By: Dominique Johnson
As we enter the season of Advent it is easy to get caught up in the Christmas festivities that seem to begin the day following Thanksgiving.
In its Latin root ad-venire, meaning approach, Advent is meant to be a season of awaiting. We are to await and prepare for the arrival of Christ on Christmas day.
In our Churches and homes, we light the four candles as we prepare for the birth of Christ. The three purple candles symbolize a time of prayer and penance. The pink candle which is lit on the third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday symbolizes a time of Joy, a time to celebrate as our waiting is almost over.
During this period as we prepare for Christmas, it is a good time for us to grow deeper in our faith with our families and loved ones. In doing so, you may also start traditions that may be passed down and remembered as children and relatives grow.
A simple way to celebrate Advent is by having an Advent wreath in your home placed in a significant location. Every night you can light the appropriate candles and pray as a family. This time of prayer helps to break away from the hustle and bustle in our lives to reflect on the anticipation of Christ’s coming.
There are also many Advent devotionals available that you can use to go deep on your own, with a spouse, group or family. In my own family, this year we will be utilizing The Children’s Little Advent Book, which has daily reflections and coloring pages geared towards children ages 4-7.
There are also Feast Days to celebrate in the month of December leading up to Christmas. I fondly remember celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas when I was growing up. Every year on December 6th my family would share the story of St. Nicholas and my siblings and I would put our shoes by the door before we went to bed and wake up to a small gift.
St. Therese of Lisieux also recalls celebrating the feast of St. Nicolas with her family in Story of a Soul, “I knew that when we reached home after Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child . . . Papa, too, liked to watch my enjoyment and hear my cries of delight at each fresh surprise that came from the magic shoes, and his pleasure added to mine.”
Other feast days during Advent include the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th (a Holy Day of Obligation), the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and the feast of St. Lucy on December 13th. In sharing and learning about the lives of the Saints, we can deepen our love for God by their example.
These are just a few examples you can try or you can search for other ways to celebrate Advent and prepare for Christ this season at home. You can find resources from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/index.cfm.
After we are done waiting and we celebrate the birth of Christ, we should remember that the celebration doesn’t end on December 25th. As Catholics, the Christmas season doesn’t come to a close until the Baptism of our Lord, celebrated on January 8th during this liturgical year. So, feel free to leave up your Christmas tree and Nativity set and continue to play Christmas music until the season officially concludes.