Advent Adventures: The Door to December 7th

Door to December 7th

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Dear Holy Rollers,

You can’t speak of Advent Adventures without making mention of the Christian celebration of the season of Advent.

According to Wiki-Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity, and is part of the wider Christmas and holiday season. (Advent – Wikipedia)

Growing up in the Catholic faith, this was a big part of our year. It not only marked the significance of an important icon in the Church, but it was the path that led to Christmas Day. As a kid, you were willing to get down with all of the religiosity you could handle if it meant that by enduring it you could get to open presents on Jesus’ Birthday. Hell, who wouldn’t want to get presents on someone else’s birthday?

Advent was a period of great anticipation and it marked a countdown for us. Each week we would immerse ourselves in the rites and symbolism of the liturgy and scratch off another lit candle by week’s end. Four was a nice easy number to remember.

The Advent Wreath was set up in a place of prominence at the front of the altar of our Church, so that all parishioners would be able to see it. It was our job as altar boys to make sure the candles on the Advent Wreath were lit. You had to light them in the correct order, or there would be complications. Complications would be getting a stern lecture about how to properly light the candles from our Church’s Pastor. A Pastor that could have fit nicely as a Drill Instructor at Parris Island training Marine Recruits. In fact, the altar boys in my Church were more or less a platoon ready to march at our Pastor’s command.

One time a funeral director from out of town came in and did a service. It was customary for the altar boys to get tipped for serving the funeral, but the funeral director must have missed that “suggestion”. When we came back empty handed our Pastor told us to go stand in front of the hearse until the funeral director paid up. It seems like an embellishment, but hand to God, it really happened. We got the tip money, that funeral director likely never had a funeral at our church again. 

Please see the explanations of the rites of Advent below. They are informative and explain a bit about the significance of each candle in the wreath. When thinking back on those days of my life, I fondly remember the incandescent images of candles burning in the church. A mysterious glow. A wondrous glow. So many eyes and hearts focused on those points of light, waiting in anticipation for something to happen. I think I recall the phrasing “waiting in joyful hope”.

Whether you are waiting in joyful hope for the eventual return of a promised savior or just for the annual tickle from Old St. Nick, it certainly is nice to have rituals and candles to see you through.

CPH

 

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All information below is provided in courtesy by: Learn Religions – Guide to the Beliefs and Religions of the World

History and Time of the Advent Wreath

The lighting of an Advent wreath is a custom that began in 16th-century Germany among Lutherans and Catholics. The original purpose of the wreath was to bring focus on Christmas rather than on Advent as a distinct season. In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.

The symbolism of Advent Wreath Candles

Set on the branches of the Advent wreath are four candles: three purple candles and one pink candle. A more modern tradition is to place a white candle in the center of the wreath. As a whole, these colored advent candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. Each week of Advent on Sunday, a particular Advent candle is lit. Catholic tradition states that the four candles, representing the four weeks of Advent, each stand for one thousand years, to total the 4,000 years from the time of Adam and Eve until the birth of the Savior.

Prophecy Candle

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

Bethlehem Candle

On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12, NIV)

Shepherds Candle

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle,” and it represents joy: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8–11, NIV)

Angels Candle

The fourth and last purple candle, often called the “Angels Candle,” represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13–14, NIV)

Christ Candle

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)

 

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Check out a recent poem here: Advent Adventures: The Door to December 6th – ProCrasstheNation

Advent Adventures: The Door to December 6th

Door to December 6th

 

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Dear Season’s Greeters,

I hope this post finds you well. We are moving quickly into the second week of December 2021, and we anticipate another festive season. I’ve been doing my decorating duties at home, as well as watching my Hallmark Movies. Soon I’ll be sitting down to write some Christmas Cards 😉 Oh, and the music, we’ve been listening to Christmas Music pretty much since the second week of November. We have a jolly bunch of elves all up in my place. 

Yesterday, my daughter in a fit of boredom decided to go shopping at our house and then wrap the gifts that she “bought” for us. We had the presentation of gifts shortly after dinner. She didn’t do too bad. She found items that were applicable and appropriate to all. The baby got a toy. The toddler got a board book. Her older brother got a Dinosaur book. My wife got a novel. I got a book of puzzles. So it was a success. Whether she realizes it or not, she is prepping for a lifetime of gift-giving and her strategy is sound. She chose each gift she wrapped because she thought of two things: Is the gift something they like? Is the gift something that I know will interest them? She comes from a proud legacy of thoughtful shoppers.

