This weekend marks the beginning of Advent and, for many, the start of the Christmas season in earnest (though I may have already indulged in an early mince pie or two and the occasional Starbucks ‘seasonal’ drink). This weekend, I’ll be putting up the tree, starting my advent calendar and looking forward to the many traditions that are an essential part of this time of year.
While there are many traditions that have stood the test of time (carol singing, advent calendars, decorating a Christmas tree), there are also a few more modern traditions that are growing in popularity. I am a huge fan of wearing a Christmas jumper and enjoy looking at some creative ‘Elf on the Shelf’ images online. Watching the John Lewis advert for the first time is always a key point in the season and visiting your local ‘German Christmas market’ is a must. In addition to the traditions that are shared by people across the country, you may also have some unique family traditions. My husband maintains that eating stollen (a traditional German fruit bread filled with marzipan and covered with icing sugar) for breakfast throughout Advent is a family tradition that he is keeping alive. Traditions, whether old or new, shared with many or a few, are a hugely important way that we connect to our families and our communities, giving us a sense of belonging and an appreciation of those around us.
In addition to its traditions, Christmas is also marked by an appeal to our virtues or better selves, perhaps encapsulated in the term ‘Christmas spirit.’ In a season that could so easily be completely commercialised and focused only on materialism and presents, many parents are keen to use traditions to instil a sense of the wider meaning of Christmas in their children. Through its Parent Portal, the Jubilee Centre have produced some seasonal resources to help promote virtue at Christmas. Watching Christmas films together is a tradition for many families and so we have produced a list of our favourites here and some key virtues displayed within them. Books are always a popular gift (perhaps in your Christmas Eve box?) and we have produced a list of some of our favourite kindness-themed reads here. Our Jubilee Centre Elf will be doing kind deeds throughout December and can be followed on Twitter and we have a kindness Advent calendar which encourages children to do a kind deed for every day in December. We hope these resources support a wider discussion around virtue around this time of year, with a good measure of festive spirit thrown in!
Whatever your Christmas traditions, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
Rachael Hunter is a Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.