Advent offers unique and beautiful opportunities to make family memories in the home. The traditions of this season allow Catholics to practice our faith more deeply and with greater attention and intent. Here are some simple ideas to celebrate a faith-filled Advent.
1. Savor the darkness.
During Advent, the days are short and the nights are long. Just as we long for the warm and sunny days of summer, we long for the light of Christ to come to earth in Bethlehem under his special star. Bless and light the first candle of an Advent wreath on the First Sunday of Advent. Dim the lights and gather as a family for an evening meal. Eat by the light of the candle-lit wreath. With each passing week, the light will grow as more candles on the wreath are lit.
2. Decorate in stages.
Give the Advent wreath a central place for the first part of December. Put up your tree in mid-December, and bless it with a prayer. Let the tree stand bare for a week before decorating it. As you decorate it, take time to bless the ornaments. If you set up the Nativity scene, leave the crib empty. Place Mary and Joseph at the edge of the scene or in a different part of the house, and have children move them closer to the manger each evening until Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, have children place baby Jesus in the manger.
3. Shop sanely and thoughtfully for gifts.
Show your children that a culture of consumerism is not what determines your family values. Resist the long lines where people compete for the latest fad gifts. Instead, focus on the people you are gifting and what you love about them. Then purchase—or make—items that show you care. This teaches children that the gift is not important; it’s the love behind the gift that is.
4. Enjoy holiday traditions.
Explore customs from your family’s country of origin, or try something new from another culture. For example, you may want to celebrate Las Posadas, St. Nicholas Day, or St. Lucy’s Day. You might want to make a Jesse Tree or sing Christmas carols at a nursing home. Advent is an excellent time to perform any of the works of mercy, such as participating in a giving tree or donating to a local food pantry or to a local St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.
5. Listen to seasonal music.
Savor the silent beauty of the early winter season by playing quiet seasonal music that expresses our longing and preparation. On Christmas morning, let joyful Christmas music ring through your house, and play it throughout the Christmas season.
6. Wait for the Christmas parties.
While it may be impossible to avoid some Christmas parties—schools and workplaces often celebrate early Christmas—save them until the Christmas season when you can. Think about hosting a party on the Feast of the Epiphany. Remember, it’s not Christmas until it’s Christmas!
How do you celebrate Advent as a family at home? Share your ideas below.
The With My Family section at the end of Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts sessions has ideas for celebrating the liturgical seasons at home, including Advent. For more Advent ideas, visit LoyolaPress.com/Advent.