SummaryWhile the holiday rush builds around you, Jennifer Elia offers some practical tips to not only keep your sanity but to have your most fruitful Advent ever.
Advent is a special time of year; it is a season of preparation and reflection.
In our secular world, it has become a season of shopping and partying. As a homeschool family, especially a Catholic one, we strive to find a balance between work, social events, and preparations to keep our eyes on the reason for the season before “THE SEASON.”
1. Slow Down
During Advent, there is much preparation to do and much anticipation. Both can make getting through school work difficult for children and moms. The most important part of preparation is preparing our souls and families to meet the newborn Savior, Christ Our LORD.
To help you find time to spend with Jesus and also not get overstressed trying to do it all, lighten your school workload and supplement with readings about Christmas. We usually cut back to the core subjects and take extra time for read alouds. During the cold months of January and February, we always catch up.
We have accumulated quite a collection of Advent and Christmas books we take out only once a year. We place all the books in a basket in our living room, and I let the children pick books at random to read together.
2. Feast When the Church Feasts
the liturgical calendar is rich with feast days all year long. Whoever says that Catholics don’t know how to enjoy themselves have never looked at the amount of feasts our Church commemorates each year. Our family celebrates many feasts throughout the year, however, many of our favorites are in the month of December.
There are so many wonderful feasts during Advent that can get lost if your whole focus is on Christmas. Take breaks from every day and enjoy a celebration. Christmas is a glorious feast; we Catholics love it so much we celebrate it for an entire season. However, our family greatly anticipates the special feasts in early Advent that have become a tradition in our home.
Each year, we do something special for St Nicholas Day, St Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St Juan Diego, and The Immaculate Conception. There are many more feasts that could be celebrated.
No need to overextend yourself making each one into an over the top celebration. Pick one to celebrate this year and find a meaningful way to remember that Saint without going overboard. For instance, my children have a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and so they also have a love for Juan Diego.
However, December is busy, and there are only so many big celebrations I can pull off on top of everything else.
So, on the Feast of St Juan Diego, we always have Mexican food. Sometimes, it is a big meal full of family favorites. One year, we had co-op all day followed by basketball practice, meaning there was no time for working any magic in the kitchen. So, we heated up frozen burritos and served chips and salsa.
It was still special for the kids, and we took the time to discuss Juan Diego and why he is such a special friend of Our Lady.
I’ve learned over the years it isn’t how grandiose you make the holiday, but it’s the fact you remembered and celebrated with your children.
3. Fast When the Church Fasts
With all this anticipation, marvelous feasts, and the world going crazy for Christmas treats, we must remember it is a season of preparation, so it is time for fasting and reflection. Traditionally, the Advent fast was very similar to the Lenten one.
This practice has been lost in the commercialization of Christmas. Imagine rolling into Christmas day feeling spiritually refreshed and revived instead of overwrought from overdoing festivities for a month.
Come up with ways the family can fast and be generous to others between the feasts. We try to fast from one thing each day; often, the children pick sweets or chocolate. These little fasts make the feasts even sweeter. Here are some other ideas:
- Find a family service project
- Create a sacrifice manger
- Do a progressive Advent calendar- fill a basket each day with a food donation from your pantry to mark off the days.
4. Make Time for Confession
Our Archdiocese has the beautiful tradition of celebrating Reconciliation Monday on the Monday before Christmas and Easter. Every church is open from afternoon until late night with multiple priests ready to hear confession.
It is such a beautiful experience. If you do nothing else to prepare for Christmas, make this for confession this month, so you are ready with a clean soul to meet Our LORD on Christmas.
5. Start Special Traditions for Advent
To keep the focus on Advent, create special rituals and traditions in your home. There are many ideas out there, but remember to keep it simple. If you try to do too much Advent to avoid overdoing Christmas, you will defeat the point.
Depending on the year, we have had any number of projects going on simultaneously. Some years, just lighting the candles on the Advent wreath is all we can manage, while in others, we have done all the suggestions below at once.
The important part is to remember balance. If the Jesse Tree is stressing you out each night, it is not serving as a spiritual devotion.
Here are some ideas of traditions to try–pick one and see how it goes.
- Advent wreath with candles
- Traveling nativities
- Advent calendar
- Family devotions
- Jesse Tree
6. Celebrate Christmas Not Just for a Day
Remember that Christmas is a season, even after returning to work, be mindful of the joy being celebrated. In our Church, Christmas extends far past the twinkling lights and raucous parties of December.
Space out the Christmas project to take all the pressure off the few weeks in December and continue the holiday.
The season doesn’t officially wrap up until Candlemas on February 2nd. Continue to celebrate and remember!
How will you slow down, celebrate, and prepare this Advent?