The other night my friend Johanna was over with her family and we got into an interesting conversation about holidays. Earlier in the week Davy asked me, “why don’t we celebrate Hanukkah?” and Jamison had asked her, “well if Davy doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah, then what does he celebrate?” Which led to me asking her, “why are there 8 days in Hanukkah?” and she asked, “what is the purpose of Advent?”…like I said, an interesting conversation…. :O)
Nearly 2,200 years ago, the Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV tried to force Greek culture upon peoples in his territory. Jews in Judea – now Israel- were forbidden their most important religious practices as well as study of the Torah. Although vastly outnumbered, religious Jews in the region took up arms to protect their community and their religion. Led by Mattathias the Hasmonean, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, the rebel armies became known as the Maccabees. After three years of fighting, in the year 3597, or about 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees victoriously reclaimed the temple on Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah. Next they prepared the temple for rededication — in Hebrew, Hanukkah means “dedication.” In the temple they found only enough purified oil to kindle the temple light for a single day. But miraculously, the light continued to burn for eight days. The menorah symbolizes the burning light in the temple, as well as marking the eight days of the Hanukkah festival. Some say it also celebrates the light of freedom won by the Maccabees for the Jewish people.
Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday, called Levavi. The Eastern churches’ equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs both in length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1. The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, the Sunday from November 27 to December 3 inclusive. An Advent calendar is a special calendar which is used to count or celebrate the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return.
As we all know, the Advent calendar has been over commercialized; so in our house this year we decided to make Advent action cards to count down the 25 days to Christmas. Some of them are for friends or neighbors, some are for family, some are for the holidays, and some are for fun… But together as a family we are picking out an action each day and making memories along the way.
Here are a few of the cards:
- Cook dinner for your neighbor
- Go play in the snow
- Did you find where the Elf is hiding?
- Have a wonderful time at your birthday party
- Buy a gift for the Children’s home
- Finish making ornaments with mom
- Throw a party to eat, drink, and be merry
- Go look at Christmas lights and drink hot cocoa
- Make a wish when you blow out your candle
- Go and buy a new ornament for our tree
- Write a list of 10 things you are thankful for and share it with Grandma
- Go visit Santa tonight
- Read the story of the birth of baby Jesus
- Help mama mail out the Christmas cards
- Put together a scrapbook for the 2010 holidays
- Light a candle and say a prayer for a loved one far away
- Make some special cookies for your teachers to say “thank you”