Keeping Advent when it’s not yet Christmas

It’s nearing the end of November. Which means Christmas music has already begun playing in stores, and I’m too late to buy Thanksgiving blend at Starbucks, because Christmas blend has already been out for weeks and weeks.

The grocery stores are starting to fill out their fabricated forest of Christmas trees out front, and okay, yes, I’ve let my kids watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol on Netflix. Twice.

But I don’t want to get pulled too far down the path of celebrating Christmas before we’ve kept Advent.

Now, we live in a culture that beckons us constantly to consume, to desire, to need more and to look eagerly ahead to the next thing. So right around the time the Halloween candy is losing it’s luster, the Christmas carols start cranking on loudspeakers in our shopping centers and maybe in our cars. And I’ve been guilty of humming along a little jingle jam myself, in early November, but I really want to do better this year at “waiting in joyful hope.”

Because I already struggle with sustaining the joy of Christmas for 12 days. Let alone 6 weeks prior to the day itself. And every year around December 27th I find myself looking at that dead tree I insisted we get on the first Sunday of Advent and wanting to kick it out into the dirty snow by the curb. And every year I think I can have the best of both worlds: that we can deck our halls good and early and keep up with the jingle jamming Joneses and still party hard all 12 days of Christmastide, because Catholics know how to party.

But something always gets lost along the way, when I don’t give Advent it’s due.

I don’t think it’s possible or particularly realistic to avoid all pre holiday festivities before December 25th. At least not in our present state of life. It would mean skipping the recital at our kid’s wonderful Catholic school, where it may only be Advent, but they’ll definitely be singing Christmas carols in their tiny, tone deaf voices. It would mean refusing my mom when she wants to snuggle up on the couch and watch a Hallmark movie on Christmas Adam (December 23rd, if you are unaware) because I’m bent on being a liturgical purist.

But I can – and should – take the necessary steps to ensure that Advent is observed in our home as best as possible. Maybe that means getting the bulk of my shopping done before the first Sunday of Advent begins, and then being able to settle into a peaceful season of quiet preparation. And it might mean turning down most – not all, but maybe quite a few – invitations to Christmas parties in early December.

It might mean setting up an Advent wreath on the kitchen table and leaving it there, even at great peril risked by roving toddler hands, and lighting the appropriate candle each Sunday night, or even every night that we’re home, during Advent.

Perhaps we can, as a family, relegate sweets to Sundays and feast days only during Advent (and there are plenty) so that we’re not overdoing it in treating ourselves as we wait with Mary for Jesus’ birth.

Maybe this year will be the year I really do cut up 40 pieces of yellow yarn for the older kids to line baby Jesus’ manger with their kind deeds and acts of sacrifice, and try not to hyperventilate when they get scattered all over the house. Because yarn has to be easier to clean up than actual hay, right? #rookiemistake

I’m thinking of practical, tangible ways I can communicate to my kids – and remind myself – that even as the world around us starts celebrating right!now!, we acknowledge that Christmastide is not yet. And that He is worth waiting for.

So we’ll keep the Christmas music turned off in the car. At least until Gaudete Sunday. (Because baby steps.) We’ll perhaps put off getting our tree until a little closer to the big day, this year. And we’ll do it with smiles, waiting in joyful hope for the One who is the cause of our joy, and Who is coming soon.

Jenny Uebbing

By

Jenny Uebbing is a freelance editor and writer for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their growing army of toddlers. She writes about marriage, life issues, politics, sociological trends, and traveling with kids here.

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  • Joe McG

    Great article, Jenny! The older I get, the more I realize that I need and respect Advent, and we Catholics can surely come up with workable compromises like you mention. Here are some things that we’ve done to help keep the spirit of Advent alive in our home:
    1) We celebrate spirit Thanksgiving for the whole weekend. No rushing out to go shopping. Let the others fight it out at the stores… there will be deals before and after Black Friday.
    2) There’s no need to turn your home into a winter wonderland overnight. Spread out the holiday decorating throughout Advent. Maybe set aside certain weekends for certain decorations. Not only does this reduce stress, but it helps mirror the “slow reveal” of the Messiah that we experience through scripture during Advent
    3) Don’t rush out and get a tree. When my wife and I were first married we didn’t have money for a tree, so we would go out to the lots on Christmas Eve and get something for free. These days we’ve reserved the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Gaudete Sunday) as the day we go out and get the tree. Some years the selection can be pretty thin, but it’s a good compromise. Plus a lot of tree lots are putting out their later delivery trees, so they’re fresh enough to last through the Christmas season.
    4) Celebrate the Christmas Season to the fullest! Don’t take down those lights or those decorations until after Epiphany! Yours may be the only house that still has the lights up and on after New Years, but so what? If anyone asks why, turn it into a catechetical moment.
    5) Don’t feel like you have to have all the presents under the tree on December 25th. Gift cards are great for buying what you want during those after-Christmas sales.

    There are lots of ways we can celebrate Advent to the fullest without seeming too out of step with our secular brothers and sisters.

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