Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. It is a waiting period for the celebration of the anniversary of Jesus coming into the world.
Here are some great ideas for you (and your family) to get into the spirit of Advent!
Things to Make or Buy
Make or buy an Advent wreath and use it. To make an advent wreath you’ll need
- a wreath,
- a round candle holder that holds 4 candles,
- 3 violet candles and 1 pink candle.
You can buy all of these things at any decent craft store. The candles you may have to purchase from a Catholic supply store
to get the right colors. Put it all together and each week light a candle! Some families like to light the current candle(s) for the particular week in advent when they all gather at the table for a meal (typically in the evening). At a minimum, it adds some nice ambience. Often there are prayers you can pray individually or as a family when you light the candles.
Advent calendars can be fun ways to get your kids involved in counting down the days until Christmas. You can make your own or buy one in the stores. Although they are called Advent calendars, they all start on December 1 instead of at the start of Advent. However, advent calendars are a good way to preserve Advent as a time looking forward to Christmas. In our culture, the Christmas season often begins at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas. For the Church, the Christmas season begins at Christmas and lasts until January 6. Advent calendars remind us that Christmas is still ahead.
Ways to Pray
Break out the Bible and read the Mass readings ahead of time. Read them in light of how they prepare you to celebrate Jesus’ incarnation. Reading the Sunday readings is a great start. If you have the time, reading the daily Mass readings can give you an even deeper way to pray through Advent.
Make Advent resolutions. Resolve to give something up. I know we typically give up something for Lent, but consider doing it for Advent. In fact, Advent is supposed to be a somewhat penitential season. For that reason, the priest’s vestments are purple, just as during Lent. Is there a habit you have been trying to break? Is there something in your life keeping you from Christ? Make an Advent resolution to give that up and grow your relationship with Jesus. You can treat it as a New Year’s resolution (Advent is, after all, the beginning of a new liturgical year) and give something permanently. You can also choose to give something up just for Advent and take it up again at Christmas, just as many people do for Lent.
Go to Mass. Obviously, Catholics should always go to Sunday Mass unless they have a serious reason not to. However, Advent can be a great time to try to go to daily Mass as well, at least a few times.
Make time for quiet. Advent can become a hectic time with Christmas shopping and holiday preparations. Because Advent is a time of waiting and preparing, finding time for quiet preparation refocus you on spiritual preparation and anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It can be challenging to find time for prayer with the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations. We often need to buy gifts for loved ones and plan family gatherings. These are important ways to prepare for Christmas. However, without making time for quiet and rest, we can come to Christmas Day realizing we have done nothing to spiritually prepare ourselves.
Don’t Turn Advent into Christmas
Major retailers put up Christmas decorations earlier and earlier. Sometimes retailers start selling Christmas decorations as soon as Halloween is over, not even waiting until after Thanksgiving. When the secular world talks about the Christmas season, it usually refers to the time between Thanksgiving and December 25. With being bombarded by retailers for months before December 25th it’s easy to burn out on Christmas by the time it arrives.
For Catholics, Christmas does not start until December 25. Christmas does not end on December 25, either. Traditionally, Epiphany is considered the last day of Christmas (the last of the 12 days of Christmas). On the current liturgical calendar, the first day of Ordinary Time after Christmas is the day after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass) follows a different calendar. On that calendar Christmas ends on February 2. This is the feast of Candlemas, or the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Whichever calendar you use, the Christmas season in the Catholic Church lasts weeks after December 25.
Keeping Christmas Separate
- Some families choose not to put Christmas decorations up until Christmas Eve. This can be a great way to put the focus on Advent. However, putting up a tree early is not necessarily detrimental to Advent celebrations.
- If you put your tree up before Christmas, you might decide to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve to mark the transition from Advent to Christmas.
- Some families use a Nativity scene to celebrate Christmas. You can set up your Nativity scene during Advent, but wait to put Jesus into the manger until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
A Fruitful Advent
It can be challenging to prepare for Christmas during Advent, when there is so much going on during the Advent season. You may not be able to do everything listed here. However, even a few things can make a huge difference in being prepared to celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world!