A long, long time ago—circa 2002, maybe?—I needed a new winter coat. My mom decided our best bet was to look for one on Black Friday, even though neither of us had ever really braved the masses in that way before. This was back when people were trampling each other for Tickle Me Elmo’s. There was no Cyber Monday or Amazon Prime to alleviate in-store demand and we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to get to the mall. Except we didn’t. But we did get up at an absurd hour, find a coat, and make it home before the real insanity began. (I.e. before the sun rose.)
Somehow, we’ve gone Black Friday shopping every year since.
This tradition is built on two things I don’t enjoy: 1) Rampant consumerism, and 2) More rampant consumerism. But I do love seeing all the stores’ decorations. I love the movie-style hustle and bustle set to a soundtrack of Christmas music. I get way too excited about stopping at Williams Sonoma for a peppermint bark sample and my mom gets way too excited to go Forever 21 because she likes to dance to the rave-esque music they play on a loop in there. We never end up buying much, but that’s never really been the point. It’s a known block of time we spend together every year.
Ironically, I find going Black Friday shopping so much less stressful than the rest of the weekend—and really the entire holiday shopping season. I came home from the mall last Friday to find 62 new emails telling me about everyone’s LOWEST PRICES OF THE SEASON, only available for the next 12 hours. Except 12 hours later, there was another round of emails. And then another. And then another. Even after deleting all of the emails, it still felt suffocating, like this lingering sense of dread that I might be missing out on the Deal of a Lifetime.
Black Friday, oddly enough, works for me. It’s the slant I run on holiday shopping. Everything else gives me Retail FOMO.
I think I need a similar slant route for the whole Christmas season—which, like shopping, can also feel a little overwhelming. This December is particularly full, and I feel like I need something that takes all of the insanity and distills it into something manageable and meaningful.
Cue: Advent Light.
I don’t mean light as in holy light (or as my friend Jaclyn’s 4-year-old says in his perfect way, the “white of Chwist”), but as in I’m Not Taking This Super Seriously.
I’ve never done advent before, unless you count those cardboard calendars that house 24 pieces of sad milk chocolate. And I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought this year had it not been for Tsh Oxenreider’s podcast on the liturgical calendar. That was a game changer. Now, I think advent is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. Here’s what I know so far:
- For those who observe advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are about preparation. It’s not a mad dash to fit in all of the Christmas music/movies/cookies/experiences before the 25th—that comes later. The time before Christmas is used to thoughtfully consider the birth of Jesus.
- Speaking of Jesus, I feel like He has been a bit of an afterthought for me these past few Christmases, and I miss Him. Participating in advent feels like a good first step to finding Him in this season again.
- You know the 12 Days of Christmas? Those are real days, and apparently they’re celebratory days that are supposed to happen after Christmas, not before. That’s when you do All Of The Christmas Things, which makes so much sense. Everyone has a zillion things to do before Christmas, but who is trying to be Productivity Queen between Christmas and New Year’s Day? No one. Not one person. We’re all in a sugar coma wearing some form of fleece blanket. It’s a great time to hunker down and celebrate.
This timeline feels like it takes so much of the pressure off, like there’s time to slow down and actually take in everything Christmas has to offer. I’m all for it.
Timeline aside: how am I going to do Advent Light? Like most things about advent, I don’t really know that yet, either. I do know that the “Light” portion means I will not be doing the same things some observers do, like lighting pink and purple candles or regulating certain movies and music for post-Christmas only. Nope. Don’t have time for that this year.
I do have time for the Simple Advent Guide, which I purchased this morning. That’s my starting point to get a better understanding of what advent actually looks like in real life. It’s only $8, so if you are interested in trying your own version of Advent Light, this is an easy investment level. (Bonus: there are a bunch of free advent resources/suggestions on that page, too.) And the first Sunday of advent (is that the same as the first day of advent? I think so?) is this Sunday, December 2nd, so there’s still time to jump on the train if you feel so led.
Or maybe you are so happy on your own Christmas train and don’t need to make a single adjustment to your route of choice. That’s great too! This is just my advent PSA, the passing of information that happens between friends when you discover something amazing, like Apple’s new holiday commercial or the Sicilian gelato episode of Chef’s Table. (We need to talk about both of those things. I’ll link them below.)
At any rate, no matter how you spend the next few weeks, I hope you feel like Elf when he thinks Santa is coming to Gimbels. That’s the level of joy we’re going for here, everyone.
A Simple Advent Guide // aforementioned, but worth mentioning again
The Liturgical Calendar (3/3) // the podcast episode that got me started on this idea
The Lazy Genius Conquers Holiday Overwhelm // another great podcast episode about the merit of having opening and closing ceremonies for the holidays
Pray As You Go // don’t have time for daily readings? This could be an ideal solution. Each episode is short, reflective, and available in any format you want—desktop, podcast, or app.
A Simple Advent Playlist // an advent soundtrack by Tsh Oxenreider
Cozy Minimalist // if the decorating style you’re looking for is simple and based on what you already own, this is your stop
Share Your Gifts // the full-length version of Apple’s holiday commercial. It’s so beautiful.
Corrado Assenza // still feel overwhelmed? Escape to Sicily for an hour! Warning: You will want to escape to Sicily for more than one hour after you watch this.