It’s hard to believe, but Advent is upon us. The liturgical season that prepares our hearts for Christmas, Advent is an incredibly important time in the lives of Catholics. It’s one of my favorite times of the year and something I look forward to through all of spring, summer, and autumn!
Part of us probably wants to jump feet-first into Christmas—watching It’s a Wonderful Life and decorating the Christmas tree are traditions many of us look forward to all year! But skipping over Advent is a mistake. It’s jumping straight into the excitement of holidays without the joyful hope that prepares our hearts.
When it comes to Advent, though, it can start to feel very commercial. From Legos-themed Advent calendars to Jesse trees, Advent begins to seem like a to-do list instead of a time to grow closer to the Lord. I know that with two small kids, on top of Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating the house, the thought of endless Advent crafts makes my skin crawl. However, I’ve found plenty of traditions that work for our family and keep our hearts pointed towards the liturgical calendar. Here are five ways to celebrate Advent that will truly orient your family around anticipation and make the Christmas season even more special.
Create an Advent Playlist
You surely have a phone full of Bing Crosby and Michael Buble tunes. But Advent music is absolutely a thing, and it can make the season so much more delightful. There are a thousand versions of O Come O Come Emmanuel floating about—I personally love the Pentatonix version—but you can also look up songs like People Look East, My Soul in Stillness Waits, or Awake, O Sleeper. Saving the Christmas music for the Christmas season isn’t entirely necessary, but when I start jamming to Silent Night after Thanksgiving, I find I’m already tired of it by Christmas Eve. Focusing on my Advent playlist instead helps the music feel fresh when it’s actually Christmastide.
Find an Advent Book
This will depend on the ages of those in your family, but try and find a book you could all read together during Advent. Single? Grab a few friends and start an Advent book club! There are tons of wonderful options of books to read as you wait for the birth of our Lord. You could find a fictional story from that time period (many children’s books focus on the animals present at the nativity) or a spiritual read that will help the season of Advent make sense in your heart. I especially love day-by-day picture books that I can read each night with my two little ones, but I try to find a book to read every Advent on my own, as well. This year, I can’t wait to dive into Reed of God.
Light an Advent Candle
Advent wreaths are symbols you may have seen in your church. The wreath symbolizes life, since it’s made of evergreens, and the circular shape signifies God’s never-ending love. But these wreaths don’t need to only be in your church building—you can incorporate them into your home.
Making an Advent wreath in your home is incredibly easy. A cheap wreath and some candles from Hobby Lobby won’t put you out more than $20, and you can reuse the wreath year after year. Every night, my family lights an Advent candle and sings O Come O Come Emmanuel together. On Christmas eve, we place the traditional white candle in the center to symbolize the purity of Christ. It’s a special tradition that helps remind us of the light of Jesus, and it feel so magical to sing by candlelight in our home.
Set Up a Nativity
Having a nativity featured prominently in your home will remind you of the reason for the season while you hurry around town Christmas shopping (or sit on your laptop and take advantage of 2-day shipping!) In our house, we like to leave baby Jesus out of the nativity until Christmas day. You can do something classic and elegant, like an antique family heirloom, or simply grab the Melissa and Doug version from Target so that your kids can get hands-on and play with the figurines. I’ve found Batman hanging out with Mary a time or two! The visual reminder is great for kids and adults alike—that in this season of excess, Christ was still born in a manger. Mary didn’t have the perfect Advent calendar or decorative mistletoe!
Celebrate Feast Days
There are a handful of fun feast days to celebrate during Advent every year. By having celebrations during the month of December, you’ll get all of the feast-day perks that you’d usually save until Christmas and start some fun traditions within your family.
- St. Nicholas: December 6. It’s traditional to put out shoes or stockings and fill them with gold coins, as a symbol of how St. Nicholas had paid the dowries of young girls to save them from lives of slavery.
- The Feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8. The feast of Mary’s conception occurs exactly nine months before the feast of Mary’s nativity in September. Find a way to celebrate Mary, like by wearing blue, and make sure to attend Mass—it’s a holy day of obligation!
- Our Lady of Guadalupe: December 12. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an important figure in Mexico, so oftentimes families like to celebrate by cooking Mexican food and listening to music in Spanish.
- St. Lucy: December 13. One of my favorites, St. Lucy is traditionally pictured holding a platter with eyes on it (eek!) and wearing a wreath with candles on her head. The oldest daughter of a Catholic family typically bakes her family breakfast and wears a white dress to present it to them.
When you incorporate Advent traditions that feel more joyful than difficult, you’ll be able to celebrate the liturgical season and find Christmas feeling all the more special.