A little thing I'm learning about traditions is that - just as important as instilling and nurturing them - is recongizing when it's time to let them go, or at least for them to change. For a few years, our Advent Stockings were a most welcome, fun and growing tradition in our home. And then, somewhere along the way...they became trickier for this Mama to manage...and something about that didn't feel right. I did change up 'how' we did the calendar, and included more activities, prompts or poetry and just generally less "stuff". But even with those changes, after a while, in our house, anyway, it just began to feel like too much in the midst of a holiday season of a lot.
(I'm totally speaking as a mama to these particular four little ones, and maybe someday we'll do the stockings again! I know it's a lovely tradition that many enjoy year after year. For some great ideas, check out: shim + sons has some great ideas this year, I really love Ali's too, and Grace shared a wonderful PDF idea list recently.)
In an effort to keep my mind and our days even more simple, slow and sweet around the holidays, one year, it just didn't go up. The kids were so much less attached to the whole thing than I had thought - I think there was one little conversation about it and then they moved on, while I felt like a weight had been lifted.
The thing I miss most about the advent stockings though, was the marking of days - the daily rhythm, ritual and reminder of this magical holiday season that we are in the midst of. For that's the point of the advent to begin with.
So this year, we're trying something new. A Gratitude Advent of sorts. For this season, like every other season, there is so very much for us to be grateful for, and joys and special people to remind ourselves of every day. The idea was to hang one newly family-chosen 'gratitude' on the garland each day leading up to Solstice, at which point I thought it would be lovely to burn the entire thing - bark and all - in our Solstice fire.
I was so pleased when the kids instantly loved this idea (though they were horrified at the thought of burning it in the end, so maybe we'll skip that). Quickly on the first evening our 'one' family Gratitude turned into six individual gratitudes. While my original idea was lovely and all, I dare say, who would say 'no' to MORE gratitude? Exactly. I anticipate this garland will be mighty heavy by the end of this month.. Or maybe another will be made. The rules I set out with originally have changed...and it's for the better, of course.
The gratitudes are written on a piece of birch bark with either marker or paint. (The birchbark had been removed from cut firewood earlier this season and was gathering in a tall, flattened stack in our woodshed - it makes a wonderful firestarter). With a paper punch and some twine, we're hanging them from the 'garland' (some linen and wooden beads). Adelaide added the pinecone touch. (And hanging the whole shebang on the doorway-missing-trim? Oh, you can bet that was a strategic plan - a Mama's note to self of gratitude, indeed.)
Taking a moment after dinner each night as family to think about, share with each other and write down our gratitudes this holiday season is already a ritual that I am most treasuring. Whether it becomes a yearly 'tradition' or not, I don't know. I love it so right now - we all do. And it's become one of the very things I am most grateful for this holiday season....among trees, flowers, cows, friends, yarn, wood, food and home. And a growing string of other things, too.