However, the shopper that was the most thoughtful in my life was my late Da, Paul Hickey. Not only was he thoughtful, but I feel pretty comfortable awarding him the title of “Perfect Gifter”

Being a “Perfect Gifter” essentially means that you understand the things that people like and you understand the things that interest people. Also, you are able to discern those two things without the recipient knowing and surprise them entirely by gifting them something that they didn’t even realize that they wanted and would likely never buy for themselves. Many folks get so caught up in the shock and awe factor, that they simply don’t place a high enough value on the personal connection of the gesture. When giving a gift to someone you care about the amount of thought matters greatly. It is better to receive one well thought out gift, than to receive a dozen gifts given without any thought.

When someone takes the time to see you, really see you, they want to acknowledge that they care about you and will show you that the things you care about are worth sharing. My Da had a preternatural talent for this. A gift, if you will? I can’t recount as adults how many times he was able to honor our shared experiences, my personal preferences, and to be able to connect the dots so that I would be surprised. So many times. I’m grateful that he listened to the song of my life and was able to contribute so many verses. 

Gifts are not about transactional exchanges, they are opportunities to let other people know that they are valued and appreciated for who they are and what you share between you. 

I hope that you are a “Perfect Gifter” to someone else, or you have experienced the kindness and love that comes of having such a person in your life.

CPH

 

 

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“Perfect Gifter”

 

Perfect Gifter,

Shopping sifter,

Talent, care, and knack.

 

Well received,

Exceeding need,

Don’t have to bring it back.

 

Perfect Gifter,

Wondrous winter,

Wrapped up in delight.

 

Care connection,

Thoughtful reflection,

You always get it right.

 

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Check out a recent poem here: Advent Adventures: The Door to December 5th – ProCrasstheNation

Advent Adventures: The Door to December 5th

Door to December 5th

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Dear Kringlleers,

Tonight is the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. I hope that all my friends that celebrate had an enjoyable and blessed holiday.

December is moving pretty quickly. We’ve already passed through four doors and we have twenty doors left to go.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…I suck a wrapping Christmas Gifts. Despite efforts made and time spent I wrap only well enough to get by. I conceal the gifts but I’m not wowing anyone with my esthetic.

I am very impressed by those that can wrap beyond well and make it look easy.

I wrap tales. So I’m gonna wrap this up by asking you to open the door on an old family Christmas Drama. I hope you enjoy.

CPH

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MY MOTHER’S CHRISTMAS WRAPPING WAS REALLY TIGHT(S)

When I think back to childhood Christmases kid, another one that always jumps out in my memory, is the one where my Sister almost missed her choir gig on Christmas morning because of a wardrobe malfunction. During the 1980’s they didn’t have altar girls, as they do now, at least not in my parish, so the only option for girls was to join the choir. So I would be up at the front of the church with my boyos, and my Sister would be up in the balcony with the Pipe Organ blaring, and good ol’ Tom Hickey (no relation) cutting verses quite dramatically. His performance always stirred me, and was easily imitable and a great source of hours of fun recreating his vocal stylings among my peers. Two of our favorite pastimes were imitating him, and also imitating our parish Shepard, Fr. Mahoney.

From an altar boys perspective, I was jealous that we not allowed up into the church balcony. It was off-limits to everyone but the choir. When I think back to the days when the church was full to capacity both above and below, it gives me a chill to think of the hymns and prayers collecting in the stratosphere of the church ceiling. I bet it was loud. It never happened on my watch, more’s the pity.

At any rate, I digress…one fine 1980’s Christmas morning, as the hush had fallen over our second-floor North Mead Street apartment, my Sister and I had awoken to the delight of a living room full of treasure. This surely was some form of devilry. We had only gone to bed eight short hours ago, and the living room was empty. Barren, except for the blue ringed light of our gas heater, the snoring of hour Irish Setter Katie, and perhaps the singular orange glow of my Mother’s Newport lighting the room as some form or Northern Star to light Santa Clause’s way to our home. Yes, you could hear her even and enjoyed breathing of her cigarettes; making menthol memories. My father, likely asleep, and she, anxiously awake because everything had to be just right. In retrospect, and having experienced the dance myself, I regard their preparation and execution of holiday happiness delivery to have been of a Master’s skill level.

So we awaken, quite surely, not too long after they turned in. And we explode from our rooms into the living room. Full of piss and vinegar, and candy cane vigor. We stormed to our designated spots. I’ve made mention in prior blogs about how seriously my Mother took this holiday, and the presentation of the presents. We were lovingly spoiled, and there was no deterring my Mother of this. It was a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” situation. I suspect that there was a strong matrilineal legacy of gift giving. My Mother drove it to an excess, and I am grateful for all of it. At times, I wish I could convey that thought to her now.

