Advent: the season most Catholics would like to honor more appropriately but find it difficult to do so with the commercial Christmas creeping in all around. But when we do celebrate Advent it is totally worth it— both for the value in the season in and of itself, but also in the way it affects our proper celebration of Christmas. Here are my tips for celebrating Advent well, especially with children— no complicated crafts required.
Celebrating Advent With Kids
- Don’t listen to Christmas music until the evening of December 24. Seriously! Advent music does exist. A quick scan of YouTube or Spotify can give you some ideas. There’s nothing quite like singing the first song of the season together on your way to midnight (or very-late, feels-like-midnight Christmas Eve) Mass. Also, when you postpone the Christmas music, nobody is tired of it by Christmas, and you can stretch it out for the whole Christmas season.
- No treats until Christmas, with feast day exceptions. Advent isn’t Lent, but it’s also not Christmas. It is supposed to be somewhat penitential. Of course, we’re all going to feel all sorts of joyful anticipation, and days like St. Nicholas Day ought to be celebrated with full hearts and full stomachs! But the surefire easiest way to make Advent penitential is to generally save the treats for later.
- Other than Nativity scenes, minimize decor. I’ve tried all sorts of methods— putting things up slowly and gradually or basically holding off on anything other than a Nativity scene. I will say that I’ve never regretted waiting on decor. Christmas Eve is the perfect time for trimming a tree. And then it will still be nice and fresh for the rest of the Christmas season.
- Celebrate the Christmas season. This should go without saying, but it needs to be said. I think sometimes we are afraid to restrict ourselves during Advent, thinking that we won’t have enough Christmas. Catholics, you are free to fully and whole-heartedly celebrate Christmas through February 2nd. That is more than enough time. Interestingly, it is about the same amount of time as the secular, commercial Christmas which lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. You won’t be cutting your family short by celebrating the same amount of time, simply at the right time.
- Add a few concrete prayers and resolutions for the Advent season. It is not necessary to get complicated. The St. Andrew’s Christmas prayer is a great option for young families. Some people like the Jesse tree, although it is a bit more complicated. Some people put straw in the manger for good deeds. You don’t need to do all of these things. Pick something, or a few things, and stick to them. The point is that you are praying together, daily, in an intentional way. That’s the best thing you can do for Advent.
- Read books that will help prepare your hearts for Christmas. There are many wonderful children’s picture books about Christmas, but few about the season of Advent and that’s why I decided to write my own. The World Waits explores this period of anticipation through the eyes of an anthropomorphic Earth experiencing the progression of human history and its longing for a Messiah.
- Remind yourselves, and your children, that life is Advent. Part of the great sweetness of Advent, and even the commercial preparation for Christmas, is that it is representative of our whole life’s purpose. We are always waiting, always anticipating, always lacking, until we get to Heaven, which is like an eternal Christmas. If we can Advent well during the season, then, most likely, we will Advent well in life.