One of my favorite Advent traditions is planting bulbs in a clear container with stones and water. Potting soil or a potting medium will also work. Once the little roots get going, they will wiggle in and out around the stones. You can almost watch the plants grow. The plants, narcissus or amaryllis, are a live Advent calendar. By Christmas Day, there might just be some flowers springing forth.
The clear bowl on the left has just-planted narcissus bulbs. (I’ve been wondering what to do with my mother’s cut glass ice bucket). On the right is Claudette, a Gen X, forty year-old Christmas cactus, who seems to know just when Advent begins. She will continue to wear her pink blossoms until Lent.
The plants remind me of a favorite German Christmas carol called “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” written in the 16th century. The verse below was translated into English in 1894 by Theodore Baker.
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
“On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10 NRSV)