One of the oldest traditions for counting the days until Christmas is the Advent wreath. Make a wreath and place it on your table on the First Sunday of Advent. The whole family will watch the candles burn one by one as Christmas approaches. It reminds us that there is holy meaning to the holidays.
Advent wreaths are fashioned out of evergreens, twisted together in a circle to symbolize continuous life across the seasons, from the death of winter to the new life of spring. Naturally, this earthly symbolism also points to the spiritual symbolism of newness and the promise of eternal life and salvation offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). The circular nature of the wreath, similar to a wedding ring or band, is further meant to reflect the unending love of Christ and eternal life offered through salvation.
The Advent Candles~
In almost all Advent traditions, the lighting of candles is also a prominent feature of each week’s commemorative celebration. Some candles are placed within or near the wreath itself. Other times, they are lit separately on each Sunday beginning four weeks prior to Christmas. Candles and the light they produce are a reflection of the light that came into the world with the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Every family needs a nativity scene. If you don’t have one, purchase one that is not too fragile, so that young children can handle the figures. If you watch Visitation’s website you can see Father Mark offering a blessing for the crèche. When you put yours out, listen to his beautiful prayer. It has always been our custom to hide baby Jesus somewhere in the house. On Christmas Eve the children search for the Messiah. Whoever finds him places him in the manger and gets a special treat.
I have been doing his counting project since my family was very young and I still do it even though everyone is grown and in their own homes. I make a paper chain out of purple paper. Inside each chain I write a task that needs to get done before Christmas. Depending on the age of your children, you can tailor the tasks to their age. AS my children grew “ making a Christmas card for Grandma” turned into “call Grandma and tell her you love her” . Get the idea. Hang the chain on the wall and remove one loop each day until Christmas. It is great fun and it makes the preparation time easier to manage as you “Bake cookies” one day and go for a prayer walk the next.
Christmas at Home~
All of us are creating a stay at home Christmas this year because of Covid. Visitation’s website is offering many opportunities to invite Father Mark into your home. You can listen to Father’s Christmas mass; join him as he blesses the advent wreath and the crèche. In other words, we will bring the parish into your home this year.
Saints of the Season
St Nicholas – December 6
December 6th is Santa Claus feast day. St Nicholas loves to stop by on the night before his feast day and but treats in the kids stocking or shoes. Your children can put their letters to Santa in their stockings that night and low and behold, he writes back in the morning to remind them to be good until Jesus birthday.
Immaculate Conception – December 8
This is a holy day of obligation, so be sure to join the parish for mass. It is about St Ann conceiving Mary in her womb without any sin. It is a day to tell the story of Mary as a girl in the days before Jesus was in her womb. Look on Catholic Icing for coloring pages for this feast day.
St Lucy – December 13
Remember the hymn Santa Lucia? This is the day in Sweden when young girls wear candles in the hair and serve sweet rolls to their family. You may not want to go that far but it is great day for a family baking event. St. Lucy’s feast is on the darkest days of the year and she is a reminder that Christ the light of the world is on the way. I love to make sweet rolls on this feast and give them away to someone who is going through a sad time in their life.