Updated: Dec 23, 2020
After having children and a family of my own, there became a new purpose and meaning to create and hold mindful family traditions. I sought to have a Christmas season with meaning that we all are conscious of and to be mindful of the origins of Christmas. With intention to foster a soul connection and awareness of our relationship with nature and the power of doing good things, I have chosen traditions that endeavour to fulfil these intentions. Here are some of our special Christmas traditions.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas day. We have three practices for this season.
Mary’s Journey to Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus
We represent Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem with a Mary figure that travels one day at a time along a path that we lay out. The items that we use to create the path could be seashells, gum-nuts, stones or golden stars. Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Mary travels one day and one place at a time. On Christmas day my children wake to discover with delight that Baby Jesus has appeared in Mary’s arms.
Mary and baby Jesus were created using wool, I used a traditional Waldorf technique called dry-needle felting. See Mary in the image below.
The 4 Kingdoms of the Natural World
For each week of advent we focus on one of the kingdoms of the natural world.
The first week of advent is the Mineral Kingdom, the physical foundation for life.
The second week of advent is the Plant Kingdom, the nourishment from living nature.
The third week of advent is the Animal Kingdom, we reflect on our relationship with animals and our shared capacity for movement and feelings.
The fourth week of advent is the Human Kingdom, all of the kingdoms in nature contribute to our existence and we are connected through our living nature.
Each day we place an item representing the kingdom out along a flat wooden candle holder in the shape of a spiral, with a beeswax candle at each Sunday. Mineral items include: seashells, crystals, stones. Plant items include: flowers, herbs, leaves, twigs. Animal items include: feathers, carved wooden animal figurines. Human items include: photos of family, carved wooden people figurines.
24 Days of Advent Activity Cards
These inspiring cards hold an activity for each day of advent. I hang them by tiny pegs from a string, and each day we turn over a new card with a new activity. The activities are wholesome, thoughtful and giving in nature. Some examples include: secret acts of kindness, thank you to mother earth- go to somewhere in nature and pick up and dispose of litter, make mulled apple juice, create different craft ideas.
These advent activities require more from me than if my children were to simply open a commercial advent calendar and eat the chocolate; but the gain is so much deeper, an instilling into their souls of the goodness of giving, looking after our environment and creative expression. These speak to the heart and help shape the meaning of Christmas.
See the advent cards here.
We take time to think about not only what we may gift to other people, but what we may do for others too. I personally find great joy in gift giving, and we consider ways to give with minimal impact on the environment. One of our traditions that is manifesting in recent years is to bake biscuits for our loved ones to gift on Christmas.
We also wrap our children’s gifts in their play silks. This way we minimise the waste and environmental impact of producing and disposing of wrapping paper, and their gifts are covered in beautiful soft colours for them to discover on Christmas morning. We aim to give two to three gifts per child to not make this the main focus of the day.
The Story of St. Nicholas
Another endeavour that I embarked on as a mother creating our new family’s Christmas traditions, was to understand Santa Claus’ role in our culture’s Christmas tradition. With this understanding I could then decide consciously if and how to include this figure in our children’s Christmas experience.
As it was, St. Nicholas was a bishop in the fourth century who was the patron saint of children. The Dutch people brought him to the more modern world as Sinterklaas, from which came the name Santa Claus.
St. Nicolas was known as a helpful, generous and wise elder who makes our lives more meaningful through example. This is the archetype that I choose for my children to know, with a loving and kind energy. The stories of how St. Nicholas helped people can plant seeds of compassion and meaningfulness in our children (and ourselves too). If you are inspired to read about the stories of St. Nicholas, I found a lovely book by Louise Carus, called 'The Real St. Nicholas, Tales of Generosity and Hope From Around the World.'
If any of these practices inspire you, please feel free to include them in your own Christmas Traditions.
Image: Mary, dry needle felted from wool.