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My family was given a great resource, a book by Maria von Trapp about Catholic traditions for the domestic church. One of her most instructive ones was about Advent; We’ve followed the von Trapp lead on that. Dad lights a single candle in a sconce off of the Advent wreath’s candle. We retire to a darkened room (the kids whisper-shouting “we’re the people that walked in darkness!”) Advent hymns are sung (O Come Divine Messiah, People Look East, The King Shall Come, etc.) Dad gives a short reading, and a brief discussion on it, trying to build up the family’s sense of joyful penitence. When we get to the O Antiphons, I believe I use something Fr. Z. wrote on the same. Reading and hymn singing from the light of one candle gives a near-tangible sense to the expectation, longing, and need that God’s people felt in waiting for Christ the Light. Finally, family prayers, then the extinguishing of the lone light.
“observe Hanukkah” ? I am confused but when did that become part of the liturgical year – for Roman Catholics that is.
Despite growing up in a Catholic home – my only experience with Advent as a child was a classroom Advent wreath – and that for only those couple of weeks before school was out. :) I’m learning. Learning. Trying.
With my own children we always have our home Advent wreath and prayers. We put up our Christmas tree on the same night that we make the wreath. We put some lights on the tree and light it on the first night of Advent when we bless the wreath and the tree and our empty creche. However – the tree is sparsely lit and otherwise bare that first night. We add lights and decorations to the tree and the house and the yard each evening throughout Advent until Christmas Eve when our home is fully decorated and lit. And so it remains until January 7th. :) I hope in some way we’re getting across the preparation and anticipation thing to our children.
I voted for No. 3.
I live by myself, so I don’t have any observance of Advent (i.e. Advent wreath). I have a dreadful fear of fire, so no lighting of candles.
I have tapes of some Advent hymns [mostly from my past trips to England], so I might play them in my car if I’m up to it.
I try to stay out of the stores that blast ‘holiday music’–though it’s not easy to avoid them!
I voted for “neither seek nor avoid Christmas things, or Advent customs for that matter.” I live by myself and don’t see a reason to set something up just for me. That being said, I also don’t see a reason to avoid Christmas things. I think it is a good thing that we can have a period of time where religion is tolerated in our society — even if that religion is coming a bit early.
I was very inspired this year by the Pastoral Letter from Bishop Wester in Salt Lake City Utah. I sent it to all the Catholics I know, including my Pastor. http://www.icatholic.org/
I’m also offering a special evening event for the adult women of the parish called ‘Advent by Candlelight’. The entire focus of the evening is prayer, Advent music, an inspirational message to truly prepare for the Second Coming of Christ as well as the celebration of the Incarnation, and discussion with other Catholic women. So far, 112 women are coming from my small parish in Klamath Falls Oregon!
None of the above. :) We light our Advent wreath at Sunday dinner, accompanied by me singing the Introit antiphon. Ordinarily, we’d put up the tree around the 3rd Sunday, but we started decorating this past Sunday because we’re expecting our second child very soon. My wife wishes to keep the lights off until late Advent, maintaining the element of anticipation.
I’m also writing a suite for organ (my wife is an organist) based on the German hymn “O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf.” God willing, I’ll get it done before Christmas.
We are doing a Jesse Tree. I don’t want to do candles with kids, but we could color an Advent wreath. I have put up purple glittery sprays in outdoor plant pots. I have purple ribbon to put on our mailbox or porch post if it gets a little warmer this week. We did put up outdoor lights since the huz had arm surgery yesterday; plus it’s nice to get them up before it gets too cold. We don’t light until mid Dec–as long as we can hold out. A family across from us has red and green lights up with a huge inflatable Santa on the lawn. Ugh! 5-10 families in our subdivision have lights on already. We focus on the Feast of St. Nick as well. He is a patron of one son w/Nikolai as middle name. The children love Christmas music even into February! So, they listen at bedtime and in the car. It makes them very happy, so, what the hay. I don’t care for it myself this early. I don’t know when our tree will be up, given the huz’s surgery. I am okay with waiting until Christmas Eve if needed. That way, I don’t tire of it and the clutter of Christmas nicknacks and decor. I recall as a kid we didn’t put it up until the 23 or 24. I remember us kids decorating after mom had waxed the floors and was rushing to finish housecleaning before company came.
