Each year by even before Thanksgiving, our family is so excited to begin the Christmas season. But traditionally, the season of Advent is the preparation for Christmastide. Christmas doesn’t truly begin until the evening of December 24th and goes until the Epiphany in early January. In the hustle and bustle of the season, some families are finding peace in reflecting on the preparation of our hearts and home for the true reason for Christmas, the birth of Jesus both physically and in our hearts.
Below are a variety of traditions we have practiced and encountered over the years, with a description of how to celebrate or implement it into your home.
The advent wreath is a long standing tradition in numerous faiths of four candles, with a fifth candle added at Christmas. They are symbolic of a period of waiting for Christ to come and each week and candle color represents a different virtue. They are as follows:
Week one- Hope (purple candle)
Week two- Peace (purple candle)
Week three- Joy (rose/pink candle)
Week four- Love (purple candle)
Christmas Eve/Day- Christ candle (white) the celebrate the birth of Jesus. All candles are lit at Christmas.
This tradition is especially comforting because not only is it celebrated at church, but it is intentionally an experience to be had in our own homes.
As a child, one of my most favorite traditions was a simple chocolate advent calendar. They come in many shapes, sizes, themes but have numbered windows starting from the first day of December leading up to the 24th, most have a little piece of candy that the children recieve when they open the door. A scripture or good deed could be added to each daily experience as well.
The Jesse Tree is a wonderful visual tradition of adding ornaments each day to a tree or Christmas tree that follow the lineage of Jesus.
St. Nicholas Day December 6th
Families place shoes out the night of December 5th and for the Feast Day on December 6th St. Nicholas brings gold coins (chocolates) and small gifts in honor of the great Saint.
We love this tradition each year, and often pick new themes for our tree. While some put it up during the Advent season, a growing popularity is to wait until Christmastide and return to a tradition of getting a fresh tree near December 24th. Either way, it is a festive and joyful time to bring warmth of Christ’s birthday into your home.
Three Gifts from St. Nicholas
Our family works to keep the materialsm of the Christmas season in balance. One way we do this is by having St. Nick bring three gifts on Christmas Eve in honor that baby Jesus also had three gifts.
One of the most beautiful experiences is going to midnight Mass and is the whole pinnacle and reason for the Holidays. Often with young families or aging parents, we go to vigil services or morning masses. Be sure to check http://www.masstimes.org to find a church service close to you!