How to Celebrate the Beautiful Advent Season as Catholics

Learn how to celebrate the Advent season through many beautiful traditions and Catholic feast days to prepare your heart, mind, and home for Christmas.

Does it seem like Christmas celebrations begin earlier and earlier every year?

Walk through any big box store the last week of October and you’ll see Halloween costumes right next to Christmas trees. The grim reaper standing next to Santa Claus.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Christmas! I love decorating for Christmas, baking Christmas cookies, wrapping Christmas presents…well, actually no, I hate wrapping gifts and delegate that task to my husband. But I love everything else about the holiday.

However, many people gloss right over the beautiful season of preparation that happens before the Christmas season (which doesn’t actually begin until December 25). The season of Advent.

How to Celebrate the Beautiful Advent Season

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What is Advent and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Advent is the first liturgical season of the Church Year. It’s a time to prepare our minds, hearts, and homes for the birth of Christ, which we celebrate at Christmas. It’s good to know how to celebrate Advent, recognizing this as a time of preparation, instead of jumping into celebrating Christmas immediately.

When does Advent Occur?

Advent consists of the four Sundays that precede Christmas and the weeks in between, ending on Christmas Eve. Advent can start anywhere from November 27-December 3 (depending on which of these days is the fourth Sunday before Christmas).

Although Advent always consists of four Sundays, it may not always be four full weeks long, depending on when Christmas Day lies in the week. For example, if Christmas Day is on a Monday, then Christmas Eve will be the only day in the fourth week of Advent.

How to Celebrate Advent as a Liturgical Season

The church gives us a wonderful season of preparation before celebrating Christmas. There are many remarkable traditions that you can incorporate in your home to focus on Advent, and then still have time for your Christmas traditions during the Christmas season.

In this post, I’m sharing how I personally celebrate Advent, as well as additional activities observed by other Catholics in hopes that you’ll find some excellent customs to adopt in your home as well. When you try to live liturgically throughout the year, you’ll also want to appreciate the beautiful liturgical season of Advent too!

What Advent Traditions Are There?

Many Advent traditions exist around the world. If you’d like to begin a tradition with your family to help observe the season, choose one that sounds like something your family would enjoy. Something that you would like to continue year after year. Perhaps you’ll find one or two below that will help you know how to celebrate Advent in your home to make this season special.

Advent Wreath

An Advent Wreath is one of the easiest traditions to start with when you want to be more intentional in celebrating Advent. You can create a wreath from branches you gather outside or garland you buy at the store, buy a premade one, or even use a paper wreath your children make. Many cute ideas can be found in this post.

The wreath consists of greenery in a circle and 4 candles: 3 purple and 1 pink. Each candle represents a week of Advent and is lit for the first time on the Sunday of that week, along with any candles from previous weeks. The candles symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace. The candle that symbolizes joy is the pink candle, lit the 3rd week. You may also notice your priest wear his rose vestments at Mass this week, which is known as Gaudete Sunday.

How We Use an Advent Wreath in Our Home to Celebrate Advent

My family uses a premade Advent wreath. In the past, we’ve bought candles, but this year we are going to try making our own beeswax candles from a kit I bought here instead. We have a lot of evergreens on our property now, so when our current wreath needs replaced, I’d like to have the kids help me make our own wreath out of branches from those trees.

We keep our wreath as the centerpiece on our dining room table, and we light it each night before dinner. The older kids get to take turns lighting them, while all the kids get to help blow them out after dinner. And yes, we have a schedule for that. If you have more than one child, I’m sure you understand why!

Advent Wreath

Advent Calendar

Next, an Advent calendar is a popular tradition, especially for families with young children. The calendar is a wonderful visual reminder for children to show how many days are left until Christmas. Some calendars have small treats inside, or a tab that opens to a picture.

We have a couple of fabric calendars that have different objects that get hung up each day. My only complaint with the calendars we have is that they begin on December 1. So our calendars are not always liturgically correct, though beginning on December 1 does allow them to be reusable.

Advent Calendar

Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is a tradition that I had never heard of growing up, but is one we’ve been happily celebrating since my older three children were quite young. The Jesse Tree is like a family tree of Jesus’ lineage.

Jesse trees can be made with actual trees, wood pieces or sticks, or even paper or fabric. The ornaments can be made of paper, fabric, or a mixture of various types of objects. Also, I’ve noticed that some of the symbols and scripture may vary, especially among those that have only 24-25 ornaments and those that contain enough to cover the 28 days Advent can sometimes be.

