28 November: First Sunday of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means a coming or arrival. Advent is the first liturgical season of the Church Year; it begins today and ends on December 24th. Don’t skip Advent – it’s there for a reason! It is a time of hopeful, joyous preparation for the coming of the Savior. The liturgical colors of Advent are violet and rose. Violet symbolizes penance, preparation and sacrifice. Rose is used on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Gaudete is Latin for rejoice.) The color rose signifies anticipatory joy that the waiting is half over; Christmas is near.
Advent is a time for us to prepare our minds and hearts for Jesus (through prayer, penance, fasting). We think of Advent as a time to prepare for Christmas, or the First Coming of Christ, but it should also remind us to look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.
“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”” (Catechism, 524)
Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate the holy season of Advent. Remember, you don’t have to do it all—just choose a few, and see what blesses your family. The ultimate goal is to use the season of Advent to prepare our minds, hearts, and homes for the birth of Christ.
Ideas for celebrating the season of Advent in your home:
- Advent Wreath: place on your table and light the candles each night. Pray together and sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. Be sure to bless your advent wreath using this blessing.
- Advent Calendar: a wonderful visual for children to count down the days leading to Christmas.
- Jesse Tree: lots of ideas and resources online for this. It is a fantastic way to learn about Jesus’ ancestors and the Biblical events leading up to His birth. Click here for more about the Jesse Tree.
- Nativity Scene: this tradition started by St. Francis is a perfect visual to remind everyone about the meaning of Christmas. Say a blessing over your nativity set and maybe wait to add baby Jesus to the manger until Christmas morning!
- Special Sunday Advent Dinners: fix a special dinner every Sunday in Advent and eat together by candlelight. Read aloud a Christmas story, Saints story, Scripture passage or Advent devotion. Say prayers together as a family.
- O Antiphons: from the Liturgy of the Hours, these antiphons are sung or recited at evening prayer from December 17 to 23, the octave before Christmas. Each antiphon welcomes the birth of the Savior by heralding one of the ancient Biblical titles given to the Messiah (as prophesied in the OT). Click here for the antiphons.
- Las Posadas: this Hispanic tradition reflects on what it was like for Joseph and Mary on the night Jesus was born. This begins on Dec. 16 and continues through Christmas Eve. Click here for more.
- Read Christmas & Advent books to your children: Here and Here are two wonderful book lists!
- Almsgiving and acts of service: good deeds and generosity have always been an important part of preparation for Christmas. Make it a family activity!
- Celebrate Saints’ Feast Days: There are many wonderful feast days during Advent. Click here for a list. You could keep it as simple as reading about the life of the saint over dinner; or make it a more elaborate celebration with ideas you find online.
- Sacrifices for the Christ Child: fill an empty “manger” during the season of Advent – one piece of straw placed for every sacrifice or good deed. Baby Jesus will have a soft manger when he arrives on Christmas from all the good works performed during Advent! Click here for more.
Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family; pray together; attend mass; do everything you can to prepare your heart and soul for the coming of Our Savior!