“Either we live the liturgical year with its varying seasons of joy and sorrow, work and rest, or we follow the pattern of the world.”
So wrote Helen McLoughlin in Advent and Christmas in a Catholic Home, commenting on the challenge Catholics have of being “in the world but not of the world” throughout the year.
She wrote these profound words in the 1950s, but they are even more important today because of the general decline in Catholic family life during the last 40 years. With two parents working in many households, there is less time to devote to the spiritual life of the family.
As Catholic parents, we must readjust our priorities and teach our children by living our faith, both inside and outside the home.
“Children love to anticipate,” writes McLoughlin. “When there are empty mangers to fill with straw for small sacrifices, when the Mary candle is a daily reminder on the dinner table, when Advent hymns are sung in the candlelight of a graceful Advent wreath, children are not anxious to celebrate Christmas before time. That would offend their sense of honor.
|Older children who make Nativity sets, cut Old Testament symbols to decorate a Jesse tree, or prepare costumes for a Christmas play will find Advent all too short a time to prepare for the coming of Christ the King.”
With time at a premium in many modern households, it is important to schedule family time to celebrate this season of hope and anticipation. On the day after Thanksgiving, many families start shopping for Christmas.
Why not avoid the crowds on this busiest of days and begin to prepare your home and family for Advent? Here are some simple ideas and resources for you to explore.
The Advent Wreath - The Jesse Tree
The Christ Candle - The Mary Candle
St. Nicholas Day - Feast of St. Lucy
The Empty Manger -Advent Calendars
Some Meaningful Videos for Advent
Please Visit The Advent Conspiracy
an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion,
The Advent Wreath The most common sign that the season of Advent has arrived is the Advent wreath. Found in Catholic Churches and homes, this symbol is borrowed from Germany origins. Originally a circle of evergreens, sometimes attached to a wire, it is fitted with three purple candles, representing the penitential Sundays, and a rose colored candle for Gaudate Sunday - the joyful Sunday. Sometimes there is a white candle in the center called the Christ candle or the Mary candle.
Buy Advent Wreaths Here
How To Make An Advent Wreath and More
Candle Lighting Song to the Tune of Away in a Manger
|The Jesse Tree This traditional children's activity traces Christ's ancestry through symbols and Scripture as it relates to salvation history beginning with Creation through the Birth of the Savior. A terrific project for CCD classes and Catholic families. You can use a tree branch, a small artificial tree, or suspend a branch from the ceiling with fishing line to create a hanging mobile.
The Franciscan Martyrs Region website provides excellent directions and suggestions. View here. Be sure to visit the Catholic Culture page as well for more decorating ideas and a blessing of the Jesse Tree.
Find a Jesse Tree Kit Here
|The Christ Candle Some Catholic families and parishes include a white candle in the center of their Advent Wreath. This is called the Christ Candle. It is decorated with symbols of Christ and lit on Christmas Eve to show that the Light of the World has arrived. Use it on your dinner table throughout the remaining weeks of Christmas or on your Sunday dinner table to remind you that we wait in hope for Christ as we celebrate the seasons of His Life, Death and Resurrection.
If you decide to use a taper candle, it can be decorated with small stickers.
If you decide to use a larger pillar candle, here are some symbols of Christ that you can print out. Color them to your liking or you might like to trace some onto colored foil to cut out and decorate your candle. Images taken from Christian Symbols and Their Meanings by Doug Gray
Slow Down - Read - Pray
Click on Images Below to Explore
The Mary Candle Some Catholic families decorate a white pillar candle with blue veiling on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. You can also decorate a taper candle with blue ribbon or place a vigil candle in blue glass before a statue or image of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a reminder of the "Yes" of the Virgin that transformed the fall of Eve into the salvation of the world through the Birth of the Savior. Pictured here is a beeswax candle dating to the early 1940s. There is a hollow in the back to insert a taper.
||Pro Life Mary Candle
Catholic Home and Garden has designed our own version of the Mary candle as a reminder of the sanctity of life. This project will not only teach children about the humanity of Christ, but will also encourage awe and wonder for the maternity of each child.
