Observing Advent at Home: Countdowns and Calendars

This post is part four on a series about observing the season of Advent at home. You can find the other posts in this series at the following links: exploring the Magnificatsearching for the baby Jesus, and The Season of the Nativity.

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Walk into any retail store over the past two months and it’s clear that preparations for Christmas started weeks before the Church celebrated All Saints. Retail establishments start the fun as quickly as possible. More people have more time to buy more things. Then, when it is over–December 26–it’s over, Christmas is on clearance and it’s back to the daily grind as though the world has not been entirely changed.

Try the suggestions below to help your family ease into the season, dwell in it, and savor the celebration when it arrives.

Beginning in October, Advent Calendars are ubiquitous, but most are covered with Santa and stockings, Christmas trees and reindeer. Most retail “Advent calendars,” moreover, countdown 25 days (the number of days in December leading up to and including Christmas, but not necessarily the number of days the Church spends anticipating the birth of the Savior); these can hardly be considered “Advent” calendars.

Try an Interactive Prayer calendar: You can find a printable for a praying in color Advent calendar here or here. Print a copy for each person in your family. Each night when your family gathers for devotions, read a part of the nativity story. Then, give everyone 5-10 minutes to reflect on and fill in the day with prayers and colorful illustrations of the story. Your calenders might look like some of these.

Advent Paper Chain Countdown: Use purple paper to create a paper Advent chain. Write a good deed, prayer, or part of the Christmas story (from Luke 1 and 2) on the back of each strip of paper. When your family gathers for a meal or evening Advent devotionals, read the paper strip. Use white or gold paper for Christmas Eve and Christmas when we proclaim the best part of the story: the long awaited Messiah has come!

Disciplines of Waiting: Wait to put up the tree and lights until November 30. You may even put up purple lights for Advent and change them to white for the Christmas season. When the first day of Christmas has come to a close, wait to take your tree down until after the first day of Epiphany on January 6.

Are there certain cultural Christmas traditions your family loves–decorating a gingerbread house, listening to Christmas carols, hosting a Christmas party? This year, brainstorm together which of these things you can put “on hold” for the Christmas season. Wait until after December 24th to do these fun activities and fill Advent with preparations and waiting.

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