We've just started our second week of Advent - oh, how I wish I would have grown up with this nightly tradition! Ours is a simple routine but the kids really enjoy it and look forward to it each evening. So do I.
After dinner, the table is cleared and the Advent wreath put in the middle. Someone turns out all the lights but a small one (for me to read by). Chad lights the candle(s) and I have everyone quiet down. Then I pray for God's blessing on our time together. The rule is this: After I pray, there are to be no more jokes or disagreements. One child got sent to their room last night for breaking this rule and missed out on a turn at blowing out a candle (they have to learn!) Anyway, after I pray, I read the scripture meant for that night. Then we discuss the scripture and questions are answered (this year, there have been a lot of questions) and we do further research if necessary to satisfy their inquiries. Then we sing. Chad now plays the piano for us (it was his choice to do this and it's been wonderful). We each get to choose a song and fortunately we have a song book to help us out. You'd think after all these years, I'd remember all the words to time-honored Christmas carols but my mind is getting older. And this year, Carmen is singing with us! Every song, too! All these years, she has been either silent during this time or whispers. Not this year! It is so, so sweet to watch and listen to my kids sing with me. I try to sing quietly so I can hear them. Oh, how I wish I could record these evenings but they won't have it! They said I'll just have to record them in my mind (and my heart - and I will!) For the song, "Away In The Manger", we made up hand motions to go with the words and this is the one song that Carmen has always enjoyed participating in. I well remember her tiny little arms folded and rocking back and forth, to mimic rocking the Little Lord Jesus. She still looks just as sweet when we sing that song.
So, after we finish singing, we turn out all the lights and blow out the candle(s), taking turns nightly. We try to remain silent until the candle glow is completely dark. We usually end up laughing. Then the younger kids pick out a Christmas story for me to read. For many years, I would buy a new Christmas story book each season but now we have enough for a week's worth of reading. The kids don't mind having a story repeated because they know this is the only time they'll hear them. Chad doesn't always hang around for the story (at 13, he knows the stories by heart, I'm sure!) but I love it when he stays to listen.
All this takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much talk the scripture inspires. Last night, the questions flew: "What's Deuteronomy mean?" "What does the word 'Messiah' mean?" etc. They really make me work sometimes but isn't it great? I learn a lot, too.
The scripture verses I read are from an article I cut out years ago from a "Focus On The Family" magazine but the same verses are available from a website I was on the other day. We don't do crafts or food as part of our tradition but I know other families do. That's what a family tradition is all about - each family celebrates things a little differently.
I think this is my favorite part of Christmas - seriously. I know one day this tradition will end but I don't want to think about that. I want to remember these nights for the rest of my life.