There are many traditions surrounding Christmas and Advent from all around the world, however my experience with Advent has been all about presents and cheap chocolate behind little cardboard doors. Despite the fact that most advent calendars supply a present for every day leading up to Christmas, Advent isn’t about the presents – they are they happy fringe benefits – and it isn’t about cheap chocolate. Amazingly, Christmas is not just about presents either (sorry for the sarcasm!).
Advent and Christmas has been around long enough that I think it is pretty safe to say that the event that was anticipated with such excitement was not originally the coming of Santa’s sleigh laden with gifts. We all know the original reason for celebrating Christmas is the birth of baby Jesus, but in a culture that is no longer predominantly Christian this appears to have become a story associated with Christmas, rather than the origin of the celebration.
I no longer identify with being a practising Christian myself, but it is important to me that the origins of a celebration that is so dear to people all over the world are not overlooked. I also seem to have developed the affliction of always looking for meaning in celebrations and festivals – I can’t just celebrate something ‘just because’, although that is the Australian way! This sometimes makes things very difficult for me, particularly when seasonal festivals clash (don’t get me started on Halloween!) I write this blog from Australia, and Christmas for us falls at a time when the weather is so warm that we are all wearing little more than swimmers and shorts so images of Santa in his winter woollies and reindeer and snowmen are out of place here. Baby Jesus is almost an after thought, glimpsed on the odd Christmas card, in shop-window nativity scenes and outside of churches.
So I cannot help but ask myself, if Christmas is a Christian celebration by origin, coinciding with the northern hemisphere’s pagan winter solstice celebrations, and kidnapped by commercialism, is it one that is appropriate for me and my family? Every year I wish I do not have to ask myself this question, and every year I have to find new meaning and consider how to participate in Christmas, even if it is just a moment of personal introspection.
Well I have found meaning in Christmas and Advent – beyond (and inclusive of ) Christianity, commercialism and paganism. I have found meaning that honours the roots of the festival, our seasonal impulse and our own little family’s values of simplicity and joy. I’m going to share them with you, and travel the Advent journey with you each Sunday until Christmas. We’ll look at how we can make Christmas relevant in the southern hemisphere, share ideas and stories and I’d love you to join the discussion too.