Advent is upon us! Since Ordinary Time has come to a close and Advent is here, we have decided to be intentional about preparing for Advent so that we can better explain our Faith and our History to our sons. This will also help us prepare ourselves, as parents, for the birth our Savior on Christmas.
Our oldest son is at a very fun age in which he questions many things but also believes in and celebrates everything (he’s three years old). Our youngest son just goes with the flow and we’ve been slowly introducing different holidays to him (he’s about 20 months old).
Liturgical living during Advent and Christmas can be relatively easy because you can mostly deal with what you already have! You can choose to add some Feast Days in here and there if you’d like or you can prepare your hearts and homes in other ways. Liturgical living is attainable with some preparing and intentionality.
Since Advent begins this weekend, I commissioned my husband to climb up to the attic and get out out our Christmas Tree, Nativity Scene, and Advent Wreath (& Calendar). However, this year we are making some changes to our Christmas decorations and festivities in order to begin to teach our boys the difference Advent vs. Christmas.
We are intentionally keeping Advent with Advent and Christmas with Christmas, liturgically speaking.
Advent marks the preparatory period in which we prepare ourselves (and our homes) for Christmas (the arrival/birth of Christ Jesus). Advent begins this weekend (December 1st) and on Christmas Day, we will actually mark the beginning of “Christmas” in the liturgical calendar. This year Christmas will end on January 12 with the Baptism of the Lord. You see, Christmas begins on Christmas Eve/Day lasts a couple of weeks (some years it’s shorter/longer depending on the liturgical year). That’s “Christmas Time” and a time of much celebration. Think about it, the first couple of weeks after a baby is born, family comes fro near and far to come see the baby and rejoice with the family – it was no different with our newborn Savior, Jesus!
If you are new to the Catholic Faith this whole Advent/Christmas thing may be confusing to you, and that’s okay! When I first converted I struggled with this concept for a couple of years before truly understanding the differences.
Since I am always looking for traditions to implement into my attempt at living more liturgically, I thought Advent would be the perfect time to make some changes to the way we normally decorate for Christmas.
- Christmas tree: we did put up the Christmas tree, I’m not a total Scrooge y’all! We topped it with a homemade Angel topper (an Angel we made with a picture of my grandfather who passed away this summer) but we will keep it undecorated for now and gradually decorate the tree as Advent progresses. I’m thinking we will get to add a couple of ornaments every Sunday, this may work well for our boys but I’m not sure yet! This is helpful for two reasons: 1) toddlers and Christmas ornaments don’t always go together – one year I bought the “shatter-proof” ones and my sons still figured out a way to break them (this year I am opting for homemade ornaments) and 2) as we gradually decorate our tree hopefully we will gradually and intentionally prepare our own hearts for the coming of the newborn King on Christmas.
- Avoid Christmas Burnout: Since almost all retail stores start bringing out Christmas items right after Halloween, I do believe that as a society we can get “burnt out” on Christmas. Most of the time this can happen before Christmas Eve actually gets here! This “Christmas Burn Out” is something I hope we can avoid by gradually and slowly decorating for Christmas instead of looking at the same decorations all month long.
- Advent Wreath and Calendar: We attend the Saturday evening Mass at our parish and so we saw the first Advent candle lit last night. Since our oldest is three and can easily see and understand this, I was sure to point the Advent candle and wreath out to him a few times during Mass. During our dinner after Mass, we also lit the first candle on our wreath at home and got to enjoy most of our dinner with the candle lit. In his trips up the attic, my husband got our Advent Calendar out and we will begin that this weekend too.
- Nativity Scene: If I were truly living Liturgically, I would wait to put out each piece of the Nativity according to the various Feast Days associated with them (Baby Jesus wouldn’t be placed until Christmas and the three Wise Men wouldn’t be placed until they came to visit Jesus). We will likely skip that this year (we might do that next year) so that when we read Nativity children’s books to the boys they can see the scene come together, and when they look at the scene they can see it complete.
- Slowing down: In our society Christmas is a time for busyness and consumerism. It’s a time of Christmas parties, shopping, and (sometimes) much travel. In a time where our society tells us to hurry up, finish Christmas shopping, and wrap those presents, we will be intentionally slowing down. While I still believe in a good office or school Christmas party, I do think we can find ways to slow down in our fast-paced, Christmas-obsessed society: putting our phones down or on silent, reading devotionals, and trimming down on TV time and letting the kids play instead. I also put a nice Advent wallpaper on my phone’s home screen to serve as a constant reminder of Advent.
- Giving to get: This Advent as we prepare our hearts (and home), we will be intentionally letting go of various items in our home, namely clothing and toys. We have already started the dialogue with our oldest son about “donating” and “giving” toys to other boys and girls who still could use some of the toys we don’t use anymore. Since I am a big fan of family participation, I will also set up a donation pile of my clothes and items as well. By giving to get, we can not only release our worldly goods (and distractions) but we can also prepare our home for new clothes and items that the boys will likely receive this year.
Advent is a conscious decision – you must consciously decide to prepare your hearts and home for the birth of our Savior. Advent is a time to prepare and remain vigilant for the coming our Savior.
Liturgical living is also a conscious decision. It takes some effort but it is achievable with some planning and effort. What I’ve listed above are a few practices that we are picking up this Advent and Christmas season but it’s not set in stone for years to come. If something doesn’t work well for us (or you) this liturgical year, you can give that practice up and pick a new one next year – that’s what I love about living liturgically! We can pick what works for us and what works for our kids ages and go forth with it!
If you have any other ideas for Advent, feel free to share them with me! I always enjoy hearing other families practices and ideas that work for them!