Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Observing a Family Advent - a glimpse of what we do and why we do it

I wasn't going to post much on what we're doing for Advent this year mostly because it's pretty similar to what we've been doing the last few years.  And I've already written on that.  But also because there is so much now on Advent in the blog world and it didn't feel necessary for me to share our little doings yet again.  But then a few people began asking for a little more on what we're doing and why so I figured I'd share a snapshot of what we've done and are doing to observe Advent in our little domestic church.

Here's the foundation behind why we observe Advent the way we do.  Our family's Advent philosophy, if you will.

But here's the at-a-glance rundown on Advent round these parts (and if you want more details please feel free to ask and be answered in the comments!):

The Wreath
The Advent classic.  I suspect you already know the wreath so I don't need to describe it.  We use the wreath blessing from the Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers the first night and then every night during dinner we light the candles while singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel with a follow-up in Latin.  Luke can belt a pretty mean Gaude.  During the last week of Advent (the "O Antiphons") we sing the corresponding verse for that day.  We turn off all the other lights in the house and eat by the candlelight.  I love that.  The boys will freak if you dare turn on another light for even the briefest moment.

Memorizing Luke 2
We began this last year and did pretty well.  I think we got to about verse 20.  We're starting at the beginning again but it's going a little faster since we had worked on it all last Advent.  I completely acknowledge that the boys are way way better at memorizing things than me.  I can fill in when prompted but their fresh little brains are so good.  We simply added it to our morning memory work that we do during breakfast.  

The Jesse Tree
Admittedly, this is my least favorite Advent tradition but I do see and love the significance and purpose of it.  I think I just have issues that there is no one way to do the Jesse Tree.  I'm way too type A and I want it all neat and tidy and it never seems like the ornaments match up with the readings and every version seems to leave out significant figures.  I have yet to find a version that I feel makes the most sense BUT the boys absolutely love it and we do it nightly, each of them taking turns with the ornament hanging.  This year Luke's been in bed when we do it which plays a part in making things run a little bit smoother.  Sometimes.  I still am so grateful I was able to participate in Jessica's ornament swap a few years ago.  If you want to do the Jesse Tree but are overwhelmed with all the making of the ornaments, a swap is most definitely the way to go.  I love that all of our ornaments have a different personality and style and came from other Catholic families like ours.  I feel all connected with them all.

Gifts for the King
I explain a little bit more about this here.  As a gift to Baby Jesus we store up our good deeds via coins that Brian and I give to them when we notice them doing something of virtue.  This can be as simple as obeying right away or helping their little brother put on his shoes or doing a task without being asked.  This year to simplify things a bit we are just doing one shared jar and we'll use the contents during Christmas to buy something for the Christ Child (i.e. the poor) most likely from the Food for the Poor catalog.

St. Andrew Novena
We pray this after the Jesse Tree devotion in our little oratory.  We try to light our prayer candle by the creche and that helps to set the tone.  I was introduced to this prayer by Sarah a few years back and now it is one of my favorite prayers of the Advent season.  I don't feel like it's too long for children and the repetition and meditation is very powerful.

Nativity Set
Our nativities were set up a few days after the beginning of Advent.  The stables are bare of all but the animals as it awaits for the traveling Mary and Joseph.  We're not very good at remembering to move them each day but theoretically, they journey through the rooms to reach the stable on Christmas Eve.  First thing Christmas morning before we do anything else (minus coffee for me...) the Christ Child is placed into the manger after reading the birth story.  During the twelve days of Christmas the Magi also then journey towards the stable ending there at Epiphany.

No Christmas Music, Parties, or Treats (?!?)
I know.  Crazy Catholics.  I really appreciate the waiting on these things and I think it helps to fully celebrate and embrace the tremendous change of Christmas once it comes.  We try to do all these things without being rude or jerky, of course.  It's a joyful hope sort of waiting.  But at some point if you want, really want, your family culture to be different from the pull of the rest of the world, you've got to make decisions that ain't going to be understood by everybody.  And that's okay.  It's good really.  It's good practice for when you have to make the decisions that matter a whole lot more.  So we wait on Christmas music until Christmas Eve Mass.  We try to avoid overcommitting and when possible, avoid celebrating Christmas when it's not yet.  We remember that Advent has a spirit of penance about it.  Dinners are simplified and treats are only on special feast days.  Then when the Christmas season comes - all twelve days and then some - watch the heck out.  We kind of take our lead from the Church on this one.  If the Church isn't celebrating Christmas yet, then our little domestic church doesn't either.  If she's waiting on the music and the decorations and the partying (liturgical style), then we do as well.  Preparations are made, of course, but the full blown celebration begins at Christmas Eve Mass.  

Individual Feasts
For some of the specific feasts of the Church during Advent we have little traditions that the boys (and I) remember and love.  On December 6 for St. Nicholas' feast, they put out their shoes that are filled the next morning with a few treats.  For the Immaculate Conception, we try to have a special meal and dessert and like with all Solemnities, there are no lessons that day.  For the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 we simply remember to have tacos or something Mexican-y for dinner.  On December 13, we honor St. Lucy by having St. Lucy bread in the morning and using that day to light the outside Christmas lights and window candles to prepare for Christ's coming (and also celebrate Luke's birthday!).  On Gaudete Sunday we put up the tree and over the next few days the rest of the decorations.  Once the O Antiphons begin on December 17, school is done until Epiphany which is a huge sanity saver for me with all the last week prep that a runner of the household needs to do for Christmas.  

Do we celebrate every single minor feast day or devotion of the Church during Advent?  No.  And that's okay.  I mean, we recognize it with the Church, but not necessarily by doing something 'extra' at home.  A mom (or at least I) could go nuts by doing that.  The little devotions of the Church are not mandatory.  They're invitations.  And if you're schedule is already packed with other equally good or necessary things, then it's okay to decline.  Nor do I have the time or energy to take on some of the many newer trendy Advent ideas from Pinterest.  The ones we've chosen have deep roots, have been proven good, and are beautiful.  And I leave the rest.  There is such a peace this year knowing that the roots have been carefully cultivated in our little family over the past ten years and that we can now enjoy even more of the growth and fruits of that labor.  The intentional Advent in our home took effort and planning and work but it has born such joy for our family and has deepened our celebration of our Lord at Christmas.  

So that's what we do.

If you're interested in reading more of my Adventy musings or for a deeper explanation on some of the devotions, please click on over here.  The Advent posts are right on top :)


  1. Thank you for sharing you family's Advent observances. We pretty much do the same. Though, I really liked your thoughts on taking the church's lead on waiting to celebrate (liturgical style) with treats, parties, etc. etc until the Christ King has arrived (it makes complete sense). Also, got a good chuckle with how your boys will freak out if you turn on a light for even a brief moment,....my boys do the same! =) May the rest of your Advent Season continue to be holy and blessed with God's grace and joy!

  2. I love that you shared again since I don't presently remember your other posts :) You make seasons beautiful and it inspires me to do the same in my home. Hope you're feeling well!

  3. Your family Advent traditions are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing, I loved it. Gives me something to think about...

    God bless,


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