There has been a public debate as to whether “happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas” should be used during the month of December and for an appropriate period of time following December 25th. This time frame also coincides with acceptable time to turn on Christmas lights, purchase holiday decorations, and attend holiday parties and festivities. In the past few years Christmas seems to begin November 1st and last until the clearance items are removed to make way for Valentine’s Day shopping.
If you are like me, a bi-daily trip to a local retailer will soon be occurring as there are cookies to be made and gifts to be purchased during this holiday—yes holiday, not Christmas—season. Upon paying for my groceries and collecting my bags the kind cashier will wish me, “Merry Christmas!”
Wait! Advent has barely begun. We have been given a wonderful, liturgical season of Advent in addition to the Christmas season, which begins after the Feast of the Nativity, December 25th, not a month before. Advent is the liturgical season we celebrate as the precursor to the Christmas season. Don’t skip it! It’s there for a reason. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on December 24th. Christmas begins December 25th and continues until the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.
During Advent we have many holidays—the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra on December 6th, the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is celebrated on December 8th, and four Sundays celebrating the Advent season.
The wonderful season of Advent is about hopeful longing, joyful expectation, prayerful penance, and spiritual preparation. To separate Advent and Christmas from one another, it is helpful to enjoy the Advent holiday season differently than you would the Christmas season.
There are several Advent traditions that are wonderfully symbolic and simple to add into your daily lives:
An Advent Wreath: One of the most popular ways to celebrate Advent is with an Advent wreath—four candles, three purple and one pink—lit each Sunday.
Seasonal Foods: Many historically Catholic countries have traditions of preparing food that goes with the liturgical seasons, especially Advent and Christmas.
Advent Devotional Reading: There are great Advent books that take you deeper into the profound theology of Advent. Going through each day with a devotional reading is one of the best ways to spiritually prepare yourself for Christmas.
Advent Calendars: Another popular way to celebrate the Advent season, especially popular with children, is the Advent calendar. Counting down the days to Christmas helps children to anticipate patiently and to focus on waiting for the baby Jesus to be born.
Nativity Scenes: Nativity sets are a classic tradition and are great to display during the Advent season. To make the display especially poignant, wait until Christmas Eve to place the Baby Jesus into the scene.
Advent Penance Services: Here at our parish we will offer an Advent Penance Service on Tuesday, December 13th at 11:00am and 7:00pm.
Director of Liturgy