Friday, November 25, 2016

Fabulous Ways to Celebrate Advent

It's almost the new liturgical year, because Advent is just around the corner! The season of Advent (from Latin, it means "coming") has existed for several centuries. St. Gregory of Tours, who lived in the 6th century, wrote about this practice in the Church, which had been going on for several years-there just wasn't one standardized length for this time of preparation before Christmas. Over time, things got standardized in the West and now we celebrate Advent beginning "with evening prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November.

Advent is an amazing season in which we can prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas and at the end of time. As the Congregation for Divine Worship states,

"Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation." 
There are so many rich, epic traditions and practices which we can celebrate during Advent, so let's talk about a few of them! 

Make New Year's Resolutions.

Since Advent begins the new liturgical year, why not make New Year's resolutions now, instead of in January? It's a great way to stay in tune with the liturgical year. I often make a New Liturgical Year resolution that has to do with my spiritual life, and it really sets the tone for the coming year. 

Use a Jesse Tree.
Even small paper ornaments, colored
by hand with crayons, can be used
for a Jesse Tree.
This is a fantastic way to review the people and events that led up to the birth of Christ. Ornaments depict different symbols that correspond with Scripture readings. There are so many different ways that people do Jesse Trees, from putting paper ornaments on the wall to making felt trees and ornaments to using artificial trees with real ornaments. The possibilities really are endless! 

Listen to Advent music.
If we're blasting Christmas music continuously, we are missing out on all of the epic Advent music out there. Because, believe it or not, there is Advent music besides "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (I love this song, but by the end of Advent it is always pouring out of my ears, and I need some variety). I'm a huge fan of Advent at Ephesus for some peaceful, angelic religious music, but there is so much religious, Advent-y music out there, like "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." And, for those times when we don't want to listen to meditative music, Susanna Spencer put together a list of secular Christmas songs that work well during Advent, which is pretty fantastic. 

Put purple everywhere!

Well, okay, we don't want to go overboard. So put purple moderation. This is the time to bring out purple tablecloths, purple cloth napkins, purple clothes (you know it's a Sunday in Advent or Lent when you take longer than usual color-coordinating your outfit to fit the liturgical season)-you get the idea. Years ago, in my high school days, I would help decorate the common area and chapel of my school with purple and silver ornaments, ribbons, and some nice greenery. It was quite lovely. 

Light an Advent wreath.
I've always loved the simple ritual of lighting our Advent candles while singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel." As the candles flicker, we think about the coming of Christ, our Light, into the world. I particularly love praying or working by the light of the Advent wreath in the mornings. 
Our Advent wreath is a bit weird, with
two really tall candles and two
tiny short candles, but I still
love its quirkiness.
Repent of your sins!
Typically, we like to think of the time before Christmas as a fuzzy, cozy time to celebrate and excitedly prepare for the birth of Christ, but we can't forget that Advent also calls to mind the Second Coming of Christ.  Naturally, if we're going to think about-and prepare for-the coming of Christ, we probably should take stock of our lives and try to become better, holier people. So, Advent is a great time to examine our lives and consciences, get to Confession, and really purify ourselves for Christ's coming! 

Take part in special celebrations for some of the notable feast days that happen during Advent.
As if Advent itself wasn't epic enough, there are some truly awesome saint days that happen during this season, which can be celebrated in style. Some notable feast days include: St. Nicholas (December 6), the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), St. Lucia's Day (December 13), and Bambinelli Sunday

Look at what my crazy-talented
husband did with his candy last
year on St. Nicholas' Day!
That's just a small handful of the wonderful days that we can commemorate in different ways-some small (gold coins in your shoes for St. Nicholas), and some large (bring all the Baby Jesus figurines to church!). And, if you live in an area with Hispanic religious orders or parishes, you may be able to take part in Las Posadas, a very beautiful tradition that recounts Joseph and Mary searching for an inn in Bethlehem. 

Pray with an Advent devotional.
My top-favorite Advent (and Christmas) devotional is A Monastery Journey to Christmas, but there are so many other great options I've looked through (note: every year I forget that my devotional's meditations start on November 15, but this year, I finally remembered!!). In fact, the fabulous Annie and John-Paul Deddens are offering a "pay what you can" online Advent retreat! Many parishes offer small devotionals in the entrances, too, so there are plenty of ways to get reflecting in this season! 

The season of Advent may be short, but it is such a fabulous time to center our lives even more on God and prepare for His coming. I hope that all of you have a wonderful beginning of the new liturgical year! 

P.S. For any of you reading this on November 25, 2016: The fabulous Jenny Evans is hosting a Names of Christ Advent Devotional giveaway, and it ends TODAY! So hop on over there to enter!


  1. The church that I lead youth group at is very-non-liturgical, but last year in the weeks before Christmas with the youth group I and my family led small Advent 'services' with lighting the candles, telling what each one means and what we remember on that day, and singing Christmas hymns. I thought it was really cool at the teens had never heard of Advent before. I would do it again--but this year I'm trying to take a bit of a break as the year winds down so no grand youth group Christmas plans.

  2. I love Advent, and I especially love the Jesse Tree tradition. We just began our Jesse Tree readings yesterday. I love sharing these with our kiddos. They, obviously, won't have a good understanding of the concept for a while, but the lights on the tree and the simple ornaments keep their attention while we read from Scripture. I'm excited to watch as the significance of the passages soak into their minds over time.

  3. I love this. So many great things to do to celebrate Advent.

  4. I have never heard of that online retreat before with Annie! I love her website to pray more novena's so what a great idea!
    I love simple decorating for Advent. This year it just less stuff, more simple beauty. My Advent wreath is the only thing on my coffee table for example, and for me its a good reminder on what to really focus on this season. Just seeing that alone on the table almost helps me focus and center more in prayer :)