I have a problem with chips and salsa.
During the six months that my children and I were home together all day, every day, I may have eaten a bag a day (and not a single-serving bag either). I enjoyed nothing more than sitting on my couch enjoying a bowl of spicy salsa and a bag of crispy, salty tortilla chips when my boys were on my last nerve. Over time, however, I realized it was an unhealthy habit, and even more, it started to bring a kind of banality to my days. I found that something that gave me such joy at the beginning of quarantine soon brought no real excitement or anticipation. Instead, it became just a trite part of my daily routine.
In August, however, I went back to work, and the kids went back to school shortly thereafter. I knew it was time to change my habits a bit. So, I did the predictable thing. I cut chips and salsa completely from my life for a month. While I was slogging through a month without my favorite food, I started to think about how I could both enjoy it in moderation and create a renewed sense of anticipation for it. I realized I had been missing the anticipation of something special in my days.
Advent is a whole season of anticipation, but so often I forget that. In fact, I think I start celebrating Christmas almost as soon as the Thanksgiving meal is complete. I put up the tree and the lights and fast forward to the gift wrapping and the joy contained in the birth of the Lord. By the time actual Christmas comes, I have celebrated it out. I have lost the sense of anticipation even before, liturgically, Mary is visited by the angel. I have finished a big bag of green and red holiday chips long before their appointed time (so to speak).
Last month, I finally figured out what would work for at least the chips and salsa part of my problem. I started my own tradition I lovingly call “Chip Fridays.” When I leave work on a Friday afternoon to get my boys, I pick up takeout, complete with chips and lots of salsa. (I may even be known for starting in on the bag before I get home.) For one evening, I eat all the chips and salsa I crave (I even sometimes share!) and then not again until the following Friday. It has become something to look forward to, something to anticipate on a weekly basis.
Now I’m working on what will bring back the joy of anticipation to my Advent season. Here are a few things I’m trying this year:
- Putting out a nativity scene without the baby Jesus. I remember this tradition from youth, but I haven’t tried it in a while. The visual representation of Mary and Joseph anticipating the arrival of Jesus might help enliven my own anticipation for Christmas morning;
- Praying with the pregnant Mary. What would it be like to consider an image of Mary pregnant with Jesus and sit and pray with her this Advent? Praying with the pregnant Mary might help bring back for me the beautiful memories of every time I, too, waited in anticipation for the birth of something in my life;
- Having an Advent calendar with my boys. My husband suggested this. I wanted to buy one; he, the overachiever, wanted to make one. I honestly have never had one before. I appreciate taking a moment each day to open a window in anticipation of what awaits and say a prayer with my family for the upcoming birth of light and peace and hope.
What are you doing this Advent to re-enliven the spirit of anticipation?
Thanks. Gretchen your efforts remind me what Ignatius of Loyola says. In the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius prescribes Tantum Quantum that opens up a path of non-violence towards self and others. I like the three steps of anticipation during Advent. They are just nice and truly appropriate.
Thank you Dr. Coelho!
Hmm. I read this reflection as I sat eating my favorite daily quarantine snack – my favorite brand of chocolate chip cookies. Before Covid, I rarely allowed myself to buy a bag and felt a little guilty when I succumbed. Comfort food seems to fit in with winter and having to stay home.
I love the idea of praying with the pregnant Mary during Advent. It reminds me of the beautiful Christmas song “Breath of Heaven” where Mary wonders if God should have chosen someone else , wonders if she is up to what God has asked of her — a good Advent reflection.
I’ll have to look up that song! I’m glad to know we all have our quarantine comfort foods!
All great advice, Gretchen. Advent, in days gone by, had more of a penitential flavour. Now the secular tends to dominate. We do think about food a lot during Advent and Christmas. I know what I will do. Start eating an apple a day again, thanks.
Love the idea of anticipation, and you are so right about being done with Christmas before it even happens, I think as a child it’s great that there the anticipation of gifts. I would normally look forward to decorating the church and then seeing it on Christmas day so I miss that this year, I need to think of something new. PS- So funny – Friday for us is a chips & salsa day too! (no chips allowed in the house as I have no willpower) Basically every Friday we get an order of C&S for dinner and devour them!
Yea! I’m glad to know I’m not alone! Fridays are the perfect day for this! And Christmas and New Years fall on Friday’s this year, so I can even indulge on those holidays:)
Oh yeah! love my round tortilla chips.
Good one, Gretchen! your thoughts about Advent and the secular preparation for Christmas ring true. As in Lent, when we ‘give up’ a favorite food or activity, but bring it back once a week, it gives us the space to think about why we do it in the first place. Waiting for Jesus!