|Celebrating Advent as a Family
Christmas Coloring Pictures
For families longing to build traditions related to
their identity as Roman Catholics, few times of the year hold greater
promise than the liturgical season of Advent. The sites and sounds of the
holidays fill the air around us, as we communally anticipate the glory and
majesty of Christmas. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, Catholic
families have the opportunity to share the treasures of our faith with our
children in prayer, symbolism and song.
Meredith Gould, author of
The Catholic Home : Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day
2004, hardcover, 256 pages) writes on the customs and rituals prevalent in
Catholic culture. A recent convert to Catholicism, Gould shares the
following advice for families looking to truly rejoice in the season of
Advent with their loved ones.
Q: Why is it important for Catholic families to observe
and celebrate the liturgical season of Advent?
Gould: Advent is not “pre-Christmas,” it’s a
separate, distinct, important liturgical season that deserves the same
attention and reverence as Lent. Like Lent, it’s a penitential season
where we have yet another opportunity to recall, reflect, recollect, and
reconcile. During Advent, we do this within the context of watchful
waiting for the birth of Jesus, who is not yet our Christ.
We also have an opportunity to contemplate the vast
meaning of Mary’s “yes.” I think this is particularly important given our
general cultural resistance to obedience, along with our need, as women,
to balance saying “yes” with saying “no.”
Advent is a season of discernment. I love it! And I
love that living in the northeast means that I get to do this in rhythm
with days that are shorter and colder, thus amenable to hibernation.
Q: For families who have no tradition of celebrating
Advent, what are some simple traditions and rituals you would recommend?
Gould: Definitely start simple, perhaps adding a new
tradition or ritual every year. The easiest one to start with is the
Advent wreath, especially because it’s a home-based tradition that
everyone can see practiced in church as well. (Gould’s
book describes the meaning and significance of the symbolism and colors,
enriching the practice.)
The Advent calendar is also very easy to incorporate.
Here I make a big deal (read: stink) about finding a calendar that has
doors that open onto scripture and religious art. I think Advent
calendars with Santa and secular nonsense (e.g., reindeer) are an
abomination…and you may quote me!!!
The Jesse Tree is a bit more elaborate and labor
intensive, but is a wonderful way to teach salvation history and
offset the mania around decorating a Christmas tree within 20 minutes of
digesting Thanksgiving turkey n’ trimmings.
Q: What are some of your family's favorite Advent
Gould: I was raised Jewish, so I have the blessing of
being able to come to this season without preconceived notions of what has
Today, I fill my home with the sights, scents, and
sounds (including hefty periods of silence) of the season: Candles,
different renditions of “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (O Antiphons!),
frankincense & myrrh incense. Whatever wreaths or garland I have is left
undecorated until Christmas Vigil. I move my Mary paraphernalia (icons,
etc.) front n’ center in my living room, kitchen, bedroom, and office. I
invite friends for a light soup n’ bread supper to craft ornaments. I
believe adults are better able to convey wonder and mystery when *we* feel
I also, I confess, have the Three Kings from my Nativity
Scene travel from the nether reaches of my home to the crèche. I’m
opposed to having the whole thing set up before Christmas Vigil...Mary and
baby Jesus should not make an appearance before midnight. Aren’t converts
I think it’s important for readers to know that we
Catholics hail from a religion that celebrates God’s creation and presence
in all things, so that décor actually has meaning. As Fr. Andrew Greeley
writes in The Catholic Imagination, “As a rule of thumb, if there
are no votive candles it, a church really isn’t Catholic.”
Q: How can observing the season of Advent enhance a
family's Christmas celebration?
Gould: I encourage people to observe Advent as a way to
heighten their appreciation for Christmas. Watchful waiting gives way to
delighted awe at the birth of Jesus. I think it’s also a great way to
instill (in children and adults) an appreciation for the value of
cultivating patience. We move way too fast in this society. We’re too
often ahead of ourselves. Even Catholics need to learn how to “be here
now” and Advent is a pretty powerful “now.”
Q: What recommendations would you give for parents who
would like to emphasize the spiritual celebration of the holiday season
over material celebrations?
Gould: Well, the forces of culture are so strong it’s a
major challenge for parents to push this back. But I think key to this is
having parents understand the true nature of Advent. I think this
is a necessary first step. I also think parents ought to reestablish
their authority within the domestic church. I’m truly shocked by the ways
parents cave in to their children’s’ demands. (Easy for me to say? I
Basically, my recommendations boil down to: 1) Make
sure *you* understand the spiritual nature of the season so you can convey
that to your kids; 2) Make sure your kids understand that *you* are in
charge of the home/domestic church.
With the beginning of Advent, we welcome a new
liturgical year. Why not begin this new Church year with the resolution
to grasp hold of each occasion to share your Catholicity with your
children? By building family traditions related to the season of Advent,
we teach them what is truly special about Christmas, ensuring precious
memories they will one day share with their own children.
For additional information on The Catholic Home