Well, despite her proclivity to procure piles of presents for each of us; the run up to Christmas Day, came at the expense of other domestic requirements. With all the wrapping of presents, and house cleaning for our family’s visitation on Christmas Day, and the preparation of food for the feast, the laundry would pile up. If you can remember nothing else from this post, then it must be the fact that the laundry had piled up, because without this one detail, what transpired after my Sister and I had awoken to the victory of a living room of presents, cannot be belied by the actions that usurped our opening and enjoying those mysterious gifts.

Now I can’t recall exactly what time it was, but it was around 6:30-7am. And that is a rather large BUT, because much to our chagrin, we forgot the fact that we couldn’t open presents until my sister had gone across the street to church and fulfilled her obligation (luckily, I had completed my obligation the evening before on Christmas Eve).

Yes, you read that correctly, after a year’s worth of anticipation, we had to wait at least three more Goddamned excruciating hours before we could touch present one.

This should have been quite simple, but it was not.

My Sister was directed to get dressed for church, but it was soon realized, much to my parents chagrin, that she did not have the requisite tights to go with her outfit, bought special just for the occasion.

Well, my parents were fit to be tied by Goddamned tights. And you see, this is where that piddly little detail of the piled-up laundry comes to play; there were no laundered tights. All the tights were “in the laundry”. Well, one certainly does not go out into the Winter Wonderland, wearing a Christmas Dress, without the warmth of white tights. God knows, he simply knows, and so does Fr. Mahoney. I don’t believe he did spot checks, but there was a dress code.

So, impatient kids, sleep deprived parents, no coffee made yet, piles of laundry, a litany of finger-pointing, a few “Nooooooooo, fuck yous”, and there we were.

Finally, my parents held a very animated but whispered conversation accompanied with contorted faces, and the realization that a solution was in sight. My father came and led us out of the living room, and down the hall to the dining room, where we were threatened with recourse if we dared go back to the living room. He then returned to the living room. We were simply thinking WTF, before WTF became a universal acronym.

Not soon after he had disappeared, we heard a frenzy of activity coming from the living room we just vacated. My mother channeling the spirit of an old-time prospector tore into my Sister’s pile of presents with a determined focus. We could hear the tearing of paper, followed by what I can only imagine would be my Father replacing the wrapping as he trailed behind her. My Sister started into her crinkle cry face. Being the asshole I was, I giggled.

Apparently, in their conversation, the whispered one which we were not privy to, it was remembered that they had bought white tights as part of another dress ensemble that was to make its appearance at the gift opening revelations. But…and this is a rather large BUT, we were not allowed to open gifts until after my sister returned from Christmas Choir.

So, this one singular moment, was my Mother’s Kobayashi Maru

And, I’m happy to say she passed without having to alter the test in order to pass. Sure there were tears, wrapping paper torn, and clouds of profanity hung over our Christmas gorging, but my Sister got herself some white tights to wear warmly to Christmas Morning Mass Church Choir.

When she got home, she reopened the twice-wrapped presents, and at the end of the day, the newly dirty white tights made it into the mountain of laundry in the hamper awaiting post-Christmas washing.

I won’t ever know if anyone would have been the wiser if she went bare-legged to the church that day, but, and it is a rather large BUT, we wouldn’t have the gift of the memory of our Mother tearing through piles of presents with reckless abandon on one fine 1980’s Christmas Morning.

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Advent Adventures: The Door to December 4th

Door to December 4th

 

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Dear Fa-la-la-la-la’s,

I hope this post finds you well. Long before we could correspond with each other in an instant we used to engage in a remarkable practice of sending physical items to each other through a service called the postal service. Before telephones, faxes, email, instant-messaging, texts, and tweets we would sit down and take the time to write words onto a page and send them to someone that would read them. Then they would sometimes reply to that communication by sending words on a page back. Simpler times 😛 

What was remarkable about this exchange was the care that people took in sending regards. In my experience, this was most especially felt during the holiday season of Christmas. Families would mark this special time by sending news and developments that had occurred over the past year, and finally well wishes for an even better year the following year.

Making someone’s Christmas Card list was an honor and to receive tidings from them in December meant a great deal.

The custom we practiced was to pick the frame of one of the doors in our home and used tape to affix them around that frame. It added another level of cheer to our home, and it was a physical reminder to us during the holiday season how many people we cared about and thought well enough about us to send us a card.

Over the years as technology improved, Christmas Cards found new formats and expressions and we found visual scenes by Currier and Ives being replaced by photos of our family and friends. Whole companies and businesses appeared to ease the rush of the holiday season by creating your cards for you and printing them out in batches so all you would have to do was put it in a stamped and addressed envelope and send out to your list. Process streamlined even further by excel spreadsheets, label makers and printing out your postage for you, so you wouldn’t even have to interact with a postal worker at the post office when buying seasonal stamps.