-Advent Wreath, with prayers for each Sunday from fisheaters, and other devotions on weekdays. Currently praying a Novena to the Immaculate Conception, not sure what we will pray after that, maybe the rosary. From Dec 16th on , we will pray the Colombian version of the traditional Christmas novena.
-Have not put up Nativity yet, but when we do, it will not have a Christ Child until Christmas Eve. The magi will be around, but not enter the Nativity scene until Epiphany. It will stay up until the Purification.
-Will start putting up the tree, but delay decorating until later in Advent. Will put on lights, but they won’t be turned on until Christmas. Will try to keep the tree up until the Purification, but there are tree disposal laws we may need to take advantage of, and we like to have a real tree.
We simply have an advent wreath with fresh greens, the candle and baby Jesus in the center. (I like to set up the manger and have it missing the baby Jesus until after midnight mass. We have the three kings traveling until Jan. 6th. On Christmas we put four red candles in our wreath and add a big white candle in the center.) Each evening we sing one verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”(not that well, I might add, but we try!) The little ones are allowed to light and blow out the candles and this ususally leads to mom saying, “okay fine, I’ll light the candles.” We also *try* to give up a little something like sweets in preparation for Christmas. This is nothing like Lent, but we try to make a little sacrifice. Actually, it does make the sweets taste so much better and then we really celebrate Christmas heartily during the 12 days and even after. A few days before Christmas we get out the decorations. Therefore, when all of the neighbors have their trees out by the curb we are just starting. One thing we are not able to avoid is the Christmas Carols. The kids have to practice them for piano and choir (and in the stores you can’t help, but hear them.) It does make me sad how it’s all over for the world when it has only just begun for us. This is all very simple and low key because there is just not much time. I didn’t even get the wreath out on time this year, but two of my teenagers got the branches and put it together on Monday without me asking. I always intend to something with the “O Antiphons” but I don’t get to it.
p.s. We often get our tree for $5 or $10 because we go a day or two before Christmas and they are willing to make deals. We had brought some really nice trees this way.
I use an Advent wreath and play Advent music. I have a 7 foot wrought Iron “tree” for displaying ornaments. I put that up at the beginning of Advent and decorate that as a Jesse Tree. Over the years I have collected ornaments of Creation, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, etc. Beginning Dec. 17, I add, the Annunciation, Visitation, etc. This has been a great “bible” lesson here at home and with visitors. After Dec. 17 we put up the crib, stage by stage. I begin to decorate for Christmas a bit more everyday including the Christmas tree. We put up a large live Christmas tree during these last days of Advent so that it will last until Epiphany. For us this way adds to the anticipation and makes decorating a little less stressful
Trying for 3 but it is hard to avoid everything Christmas. Even my son exclaimed while driving past houses and lawns with lights and Santas the day before Thanksgiving, “Christmas, already?!” Will wait to put up a tree and decorate the house for at least another week, and then keep Christmas decorations up longer to Epiphany or later. Our Advent wreath is kind of unique, with a flat base in the center for placing figurines, Mary, this week, next, the angel Gabriel, then Joseph, then the infant Jesus. Each week with the lighting of the new candle we have a reading further along from the Gospel of Luke. Constantly looking to “translate” the meaning of Advent into child-friendly terms and liking one theme one hears more often lately and that is to emphasize the Blessed Mother’s maternity, the preparations of the Holy Family in expecting an awaited baby’s birth. Lastly instead of occupying time with decorating right at the moment we undertake projects to help the poor, doing what we can. Once that is done the time will come for decorating the house for Christmas and planning celebrations. It is an interesting thing to try to meditate on “what might have been” — what if He didn’t come to us as He did — rather than do as the consumerist culture dictates and celebrate that He came, as a foregone conclusion. To try to not take His coming for granted, still a lifelong task.
