the hanging of the greens
I don’t know why this is a ceremony in churches and nowhere else, but hanging evergreens for Advent is totally appropriate1, and hanging them at the beginning of Advent means that around Christmas you can replace them with fresh or with other decoration. Leave them bare. Let them smell wonderful through the season.
paint it black
Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) states that black was the colour to be used during Advent, but violet had already come into use for this season at the end of the thirteenth century.
– the 1913 catholic encyclopedia
the christmas mystery
A boy gets a proper paper Advent calendar instead of the cardboard chocolate affairs others prefer. There are tiny folded papers within – bits of a story. It tells about a little girl who runs away from a Norwegian Christmas market, across Europe, and back in time, to the Nativity… The whole thing is written one chapter for each day in Advent. There is a Roman who ends his sentences with “Dixi!” If you have children, get them a special cocoa to have as you read it every night.
If you are celebrating a religious Christmas, stars are an excellent motif for Advent. If you are celebrating an areligious or pagan solstice, they don’t make as much sense2.
Cranberry is the best seasonal flavor for Advent because it’s distinctive, versatile, and a bit somberly bitter. Also, they sort of look like holly berries. For tea, consider Celestial Seasonings’ Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland and Cranberry Apple Zinger. The former has a rooibos base, of which I’m not fond. The latter is a bit generically hibiscus. Both are quite nice as is to be expected of Celestial Seasonings.
I’m still working on a homemade cranberry liqueur. This year I tried with bourbon, and it’s not… quite… right. For something akin to mulled wine, though – spiced cider, cranberry juice, and a swig of port.
If you don’t maintain the fasts and feasts of the year (no work during Christmastide, fast during the Ember days), she will come and cut you open and replace your innards with straw. So. Krampus gets all the press, but I really feel we all ought to be being a bit more careful with our gruel-eating on account of Perchta, Frau Faste. Perchtenlaufs and other perchten festivities all get a bit mishmashed up with Krampus, of course, as is only to be expected with various strains of pre-Christian celebrations.
Where I live there is a goth club that has craft markets, and the relevant one to Christmas has someone dress up as Krampus so you can pose for pictures. This is good, but what would be better is probably some kind of pub crawl. I am not really a pub crawl person so if anyone knows of suitable Krampusnacht adaptations of them, please reach out.
Speculaas are the rare cookie that is designated for Advent, belonging to the general northern European early celebrations around St. Nicholas’s Day (Dec 6). You will see that they are made with very, very, very fancy shapes with very hard-to-find equipment. I recommend not worrying too much about this and making them in the shape of stars, which you can then claim are the Star of Bethlehem, wow, such seasonal. These are best if you get really good quality spices3, even though you’re not using as much as a gingerbread might demand.
Where I live, the beginning of Advent is about the right time to go get your warm clothes from storage, which means it’s also time to take your Halloween decorations back (you kept them up through November because it’s the month of the dead, right?).
There is a Polish antecedent to the Christmas tree that seems to have gone up around the solstice, not before. However, it’s hard to disentangle that from its decorations. Similarly, the Serbian badnjak really only becomes a thing on Christmas Eve. However, if we are to deny ourselves the bulk of the Christmas decorations everyone else seems to be getting on with in early December, surely it’s fair to have something. ↩
I mean, maybe they do in the sense that the period right before the winter solstice is, just as much as the period right after, a period of Really Long Nights and thus lots and lots of quality star-time. Well, except where I live, where it’s solid clouds. ↩