I’ve been thinking I should have named my blog, “last minute festive mama”. Here we are just about a week from the start of Advent and I’m finally sharing some ideas. But I promise that these ideas real can be pulled together quickly, and if you get a late start that’s okay too! If you aren’t familiar with it, Advent is the liturgical season leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It is observed by many Christian denominations. (so it’s not just a Catholic thing!) It consists of the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 29th. The word advent means arrival, and the season is just that, a time to prepare our hearts for the arrival of our Savior, not only in remembrance and celebration of his first coming, but also in anticipation of his return to Earth in the second coming. In today’s culture it can be difficult to really celebrate Advent, it can get lost in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season that seems to start as soon as the jack-o-lanterns start to rot. I don’t at all think that one’s holiness can be gauged by when you put up your Christmas tree, but I’ve really grown to love the season of Advent in my home. I’ve found it to be a beautiful season to try to prepare my heart for Jesus. Incorporating Advent traditions into our home has helped my family focus on what we are truly celebrating during the Christmas season.
There is not one right way to observe Advent, but there are a lot of really great ideas out there! I’ve been guilty of trying to do “all the things” which never leads me closer to Christ, which is, of course, the goal. Start small, pick one or two things as your Advent focus this year. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Be still. I think this is both the best and the hardest Advent devotion. This time of year can be jam packed with festivities and to-dos, which makes it really hard to quiet ourselves and be still. Finding a little time to devote to quiet reflection and prayer can really be the best part of the season. There are lots of Advent devotions online and that you can order. I look forward to setting by the glow of the tree, in a hushed house to spend some time in prayer. Of course, it is usually interrupted but I try to embrace that as part of my current season of life.
Do less. This goes along with being still. 2020 has made this a little easier. Many of us are looking at less full holiday calendars this year, so let’s lean into that and add in some advent activities! This year I’m looking at pulling back on social media time and reworking our kindness elf tradition in order to be more present during the season. I also try to do some Christmas prep prior to the start of advent, like buying the majority of my gifts ahead of time, which frees up time and much needed head space.
Decorate. I know, most people have already decorated for Christmas, but you could mix in a few Advent decorations as well. Little reminders that you are in a season of waiting. I love the glow of the twinkle lights, so we usually put our tree up close to the beginning of Advent, but last year we waited a bit to decorate it. I also display the nativity without baby Jesus. This year I made a banner that I’m excited to hang on our new mantle. Purple is the color of the liturgical season of Advent, so you could use purple ornaments or ribbons on a tree, or display a purple table runner. I’m also adding an image of Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem this year.
Create an Advent playlist. I had never heard of an advent playlist until last year, but basically you pick songs that are about the anticipation/coming of the Lord. I started one last year and really enjoyed it. I think determining what is advent vs Christmas is really a personal preference. Most of mine are slower, calmer selections. Here are a few of my favorites:
Light of the World- Lauren Diagle
Oh Come All Ye Faithful- Of King and Country
O Come, O Come Emmanuel- Lauren Diagle
God is with Us- Casting Crowns
While you were Sleeping- Casting Crowns
O Holy Night- Kari Jobe
Prepare Him Room- Sovereign Grace Music
Heaven Everywhere- Francesca Battistelli
He has Come for Us- Meredith Andrews
The Jesse Tree– This is a tradition that I did growing up. It tracks the lineage of Jesus with a different bible passage each night from December 1st until Christmas Eve. Each bible passage has a corresponding ornament that can be hung on a tree. There are lots of different versions out there, and to be honest I have tweaked or changed ours almost every year. Someday I hope to have a beautiful set of felt ornaments, like these, but I haven’t found the time to make them. I love the Jesse Tree and have found it makes a great family devotion time at the end of the day. We usually sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Read the passage, hang the ornament and then close in prayer. We also have a little advent calendar that has chocolates in it that the boys can open each night after we finish. Do we hit all 24 nights in a row? Nope, not yet at least. That is our goal, but inevitably we forget a time or two, and that’s okay 5 or 10 days is better than 0, right?
An Advent wreath– An Advent wreath is a wreath that marks the weeks of Advent. Traditionally it has 3 purple candles and one pink candle to signify the 4 weeks of Advent. Each Sunday you light an additional candle, until they are all lit. There are tons of different styles of wreaths, but you can really pull one together pretty easily. Grab a cake stand you have on hand or a round platter. Add some greenery or a wreath and place your candles inside. Amazon has a ton of candle options if you search “advent candles”. Here are some beautiful wreaths for inspiration.
Prayer before meals– This is a super doable devotion. If you’re already in the habit of praying before meals switch to this Advent meal time prayer, or start a new habit of praying before meals. It may seem simple, but switching from an ordinary prayer to an advent prayer is a great reminder that the season is special and different. I’m including a download for the prayer that we always said growing up. (Unfortunately, I’m not sure who to give credit for the prayer.)
St. Andrew Christmas Novena– I’ve never done the St. Andrew Novena before, but think it would be a neat devotion to add. You say the prayer 15 a day for 25 days. Starting om November 30th and going until Christmas Eve. I don’t think my boys have the prayer stamina for 15 times a day, but we might say it together a few times and then I will complete it on my own. Here is the prayer:
Focus on Giving- We have two traditions that have to do with giving to others during advent. The first is a tradition my parents started. Several years ago, once my siblings and I were all grown, my parents started dispersing cash at Thanksgiving with the instructions to bless someone else with it and have a story to share at Christmas. This tradition has quickly become my favorite part of Christmas. There have been so many special and moving God moments shared gathered together around the Christmas tree. I am always inspired by the creative ways my siblings and their families have used their money. Another tradition that my husband and I have done is to do a charitable act each week of advent. We’ve given big tips, made donations to the angel tree, and lots of other small acts of kindness. I think that it would be great to use the spiritual/corporal works of mercy as a guide and try to make it a Sunday tradition and do it as a family or at least discuss the planned act for the week.
Sign Up for The Best Advent Ever daily devotions through Dynamic Catholic here. The reflections will be emailed to you daily.
Here are some free printable Jesse Tree Ornaments.
I purchased and downloaded this guide to use for our advent wreath.
I also like this simple set of devotions for the advent wreath.
Here is a digital print of the Journey to Bethlehem that I plan to add to our decorations.
Do you have any advent traditions of your own? I would love to hear what activities and practices bring you joy and peace during this season.
Have a blessed advent!