I chose the “neither seek nor avoid” option, but it isn’t really accurate. As Eastern Catholics, my family and I are observing as best we are able the Philip’s Fast. We will not sing any Christmas hymns in Church until Christmas , and we’ll continue a tradition I started a few years ago of putting up the tree and decorating it as time allows before Christmas, but the lights don’t get turned on until after we get home from Great Vespers on Christmas Eve and they stay lit constantly for at least 12 days. We have a Fontanini Nativity set and it gets figures added every week until Mary and Joseph appear on the 20th (the first of the Prefestive days of the Nativity), and Baby Jesus is placed in the manger after Great Vespers on the 24th.
I’ve often thought of doing a Jesse Tree but it never gets past the thinking-about-it stage.
For Advent, as for Lent, I order a book of good spiritual content and read it, front to back, in the time allotted. Sometimes it is a real struggle to understand, and quite often it is a real penance, as my usual reading tends to be – less serious – and there are many books calling me to read them instead (another anticipation for Christmas Day!)
As for decorating, Christmas lights are still magical to me, and I am enjoying the many decorated houses on the commute home in the dark. It is only when people start saying in the second week of December, “Oh, I wish Christmas was over and I can put all of this stuff away. I’m so tired of it!” that I get a little testy and suggest that they not decorate until Christmas Eve. My own lights go up on St. Lucy’s day.
Here in Poland we clean the house, wash the curtains, cook and freeze food, and abstain from alcohol, dancing, and loud music for advent. It’s a ‘ma?y post’ – minor fast.
Christmas Eve (Wigilia) is an evening vegetarian banquet without alcohol lasting about 3 hours. Children get presents. At 9.30 the men go to Mass, and after Mass it’s Christmas and we can drink. The women go at midnight. After that they, too, can drink. We usually get to bed at about 4 am. Love it!
Our family treats Advent as a somber period of preparation before the merriment and festivity associated with Christmas. We keep an Advent wreath and light the appropriate candles during the singing of the “Veni, veni Emmanuel”, followed by the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, each evening.
We do not decorate our home except for a wreath (with a purple ribbon) on the front door and figures of St. Joseph and our Lady on a donkey. Each day have our 8 year old son move these figures to different places in the house, ever closer to where we will have our Creche. The Creche is erected and illuminated on the Third Sunday of Advent with the appropriate figures. Initially, only animals and distant shepherds.
On Christmas Eve Day, we decorate and erect the tree and Creche along with electric candles in all the windows of the house. All window electric candles and tree lights remain extinguished. At 4:00 PM (the beginning of Nativity Vigil), I replace the Purple ribbon on our front door wreath with a Red one and light one electric candle in a front center window of our house facing the street. This candle (shaft) is painted red and represents our Christ candle. it is a way of saying Christ is welcome in our home. I understand this custom had its origins in penal Ireland. Everything in our home remains this way until we return from Midnight Mass. At that time, we light all electric candles in an all windows and light the Christmas tree. We place the Infant Jesus in the Creche and read Luke’s Nativity aloud. We then retire. My son then gets us up very early next morning…Santa having made a visit.
Our lights and decorations remain up from Christmas Eve until January 13th, the Octave of the Epiphany. After that time only the front door wreath remains and other decorations are taken down. The wreath remains up until February 2nd, the Presentation of Our Lord (Candlemas day).
Note this whole scenario has become an occasion for catechesis and evangelization in our (predominantly Irish Catholic) Boston neighborhood that takes cues from commercial secularism. Here many trees go up immediately following Halloween and nearly all decorations are gone after January 1st. Many trees are in the rubbish on or shortly after December 26th! It appears the season has shifted!!!
