Writing Prompts: Advent Traditions

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As November winds down, and we've entered Advent--a simple writing prompt: Do you have Advent traditions?  Any favorites?  Where do they come from--family traditions, a cultural heritage?

Coming from German heritage, we do St. Nicholas Night here.  Shoes out by the door, and in the morning, we find St. Nicholas has left gifts in them.  The tradition may well date back to medieval days, or even earlier, since Nicholas (or Nikolaus) of Myra was born in 270 A.D.  He died on December 6 of 343--hence we put out shoes on the night of December 5.
st. nicholas, advent, traditions, shoes by door,

The tradition of giving gifts in shoes springs from Nikolaus's habit of giving secret gifts.  One story, in particular, tells us of a man with three daughters who could not marry because he didn't have money for dowries.  Nikolaus rode by in the night, leaving three bags of money for their dowries, so they might marry.

Advent calendars are a great tradition, and in my family, so--apparently--is stealing your brothers' chocolate and denying it!

With nine children, we've moved to trading names for giving gifts.  This is a big event for them these days, which usually takes place when everyone is home for Thanksgiving--now that I have a son and daughter both living out of state.  Last weekend, they did the big name exchange and went out shopping together in groups.  There's always much excitement about this!

What are your traditions during advent?  What good times with family, and which family members, do they recall?  What feelings do they bring up?  If you're writing about a fictional family, what might be a unique tradition they have, or a unique twist on a common tradition, that gives insight to them as a family?  Might there be a family member who especially loves the tradition and another who hates it for some reason?  How might their celebration of these traditions give light to this darkest time of the year?

And of course, use lots of senses--colors, textures, patterns, light and dark, the sounds of bells or snow crunching underfoot or the Salvation Army calling for donations, shoppers rushing, horns beeping; the smells of cooking, spices, apples, pumpkins, turkey (unless your family is medieval--then no turkey allowed!)

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