Out of all the liturgical seasons in the Church’s calendar, I enjoy Advent the most. Not only does it herald the approach of my favourite time of year (hello summer!), I also love the build-up to Christmas and the time spent preparing, planning and reflecting.
In the summer of 2017 I was expecting baby #2. That year I found Advent held a new meaning for me – at 6 months pregnant I was able to better relate to Mary, and how she must have felt getting ready for the birth of her son. All the planning and preparation suddenly made more sense!
Just as expectant parents take time to physically and mentally prepare for their baby’s arrival, so we too spend the weeks of Advent getting ready to welcome Jesus at Christmas.
As the year draws to a close and everything seems to happen at the same time, celebrating advent with your whānau may get lost in all the things to get done and events to get to.
We’ve put together a few (probably familiar) traditions that you could make special this year. They might be things you’ve been doing for a long time, yet there might be new ways to bring them to life in your own place during this season.
These traditions help us to focus on the real ‘reason for the season’ and bring to life the stories of faith that have been passed on for generations. As this year comes to an end, may we find joy in the gift of advent and the promise of Jesus’ birth that we anticipate.
What’s your favourite advent tradition? How will you celebrate this year?
Traditions set the backdrop for making memories... they help us focus on the real 'reason for the season'.
Five Advent Traditions for your whānau
Light a candle each week
The Advent Wreath is a tradition which has found its place in the Church as well as in the home.
Usually, three candles are purple and one is rose, but white candles can also be used. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolises the expectation and hope surrounding the advent season. Different prayers can be prayed each week as you light the candle, beginning with a blessing of the wreath on the First Sunday of Advent.
Make your own Jesse Tree
This is another tradition you might be familiar with from your parish. Why not have one at home?
A Jesse tree helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth. The ornaments of the Jesse tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.
Make your own set by courtesy of Sripture Union NZ.
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day
Each year December 6 marks the Feast of St. Nicholas. In Eastern European and Germanic Countries this day is celebrated with special traditions. For us too this day provides an opportunity to learn more the “true Father Christmas” and focus on giving more than receiving. It also provides a bit of special festivity in the waiting of Advent and offers a spiritual element to gift giving.
Set up a Nativity Scene
Even though the Nativity is one of the most recognised traditions, this year might provide the opportunity to learn more about its history and make it a central part of your home during Advent.
Have you got your own set? If so, you might want spend some time reflecting on the significance of it. If not, you could look into finding one of your own. Both Pleroma Christian Supplies and Manna Christian Stores have a wide range to choose from both online and instore.
In 2019 Pope Francis said that the “nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture.”
Pray this Weekly Advent Retreat
After 2 years of challenges, changes, suffering, isolation and social distancing, perhaps there’s never been a more important time to reflect on the Incarnation; to reflect on God’s incredible plan to draw as close as possible to us, by becoming one of us.
Sessions are produced by ‘Pray-as-you-Go‘ in collaboration with ‘Sacred Space‘, last about 20-25 minutes and will be released week by week.
Music to celebrate the season
We’ve put together a playlist of songs to guide you through this time of preparation and anticipation.
In a season where Christmas songs tend to fill the speakers of malls and shops from late-November, it can be easy to avoid music at this time.
However, if you’d like to be more intentional about the music that you listen to, this playlist provides some suggestions of songs that can help lead into prayer in the Advent Season.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT