I think all of us have had the experience of walking into a store just after Labor Day and seeing the displays of merchandise for Halloween. And you say to yourself, “Really?” Needless to say, the Thanksgiving and Christmas displays and advertisements already are up. I saw a television ad the other night that wanted me to know that I could have white or orange Christmas tree lights, multicolored ones, and all the above with an optional remote control. “Really!?!” I guess I should get with it. Maybe it is good to do our own advertising for Advent!
Are you prepared to celebrate Advent in your household? It is its own season with its own rhythms, prayers and traditions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2697) says: “Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment…But we cannot pray ‘at all times’ if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it.” I think the same can be said for the traditions of Advent: We ought to consciously celebrate the season in prayer.
Advent traditions are numerous. We do not always know their exact origin, but they have been lived in the hearts of the faithful. If traditions are lived and understood, they can bring families closer to Christ and transform the hearts of those who participate in them. Below are some traditions that you can make part of your family.
Advent Wreath – What a great opportunity for a family project. Make the wreath together and talk with your children about the rich symbolism. The wreath is circular and made of evergreens symbolizing the eternity of God. Seeds and fruit we sometimes place on the wreath represent life and resurrection. There are four candles on the wreath, each representing one week of Advent. The three purple candles stand for prayer and penance. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday (the “Gaudete Sunday”), and it symbolizes joy – “gaudium” in Latin – as we draw closer to the birth of Christ. The light that the wreath brings symbolizes Christ Himself – our Light. On the first Sunday of Advent, read a family blessing of the wreath at home. Place it in a visible spot where your family gathers often. Light it during your family prayer time or at meal times.
Nativity Scene – St. Francis of Assisi began the custom of the Nativity scenes when he celebrated Christmas with his brothers at Greccio in 1223 with a Bethlehem scene, which included live animals. This tradition quickly spread and people began to construct their own Nativity scenes in their homes. Children take a great joy in helping to set up a Nativity scene. You may set up your entire scene at the beginning of Advent, leaving the crib empty for the Christ Child to arrive on Christmas Eve.
Advent Angels – At the beginning of Advent, each family member can blindly pick a name of another member of the family and become his or her Advent angel. Prayers, sacrifices, and acts of kindness can be offered and exercised daily. During the Christmas season small homemade gifts can be exchanged between the “angels.” This prolongs the joy of Christmas, encourages creativity, and teaches children (and adults) to discover unique talents they can share with others.
Celebrating the Saints’ Feast Days – There are many beautiful Feast Days during Advent to celebrate. You can honor a deeper tradition of gift giving on the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6th ). You can make candles on the Feast of St. Ambrose (December 7th ), the patron saint of candle makers. While remembering our Mother Mary, you can also prepare a small gift for an expectant mother you know on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th ). Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th ) can be celebrated with a Mexican meal, roses, or poinsettias.
These are just a few ideas for celebrating Advent in your household. Want to know more? Visit our website at: sacredheartfla.org/advent. Pray and celebrate your way through Advent!