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The most wonderful time of the year

Advent. That’s right, you heard me. Advent. It’s a liturgical season (a churchy thing) in which people of faith take the four weeks leading up to Christmas to reflect and make spiritual preparations to celebrate Christ’s birth.
And I like it SOOOO much better than Christmas, for a number of reasons.
Most importantly, it helps me balance my perspective. See, there are some radio stations around here that think it’s fun to play 24 hour Christmas music starting November 1st! Not kidding. And it’s not even the nice kind of Christmas music. Last year, it seemed like everywhere I went there was Burl Ives merrily wishing me A Holly Jolly Christmas. I think the stores had all synched up their music systems just to annoy me. No offence to Burl Ives fans, but if I hear that song one more time I’m going to break something – like the all time record for exiting a retail establishment while letting loose a string of most decidedly unChristmaslike expletives. I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year, so no holly, no jolly, no swearing. Blessed relief!
I watched the Black Friday crowds south of the border stampede their way into stores that opened at some ungodly hour of the morning, (some shoppers had been camping out on their sidewalks for days!), trample each other to get to discounted items, and even engage in fisticuffs, actual punching, if someone got in their way.
Um, is it just me, or is that nuts?
And advertisers keep urging me to celebrate the true spirit of the season by buying a new car. Well, sure, I can see that.
Well no, I bloody well can’t!
I know it’s a betrayal of all things womanly that I hate shopping. All kinds of shopping – shoe, clothes, grocery, electronic, automotive. But there is something especially perverse about otherwise intelligent, peaceable adults indulging in this kind of advertiser-stoked feeding frenzy this time of year.
So I withdraw into Advent – slow down, light a candle, find quiet, take a breath. Sure, we’ve bought a few gifts and put up the tree, but what brings us the most joy this season is selecting items from Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope catalogue for families in need in developing countries. Chicks, goats, school essentials, literacy training, even a girls-only latrine, these are gifts that protect human dignity, and offer hope for self-sufficiency and a better future. Such a little bit of money can do so much good and gives so much joy to giver and receiver alike.
We have three weeks until Christmas arrives. And to my surprise, the days are moving slowly, giving me time to savour the gifts of this season, the peace, the simplicity, the joy.
If only it could be Advent all year long.

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