Now that I lured you in with that click bait title you can relax: our family has not abandoned Advent! However, we definitely don’t celebrate it – we observe it the way we do Lent (though not as strictly), and we celebrate Christmas in its proper time (for twelve days, and in small ways up until Candlemas February 2).
I want Advent to be a season of quiet preparation, not liturgical or material overwhelm, so we experience joy at christmas, not exhaustion. So here’s seven ways to observe Advent so you arrive at Christmas refreshed, and ready to party, not tired, bloated, and miserable.
1.There are a ton of wonderful Advent resources out there. I’m here to remind you that you don’t need to buy them all. Since our family started trying to live more liturgically about ten years ago, the number of Advent studies, craft kits, and the like has increased ten fold. And while it can be great to have more options, it can also lead to feelings of inadequacy when you can’t do a Jesse Tree, Advent Wreath, Picture Book a Day, Advent Calendar, Womens’ Scripture Study AND celebrate all the feast days in December without dying. Please realize you don’t need any of these things to observe Advent. None. Just like we can get caught up in the materialism of Christmas by going gang busters on gifts, we can lose focus of what Advent is about by busying ourselves, and our families, rather than slowing down and patiently waiting. If you’re new to observing Advent, maybe just focus on saying prayers around a wreath this year (or maybe just start the habit of regular family prayer sans wreath if need be). If your kids are older and want to take the lead on a Jesse Tree, great, give it a shot, but the second you start stressing that you missed an ornament, or didn’t enter something in your journal over the weekend, realize you’re missing the point. You’ve made Advent about completing a to do list, and not patiently waiting for Our Lord.
If you need some Advent resources, check out the Catholic Mom Bundle. It’s got everything you need to get started observing Advent. But if you already have tons of resources, than use what you’ve got! Pick a couple of things and do them well, rather than doing everything and arriving at December 25th ready to be done with the liturgical year.
2. Add some times of fast and abstinence into your Advent preparation. Just because the secular world is feasting doesn’t mean you need to. Make some special treats for some of the great feast days, but otherwise, abstain from cookies and candy until Christmas time. Abstain from Christmas music until Christmas Eve. Consider other small sacrifices you can make during the month. Perform acts of charity so your children can see that there are many families who do not have the option to celebrate this month even if they want to.
3. Plan a simpler Christmas. Is Christmas day a hurried rush from one place to the next whilst accumulating a van load of crap? (I mean, does it seem that way some times???) Work now (as it may take awhile…like years) to start new traditions of fewer presents, more experience gifts, and holiday visits spread out over several days vs visiting EVERYONE on Christmas day. Do you really need 274 side dishes, or could your family maybe make do with 6? Same with desserts. Do you need to wrap presents or would gift bags work, or no wrapping at all? Look at why holiday traditions your family has adopted ‘just because it’s always been done that way’ and see where you can simplify. Be respectful towards your family, but know that you’re allowed to do things your own way, in line with your family’s values.
4. Save fun activities for after Christmas day. Now is when you can watch your favorite movies, feast on your favorite foods, bake cookies, listen to Bing Crosby 24/7, drive around looking at the Christmas light displays in your neighborhood, etc. There’s also so many wonderful feast days between Christmas and Epiphany. If you’re off school and work, now you’ll have some time to make some crafts and do a few extra liturgical things that felt too overwhelming earlier in the month.
5. Don’t get caught up in the secular. Elf on the Shelf, visits to Santa at the local mall, family tree cutting expeditions, Lego Advent calendars, etc. can all be fun, family traditions, but they have absolutely nothing to do with Advent. They do nothing to prepare us spiritually for Christmas. Make sure your kids understand that what sets Advent apart from Christmas isn’t something the secular world talks about. The world sees Advent as so many shopping days before Christmas, a season to party and watch TV specials focused on peace and love. But that not it at all. We’ve found that observing a quieter more penitential season at home, our kids automatically know what Advent is about.
6. Plan quiet, down time, before and after Advent. So much of Advent and Christmas is rushing from one thing to the next. Know that it’s okay to just sit at home and not actively do anything. Or that perhaps all you need is to schedule a few quiet hours in Adoration (maybe couple it with Confession!) throughout Advent and Christmas to refuel your soul for the season.
7. You can say no. Certainly there will still be sports practices and events that require your attendance, but don’t create undo Advent stress by agreeing to some new project or activity. Focus on spending time with family and friends, and peacefully observing the season so your kids will learn instinctively what is most important this time of year. If the harried pace of your life doesn’t slow down during December, your children will not remember Advent as a time of quiet preparation.
How do you keep Advent from stressing you out? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!