Call me a curmudgeon, call me a Scrooge, but something is lost here. Something integral to the whole point of the gesture: the personal touch. The act of sitting down and writing Christmas Cards to a friend or a family member is a defiant one in some ways, because it bucks the trend of succumbing to the rush and just checking another box on a long list of things to do.

The act in and of itself is precious and it is an opportunity for us to reflect in a meaningful way upon those that matter most to us. Sitting down and being present while writing Christmas Cards is therapeutic. It calls on us to remember, actually remember and contemplate the ties and relationships in our lives. There is magic in reading the written words of someone in your life. It shows care. It shows love. It shows focus.

If there is something I could convince you of this holiday season it would be to go to the dollar store and pick up a box of Christmas Cards, then go home and pull your address book out (yes, even if it’s in your phone) and sit down and be present with the process of reaching out to folks in your life that you are quite fond of. Write words on the card, see them, feel them, think about what you write, and think about the person you are sending to; in these moments you are part of the spirit of Christmas. 

You won’t regret it, I promise. If living during a pandemic has taught me anything it has taught me that being present in the moment and valuing that time is a gift.

In fact, I have a humble request: send me a Christmas Card. Let me know if this post has impacted you. Let me know if you’ve sent any cards out to friends and family. I’ll promise to write you back. Also, when I amass the cards from family, friends, and you; I’ll arrange them around the frame of a door in my home and I’ll post a pic so that you can see one of the ways I celebrate Christmas.

My address:

ProCrasstheNation Blog

492 Pleasant Street

Malden, MA 02148

 

I look forward to turning back time and corresponding with you my Dear Readers

CPH

 

 

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Visit me on Facebook here: Christopher Paul Hickey | Facebook

Check out a recent poem here: Advent Adventures: Door to December 3rd – ProCrasstheNation

Advent Adventures: The Door to December 3rd

Door to December 3rd

 

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Dear Friends,

I mentioned in my Facebook virtual square that last weekend our eldest son came to us with questions about the Big Man Himself. This week has been a wonderful topsy-turvy execution of following through on a promise we made to that eldest child from before he was old enough to walk. We have embodied the Christmas Spirit year after year by making the gift of giving a fun opportunity to remind people that we love them and that it can be fun to surprise others by showing them that they are well thought of. The gifts are not the gift. The gift is the spirit of giving without expectation of something in return. The gift is helping others that need help. The gift is in spending time with people that you love. 

We were able to navigate the hard part of the conversation with our eldest, but after that he shared with us what he thought, and it was evident to us that the promise we made to him by teaching him to give to others unconditionally is now part of his heart. The magic of Christmas continues on for him and I can think of no better advocate to teach others the lessons of giving than our beautiful boy. 

Yes Atticus, there is a Santa Clause! And now you hold that promise in your heart and will forever touch that light upon others. 

CPH

 

 

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I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS

As with so many things that add to the kismet I experience on the regular, here is another. Not soon after I had the conversation with my son about Santa, I heard the song below for the first time. The tears rolled down my cheeks and met the smile the slowly crept upward as Rob Thomas and Abby Anderson helped me to remember my promise to myself and my family to hold and cherish the spirit of Christmas in my heart.  Christmas is not a noun in our house, it’s a verb.

 

 

“GIVING ‘TIL IT HURTS”

 

CONSUMER CULTURE MISREPRESENTS,

ALL THE SEASON’S SENTIMENTS.

NO OVERHEAD, THESE ONLINE STORES,

DELIVER QUICK TO UNWATCHED DOORS.

SAME DAY SERVICE,

CUTTING OUT ALL THE STORES.

MORE! MORE! MORE!

THE CRAZY DERANGED WHACKALOONS,

WAIT FOR EMAIL: COMING SOONS!

NO MIDDLE-MAN, BUT TWICE THE FUN.

FOUR FOR TWO, OR TWO FOR ONE.

COUPON CODES, SALES RECEIPTS,

INBOX SPAM, OR SPAMMY TWEETS.

LINING UP TO WAIT FOR “IT”,

JUST ADDING TO OUR PILE OF SHIT,

WITHOUT AN AFTERTHOUGHT.

THROW IT OUT NEXT DECEMBER.

THAT IS IF YOU DO REMEMBER,

CONSUMER CULTURE FEEDS INTO ITSELF.

I HAVE NO TROUBLE UNDERSTATING,

CHARGES KEEP ACCUMULATING,

INTEREST, HAND OVER FIST.

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF INCLINED,

GIVE TO OTHERS,

A GIFT OF TIME.

AND LEAVE THE PURSUIT OF MATERIALS,

TO THOSE SOLD EASILY,

TO THOSE SOLD EASILY,

TO THOSE SOLD EASILY,

ON EMPTY PURSUIT.

 

 

 

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