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.
Advent is a season of waiting, a season filled with hope. Here are ten tips for making this Advent Season a holier one for you and your family:
1. Take the entire family, as often as possible, to daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
2. On days when you are unable to attend Mass, read and reflect on the Scriptures for that day.
3. 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.
4. Curtail unnecessary shopping and activities focusing on the material aspects of Christmas. Instead, increase prayer and focus on serving others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping a neighbor who is elderly, unemployed, or disabled.
5. Have children write a letter to Jesus instead of Santa.
6. 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..
7. Participate in the Giving Tree at church. Have your children buy a gift to donate to children in need.
8. 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. Wait until Christmas to put the Baby Jesus in the manger.
9. . 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.
10. Light a candle before the Blessed Mother when visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
11. The Mary candle: Some families have the custom of decorating the Christ candle with a blue veil on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On this great feast, others place a candle with a blue ribbon before a statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin, whose “yes” to God enabled our Lord’s coming at Christmas. The candle is lit during meal times to serve as a delightful reminder of Mary’s eager expectation of the “Light of the World.”
12. St. Lucy cakes: The feast of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, is on December 13th. This marks the opening of the Christmas season in Sweden. Her life story can be found in most saints books, as can the recipe for the traditional cakes. The symbolism is rich and her life story worthwhile reading.