Well folks, another (liturgical) year has come and gone. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy taking stock of my spiritual life on the Feast of Christ the King. This year, our new priest (we actually are blessed to have three priests at our parish, but this is our newly ordained priest) gave the homily yesterday, and it really spoke to my heart. He asked, “How can we know that Jesus is truly King of our minds, our bodies, our will, and our hearts?” The answer, of course is: our faith and our works (i.e. what we profess and the way we live out that profession–or don’t). Basic theology of justification, but it made me reflect on this past year.
In what ways did I yield my mind, body, will, and heart to Jesus in new and deepening ways? When and in what ways did I resist? I’m praying these reflections will bear fruit in the coming season of Advent, the breathing room gifted to us by Mother Church so that we can begin the new year on the right foot–by growing deeper in the life of Christ as we anticipate the celebration of His birth and, ultimately, His glorious return.
I love Advent. I love the quiet and the calm, the time for self reflection, for gathering my family by candlelight to ponder Jesus and adore Him in rapt anticipation…but I also find it hard. It’s difficult for me to resist the urge to jump feet first into the joy of Christmas four weeks early. It’s so tempting to skip right over this season of penance and fasting and get straight to the presents and the feasting! Not that there’s anything wrong with a peppermint latte or a pre-Christmas gingerbread house. Still, I find the more I resist that siren song of preemptive holiday cheer, the readier I am to celebrate Christmas and the deeper my joy when I do.
That doesn’t mean our family spends Advent drearily shut up indoors, like Ebeneezer Scrooge muttering, “Bah humbug” at our neighbors’ light displays. (Those strings of colored lights make my little heart leap for joy whenever I see them.) We simply recognize Advent as its own season, leading up to but separate from Christmas. Advent has its own traditions, its own delights, and these are equally precious if a bit more subdued than our Christmas festivities.
Unfortunately, many of the wonderful riches of Advent can feel lost to the forgetfulness of time. Many Catholics would love to celebrate Advent, but they simply don’t know how. The good news is our Faith contains a treasure trove of wonderful, whimsical traditions to brighten your Advent while also keeping it set apart from Christmas. Below, I’m (re)sharing a few of our family’s favorite ways to celebrate this season–hardly exhaustive, but hopefully it will be a good starting place for those who long to start some Advent traditions of their own.
I’ve also included a FREE Advent Activity Calendar printable, in case you want to make things super-duper easy on yourself. (Who doesn’t want to make the holiday season a little simpler?)
The Feast of St. Nicholas – December 6th
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation) – December 8th
The Feast of St. Juan Diego – December 9th
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12th
The Feast of St. Lucia (Lucy) – December 13th
Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday in Advent) – this year, December 17th
Ember Days – this year, December 20th, 22nd, and 23rd
An Advent Playlist (in case you want to save the Christmas carols for Christmas)
Our family celebrating St. Nicholas Day (here’s the gingerbread loaf recipe in the pictures)
If you want to make things even easier on yourself, I’ve put together a NEW Advent Activity Calendar for this year! It makes celebrating Advent super simple. Just print, cut, and place the activities inside your family’s Advent calendar–or if you’re up for some spontaneity, have the kids choose one a day out of a jar!
If you’re looking for resources to help you celebrate, here is our family’s Advent wreath, the center of our Advent devotionals. We pray a portion of the Liturgy of the Hours together every day (and I try to do a bit more on my own). We also use prayers from this book to enrich our family devotions.
This is our Advent calendar. This is our family’s creche and this is similar to the nativity set that our little ones love to play with. Many families have recommended this set. I’ve been collecting pieces over several years from this exquisite wooden set (they make wonderful gifts on St. Nicholas Day), and the children really treasure them.
This is the Lucia crown my oldest daughter wears. For the crafty among you, I really love this (free) Lucia crown pattern from Alicia Paulson’s delightful shop. These are the nightgowns and sash (red) that we use for the Feast of St. Lucia. Here’s my recipe for traditional pepparkakor (Swedish spice cookies), which we’ve also used to make St. Nicholas cookies. Next week, I’ll be sharing my recipe for Lucia buns.
And last but not least, this is our favorite site for paper snowflake patterns.
I hope this round-up has given your some wonderful ideas. Wishing you + yours a blessed Advent season!
With all sweetness + grace,