The liturgical season of Advent begins on the first Sunday in Advent, opening a new year in our Church's Calendar. The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, which means "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas.
Advent blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the birth of Christ.
During Advent, we are called upon to:
1) prepare ourselves to worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
2) make our souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace
3) make ourselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world
(from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)
Advent is a season of waiting, a season filled with hope. Here are ten tips that will help you and your family keep this season holy:
1. Use an Advent calendar and/or a wreath to mark this time of preparation. Pray Advent prayers with the family and the rosary when you light up the candle on the wreath. Sing 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' throughout Advent.
2. Keep outdoor lights & decorations simple, using religious CHRISTmas scenes like the Nativity or a star.
3. Use a Jesse tree or an Advent tree.
4. Have children write a letter to Jesus instead of Santa.
5. Let your children know that "Santa Claus" is another name for the real St. Nicholas and tell them his story. Celebrate the day. Encourage your children to leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors on Dec. 5. When they awaken, they will find small gifts like candy or fruit if they’ve been good.
6. Participate in the Giving Tree at church. Have your children buy a gift to donate to children in need or perform some service for the poor or elderly.
7. Put a Nativity set in a prominent place in your home, but only put out some of the animals. You can put the other statues out, but in another place in your home. Each week, read a little from the Christmas story in Luke's Gospel, and move the statues a little closer.
8. Have the children place a piece of straw in the manger for each good deed they do during Advent as a gift to the baby Jesus.
9. Take the entire family, when possible, to daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
10. Light a candle before the Blessed Mother when visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
Here are some great Advent links:
Customs and Prayers for the Advent Wreath
Meditations for Each Week of Advent
The Story of St. Nicholas