a small gift, too.
So...as you can see...we simply do not have room for an Elf on our shelf! What Advent traditions do you celebrate at your house?
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light! Isaiah 9:2