Lorelei Savaryn shares eight family-tested tips for building toward a meaningful family Advent season.
I’m sure we’ve all been hearing about how supply chain issues have the potential to create a great squeeze this holiday season. In a normal year, it’s so easy to get caught up in the fury and the frenzy of Christmas preparations, and right now it feels like the world is only amping up the potential for stress and chaos.
The good news is: we don’t have to just fall into the current. No matter what’s going on around us, we can create a special time for our family to grow together in faith.
One of our primary goals is to make Advent a sacred time of preparation. That means that we pick and choose which cultural or secular aspects of the holiday that we participate in, and try to lean more into our faith as each year goes by. It’s okay that we look a bit different from the culture around us. It’s good to make intentional choices with our family’s goals in mind.
Not all these suggestions will be realistic for everyone, but I hope that some of the moms out there might find even a few helpful ideas to explore with their families during the great, hopeful waiting.
I’ve also found that things have worked best when I add in only one or two new pieces at a time, and accept that there will be some bumps along the way. The years where I’ve tried to do many things at once or held too-high expectations have ended up veering off course more than the years where I held things in an open hand and focused on prioritizing and keeping things simple.
Eight Christ-Centered Advent Family Options:
- Visit a light display on the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)
- Set up a Good Deeds Manger. Set up an empty manger in a main room of the house. Allow the kids to add pieces of straw (or cut up yellow yarn) and add it to the manger throughout Advent whenever they act in love or service. The goal is to make a soft bed for Jesus, when he appears on Christmas morning. Have a baby Jesus doll ready for the occasion!
- Enjoy a family dinner on Sunday nights. We often eat dinner together most nights, but most often casually in the kitchen. During Advent, we make a point to have a family dinner, with Advent candles lit and soft music playing on Sundays.
- Build in room to breathe. I look at the calendar ahead of time and make sure we have some nights scheduled to just be together as a family, doing a holiday puzzle, watching a seasonal movie, baking cookies, singing carols, and so on. Blocking off that time helps keep things from feeling too chaotic.
- Foster a spirit of giving. Each year, we have the kids go through their belongings and set aside some toys and clothes to donate to others. We then take a family trip to drop off our donations together. We also choose some tags off our parish’s Angel Tree and take the big kids to the store to purchase Christmas presents for those in need.
- Prepare the wise men! When we set up our nativity, we place the wise men in a faraway room of the house. There they remain for the duration of Advent. Then, starting on Christmas the wise men begin a journey, taking them closer to the nativity each day until they arrive at Epiphany. It’s cute, fun, and easy, and the kids love looking for them each morning when they wake up!
- Save the Christmas music for Christmas. We cheat a little when we go visit the light show or sing carols, but we mostly play Advent playlists around the house (Catholic Mom has a great one!) and save the Christmas music until Christmas comes for a special change of pace.
- Complete your Christmas shopping early. For the past few years, I’ve planned ahead and done as much Christmas shopping as possible prior to the start of Advent. While we still typically wrap the gifts during December (in line with the spirit of preparation), it’s truly seemed to help the rushed feeling of the four weeks prior to Christmas. I talk to each kid (who’s old enough to talk) about some things they’d like to add to their lists by mid-October, leave room for a few surprises, and then make sure I set aside some time to shop in early November. Especially this year, I even bought our Advent candles early, just in case!
It’s been helpful for me to keep in mind that the goal isn’t to do "all the things," but to create room for some beautiful family traditions to grow. There are things we’ve tried and left behind, and others we’ve enjoyed to the point of wanting to continue. But a bit of planning ahead can help Advent feel less like a time of reaction and more like a series of intentional movements together as a family as we await the birth of Christ.
I’d love to hear if your family has any special traditions that you enjoy during Advent, or if any of these ideas sound exciting to you!
Copyright 2021 Lorelei Savaryn
Images: Canva Pro
About the Author
Lorelei Savaryn joyfully joined the Catholic Church in 2016 after many years as a Protestant. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, four children, and dog named Saint. She writes about her faith and family life on ThisCatholicFamily.com. She is also a children's author. Her debut novel, The Circus of Stolen Dreams, released in Sept 2020 from Penguin Random House/Philomel.