One of the joys of being Catholic is participating in the different seasons and feast days. There is a beautiful rhythm that comes to light when you live the liturgical calendar together as a family. One of these seasons is Advent.
Now, we never celebrated Advent as a child. In fact, I hadn't even heard the word before until I started working for the Catholic schools. Christmas Eve would arrive and we would always be looking for something to do. Can we invite someone over? Should we attend a candlelight service? Should we sing a song or two?
Advent, for our family is a great four weeks of preparing for Christmas. And we make sure we don't celebration Christmas before Christmas! So what does this look like?
The basic premise is this: as Christ comes nearer, the world gets brighter. So, at the beginning of Advent, we begin having Sunday dinner with only one candle lit. No other decorations. Simply the Advent wreath and the candles. We eat in veiled darkness like the world was before Christ. As the weeks of Advent progress, we light more and more candles. Until Christmas Eve, after Holy Mass, we light up the tree!
During the season we also run into some great feast days:
Dec. 6th: St. Nicholas' Feast Day - we place our boots outside the eve of and they are filled with Dutch treats in the morning.
Dec. 8th: Feast of the Immaculate Conception - always a big feast to celebrate.
Dec. 12th: Our Lady of Guadalupe - we eat Mexican food and read her story.
Dec. 13th: St. Lucy - the oldest daughter makes breakfast for the family and tells the story of St. Lucy.
Advent Embertide: - we go for a hike and do something outdoors to celebrate the coming of winter.
Dec. 16th: Christmas Novena begins
On Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent) we begin to put up the greenery around the house. No decorations yet. No lights.
Finally, after the 4th Sunday, we head out and cut down the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve day we decorate the tree and get it ready to be lit on that evening.
During these four weeks, we try to be a bit penitential. As much as we are dying to sing Christmas songs, we refrain. We do good deeds for each other and fill up a crib with straw for each good deed done.
Then of course there is the Christmas goodies! Each week of Advent we bake different goodies and don't taste any of them! These include: almond squares, Christmas cake, Christollen, shortbread, gingerbread houses, candy cane bark and my favourite: homemade eggnog.
By the time Christmas comes, the anticipation is so high we can barely contain the energy in the house. We count down the last week by singing the O Antiphons and then after the Christmas Eve Mass a whole new journey begins ... but that is story for another blog.
Traditions bring a richness to your life, they bind your family together, they help you celebrate what needs to be celebrated well and they create a ton of memories.
I hope this Advent is rich for you as well.
Kenton E. Biffert