Yesterday was the first day of Advent…I’m a day late and a dollar short for posting this (story of my life!). But I have been thinking about this post for the past couple of weeks. I love Advent! Advent marks the New Year of the Church (in liturgical terms)! We get to start all over again with all of our fine customs and traditions. Advent is the time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus (Christmas!). The liturgical colors of Advent are purple and rose.
Advent begins the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew, which is November 30th.
Some years we prepare better than others. In my family, I have my ‘go to’ things that we always do. And I try to add something new or different each year.
Here’s what we ALWAYS do:
The Advent wreath. The circular shape (without beginning or end)symbolizes God’s complete and unending love for us and it also represents eternal life which becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ. There are 4 candles (3 purple and 1 pink) which represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. The pink candle is lit on the third week of Advent (Guadete Sunday). Guadete = “Rejoice” in Latin and symbolizes Christmas joy (we are getting closer to Christmas–the birth of our Savior)! When I was in grade school we had a box of stuff that we were asked to take door to door to sell for a fundraiser. One of the things in it was a metal Advent wreath. My mom bought one and decorated it with fake holly and we used it every year. When I got married my mom gave it to me. After a few years it was falling apart. So, she bought me a new one which we still use. Last year I bought an Advent (beeswax) Candle Kit from Holy Heroes for the girls to make. They came out great:
Advent calendars. It’s a calendar with little numbered doors or flaps which is opened on each day of Advent that reveals a picture/toy/chocolate appropriate to the season. My mom gave the chocolate Advent calendars to my oldest boys when they were little and a new tradition was started. This is something the kids look forward to every year. You can get them at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents (but they go quick) or Five Below…not the highest quality of chocolate but it is chocolate.
The Nativity. My favorite! This is one of my new collections that I started. The tradition of having a nativity scene was made popular by Saint Francis of Assisi. You can read more about it here. I have a beautiful Nativity scene that is hand carved out of olive wood that I won at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress that was held in Philadelphia in 1976. And we have a the big plastic light up nativity scene that we put outside every year. We set up our nativity scene(s) early in December but we don’t add the Baby Jesus figure until Christmas morning. And this year we are going to make the Nativity Peg Dolls that you can purchase and download from Catholic Icing.
The Jesse Tree. Biblical persons representing the ancestors of Jesus, either in faith or bloodline, are added onto a tree or branch, named after the father of David. Last year I purchased a great book, The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean and we read a chapter each night. But I’ve been wanting to have a set of Jesse tree ornaments that I could use year after year and I found this great DIY Wooden Jesse Tree Ornament Set on Etsy that I just purchased. Can’t wait to get it!
Advent chain. So, back when Jenny, my oldest daughter was in 3rd grade at our local parochial school, she made this Advent chain out of construction paper links to be used as a countdown to Christmas. The following year I read an article about doing the chain thing but writing something fun to do on each link and when you take the link off you do that activity so we did that. But that took way too much planning. So, now they take a link down and we come up with something fun to do as a family. Usually it’s read a favorite Christmas book, sing carols, make cookies, do a craft. And one special night when they take the link off we go to see the local light show at a nearby farm. Every year I have some new ideas in my bag of tricks that I pull out but mostly we wing it.
Elf on the Shelf. Yes, I jumped on the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon about eight years ago. And he comes back every year. I now try to make him a little more Advent-y. For instance he always brings the kids their chocolate Advent calendars on December 1st when he shows up for the first time. And 2 years ago he brought a new Advent/Christmas book each day (the book was even wrapped in purple paper!). This year, he will bring the kids their Advent calendars and I think maybe a new book on the Feast Day of the ‘Advent’ saints (St. Francis Xavier, St. John of Damascus, St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross).
Waiting in the Word: a Mother’s Advent Journey. On the spiritual side, I purchased and downloaded this scripture study that is intended for mothers and is based on “Lectio Divina”, which means in Latin “divine reading” and is a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Each week of Advent you tackle a different challenge that we face during this time of year: Materialism, Loneliness, Fear and Despair with the hope that through this study and Holy Scripture, God will show you a better way and move your heart to Generosity, Communion, Love and Joy.
Why do we do this? Because we want to celebrate and LIVE the liturgical year! My hope is that by doing these traditions year after year my kids will have a better understanding and appreciation for their Catholic faith. Every year I grow more in love with my faith and can’t wait to celebrate the liturgical year…even those ordinary days!