Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the liturgical year, and to me, the first official day of the Christmas season, despite what the retailers tell us. The Candle of Hope will be lit with the requisite scripture readings and the oddly appealing mournful strains of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" will sound throughout many sanctuaries.
With Advent comes the tradition of the Advent Calendar. The calendars begin with the first day of December and continue through Christmas, each day revealing new secrets. As the Internet has come of age, there are more and more advent calendars online. One of the best I’ve found has been Tate’s Calendar, which features the daily adventures of a French cat in the town of Bric-a-Brac. The artist, Penelope Schenk, is quite talented, and I think she could easily turn these calendars into children’s stories.
This Advent we have committed blasphemy. For the first year ever for me, I’m not putting up a real tree. Last year we purchased two artificial trees and put them up in other rooms of the house, along with our traditional real tree, since we now have such a large house. This year, since we will be travelling a bit, we decided just to put up the artificial. We’re going to do it for this year, and see if it adversely affects our Christmas Kharma (how’s that for mixing religions?)