Janelle Peregoy offers four ways to reclaim Advent for our families, our sanity, and our deepening relationship with Jesus.
It took most of my adult life but I finally bought 4 sets of Advent candles at once.
This decision saves me the inevitable post-Thanksgiving scramble to find candles. The previous last-minute candle frenzy mirrored too much of the secular holiday season … go go go.
Here is my proposition for this upcoming Advent season: let’s reclaim this time for our families, our sanity, and mostly for our deepening relationship with Jesus. Here are some of my suggestions for doing so this year.
Be thoughtful about your surroundings.
If Jesus truly is the reason for the season, we need to be at least somewhat critical about the over-commercialization and secularization of the weeks before Christmas.
Pope Francis has spoken about the importance of symbols within our domestic churches. What we see in our home space, especially through the eyes of our children, truly matters. Consider your holiday decorating. Does it skew towards reindeer and snowflakes? How about the placement of Advent wreath? Is it in a prominent place—say, the kitchen table? Or is it tucked in a corner, away from everyday family traffic? What about the family nativity set(s)?
By prominently displaying symbols of Advent in at home, we can exert a positive impact on the perceptions our children have about the true meaning of Christmas.
Part of being countercultural simply means being more intentional about which secular holiday traditions your family celebrates. This doesn’t mean sacrificing fun!
Instead of playing “Elf on the Shelf” try a similar concept such as Shepherd on the Search, which emphasizes the joy of finding Christ.
If your family enjoys creating holiday playlists, consider what songs typically make the short list. Instead of opting for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” consider only playing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” or some of the obviously Christ-centered songs such as “Joy to the World” during this season. As parents, take the time to explain to your children why this music is special.
Be reminded of the saints.
Many Catholics do not necessarily associate the saints with Advent celebrations. Yet the saints offer us such unique examples of how to live our faith in Christ. Shouldn’t learning from their examples inspire us in our own preparations for the Incarnation?
- December 6 is the feast of St. Nicholas, which allows for a great conversation-starter with our adolescents and teenagers. How did we get from a 4th-century bishop in modern-day Turkey to the Santa Claus legend? What qualities did St. Nicholas have that continue to offer inspiration? For younger children, it is a great opportunity to offer a blessing over the candy canes, which are meant to symbolize the bishop’s staff.
- December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which commemorates a series of Marian apparitions in December 1531 to St. Juan Diego (Dec. 9). Consider celebrating be attending an early Mass and singing “Las Mañanitas,” which is traditionally a birthday song. It is also a great day for putting an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe up in your home and laying roses in front of it.
- December 13 is the feast of St. Lucy, who is often associated with lights and vision. In her honor, lighting a candle, attending a lit procession, or baking sweet treats are common.
- For other suggestions of how to celebrate with the saints this Advent season, check out Lisa’s Hendey’s 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath and download the free companion resources from Ave Maria Press.
Advent should be a time of peace, a time of prayer and a time of preparation.
Yet for many families, it is a season of anything but. Between the holiday parties, ugly sweater contests, Christmas pageants, cooking decorating and shopping … many of us are exhausted by constant activity during this sacred season.
Part of being still means not being afraid to say ‘no’ to holiday activities. Instead, channel that time into additional prayer and quality family togetherness.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offers us a poignant reflection on the value of holy leisure. I encourage everyone to listen to his wisdom during this Advent season.
We live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be 'filled' with initiatives, activity, sound; often, there is not even time to listen and dialogue ... Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able, not only to perceive God's voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others. (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
Copyright 2022 Janelle Peregoy
About the Author
Janelle Peregoy, M.Div, is an Associate Director in the Office of Family Life & Spirituality at the Diocese of San Diego. So yes, she has found one of the few positions where it is professionally acceptable to contemplate the spirituality of potty training. A Pope Francis bobble-head sits on her desk for inspiration. See more from Janelle on her blog, Faithfully Irreverent.