It seems like once we hit November 1st, the world is already consumed with Christmas decorations and Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously LOVE Christmas. But how can we mindfully prepare for this most holy and beautiful holiday without getting caught up in consumerism and fancy decor?
It may be counter-cultural, but I love to slow down and prepare for Christmas by pushing aside the trappings of the season as long as possible. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is by being fully present in the celebration of the Advent season.
What is Advent?
Advent means “the coming” and refers to the four-week period before Christmas that is set aside as a time of preparation. We are preparing for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and waiting in joyful hope for His coming again. Advent begins the Sunday nearest November 30th and continue until December 24th.
How to Celebrate Advent With Your Children
For the past few years, I’ve delayed our holiday “gratification” by placing our family focus on the joys of Advent. That way, we can truly be present in the actual Christmas season and unplug a little from commercialization. How can moms best prepare for a joyful Advent with a busy family? Here are my favorite five steps for a meaningful Advent.
- Control Your Schedule
- Pick One Tradition
- Center on Scripture
- Wait to Decorate
Control Your Schedule
This one is a biggie. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but guess what? If we say yes to it all, our schedule will not be optimal for a peaceful Advent season. The responsibility to coordinate family schedules tends to fall heavily on moms. Ask yourself: how do I want to feel? How do I want my family to feel? Peace? Joy? Contentment?
By focusing on what is necessary and essential, we can truly impact our families as we prepare for Christmas. If we can create space for wonder and awe, then the season can be counted a success. Nothing else matters but our closeness to Christ. Mindfully and carefully guard your family’s downtime for the jewel that it is.
Pick One Tradition
The path to a fruitful Advent is to keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to overwhelm yourself or your kids with too liturgical traditions. We can’t (and don’t have to ) do it all. Trust me when I say that your kids will only remember what was most meaningful to them personally. This can be a strangely unpredictable process. So, pick one tradition you find joy in and stick with it.
Here are a few favorite ideas:
- Advent wreath/calendar
- Nativity set
- Celebrate a feast day
You may already be familiar with the tradition of Advent wreaths and calendars. It can be really fun to count down the days to Christmas by using these tools.
Another idea is to provide a nativity set for your kids to interact with. This is not a priceless family heirloom, but possibly a Playskool version or something from Goodwill. The point is to allow your children to freely move the figures along with the stories from the Gospel.
In addition, there are several Catholic feast days that you could consider as a part of your Advent preparation for Christmas. We like to celebrate St Nicholas day (December 6th) and also St Lucy day (December 13th) because we have a Lucy in our family.
You may also consider celebrating the feast days of St Juan Diego (December 9th) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th). Basically, we are totally spoiled for choice on fun days to celebrate leading in December! Just pick one and run with it.
Center on Scripture
One way to prepare during Advent is to center on scripture, God’s Living Word. In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we present our smallest children with the Prophecy of Light.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.Isaiah 9:2
Click here to download a free printable Prophecy of Light prayer card!
Who is this great light? Jesus, of course! Advent is the time where we can dive into the special bible stories about the beginning of this great light in our lives: the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity.
Consider reading these passages to your children, one per week, leading into in Christmas. He existed as a real person in a real point in time. This will deeply resonate with your children.
One of my favorite moments from the atrium came from a little boy of 8, with several younger siblings, in response to the Annunciation story. He said, “Aren’t you just jealous of Mary sometimes? She got to have the baby Jesus all to herself for nine whole months! I’m jealous when I think of that.” Yeah, me too bud!
Wait to Decorate
Yep, I used to be that lady who always had the tree up and decorated Thanksgiving weekend, like clockwork! If there was a snowflake in the air, the urge for holiday decor seemed irresistible. Then one year I made a conscious decision to go “all in” on Advent and wait as a long as possible to make our house “Christmas-y”.
It was two weeks before Christmas when I finally put up our tree (after considerable pressure from my most holiday enthused children!). The result of this “experiment”? For once, I didn’t feel super tired of my Christmas tree by December 26th. It actually felt terrific to enjoy the spangles and twinkling lights into the New Year!
Did you know that Christmas is not just one day, but a whole season? For Catholics, it continues until the Baptism the Lord, usually about 20 days or so. Here’s a rundown on the whole Christmas season, if you’d like more details. The nativity of Jesus is so momentous that it truly deserves many days of celebration!
Shifting our Christmas excitement into the actual season of Christmas has even allowed us to cope better with the bleak days of January in Wisconsin. Negative temps are such a mood killer! Just when the days are shorter and darker, we can choose to revel in the beautiful light of Christ.
O God, help us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ our Savior! Let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey towards a peaceful Advent and a joyous Christmas season.
Are you looking for more tips on bringing prayer into your home? Check out my post on teaching your kids to pray in 4 simple steps!
Interested in adding a new prayer technique to your routine? Here’s everything you need to know about praying the Lectio Divina, along with a free printable guide!
Happy Advent to you and yours!