Here in the Austrian Tirol, it has started to snow once again; gossamer flakes blowing about in the ever-changing winds that characterize this corner of our valley. There is a gray yet sweet melancholy in these winds, that ensconces everything in sight. The village is very still, as if sleeping. It does not surprise me that for Austrians and Bavarians, this most wonderful season of Advent is called ‘the quietest time of the year’. Indeed, there is a peaceful yet expectant stillness in the air as we await the birth of Our Lord. Everything here round and about our village reflects this, from the lovely yet restrained Christmas lights hung in windows and on trees to the music coming from homes and churches.
The music played during Advent likewise reflects this transcendent restraint. In many village and town churches as well as city cathedrals, choirs and instrumentalists are performing Adventsingen evenings. The melodies are from Alpine folk tradition, distinct, echoing, melodious…evoking a peace of heart that we sometimes forget we possess. There is warmth amidst the cold, the gray-white outdoors becomes soothing; troubles set aside, concerns dispelled as one watches the tannen branches droop under their thickening white burden. That this could ever remain so.
There is one event that breaks this placid repose. On the 6th of December, Austrians and Bavarians celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. The mitered Bishop wanders through village and town, visiting children, asking as to whether they have been ‘naughty or nice’. The nice are thanked and rewarded with a small sweet. Yet, there are those who have not always been without the sins of youth; these are relegated to the clutches of the much-feared Krampus…a Grimm brothers nightmare of malignant disorder and hideously distorted countenance. Long scraggled black hair half covers a twisted hunched tortured frame sporting arms and clawed paws that sway with each step as if pendulous grandfather clock weights.
This Krampus is on a leash, controlled by Nicholas. Yet, approaching those in its path, the Krampus always seems to manage to be released from its bonds; speedily launching itself into the crowds. Villagers scatter, but stay nearby to watch the spectacle that unfolds. Krampus carries a short bound thrush of dried grasses with which he strikes many on the backs of legs. It is said that Krampus takes those who misbehave, crams them into a coal sack that he carries on his back, and hauls them off for a period of time. Today, however, the Krampus reveals another side. Small children are at first frightened at this under-the-bed-at-night beast, but are then comforted when Krampus in all his growling ugliness, bends low, speaks soothingly with the child and gives him or her a branch from the dried grass thrush. Fear soon disappears and, perhaps reluctantly, the child regards the Krampus less of a threat and more of an odd warning…odd because a glance up at his or her parents reveals they are smiling, laughing and displaying a seeming lack of terror at the spectacle. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, Nicholas and Krampus are gone…having wandered back into the Advent night to appointed rounds in the next village.
Now, the gray darkens to thick purple as evening arrives. Stars twinkle alive on window panes and Christmas trees and the strengthening winds bring with them faint voices cast aloft from across the fields. One no longer sees the falling snow, but feels it as it alights upon ones nose and cheeks. The unmarked trail is hidden, blending in with the snowy expanse of the fields surrounding our home. Each step upon the frozen Roman Road produces a dull crunch.
The Ulrichskirche, with its glassed windows illuminated by flickering candles within beckon one underway in this beautiful bitter night to come ever nearer…to gaze as the flakes of snow become visible but for a moment, passing on their descent in front of the lovingly lit Christmas tree on the ridge fore the Church. The tower bell tones the quarter hour as the purple recedes into a comforting blackness. From within the Church, one hears the choir; “O lasset uns anbeten” they sing…O Come All ye’ Faithful. Rehearsing the quiet harmonies to be sung in but a few weeks on Heiligeabend…Christmas Eve.
Since there was not an answer that matched my actual practices, putting up an advent wreath and avoiding Christmas music/decorations until Christmas Eve, I voted for Chanukah.
I voted that “During Advent I, or I with my family, usually stick to the Advent wreath and perhaps just a little Christmas music, with more of an Advent flavor.”
In my zealous youth, I would put up some Christmas decorations and begin listening to all kinds of Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! Recently I have gotten away from that and try to focus more on Advent. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily really helps with that. If I play Christmas music, I try to keep it more secular and Advent in nature (Deck the Halls, Veni, veni, Emmanuel, etc.).