We've provided a rough Photoshop version of the directions, but you can modify it with items you have on hand.
A terrific parish project for your Right to Life group.
Here are our directions.
|Take a large pillar candle and carefully scoop out a hollow. You can do this with a heated grapefruit spoon or carefully use an electric carving knife or large wood burning tool. Try not to go all the way in to the wick. Place a small amount of hay in the bottom of the opening and place a tiny figure of the Christ Child upon it. (Offered singly and in bulk at our shop.)
||With straight pins, attach little curtains of lace or a sheer fabric at the top. Made sure there is an opening in the center. Top the curtains with a border of lace or gold braiding. You can attach little flowers, sequins or ribbon. This represents the very real pregnancy of Mary, when the Christ Child was helpless and hidden within her body -- the First Tabernacle! You can light the candle to represent her time of waiting. A beautiful hymn to sing at the table is "See How The Virgin Waits" a beautiful Slovak Advent hymn.
||On Christmas Eve, pull the curtains back and pin in place with little bits of gold braid or sequined pins and behold the New Born King!
Please feel free to share this idea everywhere, but we would ask that you credit Catholic Home and Garden.
|St. Nicholas Day:
The feast of St. Nicholas is on Dec. 6th. It is a highlight of the Advent season. Each child puts out a shoe the night before St. Nicholas Day in the hope that the kind bishop — with his miter, staff, and bag of gifts — will pay a visit. In order to teach charity, rather than greed in our age, why not use that day to have your children shop for a gift for the poor or those who serve them. One parish we know has a beautiful antique chromolith of the Saint which is surrounded with an evergreen garland hung with gift tags representing the needs of the poor served by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Each parishioner is encouraged to take one or more tags and return the gifts under the Saint's image. If you would like to honor Saint Nicholas in your own home, you can find the statue pictured at right in our shop.
Learn more about Saint Nicholas, traditions, children's activities and find great recipes at the fabulous Saint Nicholas website. We love it and we're sure you will, too.
|The Empty Manger
A Catholic tradition that has many variations in Catholic homes and parishes that symbolizes the period of waiting for the Birth of Christ.
In our own home, the manger was always placed on our brick fireplace mantle. The tiny figure of the Christ Child was placed at one end and hidden behind garlands of greenery. As the season of Advent progressed, our son was permitted to move Him a brick closer to His bed, still keeping Him hidden.
In other families, as an act of service, kindness or charity was performed, the family member is given a piece of straw to place in the manger in honor of Baby Jesus. This encourages children to make the helpless Infant King as comfortable as possible through their good deeds. In the process, explain Christ’s incomparable self-gift at Christmas and Easter that enables us to be part of God’s family. You can also set up a special table in a corner of your home and place an empty cradle on it to be filled as the days of Advent go by.
|Feast of Saint Lucy
The feast of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, is on December 13th. This marks the opening of the Christmas season in Sweden and is celebrated with much festivity. Santa Lucia is also a Saint revered by Sicilians. In one parish we know, a novena is offered in the days leading up to her Feast Day, culminating with a Mass and reception with sweets. You can prepare the traditional cuccia and learn more about the customs of Italy in her honor at the Fisheaters website along with wonderful recipes. Find a novena and prayer book here.
One of the most cherished memories my sisters and I have of Advent Seasons of our childhood was the anticipation of opening the tiny doors of the Advent Calendar, with each of us taking a turn. Our father would read the Scripture hidden behind the picture and then our family would weave it into our evening prayer. We did not grow up in a "disposable" age, so the calendar was preserved year after year. Still the wonder never grew stale.
Visit our partner for a full assortment of
traditional Advent calendars to share with your Catholic family.
How does your family celebrate Advent?
Let Us Know!
What Hymns is your parish singing through Advent?
O, Come, O, Come Emmanuel
Creator of the Stars of Night
See How the Virgin Waits
Very Meaningful Videos from
The Work of the People
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