These liturgical life traditions and customs will change your Advent! ...If you use a couple of them with intentionality.
With an abundance of beautiful liturgical traditions swirling around this time of year, I highly recommend that you browse through them and pick what works best for your season of life. It can be very easy, especially with one swipe of the screen, to see so many Advent ideas that you either find yourself thinking you have to achieve them all or you end up doing nothing out of sheer overwhelm.
I want to help by encouraging you to consider your own personality type, and what means of prayer you find most effective. I would also ask that you think about your lifestyle and that of your family, what does it look like in your home day to day? And who will be partaking in these traditions? Factoring in these things will help you to discern the custom that will work best for you so to enhance this season, and not create further clutter.
Here is my simple breakdown for you to use as a springboard!
1. Blessing of a Christmas Tree
Blessings set things apart as sacred and express to God our Gratitude. I would especially encourage you bless your Christmas tree because it is easy to do immediately following the tree decorating customs of your home. You can find that here on the USCCB website and print this for your family and or friends to pray aloud together.
2. Advent Calendars
Do you like to countdown days or have small children that are anxiously asking if Christmas is almost here yet? This daily Advent interactive will prompt you to anticipate the coming of Christ.
There are a lot of options to choose from; cardboard, wooden, individually wrapped gifts or books, bags, tree ornaments, the list goes on! This is the Liturgy Market Advent Calendar, my own hand painted design that has drawers for tiny saint peg dolls. The dolls are placed in the drawer that represents their feast day. I also provide activity cards so each day you can pray or do something fun together as we wait for the birth of Christ.
3. Hay for the Manger
This practice can be great motivation for inspiring and practicing virtue in the home. While this is typically done with young ones, you could adapt the good deed opportunities for older children too.
You create or prompt opportunities throughout Advent for the children to add straw or yarn to a manger so that baby Jesus has a soft bed to lay on. These moments for virtue can include working on a behavior that your child may be struggling on (impatience, lack of courage, anger, etc.), striving to perform acts of kindness, and any other ways to enhance positive character.
Here are two different baby Jesus and manger options if you would like to give this a try. Don't forget to buy hay or yellow yarn so that when your children do a good deed, they see their action provide a more hospitable place for the Christ child to lay.
4. Nativity Scene
This is the perfect way to visualize the Nativity story in your home. Hold off on putting baby Jesus out until Christmas, and the Magi until Epiphany. You can also find the Blessing of a Nativity Scene here.
This tradition holds a special place in my heart, as you know from my story, my family wasn't incredibly religious. Yet we had a lot of seasonal traditions and decorating our house for Christmas was one of them. Every time we pulled the Nativity Scene out I felt a welling up of emotions in my heart, it was so beautiful to me, that little porcelain baby Jesus. It was my role in the family to set it up, and while no one else probably noticed, I cherished this moment of unboxing each figurine immensely. It was a scene that was handed down to my dad and when I moved out it was passed on to me.
Your Nativity Scene can become an heirloom too, these things have to begin with someone, why not you?
5. The O Antiphons
This beautiful prayer is most fitting for those that would like to incorporate more chant into their Advent or begin looking more into Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours. The Church has been singing the O Antiphons since the 8th century and they are traditionally prayed from December 17th-23rd.
Each one with the imperative "come" insights the biblical imagery of hope throughout the Old Testament and leads us to fulfillment in the New Testament.
You can use my free O Antiphon printable to assist you in praying.
6. Jesse Tree
For those seeking to dive deeper into scripture this Advent, I would highly encourage you to try this. The Jesse Tree is a tradition that is intended to help us better know the ancestry of Jesus and the stories of His family. By praying with these stories you will have the opportunity to create Jesus' family tree.
Try this option, it comes with free coloring pages too. Catholic Sprouts has a great video that you can watch here on using the Jesse Tree with little ones.
And for those doing the Jesse Tree without children, this is a book that I think would help you along the journey.
7. St. Andrew Christmas Novena
Are you seeking to integrate more prayer into your Advent and you like doing a novena? This is perfect for you! The more you pray it, the easier it is to remember which is what I really like about it. It begins on November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew, and goes until Christmas Eve.
It is piously believed that whoever recites the St. Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer FIFTEEN times each day from the feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) until Christmas Eve will obtain the favor requested.
There is something about this prayer that actually makes you feel like you are there with Our Blessed Mother and Joseph in the dead of night waiting for the birth of a child. Here is the prayer, and you can also find it in my Advent Booklet as a printable.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born
of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother.
8. Advent Wreath
Counting down the weeks of Advent can really come to life in your home by using an Advent wreath. Growing up I can remember not doing much of anything for Advent, we just went right into celebrating Christmastime after Thanksgiving. I actually learned this practice from what I saw in the Church, and it taught me a very countercultural lesson.
The Advent wreath suspends our anticipation, and we begin to experience waiting with the Holy Family.
List of Symbolism
The flame of the candle represents the light of Christ.
3 purple candles represent penance, prayer, and preparation.
1 rose candle represents our rejoicing! This is why it is called Gaudete Sunday, and is usually the day that my family decorates for Christmas.
There is one candle for each week and also symbolizes the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve to the birth of Christ.
The circular wreath represents the eternity of God.
Evergreen is traditionally used because it represents everlasting life.