We put the creche up on the First Sunday of Advent, but do not place the Christ Child in until after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; the creche remains until “Candlemas”. The tree usually goes up after the 8th, with tinsel being added on Christmas Eve (adding a touch of solemnity). The playing of religious Christmas music increases around the 16th/17th, and I have been better at continuing it until the Epiphany or Baptism of the Lord. In my “zealous youth”, I ceased listening to it Christmas night! It’s been bit of a conversion process over the years…
We Byzantines have been observing the Christmas fast since November 15th- as a family we are going meatless
Although we are slowing gearing up for the Christmas season (I have a nativity up sans Jesus, etc) – I love all the Christmas decorations around town. Yes, it is secularized and probably just up there to sell stuff- but at least the decorations are beautiful unlike the month and a half of evil halloween- I just wish the music and decorations would stay up at least until Epiphany/Theophany
This year, my wife and I are hosting chanted monastic vespers services in our home every Sunday night (our parish liturgist has created his own version of vespers for the parish, so there’s “no room on the schedule” for authentically Catholic observance at the parish itself). We miss our old Schola very much, and wanted to continue the tradition as fully as possible. While the celebration of vespers in our home pales in comparison to the splendor and great honor of chanting before the Blessed Sacrament, it’s still pretty nice. Light refreshments are served to our guests afterwards.
I must also admit that the Christmas tree is up and the house is decorated, but that has more to do with the fact that I work 50+ hours a week at the parish and will have precious little time to get it all done before Christmas and Holy Family are upon us.
Missed a choice: Put up the advent wreath AND try to avoid Christmasy things as much as possible. But my children do start singing Christmas songs, and snatch a song on the radio when they can. We try hard to prepare for Christmas with the wreath (alas mine isn’t up yet because we don’t have new candles yet!), and try to perform acts of penance and charity for Advent (the latter in the form of Kris Kringle secret gifts, duties, and prayers, etc. for one another). We also say the “Hail and Blessed” prayer from Nov. 30 to Christmas as a Christmas Novena.
We try hard to celebrate the liturgical Christmas season from Dec. 25 to Jan. 13, rather than before Dec. 25. Our school does not have the Christmas concert until January either. Our tree goes up a couple days before Christmas, and stays up until it is dead or after Jan. 6. It’s a wonderful time of year! Being of Dutch heritage, we put wooden shoes out on Dec. 5 night for St. Nicholas to bring oranges and chocolates on his feast day. The parish always has a St. Nicholas party that day, when the great bishop always makes his appearance in his finest bishop’s clothing!! The little children love it.
I chose “stick to the Advent wreath….” Advent is a time of preparation. We do usually have a tree (uncertain whether we will this year) but put it up just a few days before Christmas. Don’t play very much secular music at Christmas (other than selected “classical” pieces). The appropriate time for Christmas music is during the twelve days of Christmas (12/25-01/06) and, to be completely honest, in both Advent and Christmas I strongly prefer older traditional Advent and Christmas hymnody (Praetorius’ Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, Holst’s Personent hodie, the Renaissance English Down in Yon Forest, etc.) to any secular “Christmas music.” Transcendent music helps focus and transport my mind and soul to a state where I can more deeply reflect on Christ’s coming as a babe and again at the last day. The secular music for Christmas is mostly dreck and a distraction, rather than a help.
Pax et bonum,
This is something good to do too; begins today, Dec. 1, ends Christmas Eve
A SPIRITUAL CHRISTMAS CRIB
The following directions show you how to build a
spiritual crib in your heart for Christ.
Use it to put Christ into your Christmas in a real,
Start on December 1. Read the thought indicated
about Christ’s first crib.
Practice it during the day. Do this daily during
December and make your heart a worthy crib for
Christ on Christmas Day.
