Hello, thank you for calling in. At last it has stopped raining and we have had three whole days with no precipitation. Hooray! It has rained so much over the last few weeks that my wooden front door has swollen and is sticking. The ground is still saturated and there is standing water in the fields. It has been very cold and we have had to scrape the frost off the cars in the mornings but I don't mind, it is December after all.
So we are in the season of Advent, one of my favourite times of the year. Yesterday I read that if you are sick of Christmas by 25th December, you haven't done Advent properly. I have had great difficulty finding my Christmas spirit over the last few years, even though I have tried to do Advent properly; I know that it should be about anticipation, reflection and excitement but I just haven't been able to muster the excitement. However, at the end of last week I read that it should be about anticipation, reflection and joyful preparation and by replacing that "excitement" with "joy" I felt completely different about it. I lay part of the blame for my difficulty at the feet of a vicar who, about thirty years ago, told me that Advent was about "penitence and preparation" and I've never really shaken off the penitential bit - I didn't know that I was allowed to be joyful. I have been in churches where they don't allow the Christmas tree lights to be switched on during Advent. Honestly.
So, with all this in mind, on Saturday I joyfully cleared, dusted and polished my mantelpiece and laid upon it the pompom garland I made last year, in traditional colours of green, red and cream, and then gathered together my Advent paraphernalia.
I like the daily countdown, as each new day is over the remaining numbers remind me that there are still plenty of days left in which to achieve all that needs to be done for the Christmas festivities, despite what the fast-edited television adverts might be telling me, and for a list-maker like me, that's very helpful. I also like that moment of opening the door on the advent calendar or lighting the candle, the stillness which is in that moment, the opportunity for a little bit of mindfulness, reflection or prayer. So, I have an Advent calendar. I'm a bit old-fashioned and I like a simple card calendar with doors which open to reveal nothing but a picture so my children think I am ridiculous. (The Best Beloved has bought each of them a chocolate Advent calendar, even though they are proper grown-ups and don't live with us any more, apparently this is his paternal duty.) I like there to be glitter on the card - and yes, I know that we are not supposed to be using glitter because it's so bad for the environment, unless it's biodegradable, but my calendar is on its seventh year so it's definitely not a single-use item and by the time it's worn out I expect all the glitter will have dropped off anyway. In January I shall carefully close all the doors, weight it down under a heavy book and then tuck it away until next year.
The house-shaped starry box is the gift my thoughtful sister gave me for Christmas last year. When I opened it I realised that it is a Nativity scene Advent calendar - one little wooden figure to add each day until the whole cast is assembled. Although I was excited about that, I put it away and decided that I would open it during December this year. When I thanked my sister, she said that it was a shame to wait almost a whole year for it but I said no, it wasn't a shame because this way I get to open a present every day for twenty-four days!
I was given this copy of The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder by a friend last year. It's a magical story divided into twenty-four chapters, each one only about ten pages long, one a day during Advent which gathers together the cast of the Nativity through a time-travelling mystery about a missing girl. Although written for children, I enjoyed it and I intend to read it again this year.
In the star-shaped tealight holder is a tealight with the number 1 on it. I love the soft glow of candlelight every evening during Advent but I discovered a couple of years ago that I prefer these numbered tealights to the traditional dinner candle. These burn for a few hours and I don't have to worry about burning down into the next number. As I got these out on Saturday I felt just a bit smug about the fact that I had bought two sets of these when I found them in a shop last year so I didn't need to hunt them out this year.
The envelope labelled "A moment to breathe in Advent" was given to me by friends and contains four postcards, I suppose one for each Sunday during Advent. I read the first one yesterday and enjoyed a minute or two of reflection over it.
Lastly, I took my Merry Christmas mug off the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard. I bought this in a sale at the end of November last year and used it every day from 1st December through to Epiphany. It's a constant reminder that I don't have to be penitential and it's OK to be merry - or it would be, if the Best Beloved hadn't brought me my tea in a rather lovely strawberry mug this morning!
So, yesterday morning, after drinking tea from my Merry Christmas mug and opening my Advent calendars I went to The Teacher's house. She had suggested that we have a creative Advent Sunday together so we wore reindeer antlers, painted the tiny people's feet to print Christmas cards, stamped some brown paper with Tom Kitten to make wrapping paper and drank mulled wine to a background of Christmas songs. I think I might get the hang of this "joyful preparation".
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x