How We Use the Jesse Tree in Our Home to Celebrate Advent

In our home, we place our Jesse tree in the center of our prayer table, which is in our family room. The tree is a small, artificial tree I purchased at a local craft store years ago. I have a small white tree skirt, some beads as garland, and an angel on top to add to the ornaments as decorations. Each evening of Advent, after dinner, we gather in the family room and read the day’s devotional (see below). Then we head over to the Jesse tree, where I read from the day’s scripture reading and one of the children hangs up the corresponding ornament.

Our ornaments come from an online exchange I was a part of many years ago. However I know of many Catholic churches or homeschool groups whose members will coordinate a Jesse tree ornament exchange. You definitely do not need to create elaborate ornaments though. Those printed off and cut out are just as lovely and convey the same idea.

Devotions

For the past few years, I’ve been reading a daily devotional story to my children before we hang our Jesse Tree ornament. I found a wonderful series of books that my kids really enjoy and want to read year after year. We began with Jotham’s Journey. The next year we continued with Bartholomew’s Passage, a slightly different version with a boy we met in Jotham’s Journey. Then the third year we read Tabitha’s Travels about a girl, Tabitha, we also met in Jotham’s Journey. Then last year we read the last Advent book in this series, Ishtar’s Odyssey, before cycling back to Jotham this year.

All three books are by Arnold Ytreeide and lead to the Christmas story through chapters read each day of Advent, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent. They tell different stories based on the main character, though all end with the characters being nearby for the birth of Jesus. I do want to caution you that some parts of the books can get violent, so you may want to preread them if you have young or sensitive children.

If you homeschool, morning time can be a great time to fit in your Advent devotional, or any Advent activities. Check out what we include in our December Morning Basket. You can even Draw Your Way through the Story of Christmas using chalk pastel, combining art with your homeschool studies.

Nativity

The Nativity is a beautiful tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi in the year 1223. Nativities look lovely as decor during Advent. If baby Jesus is removable, you can hide Him behind it until Christmas morning.

Personally, I have a weakness for nativities. They are so beautiful! We have one that we place under our Christmas tree that was a wedding gift from my husband’s godparents. Then my husband’s late aunt handmade another for us that adorns our mantle. I also have smaller nativities I’ve purchased myself around the house as decor.

We have a couple of nativities that are kid-friendly as well. These stay in the family room. Several years ago, I participated in an online exchange of a wooden peg doll nativity. We each created one piece of the nativity, then mailed them to a coordinator who shipped complete nativities back to everyone. They look similar to the ones in this tutorial or this tutorial. We also have a Little People nativity that little ones enjoy playing with. See? I wasn’t kidding about my love of nativities!

How to Celebrate Advent Through Saints’ Feast Days

Though Advent is a season for preparation and fasting, many saints have feast days to celebrate throughout this time. You could keep it as simple as mentioning the feast day over dinner, or make it a more elaborate celebration.

Below are ideas for celebrating the feast days of Advent saints. I do not have every Advent saint listed below, but these are the more well-known saints.

November 30: Saint Andrew

St. Andrew’s feast day is always around the beginning of Advent. He was a fisherman who immediately began to follow Jesus. St. Andrew encouraged his brother, Simon, to follow Jesus as well. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, who of course became our first pope.

The St. Andrew Christmas Novena begins on November 30 and continues to Christmas Eve. So it is not actually a novena, which is a prayer said for nine-days. The prayer is said 15 times a day, which can easily be broken up into three sets of 5 for morning, noon, and evening.

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be at the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires (mention your intention here), through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

December 6: Saint Nicholas

The Feast of Saint Nicholas is one of my favorite days in Advent. St. Nicholas was a bishop of Myra. Several tales exist about him, including him saving children from death. It’s no surprise he is the patron saint of children. One of his better known legends is secretly giving money to a father to pay for dowries for his daughters. This legend has transformed into the Santa Claus tradition we know today.

We celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day in our home. In most homes, children will leave a shoe or a pair of shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill on the evening of December 5. However, in our home, St. Nicholas fills our stockings. This is one of the reasons that we begin decorating for Christmas around the beginning of December. We need to have our stockings hanging for St. Nicholas! My kids also enjoy watching this video on the feast of St. Nicholas.

December 7: Saint Ambrose

St. Ambrose is the patron of of candlemakers and beekeepers. So a perfect activity to celebrate his feast day is to make candles! You can find sheets of beeswax online that you roll into candles. You could also melt beeswax pellets and create candles that way.

