Are you ready for Advent? It starts on Sunday! The youth group I run at our parish has been selling Advent candles as a fundraiser for the past couple weeks. I’m always surprised when it’s time to prepare for the fundraiser, but it does make it easier for me to not be surprised when Advent shows up at home.
I shared our new Advent door wreath on Sunday, but I like to do other special things during Advent as well. We don’t have kids at home with us so our traditions are probably a little different than the average family’s. Here’s what we have made our own.
1. Every night at dinner we light the appropriate candle(s) on our Advent wreath and then we usually sing the Advent song I learned in preschool. It’s a little silly/childish for two adults, but it just doesn’t feel like Advent to me without it. In case you’re interested, the tune for this quality song is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
See the candles burning bright
One by one, each week we light
Advent is a time to wait, not quite time to celebrate
When this waiting time is through,
There’s Christmas joy for me and you
2. We set up our nativity scenes as soon as Advent starts. We have a few sets, including a standard Fontanini from Gavin’s childhood, an Avon set that was mine as a child, and a unique stained glass set from my grandmother. I really like the idea of making your own peg doll nativity, especially this stylish modern one!
During Advent, I march Mary, Joseph, and the donkey from the Fontanini set across the room, mantel, or credenza, wherever it’s set up, slowly moving them to the stable in time for Christmas. That’s also the set we hide the baby Jesus and wise men from until later, too. The rest we set up in their entirety to enjoy for all of Advent and Christmas.
3. We celebrate St. Nick’s day! This isn’t strictly an Advent activity, but it does take place during Advent. We take turns playing St. Nick and bring some treats and maybe a small gift for both of us to enjoy. Gavin grew up celebrating St. Nick’s day and I’m glad to continue it as part of a celebration of his German heritage.
4. As a family, we have set aside the second Sunday of Advent as the time we make our year-end donations to charities. We set aside money for this purpose every month, giving from the pool to our parish monthly and a few other needs as they arise, but most of it is saved for this Sunday. It’s actually really fun to fill in our spreadsheet and write all those checks!
5. On the third Sunday of Advent, we set up some of our Christmas decorations. We’ll put up the tree and lights, but nothing else. All the ornaments and other Christmas decorations go up on Christmas eve. Setting up some of the decorations reminds us of what is coming and keeps us from being too much like Scrooge.
May you have a holy Advent this year!
I really like door wreaths. They’re cheap, they make me feel accomplished and festive, and they make our house (brick with white trim and a black door, classic but fairly plain) look a little more interesting.
I knew this year I wanted to make a new Advent wreath for the front door because…what do you put up between Thanksgiving and Christmas if you try hard to keep Advent and Christmas separate? In the past I’ve hung a plain green wreath, but that’s a little boring.
So I made a trip to Michael’s, armed with a coupon on my phone, and spent a whopping $13 to get all the supplies for this door wreath. I bought a plain evergreen wreath, a spray of purple poinsettias, and four picks of pink ornaments.
I used my trusty hot glue gun to make quick work of putting it together and will use some leftover purple ribbon to make a tying loop when I’m ready to hang it up. Done and done.
My husband and I went to Easter Vigil mass this year. Normally we spend Easter weekend with my aunt and uncle in Tulsa but this year we just wanted to stay home and enjoy our first Easter together at home…ever. I’m so grateful it worked out this way because we had the best weekend.
On Saturday night, we walked over to the church in darkness, entered the church in darkness, and sat down in darkness. When I took my coat off, knelt, and looked up, I saw the tabernacle with the candles ablaze on either side. Jesus.
On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the tabernacle is empty, the candles unlit. He is not there and the church honestly feels eerie without His presence.
In the past year following the loss of our unborn son I have felt the darkness of the world in new ways. I have yearned for heaven and been reminded often that we are not created for this world, but for the next. As I sat in the darkness of the church waiting for Easter, waiting to celebrate our Lord’s victory over death, those lit candles were a reminder that He wins. He always wins. No matter the darkness you are walking through, no matter the cross you are carrying, He has won.
Staring at the tabernacle, I started crying. I cried tears of sadness over the pains of this life. I cried for the suffering of Jesus on the cross and of Mary as she watched. But most of all I cried because right then, I felt the weight of the victory we were about to celebrate. His defeat of death is our defeat of death. We don’t have to worry about the ending or stay in the darkness forever. We turn on the lights and celebrate because He has won.