Waiting for Christmas: Advent Traditions My Family Loves

More than Christmas, more even than Easter, Advent is my very favorite liturgical season.  Part of my affection for Advent stems from my beautiful memories of Catholic school celebrations, but I also love it for how simple it is to incorporate the celebration of this special season into daily life.

When I was very young, opening the doors on our Advent calendar each December morning before school was my earliest introduction to the season of Advent.  This is a delightful way to harness children’s anticipation of Christmas to teach a lesson of joyful and patient waiting.   Over the years there have been times we had a calendar for every kid ready to open on December 1, and other times we weren’t on the ball and managed to find the very last available calendar a week into Advent.  This year I’ve got two all ready to go:  a scriptural retelling of the Christmas story that I bought at Catholic Door and a chocolate one from Trader Joe’s.

gospel-advent-calendar-e1508560073222-180x180
Another treasured tradition in our home is the decorating of the Jesse Tree.  I loved doing this every Advent morning when I was in grade school, and have enjoyed incorporating it into our family celebration.  We got our first set of ornaments at our church’s annual Advent workshop (another long-time tradition), and they were all the more treasured because they were colored by little hands.  When we lost them to fire, I found free printables online–there are many to choose from.  Or you could buy this beautiful set my friend Sara has made.

Most years we manage to have an Advent wreath.  The biggest challenge is having the right color of candles. (Note to self: check Amazon tomorrow for candles)   The next challenge is that we don’t eat dinner together every night, so some nights the candles don’t get lit.  But I like seeing them there just the same.

Probably our most important Advent tradition is what we DON’T do.  While the secular world and mostly Protestant East Tennessee are happily partying long before the guest of honor has even arrived, in our home we continue to wait.  No, we don’t bah humbug all the Christmas events happening outside our home–we go to the downtown tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving as well as many other fun local events that we look forward to year after year.  But at home things are different.

Right after Thanksgiving I remove the gourds and other harvest items from the mantel and put out simple votive lights.  Along with our Advent wreath, these will be our only seasonal decorations until about a week before Christmas, and the tree will go up later than that.  I may not hold off on the Christmas music quite that long, but for at least half the month we will be listening to Advent playlists.
We don’t do all these things every year.  Sometimes we fail at Advent rather spectacularly!  (The one we are the very best at is not putting up the decorations early!)

I’ve written a LOT of posts about Advent, if you’d like to check them out:

Christmastime Is Here . . . NOT
So This Is Christmas
Signs of the Season
Signs of the Season II
Countdown to Christmas
How to Celebrate Advent When Everyone Thinks It’s Already Christmas
Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree
That Time I Did Not Advent Right
Advent Memories
Tragedy and Traditions
O Come O Come Emmanuel

What about you?  How do you celebrate Advent?  For more ideas, click the picture below to read other posts in the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network blog hop.

cwbn advent

8 thoughts on “Waiting for Christmas: Advent Traditions My Family Loves

  1. We did a real Advent Wreath the last two years, but by about the third week the heights were all incorrect from lack of consistent use and it started bothering me that they weren’t all dripping properly. Gotta get over that… We have a busy toddler this year, so we went with a magnetic one. Someday I’ll go back to the traditional style. But not this year. :/

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  3. Once in college I was bound and determined to have an Advent wreath in my dorm room. Obviously, I couldn’t burn real candles. So I bought 4 electric taper candles, painted 3 purple and 1 pink, and arranged them with some greenery I found around campus. It kind of worked!

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  5. Clisby Williams

    We don’t celebrate Advent – but I grew up in a family (Episcopal) where we had an Advent wreath, and put up the Christmas tree and decorated it on Christmas Eve. We took it down on Epiphany. I still find all the extra-early stuff to be strange.

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