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Celebrating Advent Christmas Traditions

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Lion lies down with the lamb.

Because Christmas has become the most important holiday of all
in countries with large Christian populations, Advent has become a preparation not just for the Christ child but also for everything else that happens Christmas day. Most people spend all four weeks of Advent (and then some!) buying or making gifts to give out for Christmas, scheduling Christmas travel, and setting up the bounties of the big Christmas meal. By the time it's over, we need a vacation from the holiday!

Everyone has their favorite holiday foods. Good bread puddings are made in advance and left chilled to age so that the figs, raisins, and brandy flavors meld. Gaelic custom is to bake cakes during the last weeks of Advent, store them, then take them out just before Christmas to spread on almond paste and/or an appropriately-sweet goodies such as frosting or honey. On the days before Christmas, Europeans bake plaited breads in a long oval shape, to look like a well-wrapped Christ child.

Quite possibly the most fun during Advent is found when caroling. Most caroling today is done between Advent 2 and Advent 4, far enough away from Christmas day so that people still have time for their Christmas preparations but not so far away as to miss the feel of the season. The songs are Christmas more than Advent, and include well-known hymns, many popular-style songs and some quite 'secular' songs (it has been that way from the start). Songing also involves cheery greetings, a lot of walking, meeting strangers, camaraderie, and simple old-style dances. It's a great way to get to know each other, learn your neighborhood, and do a lot of blissful singing. Even bad singers can carol! Just remember it's a no-grump zone. Somewhere at (or near) the end, the carolers often receive 'a cup of cheer' -- hot liquid refreshment such as apple cider with cinnamon, or hot cocoa (with whipped cream or marshmallows), or warm eggnog (spiked with rum or whisky, and with vanilla, nutmeg, or ginger), or most recently espresso cappuccino coffee (perhaps with light spice). Usually there's finger-foods and cakes to go with it.

A common Advent tradition is that of the Advent wreath. The wreath is made of evergreen branches with four candleholders and candles, and usually hung by wire from the ceiling. Since in Advent we're waiting for the Christ child, there needs to be a ceremonial way to mark the time and make us aware of the wait. Lighting a candle reminds us of Christ as light of the world. As the candle is lit, it's customary to sing two verses of "O Come O Come Emmanuel". One candle is lit for each Sunday in Advent : one on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on. Some in high-church circles frown on Advent wreaths in the sanctuary and lighting ceremonies during worship. Where that happens, it can be a part of how your household worships at home during the Advent season. The kids can have lots of fun making the wreath, but for fire safety it's best to let adults do the lighting, and to put the wreath in a secure place.

In many Latino countries, the days before Christmas are marked with the posada, the journey of Mary and Joseph to find shelter in the days before Jesus' birth. The people playing the roles go from house to house, being turned away, until a house takes them in -- with a party all set to start upon their arrival.

Another common tradition is that of decorating and blessing their Christmas tree. Often the Sunday before Christmas (Advent 4) is set aside for this task. Decorations include colored lights (which replace an earlier era's candlesticks), balls (originally reflecting the candlelight in a dazzling way), tinsel (resembling the glittering icicles found on fir trees in colder lands), chrisoms (wooden or foam symbols or monograms for Christ), and on top, a star.

The roots of the use of trees and decorations are definitely in Europe's pre-Christian religions, but the symbols were transformed by the early missionaries in order to express some aspect of Christ's life. Sometimes, the meaning was much the same as the pagans treasured, but drawn through Christ. In other cases, the old meaning was deliberately turned inside-out to bring further honor to God and more cause for the people to celebrate.

Advent is also when many families start making their own crèche or manger scene. Francis of Assisi is said to have had a role in popularizing this custom. In one interesting recent turn on the old tradition, the scene is not made at once, but piece by piece, with each family member responsible for adding a piece, one each day in front of the rest of the family, telling the significance of each piece. Everything but the Christ Child and manger are added in the first weeks of Advent. Then the manger is added -- but with no baby, and no straw. The baby needs a bed of straw, so the children are asked to do good things for others. For each such deed, they would get a straw to add to the manger. Hopefully, by Christmas eve, there would be a bed of straw to lay the baby Jesus figurine into.

The Moravians created the Advent star, which symbolizes the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus, who is "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16). This star first started in the 1850s near the traditional Moravian home area of Herr hut.

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Snowman Waving From the Top of The World My vote is to have Christmas traditions all year round. You see at Christmas time most people at least the ones I have met, always change just a little for the better around Christmas. I do not know whether or not it is the great yuletide Christmas carols, the festive atmosphere everywhere you go, or just some hidden part in all of us that screams out,
You see, somewhere deep down inside we all believe in something better than we now have or see, and most of us feel a lot better when we help someone. Whether the person is in need or not, this feeling is what I call the feeling of Christmas, and we all should strive to feel this way all year long.

The feeling of the Christmas holidays is truly all about family, friends and celebrating all things good.

The Lord's birthday is swiftly coming
Christmas carols we're merrily humming,
Adoration and harmony spreads worldwide
As we eagerly await the happy Yuletide.

Enhance your Christmas, with Christmas poems and stories highlighted with your favorite Christmas carols. Christmas traditions are fast becoming a family way of life.
Poems are a simple way of inspiring others to join in on the Christmas traditions that love and poems bring to this Christmas holiday.

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