DEC.1 – THE STABLE
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the
little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home. –
Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and
DEC.2 – THE ROOF
See that the roof of the stable is in good
condition, so that the Infant Jesus is protected
from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully
avoiding > every uncharitable remark. –Jesus,
teach me to love my neighbor as myself.
DEC.3 – CREVICES
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the
stable, so that the wind and cold may not enter
there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard
especially your ears against sinful
conversations.–Jesus, help me to keep
temptations out of my heart.
…get the rest at:
irishgirl and JohnMa,
We should get together, as I am an empty nest Mum now. I think that it is easier to be more spiritual without the necessity of buying stuff, which my extended family is thankfully not “into”. As for Advent, I am trying to keep the Byzantine Fast. I rarely listen to music anymore, as I am trying to develop a better appreciation of silence in order to listen to the soft stirrings of the Spirit of God.
I answered wreath, tree, and music, but allow me to clarify. I love the customs that come with the season, but I definitely take the penitential season as preparation for Christ’s birth. So while I may enjoy festivities with the tree and Christmas music (usually Advent-themed or Christocentric, rather than “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”), I do my best to keep an interior spirit of hope, solemnity, and penance during the Advent season.
This year I have taken to penitently shoveling snow and driving on sheets of black ice to prepare for the Lord’s coming.
I’ll probably put up a tree for the actual Christmas season. Sometimes I forget to take it down….but it usually comes down before Lent! I also put out a family nativity set.
I don’t have a wreath, but observe it thoughtfully (no flame allowed in the dorms). I do treat it as a sort of Lent, fasting from this or that and trying to grow in holiness. We’ll see how I am doing when it is all said and done!
I picked number two. I understand, of course, that Advent is a time of preparation and reflection on our Lord’s coming. . . But, usually I’m so happy about the fact that He came, that I spend Advent whistling and decorating everything I own. There’s lots of greenery here in Ireland, so my home always winds up looking like a forest, with wreaths and swags and a tree. Also, I am the proud owner of an old-fashioned wood ship, which gets completely decked out, tree included–although, the tree isn’t lit, for fear of fire (I light my greenery the old way, with actual candles). I usually start my decorating on the first Sunday of Advent, which to me is the first Sunday of December (since I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and don’t see any connection between it and Christmas anyway).
During the Season, I also practise all the lovely old hymns and carols on my fiddle, and spend free time thinking up ways to make my friends smile, and baking fruit cakes and various pies, all of which are given away to either acquaintances, or charity.
I have a deep love for Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, so I never avoid listening to Christmas songs (I prefer religious ones, but I can’t pass up listening to Dean slur his way through “Silver Bells”). Those started back in November. I love all the Christmas shows/movies, going to parties, decorating the house, baking like there’s no tomorrow (my priest always looks forward to that bit). So you’d never hear anyone say I try to avoid anything to do with Christmas.
I have an Advent wreath, though I need to get new candles. Unfortunately, I’m the only practicing Catholic in my family, so there’s not much ceremony around that; the most I can get them to handle is simply having the candle(s) lit during dinner. I make sure to do confession, which I do on a regular basis anyway, but I make it a point to go just at the start of Advent. It’s difficult to do anything more than personal stuff when you’re in a house full of people who don’t care about that part of the season.
I realized last year that I didn’t need to be ready for Christmas before Advent started. Christmas prep, both spiritual and temporal, is what Advent is about. I usually pull the Advent wreath out either the day before Advent starts, or even Sunday afternoon. I have much more peace in my life when I let each season fill itself with activities appropriate to it, rather than trying to be two or three seasons ahead. This also helps me keep Christmas in perspective – it’s a holy season, not a litany of materialistic duties and hollow joys. I don’t overextend myself as much, and find it easier to remember that it’s about Jesus.
I have a play list that is just various versions of Advent hymns and carols, as well as some seasonal (autumn and winter) classical music. Christmas carols are for that “dead-time” between Dec 25th and January 6th, when it REALLY IS CHRISTMAS-TIME, but nothing on the radio reflects it.