By Clyde Davis: Columnist
For many years, the Augsburg Publishing House published a large, colorful Christmas annual book. Although geared to use in churches and worship communities, this beautiful piece of literature, profusely decorated with illustrations, also made a wonderful family book for use in the holiday season. Among other things, one would read about the background of numerous Advent/Christmas customs.
For example, Dec. 13, or St. Lucy’s Day, is of special importance to Scandinavian folks. It is the custom, with variations, for the family to be served breakfast rolls or some sweet breakfast pastry by a daughter who wears a crown of candles. This coincided, essentially, with winter solstice.
In many families, ours included, the Advent wreath, lit with prayers and candles, is a piece of the liturgical four weeks (really four Sundays) time before Christmas. Traditionally one might expect the wreath to be of evergreen, but I have seen some beautiful modern pieces of wrought iron, glass, and wood.
Many of us grew up with live Christmas trees, and I can remember, as a child, being embarrassed by the tackiness of the artificial tree which my grandparents insisted on displaying. No longer is this true, as some very tasteful artificial trees exist. Again, as in the wreath, the eclectic symbolism of the evergreen, which predates Christianity, is present.
How one decorates the tree becomes a matter of family tradition. Certainly some homes are graced with a decorator tree, but in our home, as in many families, it is more of a memory tree, with everything from the Lenox “Dorothy” I bought my Wizard of Oz loving wife to the latest creation my grandson brings home from second grade.
Advent calendars are used by many children to count the days from Dec. 1 to the 25. Someone once again made the error of buying my grandson a calendar with a piece of candy behind each day’s door (you open one door each day.) It is becoming our Christmas custom to watch Jason eat his whole “month” at one sitting.
Strongly significant in our area Wednesday, the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe. Near Las Cruces, there is a climb into the Organ Mountains by some of the faithful to mark this date. Though this, like St. Lucy’s day, is not officially connected to Advent, it certainly blends together in the hearts of the faithful.
In our home, as well as many others, one will find the creche, or nativity model. Legend tells us that the first creche was constructed by St. Francis, for teaching purposes.
One could add to this list, as we think of Advent dramas, caroling through the neighborhood, charity actions which may be important to particular persons as their way of giving extra; the list could go on and on.
For now, however, it is enough to mark some of these customs as reminders that, whatever retail may think, they did not invent this season, and it does not primarily exist to increase sales.