December 8: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The best way to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is with going to Mass, seeing that it’s a Holy Day of Obligation. Many people confuse the Immaculate Conception as Jesus, but it is actually the conception of Mary in Saint Anne. God created Mary without original sin, which is what we celebrate on this day. Because of this, we like to have mostly white items in our dinner on this day. I usually make grilled chicken with Fettuccine Alfredo.

December 9: St. Juan Diego and December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

These two feast days are related, even though they are not celebrated on the same day. In 1531, Mary appeared to Juan Diego as he walked to his parish church. She asked him to have a church built for her. The archbishop wanted a sign to know Juan Diego was telling the truth, so he gathered roses in his tilma. Being winter, roses should not have been growing. Along with the sign of roses was the image of Our Lady that appeared on his tilma.

A fun way to celebrate these feast days is by having Mexican food for dinner. My kids also enjoy this video of Juan Diego’s story of Mary’s visitation.

December 13: Saint Lucy

St. Lucy lived during the Roman Empire and was martyred in 304 in Sicily. She is also known as the saint of light, as her name means light. In Scandinavia, St. Lucy’s feast day is celebrated with the oldest girl in the family being the Lucia. She wears a long, white gown with a red sash and an evergreen wreath with lit candles on her head. Then she serves her parents a breakfast of saffron-flavored bread and ginger snaps in bed.

This post shares an easy -to-create celebration for St. Lucy’s feast day.

This post is all about celebrating St. Lucy’s feast day.

Since St. Lucy is the saint of light, we like to celebrate her feast day by going out to look at Christmas lights.

Children’s Books to Read During Advent

Several of the saints mentioned above have books about their lives as well. I try to read these to my kids on the saint’s feast day. A couple of the books listed below aren’t necessarily about one of the saints above, but are good to read during Advent anyway.

Saint Francis

Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas, retold by Mary Caswell Walsh is a lovely story about the first nativity/creche. It’s a book that is easily read aloud in a sitting, or read alone by elementary age children.

Saint Nicholas

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselm Grun and The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi are both wonderful stories to introduce children to St. Nicholas. Both books mention several legends about the saint, with beautiful illustrations. They’d be great books to read on his feast day of December 6.

Saint Lucia (Saint Lucy)

Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker is the perfect book to read on December 13, which is St. Lucy’s feast day. The book tells the story of a family living in Sweden and how they celebrate the feast day. The book also shares recipes for Lucia buns and ginger snaps, along with a brief story of St. Lucia.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Carmen Bernier-Grand is a lovely version of Our Lady’s visits to Juan Diego. You could read this book on December 9 or 12.

Christmas Eve

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DePaola is the story of a Spanish custom that celebrates Joseph and Mary looking for a room at an inn on Christmas Eve. This story takes place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about those chosen to play the parts of Mary & Joseph. It’s a wonderful book to add to your Advent collection. Plus your children can also learn about Christmas customs around the world.

Advent Saints’ Tree

Before we moved to our current house, our Jesse Tree was in the room where we did most of our schoolwork. So we would add the ornaments during our Morning Time. However, since our Jesse Tree now sits in our family room, I decided to add something a little different to our learning area.

I added an Advent Saints’ tree. What? You’ve never heard of that? 😉 I found really great ornaments to use; gluing the Advent saints on purple felt, Marian feast days on blue felt, and Christmas saints on red felt. It’s a nice way to tie our regular Saint of the Day studies to the liturgical year.

Beautiful Advent Traditions to Celebrate in Your Home

Advent is a wonderful, prayerful season of preparation for Christmas. We can celebrate Advent through many Catholic traditions, as well as by recognizing saints whose feast days fall in Advent. By focusing our hearts, minds, and homes on preparing for the birth of Jesus, we will see the beauty in this glorious season. And hopefully leave a little bit of space between trick-or-treating and Santa.

Hi, I'm Christy!
Hi, I’m Christy!

I’m a homeschooling mom of 4, from preschool to high school. Homeschooling can be overwhelming, but I believe you can simplify your homeschool day so it’s manageable and enjoyable. When you join the Homeschooling in Progress community, you’ll learn ways to simplify your homeschool through emailed tips PLUS receive 5 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Routine for Productive Homeschool Days guide so you can start simplifying your homeschool today!

2 thoughts on “How to Celebrate the Beautiful Advent Season as Catholics”

  1. I am so pleased to see a mom being a good example to her children and teaching them their Catholic faith .
    I am a mom of 6 with 16 grands and 5 great grands.
    You make me happy to see that Our Catholic faith is being passed on. God bless you and your family .

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