Advent – 40 days of getting ready for the celebration of the birth of Christ. As a child I didn’t quite understand the connection to liturgical season, although I saw the preparations taking place all around me.
In our house we had a corner dedicated to Saints. Because our house measured about 600 square feet, this made the corner and contents special. Candles, tokens of meaning to those who had passed and Saint Anthony were all a part of the dedicated space that had no name but was always present.
Above this all was the image of the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos. I suspect when I was little thought of her name as: Lavirgendesanjuandeloslagos, Because I didn’t speak Spanish her name had no word to word meaning to me. But she was always in our house and always looking down from the wall. The image had belonged to one of the grandmothers I never met, but knew much about, thanks to my mom and her storytelling. I’m guessing the print was from the late 19th century.
Every year, right before Christmas, I was reminded of La Virgen’s being special because my mother would first thoroughly clean and then decorate her wall. Often there would be a bit of cloth that was hung on the wall behind her image. Then she would decorate the area the cloth covered.
Often the decorations would be round glass Christmas ornaments, in all sorts of metallic colors, hung by the sort of paper ribbon we would also use for wrapping our gifts. The sort that would curl if you ran scissors against the ribbon in a certain way. The ribbon often had bits of tinsel, shining ever so slightly during the day and shimmering at night as it reflected the light of the overhead light and the candles below.
Religious preparation. The readings we heard at church. Mary, Joseph, manger, Bethlehem, census, Wisemen, lambs, Jesus, star. Child as embodiment of hope in darkness.
Familial preparation. Time to pay attention to La Virgen making her place at home an expression of respect and a fine bit of brightly shiny tinsel.