The rose gold tinge of their shell is so linked to December, in my mind.
Even with my birthday being in October, and many of the Christmas gifts being in the shops in September I didn't mind. There was more chance I'd get an exciting birthday present because of it.
In those heady days of the 70s, as a child, Halloweven wasn't really an event in South London. So, it would be Christmas presents on sale September / October, then fireworks late October to 5th November and suddenly all the shops had Christmas decorations. If you had an artificial tree (normally silver tinsel!) you could put it up in early December, but for those of us who had a real tree, then it would be week before Christmas.
For those, who, like my father gate keep when Christmas can start (normally after their birthdays), it smacks of those Bridezillas who won’t let others do anything during their wedding year.
We each need to choose when our own Christmases start for us.
Yesterday I looked at what Advent means, building on my blog from last year about what makes Advent Calendars so special.
Today, I want to explore some Advent Traditions.
The Advent Crown was a take on the Advent wreath. As with many traditions that we are familiar with, here in the UK, they became popular through Prince Albert's influence. But with our tradition of Yule, it didn't take too much to pursuade us to bring evergreen greenary into the house.
Sweden and Julklapp
The Rules of the Game Today (taken from the elfster blog)
While there are many various, the most standard version is relatively simple.
The College's website says that it was introduced to 'bring a more imaginative approach to worship', but I can't help thinking that just 6 weeks after then end of World War I this must have been a very moving way to start Christmas.
Each year, the service is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as well as the World Service and now appears on iPlayer shortly after the service has concluded.
Whether or not you are a Christian, there is a sense of light in the darkness, starting with Diwali, which falls at the end of October / start of November, then Hanuakkah, during December, the Winter Solstice, on 21st December, and finally Christmas, there is a sense of hope, of light in the darkness and salvation.
Whether it's good over evil (Diwali), deliverance from peril (Hanuakkah), the days getting longer (Solstice) or the promise of salvation (Christmas).
Many Christains will undertake weekly advent bible studies in the run up to Christmas. One of the most memorable ones I've attended was based on the lines of a well know Christmas Carol.
Others will read a commentary or special daily devotion that allows them to reflect on this period of anticipation.
Whether you are a member of a church, occasionally attendee or someone who keeps their faith in their heart, it offers an opportunity to remind yourself of why you believe and, whatever your faith, that we all strive to be the best we can in this world.
Advent marks the weeks before Christmas and is a time of anticipation, preparation and reflection leading up to Christmas Day.
Advent starts with the aptly named Advent Sunday. This is the 4th Sunday before Christmas Day and usually falls between 27th November and 3rd December. This year, 2023, it is 3rd December.
So, in 1839 he took a cartwheel and added candles to it. Each week day a small candle was lit and on Sundays a larger candle. Counting down the days to Christmas.
By the 1920s the custom had been adopted by other Christian denominations in Germany and soon spread, in the 1930s to North America.
Behind the wreath, there is symbology and meaning.
The advent wreath concept, of counting down to Christmas, has also spawned other Advent practices that we are familiar with.
Where a full wreath isn't possible, then a single candle marked with the days is often chosen.
Once again, Desborough & Toller URCs published an advent booklet with a reading for each day, written by a member of the congregation.
This year, each day took its inspiration from a line of the carol 'Once in Royal David's City'.
Here is one of the two that I wrote.
I was just 18 when I took that school trip.
We had travelled over 4 hours, by coach, to a remote kibbutz before heading to Bethlehem, which at that time was still within Israel. The land was undulating, and in the distance, the hills has a smattering of snow. As we drove through the countryside, we saw burnt out tanks, relics of the 6 days war. With the dry, arid environment, they looked as fresh as the day they had been hit, over 17 years earlier.
The coach was filled with young teenagers who were boisterous; laughing and chatting whilst at the back, I and my friend were feeling bleak from the landscape we had driven through.
The Church of the Nativity, as we arrived, was a plain solemn looking building. Set in a courtyard, we stayed back from the loud tourist hoards and walked in silence towards the entrance.
Nothing could have prepared me for the inside. The far end of the church, directly in front of us, was ornate and gilded. The smell of incense was overwhelming. This seemed a world away from the Bethlehem of the Bible.
We waited until everyone else from the group had finished and then went through a doorway. Carefully, we wound our way down the steps to the Grotto of the Nativity. It was the four of us. Myself, my friend, my teacher and a guide from the Church.
The grotto was so quiet after the noise of the coach and church. The guide pulled us towards the altar and showed us, underneath the fourteen-point silver star, marking where Jesus was born.
He looked around, conspiratorially, and beckoned us over, indicating for us to touch it. We three leaned in and placed our hands there, together. As we did this, I looked up at the cave we were in, below the church that was bustling, and in that quiet, sacred space, I connected with something bigger than myself.
My first visit to a Christmas Market, in Germany, was in 2006 when I was in Munich for work.
Between 2012 and 2016 I visited Munich for work every December and spent most of my evenings wandering around Marienplatz and taking in the Christmas vibe whilst keeping myself warm drinking Glühwein.
One year, I was so cold that it took me nearly an hour to defrost back in my hotel room.
In 2007, hubby and I went to Cologne and visited the 8 markets there.
German Christmas markets, also known as "Weihnachtsmarkt," have a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. These markets originated in the German-speaking regions of Europe and have since spread to other parts of the world.
The first recorded Christmas market was held in Dresden, Germany in 1434. These early markets were held in church squares and were a way for people to buy and sell goods, particularly food and handmade crafts, during the holiday season.
Over time, the Christmas market tradition spread throughout Germany and other parts of Europe, becoming an important part of the region's cultural and economic life. Today, German Christmas markets are known for their festive atmosphere, which includes the sale of traditional holiday foods, drinks, and gifts, as well as live music and other entertainment.
Every one of our nutcrackers and incense burners, that we get out at Christmas, have been bought at one of the Christmas Markets we have visited in either Germany or the UK
In the UK, Christmas Markets have started to become a regular feature with a Medieval one in Lincoln and the now famous Frankfurt German Market in Birmingham.