Celebrating Advent as a Catholic Family

This week, Catholic families will begin to prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ by commencing the season of Advent.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Catholic families have a unique opportunity to enjoy devotions and customs that will help them to truly embrace this special season.  Rather than focusing on shopping and material observances, Catholic families can participate in time honored traditions that teach the faith and symbolize the Advent journey towards the Nativity.

In her lovely book The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day author Meredith Gould sums up the anticipation which should fill our homes during the next four weeks:  "During the four weeks of Advent (coming), we're expectant with awe; the season is pregnant with meaning.  How can we not be excited…Advent is a time to luxuriate in peaceful waiting."

During the hubbub of holiday parties and trips to the mall, it seems especially crucial to pause as a family nightly and embrace quiet prayer as a means towards helping our children keep the true nature of this time in the proper perspective.  This can be as simple as lighting a candle in the center of the family dinner table and pausing for quiet reflection prior to dinner.  Advent is also a time to participate in the sacrament of Penance.  Most parishes offer a family Penance service during the season of Advent.  Family devotions might also include increased attendance at daily Mass, time spent in Eucharistic adoration, prayer of the Rosary as a family or time spent reading scripture together each evening.

To help your family "luxuriate" in the Advent season, consider embracing some of the following time-honored Advent traditions in your home.

Advent Wreath – Create your own simple wreath of evergreen branches and decorate the wreath with four candles – three violet and one rose.  The first candle is lit on the First Sunday of Advent, with subsequent candles lit on successive Sundays.  Visit the USCCB web site for a family Advent wreath blessing.  To order candles for your Advent wreath, visit the Catholic Company

Advent Calendar – Whether store-bought or homemade, Advent calendars offer children a visual frame of reference for counting down the days until Christmas.  Most prefabricated Advent calendars begin on December 1 and allow your family to open a "door" for each day until Christmas.  My favorite calendars have a daily scripture reference or service idea waiting behind each door.  For a fun family craft, create your own Advent calendar and brainstorm as a family ways in which you can use your calendar to journey closer to Jesus.

Jesse Tree – The Jesse tree tradition finds it's "roots" in the book of Isaiah.  To create your own family Jesse tree, find a large branch that is bare of leaves.  For each day of Advent a small ornament is placed on the tree, tracing the lineage of Jesus Christ.  A relevant scripture passage is highlighted. Your children can download, print and color Jesse tree ornaments at Our Sunday Visitor or you can purchase a Jesse Tree kit at the Catholic Company

Many other wonderful traditions are prevalent during the season of Advent.  In a future column, we will look at traditions surrounding the Feast of St. Nicholas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the crèche or Nativity Scene.  Regardless of the manner in which you choose to observe Advent as a family, make time during this season to ponder the miracle of the Baby Jesus with your children – memories are made, hearts are brightened and souls are prepared.

For additional Advent project and craft ideas to create with your children, visit http://www.catholicmom.com/advent_kids.htm


Lisa Hendey, Catholic wife and mom, is the founder and webmaster of www.CatholicMom.com and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul and The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and hosts the Catholic Moments Podcast. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.

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  • Guest

    Dear Lisa:  Thanks for sending this to Exchange … the link to the Jesse tree color-it-yourself ornaments is especially helpful!

    Heidi Hess Saxton Editor, "Canticle" Magazine Blogroll

  • Guest

    Coincidently, I came across an ebook a few days ago that presented all important information on how to prepare for Christmas. It had information on the following:

    1. Explanations on the Christmas traditions like bell ringing, birth of Jesus, candles, Christmas Carols, Christmas Tree and reindeer legend. This will be very helpful if we need to explain these to children and we are not sure ourselves.

    2. How people in different countries wish each other Merry Christmas and also how they celebrate Christmas.

    3. How to create your own Christmas Family Tradition.

    4. Some Christmas recipes.

    5. Christmas music as well as 22 Traditional Christmas Songs (many of which we sing in Church and not often played by ultra-secular radio stations because they refuse to admit that Christmas is a religious festival!


    Check it out at Ultimate Christmas Guide for the Catholic Family. Guaranteed to educate the whole family on things Christmas.

  • Guest

    We had a good Advent conversation at my house this morning about, "What if the whole world was getting ready for a giant celebration on your birthday and everyone was encouraged to participate in the party, but you weren't invited? That's how Jesus feels."

    Our children connected very much with this. And that's why we need to be a bit of a nag at this time of year to remind the "Season's Greetings" PC crowd.