The season of Advent is upon us and as we wait in joyful hope to receive Jesus as if he is coming to us for the first time. Advent is expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation and joyful preparation to commemorate the birth of Jesus, welcoming God into our lives and readying ourselves for Christ’s second coming. We are reminded during this season that there is joy in waiting. This Advent, add some meaning to your waiting by committing to extra time in prayer, being patient with your family, speaking kindly to strangers, going to church and to sharing hope with those who need it most. We’ve outlined some traditions you can share with your family as you prepare your hearts for Jesus’ coming.
One of the most popular ways to celebrate Advent is with an Advent wreath. Four candles (three purple and one pink) are used to countdown the weeks until Christmas. Each Sunday of Advent one of the candles is lit and special prayers are said. Each Sunday of Advent has a particular theme leading up to the birth of Christ.
Another popular way to celebrate the Advent season, especially popular with children, is the Advent calendar. Counting down the days to Christmas helps children to anticipate patiently and to focus on waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. You can purchase one, or make one as a fun craft time for kids. Or what about a reverse Advent calendar? Every day give away a canned good or special treat into basket each day of Advent and then donate it to a local food cupboard.
Nativity sets are a classic tradition and are great to display during the Advent season. To make the display especially poignant, wait until Christmas Eve to place the Baby Jesus into the scene. The Vatican has a tradition of the Holy Father blessing the Baby Jesus from family nativity scenes, called Bambinelli Sunday. This takes place on the third Sunday of Advent—Gaudete Sunday. Perhaps you could ask your parish priest to bless your Baby Jesus figure!
If you have kids, the Jesse Tree (named after the father of King David, the ancestor of Jesus, as mentioned in Isaiah 11) is a fun biblical activity during the Advent season which prepares for the birth of Christ and his mission. It’s fun for kids and great catechesis. It goes through the ancestry of Jesus and how all of his ancestors played a role in salvation history. The tree created can then be used as a holiday decoration.
Good deeds and generosity have always been an important part of preparation for Christmas. Advent is a great time to practice spiritual and corporal acts of mercy such as Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children, volunteering at a nursing home or soup kitchen, visiting the sick in a hospital, or simply inviting people into your home who may have no friends or family of their own to celebrate the holidays with. If you can’t find something to be a part of in your parish or local community, be an organizer for a cause you’re passionate about and get others involved.
Advent Saint Feast Days
Celebrate the saints of the Advent & Christmas season. In addition to St. Andrew’s feast day on November 30th—the Advent kickoff— there are other saints with feast days during Advent that have special cultural traditions associated with them. St. Nicholas Day is on December 6th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation) is December 8th, Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day is December 12th, and St. Lucy’s feast day is December 13th.
Christmas book basket
Gather all your storybooks that are Christmas related and set them out in the living room in a pretty basket to remind you to read the beautiful story of Christmas over and over and over.
“Moving” toward the nativity
Make your manger travel during Advent. Set the shepherds and angels and the cow on the manger table. Then place Mary and Joseph on a window sill near by and the wise men and their camel far behind them. Every Sunday, move all of them a bit closer to the manger. Baby Jesus stays hidden from sight until Dec 25th, of course. It is a fun way to keep the Advent spirit “moving” towards the Nativity.