This is my life. Today is December 2, (the day after the first Advent Sunday) and here I (Kim) am trying to pull all things together for a meaningful Christmas Season for my family. It seems I’m always a day behind (or a week, or a month). It would be easier at this point to say, “next year; I’ll do something next year” and not stress myself now. But the reality is that next year will probably be exactly the same as this one.
So I have decided, not to wait, but to go for it, and own the philosophy “ better late than never”. Because, I’d rather be a little late starting our Advent countdown, than not do it at all.
and because I’d be more mad at myself for letting the days pass focusing on shopping or getting or something else other than on what we need to celebrate.
I don’t know about you, maybe your getting a late start too with Advent, or maybe you didn’t plan it at all. I would love you join me in “better late than never” and decide to do some purposeful things with your family (or for yourself). I believe you won’t regret it.
And so, late last night, December 1, I sent the kids to the basement for the Christmas decorations, hit play on the Christmas music playlist, and we started unpacking a few things. We didn’t finish, or even get started, really. In fact it looks way worse than when we began. I think about the photos everyone is putting up on Facebook now of Christmas trees and decorations. And I wonder what kind of comments I would get with my photos.
I have to be ok with this, because this is my life and I’m choosing to do it this way. And I certainly can’t let the comparison of Facebook get me down, or keep me from doing what I can for my family.
We ended our night by watching episode 1 of the BBC, the Nativity (I plan to watch one episode each advent Sunday). It was all I could do. Yes, I wanted more, but I have to have peace with this. And it was very good.
For this Advent season, here at napokonkrasne, we would like to write something each week about Advent. A reminder. An expectant waiting. Yes, we are already behind, but we are doing it anyway, because even though we don’t have it all together we believe God still wants to bless us!
And so here is my first Advent post:
We love living in Europe. For our family, the last 12 years have been a blessing. Yes, some of those blessings didn’t always look or feel so wonderful, (like one thinks blessings should feel). However, the reality was always true, it is a blessing.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean there aren’t times that we miss the U.S. We do. In fact, with the holiday season now starting, these are some of the most difficult days to be away from Family. Family. That is the key word. And for my family U.S. happens to be synonymous.
And so we have the blessing of sharing in 2 cultures for Christmas traditions, and picking the best from each! I’m sharing some of those traditions with you today:
- medovníčky- I still cannot bake cookies like my Slovak friends, but I can enjoy the ones they give us. Not only are they are beautiful but the concept of baking together and sharing with family and friends, is a beautiful tradition we enjoy and want to continue it with our family.
- Kapustnica vs. Oyster Stew– I cannot say it is a typical American Christmas meal, but in my husbands’ family, Oyster Stew is the traditional meal on December 24. Personally, it is an acquired taste. Thankfully, with 21 years of marriage, 10 of those year were in Slovakia (far away from oysters)! In Slovakia, the stew is replaced with Kapustnica (cabbage soup). Fortunate for me, I have acquired this taste, and I love to make it! This year Zac is even pickling his own cabbage for the stew!
- Carp vs. Baked Turkey – There are Carp in the US, it’s just, no one eats them! The idea of keeping it in the bath tub until Christmas is a riot! We’ve never done it (kept it in our bath or cooked it), but, we’ve also never baked a turkey here either. They are just too expensive. One year we made individual cornish hens, another year beef steaks, one year pork roast. Every year is different. The side dishes are our traditions: sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing, cranberry relish and yeast rolls.
- Christmas market vs. Black Friday– In the US the holiday season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November). Holiday shopping begins the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) with crazy sales for people willing to get up in the night and wait long lines and traffic. We prefer open Christmas markets with hand-made crafts and the whole experience: snow, cold, mulled wine and punch. We anticipate the Christmas market and it has become a tradition for our family.
- Christmas Decorations– Traditionally, we put up our tree and decorate our house at the end of November (Thanksgiving weekend). We’re not alone anymore. We see decorations up earlier and earlier each year (ok, maybe not as early as us, but definitely a lot earlier than Dec 24). Our family also makes a handmade Advent wreath to add to the decorations.
- Advent celebration– We haven’t always celebrated Advent. It wasn’t until our precious Aunt Fan gave us a beautiful picture book that this family started an Advent tradition. Once we started, it was easy to continue it each year with this beautiful book, by Jack and Kathy Stockman
It’s beautiful pictures, and texts full of THE WORD have captivated our family. Our kids love opening the doors, year after year. They even have the texts memorized by the time we get to the end of the book, each year. It has never gotten old. We love it.
Even though this tradition started because of a simple gift given to us, we choose to continue it over and over because of how our kids respond to it. For our family, it keeps our focus for the season, on the coming of Christ’s birth. Four weeks of reading from God’s word everyday, specifically how He planned all of this for us. An incredible four weeks, it’s not even enough.
In that spirit of “not enough”, last year i found some new ideas to try for Advent (in addition to the Advent book) and want to share them here with you:
This is from Ann Voskamp, author of 1000 gifts. It’s a 27 day devotional. We painted our own ornaments (from her print off) and read it every evening after supper (photos below are from her website). I like how it starts with Genesis, the beginning, our need for a savior.
The result: While my kids loved making the ornaments, the reading was too much for them. I lOVED the author’s style of writing, but my kids didn’t. It didn’t end so well. They started dreading when it was time to read. Some days’ reading were really long, and if we missed a day (which is easy to do with holiday season) it was hard to catch up. I don’t think my kids will want to do it again this year. However, she has a new book out this month, a devotional for Advent. I will personally read it and maybe my family will find it more interesting. It does have some awesome snowflake printables!
I follow Bible reading plans from this website (shereadstruth) with the iphone app, youversion. I have it with me where ever I am. I like the idea of a daily reading plan. I take notes. I dig deeper from commentaries. It fits me. i don’t do a lot of commenting, but others do (a lot).
In addition, I found these printable cards for sale that go along with this specific reading plan. There are 28. I took them and had them printed on nice shiny card stock. I am so excited about them, they look great. I even gave some as gifts last year.
More great ideas for using the cards here (it’s a Slovak version of Pinterest!):
Speaking of pinterest, I haven’t even done a single search there because I know that would be rest of my day (it’s too addicting for me!) But look at this fun idea that came up when I did a search in Slovak! Super cute!
And so even though it’s already the 4th of December, don’t get discouraged or think it’s too late to start your Advent tradition. It’s not too late and it’s not too hard. It doesn’t have to be something big or perfect or take a lot of time. Start small and remember, finding it and making it is all part of the tradition. Be ready to be blessed!