It is the first Sunday of Advent. And like every year, it is also the day I am reminded of a favorite song we would recite in school while growing up in south eastern Bavaria.
“Das ist die stillste Zeit im Jahr… immer wenn es Weihnacht wird…” ( tried to insert an audio file downloaded from itunes… but it wouldn’t work, sorry!)
It translates to It is the most quiet time of the year, as we approach Christmas.
I ask myself: What happened? Where did this time for reflection, consideration, and preparation disappear to? We have been bombarded with advertising for Black Friday and Cyber Monday for weeks, our post office box is overflowing with unwanted flyers advertising deals (that are not really deals at all), the parking lots at the mall have barely a stall open, craft sales are located around every corner with each one claiming to feature the highest quality gifts available.
Recalling distant memories of growing up, and those not so distant memories of raising our own family the first Sunday of Advent marked a special time. An evergreen wreath would adorn the breakfast table, and the first candle would be lit while the family gathered. Anticipation was in the air: Everyone knew that the time had arrived to create Christmas cards for family, friends and neighbors, craft small gifts for siblings, parents and grandparents, and tree decorations that would adorn the real fir tree with real candles on Christmas Eve. Soon the scent of cinnamon and marzipan would waft through the house. It was also a time to bring the family together, enjoy some cake and cookies and play Advent games. Our family favorite was “Nüsse Tippen”, a simple game that would include young and old alike, and renamed in our Canadian family “The Nut Game.”
The game explained: Purchase a large quantity of nuts in the shell. Select a wide plate or tray with a raised rim, and spread the nuts onto the plate. Gather the family around the table and the plate of nuts. Select the first person to leave the room. The rest of the group will quietly select one nut by pointing to it, constantly keeping an eye on it. The person who left the room is called back, rejoins the group and begins to remove nuts, one at a time, from the plate. When she or he reaches and touches THE nut previously selected the group shouts “STOP!” which completes the first round. The nut plate is replenished and the next person leaves the room while the group selects THE nut. The game continues until everyone has had a turn… or several. In our family the game often lasted all afternoon!
Every year I remind myself that “less is more”. I work consciously on not going over board with shopping, and usually resort to a home-made/hand-made gift, even if it is a plate of assorted Christmas cookies or knitted socks. I have created comfort quilts for family members over the years and delight in the look of surprise and joy when the gift is unwrapped. Best of all I love a relaxed get-together with family and friends, my dog wrapped in a quilt, away from the hustle and bustle of the commercialization of Christmas – listening to traditional music, overlooking the winter wonderland we are living in.