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Celebrating Christmas the Catholic Way: Part 1, Advent

Updated: Jan 1

It is a topic of hot debate among traditional Catholics: we know there are problems with how the world celebrates Christmas. But, most of us being stripped of our own heritage of rich Catholic traditions, it can be hard to know what to do for Christmas and what to avoid doing. In this series, I'm going to lay out our family's Advent and Christmas plans, and (hopefully) report back at the end with what worked and what didn't. I'd love to hear from you guys about what your family does for everything from Advent to Epiphany. Reply in the comments!

Part I: Advent

Unlike the secular world's December activities, no Christmas trees, Christmas parties, or Christmas movies until—drumroll, please—Christmas! This, like Lent, is a season of fasting and penance. However, also like Lent, it's a season of wonderful anticipation, and with that comes a lot of exciting family activities!

First Sunday of Advent

Get out the Advent wreath, set out the nativity scenes (except for Baby Jesus and the Magi), and draw names for the Christkindl. Decorate the house with purple cloths.

November 30

Begin the St. Andrew Novena.

December 1

Get out the Advent Calendar (I have my eye on one of these or this one).

December 4

Cut cherry twigs for St. Barbara's feast day.

December 6

Put one gift in each stocking for the feast of St. Nicholas and make Speculaas cookies. (Note: We will talk more about this in the Christmas post, but we will do three gifts, to mirror the three Jesus received: one on the feast of St. Nicholas, one on the Nativity, and one on Epiphany. Each day will be in honor of that particular feast day.)

December 8

Attend Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and say the Litany of Loreto together as a family.

December 13

Put out the Christmas lights (around the nativity, garland, and Advent wreath . . . and probably outside, too) for the feast of St. Lucy. Have all Christmas cards sent out by today—I have my eye on buying these cards with a wallet-sized picture inside, instead of the Costco-greeting-card route I went last year. It seems so much more meaningful, and possibly even an added way to evangelize to non-Catholic family. If you want to make your own for a lot cheaper, might I suggest having your children coloring one of these from our shop?

Gaudete Sunday

Put out one or two pink decorations and have an extra dessert with dinner.

Advent Ember Days

Traditional ember day fasting and extra prayers for the pregnant women in our lives.

Golden Nights

Recite the appropriate Antiphons and Veni Veni Emmanuel at family evening prayer for the last seven nights of Advent.

Every Sunday

Light the appropriate advent candle and say the corresponding prayers.

Every Day

Do the one secret surprise for your Christkindl. Do one extra cleaning item (both as penance and to have the house spotless for Christmas). Say the St. Andrew novena fifteen times a day (above). Have an increased devotion to St. John the Baptist (maybe highlight his statue or put up a picture of him with flowers by your nativity) and ask for his intercession to help prepare us to celebrate the Son of God's First Coming and prepare for His Second.

As you can see, even though we might not be participating in the Christmas events the world will be doing, we will be very busy! There is no time to mourn early Christmas carrolling or Santa Claus. Share your thoughts, ideas, and traditions in the comments! Then head on over to Part 2: Christmas!

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