Faith in the Family

Faith in the Family

Advent, Advent ein lichtlein brennt… is a famous German saying, meaning “Advent, Advent a light is burning…”

I used to love this time of the year, Advent, as a child but even more now as an adult because I learnt to appreciate the memories my parents created. The traditions around Advent are so wonderful. From Sunday to Sunday a new candle is being lit at the Advent wreath. Growing up it was a family tradition in my home that the whole family would gather to light each candle for the first time on a Sunday. We would sing together and my parents would make a special effort on those Sundays to have time for afternoon tea and biscuits and maybe homemade cake.

Another big tradition was the Advent calendar, 24 little red bags packed with surprises. I am from a big German family. I have a brother and a sister which is quite unusual for my generation. Many of my friends might have a brother or a sister, some have no siblings. (Perhaps it makes you smile calling it a ‘big family’). Those 24 red bags would be filled with chocolates and little treats but only every third day it was my turn. I had to share it with my siblings. My sister would start, I followed and my brother would finish. Then it starts all over again. Looking back, I have to laugh. We children would drive my mother mad by asking her why we would only have one Advent calendar while every other family would have one for every family member. Her answer was always the same “because yours is a special one”. It was indeed. Some days you would find a chocolate bar, sometimes a lollipop or jellies in those little red bags but to be honest those did not mean a lot to us. We were hoping for a note. Every one of us would have three or four notes hidden inside. Those included “I cook your favourite dinner”, “a games night”, “you pick the park we will go to”, “who would you like to visit”. None of those involved money – they all were time together as a family, eating, playing, having fun – in other words, creating memories.

This year I decided to do the same for my children for the first time (but I had to give in to have a chocolate one each, too). I am wondering how my children will react when they read – “games night”, “where do you want to go for a walk?” Times have changed in the past 20 years and I am not sure if they share the enthusiasm I had when I was a child. However, I am eager to find out. Wondering what others remember about Advent I asked one of my friends, Rachele. I asked her to share her own experience, what was Advent like as a child and now in her own family?

She said: “Every year as children we always were excited at the beginning of Advent. We always had our Advent calendars and little chocolates.  Each Sunday we went to Mass and saw the different colour candles being lit. We couldn’t wait for the final candle to be lit so Christmas was on its way.
“I followed the same tradition with my own children up until Covid arrived. My son asked the other day would we go to Mass to see the Advent wreath. I hope we can and Covid numbers will allow us to go to Mass as a family.”

I know every family, every household is different but I guess we have similar wishes: to spend time together as a family, have fun and celebrate as a parish community. The past 20 months have shown how important family and friends are. Maybe this Advent we can make a special effort to reach out to them and share our own Advent stories with each other.